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QUOTES: "Miracle Cures And Pantomime"

"Debates on school reform seem to suffer from two related problems: The assumption that a simple change of governance or incentives will set you free; The tendency to pantomime--rather than truly implement--good reform ideas and then abandon them as ineffective when they don't work". (Miracle Cures and Pantomime LFA)

NEWS: Big Stories Of The Day

Not a ton of news, but a couple of good stories to check out re Duncan and state legislatures:

Duncan Wields $100 Billion to Make US Schools Like Chicago's Bloomberg
“The jury is still out on his tenure in Chicago,” Michael Petrilli, vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education research group in Washington, said of Duncan. “But he did put in place a lot of important reforms that there’s reason to believe are going to bear fruit over time.”

03test.480State senators to consider changing law on student scores, teacher evaluations LA Times
State Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), chairwoman of the Education Committee, said she plans to hold a hearing when the legislature reconvenes later this month to determine if any laws should be revised.

State Legislatures Wrestle With Charter Laws EdWeek
Amid pressure from the Obama administration to lift caps on schools, state lawmakers turn in a mixed record on charter schools.

School Is Out but Education Doesn’t Stop for the Obama Daughters This Summer NYT
“The television and the computers are off all day until after dinner and right before bedtime,” Mrs. Obama said during a June visit to San Francisco as she described her daughters’ summer routine. “Bedtime is early.”

SCANDAL: Critics Claim TFA Candidates Not U.S. Citizens

A4s_birthcert073109_78455c Scandal erupted over the weekend when a group of anonymous bloggers sent evidence purporting to show that some TFA teachers may not in fact be American citizens to the US Department of Education, five of the nation's largest school districts, and a number of different media outlets.  

"Until they show us a birth certificate or some other proof of US citizenship, they shouldn't be teaching in American classrooms," wrote one bloggers in an email titled "Classrooms For America." 
TFA has been under increasing scrutiny this summer as districts cut budgets and teaching positions. Some have accused districts and principals of replacing veteran teachers with TFA and other "alternative" candidates who are generally younger, better looking, and -- we now hear -- may or may not be real Americans.   

Those writing in claim that they are not connected to the so-called "birther" movement, which has claimed that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and is thus not rightly the President.    "We have nothing to do with those guy," wrote one commenter.  "We just want our kids to be taught by Americans."

TWITTER: Add Your District's Twitter Feed

Here's a helpful shared document showing a lot of different districts' Twitter feeds -- check out who's on there, add your district if it should be on the list (School Districts on Twitter).  See how districts are using Twitter differently (lunch menus, press releases, calendar updates, etc.)

BLOGS: Best Blog Posts & Tweets Of The Day

Here's what I've found so far today via Twitter (until I get over this little addiction): Remember that you don't have to join Twitter or follow someone -- just click on the links. Hit 'reload' if you don't see anything new.

ScreenHunter_32 Aug. 01 00.58

Twitter Updates

    NCLB: How Health Care Reform (and RttT) Really Affect NCLB

    China_health_care_reform Last week, Andywonk posited that the failure of health care reform would make NCLB reauthorization more likely (Health Care & NCLB).  A few days earlier, Tom Vander Ark also noted the relationship between health care and school reform (Stealth Education Reform), arguing that RttT represents "pre-authorization reform" -- laying the groundwork for NCLB 2.0 while health care grinds on.

    In reality, the failure of health care reform would greatly embolden Congressional Republicans and dramatically weaken any school reform efforts led by the President and Democrats in Congress.  Either way, NCLB reauthorization is likely to take place in a very different environment and process than did ARRA and RttT. It's not just gonna be Duncan and Miller in a room with their wish list.

    THOMPSON: Out of the Mouths of Social Scientists

    Science_Guy Unlike Gerald Bracey, I strongly support almost all of the Obama educational proposals, but Bracey gives Secretary Duncan a way out of his Race to the Top dilemma, writing "The President of the United States and his Secretary of Education are violating one of the most fundamental principles concerning test use: Tests should be used only for the purpose for which they were developed. If they are to be used for some other purpose, then careful attention must be paid to whether or not this purpose is appropriate. This position was developed jointly by the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education."

    Duncan should commit to science-based policies by issuing a regulation along the lines of "no district accepting federal funds may use a test data from a statistical model for the purposes of evaluation or tenure unless that model has been subjected to peer review consistent with established social science practice for use in conditions comparable to those encountered by the teacher under evaluation."

    Free us from the improper use of test scores and growth models and educators could join in a golden age of data-informed decision-making, using test scores for diagnostic purposes, and building a culture of collaboration. Free us from invalid punitive measures, and we can use the miracles of the digital age to identify children before they are lost and to inform instruction. - John Thompson

    CHICAGO: Sun Times Edit Board Questions Narrow RttT Focus On Data Systems

     I'm not exactly sure why Duncan did this editorial board with the Chicago Sun Times last week -- much less let them videotape it -- but there are some interesting moments (video below the break). 

    ScreenHunter_37 Aug. 02 20.31You get to see how sincere Duncan is in lamenting the youth violence that's become pretty much constant in Chicago over the last few years, and you get to see how candid he is in criticizing his own work and that of the rest of the city in addressing the issue. 

    Kudos for candor and sincerity.But you also get to see that Duncan doesn't really seem to have great ideas for what to do about the problems that Chicago and other big districts are facing. He touts his new Safe and Drug Free guy Kevin Jennings, talks about a Cincinnati program called the Fifth Quarter, mumbles something about how the Safe and Drug Free program is going to move towards more competitive grants (wuh?), and talks about longer hours and community schools being the best way to go for kids and safety. 

    But there's no real focus on these things in RttT and $5 billion won't get you there.  So Duncan doesn't have much to say when editorial page write Kate Grossman (off camera) asks him why none of these things -- youth safety, community schools especially -- are RttT priority: "Why isn't that as important as data systems?" she asks. 

    Continue reading "CHICAGO: Sun Times Edit Board Questions Narrow RttT Focus On Data Systems" »

    REFORM: We're All Headed To Toronto!

    090728_EX_busEX This Newsweek article (Dumb Money) tells us that it's not just the US where use of data to evaluate teachers is controversial, that most of what is popular to do in education -- class size reduction and school modernization, for example -- is least effective, and that Toronto has eliminated the achievement gap has allegedly been eliminated despite a substantial immigrant population.  All aboard!

    DUNCAN: The Secretary's Weekly Press Schedule

    Arne Duncan portrait-thumb-360x243 Still no word on if and when we get to see his real schedule, but in the meantime here's his press events for the week:

    Nothing in there that seems particularly interesting, though I'm sure someone will get suckered into covering some of it.

    Continue reading "DUNCAN: The Secretary's Weekly Press Schedule" »

    NEWS: Big Stories Of The Day

    Don't forget to check out the weekend reading, too -- great stuff in there:

    Decline and Fall EdWeek
    Robert C. Bobb was appointed by the state to try to close a huge budget deficit that is the legacy of declining enrollment and management problems.

    Washington Area Schools Buck Trends With Continued Support for Summer Programs WP
    While school districts across the country are cutting back on summer school to save money, Montgomery County is so convinced of its value to students that it spent $1.2 million this year to expand one of its programs.

    At School, Lower Expectations Of Dominican Kids NPR
    Parents and teachers often expect less of students who are the children of Dominican immigrants. This causes their grades and ambitions to suffer.

    State's districts rank low on spending but high on school debt: Austin Statesman
    A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that Texas school districts as a whole spend less per pupil than those in all but a few states — but collectively they're also deeper in debt.

    See also 'weekend reading' below.

    READING: Weekend Reading August 1-2

    Can't wait for the week to start?  Here are some good readings from over the weekend:

    Takeover Agents Confront the Challenges Ahead Washington Post
    Neither Rhee nor Justin Cohen, her deputy in charge of the partnership program, would agree to an interview. Requests for copies of quarterly progress reports and evaluations were also denied.

    The next few weeks could determine the fate of Barack Obama’s presidency

    Wage Learners Governing3772873071_465fae1566-490x308
    New York is not the only city that’s been paying kids to hit the books. Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago and Washington, D.C., all have tried out cash-for-grades programs on a pilot basis recently.

    We're public...no, we're private In These Times
    The questions of whether they indeed are public or private and whether their teachers can win the same collective bargaining rights are now being hotly debated, negotiated and litigated.

    Two local programs offer alternatives to the failing system. One of them transforms teenage offenders into attorneys. The other wants to change our notion of justice...

    That rush to build has left the county with more than 25,000 empty classroom seats...That comes to about 1,400 classrooms... a staggering $350 million wasted on unnecessary classrooms additions and schools.

    Mozart effect -- for real this time Miller McCune
    A new study finds listening to Mozart can indeed provide a boost for the brain — but only in non-musicians.

    CLOUT: Feds Start Investigation Of Chicago Schools [updated]

    Duncan_1216 The Chicago Tribune's Stephanie Banchero has learned that Federal authorities have now begun their own investigation of the Chicago schools' magnet and selective enrollment program, long rumored to give preference to connected and wealthy parents who are trying to get their children into extremely competitive public schools.  

    Representatives for the Secretary didn't respond to inquiries I made last week about whether Duncan had ever been approached to help get a child into a selective school, and by whom.  I've put in additional emails today asking whether Duncan has been contacted or is part of the investigation. According to the Tribune story, a grand jury has issued a subpoena to the Board of Education.

    UPDATE:  Saturday afternoon, Duncan communications chief Peter Cunningham responded by email: "The Department of Education has nothing to say at this point."




    Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.