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Gingrich & Sharpton: Just The Latest Drive-By Education Experts


Via Slate.

Blogs: Best Posts Of The Day

You're halfway there!

Work Hard, Be Good  Robert Pondiscio
Schools should stop telling children to be nice and start teaching them to be good. So writes Diana Senechal at DoubleX.

Live By The Sword, Die By The Sword? Liam Goldrick
The problem with Jay Mathews' defense of a Washington, DC school principal  is that the principal operates within an accountability system that demands such a result.

Ga. Cuts National-Board Certification  Stephen Sawchuk
Here's a story that could be a portent of things to come.

"School districts felt pressured to teach to the test..."  Mike Klonsky
I'm re-posting this short clip from Barack Obama's campaign speech in Wallingford, Pa. on April 2, 2008 as a way of reminding the president and his secretary of education of the hopefulness he inspired back then.

School Bus Radio Program Plays Its Last Tune
A company that broadcast music and commercials in thousands of school buses is shutting down.

Sign of the Times? School-Improvement Center to Close its Doors Inside Research
Word comes via Twitter that the work of the Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement is winding down.

Thompson: Extreme Candor


The online Washington Post Magazine that featured Michelle Rhee also includes a video where she is asked whether there should be a limit to her candor and whether she had reached it. Rhee laughed as she replied "no."

Rhee's "standard line" denying any political benefit in her relationship with Kevin Johnson may or may not be candid. Jay Mathews believes Rhee when she said that the hiring of 900 teachers just before the economic downturn which would require layoffs was not a way of skirting the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The state superintendent apparently believes that Rhee’s lack of curiosity about elevated erasure levels on standardized tests in 45 of the district's 150 schools in 2008 is not a lack of candor. But how are we supposed to believe that the 200+ page "Teaching and Learning Framework" is not a tool for bashing teachers?

Continue reading "Thompson: Extreme Candor" »

Think Tanks: Another Flip-Flop From Fordham Over Youth Violence?

Do we praise the folks at Fordham for at least occasionally seeming to consider new information and revising their positions, or do we lambaste them for opportunistic changes of position that seem calculated to win attention rather than respect?  This post from late last week had me wondering:  A return to the Broader, Bolder debate.  As you may recall, Fordham's Mike Petrilli famously flipped on NCLB a few years ago.  Checker has been for -- and against -- national standards several times over the past decade. 

Review: Lessons From "Brick City"

I felt bad about turning off Ken Burns' National Park documentary and missing Mad Men, but I'd scored a copy of "Brick City" -- thanks, Sundance Channel! -- a new documentary about efforts to turn around Newark, New Jersey, site of some of the nation's worst riots 40 years ago. 

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Above all things, the documentary shows how hard it is to take ideas and make them work in the real world.  That's what the pundits and idea-pushers won't tell you (or don't know), and what Corey Booker learns along the way.  Adoption and implementation are the real obstacles to change -- not new ideas or high hopes.    Like Washington Whispers says about the show, "Governing is hard."  Indeed it is. 

What the documentary also shows is what makes Corey Booker, mayor of Newark, a little bit different.  He goes where few dare to go -- not Obama, not Clinton (in his day).  He talks about love.  He talks about weeping.  Wonky and awkward as the guy is, it's hard not to be moved by his resilience and optimism. There are also some great school scenes -- a principal and AP working hard to make their school safe, a former gangbanger starting a support group for teenage girls. 

NEWS: Big Stories Of The Day

Wicked Wednesday? I sure hope not.

Teen accused in threat on western Colorado school AP
Prosecutors say an 18-year-old man was plotting a "profoundly disturbing" attack on his western Colorado high school with weapons and explosives....

Cancer vaccine programme in disarray after death Times of London
The national vaccination programme to protect against cervical cancer was today in disarray after a 14-year-old girl died shortly after receiving the Cervarix jab.

D.C. Dumps Contractor Hired to Build Schools Database Washington Post
The District has fired the contractor hired to build a $12 million data repository for critical information about D.C. schools, citing missed deadlines, software defects and failure to make available the personnel it promised, officials said Monday.


MD Reports State Tests Caused Eleven Students Not to Graduate EdWeek
Maryland education officials say only 11 students did not graduate this year because they failed to pass state tests.

At School in Queens, Success Draws Crowd New York Times
Francis Lewis High is one of a number of New York City public schools teeming with students despite the system’s overall drop in enrollment.

Career Changers Find Way Around The Classroom NPR
Until a year ago, Beverly Harvey was more familiar with balance sheets than attendance sheets. Harvey had spent 25 years in the banking industry before switching careers and becoming an elementary-school teacher.

L.A. schools construction chief resigns LA Times
Guy Mehula, the highly regarded head of the Los Angeles Unified School District's massive school construction program, has resigned after an apparent power struggle with district leadership.

Video: Creepy Thriller About Boarding School Life

Not that real life isn't creepy enough these days:

Via Videogum

BLOGS: A Quick Spin Around The Internet

What's going on inside the Internets today:

Gingrich and Sharpton – Not The Original Odd Couple Jeanne Allen
The first real Odd Couples of education led some of the nation’s most fundamental shifts in education, shifts that had once been considered radical.

Scoring the tests Dana Goldstein
I only hope that we learn from past testing mistakes and create a more consistent, humane system, driven by deep respect for the critical thinking and writing skills necessary for success in higher education and on the job market.


Quibbles With Trimming Summer Vacation Atlantic Wire
While nearly everyone admits that schools are in need of reform, many argue that American kids already devote plenty of hours to school--it's just that those hours are ineffective.

Looking Beyond the Numbers for Progress
Washington Post:
On July 11, Brian Betts, principal of the District's Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson, was at Dulles International Airport about to leave for a vacation in Spain. He was feeling good.

A School's Organic Farm Inspires Documentary TIME
Two Dutch filmmakers created Grown in Detroit, a documentary about a Detroit school that helps pregnant and parenting teens learn to garden.

The Sophisticated Side of Elementary Mathematics American Educator
Here's an idea that is rarely discussed: starting no later than fourth grade, math should be taught by math teachers (who teach only math).

After Derrion Albert's Video Taped Beating Death Gawker
If you don't believe in Kitty Genovese — girl stabbed on the street, disputed newspaper stories say no one helped, social scientists had a field day — maybe you should now.

Thompson: The Principals


"The Principals," is another incredible production by PBS. The directors sought out great leaders who had turned around elementary schools. Principal Kerry Purcell, of Springfield, Illinois, was shown holding a child during emotional and physical spasms requiring a call to 911; a counseling session after a student’s death; and disciplinary sessions following altercations where she insisted upon an apology from the offending children.  Then, like always, Ms. Purcell lived up to her policy of "never, ever, send them [any students] off without telling them you love them." Her assistant principal was equally skillful in counseling a student who brought a knife to school. The child's mother was in jail, he had been threatened, and had already learned that "if you are not tough enough" ... "it's get or be got."

Tresa Dunbar, of Nash Elementary School in Chicago, asked of her students, "how many have fathers? ... how many do not care about putting a word on the wall because they haven’t seen their mom in three days?"

Continue reading "Thompson: The Principals" »

NCLB: The Rush Towards Reauthorization

Per yesterday's editorial in the Times (Mr. Duncan and That $4.3 Billion): I guess someone forgot to tell the editorial board that "Race To The Top" is old news.  Selection, implementation -- they've got that in the bag.  It's all about No Child Left Behind reauthorization now.  It's urgent.  We have to do it now.  Haven't you heard?


Well, that's what Arne et al want us to believe.  And so far, the media seems to be going along.  Perhaps they, too, are worried about what's really going to happen when it comes time to award and make real the high-flying promises in those applications.  They bought Duncan's soaring rhetoric about "moon shots" and those tempting factoids about Duncan having more discretionary funding than any Secretary before.

The internal logic of turning to NCLB may even simpler:  having Obama's number-two domestic reform agenda item lined up to be ready when health care is done, one way or the other, no matter whether RTTT is still being rolled out or not.  In reality, RTTT was nothing more than an oversized appropriation -- short-term filler, vamping during the rollout of ARRA and the health care debate.

Teacher: "I Don't Want An Apple, Danny. Do You Have Any Money?"


From the latest New Yorker.

News: Big Stories Of The (Tues)Day

Here we go -- countdown to Copenhagen!


EPA tells schools to test aging caulk for PCBs AP: Hundreds of school buildings across the United States have caulk around windows and doors containing potentially cancer-causing PCBs, the Environmental Protection Agency says.

Out of fields, into class for migrant kids AP:  Elizabeth Pineda climbs out from bed, her 4-year-old son Adrian asleep nearby. She lays out a tiny pair of shorts and a white T-shirt for his first day of school, gathers her purse and tiptoes outside. Her cousin will get the boy up and off to class in a few hours.

New SC scoring system means more passing schools AP: Under the previous, four-category system, the state rated "basic" and above as passing. But No Child Left Behind judged schools only on the top two tiers — proficient and advanced.


New Dating Seminars Target Teen Violence NPR: School officials are worried that too many teens are hitting and slapping the person they're dating. Across the country, schools have opened this fall with programs to help kids understand that hitting is not the way to get your point across.

Students At 'Fame' School Nervous About Remake NPR: Many students at the school say they are afraid the new version will make LaGuardia students look lightweight.

Blogs: Best Posts Of The Day (Besides Yours?)

Fear not, brave blog reader -- the daily roundup is here, along with the random picture:

In Support of Kevin Jennings LFA
If anything, the hostility leveled at Jennings proves that we have much work to do.

The Good Old Days Mike Antonucci
Remember way back in the misty past when the teachers’ unions and President Obama were on the same page? 

Picture 7Phantom School Districts Tagged for Stimulus DollarsProPublica

Hillcrest Rural Schools in north-central Kansas is set to get nearly $7,000 in federal stimulus money to help its disadvantaged students. Only one glitch: The district doesn’t exist anymore.

Nine Myths About Public Schools TeacherKen
All these statements are a common part of the current discussion on education and schools.  And all are wrong, very wrong.

Did Pencils Make Us Dumber? Techdirt
Forgive me for being skeptical about each new fear about each new communications technology that comes about.

New Film About Darwin Finds U.S. Distributor Curriculum Matters
"Creation," stars Paul Bettany as Charles Darwin and Jennifer Connelly as his wife, Emma.

Chicago: Student Beaten To Death After School

Youth violence is -- has been -- a major problem in Chicago for years now.  The latest and most horrific example is this one.  Warning:  The video is graphic and upsetting.

Apparently the fight was brewing all day, and planned for after school. But neither kids, nor teachers, nor school security were able to head off what turned into a tragedy.

Teen beaten to death in Roseland mob fight WLS
"The people that did this, they need to come forward and tell us why they did it and turn themselves in," said Jesse, Albert's paternal grandmother.

Kid Beaten to Death in a Melee Tribune
Witnesses say 16-year-old Derrion Albert was walking home from school when he got caught in the middle of two gangs fighting.

People: Conservatives Target Gay Obama Education Official

I got in trouble with Mike Klonsky a few weeks ago for suggesting on Twitter that the conservative right's next Obama administration target might be "the gay guy" running the USDE's Safe And Drug Free Schools Program (ie, Kevin Jennings).  According to this Gawker post from late last week, my instincts were (sadly) correct:


Meet the Next "Czar" Target Gawker

Thompson: A Toilet in Every Class


The Washington Post Magazine’s profile of Michelle Rhee doesn’t exactly prove the Washington Teachers Union president’s statement that Rhee has recruited hundreds of people "who don't know how to manage student behavior, who lack basic people skills." But Marc Fisher's excellent article does the next best thing. He almost makes sense of Rhee’s claim that even though the D.C. schools are "the system of last resort," the problem is that "the system's low expectations produce inferior achievement." Rhee, like other urban "reformers," stick with that silly line thus avoiding education’s "third rail of race and class."

By the conclusion of piece, I was wishing that Rhee had committed herself to the less impossible and more promising task of providing restrooms inside classrooms, but that is getting ahead of the story.

Fisher starts with "Karla Oakley, who worked for Rhee at the New Teacher Project, ... [who] got the full Michelle treatment

Continue reading "Thompson: A Toilet in Every Class" »

DUNCAN: The Secretary's Media Schedule (Minus Copehagen)


Here's the Secretary's official media schedule for next week, which mysteriously does not include the trip to Copenhagen to tout Chicago's Olympics bid.

It's not a secret that he's going -- the White House announced it.  And sure, the USDE's probably not paying for the trip. 

But it's strange not to include it since we all know about it already. It's as if he's hiding or something (see him?). They could have just put a note explaining the trip or something.

Continue reading "DUNCAN: The Secretary's Media Schedule (Minus Copehagen)" »

Times Magazine: The 2009 Education Issue

I'm always happy to see the New York Times Magazine's annual education issue, though sometimes I worry that it will turn into a glossy version of Education Life.  What did you think of this year's edition?


Coming Out in Middle School
How 13-year-old kids are dealing with their sexual identity — and how others are dealing with them.

Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control?
Over the last few years, a new buzz phrase has emerged among scholars and scientists who study early-childhood development: executive function.

The Inner-City Prep School Experience
At the SEED School, the assumption is that inner-city students will learn more if they spend the school week living away from home. But can you leave the neighborhood behind?

The Lost Student
The difference an idealistic teacher can make, and the difference she can’t.

News: Big Stories Of The (Mon)Day

A busy start to the education week:

Obama would curtail summer vacation AP
Students beware: The summer vacation you just enjoyed could be sharply curtailed if President Barack Obama gets his way.

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Garfield High is eligible for takeover LA Times
Garfield High, which became nationally known as the real-life setting for the film "Stand and Deliver," will be among the initial 12 local campuses eligible for takeover. 

Rising test standards sink more Kentucky schools Courier Journal
For the third straight year, fewer Kentucky public schools met all their reading and math goals required by the federal accountability law.

Helping Our Teachers NPR
Over the next year, NPR will explore those efforts and take a look at the latest crop of teachers entering the profession.

Kids’ Obama song: Sincere or idolization?  AP
A school for kindergartners through second-graders in a Philadelphia suburb is the latest target of accusations by conservatives that children are being indoctrinated to idolize President Obama.

Video: "Bronx Princess" Stars In School But Not At Home

ScreenHunter_32 Sep. 24 01.14Wow there's been lots of new education-related media out this month -- books and films and all.  I guess it makes sense, it being back to school and all, though I wish they'd spread it out a little better.I haven't watched it yet, but the latest is the PBS POV documentarycalled Bronx Princess, which is available online for the next few weeks.  It's about a Ghanaian-American girl, Rocky, who lives in the Bronx with her mother and stars at school but is belittled by her parents even as she's on her way to  --  spoiler alert -- getting a full ride to Dickinson.

Media: What Did Your (Favorite) Site Look Like Five Years Ago?

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Things change quickly on the Internet.  Looking back five years on the web is like looking back 20 in real life. 

So, thanks to the wayback machine, here's what this site looked like in 2004 -- still on blogger, still weekly, still in Chicago.  Before that, it was a weekly email.

What did your (favorite) site look like five years ago, or even further?  Click here to find out. 

Or, check out this article about how big sites like Google looked way back when they first started.  How 20 popular websites looked when they launched.

Blogs: A Quick Spin Around The Blogs

Friday blogging!

Duncan on the Future of NCLB Ed-Reckoning
I don't believe we're relying on the altruism of others to solve our self-inflicted education woes.

Department Kicks off NCLB Discussion at Packed Forum PK12
More than 200 advocates from a wide range of groups packed the U.S. Department of Education today.

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Bad Title, Mind-Changing Book Uncle Jay
We education writers receive many books in the mail with terrible titles, real slumber-time stuff.

Good Class In a Not So Good Neighborhood… Just A Substitute
The last time I was here, the police had just nabbed a guy that lived in the apartments bordering the school for murdering his girlfriend and dumping the body at the city landfill.

Think-tanks & class size Small Talk
With class sizes in L.A. high schools soaring to 50 per class and Brooklyn kids being squeezed into classrooms with a shoehorn, Finn and his crew have suddenly grown quiet on the topic.

Post Magazine Writer Tries to Figure Out D.C. Chancellor District Dossier
The Washington Post's Marc Fisher tells District Dossier that when it comes to Michelle A. Rhee, "what you see is what you get."

Thompson: You've Got to be Kidding



A doctoral student in psychology has discovered the following horrific mis-statements of fact:

The film Amistad "depicts Cinque is sitting in shackles before the Supreme Court ... In fact, Cinque was imprisoned in Connecticut during the trial." The film Glory "depicts new recruits for the 54th Massachusetts Infantry assembling and meeting each other for the first time. Most of the individuals shown in the clip are former slaves from the South. In fact, most of the recruits in this regiment were freemen from Massachusetts and other Northern states." The film Eight Men Out, depicts players being "banned from baseball immediately after the 1919 World Series ... In fact, the players played 5 more months, almost another full season, before they were banned from baseball."

Despite my doctorate in history, I did not know the story of Steve Biko until I saw Denzel Washington in Cry Freedom.  I did not learn of the huge 19th century controversy over slaves being thrown to the sharks until I saw Amistad.

Continue reading "Thompson: You've Got to be Kidding" »

SCHEDULE: No, You're Not Invited To That NEA Meeting

The USDE press office was famous during the Bush years for sending and then "recalling" press releases. That hasn't happened much with the new guys, but this isn't all that much better:

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In other scheduling news, the White House announced Thursday that EdSec Duncan would be headed to Copenhagen to help support the effort to win the Olympics for Chicago. 

RTTT: Andy Wants You...To Review Grant Proposals

Uncle andy

Check out this email solicitation from Andy Rotherham. They're looking a few good men and women to help give cover to review RTTT grant applications.

Continue reading "RTTT: Andy Wants You...To Review Grant Proposals" »

News: Big News Of The Day

Every morning, all in one place:

Obama's Education Plan Gets Mixed Reviews Washington Post
To the surprise of many educators who campaigned last year for change in the White House, the Obama administration's first recipe for school reform relies heavily on Bush-era ingredients and adds others that make unions gag.

Tyler Teacher Is Dead After Being Stabbed in Classroom NYT
A teacher was stabbed in a high school classroom in Tyler and later died. A 16-year-old student was arrested in the case.

While Unnecessary, Swine Flu Closes Schools  NYT
Some schools continue to close, believing it's the only way to slow the spread of the virus.

NBC's "Community": They will be untutorable NPR
The comedy world has eagerly awaited the arrival of Community...and community colleges have been getting ready too, hoping this show will not add to the image problems they face.

Author strives to echo Milne in 'Winnie-the-Pooh' sequel USA Today
Eeyore the donkey, still gloomy after all these years, is dubious, but he and others in A.A. Milne's children's classic,Winnie-the-Pooh, are in for some new adventures in the first authorized full-length sequel in more than 80 years.

Blogs: A Quick Spin Around The Blogs

Imagine if the education bloggers met every year like they do at the UN, in costumes and stuff.  I would wear my Little Devil onesie:

Ed. Dept.: 4 States Are Ripe for Stimulus Slip-Ups PK12
Those identified as "high risk" for possible stimulus spending problems are California, Illinois, Michigan, and Texas. D.C. and Puerto Rico also made the list.

One round of RttT and fast reauthorization? Tom Vander Ark
AP is speculating on 2010 attempted ESEA reauthorization.  Related rumors that RttT may be one round.  Both bad ideas.

Arne Duncan on NCLB: “We are lying to parents and children” GS
Next step: a bunch of “stakeholder meetings” to take the temperature of the field.

A Rock and a Hard Place LFA
Moral clarity often gives way to moral quandaries as you get closer to the classroom.

Do we need a longer school day? Philly Notebook
I don’t know about you, but when that last bell rings my tank is pretty much empty. And my 8th graders, who suffered from post-lunch attention deficit syndrome, weren’t exactly in high learning mode either

Czar Inflation Kevin Carey
The headline at Fox News right now says “Critics Assail Obama’s ‘Safe Schools’ Czar, Say He’s the Wrong Man for the Job.” What? There’s no such thing as a “Safe Schools Czar.”

I Hope You're Sitting Down... Ms. Mimi
I considered titling this post "Can't We All Just Get Along?" because I'm quickly finding out that the answer is no. No, we can't. Not all the time.

HELP: Who Will Staff Chairman Harkin For NCLB 2.0?

Who are the main staff people who are going to be doing the heavy lifting for Chairman Harkin if and when it comes time to reauthorize NCLB (aka "The Real Race To The Top")?


I assume they'll bring someone in, but I can't think of anyone who's out there who's any good who doesn't already have a better job or would be willing to do it. The most experienced folks have all been sucked into the Obama administration (though I can see someone getting lent to Harkin for all or part of the time). 

I don't know which of the Kennedy staffers are going to (be asked to) stay, and whether they're any good: Bethany Little is there since earlier this year.  Emma Vadhera left in January and hasn't been replaced to my knowledge.  David Johns (pictured) is still there, I think. I don't know who the education LA is in Harkin's personal office, if he has one.

Media: Hot For Education -- The Blog

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Speaking of questionable new blogs to check out (or avoid), here's one called Hot For Education that seems to have sprouted up in recent days, a sometimes-NSFW picture blog about TV shows (Glee, Mad Men), celebrity parents (SJP, Will Smith, Angelina) and Cabinet officials (Arne, Kathleen) with connections to education that are, at times, paper thin.  Read at your own risk.  Send ideas to hotfored at gmail dot com.  Follow on twitter at @hotfored

News (Or What Passes For News)

I don't really understand why we're talking about news-starved things like speeches and staged events when we could be talking about more important things like that nice purple cap that Qaddafi was wearing at the UN yesterday (or who's going to end up as committee staff working NCLB for Chairman Harkin):

White House backs accountability of 'No Child' law AP
Mary Kusler, a lobbyist for the American Association of School Administrators, welcomes Duncan's bid at "re-energizing" No Child Left Behind reauthorization, which has slowed in Congress over the past year because of a "lack of consensus" on several questions.  But she worries about pushing the process along too quickly.

Fed education chief to dads: Turn off TV, read AP
Thomas Brennan, superintendent of Manchester schools, agreed. He also said administrators, teachers and other staff have not been taught to value fathers and their role in education, and that he himself has not considered that some fathers may not feel welcome in schools.


Duncan to Get Advice on ESEA Renewal PK12
"Two of our assistant secretaries, Carmel Martin of the policy office, and Thelma Melendez of the elementary and secondary office, will give an overview of next steps in the ESEA reauthorization process and outline a series of opportunities this fall at which your organizations will be able to offer input to the department."

Ok now we're done with the non-stories about Arne Duncan.  To celebrate, let me tell you that MMA fighter Quintin (Rampage) Jackson is going to star as Mr. T in the remake of the A-Team.

Coming Out in Middle School NYT Magazine
How 13-year-old kids are dealing with their sexual identity — and how others are dealing with them.

L.A. school district union agrees to furloughs LA Times
About 1,100 bus drivers will take six unpaid days off this fiscal year to help offset the budget shortfall. It is the first time in recent history that a district union has accepted such a concession.

WI low-income school population rises, includes nearly 4 in 10 elementary students Wisconsin Watch Nearly four in 10 Wisconsin elementary students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch last school year, and the proportion of low-income elementary students has climbed every year of this decade.

'Fame' schools struggling to survive recession Daily Herald
Nearly 1.5 million aspiring student actors, dancers and vocalists nationally, attend 1,670 performing arts schools seeking that spotlight of Fame.

Media: Going Back To High School (To High School, To High School)

Thanks to new reader ED for passing along this blog (Todd vs High School) about a 33 year-old sports journalist Todd Gallagher, who's going back to high school and writing a book about it 

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He's not doing it incognito as in Fast Times At Ridgemont High.  He's not just taking a math class like Michael Alison Chandler did for the Post last year.  He's apparently going whole hog (assuming you're still allowed to use that phrase).  He says he was inspired by the comedy Billy Madison. And a high school in Pittsburgh apparently is letting him. 

Sure, it's stunt journalism -- the guy's last book was about staging various strange sports contests (Andy Roddick with a frying pan, etc.) and he compares himself to George Plimpton.  He doesn't seem to have liked high school the first time around.  He's not even doing his own blog.  (He's hired a writer to keep it up for him.)  But he seems entrepreneurial and (annoyingly) irreverent and the book will probably be read by a lot of people -- maybe more than a serious book.  And it's on tumblr, which might be my new favorite blog software (esp. since the new Typepad is messing me up so badly). 

Blogs: Best Of The Day (Some Days Are Better Than Others)

Bloggity blog blogger bloggy:

Testing Vet Reveals How to Fix Standardized Tests Uncle Jay Mathews 
He had dramatized the weaknesses in the many tests he graded, but did not explain to us poor realists what we should put in their places. 

"Quiet" Success Knowledge Alliance
Perhaps those of us who are immersed in these efforts on a daily basis need to pay more attention to what the outsiders think.

Pressure for more RttT winners Tom Vander Ark
There won’t be 35-40 winners as Eduflack predicts, but there may be closer to 20 than the 6 in phase 1 and 10 in phase 2 I’ve been predicting.  

UPDATED: Gates Spreading 'Race to the Top' Help to All States  PK12
After getting feedback from NGA and CCSSO, the Gates Foundation changes course.
The national PTA organization has been moving aggressively in recent years to bring more urban families into the fold. It has been getting more fathers involved.

Thompson: A Matter of Principle


"I fear the worst for my beautiful curriculum map. Its days are numbered.... I believe I am going to be forced into an unholy three-way marriage with the new 'Core Curriculum.' writes Miss Eyre. "I would buy into a Core Knowledge curriculum so fast it would make your head spin.... [but] I built a curriculum for my classes myself, from scratch, and as a result I know it intimately, believe in it, and can defend every single thing I teach.. Already I have been told that I have to throw out one of my units entirely to make way for a TEST PREP UNIT in April, gag me with a machete."  Then came the punch to the gut "if my curriculum map's days are numbered, I suspect that my own days are numbered as well."

If we really want to help kids, teachers must be willing to walk away from the job we love.  The problem is that teacher/leaders, to a greater or lesser extent, can't help but buy into the teacher as solitary hero role.

Continue reading "Thompson: A Matter of Principle " »

Quoted: Will Common Standards Be Any Better Than Common Textbooks?

Those particularly enthused about common standards might do well to consider the outcome of common textbooks, according to this commentary in The Week Magazine:

"Enormous captive populations of students are made to learn the same exact thing from the same boring book."

The Real School Indoctrination Scandal

Video: Why No One Blogged About "The Principal Story"

It took me a while to get into last week's PBS NOW documentary The Principal Story about two Illinois principals, partly because I'm a hard-hearted jerk and partly because the early scenes are slow and feel a little propagandistic.  I knew that the project had involved AASA and other education groups like that, and for a while I felt like I was watching the principals' version of "Stand and Deliver" or "Freedom Writers." It didn't help that the show got so little by way of reaction or commentary from other education blogs that I read.  

ScreenHunter_26 Sep. 22 18.23

Well I still have some questions but over all the intensity of the situations and the eloquence and heart of the school leaders are tremendously powerful and I am glad I finally turned it on.  What to do with the incompetent teacher in a real-life situation?  How to rally your staff without pissing them off or making them cave under the weight of expectations?  What to do about the tragedies that befall some of the students?  It's not so easy as it may seem from outside.

The documentary is beautifully filmed and scored -- even the visually mundane scenes of the principals going to or from work are poignant.  And it's not an obvious attack (or defense) of any particular policies or programs (though there is a great riff on "walkthroughs" near the end). That's why no one's blogging about it -- it doesn't support any simplistic agenda.  If you haven't watched it, you can do so online now.  If you have, I hope you liked it as much as I did and will share a favorite moment or two.  

News: Big News Of The Day

Things heating up midweek:

A political swirl on charter schools Boston Globe
The Patrick administration urged approval of a controversial Gloucester charter school earlier this year, over the fierce objections of city residents and the advice of state specialists, based not on its merits but because it would further the governor’s political agenda, according to a recently published e-mail.

White House to agencies: Don't overstep on grants EdWeek AP
The advisory came in response to an embarrassing incident last month in which a National Endowment for the Arts official asked artists on a conference call to coordinate with the Corporation for Public Service on ways to help bolster President Barack Obama's public service agenda.

GAO audit: Schools slow to get alerts about tainted food USA Today
Federal agencies that supply food for 31 million schoolchildren fail to ensure that tainted products are pulled quickly from cafeterias, a federal audit obtained by USA TODAY finds.

Latest Challenge in 'Race to Top' EdWeek
“This was the big issue with Reading First, and nobody got it at the time. There’s a certain amount of déjà vu with Race to the Top,” said Kate Walsh, the president of the Washington-based National Council on Teacher Quality.

Gun-wielding bird owner causes Pa. school lockdown AP
Police say a man using a BB gun to protect his birds from cats led to an elementary school lockdown in Pennsylvania....

Greening America's Schools Reuters
So far, over 1,700 schools have registered in LEED for Schools and nearly 200 have certified.

Events: Harlem Children's Zone Goes National

image from www.cdacouncil.org

You knew it had to happen.  The Harlem Children's Zone is going national.  That is, they're having a national conference.  And they've got a lineup of bigtime speakers including Arne Duncan and Melody Barnes.  New York City.  November 9-10.  Details below.  I'm still not clear if the 8,000 kids that are being served are getting all the services, or whether there are only 8,000 kids in the part of Harlem that HCZ serves, but then again I have to think every time about where to put the apostrophe on the word "children's." So I suppose I'll learn more at the conference.  

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Blogs: A Quick Spin Around The Blogosphere

This fancy new Typepad text editor is killing me, but I won't let it stop me from sharing these with you:

“The Ten Worst Teaching Mistakes” Larry Ferlazzo
The Ten Worst Teaching Mistakes is an excellent post by by Richard M. Felder, North Carolina State University and Rebecca Brent, Education Designs, Inc.

Dear Mr. President TFT
Aim high! Higher!Possibilities are endless, as long as you work.  That's what you're preaching to the kids with your bball buddy and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.  Or is that just more hot air?

Attacking the dropout crisis with ‘restarts’ Vander Ark
A strong push by local and national advocacy groups could result in more than 200 restarts per year.  In 4-5 years we could replace most of the dropout factories and make a substantial contribution to improving the national graduation rate.

“Education theorists are great forgetters...” Stafford Palmieri 
In an excerpt from his soon-to-be-released We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism, he explains how education policy has nothing new under the sun.

STEM Guru Steve Robinson Moves to White House PK12
The former high school science teacher will have the same gig, just a different office--in the White House's Domestic Policy Council.

Shanker Fellowship Leo Casey
The American Federation of Teachers in conjunction with the Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University seek applicants for The Albert Shanker Fellowship for Research In Education.

Thompson: School Readiness


Secretary of Education Arne Duncan celebrated the opening of the nation's 6th Educare early education center in Oklahoma City.  He noted the contribution of Warren Buffet's wife, Susan, in inspiring this public private partnership.   Duncan also praised the House of Representatives for passing a $10 billion early education bill.  Even better, he helped persuade the editorial board of one of the most conservative newspapers in America to support early childhood programs as "the best investment we can make by far"  to break "cycles of poverty."

When asked about about the use of test scores to drive teacher evaluations, as opposed to complementing or supplementing the evaluation process, Duncan praised the questioner as a great teacher, and asked the crowd to give him an ovation.  So, as I have always said, Secretary Duncan is destined for greatness ...


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RTTT: Priorities Aren't Really Research-Based Consensus Items

"In reality, the Race to the Top priorities reflect a particular, narrow agenda. I hope that they can make a difference, but I’m not nearly as confident as the Duncan team appears to be in the items that they’ve chosen."  Me, in a recent Scholastic column.

Technology: More Of What To Do, Less Of What's Prohibited


Will Richardson came up with a great technology "do" list to replace the long lists of prohibitions that make up most schools' acceptable use policies.  Some of my favorites:

“Do use our network to connect to other students and adults who share your passions with whom you can learn.”

“Do use our network to help your teachers find experts and other teachers from around the world.”

“Do use our network to collaborate with others to change the world in meaningful, positive ways.”
Don’t, Don’t, Don’t vs. Do, Do, Do (via Faqcebook)

Audio: Rafe Esquith's New Book

I know, I know. Schools (and teachers) can't make all the difference. We all need to get it.  But still, treat yourself to this interview from last week with Rafe Esquith on WNYC. It's worth a listen, whatever side you're on:

WNYC Lighting Their Fires

News: Big News Of The Day

If it only affects 11 kids statewide, is it still considered an exit exam?

Only 11 Md. Seniors Blocked by Exit Exams, Officials Say Washington Post
Only 11 seniors in Maryland's high school class of 2009 did not graduate last spring solely because they failed the state's new required exams, and the number of schools on a watch list for poor academic achievement declined, officials said Monday.

Revised Draft of 'Common Core' Standards Unveiled EdWeek
Language arts has been beefed up in the latest version of the document, and another standard, "mathematical practice," has been added.

Grand Canyon woman named best rural teacher AP
"Teaching in a rural school is not easy," said John Hill, director of the National Rural Education Association. "The resources are always limited, both in the school and out.

Atlanta floods prove fatal for some, cause school and road closings Breaking Tweets
Plenty of damage has already been done as there were a reported 11,000 people without power as of this afternoon and many schools in the metro Atlanta area will be closed tomorrow.

Cheyenne tribe files suit over school dress code MSNBC
Parents and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the school district from enforcing a dress code requiring ...

Students told to prove Texas residency or leave MSNBC
Students living in northern Mexico have skirted residency requirements to attend U.S. public schools for generations, but one superintendent in Texas is warning students they could face expulsion.

Cartoon: Too Much Homework (Too Little Chasing Frogs)

"I'm sorry, Billy, but Johnny's got four hours of homework tomorrow, there's soccer plus...."

Download (23)

Blogs: A Quick Spin Around The Blogs

Check it out:

10332_1162093623987_1577244932_413919_5634797_nTeachers find Obama not the friend they had expected McClatchey
"The only place the NAACP can be is with this governor," Huffman said. "If the teacher unions put a better proposal on the table, we would stand with them."

Adjudicating School Reform CAP
Philadelphia uses a new strategy to solve an old problem, observes Saba Bireda.

Another Kind of Widget Effect LFA
Are good teachers good no matter where they go? Or do a school's working conditions have a big impact on teachers' performance?

Study Examines Fla. ABCTE Impact on Achievement Teacher Beat
Students taught by these teachers held their own in English language-arts, but were weaker in math.

People: Lemons In, Huberman Edelman Out

Will Lemons' arrival spice things up at the Trust?  Will Edelmen's departure mean a return for him to Washington DC? 


Richard Lemons is in at the Education Trust (via Knowledge Alliance):  "Before joining The Education Trust as Vice President for Program and Policy, Richard was Director of the Institute for Urban School Improvement, a research and outreach center located at the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education dedicated to understanding and building capacity for urban school improvement. "

Josh Edelman is out at the Chicago Public Schools (via Chicago Tribune):  "His removal from the high-profile role came as a surprise to many in and outside the district, given Edelman's relative newness in the job. Edelman, an outsider to Chicago, was hired by former district chief Arne Duncan now the U.S. Secretary of Education. He's the son of Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children's Defense Fund."

Thompson: What Can I Say?


How should we respond to the news that only 2.8% of Oklahomans could have passed the basic 10 question citizenship examination?  Of course, the poll was authorized by an extreme Rightwing thinktank so the results should be taken in context. 

But a teacher who is surprised by such a number should self-assess. One of the toughest things about teaching high school is honestly acknowledging the deficits that students bring to class. Even tougher is honestly appraising the knowledge they take with them into the outside world. So the first and last response to another revelation that only 22% of high school students can identify George Washington must be a deep and profound mourning. In fact, what it takes to be an inner city teacher is the ability to mourn and then get back to work

In between the profound lessons of the poll, are some nuance. Even the report's author admits that "Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, this was no aberration," and the open-ended questions of the poll was more challenging to students fed a diet of standardized tests because "after all, in a multiple-choice exam, the correct answer is sitting right in front of you." Similarly, the poll is not inconsistent with recent NAEP results

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Video: Like "The Wire" -- But Real

ScreenHunter_16 Sep. 20 00.07

This documentary about the effort to fix Newark, NJ is going to be as good or better than anything we've seen about urban education in a long time, based on this review in Salon.  The quote that got me was this one:

"When you say a kid doesn't want to learn, that's like saying a moth doesn't want to be a butterfly," says Principal Baraka of the challenges of teaching kids with so much turmoil in their lives. "Kids learn every single day. We learn every single day. The question is, what do we learn?"

It starts tonight at 10pm Eastern: Sundance Channel.

News: Big Stories Of The Day (A Monday)

There's always a lot of news to catch up on Monday mornings:

No Obama, no Bush and no field trips for these Texas students LA Times
A recent string of decisions by officials at the Arlington Independent School District in Texas has ensured that there will be no politics in the classroom there. And, apparently, there will be no fun, either.


Budget cuts push some classrooms way over capacity LA Times
Some L.A. Unified classes are crammed with about 50 students, leaving some pupils to sit on desks or the floor and their teachers to grade hundreds of papers while still focusing on improvement.

Apartheid Legacy’s in South African Schools NYT
Thousands of schools across South Africa are bursting with hopeful students, but the education system is often failing those who most need it to escape poverty.

Initiative Focuses on Early Learning Programs NYT
A legislative effort already passed by the House would provide $8 billion to encourage states to improve standards, training and oversight.

At Tony Bennett's $78M school, arts education trumps fameUSA Today
Tony Bennett is stuck in one of those trademark ...

EDSEC: Secretary's Schedule Of Media Events 9/20-27

Arne Duncan CHIPicture caption:  "Thank YOU, little journalist person,  for attending this meaningless media event and covering it as if it were really news, thus ignoring what I'm really up to and who I'm meeting with during the course of the week. Please keep ignoring my unpublicized activities and the fact that the White House is making me look bad by giving detailed information about where the President is and who he meets with."

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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.