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Teachers: Inside The World Of Foster Kids

Cover-Fall2009-2 A magazine about foster kids?  Sure, why not.  A magazine by foster kids?  Now that's something special.  It's called "Represent!" and it includes some pretty amazing, gritty content from kids who are "in care."  And I'm not just saying that because my friend Virginia is one of the editors there. The Fall issue focuses on kids and art.  The summer issue focused on mental health.  There's content for kids and for social workers and teachers who work with these kids (about 500,000 nationwide).  Check it out.  

Charter School Magic, Testing Nightmares, & More

Charter schools hold promise, but they're no magic bullet LA Times471264_f520
Charter schools are on the cusp of national stardom. Less clear, though, is whether charter schools offer real, long-term solutions to fixing public education in America, or whether the Obama administration should be relying on them so heavily as a means of turning around the nation's record of academic mediocrity.

Fixing Poverty Freakonomics
If you want to fix poverty, you’ll have to fix governments first.

More standardized testing nightmares Valerie Strauss
Here are some of your test horror stories about testing--and at the end, one that the author calls “the ultimate” such disaster.

Innovation Follies LFA
We shouldn't abandon important work just because it isn't flashy enough for the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

Blather, Rinse, Repeat TCKB

The more pertinent question might be which of the two groups is paying attention to the academic needs of poor children. Based on the evidence, it’s hard to say.

Study Sees Little Traction for NCLB's Tutoring Provisions Inside Research
A study by the National Center for Education Statistics finds that only about a fifth of eligible students are getting free tutoring services under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Five strikes against an education writer Jay Mathews
Others can assess my successes, if any. I prefer to dwell on my failures.

Thompson: The Same School with the Same Socio-Economic Challenges

Facts After Newt Gingrich misstated the facts regarding Mastery Charter Schools in Philadelphia, the media could have checked into the true story of the schools’ outstanding accomplishments without distorting the  challenges faced by the toughest neighborhood schools.

So it was doubly dismaying when Secretary Duncan was even more inaccurate in claiming that Mastery kept "the same students," and he was not challenged by the press. Duncan made a similar misstatement in Oklahoma City, but I had hoped he was just being overly effusive in praising the wonderful KIPP students who were accompanying him.

Continue reading "Thompson: The Same School with the Same Socio-Economic Challenges " »

Millot: Read Toch's CMO Report Here

6a00e54f8c25c988340120a6d7122c970b-150wi Education Sector’s November 24 report, Growing Pains: Scaling Up the Nation’s Best Charter Schools examines the problems CMOs face trying to replicate their various philosophies of teaching and learning in new public schools. Considering the source, the content and conclusion are predictable and deserve little attention: While each CMO faces operational problems, the concept’s success is more a matter of removing charter advocates’ longstanding list of government barriers – inadequate per pupil payments, a lack of access to facilities or financing, etc, etc.

Yet, the report demands close review - because it’s real author, content and conclusions have gone missing. Until now.

Continue reading "Millot: Read Toch's CMO Report Here" »

Reading: Weekend Roundup

Joblessness adds to burden on D.C. area schools Washington Post
As the lunchroom poverty barometer rises, schools are solidifying their role as centers for social services.

To Pay for Longer School Days, Some Parents Try Raising Money NYT
Parents of students in public and magnet schools must get creative to finance extra hours in the classroom.
Taking Tater Tots Off the Tray Miller-McCune
Recommendations from a panel of nutrition experts seek to make school lunches healthier, but enacting them is easier said than done

Why Are Selective Colleges Getting So Selective? The Atlantic
Studies show that the schools we apply to are a better indication of future success than the schools we attend.

Prescribing marijuana to kids The Week
Proponents of cannabis for kids say it can help treat autism, ADHD, cancer and AIDS symptoms.

At This School, It’s Marijuana in Every Class NYT
At most colleges, marijuana is very much an extracurricular matter.

Are Girls The New Boys Matt Yglesias (again)
If it’s true that society has developed an aggregate preference for girls that would, of course, be a change from the historic pro-boy bias of the peasant farmer.

What's Going to Happen to Textbooks? Atlantic Wire
Some think this might be a good idea, given the high cost of traditional textbooks. But it's not clear that will be enough to get e-readers on college campuses and in high schools.

Duncan: The Week's Media Events

081009+Arne+Duncan+p1 Here's Arne Duncan's upcoming schedule of media events and photo ops -- though I can't manage to get excited about any of it.  

Be assured there will be the usual mix of fear-mongering, repetition of talking points, and exhortation. 

Continue reading "Duncan: The Week's Media Events" »

News: A Little Bit Of This & That

Retired Los Angeles teacher keeps at it, for free LA Times
Five mornings a week, Bruce Kravets, 66, puts on a coat and tie, straps on his helmet and bikes to work at Palms Middle School on L.A.'s Westside, where he teaches math. For free.

Two charter school studies, two findings on effectiveness Washington Post
As President Obama pushes for more charter schools, the education world craves a report card on an experiment nearly two decades old. How are these independent public schools doing? The safest and perhaps most accurate reply -- it depends -- leaves many unsatisfied.

Schools work to improve parental involvement Journal Sentinel News-clipart
It's a vexing issue in Milwaukee, as well as thousands of other districts where students face major hurdles and many parents lack the knowledge, power or will to help their children succeed.

Chaos control is a challenge as Montgomery enrollment surges Washington Post
Oakland Terrace Elementary School in Silver Spring, one of the most overcrowded schools in an crowded district, has 800 students, 10 kindergarten classes, 11 portable classrooms and only four and a half restrooms. But the numbers are an abstraction until lunchtime.

Teachers begin using cell phones for class lessons AP
Cell phones, the subject of tugs of war between parents, teachers and students across the nation, are taking on a new role in the classroom: learning tool....

City’s Schools Share Space, and Bitterness, With Charters NYT
Charter schools, a third-term priority of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, are squeezing the city’s public schools for space, and more are on their way.

Site News: Millot To The Rescue

Good news.  Starting this week, longtime education industry insider Marc Dean Millot (pictured) is going to be posting a weekly piece on the education industry on this site.  I've been a fan of Millot's for a long time, though we come from different ends of the political spectrum and don't always come to the same conclusions.  Here are some previous TWIE posts addressing Millot's insights and opinions:

Deanmillot-blog Problems With Foundation-Funded Research
Think Tanks: A Row Of Little Georgetown Boutiques
Are Management Companies Better For Charters? (No)
The "New" Think Tanks: Management Consulting Firms

Millot understands that public education is, among other things, a $600B a year business, and has the background and patience to explain to the rest of us how money affects schools (through vendors, nonprofits, private foundations, management consulting firms).  He's knowledgeable, insightful, and usually fearless in what he is willing to say. And he's not a wide-eyed enthusiast for "businessy" concepts that may or may not actually work in schools.  You can read a biography here.

Asking Too Much Of Innovation

Gold I am convincing few if any of the innovationistas at the National Journal's education blog that, perhaps, we're asking too much of so-called "inovation."  After all, the question put forth to start the conversation (What's Needed To Make Sure Innovation Is Working?) presumes that innovation is fundamentally a good and right strategy for addressing education's woes.

But I'm having a grand time losing, and have enlisted Dana Goldstein's fascinating and timely article on the rise of innovation as a favorite (fetish?) of the Obama administration.  It's called The Innovation Administration

Don't think it's dry and boring or predictably progressive.  There's politics, romance, opportunity, and some surprisingly critical quotes from folks like Eric Nee and Vanessa Kirsch you might think would be unwaveringly enthusiastic. 

Thompson: Innovation and its Discontents

Trojan_horse The first 13 contributors to the National Journal’s discussion on innovation largely echoed the heroic infatuation of theorists with "disruptive innovation," arguing that education needs "radically new approaches," "federal leverage" to destroy local policies and "antiquated" contracts, and the adoption of Frederick Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom as the innovators’ Bible.

Diane Ravich provided a reality check, however, "educators do not need to reinvent the wheel. They need schools that are stable ... (educators) do not need is a plethora of programs showered upon them by non-educators who know everything ..." Agreeing with Ravich’s reminder that "it is not the role of the federal government to dictate ‘solutions’ that are not based on research or court orders," Bruce Hunter noted "many innovators have a political and ideological agenda, rather than an educational agenda."

The discussion’s turnaround was prompted by Alexander Russo, who asked whether innovation is "over-rated and ... (whether) implementation of simple ideas is the real thing we need more of? Health care organizations have learned the immense power of extremely simple tools like mosquito nets, home visits, water filters, cell phones, and small loans. ... I worry that we'll end up with too many wild-eyed innovations and another distracted decade."

Continue reading "Thompson: Innovation and its Discontents" »

Celebs: Jolie Turns On Obama

Picture 76

"She's into education and rehabilitation and thinks Obama is all about welfare and handouts." (UsMagazine)

Kidnapped Supe, Turbaned Teachers, & More

NY dad pleads guilty to kidnapping superintendent AP
A former New York City police officer has admitted he held a suburban school superintendent at gunpoint in June....

Obama Turns to Sesame Street & Corporations to Invigorate Science Ed Change.org
Obama wanted $115 million, which was cut to $7 million by the House, and to zero by the Senate.

Oregon teachers may get OK to wear religious clothing in class Oregon Live
Oregon's prohibition on allowing teachers to exercise their faith by covering their heads or wearing other religious garb dates to a shameful anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant period in state history and is overdue to be changed, House Speaker Dave Hunt, D-Gladstone, said Monday.

Historic Bangs Avenue School will be retitled to honor President Obama1111111111111111111 Asbury Park Press
The next step is to send an already-drafted letter to Monmouth County Schools Superintendent Carol K. Morris, who then will notify the state Department of Education. A ceremony is expected to be announced at a later date.

LAUSD Superintendent orders hiring freeze and other cuts Daily News
Cortines said the district is facing an estimated $50 million to $60 million deficit this year and a possible $480 million deficit for the 2010-11 school year.

Mass. Senate hopeful Khazei touts City Year legacy AP
During the first half of 2003, Alan Khazei watched as his life's work skittered toward the edge of a fiscal cliff. [you read about him in Dana Goldstein's innovations article, remember?]

EdSector CMO Report: Who Lost Tom Toch?

Thanks to a couple of eagle-eyed readers (including MDM) for pointing out that the much-delayed Education Sector report on charter management organizations lacks the name -- and apparently much of the content provided by -- its original author, writer and EdSector co-founder Tom Toch. 

Asked about the situation, Toch said, "I removed my name from the report because a good deal of my analysis was removed and, as published, the report does not reflect my research findings on the current status and future prospects of charter management organizations."  

Toch says he submitted the 20,000-word report in June, based on two years of investigation, but did not see anything further until a paper copy of the final report was shown to him this past weekend. A good deal of the candid commentary from those within the charter community "had been removed," according to Toch.  And the report recommendations were added on by someone else. 

Toch can't publish the original version of the report because of copyright issues but he points to several other pieces (in Education Week and the Kappan) that reflect his findings more completely, and notes that he will continue to write and speak on the issue. 

No response yet from Education Sector. 

Love Triangles, Asperger Runaways, Poor Kids, Etc.

An education love triangle joins forces to invade Washington Post Gotham Schools Good will and holiday cheer all around as Michelle Rhee’s current fiance endorses her ex-husband in his quest to get a column in the newspaper Rhee spurns.
Tween Protests Anomie of Modern Urban Life  GawkerPicture 69
Francisco Hernandez—after being warned by his mom that she needed to have a serious talk with him about his performance at school—hopped on a subway train with ten dollars in his pocket and just rode the rails. For eleven f'ing days, before a transit cop recognized his face from a poster.

Should School Reformers Pay More Attention to the Non-Academic Needs of Poor Children? EdNext
Joe Williams and Pedro Noguera debate the proposition in Poor Schools or Poor Kids?, an article just published on the Ed Next website.

From Test Takers to Test Makers ASCD Inservice
Norwegian educator Kari Smith found that her students who were good at retaining factual knowledge and answering what and when questions often did well on tests but did not necessarily understand the material. In contrast, students who did understand the material and the relationships between facts had trouble demonstrating that knowledge at test time.

While N.Y inner-city schools struggle for survival... Small Talk
"Ross Global, Courtney Ross’s new charter school, is holistic, organic, Ayurvedic, artistic, and evolutionary. But when you’re building an educational Utopia, there are going to be some casualties."

Is Wall Street Stealing Our Rhodes Scholars?  The Atlantic Wire
Is something wrong if the crème de la crème of American undergraduates are going to Wall Street? This is question has long troubled some in the Ivy League, but now it is being asked with reference to a very specific group of élites: the Rhodes scholars.

Performance Management: Is There An App For That?

“Performance management” is one of those buzz phrases that I usually like to make fun of, but I did my best to withhold judgment last week when I had the chance to talk with Lori Fey from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, which is all over the concept and has a new report out on the topic. (Plus which, my favorite Bush-era press guy Kevin Sullivan pitched it to me.)

Picture 73Five years ago there were “precious few” examples of performance management in school settings, according to Fey, and now there are at least 18 district examples and 14 charter networks doing it.  The newest cohort of Dell grantees includes Denver, Charlotte-Meckl, and PG County.

I remain skeptical about the power and usefulness of this approach, but I did take away at least one hopeful idea:  streamlining data collection and analysis so that it’s a tool not an obstacle to educators and teachers.  It's gotta be easy and fast for it to be of any real use. And I do like the notion that sometimes the data is useful to debunk myths about school performance and start new conversations.  Lord knows we need some new conversations around here. 

Thompson: The Rule of Law

Godonourside Stephen Sawchuck remembers when Dianne Piche' "likened permitting teachers' scoring of their students' tests to allowing 16-year-olds to score their own driver's-license exams." Being a former adult, I see such arrogance as the only way to reconcile the values of the Citizens Commission on Civil Rights with "reformers''" agenda of abridging the legal rights of the scapegoats de jour teachers.  An attorney should recoil at the hubris of subordinationing "Man's law" to beliefs in our own righteousness. 

The teenager teacher in me responds by asking whether "reformers" should be alone in assessing the legality of their agenda. John Merrow seems to have found some "smoking gun" evidence that "reformers" in D.C. are ignoring the spirit, and almost certainly the letter of the law when hiring twice as many teachers as normal on the eve of a budgetary crisis. Michelle Rhee acknowledged "by law, we can only move a personnel action form forward if there is a vacancy at a school level, and then there is a budget to support that."  A member of the D.C. Council supporting Rhee argued "I don't believe she over-hired, with the intent then of firing teachers that she didn't want there. I don't think that's what happened. And, even if it did, so what?"

Continue reading "Thompson: The Rule of Law" »

Let's Kick Out The Black & Brown Kids!

Picture 72 In the decade since disparities in suspensions and expulsions were first highlighted following a football game brawl in Decatur Illinois, things have only gotten worse -- and it's not just an inner-city problem, according to an AP report on the topic. 

Decade After Decatur, Ill. Racial Discipline Gap Widens EdWeek
Whether it's a poor urban district, a rich suburban district, or a rural area, blacks are getting written up in proportions far exceeding their white classmates.

Black Students Expelled More Often AP
It was a decade ago that the Rev. Jesse Jackson protested in Decatur over the expulsion of six black students for fighting. The racial disparity in school discipline has torn wide open since then.

'A very painful time for our community' Sun Times
The students were involved in a brawl at a high school football game on Sept. 17, 1999, between Eisenhower and crosstown rival MacArthur High that spilled into the stands. The school board initially expelled them for two years.

Decade after Decatur, racial discipline gap widens Tribune
In the largely black and Latino CPS, for example, suspensions for those groups jumped more than 150 percent in a decade; white suspensions were up 44 percent.

Graphic via EdWeek

Racial bias?  Cultural differences?  Poor classroom management skills?  TFA?  (Joke!) I don't really care.  I don't think it can all be blamed on Washington, though many will try.  And I'm guessing it's a problem affecting lots and lots of different states.

Quotes: The End Of Instinct

“In this world in which we are so centered on metrics, those things that are not measured get left off the agenda, you need a metric to fight a metric.” (Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz)

News: Turnaround Changes, NPO Fail, District Suits

Lawmakers in high-minority areas send few to academies USA Today
As the nation's military academies try to recruit more minorities, they aren't getting much help from members of Congress from big-city districts ...

Stimulus Rules on 'Turnarounds' Shift EdWeek
The guidelines for addressing low-performing schools allow states and districts to use a turnaround approach that many educators favor: providing professional development and coaching for a school’s current staff, and making changes to curriculum and instruction.

Civic education group misused $5.9M USA Today1111111111111111111
The California-based Center for Civic Education improperly spent taxpayer money according to the report from the department's inspector general.

Denied relief, W.Va. schools ready to sue AP
West Virginia will likely be sued by most -- if not all -- of its 55 county school boards, after the Legislature shot down Gov. Joe Manchin's offer of short-term relief from retiree health costs.

Smart kids ignored? Disparities in gifted education reported USA Today
A new report by the National Association for Gifted Children blames low federal funding and a focus on low-performing students for wide disparities, ...

Some L.A. Unified workers agree to furloughs LA Times
About 20,000 Los Angeles school district workers have agreed to four unpaid furlough days to help close a large budget gap, officials announced Monday.

Obama to Honor Young Inventors at National Science Fair WSJ
President Barack Obama said Monday he would convene a national science fair next year to honor young inventors with the same gusto that college and professional athletes celebrate their victories at the White House.

Video: School Of Rock (For Real)

In the corner, a wiry man with tattooed knuckles is playing the piano. It's Flea, the bass guitarist from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He founded the nonprofit music school in 2001 with his childhood friend, Tree, aka Keith Barry, who teaches and serves as the Conservatory's dean (Chili Pepper's music school has kids hoppin', learning)

Words: Bringing The "-ER" Insult To Education

Category_357 The Times Magazine (On Language) notes that adding "-er" is the cool new way of belittling or insulting your opponents.  (Think teabagger, birther.)

That got me thinking:  Reformer.  NCLBer.  Charterer.  RTTTer.  Innovationer.  Think Tanker.  TFAer.  Reporter.  Blogger. 

Obviously I need help with this.  Any ideas?

Blogs: Innovation, Johnson/Rhee Scandal, Etc.

Picture 71

The Innovation Administration American Prospect
The Obamas' infatuation with social entrepreneurship and venture philanthropy serves as a reminder of their aversion to a more robust, liberal, government-focused rhetoric. [read of the day]

Will Kevin Johnson/Rhee Scandal Be Obama's Whitewater? ENO
My goodness, where do we root here?

Tall Glass of Crazy, Anyone? Edna Lee
Have you noticed how teaching is much like a pregnancy?

Alabama Union Boss Calls Charter Schools a “Fad” EIA
Alabama Education Association executive secretary Paul Hubbert has been snoozing since 1991, and thinks we need to nip these newfangled charter schools in the bud. [though he may be right]

Media: TFA Coverage Jumps The Shark

86812497 Everyone's got a breaking point and I reached mine this morning listening to this four-minute NPR segment on Teach For America (Teachers Learn On The Job) during which I (and I'm guessing most listeners) learned very very little that we didn't already know.  It attracts elite graduates.  They don't get much training and suck at classroom management for a while.  They don't stay in the classroom.  Enough already.  We get it.  We've practically memorized TFA's stats.  We understand that maybe boomer editors have kids who are considering doing TFA. But if TFA was going to help fix American education, you'd think 20 years would be enough to start making a dent.  Until then, please stop covering it as if it's new or powerful or newsworthy. It's barely worth a blog post.

Thompson: The Seventy Percent Solution

Micromanaging Catherine Gewertz speculates that the "Graduation For All Act" will be a warmup for the renewal of the discredited NCLB ESEA. If so, the Act's school turnaround grants present a perfect opportunity to act on the President’s wisdom of building on the 70% of issues where we can agree. I would take considerable risks in order to gain the capacity "to implement data-based early warning systems to catch students before they fall seriously off-track." And there are many ways to ensure that "‘teacher talent’ is distributed fairly" even though that issue, if mishandled, would accelerate the exodus of high quality teachers from the inner city. 

Surely we can agree with the Center for American Progress that "transferring highly paid teachers against their will to even out expenditures (for high-needs schools) seems nonsensical." And I sure agree with the "reformers’" description of a root inequity "in general, teachers who start in high-poverty, high-needs schools, transfer to lower poverty, less needy schools as they gain tenure and seniority." But will "reformers" abandon their micromanaging of local contracts down to a point where districts are prohibited from paying teachers for master degrees or

Continue reading "Thompson: The Seventy Percent Solution" »

Week Ahead: Duncan's Media Schedule

ScreenHunter_03 Nov. 01 17.28 The Secretary went to Chicago for the Michael Scott funeral but he gets a break this week, with a relatively light schedule (besides a bothersome trip to San Antonio - who the hell let that get in?). 

Following his lead, I'll be doing the same, going offline Wednesday.

Continue reading "Week Ahead: Duncan's Media Schedule" »

News: White House Education Campaign, & More

White House Plans Education Campaign NYT
The plan will enlist companies and nonprofits, including “Sesame Street,” to spend money and time to encourage students to pursue science, technology, engineering and math.

D.C. Schools Chief Targets Tenure WSJ
Mr. Duncan said he wants to see the D.C. spat end soon. "We generally don't weigh in on local labor disputes, but this has gone on too long and they need to bring it to closure," he said in an interview.
Study Finds NCLB Law Lifted Math Scores EdWeek
Researchers found large gains in math scores for 4th graders and moderate ones for 8th graders, but no similar evidence for reading achievement.

States Said to Be Progressing on Data Systems EdWeek
A new report finds that 44 states, up from 21 in 2005, have built systems that can track students’ progress over time.

Activists: Big disparities in gifted education MSNBC
Disparities in gifted schooling exist in every state, according to the National Association for Gifted Children, which blames low federal funding and a focus on low-performing students.

Shouldn't the evaluating get evaluated? Washington Post
Dan Goldfarb, a 51-year-old history teacher at Benjamin Banneker High School, says his first encounter with an evaluator under the District's new IMPACT system for assessing teachers did not go well.

Book Review: Making the Grades by Todd Farley Washington Post
As college application season hits a fever pitch and standardized tests become the fixation of high school seniors and admissions boards everywhere, Todd Farley's memoir, "Making the Grades," argues for taking the results of these and other ballyhooed exams with a heavy dose of skepticism.

People: Green Dot Founder Reported Leaving Changing Roles

Kris Krüg/Flickr
There was little indication last week when he was in DC and NYC that Steve Barr was going to be leaving Green Dot, the organization he founded.  But California public radio station KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez is now reporting that Barr is stepping down [as chairman].  For months there has been fretting and clucking about the news that Barr was being forced to repay $50,000 in unreimbursable or undocumented expenses that he'd racked up wining and dining teachers and funders.  He stepped down as CEO just over a year ago.  But Barr seemed unperturbed about the situation during an interview last week.  No one from Green Dot has so far responded to my emails seeking confirmation or further explanation.

UPDATE:  Barr confirms that he is leaving the chairmanship in order to start Green Dot America in January.  There is no connection between the internal audit and his departure, says Barr.  He will become chairman emeritus and remain on the executive board. In which case I'm not sure what the news is.  UPDATE 2:  Finally, something from Green Dot. See below.

Continue reading "People: Green Dot Founder Reported Leaving Changing Roles" »

Video: Elementary School Kid Refuses To Pledge

Both the Daily Show and the Colbert Report riffed off the news that an elementary school boy was refusing to recite the pledge of allegiance in school.  Just cuz I'm lazy, here's the Daily Show version (the segment starts about 90 seconds in):

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Gaywatch - Peter Vadala & William Phillips
Daily Show
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Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Movies: A War On Kids? Or Just More Scare Tactics?

ScreenHunter_41 Nov. 18 21.21I don't know whether to laugh or cry about this.  There's a new documentary out called The War On Kids which argues that the current culture of many schools is, in essence, a war on children. But from the trailer, at least, the movie seems pretty over the top, juxtaposing interviews with (mostly white) parents angry about how kids are being treated and footage of (mostly black and brown) kids getting arrested or searched for drugs in school.  I'm curious, but I'm not really convinced.  Are there enough ridiculous zero tolerance incidents in schools to call it a war on kids?  Or are these just incidents of random stupidity as it usually sems, an unfortunate byproduct of a fearful society but not that much more?  Reviews here:  NYT, Variety.  It was the Winner of "Best Educational Documentary" at the NY International Independent Film and Video Festival 2009.

Thompson: Gerald Bracey's Concluding Remarks

BraceyPutToTheTest The last Bracey Report should be read and reread in its balanced, jewel-like entirety.  Federal accountability schemes, despite their avowed purpose of helping the poor, make no sense unless you also believe that American education as a whole is dangerously in decline.  Bracey's last report again debunked that myth along with the hype surrounding mayoral control of schools and standards as the basis of reforms, concluding:

"In my opinion, the Obama/Duncan approach would only exacerbate the problems created by our industrial ... command-and-control model on steroids. Sidwell, by contrast, encourages a rich interdisciplinary curriculum designed to stimulate inquiry; the expression of artistic abilities; reflection; 'stewardship of the natural world'; service to others; scientific investigation; creative expression; group as well as individual learning; personalization of learning and education of the whole person. ... Can it work in schools such as the one Linda Perlstein describes in Tested? She thinks so, but not while high-stakes testing displaces true education. ... As Yong Zhao pointed out, 'Obama and the nation's governors should preserve the legacy of our Founding Fathers and build a nation of diverse talents and creative entrepreneurs rather than a nation of standardized test-takers.'" - John Thompson

On The Hill: Miller Staffer Alice Cain Leaving In December

Alice Johnson Cain Congrats and condolences.  Word is spreading that Alice Cain, longtime staffer for George Miller, is leaving the Hill and heading to the Hope Street Group.  There she'll be focusing on teacher effectiveness and elevating the teaching profession to drive broader reform of our education system.  "It isn’t possible to overstate how wonderful it has been to work for George Miller," writes Cain.  "I will always be grateful for my time here and all that I’ve learned here over the past 6 years."  No word yet on who's in line to replace her.  

NCLB: Alternative Exams Make Schools Look Good

"Schools or districts that are administering more of these alternative assessments may look better than those who are using fewer, and it may not have anything to do with the quality of the program."  NCREST director Joan Herman

Getting The New Gates Teaching Initiative

The major papers each add a bit of key information about the just-announced Gates teaching initiative:

Tumblr_ktb3547Hgl1qz7lxdo1_500 Mini RTTT:  Federal officials are pushing in much the same direction with a $4.35 billion school-reform grant competition that stresses teacher effectiveness, tied to student achievement. (Gates Foundation gives $335 million for teacher effectiveness Washington Post)

OMAHA NO THANKS:  A fifth district was in line to join the others, but Omaha Public Schools dropped out at the last minute after decided it could not meet the matching requirement of the grant during these tough economic times. (Schools get $335 million to boost teaching MSNBC)

TRYING AGAIN: "It's not that small high schools did not work ... but we went straight to what works." The foundation, [Phillips] said, wants to "focus on the thing that absolutely matters the most, which is the teacher." ($335 million in education grants Seattle Times)

SIDE STUDY: A separate $45 million research initiative will study 3,700 classroom teachers in six cities, including New York, seeking to answer the question that has puzzled investigators for decades: What, exactly, makes a good teacher effective? (Gateses Give $290 Million for Education NYT)

Grading Ed Schools, Preschool Push, & More

State will soon grade its education schools Orlando Sentinel
Florida already grades its public schools and rates its pre-kindergarten programs based on student test scores. Its teacher-preparation programs look to be next.

Learning to Teach to Bridge the Achievement Gap NYTNews-clipart
An underperforming school in San Jose sets high expectations, and students and parents respond with positive results.

Obama’s new push for preschool for at-risk children CSM
President Obama wants to offer states some $1 billion a year to help them improve preschool and early education programs for at-risk children.

Changes Urged in Rules for Federal Innovation Aid EdWeek
Philanthropies question a draft plan to require matching funds from applicants for the Education Department’s $650 million “i3” program.

City unveils plan for schools Boston Globe
School Superintendent Carol R. Johnson last night revealed the names of 14 Boston schools slated for massive overhauls, reinvention, or possible closing under a plan that would affect more than 6,000 students.

Maine teacher's aide brought handgun to school Boston Globe
A longtime teacher's aide at the Riverton Community School in Portland has been placed on administrative leave after bringing a handgun to school.

Swine Flu: The Musical

Via the Philly.com Notebook.

Thanks to BS for passing this along. A sure sign of the Apocalypse, indeed.

Noise: Soundproofing Helps Raise Achievement

Noisy buildings, classrooms, and homes aren't just bothersome.  They have a big effect on kids learning, according to this Ashley Merryman article in Newsweek (What Do Preschools Have in Common with Bridges and Airports?).  Just a 5db reduction can make a big difference.  

Cartoon: The Innovative Peanut-Butter Sandwich

Innovative peant butter sandwich

Adapted from this week's New Yorker.

Media: Clueless Former Ed Reporter Gets School Staffer Fired. Fire Him!

Kurt-greenbaum So a guy at work makes a stupid anonymous comment on a local paper's website -- twice.  Then a guy at the paper (Ken Greenbaum, pictured) who used to cover education issues decides he's going to find out who made the comment, tracking him down at -- yes -- a nearby school and, with the help of the school's IT administrator, getting him fired. 

How do we know all this?  From this boastful blog post Greenburg wrote about what he'd done.  Even after the uproar that ensued, this guy claims he was justified in making the call, didn't violate the paper's privacy policy for readers, and makes a whole helluva lot of excuses like journalists do.  But no one's buying from the comments I read.  Fire him, I say.

News: Alternate Exams, Missouri Is In, DC Dustup, & More

Alternate exams questioned as test scores rise in Virginia Washington Post
Lynbrook Elementary School, which serves one of the poorest communities in Fairfax County, seems to be a model for reform. Three years ago, the Springfield school failed to meet state testing goals in English. . News-clipart

Missouri to compete for federal stimulus funds for school reform Kansas City Star
US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said peer review teams would evaluate the applications. Winners of opening round funds will be announced in the spring ...

DC Schools Chief Targets Tenure Wall Street Journal
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has extolled other school districts, such as in New Haven, Conn., that have brokered deals recently with their unions, ...

Financial Woes, Layoffs Plaguing D.C. Schools PBS
John Merrow of Learning Matters revisits the Washington, D.C., public school system, which is struggling with budgetary constraints and teacher layoffs amid reform efforts.

Academic Researchers’ Conflicts of Interest Go Unreported EdWeek
A report found that universities often do not disclose faculty members’ conflicts of interest in government-financed studies.

Duncan: Waiving NCLB Tutoring Out Of Existence

Alg_dodgeball The Duncan folks have been giving out NCLB waivers like my grandma used to hand out hard candy.  No big surprise there.  But not everyone's happy about it.  Some of the ministers  and community leaders in Chicago are protesting a pending SES tutoring waiver that the state applied for and got on behalf of the city. They claim that the city has cut after school tutoring from $114M to $60M.  That's 40,000 fewer kids getting after school tutoring compared to last year.  Over 70,000 Chicago kids submitted applications to the program (see press release below).   I wonder if this is happening anywhere else or if there's anything else going on within NCLB while all eyes are elsewhere -- I mean besides schools getting waivers on their 1 percent SPED cap.(More Ways To Get Low-Scoring Kids Off The Books).  Related posts:  Save SES! (Say SES Providers), It's Waiver Time!

Continue reading "Duncan: Waiving NCLB Tutoring Out Of Existence" »

Thompson: "Is New Haven bad for D.C.?" Is the Truth bad for the New Teacher Project?

Pinocchio The Flypaper worries that "New Haven’s contract [calling for peer review] will derail DC bargaining." Can’t "reformers" compete in the free market of ideas? And the TNTP’s Tim Daly complains that peer review is an incomplete approach ... of doing what districts have been trying to do for decades—to detect incompetence," and it is not enough to satisfy all of the goals of the Race to the Top." And that is a stinging criticism of "the fundamental collaborative initiative between union and management" because of ...?

At least Daly did not repeat the intellectually dishonest statement in the TNTP’s "The Widget Effect" that only five (or .7%) of probationary teachers in Toledo were dismissed from the classroom in a five year period.

Stephen Sawchuk does an excellent job of explaining why teachers and unions are proud of peer review’s (PAR’s) rigorous process for counseling ineffective teachers out of the profession. He also clarifies the difficult task of determining how many teachers resign rather than face dismissal after a poor PAR review. Contrary to the TNTP’s polemic, nine rookie teachers in Toledo, or 9.2% of novices, "nonrenewed or resigned" after the 2007-08 school year. In the Rochester PAR program 7% of the new teachers exited, as did 9.7% in Syracuse, while 10.5% of novices resigned in Montgomery County or had their peer review process extended for another year.

Continue reading "Thompson: "Is New Haven bad for D.C.?" Is the Truth bad for the New Teacher Project?" »

Funding: Gates "Deep Dive" Winners Finally Surface

The secretive folks at the Gates Foundation has been playing cat and mouse for months about which districts applied for -- and were finalists in -- the so-called "deep dive" teacher effectiveness initiative.  But there's no hiding it when you're giving out big bucks after having put districts through the wringer.  These administrators want to party! Well, no, not really (well...).  Anyway, the news is getting out:  

Memphis City Schools to sign pact for $90 million from Gates Foundation Tumblr_ksk9bibW5b1qznavao1_500
Boards of education in Hillsborough County, Fla. (Tampa); Pittsburgh; and a consortium of charter schools in Los Angeles signed agreements with the foundation this week.

Gates Foundation awards $40 million to city schools
The district would be one of the Gates Foundation's four "intensive partnership sites" for teacher-effectiveness initiatives nationwide.

Hillsborough School Board unanimously approves $100M Gates grant
The finish line is in sight for the Hillsborough County School District, which agreed Tuesday to accept a $100 million teacher effectiveness grant if the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offers it.

No word on whether this helps or hurts a district's chances of getting RTTT or i3 funding or how the streams will be coordinated if a district gets funding from all three. 

News: State Cuts, Charter Caps, Private Scores, Health Care

Teachers, school advocates marshal forces against state cuts Denver Post
As lawmakers stand poised to cut $260 million in K-12 education funding, the state's teachers union and other school advocates are playing defense and keeping their options — including a possible lawsuit — open.

Public charter schools could win funding for Alabama Montgomery AdviserNews-clipart
Alabama is in the running for as much as $175 million of a $4.35 billion pot of education money known as the Race to the Top Fund. But the state's lack of legislation allowing the opening of charter schools could work against it in its application if it doesn't make some changes quickly.

Teacher Broke Law by Posting Top Test Scores EdWeek
The Minnesota Department of Administration agreed with a parent who complained that posting her son's test results was a violation of state law.

Prospect of Health-Plan Tax Draws Union Opposition EdWeek
Labor leaders and analysts warn that costs would be passed on to workers in the form of higher premiums—or curtailed benefits.

Photo: Soldiers Bearing Gifts

"An Iraqi soldier stands guard as school girls gather in the playground of their school in Radwaniya west of Baghdad on November 16, 2009. Iraqi soldiers paid a visit to the school handing out school bags, pens and pencils. AFP PHOTO / ALI AL-SAADI (Photo credit should read ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images) via Jezebel

Human Capital: Lessons From Fort Hood

00221917dead0c639b0548 I couldn't help but thinking about Virginia Tech and Columbine when hearing about the Fort Hood massacre last week, though of course in those cases it was students not adults who were doing the killing.  What resonated for me even more, however, was the sad narrative of how Dr. Hasan ended up being where he was.  In the case of Dr. Hasan, as in the case of too many ineffective educators, there were a series of nagging questions about his competence without any definitive action or coordination, resulting in a series of assignments chosen for convenience and what was thought to be the least possibility of doing any damage.  (This article in Salon addresses some of these issues, including the weight given to  short-term staffing needs and the tendency to promote uniformly rather than individually.) I'm not saying bad teachers are psychotic, or that the military and education systems work identically.  I'm just saying that the military's ability to assess, support, and intervene on personnel evaluation issues seems as bad if not worse than many school districts'. And that putting questionable employees off in a corner is a common, unfortunate, and in this case tragic, decision

Quotes: There's Nothing Magic About Success, Says First Lady

"Don't let those tests defeat you. Don't let those tests define you." (Michelle Obama talk tests, mentoring to students AP)

Thompson: One AFT Member’s Musings on RttT Regulations

Id6593 It would be so easy to revel in the extreme reactions of "reformers" condemning the newly released RttT regulations, such as Rick Hess’ statement that "states will promise a lot of half-hearted reforms that will then fail, giving ammunition to the unions." Andy Smarick started off with the reasonable reminder that the Education Department went through a lengthy process of listening to stakeholders and researchers and "many opinions coming from so many angles tends to have a moderating effect." But he then condemned "the middle, [where] of course, stands the establishment," and he proposed "unambiguously confronting unions, colleges of education, superintendents, and school boards."

I do not know whose wailings were more grandiose - Amy Wilken's complaint that RttT didn’t effect teachers of subjects that are not tested or the Flypaper’s lament that it didn’t explicitly overrule collective bargaining agreements. So, people in the middle, and every institution in "the establishment," are morally bankrupt and must be detroyed root and branch? What is so wrong with President Obama's goal of building on the 70% of issues where we can agree?  Do they really believe that command and control micromanaging can produce innovation? Should the DOE also check individual teacher's lesson plans?

In contrast, Randi Weingarten said, "I see a real culture shift in these regulations from what we had seen in the previous administration. ... at the end of the day, the culture shift is about can we collaborate, work together to make schools better."

Continue reading "Thompson: One AFT Member’s Musings on RttT Regulations" »

Video: Sharpton, Gingrich, Duncan -- So What?

I don't know about you, but the thrill is gone for me over the Sharpton / Gingrich partnership. Adding Duncan to the mix doesn't change that. What have they accomplished, really, besides serving as some sort of media freak show?  And who's paying for them to do these events?

Sharpton and Gingrich, Unlikely Allies, Talk Education CBS News

News: LA Transformation, Tainted Lunches, Disabled Progress

Villaraigosa, teacher groups vie for 4 schools LA Times
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and groups of teachers backed by the Los Angeles teachers union will compete for control of four campuses, including Jefferson High School, as part of a groundbreaking reform initiative.

Schools in the dark about tainted lunches USA Today News-clipart
Before the illnesses in Racine, flour tortillas from Chicago's Del Rey Tortilleria caused similar outbreaks at more than a dozen schools in two other states — in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. Despite the concerns, the FDA never shared the panel's warning with school officials anywhere.

Report Finds Progress for Students With Disabilities EdWeek
A new study shows gains for 4th graders on state tests used for accountability purposes under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

'No Child' law sees more students transferring to better performing schools Herald
More than 620 students across Snohomish County have transferred to schools with higher test scores this fall because their neighborhood schools didn’t measure up to federal academic goals. A year ago, there were fewer than 400 such transfers.

PostSec: Getting Into CCs Now Almost As Hard As Getting Out

Used to be that community colleges were easy to get into but hard to get out of (with a degree, that is).  But the recession's changed all that, according to this post from Gawker (Community College Admission Now Aspirational).



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