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Tragedy: School Board Chairman Found Dead

scottscene640.jpgChicago police found a body near the river this morning that is believed to be that of the school board chairman, Michael Scott.  Police report that he was killed with a single gunshot to the head, and that the wound may have been self-inflicted. Secretary Duncan has issued a statement of condolence, though neither Mayor Daley nor schools chief Ron Huberman have yet spoken publicly.

This is apparently not the only time that a top district official has been killed or killed himself while in office. The superintendent of the Cleveland public schools killed himself 24 years ago (see story below). There may be other examples -- I've asked folks from AASA, NSBA, and the Great City Schools.

Continue reading "Tragedy: School Board Chairman Found Dead" »

Trends: Adderall, In-House Teacher Certification, Exercise Balls, Selling Lessons

Popping Adderall To Get That A Miller McCune
Overall, the students who used these stimulants tended to be white, involved in a fraternity or sorority, had lower GPAs and were more likely to have drank alcohol, smoked cigarettes or marijuana, or used other drugs in the last six months.

Programs to Certify Teachers May Grow NYT
Education schools, long the exclusive certifier of teachers, have been accused of failing to focus on classroom training. 

Selling Lessons Online Raises Cash and Questions NYT500x_rosie.web
A venture by some teachers has led school officials to ask who owns materials developed for public schools.

Exercise balls get education rolling LA Times
Donna Yehl's fourth-grade students bob behind their desks, heads nodding up and down as if the children were on the deck of a ship.

Who Needs Mathematicians for Math, Anyway? City Journal
Baseless pedagogical theories mean that the educators’ long-term captive audience will know even less about authentic mathematics than they do now.

School’s Cool In These Times
“The business of business,” goes Milton Friedman’s legendary statement, “is business.” Why, too, must the business of education be business?

The End of Poverty? Salon.com
Presumably his title is meant to challenge or rebut Columbia professor Jeffrey Sachs, the rock-star economist whose book "The End of Poverty" (with no question mark) argues that a program of massive international aid, mixed with marginal, incremental reforms in poor countries -- can curtail extreme poverty within 20 or 30 years.

Quotes: A Big, Black, Sullen-Faced, Illiterate Girl From The Ghetto

"Precious" is a film for blacks and a challenge to drop our own emotional armor and embrace a real-life story we have been minimizing for a long time -- that of a big, black, sullen-faced, illiterate girl who lives in the depths of the ghetto and in all likelihood will stay there." (Salon)

Thompson: The 70% Solution

Bloomberg%20Sharpton%20and%20Gingrich Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich, along with Arne Duncan were impressive on Meet the Press. Yes, they flubbed some lines indicating confusion about charter schools, curriculum, and international test scores and they spoke in phrases like "I was told ..., students are told ..., and we were told ...." And Gingrich was incorrect in saying the Mastery Charter Schools in Philadelphia operate with "the same students" as when the school was a violent, failing neighborhood school. Surely the founder Scott Gordon told his visitors the same thing he told the Philadelphia Inquirer that "the beauty of our model is the high expectations and the difficulty of the model is that kids can walk if you want to go to another school" During the first four years of the Pickett campus, there was a 42% attrition rate - a rate that would have killed their reforms in a neighborhood school. But they were allowed to persevere and worked wonders, while disempowered neighborhood schools keep up a comparable or worse attrition rate in perpetuity.

All schools should be like Mastery Schools and have the power to enforce their disciplinary codes, but I doubt that Sharpton, Gingrich,or even Duncan has been told the whole story of why that power is rarely bestowed upon neighborhood schools. But we should focus on what was true and profound in their words; they endorsed President Obama’s statement that surely we can work together on the 70% of school issues where we all agree.

Continue reading "Thompson: The 70% Solution" »

Arne's Week: From Meet The Press To Cafeteria Worker

Arne-duncanjpg-c8e8ed3168293385_large EdSec Duncan's going to be on Meet The Press on Sunday with Sharpton and Gringrich, then he'll do a school visit with Steny Hoyer (aka House majority leader). 

Nice photo op on Wednesday when Duncan serves as cafeteria worker (get it?).  Hoping he wears a hair net and baggy gloves for that. 

I think this pic is from a NOLA school visit a few weeks ago. 

Continue reading "Arne's Week: From Meet The Press To Cafeteria Worker" »

States Bow Out, Principal Quits, Hawaii and LA Ponder Furloughs

Nevada out of ‘race’ for innovation funding Las Vegas Sun
It’s official: Nevada has been shut out of the “Race to the Top,” a federal grant program offering $4.35 billion to improve the nation’s public schools.

Md. notably quiet as states jockey for millions in education money Baltimore SunNews-clipart
The state school board has had no extensive public conversations...State leaders have not been encouraging public discussion on the issues among teachers unions, school superintendents and local school boards...The governor's office doesn't appear ready to introduce charter school law changes, as some argue is needed.

Cash-for-Grades Plan Principal Quits AP
Susie Shepherd will retire after school district leaders halted a fund-raiser she approved that would have allowed students to buy 20 test points for a $20 donation.

L.A. Unified asks union to OK four furlough days this year LA Times
Los Angeles school district officials asked union members Friday to agree to four furlough days this year and a future 12% pay cut to help offset a nearly $500-million budget shortfall next year.

Plan would end Hawaii teacher furlough days MSNBC
Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle has proposed a plan to end the state's hotly disputed teacher furloughs and cancel a planned 10 percent reduction in school days.

For States That Don't Get RTTT, A Race To The Bottom

TurnaroundOne more thing before the weekend.  Slate's Chadwick Matlin (A Race to the Bottom) points out the inconsistencies in the Obama administrations' "Race To The Top" strategy -- including the gap that RTTT's reward-the-leaders elements will create for states that don't get money -- and the USDE's wishful thinking about how they'll respond.  It's an age-old problem whether to push the leaders ahead or help the laggards.  The Duncan team would argue that the Stimulus should be considered as part of its broader strategy.  But Matlin's right to note that RTTT lacks a safe harbor provision or restructuring requirement for states that are making progress or are most in need of change. 

Media: Dead (Or Zombie) Education Blogs

Site-closed-sign Some of my favorite education blogs aren't actually running any more.  They include eduwonkette (aka Jennifer Jennings the mad photoshop wizard), Daily Report Card (not it's fault that it came into existence before the Internet as we now know it), Will Okun, Teaching In The 408 (still dead, last I looked), It's Not All Flowers and Sausages (kilt by a book deal), the AFT Blog (official known as NCLB Let's Do It Right), and of course NCLB II, long-lamented former home of The Hoff.  Or they're still in operation but they've lost that founding fire (DISD Blog, GothamSchools, etc.) What are your favorite education blogs gone by the wayside?  Do you think the education blogosphere is growing and getting better, or shrinking and worsening.

Training: Residency Model Goes National

ScreenHunter_04 Nov. 08 14.12 It's expensive.  It's numbers are few.  But the so-called "residency" model of teacher preparation piloted in Chicago, Denver, and Boston has been gaining steam over the past five years.  There are now examples in Memphis, Philly, and New York City.  The President and Education Secretary like to talk about the work of the Chicago pilot, AUSL.  And nothing says momentum like a national network of residency programs (Urban Teacher Residency United). Even if it's not clear that the network has any staff or customers for its "residency residency" program.

People: Ulrich Boser Joins CAP

140 Journalist and author Ulrich Boser has officially joined the Center for American Progress, where he'll be doing education work with a little bit of other stuff mixed in.  Boser authored the recent CAP / Chamber report on state innovations and has written for US News and several other outlets over the years.  Click here for a sampling.  I've met him a couple of times and he seems like a straight shooter.  (Try and forgive him for the Dartmouth thing.  It was a youthful mistake.)  He'll be a senior fellow.  Congrats, condolences. 

Deseg: Whitewashing Chicago's Magnet Schools

Waynelevin_cropBunches of districts are revamping their deseg / student assignment system these days, and many of them are using SES as part of the equation in addition to (or instead of) race.  The latest example is Chicago, which -- with the help of the Century Foundation's Rick Kahlenberg -- just rolled out a proposed new post-deseg plan. 

Unfortunately, many observers worry that the proposed Chicago plan is likely to be a big boost for white, wealthy parents and a big problem for poor black and brown students. The plan's diversity rhetoric is undercut by its likely real-world impact.

Continue reading "Deseg: Whitewashing Chicago's Magnet Schools" »

Quotes: The Pros And Cons Of "Doomsday Talk"

"The language of failure and crisis works well with foundations and newspapers and can help reformers burnish their own brands. But it can be as just as damaging as complacency, because it breeds public despair, cynicism and battle fatigue." - Claus Von Zastrow (Doomsday Talk)

News: Computerized Assessment Fail, HCZ Study, Meep!

A-level computerised exam markers give Churchill a fail Times Online
Online marking of school qualifications is being tested by British exam boards and could be introduced in the next few years. Via Slatest

Scare tactics in charter schools debate? KABC TV
"We had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with it in any way shape or form," said UTLA President A.J. Duffy.

Study of Harlem Children's Zone Finds Gaps Closing EdWeekNews-clipart
The Harlem Children’s Zone spends more than $19,000 per pupil annually for all the services involved. By comparison, it adds, the median school district in New York state spent $16,171 in 2006.

Compromising on Education Reform? ABC News Blog
“I’m terribly worried that they seem to have backed away further from the parts that I thought were most promising,” said Frederick Hess, an education policy analyst with the American Enterprise Institute.

On Sesame Street, 'C' Is For Controversy NPR
From Cookie Monster's unbalanced diet, to Elmo's bad grammar, to Grover's civil disobedience, The Week magazine explains why some days aren't sunny days on Sesame Street.

Principal bans four-letter word — ‘meep!’ MSNBC
Who knew "meep!" was a four-letter word? The word has been banned at Danvers High School in Massachusetts after students said it to repeatedly interrupt school.

With Facebook as Alibi, Brooklyn Robbery Charge Is Dropped NYT
“This is the first case that I’m aware of in which a Facebook update has been used as alibi evidence,” said John G. Browning, a lawyer in Dallas who studies social networking and the law.

Thompson: Connected

BigTent "I just got flipped off by a gray-haired old lady, who has a ‘Honk If You Love Jesus’ bumper sticker on her car." As I laughed at the song I heard with the network of fellow NPR’s Car Talk fans, I grinned in anticipation of singing the tune to my students on Monday. And this was just one of the implications of Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler’s Connected. Today's inequality, explains Fowler, goes beyond race and class to non-connectedness. "Every social connection makes you healthier," and when reminded that their actions effect 1,000 others, people act better.  And sharing a song and a belly laugh with teenagers is hard to top.

Fowler acknowledges that his conclusions are common sense and many others implicitly act on them. Teachers, for instance, see plenty of darkness worth cursing, but every school day brings new candles to light by building healthier networks. Yes, statistically speaking, when friends gain weight or drink too much, that negatively influences their other friends, down to "three degrees of separation." But severing relationships, in the aggregate, always worsens the harm. Why can’t education act on the obvious implications of these dynamics? Schools exist to create healthier and more mindful relationships with knowledge and with other people. And politically, it should remind us of the truism that it is better to have everyone in the tent urinating out than outsiders urinating in. - John Thompson

Teaching AP: Make It Big, Make It Loud, Let Everyone In

"Winn dons a furry hat and beats a drum to remind students of the steps in a problem. He shouts theatrically and chants questions, then shuts off the audience lights to talk about "finding the inner you." They talk openly about masculinity and otherness in the dim theater." (Calculus Class So Crazy It Just Might Work).

Media: RTTT Regs Reactions -- Who Does It Best? [updated]

320px-Right_pointing_double_angle_quotation_mark.svg Everyone's still making WAY too much of a big deal about Race To The Top, given its small size and limited likelihood of making a "moon shot" kind of difference.  Please.  But it sure helps pass the time.  So here's a roundup of the best reactions to the newly-released regulations (seriously, we're covering regulations now?).  Which story has the best quotes?  Who wins the coverage?  No points for predictable reacts from teachers unions, talking heads, etc.  Click below to see and learn. [Updated 2:24 pm]

Continue reading "Media: RTTT Regs Reactions -- Who Does It Best? [updated]" »

Video: The Hip Hop Alexander Hamilton

Blame superblogger Ezra Klein (and every AP US History teacher I know) for sending around this incredibly catchy video from some of the guys involved in The Heights telling the story of Alexander Hamilton from the perspective of his eventual assassin Aaron Burr in a somewhat hip hop / musical theater type of style.


It's from the White House spoken word event last week.  

Thompson: Now I feel Better

Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda1In American education, as with our economy and law, a system of checks and balances has grown organically over the generations.  These institutions of due process and traditions of academic freedom have helped create true excellence and dynamism in education and culture, but they have not had enough relevance for transforming our toughest schools or poorest communites.  Some theorists want to unleash forces of the Market, and the Duncan Adminstration is "pushing the envelope," gambling that creative disruption will be fair and constructive. 

Similarly, the Gates Foundation has committed $500 million over five years to research and implement strategies to identify effective teachers. As usual, descriptions of this process rely very little on the past tense, and depend almost completely on the future tense, and a lot of  coulda, woulda, and shouldas.  Tom Kane, who leads this effort," recently completed one of the first value-added studies ... more studies should be done to confirm the accuracy of assessments."

Continue reading "Thompson: Now I feel Better" »

Exclusions: More Ways To Get Low-Scoring Kids Off The Books

Paul_newman09 Cool ways to juke the stats are coming out of the Land of Lincoln.  First the Chicago Tribune's Stephanie Banchero revealed that schools were keeping low-scoring / credit deficient juniors out of the 11th grade testing pool by classifying them as super sophomores (Case of the missing juniors).  Not that the low-scorers are being kept away from other trappings of being a junior (Forget the tests. What about the junior prom?).  That way, everybody's happy.  

Then, just this week it's come to light that some schools have been applying for -- and getting -- waivers from the state board of education to exceed the 1 percent cap on alternative assessments for SPED kids, which is supposed to be only for the most severely impaired (Not Testing Some Kids Makes Schools Look Better). Kids score higher on the alternative assessment than they do on the regular one, so it's a surefire score-booster.  

News: South Korean SAT, Racist Flyers, & More

In South Korea, Nation Stops For Mega Exam NPR
It is so important that aircraft are barred from flying near the test site, and the workday begins an hour late, to prevent traffic jams that might make students late. Via Ednews091028_$BOX_newspapersTN

LAUSD blasts threat on flier Daily News
Community groups and Los Angeles Unified officials on Tuesday condemned an anonymous flier handed to Latino parents that threatened them with deportation if they supported plans to convert their neighborhood school to a charter. Via EdNews.

School nixes cash-for-grades fundraiser in North Carolina USA Today
Administrators have nixed a North Carolina middle school's cash-for-grades fundraiser.

Prestigious D.C. private school deals with dark side of limelight Washington Post
Its parent-teacher conferences made the evening news. So did cases of swine flu. And Sidwell Friends School has recently been the target of a few small protests that seem aimed at prominent parents, not students.

Scroll up to see coverage of RTTT regulations.

Pics: Mad Man Don Draper - When He Was In High School

Don draper Think you don't care / don't want to know what Jon Hamm (Mad Men's Don Draper) looked like as a high school student? 

I don't believe you.  I just don't.

Prove me wrong by not clicking below. 

But then you'll never know if he was geeky or godlike, and your life will be somehow lacking without that knowledge. 

Continue reading "Pics: Mad Man Don Draper - When He Was In High School" »

Atlantic Magazine: Nurturing "Orchid" Children

Picture 64"A provocative new theory of genetics asserts that the very genes that give us the most trouble as a species, causing behaviors that are self-destructive and antisocial, also underlie humankind’s phenomenal adaptability and evolutionary success. With a bad environment and poor parenting, orchid children can end up depressed, drug-addicted, or in jail—but with the right environment and good parenting, they can grow up to be society’s most creative, successful, and happy people." (The Science of Success)

Agassi Crystal Meth Autobiography Not Funding Charter School

Resized_ept_sports_ten_experts_371304552_1256670083 Tennis player Andre Agassi just revealed in a new book that he not only used crystal meth but also wore a wig to cover his baldness.  (A mullet wig.  Or maybe it was a weave.)  

No matter.  The point is that Agassi also supports charter schools, and has lent his name to one.  

But the $5 million advance he got for the book is not going to the school or to his foundation -- which is good or bad, considering the aforementioned drug / wig use.

Bam!  Blog post. Thankyouverymuch.

Cartoon: Jiggling The Mouse To Make AYP

Picture 55_edited-1b.jpg

News: Arrested Teens, Easy Exams, Classroom Dogs

NY school gunman upset over GI treatment AP
Upset by the treatment of U.S. military personnel, a 42-year-old father of an Army veteran sneaked a disassembled shotgun into a middle school just after classes began Tuesday, put it together in a bathroom, then held the principal hostage for more than two hours before surrendering without firing a shot, police said....

25 Chicago Students Arrested for a Middle-School Food Fight NYTScreenHunter_05 Nov. 09 10.14
Diana Shulla-Cose, president and co-founder of Perspectives Charter Schools, said that an on-campus police officer had called for backup as the food fight escalated and that the resulting heavy police presence had led in turn to the large number of arrests. 

Will a longer school day help close the achievement gap? CSM
A longer school day can help improve student test scores, closing the achievement gap. But critics question the cost of those additional hours.

Texas Reading Exams Fail the National Test Texas Tribune
A Texas Tribune analysis of results on the state and national tests since 2003 show wide gaps in results, with the Texas TAKS test showing proficiency rates up to 18 percentage points higher than the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP.  Via EdNews.

School choice is a real test for parents in New Orleans Times Picayune
On a glorious Saturday last March, New Orleans educators descended on the art museum in City Park to plug their programs at the annual school fair. Via EWA

Autism helper dog allowed in class, judge rules NOLA.com
A judge has ruled that a first-grader in central Illinois gets to keep his autism helper dog in school.

'Voted out' teacher to return to classroom Wendy Portillo was suspended for more than a year after she led St. Lucie kindergartners to vote a 5-year-old boy out of their class. Via EdNews.org

Books: A Different Kind Of Education Story

ScreenHunter_03 Nov. 08 13.11
"There's gangs and green cards, Sandinistas, Cubans, Thais, the fall of Paris and the rise of the Chinese Beverly Hills--generations of alienation and assimilation--and navigating it all, me, a white guy, trying not to screw up his son."

That's Jesse Katz describing his new memoir The Opposite Field which is about the experiences of a Jewish dad and his half-Nicaraguan son reviving a Little League in the immigrant suburb of La Loma, California.  Katz is a Pulitzer prize winner reporter and the book has been positively reviewed all over the place including here.  Previously on this topic: Great Stories About Education (Medill Winners), The Anti-TFAer (about Test Of Their Lives).

Blogs: Fishy Results, Bracey Report, Viers Mill Revisited, Etc.

Think Tanks Peddle Fishy Survey Results LFA
Newspapers repeated it without reservation. Bloggers used it to fuel their outrage.

“Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education" Larry F.
The last “Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education” is now available online. Education researcher Gerald Bracey passed away this fall.

Scholarships for Teachers in Hard-to-Staff Schools Sean Cavanagh
The Kellogg Foundation is backing an effort to give math-and-science teachers master's degrees if they agree to work in disadvantaged schools. It is also demanding more of universities.

Evaluations have little role in promoting better teaching Uncle Jay
Those unfortunate people in the District might worry about the quality of their teachers and wait anxiously for the results of the school system's controversial new evaluation of classroom techniques and test score improvement. But those of us in the Washington area suburbs don't have to worry...

The Difference a School Can Make LFA
Come to Viers Mill and you'll see a school that has made itself a national exemplar without firing its staff or importing outside talent.

Innovative Ideas, Meet Hackneyed Battle Lines The New Republic
Generally speaking, this week's conference and the news surrounding it proved that the conflicts over new ideas remain the same old beefs. 

Is Listening an Endangered Skill? Atlantic Wire
Why would anyone pay thousands of dollars to hear someone speak, and then not listen?

How an American soldier is made Denver Post
The Denver Post followed high school graduate Ian Fischer as he enlisted in the Army, went through training, left for Iraq.

Rick Hess's Glenn Beck Moment

The usually imperturbable Rick Hess is mysteriously bothered by Duncan's involvement in passing the health care bill in the house (Why Is the Secretary of Education Lobbying on the Healthcare Bill?), but I think he may just be having a Glenn Beck moment to worry that there's something improper or overly political about Duncan's making calls.  That or he just woke up and needed something to say.  Health care reform could be the best thing that ever happened to education, bigger than any conceivable version of RTTT or NCLB 2. It's narrow minded to think that education and health care aren't related, and overly proper to say that a Cabinet member can't help his President push legislation forward.

Ford Initiative: The Antidote For Race To The Top

Watusi-alma-thomas-1963 It's not all Duncan and Gates out there in school reform land.  Last week the Ford Foundation announced a $100M initiative to revamp secondary education in seven cities including Chicago (LATimes). The Ford Initiative is relatively big and challenges Race To The Top and NCLB in several regards.  Jeannie Oakes is leading it and is a big proponent of comprehensive services, funding reform, and value measures beyond standardized testing.  I'm not sure it's big enough to make a dent at the national level, or focused enough to make concrete changes.  But it's a clear sign that the old guard isn't gone yet.  Here's the press release for more details.

Thompson: Three Blows to the Head of the RttT

11111 RttT architects, who are gullible enough to believe that charters face the same challenges as neighborhood schools and can thus lead systemic turnaround efforts, should ask what the California Charter School Association knows about this issue that they do not.  The Association. which should be the biggest booster of the effort to turn up to 250 Los Angeles schools over to charters, says that the effort is "simply unworkable" because it would force charters to "effectively take an attendance boundary." The Times editorialized:

"Charter schools usually admit students through a lottery regardless of where in the district they live, a requirement under state law. ... But the California Charter School Association finds the district's attendance-boundary requirement untenable, and some charter operators are threatening to abandon the initiative altogether. Lotteries ...favor students whose parents are informed and involved enough to enter the lotteries in the first place. ... Left out are many students ... who most need well-run schools."

The second and third blows to the turnaround strategies favored by the RttT were delivered by the  Consortium on Chicago School Research and Education Next.  

Continue reading "Thompson: Three Blows to the Head of the RttT" »

Movies: "Precious" Features Alternative HS Literacy Program

Preciouspicture You've probably already heard a lot of buzz about Precious, the new movie about an extremely overweight and illiterate teenager who is expelled from school when the news of her second pregnancy comes out. It opened this weekend. 

What you may not know is that the film, set in 1980s Harlem, features an alternative school called Each One Teach One which may or not be based on a real program (am checking).

Most reviewers seem to be loving the story, despite (or because of) its relentless brutality.  But not everyone is joining the chorus.  Slate's Dana Stevens finds the movie heavy handed and without any real value beyond giving us an all too brief sense of what poverty is really like (ie, poverty porn).  Click here for a roundup of reviews from Jezebel.

Seen it yet?  Concerned about the poverty porn possibilities?  Ever heard of this particular school?

Quote: So Much For New Haven

"The contract preserves tenure, prevents good teachers from getting paid more than bad teachers, lets a minority of teachers block work rules to allow innovative programs and makes no commitments to close any specific bad schools." (Less than 'courage' in New Haven Washington Post editorial)

News: Stimulus Strings, State Innovation, Children's Zone Challenges

Strings attached to stimulus dollars for schools AP
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said another $11.5 billion is available to states, which have already received more than $67 billion.

AINNOVATE_g1_LWhich states are innovative in education? CSM
The report card aims to highlight the sorts of innovations in education – such as an extended school day – that lead to better schools.

Report: Too hard to dismiss bad teachers in D.C., Md. Washington Post
A new national report card on educational innovation contends that principals in Maryland and the District face too many barriers to ousting bad teachers.

Digital School Library Leaves Book Stacks Behind NPR
A boarding school in Massachusetts has removed its stacks and book collection to make way for Kindles and a subscription to millions of digital books. Administrators say the changes reflect current student habits; critics say they're rash and don't account for different learning styles.

More Oregon students are getting math Oregonian
Oregon math teachers have moved middle schoolers far enough ahead in math that the typical eighth-grader now can do math at nearly the same level as many high school sophomores. Via EWA.

Wall Street Money and Nonprofits WNYC
The Harlem Children’s Zone, and the promise and peril of being popular in the financial services industry.

Fast Times Vs. The Berlin Wall - Fast Times Wins!

Fast-times-at-ridgemont-high-photoWho cares about the Berlin Wall coming down 20 years ago.  It's been 30 years since the Class of 1979 -- inspiration for Fast Times At Ridgemont High -- graduated from San Diego's Clairemont High School (‘Fast Times’ class rolls back clock).

Or, if you must, read this brief Slate article about the confusion and misunderstandings that led the wall to come down and remember that luck and timing are more important than we like to think.

Via Emily Alpert

Quote: Parent Involvement Is Just A Convenient Scapegoat

"Teachers don't really care whether parents go to the PTA or help their kids with homework. They just want a constant foil, someone to blame when students flounder and the schools underperform." (Ruben Navarette at CNN.com)

Thompson: The Edusphere

091102_r18883_p233 When Alexander teases me about blaming everything on NCLB, I need to think seriously about his opinion. Yes, I believe that NCLB has done at least some harm to nearly all aspects of schooling. By introducing a toxic "culture of accountability"into our children’s environment, NCLB has polluted our educational values, and at least some of its poison has seeped into all aspects of learning. I do not know a teacher who supports NCLB, and I do not believe I know an administrator who supports the law. Attending six days of legislative hearings this fall, I heard virtual unanimity from rural, suburban, and urban; teachers, superintendents, principals, state and local administrators; and national scholars that we are testing too much, that rising test scores are not trustworthy, that we need to invest more in early childhood and other areas ignored by NCLB, and that we have compromised our ethics.

But I take Alexander’s comment seriously because I do not want to fall into the "cyberpolarization" described by Cass Sunstein and Elizabeth Kolbert. The web has become "a breeding group" of like-mindedness, and

Continue reading "Thompson: The Edusphere" »

RTTT: Revenge Of The States

Jaccuse What if states and districts returned the favor and came up with their own "reverse" version of the Race To The Top? Fair's fair.  The USDE has been wagging its finger in state and district faces for months now. 

A "reverse" RTTT could include closing loopholes that let states lower standards (or let districts exclude low-scoring students), better coordination between IDEA and NCLB, sending Title I money to states and districts in a more equitable, targeted way, improving the distribution of effective teachers by enforcing the comparability provision, and rating and defunding ineffective ed school programs. And that's just a start.  Better early childhood education would be nice (good luck with the Head Start mafia, BTW).  Higher reimbursement for NAEP participation.A limit on district setasides. 

You may have better ideas.  The main point is that, for every firewall and charter cap out there in the states, there's something under the direct control of the USDE and Congress that's just as bad if not worse. 

Reformers: Rhee And Johnson Engaged

3215180073_2f44563657_m  It's every liberal educator's worst fear come true:  Sacramento Mayor (and charter school operator) Kevin Johnson and hard-charging DC public schools chief Michelle Rhee are engaged, making them what has to be the biggest education power couple of the moment (not counting Randi Weingarten and Joel Klein).

Capitalist and philanthropist Eli Broad (the guy in the middle) will be officiating the wedding.  (No, that's not true but it would be creepy funny.)

Duncan's Weekly Media Schedule: Let It Be Your Guide.

Arne-duncan-michael-lewis-2009-1-12-16-5-46 Here's Duncan's media schedule for the week.  Plan your days around it.  Let it be your guide.  It is the center of the education universe.  There is nothing about it that is stale, empty, or without news value.  What Duncan says and where he says it is vastly more important (and easier to cover) than anything going on in a real school, district, or statehouse. Ignore all other temptations.

Continue reading "Duncan's Weekly Media Schedule: Let It Be Your Guide." »

News: Bad Beef, Bad Hawaii, Cross-Dressing Kids, Health Reform

School lunch risk eyed after E. coli outbreak AP
Rep. George Miller, California Democrat, is worried about a recent outbreak that killed at least two people and sickened about two dozen others in 11 states. 

State to pursue school reform grant The Herald
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has control over which states will get the money, and it could go to as few as 10 to 20 states.Typewriter_TR

Hawaii's Education Gap NYT
Indeed, teachers are facing increased pressure to help students meet No Child Left Behind targets and other goals with less time in the classroom.

Too Few Youths Eligible for Military, Leaders Say EdWeek
“A quality education is really an issue of national security,” US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said at a Nov. 5 news conference held to release the

High Schools Struggle When Gender Bends the Dress Code NYT
There are 4,118 gay-straight alliance clubs in high schools across the country, which raise awareness of such issues. Gender-boundary questions are even bubbling up in elementary schools.

Getting to 218 PoliPundit
President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and a number of top aides – including chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Education Secretary Arne Duncan — called wavering members. ...

PS:  The new US Chamber / Report is here.

Blogs: Time To Get Out Of The School Reform Bubble

Those inside the school reform bubble are pretty much solely focused on things like Race to the Top, mayoral control, and the like.  But everybody else out there -- teachers, principals, parents -- is probably focusing on more mundane (immediate) issues like H1N1 and the gang rape of a teenage girl in Richmond, California.

In Richmond Rape, One Teen Did The Right Thing Jezebel
"I'm like 'We should call the cops because that's the right thing to do.' I didn't think about it twice."

500x_harriet0831Richmond rape survivor speaks out Jezebel
School officials are planning to improve security with cameras, improved lighting, and fences. According to West Contra Costa School District superintendent Bruce Harter, these measures have been in the works for a long time, but administrators "couldn't find the money until now."

Proper Loading and Unloading The Bus Driver
Aren't all students, including those in wheelchairs supposed to be ready for pickup and not sitting inside the house waiting for the bus to come?

How Discrimination Creeps Into Grading Practices Inside Research
An innovative study shows how discrimination toward students from low social castes plays out in teachers' test-grading practices.

Are you inside the reform bubble, or outside?

Charters: The Art Of Manipulating Oversight Boards

"Without you saying anything to them, they will believe that they are responsible for making big decisions about budget matters, school policies, hiring of the principal and dozens of other matters."

Imagine charter schools CEO Dennis Bakke in a recently revealed email about how to pick and manipulate charter boards. (Pick your board members carefully)

Thompson: Reclaiming Our Children

Book After fretting over the most troubled students who undercut the opportunities of his lower-performing kids in his Study Skills classes, "Coach" may have stumbled across the solution, "why not send the knuckleheads to the rich schools? Instead of sending the troublemakers to alternative schools with the other troublemakers, let them see how great school can be."

Oklahoma City is maxed out in terms of a market for charter schools - all of the more easily educated kids have been creamed off by all types of magnet schools - so our district would have leverage in negotiating arrangements for our most challenging students. In return for the contract which allows charters to operate under the philosophy of their choice, they must accept a certain percentage of suffering children.

So, we could either adopt the proposals of Mayor Cory Booker et al for expanded alternative schools, or Coach's comparable musings.  The key would be negotiating "win win" contracts with per student payments generous enough to ensure quality programs.

Continue reading "Thompson: Reclaiming Our Children" »

News: FLA Lawsuit, $87 Per Kid, Income Not Race, & More

Florida Officials Fail to Provide Quality Education, Suit Claims NYT
The American Civil Liberties Union, citing low graduation rates, says officials are violating a requirement in the Florida Constitution.

Race to the Top education grant propels reforms USA Today091028_$BOX_newspapersTN
If distributed to each of the USA's schools, which educate an estimated 50 million students, it would equal only $87 more per student.

Obama Offers States Rewards For Overhauling Schools NPR
In order to qualify for the money, schools may have to grade not only students, but also teachers.

More districts use income, not race, as basis for busing USA Today
More than 60 school systems now use socioeconomic status as a factor in school assignments. Students in Champaign, Ill.; Kalamazoo, Mich.; and Louisville have returned this year to income-based assignments.

Military to Debut Virtual School US News
A new online curriculum is in the works to ease school transitions for itinerant members' children.

More report cards go online USA Today
Districts in Louisiana, Colorado, South Carolina and Texas are among those that have gone paperless since 2008.

Media: Discriminating Against Teenagers

ScreenHunter_02 Nov. 01 16.35

Reading the news it's not hard to start thinking that teenagers are most of them up to no good.  The vast majority of stories about them are, it seems, about dumb, irresponsible, strange, or unlawful actions.  The occasional warm and fuzzy (or heroic) story only makes the day to day negativity all the more striking.  

But if teens were actually as many of them as bad as they're usually portrayed in the press then none of us would be safe and things would be a lot lot worse than the are.  

Is this mere stereotyping, or is it discrimination?  I'm not sure.  What's clearest to me is that it's easy to get into the habit of thinking of kids in a negative light, and that some portion of the struggle that this country has in doing right by kids comes from the fact that we're exposed to little of what they do that's neither heroic or villainous but rather simply human. Here's a video I think I got off Adrants that's about how this plays out in England.  

Poetry In Ads: Can We Live With It?

As several readers noted, it turns out it was an actor who voiced O Pioneers! in the ad I told you about last week (Levi's Uses Rare Walt Whitman Recording To Sell Jeans ).The real Walt Whitman's voice is here, reading his poem America:  

I'm still on the fence about this.  But not everyone's upset about the use of a famous poet to sell jeans. Seth Stevenson says he's always wondered what ads set to poems would look like (Slate Magazine).  "That scratchy Whitman recording also sets a mood of vague disquiet. Paired with the music behind it and the startling crack of sudden fireworks, that raspy, distant voice sounds rather ominous." At least it's not all about sex. 

Hot For Education: Dakota Fanning Crowned Homecoming Princess

That great new blog "Hot For Education" is something else, even if the content is sometimes a little bit silly or racy. 
A home-schooled nerd's dreams of becoming a fantasy fiction... (video)
School Pictures That Don’t Make You Want to Vomit
High School Sweethearts Reunite After 50 Years
‘Glee’ Cast Sings National Anthem (video)
Tracy Morgan: “I wanna take you out behind that middle school and...'
Matilda Ledger Scoots to School
‘Glee’ Guys Hit Continental Midtown
High School Wrestler Sues District For MMA Fight At School (video)
Dakota Fanning Crowned Homecoming Princess

You should really check it out. Or not. 

People: Carnegie Foundation Snags Reformy Chicago Guy

John_Choice1_Resized First the Carnegie Foundation picked a new president Tony Bryk (instead of Linda Darling Hammond).  Then the foundation came up with a whole new set of priorities (something about community colleges, I think). Now they're bringing John Ayers, one of Chicago's best-known education connectors out to make things really work.  

In Chicago, Ayers was longtime head of LQE, a pro-charter nonprofit, and then helped with Greg Richmond's National Association of Charter School Authorizers. Most recently, he helped launch Union Park High Schools, an effort to bring unionized charter schools to Chicago.  

Bryk and Ayers know each other from the bad old days when they worked on the Chicago Consortium on School Research, a quasi-independent research outfit that other cities like NYC are currently trying to emulate.  

NY Times Praises Chicago's Secret School Safety Plan

So disappointing.  The Times editorial page comes out strongly for Chicago schools superintendent Ron Huberman's youth violence prevention plan (A Powerful Idea on Youth Violence), thrilling over Huberman's beat cop cred and way with a spreadsheet and calling his plan new and ambitious. If only most of the ideas in the Huberman plan hadn't already been tried, and if only Huberman wasn't keeping everything but a simplified PowerPoint version of his analysis and his plan under wraps.  

Huberman thinking up violence prevention plan

I'd love for the plan to work, but unlike the Times editorial page I'd need to see it first. Huberman's quickly developing an unfortunate reputation for being Cheney secretive.  Six weeks ago he tried to slip through a rules change that would have allowed him to hire senior staff and give them raises without having to notify the public or even the Board.  

Obama In Madison: What The Trip Really Meant

Speaking in front of a blue backdrop with words "Race to the Top" scrawled in white letters, Obama spoketo about 250 students as well as hundreds of parents, teachers, staff and local dignitaries packed into the an auditorium that normally serves as the school's lunchroom. (Obama pushes education reforms Tribune)

Mr. Obama’s visit to Madison, which is the first by a sitting president to this city in 59 years, comes as the Republican National Committee is running a radio ad in Madison criticizing the $787 billion stimulus package..(Political Punch ABC News)

Wright is a charter school with the highest population of minority students in the area. (Race to the Top and Higher Goals Fox News)

The president's speech moved from a brusque defense of his time in office to a turgid review of his education proposals, replete with terms such as "firewall laws" and four-point measures for reform. Students yawned.  (Obama marks election anniversary by talking education Washington Post)

He spent a large chunk of the speech trying to educate people about those four "assurances" in the stimulus law, which are clearly becoming the education reform vision of the Obama administration. (Politics K-12 EdWeek)

The president went off script for a few moments, telling of a C grade that his 11-year-old daughter, Malia, brought home from school recently. It didn't meet the standards at the Obama home, he said, and Malia knew it. (Obama calls for end of 'firewall' rules that shield teachers LATimes)

All right. Okay. Now we're going to kick out everybody so I can let you -- you guys can ask me all the really tough questions without having the press here. (Transcript of President Obama, Secretary Duncan with Students WBAY)

"We have lots of written comments come back -- literally thousands.  Our staff has been staying up literally all night going through all those." (White House Press Gaggle by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Forest Park News)

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.