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Quotes: Suburban Parents Don't Want/Need Charter Schools

Quotes2The middle class doesn’t want charter schools—they don’t need them. The demand is in the city.

- UC Berkeley's Bruce Fuller in The Atlantic on the lack of suburban charters (Why There’s Little Demand for Charter Schools in the Suburbs)

Foundations: The 2015 MacArthur "Genius" Everybody Overlooked

Little noticed in the annual flurry of attention given to MacArthur genius grant recipients -- including by me -- was that the Chicago nonprofit head who won is deeply involved in immigrant education and heads an organization that started a charter school a few years ago.

A day or so after the fact, the Charter Alliance made note of the event -- perhaps the first person involved with charter schools to win the award:

"In 2010, Mr. Salgado founded, Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy,a charter school located on the Instituto del Progreso Latino campus in Chicago for grades 9-12. The academy prepares students for success in competitive colleges and universities while simultaneously providing job readiness certifications in entry-level positions with higher wages at the healthcare sector."

Truth be told, there wasn't much interesting in the grants from the people I follow on Twitter this year, even though some awardees are super strong on race and inequality issues. The NYT's Amy Virshup noted that one of the 2015 awardees -- also involved in education indirectly -- named Alex Truesdell had been profiled in the paper the year before. 

If and when someone solidly from the reform camp or its critics win the award, all hell will break loose.  But most of the folks who seem to win these things aren't ideological combatants but rather maker/creators who work from the middle. 

Related posts: Roland Fryer Wins MacArthur "Genius" Award (2011);   Deborah Bial: An Education "Genius" (2007); Educator Wins MacArthur "Genius (2010); Will An Educator Win A 2012 MacArthur Grant?The Genius Behind Teach For America (2007).

Charts: How Charters Ended Up Being Predominantly Urban

"According to the Bellwether report, 56 percent of charter-school students live in cities, versus just 29 percent of all U.S. children. (The remaining charter-school students are about evenly split between rural areas and the suburbs.) Relatedly, nearly two-thirds of the charter-school population is nonwhite, compared to about half of its regular public-school counterpart... Just a small percentage of Colorado’s charter-school population is identified as low-income, versus a solid majority of the students attending charters in D.C." Laura McKenna in The Atlantic (Why There’s Little Demand for Charter Schools in the Suburbs)

Charts: Poor Districts Funded Differently Based On Student Race

"On the surface, poor districts do receive more state funding than rich schools. But when he delved deeper into the data, sorting by race, what he found was disturbing." via The Atlantic (The Troubling Link Between School Funding and Race) "Black dots represent districts with no white students and white represents districts with 100 percent white students."

Maps: Most Suburbs Out-Graduate City Districts - Except Perhaps El Paso

image from p6cdn4static.sharpschool.com

From the Hechinger Report's Sarah Butrymowicz, who's been diving into graduation data from around the country: "I would love to find a major city school district graduating more students than its suburban counterparts because of academic excellence. For now the only city I can find outperforming its suburbs is El Paso, Texas, and there it’s because the suburbs are performing poorly."

Magazines: Why You Should Read Ta-Nehisi Coates' Atlantic Magazine Cover Story

There are lots of reasons not to read the latest Atlantic Magazine cover story, penned by Ta-Nehisi Coates: It's not about education. It's super-depressing. It's long. 

But there are some really good reasons to read it, anyway: It's at least partly about education. You'll learn some things you didn't know, probably.

First and foremost, Coates reminds us that so many of the people who end up incarcerated have been failed not only by society but also by schools:

"They just passed him on and passed him on." 

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 "I don’t know, it just didn’t look like a person of his age should be writing like that.”
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You'll also learned that the prison industry is now $80 billion a year, that it employs large numbers of mostly white workers to incarcerate large numbers of mostly black or brown prisoners, and that one of the people who predicted this period -- former US Senator Patrick Moynihan -- believed even way back then that service programs like Head Start wouldn't be enough to balance out the decades of mistreatment inflicted on black families. 

It -- along with The Case For Reparations and Coates' recent book, Between The World...., might well be the most-read and -remembered pieces of nonfiction writing of the last couple of years. 

Continue reading "Magazines: Why You Should Read Ta-Nehisi Coates' Atlantic Magazine Cover Story" »

Events: Reflections On Last Night's Newark Panel

While we're waiting for the event to be discussed on WNYC's Brian Lehrer later this morning, let me tell you what a strange, interesting time it was to my eyes in Newark yesterday evening at the WNYC-hosted panel to discuss the past and future of the Newark schools.

As has already been reported, the news out of the event was that while there's no clear timeline for returning the district to local control -- and no clear legal mechanism for doing so -- Cerf says that there will be no attempt to increase the percentage of kids being served by charter schools, either.

That's probably reassuring to charter critics and those who are focused on the district schools that still serve two thirds of the Newark kids but tremendously disappointing to charter advocates who point to Newark charters' academic success and long waiting lists of parents.  It may also have come as something of a surprise. At least one charter insider in the audience thought that Cerf was going to charterize the district. 

Beyond that news, there were all sorts of moments and dynamics that felt "off" to me (though they may not have had the same effect on other audience members).

First and foremost, there was the visual of Newark mayor Ras Baraka sitting next to grey-haired Chris Cerf, the appointed head of Newark schools. How and why Chris Christie chose an awkward preppy white guy to replace Cami Anderson is unclear to me and can't have been welcome news to Baraka and his supporters. Contrast the move with what happened in DC, where Kaya Henderson succeeded Michelle Rhee.

Part of the tension is structural. The two men are both deeply concerned about Newark schools, but neither is wholly in charge of Newark's mixed school system. The state oversees the school district, but the district doesn't really oversee the charter schools -- an ongoing governance problem raised several times in Russakoff's book. And of course, Cerf is pro-charter, an outsider, and all the rest. 

Unsettling matters further, Baraka and Cerf couldn't seem to decide last night whether they were going rehash and continue past battles that were the subject of Dale Russakoff's book, The Prize, or focus on trying to create the impression of a unified front looking to the future and working together.  They did a bit of both, but seemed like they were veering back towards old beefs as the night went on (and the audience's preference became clear).

Throughout, both men seemed to be resorting to sound bites and talking points rather than candor and honest reflection, though Baraka came off as a much better speaker in this context (and certainly had more of the audience members behind him). His mandate and responsibilities are much more focused. Cerf had the awkward task of defending the past, apologizing for it (including throwing some shade at Booker and Christie), and reassuring the public about future changes. (Cerf: "I suspect there were more than a few cases when now-Sen. Booker and Gov Christie overstated their case.")

By and large, Russakoff was woefully under-used during the 90-minute session, limited to a few initial observations and then left to the sidelines. It would have been especially interesting if Floyd had asked her to confirm or raise questions with the claims that Baraka and Cerf were making (several of which seemed possibly misleading or incomplete to me) or if she had just jumped in and said, "hey, wait a minute -- that's not right." But neither of those things happened. 

Wearing a cropped white jacket and fun glasses, Floyd was an enthusiastic and engaged moderator but seemed to struggle to keep panelist's answers short (especially Cerf) and to deal with audience members who wanted to ask more than one questions or refute panelist's answers to their questions.  Though she's spent a fair amount of time in Newark on this topic in the past few weeks, she also lacked the background information to question Baraka and Cerf's claims herself. (She also apparently had a panelist bow out at the last minute, and was unable to convince the head of the teacher's union to appear at the event though he did sit down for an interview earlier this year.)

She called Cerf out when he tried to glide past some of the past failures, but that was about it. Baraka admitted "of course there's bloating in the district" but that was about it. His answer to why more resources don't get into schools was incomprehensible (to me, at least). His sound bites were awesome, though. ("We can't fight inequality by creating more inequality," for example.)

So neither the moderate nor the journalist panelist was able or willing to do any live fact-checking against the claims being made onstage.

For me personally, it was fascinating to see some of the folks I'd been reading about and listening to in person up on stage, and to see a slew of familiar folks. My Spencer classmate Nancy Solomon was there -- she's currently heading the New Jersey bureau for WNYC. (I also got to meet Sarah Gonzalez, the NJ-based reporter who sometimes covers education for the station.) Former WSJ education reporter Barbara Martinez was in the audience.  Jennifer (Edushyster) Berkshire was somewhere in the audience, too.  

Pictures: Drop-Off Time At Two Adjacent Schools

The juxtaposed pictures of two schools during drop-off time accompanied last week's New York Times story about a proposed zoning change that would send students from one school to the other.

Morning Video: Pro-Charter Ad Slams NYC's De Blasio Gets Criticized As Racist

Politico New York's Eliza Shapiro posted this video from Families For Excellent Schools and wrote about it last week (New charter ad hits de Blasio on race). Then came the followup story in which some folks denounced the ad as being overly divisive (Critics call new charter school ad 'racist'). 

While it makes some uneasy, descriptions and accusations related to race and racism are all over the place in the past few years, including recent comments from Derrell Bradford, Ta-Nehisi Coates' new book, #educolor, and the This American Life series related to school integration. Just last week, white affluent Brooklyn parents were being accused of racism in response to a proposed school zoning stage (and affluent white parents in Chicago were being praised for their open-mindedness).  Over the weekend, Elizabeth Warren gave a speech related to #BlackLivesMatter.

On the substance of the matter, the NYT editorial page recently suggested that the DOE needed to move further, faster on failing schools. ProPublic recently slammed the universal preschool program for not adding enough low-income (minority) students. But he's also launched a big new initiative related to economic equality.

Related posts: Ta-Nehesi Coates' New Book On Race (& Schooling)Your Individual Racism Isn't Really The ProblemWorst Schools = The "New" Plantation.

Charts: Should Education Advocates Work On Voting Issues? (Yes.)

The notion that people interested in making schools work better for kids should get involved in voter registration/equity issues will probably make some (on the reform side, mostly) howl and tear their hair out of their heads (except perhaps those Democracy Prep folks).

But social justice activists and organized labor have long been involved in these kinds of things (most notably in Chicago, where the CTU registered voters along with running candidates against City Hall).

There's a sliver of reform-side history on voter registration in the form of Steve Barr (and others?) being involved with Rock The Vote, which was a musician-focused effort to encourage people to register whose heyday was in the 1990's on MTV.

This forthcoming study on responses to poor AYP ratings suggests increases in voter turnout 5-8 percent (varying by income) -- almost as much effect as door knocking.

Plus which: schools are often used as polling places, so it's right there in front of your faces.

Parent engagement & mobilization is now recognized as a key aspect of efforts to make schools work better. Why not throw some voter registration/advocacy in the mix while you're at it?

Related posts: Harvard Students Fail 1964 Louisiana Voting Literacy Test Children's Academic Success Vs. Minority Voting RightsComputerized Voting To Change A ContractTurning Students Into Voters.

Morning Video: Can Catholic Schools Bounce Back?

"Since the 1960s, enrollment at Catholic schools in the United States has fallen by more than 50 percent. Today, only about two million students attend Catholic school, and that’s due to a variety of reasons, including falling birth rates among Catholics, the rise of charter schools in urban areas, and more Catholics moving to the suburbs. But the one Pope Francis will visit and some others like it have found ways to keep their doors open." 

From the PBS NewsHour: Struggling Catholic schools seek ways to set themselves apart.

Quotes: When You Leave, Those Who Remain Win

Quotes2Those who hold power in the lazy monopoly may actually have an interest in creating some limited opportunities for exit on the part of those whose voice might be uncomfortable.

-- Albert Hirschman (Exit, Voice, and Loyalty) via Malcolm Gladwell (The Power Of Failure)

#TBT: Remembering The Annenberg Challenge (aka "Bottom-Up" Reform)

There's lots of talk these days about "bottom-up" efforts to fix struggling schools and districts, largely tied to what happened in Newark over the past five years.

But as some longtimers may recall, bottom-up (locally-driven, community-led) school reform funded by nonprofit sources has been tried before, most notably in the form of Walter Annenberg's $500M Challenge.

Take a minute to check out the case studies of Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City that were written and published way back in 2000. (The Chicago chapter is one that I wrote. Carol Innerst and Ray Domanico wrote the others.)

Some of the folks who are pushing for bottom-up reforms now were actually part of these efforts, and should know better (or at least know that it's no guarantee of success of any kind). 

While we're on the topic, the NYT's Kate Zernike is scheduled to interview Dale Russakoff about Newark tonight at 5.

Thompson: School Closings in Chicago, Newark & Oklahoma City

Like so many reformers in Newark and elsewhere, Cory Booker was a true believer in "disruptive innovation" to produce "transformative" change. Dale Russakoff, in The Prize, explains that Newark reformers, funded by Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million grant, were slow in developing a plan for creating a "hybrid" district through school closures and expanding the charter sector.  Booker had said that the biggest challenge would be "breaking this iceberg of immovable, decades-long failing schools." After this is done, "They'll melt into many different school models. They're going to flower, just like the cherry blossoms in Branch Park."

Booker didn't seem to have read about the [then] decade-long history of Chicago school closures started by Arne Duncan. And, he seemed to have forgotten about the murder of Derrion Albert as he walked home from his turnaround school, Fenger H.S. Or, perhaps he believed that Newark gang-bangers would be so inspired by One Newark that they would transform gang turf into cherry orchards for all. 

In 1998, when I had my first experience with a school closure and reopening, Oklahoma City had some schools as violent and low-performing as those of Newark and Chicago. My John Marshall wasn't one of them. It was somewhere between 2/3rds and 3/4ths low-income, very similar to the neighboring Northeast H.S., which was turned into a magnet school. Marshall had the best faculty that I had ever seen, and Northeast was known for producing state and local teachers of the year and teacher-leaders. After the crack and gang violence peaked in the early 1990s, and after the "jobless recovery" finally started to put some patrons back to work, both schools had been seeing incremental gains.

Then came the 1998-1999 "Year from Hell," as our long-suffering principal dubbed it. Combining students from the two neighborhoods who could not be admitted to selective schools was not the sole cause of our collapse. Neither am I aware of a connection between the change in school boundaries and the deaths that year of five Marshall students and recent alumni. But, the meltdown of our school showed the risks involved with tampering with the delicate ecosystems of schooling.  It was a major step in our blood-drenched path to becoming the lowest-performing secondary school in the state.

Even before our first funeral, during my daily, dazed walk to the gym for lunchtime basketball with the students, I kept asking if this was a nightmare, and whether what I was experiencing was real.

Continue reading "Thompson: School Closings in Chicago, Newark & Oklahoma City" »

Quotes: How Some Upper Middle-Class Parents Calculate School Choices

Quotes2I could move to Oak Park and pay $25,000. I don’t want to do that. We could also go to British school or Latin school and I’d have to pay another $25,000. I don’t want to do that.  So if you look at the numbers, it makes sense to make this work.

- Chicago parent on WBEZ Chicago (Possible merger of contrasting schools one step closer)

Reform: Why Was Community Engagement In Newark *So* Bad?

In a recent interview in The Seventy Four, former mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries described how woefully insufficient the communications and engagement effort was behind the Newark school reform effort: “There was absolutely not an infrastructure to communicate to parents... voters [and] the community.” 


Love or loathe the Newark reform effort, you have to admit that it's pretty notable that well-funded reformers who'd seen what happened to Michelle Rhee in DC and had to know the importance of informing and rallying community members to their cause didn't seem to do so (or did so ineffectively). Across the river, Families For Excellent Schools launched in 2011. There was nothing like that in Newark. 

In Dale Russakoff's book about Newark, the communications effort outsourced to consultant Bradley Tusk and others is described as a half-completed boondoggle:


Mysteriously Tusk's role in Newark -- and his effectiveness -- isn't mentioned in this recent Forbes profile (What Uber And Mike Bloomberg Have In Common).


I've invited Tusk and other consultants who worked on the Newark project to tell me more about their work, what if anything the Russakoff book gets wrong, and what readers need to know about the folks working on the opposite side of the issue (who don't get nearly as much attention as Tusk et al in the Russakoff book).

So far, few if any takers. But the lines are still open.  

Related posts: Meet Bradley Tusk, Reform StrategistWhy Organized Opposition Gets Less Attention.

Roundup: Education Audio Is Everywhere

image from wdet.org
Christine Schneider from Education Cities notes that there are a lot of mainstream education-related audio segments and podcasts that have come out recently:

Note To Self (WNYC) Half the teachers in America use one app (Class Dojo) to track kids

The Beginning Of The End - the end of self doubt - about one amazing Detroit high school teacher (pictured above).
Also from TBOTE - the end of high school (also from WDET).
Freakonomics - preventing crime for pennies on the dollar. Follows the Becoming a Man (BAM) program.
WBEZ also did one on truancy that was super interesting.
Education Cities is a nonprofit network of 32 city-based organizations in 25 cities working to dramatically increase the number of great public schools. Find them at @edcities

Quotes: Restaffing Struggling Schools Won't Necessarily Fix Them

Quotes2The problems of the city’s struggling schools can be solved by real strategies, but not by political sloganeering. “Get tough on teachers” may warm the hearts of “reformers,” but it is a distraction from the real work that needs to be done.

-- UFT head Michael Mulgrew in the NY Daily News (Firing teachers vs. fixing schools)

Morning Video: Time For School


"Hear the story of Jefferson Narciso from Rocinha, one of Rio de Janeiro's poorest and violent neighborhoods. Shy and smart, Narciso embarks on a journey to a better life through education that is plagued by the fears of others." (PBS NewsHour) Featuring a small cash transfer/school attendance program. Or, watch Chelsea Clinton speaking at her old Arkansas middle school on Friday.

Charts: Education Doesn't Pay Much (But Field Still Dominated By White Grads)

Asfdff"African American and Hispanic students disproportionately earn more bachelors degrees in low-paying majors, putting them at higher risk for financial instability after graduation, according to a new study from Young Invincibles, an advocacy group," says the Washington Post (Racial disparities in college major selection exacerbate earnings gap).

Education (see highlighted row) is of course a lower-paying job, but note that African-American and Latino representation in education is among the lower percentages (and one of the larger job categories). Education remains overwhelmingly white. The Shanker Institute recently reported that the percentages of minority teachers in 9 major cities has been dropping.

Quotes: Poverty, Residential Segregation, Lower-Performing Schools, Ineffective Teachers

Quotes2She moved to a public-housing property in a highly-segregated neighborhood, next to a cement-crushing plant. The ceiling leaks and trains rattle by all night, and the bathtub is caked with mildew. Her daughter, who is now 8, hates her new school, and said her teacher confessed that she only came to school for a paycheck. The same teacher told Smith that her daughter was the only second-grader in the class who knew how to read.

- Alana Samuels in The Atlantic (The Financial Toll of Mass Incarceration on American Families)


Quotes: Neighborhood Schools "Almost An Orwellian Term"

Quotes2‘Neighborhood school’ is almost an Orwellian term. It sounds great—and can be great in a perfect world. But its history is a history of using neighborhood boundaries to segregate. 

- Former Obama campaign staff and RePublic Schools founder Ravi Gupta  quoted in Conor Williams oped (Liberals Push to Correct Inequality - To A Point)

Charts: New Report Calls For Renewed Integration Effort (Can It Happen?)


In a new report, the Century Foundation calls for new efforts to integrate district,  charter, and early childhood programs. Meantime, NYC's education chief says efforts to diversity schools there won't happen quickly, and New America's Conor Williams notes how strongly many liberal parents in DC seem to object to policy changes that affect their desires for their own children. Then again, selective schools just gave up some of their privilege in NOLA, so there's always hope. 

Quotes: NYC Mayor Touts Benefits Of Rigorous Common Core Pre-K

Quotes2The difference between a child who has had full day pre-K with the Common Core curriculum and one who hasn’t, that child in the first instance has such a leg up and a love of learning they go into the rest of their education with.

- NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio in the Washington Post's Answer Sheet  (The surprising things New York’s mayor said about Common Core and 4-year-olds)

Quotes: Communities Try To Balance Choice/Charters Against Jobs/Stability

Quotes2People are often of two minds. They're putting their kids in charters but that means the district schools need to right-size by cutting jobs, and that affects their cousin. Everyone in Newark is affected by both trends.

- Dale Russakoff in Newark Star-Ledger (Author Dale Russakoff discusses new book on Newark School Reform)


Quotes: Newark Book "Critical Of All The Players"

Quotes2I see it as critical of all the players in education, so I don't think reform movement is singled out. There's a real divide in the debate over education, one side versus the other. And the children are caught in the middle. 
- Author Dale Russakoff rebutting NYT review by Alex Kotlowitz (Author Dale Russakoff discusses new book on Newark School Reform)

Roundup: Best & Worst Reviews Of Newark Book Out Today

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comPerhaps the best two pieces I’ve come across are from the Newark Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran including an opinion piece on where things stand that notes district progress along with charter school improvements and reformers' misguided focus on the parts of the story Russakoff leaves out (Newark students are better off, despite the political noise) and also a Q & A with Russakoff in which the author rebuts a deeply flawed NYT review, proposes a forensic audit of Newark's $23,000-per student spending, but calls the Zuckerberg-funded reform efforts a “wash” over all (Author Dale Russakoff discusses new book). These are both well worth reading, for what Moran writes and for Russakoff's responses.

There have also been four big mainstream reviews of the book: Chicago Tribune (Diane Rado);  The Seventy Four (Conor Williams); NYT (Alex Kotlowitz;  NYT (Jonathan Knee). Of these earlier reviews, I found the second NYT review (by Knee) to be the most interesting, taking a business-oriented view of what happened that's no less critical of the process and the outcomes than anyone else. 


Roundup: Best & Worst Reviews Of Newark Book Coming Out Today

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comPerhaps the best two pieces I’ve come across are from the Newark Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran including an opinion piece on where things stand that notes district progress along with charter school improvements and reformers' misguided focus on the parts of the story Russakoff leaves out (Newark students are better off, despite the political noise) and also a Q & A with Russakoff in which the author rebuts a deeply flawed NYT review, proposes a forensic audit of Newark's $23,000-per student spending, but calls the Zuckerberg-funded reform efforts a “wash” over all (Author Dale Russakoff discusses new book). 

These are both well worth reading, for what Moran writes and for Russakoff's responses.

There have also been four big mainstream reviews of the book: Chicago Tribune (Diane Rado);  The Seventy Four (Conor Williams); NYT (Alex Kotlowitz;  NYT (Jonathan Knee). 

Of these earlier reviews, I found the second NYT review (by Knee) to be the most interesting, taking a business-oriented view of what happened that's no less critical of the process and the outcomes than anyone else. 

Last but not least, here's NYT columnist Joe Nocera's piece on the book (Zuckerberg’s Expensive Lesson), which notes among other things that "almost half" of the Zuckerberg effort went to Newark teachers in the form of back pay, salaries for teachers who weren't assigned to a classroom, and bonuses. "Apparently, Zuckerberg has learned his lesson. What will it take for the rest of us to learn?" 

Just this morning, WNYC's Sarah Gonzales gave us an update on how some of the characters in the book are doing (How Booker, Christie Spent the $100 Million Facebook Donation), including a breakout of spending (most of which went to teachers and principals, not consultants).


Morning Video: Back To School "Debacle" For Rookie Boston Superintendent

"More than 8,000 students were stuck on a waiting list, with no idea whether they’ll go to class just weeks before the first day of school," according to WGBH (Boston's Back To School Debacle). "As of today, all students from 1st to 12th grade have a school but parents aren’t happy with their assignments or the last-minute process."


School Life: Satirical Look At Resource Inequality Among Schools/Districts

image from i.onionstatic.com

“Pretty soon, kids my age who live in wealthier districts will start testing better than me in every subject, so I might as well try to make the most of this parity while I have it,” said Williams. (via The Onion 5-Year-Old At Underfunded Kindergarten Enjoying Last Few Weeks Before Achievement Gap Kicks In)

Quotes: Healing/Rebuilding Vs. Fixing/Restarting In New Orleans

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 12.29.16 PM
"In the past ten years, much has been said, rightly, about the resilience and the spirit of those who chose to rebuild the neighborhoods they had lost. It is time to appreciate as well the courage of those who, faced with the same disaster, decided to make a fresh start."

- Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker (What Social Scientists Learned from Katrina)


Thompson: Fact Checking the New Orleans Reformers' Spin

When I first read the Education Research Alliance (ERA) report on the effectiveness of the competition-driven New Orleans model of reform, it was clear that true believers in "relinquishment" and market-driven reform would be disappointed by its findings. However, they have still spun the mixed results from the NOLA corporate reform model as a great success.

I have left the fact checking of the ERA's methodology and data to the experts. I've mostly limited myself to fact checking the reformers' spin - the soundbites they use to put the NOLA record in the best possible light, and to use its model to break unions and extend test-driven reform across the nation.

I admit to being surprised that analyses such as those of the NEPC, Andrea Gabor, The International Business Times, In These Times, Julian Vasquez Heilig, Mercedes Schneider, Gary Rubenstein, and others have found so many problems with the ERA research. I still remain most shocked by the soundbite of the respected researcher Douglas Harris who has contributed to headlines asserting that the reforms "worked."

At first, I assumed Harris was just being diplomatic when he said that the "typical elementary- or middle-school student's scores rose by 8 to 15 percentage points," and that "We are not aware of any other districts that have made such large improvements in such a short time." 

In fact, I'm not aware of many districts that haven't made dramatic increases in bubble-in test scores over a short time, and then saw those illusory gains disappear.

It is hard to believe that any scholar would be so quick to trust bubble-in data after reading Is the No Child Left Behind Act Working? by Bruce Fuller, Kathryn Gesicki, Erin Kang, Joseph Wright. Fuller et. al assemble a much greater batch of test score growth claims by entire states, not just a district with an unflinching focus on bubble-in accountability.

How could scholars forget the New Jersey Miracle, where 4th grade reading scores increased 7.9 points per year for nearly as long as NOLA produced gains? NOLA can't hold a candle to Arkansas's miracle where 4th grade reading scores increased by 19 points between 2001 and 2002, and where there was nearly a 75% increase in those scores in four years.  In fact, Fuller et. al calculate an average of the average of gains in fourteen states and find  2.6 and 2.7 points per year for the decade preceding NCLB! 

Continue reading "Thompson: Fact Checking the New Orleans Reformers' Spin" »

Books: A Week Until "The Prize"

51UTBTUV8bL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)The deluge of New Orleans coverage may be peaking, but there's another deluge to come in the form of publicity surrounding Jonathan Franz..  Dale Russakoff's new book about Newark, The Prize.

To help get yourself ready (or perhaps as a form of inoculation, you might take a look at four big reviews of the book, which comes out officially in a week: Chicago Tribune (Diane Rado);  The Seventy Four (Conor Williams); NYT (Alex KotlowitzNYT2 (Jonathan Knee). Yes, that's right, there are two reviews of the book in the NYT. 

As you may recall, there was an excerpt from the book in The New Yorker last year (A Test for School Reform in Newark). Chris Cerf penned an oped response in December (Dispelling Five ‘Falsehoods’ About Newark’s School System).

I'm doing some reporting and thinking about the book, and will have something out in the next few days. If you see any other reviews, let me know. 

Morning Video: The Fight To Reboot A Chicago High School

Curious about the controversy over the closing of Dyett HS in Chicago (and the hunger strike against its demise)? Not sure just how controversial it can be to phase out even a low-performing, declining-enrolllment school? Watch the above WTTW Chicago Public Television segment (transcript here).
Or, check out a new podcast audio segment from Us & Them about the Math Wars of the 1970s.

Charts: Extra Money "Meaningfully" Improves Student Outcomes


"Our findings provide compelling evidence that money does matter, and that additional school resources can meaningfully improve long-run outcomes for students." (Education Next: Boosting Educational Attainment and Adult Earnings)

Charts: As Of 2010, DC Got More Foundation Funding Than Anyone Else (Per Pupil)

Eee"The [$31M] total represented an extra $705 per student — far more than any other school district in the country," notes this Washington Post story (D.C. schools attracted record amounts of philanthropy). Other districts with substantial private funding include(d) Nwark, Oakland, Seattle, & Boston. Image used with permission. Latest figures included are for 2010, and are presented on a per-pupil basis. 

Morning Video: Hunger Strike To Save Neighborhood School


Via HuffPost. Or, watch an MSNBC segment on The Seventy Four, which has been criticized by the HuffPost for being a softball interview (which it was).

Quotes: Black Children Going To School For 12 Years

Quotes2Violence is Black children going to school for 12 years and receiving 6 years worth of education.

-- Julian Bond, former NAACP head who just passed away.

Thompson: A NOLA Middle Ground

John Merrow, in Deciphering Schooling in New Orleans, Post-Katrina, writes that he hasn’t seen enough people take the middle ground when discussing the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans's school reform. He also remembers the city's schools as so bad, pre-Katrini, that one had to "steal electricity from other buildings and utility poles because its own wiring was inadequate—probably rotted through.  And the schools, many of them, were violent and dangerous places."
I mostly see middle ground in reports on the New Orleans competition-driven reforms, with NPR Marketplace's series on the debate being the latest example. In fact, most of the panelists in the Education Research Alliance conference, where Douglas Harris released research on the test-driven, choice-driven outcomes, were squarely in the middle ground of the discussions. Harris's conclusions were seen as too rosy by many (or most?) of those moderate experts.
But, advocates for the New Orleans model of reform had to be upset by these findings and discussions. Harris, and others who are impressed by much of the New Orleans's outcomes, have hardly found evidence in support of other school systems trying to replicate its market-driven, outcomes-driven approach. 
I wish we could focus on what actually worked in New Orleans and what didn't work, what methods could be improved and what should be rejected, and discuss lessons for systemic improvements of schools and systems. Such a conversation must wait, however, until we educators who oppose corporate reform beat back the well-funded campaign to impose test, sort, reward, and punish across urban America. As long as teacher-bashing organizations like The 74 seek to break our unions and destroy the due process rights of educators, we must concentrate on exposing the falsehoods intertwined in the reformers' spin about the supposed glories of New Orlean's charters.
Teachers have other things to do rather than criticize reforms that help students. For instance, we welcome the extra counselors who helped raise graduation rates across the nation, and that are the likely reason why New Orleans's graduation rates and college-going rates increased. Educators oppose the hastily implemented silver bullets that have backfired, damaged public schools, undermined our profession and, above all, hurt a lot of students.

Continue reading "Thompson: A NOLA Middle Ground" »

Quotes: New Teachers "All So Rough"

Quotes2They come in and they are working so hard, but it's all so rough. There's no way you can prepare anybody for it, you just have to live it... They found a way to get rid of the union... They got rid of such a huge part of the black middle class, those female teachers, head of households, well-educated people. 

 -- Holley Bendtsen, a 10th grade teacher at Landry-Walker high school, quoted on Marketplace APM (Charters transform New Orleans schools, and teachers)

Morning Video: Why Schools Like Ferguson Resegregated So Completely

From last night's PBS NewsHour: "Since 1988, American schools have grown more segregated. Jeffrey Brown talks to New York Times Magazine writer Nikole Hannah-Jones -- who recently wrote about school segregation in Ferguson, Missouri -- and Sheryll Cashin of Georgetown University Law Center."

Charts: What Black & White New Orleanians Really Think About Education

CMDwdi6WoAEP9XcThere's a big gap between how good white and black NOLA residents think things are for kids in the decade since Katrina, but the overall trend is positive for education (see bottom left) and overall kid well-being. Via NPR (New Orleanians See Remarkable Progress A Decade After Hurricane Katrina).

Morning Video: Let's Talk About Segregated Housing & Segregated Schools

Click "play" on this recent panel featuring TCF fellows Stefanie DeLuca and Halley Potter and L'Heureux Lewis-McCoy of CUNY discussing the nexus of race, housing, and education in America. 

According to TCF's Potter, "segregation in housing and schools are intimately linked, and that we need to consider strategies that address both problems." She also notes that integrating schools doesn't really go far enough if classrooms aren't integrated, too, and choice alone isn't probably enough without equitable access to information and other supports. 

Quotes: In NYC, Reformers Oppose Mayoral Control

Quotes2When a group professing to support education reform opposes mayoral control of schools, it calls into question what exactly it stands for.

--Wiley Norvell in NYT (Groups That Back Bloomberg’s Education Agenda Enjoy Success in Albany)

Morning Video: Black Students More Likely to Receive "Stigmatizing" SPED Labels

"The data shows that black students are often times two or three times more likely than white students to be identified, especially in the most stigmatizing categories such as emotional disturbance, mental retardation or intellectual disabilities and some other categories," said Daniel Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies. "They are underrepresented in categories like autism, and perhaps other categories like speech and language." (The Complicated Problem Of Race And Special Education.)

Charts: How Gerrymandered Attendance Zones Reinforce Segregation

37boundary-c1Here's a chart comparing actual Loudoun County (VA) attendance zones to model zones that balance student demographics as much as possible and aren't "gerrymandered" in ways that exclude certain groups. Via EdWeek (New Tool Maps School Attendance Zones). Used with permission. Credit Teachers College Record.

Quotes: Your School Attendance Boundaries Are Gerrymandered

Quotes2Everybody’s concerned about political gerrymandering, but nobody really blinks an eye at gerrymandered school districts.

-- SMU Professor Meredith Richards, quoted in Edweek (New Tool Maps School Attendance Zones)

Books: Hey, Leave Those Low-Scoring High Schools Alone!

It tells the story of Mission High, which has apparently enjoyed great success despite challenging circumstances -- including the possibility of being closed thanks (indirectly) to federal education law focused narrowly on test scores rather than other metrics:

"Based on four years of reporting with unprecedented access, the unforgettable, intimate stories in these pages throw open the doors to America’s most talked about—and arguably least understood—public school classrooms where the largely invisible voices of our smart, resilient students and their committed educators can offer a clear and hopeful blueprint for what it takes to help all students succeed."







I haven't read the book yet, but longtime readers may recall that I critiqued the Mother Jones article Rizga wrote and the accompanying KQED feature that ran in 2012.
At that time, I wrote a post titled Everything You Read In That Mother Jones Article Is Wrong that praised Rizga for her writing but not for her fairness in terms of characterizing federal efforts to encourage districts to revamp schools that didn't appear to be doing well by students. I also suggested that Mission High might be something of an outlier, in terms of the apparent mismatch between test scores and other measures.
For the new book, there are blurbs from Dave Eggers, Jeff Chang, Dana Goldstein, Katrina vanden Heuvel, and LynNell Hancock. The book officially launches August 15.

Charts: How Much Did That Free Excellent Neighborhood School Cost You?

Screen shot 2015-07-21 at 3.10.01 PM

This Matt Yglesias article and accompanying chart are going around today. In the piece, the Vox honcho makes the case -- too simplistically, according to some like Chalkbeat's Maura Walz -- that the housings costs of homes near high-performing public schools (top right quadrant) make them inaccessible to many middle- and low-income families, and that there are strong disincentives to letting more people live in those areas or dis-connecting school assignment and housing. Chart by Ginger Moored via Vox.

Morning Video: Packnett & Mckesson Win TFA Social Justice Activism Award

Here's the promo video for Brittany Packnett and Deray McKesson, two TFA alumni who have been extremely involved in social justice activism since last year's Ferguson protests. They received TFA's Peter Jennings award for their leadership at a TFA event last week. Video provided by TFA. They were also on WNYC and NPR's On The Media last week.

All of a sudden, the reform movement doesn't seem so left behind on social justice issues as it did a year or two ago (though it still has a long way to go).

Related posts: McKesson Invited To Clinton Campaign EventConservatives Critique/Elevate AFT Alum/Activist.



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