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What Happened To The Middle School

51tfab4smbl__sl500_aa240_Paul Tough's new book about the Harlem Children's Zone is fantastic over all but mysteriously underplays one of the newsiest elements of the story: what happens to the middle school.  Described in one of the final chapters, this turn of events isn't fully addressed in the book and has also been ignored by the mainstream media (including the New York Times for which Tough works). Toughs' decision not to give greater consideration of what seems like a major issue for HCZ is disturbing, as is the papers' failure to report what was going on at the time it happened (during 2006-2007).   -- John Thompson, Oklahoma City high school teacher.

Eduwonkette Revealed

“I didn’t become an academic to talk to five guys in a room with transparencies.”

-- Jennifer Jennings (aka eduwonkette) in this New York Magazine article about her rise and recent unmasking.

Union Leader Expelled From Own Union

Always looking for ways to improve and impress, the executive council of the Chicago Teachers Union voted yesterday to kick out its elected Vice President, Ted Dallas, who's been a union member since 1970 (Chicago Teachers Union Ousts Vice President Huffington Post Chicago).  Dallas and his President, Marilyn Stewart, had been on the outs for almost a year now.  They have each accused each other of mis-spending union funds, among other things.  Fun! 

I was on Chicago Public Radio explaining the conflict yesterday morning, just before the vote took place (audio here).  However, I didn't really think they'd go through with it. 

Michael Phelps' ADHD & His Mom's School

340x Need a little something to help with the Phelps withdrawal?  Here's some stories that link the swimmer's accomplishments to his mom and to his own difficult academic experiences.  You see, Phelps' mom Deborah turns out to be the principal of Windsor Mill Middle School.  She headed home right after the last event to help with teacher orientation, and her son recalled how he struggled in school with ADHD among other things and was frequently teased.

What Education Can Learn From The Medal Count Debate

Badminton2 Which is the better way to measure a nation's Olympic success -- its number of gold medals or its number of medals over all -- and what does that say about your views on education?

The Chinese think that the gold medal is all that really counts, while US officials perfer the overall count (here).   

Seems to me that people are always trying to find a measure that makes them look better, rather than one that's the most fair and comparable.  (In the Olympics, by the way, such a measure would have to accommodate each nation's population size, and its GDP or some other measure of wealth.)

Note From LA

Lapalmtrees I'm in LA again this week, checking in on how things are going at the "new" Locke High School.  Should be interesting. 

In the meantime, I'm going to take a little break from the usual  blogging.  I may post some things here or there, but will mostly stand down in order to focus on things in LA. 

Thanks as always to all of you who read this blog and send me things and comment.  I'll check back in soon.

A Head Start On Your Weekend Reading

17cover395 Get ahead on this weekend's reading -- you're going to need extra time -- with the early release of Paul Tough's latest piece in the New York Times Magazine, called A Teachable Moment. As you'll see, there's more Pastorek and a little less Vallas than you might expect.  There's some of the newfangled talk about portfolios.  And the signature Tough ruminations on poverty, education, and society.  I need to read it more carefully before I weigh in -- let me know what you think.

UPDATE:  Slow news month plus start of school = lots of education stuff.  There's also a new Harper's article on the test prep industry that's out -- subscription only:  Tyranny of the test.

UPDATE 2:  Jeff Chu has a profile of Michelle Rhee in the new Fast Company.

Opportunism Or Altruism In NYC Union-Charter Collaboration?

It's either a further sign of her brilliance or a further sign of her selling out that UFT AFT President Randi Weingarten is on the brink of having gotten the first-ever Green Dot union charter school outside of Los Angeles up and running in the Bronx in just over a year's time. 

Green_dot_600How'd this happen so fast?  Based on what I'm told, Weingarten heard about Green Dot last winter and spring, right about the time pretty much everyone else did.  She then went to LA to see if the reality was as collaborative as promised -- just like many others did.  Then she got her team drafting a charter application that could get by the SUNY Trustees. [Her status as AFT president in waiting probably didn't hurt, either -- not for the SUNY Trustees but for Green Dot.]

Once approved, the Green Dot New York school apparently attracted 400 student applications -- and 800 teaching applications.  For nine teaching spots.  A yearlong principal search turned up Ashish Kapatia, who spent some of the summer in LA learning the Green Dot ropes and had a Green Dot rising star Chad Soleo help work things out this summer.  The curriculum will be different, to match the Regents requirements, but will include the same remedial components (like Read 180).  At some point soon, there'll be a contract along the lines of the one Green Dot has negotiated in LA.

To be sure, not everyone's happy about what Green Dot is doing.  The LA effort was under attack this week for being an "empty promise" when it comes to teacher and parent input and decisionmaking. And not everyone's happy with Weingarten's reform-minded instincts.  The real promise here, to the extent that there is any, is some further crumbling of the longstanding wall between charters and unions.  Opportunistic, or truly altruistic, moves like this could help bring innovation and excellence to more schools -- without seriously undercutting what teachers and unions have fought for. Or at least that's the hope. 

Bait and Switch In DC

Archery081408 What could be wrong with Michelle Rhee's proposed $70,000 per year teacher pay increase, in return for a year of probation?  Lots, as it turns out. First off, the plan doesn't include a neutral party in the due process role, which could endanger teachers.  Second, it would undercut contracts throughout the country.  Last but not least, there's no guarantee the resources would last.  And then what?  Would Rhee perpetually pass the hat for permanent wage increases? Bonuses and salary increases for teachers have a strange way of drying up after a few years.  -- John Thompson

Educational Uses For Rock, Paper, Scissors

6a00bf76d0a19d438300cd97018c2c4cd55 Impress your students, get that corner classroom you've always wanted, or break a deadlock at the next school board meeting with this helpful tutorial from Wired about how to Win at Rock Paper Scissors.

Electronic Responsiveness Could Help Win Debate Over Teacher Contract

16How well does your superintendent handle email (assuming he or she actually knows what email is)?  This may no longer be an incidental question.  That's because emailing skills are shaping up to be a critical component in the contract debate going on in the DC public school system, according to this Washington Post article (Pay Dispute Continues as Classes Near).   

Paying Lip Service To Poverty

11265618 In a post from yesterday, the Ed Sector's Kevin Carey seems to minimize the differences between folks like him who are focused on school reform and folks like everyone who signed the BBA manifesto who include health, poverty, and jobs (Say What You Mean). 

"Every school reform advocate I know absolutely wants better social and economic environments for children, and thinks that doing so would help their education," writes Carey.  "Division of intellectual labor doesn't automatically imply indifference or antagonism toward other issues."

But that's not exactly right.  There is a difference between acknowledging the importance of poverty or unemployment and working to do something about those things. We are what we do.  Pretending otherwise seems dishonest, or at least incomplete.

What about the other side? On this front, at least, the situation seems a little different.  Many of the BBA signers have paid much more than lip service to school reform.  I'm not sure that the same can be said of many EEP folks who seem to have washed their hands of anything that happens outside the schoolyard gate. 

Big Stories Of The Day

Obama Goes Positive In New Olympics Spot CBS
"To grow the economy; End tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas; Help businesses that create jobs here; Invest in education, cut taxes.."

Ap_obama_mccain_080810_mn California test scores are higher, but higher federal targets put more schools at risk LA Times
Latest results show L.A. schools improving at a faster rate than the state average but still lagging behind overall

Georgia 8th-grader's suicide spurs lawsuit Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Jonathan King told teachers at his north Georgia alternate public school that he couldn’t stand being locked within the four concrete walls of a small seclusion room.

Charter Schools Bloom In New Orleans NPR
Since Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has become a laboratory of sorts for charter schools. Seven new ones are opening this month — supported by millions of dollars in federal and private grants. The funding draws educators to New Orleans.

Back-to-School Discounts Are Deeper, More Creative NYT
Parents shopping for back-to-school gear could be forgiven for walking into a store nowadays and thinking they have gone through a time warp.

Here, to teach is to supply Las Vegas Sun
Educators shell out, get creative to keep classrooms stocked in lean times.

What To Glean From The Edwards Affair?

Rielle_hunter_john_edwards To me, at least, the real news from the John Edwards story is how long -- 10 months -- it took for the mainstream press to pick up on what the tabloid press and blogosphere were already reporting and debating.

That should be a lesson for the education press, which remains stubbornly reluctant to use -- and credit -- tidbits and news that surface from blogs and other nontraditional sources. 

There's no example yet of a big story that the papers miss out of pride, narrow competitiveness, or pure obliviousness. But if reporters and their editors don't track and act on what's going on online I think there will be soon.   

Obama, Charters, Bipartisanship?

Barack_the_dad_081308 I'm still not finding much to support the notion that Obama was in any way a leader in the 2003 effort to bring more charter schools to Chicago, much less a clear instance of bipartisanship as was claimed by the camapign (see post from yesterday.  The deal to give Chicago 15 more charter slots was negotiated between the Board and the union and then put into an omnibus bill.  Fourteen of 59 state senators cosponsored the legislation, which passed unanimously in both houses.  Charter supporters should note that the legislation wasn't a big win for charter advocates, limiting as it did the terms under which charters could expand in Chicago, one of the more restrictive setups in the nation.  Here are some helpful links provided by a friend:  the legislation, the roll call vote, the bill summary

Big Stories Of The Day

Studies of Popular Reading Texts Don't Make Grade EdWeek
Open Court Reading and Reading Mastery failed to earn ratings from the What Works Clearinghouse because they do not have any studies that satisfy the agency’s rigorous evidence standards.

Now you can tell the teachers from the kids Las Vegas Sun
The School District’s newest teachers, who showed up for their orientation session Wednesday, looked quite different from those who attended in past years. This class was a little older, seemed more poised, even mature. Most were dressed professionally

Oly1A Homeschooling Win in California MSNBC
In a stunning reversal of its own ruling, a California court says it's O.K. for uncredentialed parents to homeschool their kids.

Texas kids who want to leave poor schools stuck in limbo Houston Chronicle
Parent advocates said the delay is unacceptable and effectively renders No Child Left Behind's

Policy myths cause a lot of government’s problems, and education Sacto Bee
Take just one of them—numerical goals, which were actually written into the  toughest sanctions meaningless. No Child Left Behind Act in the belief that they are an accepted business

Low-income subgroup holds back 23 schools Kannapolis Independent Tribune
Schools within Cabarrus County were more likely to miss No Child Left Behind requirements in 2007-08 as a result of test scores from...

Obama Exaggerating Claims On Charter Expansion Law?

Barack_obama_080708 Way way down in the Obama campaign response regarding bipartisanship you can see a couple of education-related entries (The Obama record on bipartisanship). 

Only problem is, I don't really remember Obama being involved with -- or credited for -- the charter school expansion that took place in 2003. 

I'll check with my Chicago people but this claim, at least, seems exaggerated. 

Dems Pick This Guy To Keynote Convention

Warner So says EdWeek's Campaign K12 (Keynote Democratic Convention).  In addition to his work on education, he was once considered a Presidential front-runner (this pic is from a 2006 New York Times Magazine cover)  and is still on some peoples' lists for VP.

While all that remains uncertain, it seems unlikely that we'll get the same kind of eye-catching keynote speech that we got last time around, when Obama took the podium four years ago.   

Positive Experiences Between Researchers & Journalists

Jerry_lewis_nutty_prof Paul Baker at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research sends along this article about a recent international survey that debunks -- or at least updates -- some of the conventional wisdom surrounding journalism and academic research:

"For the most part, scientists felt their work was portrayed accurately, explained well, and that news reports were generally complete and unbiased. Journalists...were perceived as responsible and informed in their reporting."

Possible reasons for changing attitudes towards journalism include awareness of the importance of public understanding of research, and access to funding that can come from public attention. 

Who You Calling "Status Quo"? [UPDATE]

Beets_600 I heard some interesting things last week when I had the chance to talk with Larry Mishel, the president of the Economic Policy Institute and chairman of the Broader Bolder effort.  Check it out below.

UPDATE:  Mishel writes in to correct the record noting that BBA is only against ‘narrow test-based accountability’ -- not any use of tests -- and that BBA has as much support from the civil rights community as the other side.  Speaking of the other side, Mishel provides what he says is the original list  in support of EEP, which includes just 22 signatures (EEP signers.doc).

Last but not least, in response to several queries, the beets signify nothing.  Just a nice picture.

Continue reading "Who You Calling "Status Quo"? [UPDATE]" »

Not About Education: Silver Boxes At The Opening Ceremonies

Oly12previewLet's be honest -- there's nothing happening in education this week or next that can compare to the Olympics (and the war between Russia and Georgia, which seems to have slowed down). 

So why not do what I've been doing and watch the opening ceremonies again and again?  I specially love the silver boxes at the 11-minute mark. 

You can view it here in high quality (Free Online Videos).  If necessary, tell them you live in zip code 60622 and subscribe to Comcast Digital to get access.  NBC5, Chicago Illinois. 

EdWeek Story Rehashes What You Already Know About Campaign Advisors

Oly8 You won't find much that hasn't already been covered in Alyson Klein's new story on campaign advisors -- especially not on the Democratic side, which I've written about extensively.  Give Klein extra demerits for relying on as Petrilli and Rotherham rather than folks inside the campaigns themselves for quotes. All is not lost, however.  Klein does fill in some new Republican names, and does get Rotherham to admit what everyone knew but he failed to admit for months to his readers:  that he was a Clinton advisor (Advisers Take Public Roles in Campaigns EdWeek).

Big Stories Of The Day

Obca942_phelps_20080812231625ACT scores down, but more students college-ready AP
Average scores on the ACT college entrance exam dipped slightly for the high school class of 2008 as the number of students taking the exam jumped by 9 percent compared to last year.

Schools Start Offering Students Cash for Better Grades PBS
Some schools across the country have launched new cash reward programs to improve students' test scores, despite concerns from some educators over what role money should lplay in children's motivation.

Poll Finds Drop in Public’s Regard for Schools EdWeek
A new survey also gives Democrats an edge as the party seen as most likely to improve education.

More African-Americans Being Home Schooled NPR
This week's Mocha Moms discuss the benefits and challenges of home schooling.

A Taste of Failure Fuels an Appetite for Success at South Korea’s Cram Schools NYT
South Koreans say their obsession to get their children into top-notch universities is nothing short of “a war” and are turning to intense, regimented campuses.

Nevada State Board Member Gone Wild

Ist2_126409elvissunglasses04 Thanks to a friend for passing along this bit from the Las Vegas Review Journal about the resignation of a state school board member after he apparently made out with his new wife and fell asleep during board meetings (Member of panel resigns). The circumstances are pretty bizarre, too -- medical stuff, Evlis-style sunglasses, and more -- I won't spoil the fun of reading the article. 

NBCT Targeting: It's About Time

Ihatebrooklyn050502_1_400 EdWeek has a story about how -- finally! -- the NBPTS is embarking on an effort to make sure that NBC teachers are in high need districts and schools (NBPTS Gears Up in High-Need Districts).  Gazillions of teachers are going through NBC, and over 60,000 have gotten certified over the past four years.  Most of them got some sort of bonus for their success, since states love them some "nationally certified" teachers. 

But just 41 percent are in high need schools, according to EdWeek.  That's pathetic.  Not that there's anything wrong with NBCT. I'm sure it made you a much better teacher. But if you're going to pour public money into something, it has to be focused where it's needed most.  And that just seems like it hasn't been the case. 

Another Quick And Easy Solution Bites The Dust

The Washington Post had a story last week of the kind that  we teachers like to read, because it described the unintended effects of the quick and easy solutions that are sometimes used to make NCLB data look better.

Beach_volleyball_5thumb The article describes how an administrator in Prince Williams County  Maryland implemented online "credit recovery" programs because, "If the students are simply trying to get through -- and some of our students are not as highly motivated as we might want them to be -- and it helps them get matriculated through, then that's a good thing."

It's cheaper than summer school.  It's easier than taking the full course.  But does it work?  It doesn't seem so, based on the article:  " ...meanwhile, Bria was struggling on a world history quiz, the same 10-question, multiple-choice quiz she had taken five times." -- John Thompson

Mirror In The Classroom

Hpim1716 I can think of a few obvious challenges to putting mirrors in classrooms, but there would also be some benefits: 

"Subjects tested in a room with a mirror have been found to work harder, to be more helpful and to be less inclined to cheat, compared with control groups performing the same exercises in nonmirrored settings."

How the Brain Interprets Information
New York Times

I can't imagine this hasn't been tried before.

Washington DC Think Tank Debuts Coverage Of Brutal, Fast-Growing Sport

Once known for its education research, the Fordham Foundation recently unveiled its newest effort:  a webTV effort focused on the fast-growing but still largely unknown sport of Mixed Martial Arts:


Morning Quotes


Whatever else they do, lawmakers need to strengthen the requirement that states document student performance in yearly tests in exchange for federal aid.

How Well Are They Really Doing? NYT

On the same day that he was extolling the need to shake up the "status quo" in education, Obama also defended his opposition to school vouchers.

Say it isn't so, Barack Statesman Journal

Big Stories Of The Day

Governor wants legal protections for teachers USA Today
Teachers who use good faith efforts to maintain discipline and order in their classrooms shouldn't have to worry about being sued for doing so, Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels said.

Three small schools have some of region's highest dropout rates Sacramento Bee
Designed for no more than 500 students, the campuses were supposed to make school more personal for teens who might have gotten lost at the comprehensive high schools. 

Fewer families volunteer for exchange students; economy blamed Dallas Morning News
The slumping U.S. economy is taking its toll on high school exchange programs as fewer American families step up to shoulder the growing costs that can come with hosting international students.

Teamwork Key for Pilot Plans on Teacher Pay EdWeek
A variety of federally financed grants based on performance pay are providing insights into how districts and teachers can improve teaching and learning, but officials and researchers say their effectiveness is uncertain.Asdfasdfasdfasf

"The Day My Butt Went Psycho!"

043942469001lzzzzzzz_2 Thanks to the folks at On Our Minds for catching a Wall Street Journal piece on  efforts revamp books so that more boys will read (Boys and Reading).  On Our Minds is put out by the communications geniuses at Scholastic, whose Administrator magazine sponsors this blog.  Scholastic puts out lots of books that boys like to read, including "The Day My Butt Went Psycho!"

Cross Duncan Off The List

Anything could happen, but EdWeek's campaign blog leaps far out into the unlikelysphere with its notion that Chicago's Arne Duncan might be a leading candidate for EdSec under Obama (Arne Duncan?).  The guy doesn't have nearly enough heft -- or success - to make the cut.   Even his supporters would admit that he isn't a charismatic or dynamic speaker.  He doesn't really give Obama anything politically. Hell, I don't even think Duncan realized he was signing onto two different manifestos.  (But I'll check, just to be sure.)

Changes In The Dem Party Platform

Click on over to Joe Williams' DFER blog to see how this year's Democratic party platform differs in small but perhaps significant ways from four years ago (Democrats for Education Reform).  Again, things do not seem to be moving in the BB direction.  Not that the two agendas are mutually inconsistent, of course. 

Send City Kids To Suburban Schools, Says Sharpton

The Reverend Al Sharpton announced his support over the weekend for a plan to highlight the inequities of Illinois' funding system by sending Chicago public school children to an affluent suburb on the first day of school (Rev. Al Sharpton Joins In On CPS Boycott CBS2).

Illinois ranks second to last in state support for public education, and has one of the highest numbers of individual school districts in the country (something like 800). 

The controversial state senator (and reverend) who originated the protest idea has now expanded it to include a weeklong sit-in of downtown office buildings by Chicago students. 

How TFA Thinks About Supporting New Teachers

Backwards_bush I don't envy the folks who are in charge of studying and improving the training and support for TFA teachers, which has been criticized as the organization's glaring weakness (here, in the Kappan, and in Donna Foote's book, Relentless Pursuit). 

Click below to read more.

Continue reading "How TFA Thinks About Supporting New Teachers" »

New Article On New Orleans Coming This Week

Man_on_wire_towers Written by Paul Tough, the upcoming New York Times Magazine piece on New Orleans has a tough standard to meet -- Amy Waldman's powerful piece from last year, John Merrow's PBS series that just wrapped up last month.  But Tough, who's book on Geoffrey Canada is out next month, has a way of unpacking complex ideas in a way that mainstream readers can understand and he may surprise readers with the focus of his piece.  It's slated for August 17, but may be released online a few days early.  I just finished Tough's book and will post a review and/or excerpt sometime soon.   

Big Stories Of The Day

Schools on a shoestring: Specialized programs cut to the core Orlando Sentinel
Students across Central Florida will learn a brutal lesson in economics when the new school year starts next week.

State-Chief Turnovers Squeezing Talent Pool EdWeek
A high turnover among top state school officers nationwide is posing a challenge for recruiters seeking people with the right mix of educational acumen and political savvy to fill the vacant or soon-to-be-vacant spots.

Ceremony_sub_65011School Vouchers Washington Post
The time has come for Congress to stop playing political games and, instead, undertake a fair assessment of a program that gives D.C. families a say in their children's education.

Teachers deal with first-day jitters at workshop Miami Herald
Not a wink of sleep the night before. Butterflies in your stomach. So nervous it's hard to smile -- or stop smiling. These back-to-school nerves don't rack just students: Teachers get the jitters, too.

S. Idaho schools take focus off federal law Fort Mills Times
School officials in southern Idaho say they've decided not to sweat over federal benchmarks set by the No Child Left Behind law.

Outdoor educators pushing for 'No Child Left Inside' funding USA Today
Sarbanes hopes that when Congress revisits the No Child Left Behind law next year, they'll revise it to include some $500 million over five years for

Schools want action from candidates Vail Daily News
Whether you love or hate it, the teaching profession has changed dramatically because of No Child Left Behind, the federal education policy that requires...

'Kiss My Math' Tries To Make Pre-Algebra Cool NPR
Actress and mathematician Danica McKellar is on a mission to get middle-school girls to stop hating math.

"We Are Not Government Issued"

Thanks to a reader for pointing me to this item about a group of young female muralists whose latest effort is meant to raise awareness about military recruiting in low-income high schools:


“They say there’s not a draft,” said Katie Yamasaki, an art teacher who is directing the project. “But when they say they can’t afford to fund college because 40 percent of our tax dollars go to war, a lot of youths feel stuck.” (here)

Tiger Teacher Beat: Latest EdWeek Blog Unveiled

N_motion_tiger_beat_cover_2 My prediction that eventually all of the reporters at Education Week would get their own blog appears to be coming true.   The latest example is Teacher Beat, which will focus on...teachers  and will be written by the dastardly duo of Vaishali Honawar and Stephen Sawchuk. No word on whether EdWeek reporters get paid per post or per visitor.  By my count, that's now 11 blogs on the site -- not counting the Teacher Mag blogs.  Check it out. 

Would Obama Support Funding Protest In Chicago?

2008_08_acrylamide The idea of sending low-income Chicago students to try and enroll for the new school year at suburban New Trier High School only seems to be gaining steam in the past week or so since it was first announced.  The governor scheduled a special session of the state legislature.  A number of ministers have now endorsed the idea.  The Chicago board of education president held a press conference to repeat his opposition. A report came out showing that the state of Illinois provides less than 30 percent of district budgets.  And the main proponent of the protest has added to his original idea with the plan to have CPS students stage sit-ins in the lobbies of major Chicago corporations to "sensitize" them to the need to increase state support for education (Meeks Wants Kids To Flood Offices CBS2 Chicago, Businesses added to school boycott Sun Times).

It remains unclear if anything substantive will come from this.  Or even whether the protest will take place as planned.  But it's certainly captured a lot of peoples' imaginations.  Someone should ask Obama whether he supports it.  It might be interesting to see what he said.

Mr. Holland's First Day

School Gate has a list of its favorite movie teachers  (here) -- complete with video clips.  Some are pretty old school (Mr. Chips, To Sir With Love), but others on the list are good.  Jack Black in School of Rock.  Robin Williams in Dead Poet's Society.  Edward James Olmos in Stand & Deliver. But you may have your own faves.

Poverty Is Back!

14448_antipoverty ...As a big state issue, that is.  Stateline notes that least 15 states are implementing antipoverty programs (here) -- focusing on an issue that has been on the back back back burner for a long time now.  What will come of these efforts nobody knows, but some of them have money and momentum. Maybe the Broader Bolder folks should focus on the states if they can't get love from the national policymakers. 

Big Stories Of The Day

Ca_latMcCain Memo: Paint Obama As "Job Killing Machine"
McCain camp portray Obama as a tax-raising "job killing machine" who is "aligned with trial lawyers" and "unions (card check, trade, education... 

College Board to debut an 8th-grade PSAT exam Los Angeles Times
The test, expected to be released in 2010, aims to identify talented students and get them into college-prep classes early. But many critics say students already face too many tests and too much stress

Teachers Union Leader Pessimistic on Contract Washington Post
The president of the Washington Teachers' Union yesterday all but ruled out acceptance of a proposal by D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee that would require tenured teachers to spend a year on probation in exchange for huge salary increases and bonuses.

For Teachers’ Unions, It’s the Year of the Women EdWeek
For the first time in recent history, all of the American Federation of Teachers’ top elected leaders are women. At the National Education Association, women occupy two of the three highest posts.

Denver Update

20narc500 Here's some more specifics on who's going to be talking at the Denver education event two Sundays from now (Agenda).  You'll see that there are some Broader Bolder folks involved -- Bob Schwartz is on one panel, for example.  And lots more on the invitation list.  So there's at least some effort to make this inclusive.  There's also a follow-up event on Monday that I'm told may include a Randi Weingarten appearance.  The big question now is whether Obama will show on Sunday. 

AFTERNOON UPDATE:  Bob Schwartz says that he was invited to attend but will not be at the Denver event on Sunday.  Schwartz says he would have participated but that the plans were never finalized and he now has a scheduling conflict.   

McCain's Your Guy!

Ap_mccain_obama_080731_mn If teachers want NCLB gutted, then McCain's the man who's going to do it, says Richard Whitmire (McCain's Your Guy!).

And it's true.  But teachers know, somewhere, that getting rid of NCLB won't make everything better.  And it certainly won't generate a slew of new funding for schools. 

A Bold, Balanced Approach For Obama

Header Bold_header_650_2 We have been debating whether the route to education reform is "the Head" alone, or through "the Heart," and we think it is strange when Obama supports both. But it isn't. The EEP wants to gamble everything on the brain, especially the parts that process numbers and fear. Bold_header_650_2The Bolder Broader Challenge should be the better political approach because it is based on common sense.  But we progressives have failed to balance the rights of individuals versus the welfare of the community. Obama has been making that point with sensitivity and nuance. We educators should follow his lead, and his balanced approach. -- John Thompson

The Benefits Of Boredom

Bored_kid If there's anything that teachers and students know a lot about, it's being bored.  Bored in class.  Bored in a faculty meeting or all-day PD session.  And usually we think of boredom as a bad thing.  But a recent NYT article suggests that there are some benefits to boredom, as well as the obvious downsides:  "Boredom is more than a mere flagging of interest or a precursor to mischief," notes the piece (here).  "Some experts say that people tune things out for good reasons, and that over time boredom becomes a tool for sorting information — an increasingly sensitive spam filter."  The article explains why people get bored.  There's even mention a 28-question test to see how boredom you are.  But...I'm too bored to find it. 

Center On American Progress Owes Me A Beer

321pxstella_artois_bottle Here's my new rule:  anytime that someone proposes a policy solution for education that doesn't make mention of how to get that policy accepted in the political process owes me a beer.  Simple, right? 

This week, it's CAP, whose head honchos Podesta and Brown take to the pages of EdWeek to lament the lack of enforcement of the comparability provision in Title I:

"It is absolutely necessary for the next administration and the next Congress to examine such examples of progress and fix the federal funding requirements for Title I schools. For the future of all American children, and our country, these changes can’t come a moment too soon." (here)

They're not the first to point out the comparability problem.  Pretty much everybody has.  It's a problem.  We get it.  But pointing out the problem doesn't make for any real solutions.  This round's on CAP. 

Big Stories Of The Day

Dc_wp ‘Reading First’ Conference Draws 6,000 EdWeek
With the likely loss of funding, educators try to figure out how to keep the federal reading program alive in their districts.

Review of Seattle schools recommends overhaul Seattle PI
Seattle Public Schools' program for students learning English is among the weakest in the nation – "highly fragmented," and "weakly defined," according to a scathing outside review released Wednesday.

Summer Spells No Vacation From Homework Washington Post
Issie Griffith conquered two novels and a 100-page math packet on a recent summer break.

Mississippi Raises Bar on NCLB Test Scores EdWeek
In a move many see as overdue, the state is setting a tougher standard for students to qualify as “proficient” — and many more are likely to fall short.

High school or the movies? Dad makes a deal MSNBC
David Gilmour feared he might lose his son forever if he forced him to stay in high school, hopelessly flunking. Instead, he did something he recommends to no other parent: He told his boy he could drop out and watch movies instead.

Convention Event Highlights Obama Direction

Challenge_for_changeAnyone who wants to get a crystal clear sense of which direction Obama is really going on education issues need only glance at this invitation to a big Denver education event that's being coordinated by DFER, the campaign, and other reformy types: Challenge For Change (PDF). 

It's all Sharpton/Klein, all the time.  Maybe they'll include some bolder, bigger types in the program - -like New Schools did with its memorable Weingarten-Rhee session in DC earlier this year.  And maybe Obama will be persuaded not to sign onto the Sharpton Klein agenda officially, as a courtesey of some kind or to avoid looking like he's caving into McCain's dare.  But the message -- and the divisions -- seem clear. 

What the more liberal end of the education world will do in response to this, I have no idea. 



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