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Weekend Reading: Magazines Etc.

Weekend reading from magazines and websites I don't check every day plus a bit of catching up from the past few days:

Envisioning Obama's Education Plan in 2010 Atlantic Wire
Education spending is exempt from the domestic spending freeze, but some commentators fear funding to school districts will decline.

For Tween Boys, Masculinity in a Spray Can NYT
Psychologists, parents, market researchers and middle-school principals (with drawers full of confiscated spray cans), report a sharp surge in the last few years of the use of grooming products by tween boys.

Catcher-in-the-rye-coverWhere America Stands: Schools CBS News
Educators all across America are eager to turn schools around and change the system. Russ Mitchell reports "Where America Stands" on education and lays out the challenge ahead.

Outrage fatigue Salon
Whites-only basketball? Unlimited corporate political spending? And it's only Tuesday

Is mobile giving a good idea? Slate
Is this a cost-effective way to donate? How does the overhead charged by phone companies compare with credit card donations or the trouble of processing checks? Are there any downsides?

A call for stories about cyberbullying. Slate
A new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation reported last week that kids ages 8 to 18 now spend an average of seven and a half hours a day plugged in—online, on the phone, or in the thrall of TV or some other electronic device. The number seems impossibly high: Even the study's authors were surprised. And yet it doesn't sound off-base to some parents of teens.

Catcher in the Rye: The Movie (Finally) Esquire
Could the best thing to come from J.D. Salinger's death be a long-awaited movie adaptation? And can anyone play Holden Caulfield? One revealing letter says it all.

NCLB: Duncan Slowly Learning The Hill

Pc08030061-1 A little over a week ago Secretary Duncan met with the big eight House and Senate chairman with jurisdiction over K12 education issues and came away feeling like there was agreement on moving a speedy, bipartisan reauthorization of NCLB. 

"For me, the meeting was a home run," said Duncan in this new National Journal interview.  "What you had was the Big Eight all say, let's do it, let's do it together, and let's try and work on it now."

Welcome to Washington, Arne.  The real Washington, that is.  That was then, this is now.   Even on the 20th they probably weren't as enthusiastic as they seemed to you, or as you wanted us to believe. As I've been saying for weeks now and the Times finally confirmed today (see morning news roundup), NCLB's not happening anytime soon.

Bans: Smoking Gun Snags School Dance Flyer

0126102dance1 No bending, no touching, keep both feet on the ground. 

Them's the rules for this weekend's big dance at Union Grove High School in Wisconsin.

Check out the notice that was sent home -- pretty explicit stuff.

Maybe that's the way to go.

Via the Smoking Gun

School Bans "Sexual Bending"

Cyberbullying: The Mean Girls Of South Hadley High

"How do you appeal to teenagers' decency, when some of them have so little compassion that they continue mocking a girl after her death? How do you combat behavior perceived as cool with PSAs, rules, and other tactics that every teenager knows are desperately uncool?"

- Jezebel on The Untouchable Mean Girls Of South Hadley HS

RTTT: Scrutinizing One State's Reform Promises

ScreenHunter_28 Jan. 29 09.55

The Chicago Tribune's Stephanie Banchero has an in depth look at what Illinois says it will do if it is among the 5-10 states that get round one RTTT funding (State officials charting new course for schools).  It's worth checking out to get a feel for what states are promising.  Illinois is a middle of the pack applicant --neither completely unlikely to get RTTT money nor a shoo-in. 

Funding: Looking Closer At The FY11 Request

AP100127050811-thumb-440x560 A couple of things you should keep in mind about the proposed education increases that are being bandied about:

The proposed $4B funding increase is 6.2 percent from FY2010 levels, not current ARRA levels. If it was 6.2 percent above ARRA (base plus ARRA) would be more like a $10 billion increase.

The billion dollar NCLB reauthorization bonus is merely proposed, not a reality. Such language has been used past budget resolutions as a contingency provision, but it's not typical for education and "does seem a bit gimmicky," says Joel Packer of CEF and the Raben Group, who calls it a "competitive grant for Congress."

The appropriators (Obey, etc.) don't have to do any of what the White House and USDE propose if they don't want to, and often do their own thing. They've been grumbling all week about being put into a box by the President.

You can (and probably should) follow CEF on Twitter at Edfunding.

News: Quick NCLB Rewrite Unlikely

Experts Say a Rewrite of Nation’s Main Education Law Will Be Hard This Year NYT
Many politicians, including the president, believe that the nation’s main education law needs to be rewritten, but odds are slim that it will happen this year.

Education reforms could hit roadblock GazetteNews2010
Potential education reform — and up to $250 million to boot — is bumping up against election-year politics in Maryland.

New Critiques Urge Changes in Common Standards EdWeek
Groups writing the much-anticipated standards want to streamline the latest 200-plus-page draft and make it more user-friendly for educators.

Day after Zinn’s death, a look at book’s impact Boston Globe
Taught in high schools across the nation and in some college survey courses, Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States’’ offers an activist’s perspective on history, from the founding of America to the war on terrorism.

Preschools Add Brush-and-Spit to Day NYT
Massachusetts is the first state to require that toothbrush time be part of the color-nap-snack-and-play routine of preschools, and a debate has ensued.

Video: President Rejects "Pants On The Ground" Ban

A comically bad audition on American Idol ("Pants On The Ground") has brought nationwide attention to a problem that vexes teachers and principals to no end: young men sagging their jeans down below their waists.  Some educators and city officials have even tried to ban sagging pants.  But did you know that President Obama addressed this important public policy issue during a talk with MTV from back on the campaign trail?

High School: Small Town Integration Struggles

What do little towns like Plano, Fairfax, and Eden Prarie all have in common?  According to this Wall Street Journal article, they're struggling mightily with increased diversity in the classroom (Influx of Immigrants Prompts School District Battles).

via GothamSchools.

Blogs: Michelle Rhee Vs. The Washington Post

Actor-1904Who Censored the Washington Post’s Rhee Item?
Core Knowledge Blog
By explaining the behind-the-scenes machinations and showing how powerful people maneuver to affect coverage and spin perceptions, they were treating readers like grownups, holding both Rhee and the paper itself accountable. But what happened?

Ms. Rhee: apologize, don't leave Hay Mathews
So please, Ms. Chancellor, say whatever you have to say to get us past this rough spot. I can see why national political leaders are afraid to apologize for things they did. Their opponents just use their words to beat them over the head harder. But you are in a very strong position.

It Depends on What the Meaning of “Transparency” Is Education Next
The problem here is not just the secret judges—it’s the administration’s seeming belief that transparency means whatever it wants it to.

Can ESEA Renewal Be Bipartisan? Alyson Klein
Republicans seem to have mixed views on whether the Obama administration's hopes for a bipartisan reauthorization of the law are realistic.

Budget, ESEA Reauthorization Ed.Gov
Secretary Duncan talked with reporters about the ED budget and reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Listen to the conference call.

Thompson: “You Can’t Bake a Pie and Sell a Pie at the Same Time” - Nancy Pelosi

Large_obama-speech-poll Eduflack had proposed his advertisement for selling NCLB II ESEA, urging President Obama to proclaim, "We need accountability. On this issue I will not bend."

The president, however, appears to be baking three nutritious pies that have far greater promise for promoting the greater good of the greater number of poor kids.  President Obama seeks to improve preschool programs; revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway for the children of so many working families; and reform college loan programs. As Secretary Duncan says, we don't "need any more studies to prove that high-quality preschool education can significantly close the achievement gap," which is a statement that can not be made regarding data-driven accountability. And if reformers want to demonstrate toughness by taking on "the status quo," we can all unite against bankers who have been suckering college students into unsustainable debt.

Its time for a "Race to the Center" in rebuilding our schools.  "Reformers" have been gloating as if their sales job of the RttT had actually baked some pies and surely they are disappointed that the president passed up an opportunity to turn the heat up on teachers.  

Continue reading "Thompson: “You Can’t Bake a Pie and Sell a Pie at the Same Time” - Nancy Pelosi" »

Obama: State Of The Education Union

Obama Pushes $10,000 College Tax Credit Bloomberg
“Instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success,” Obama said. “Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform - reform that raises student achievement, inspires students to excel in math and science, and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans.” State-of-the-Union-wordle-002

Obama on education in State of the Union Washington Post
President Obama used the State of the Union to tout his national competition to improve schools and said he would work with Congress to expand the program to all 50 states.

Next Bunch of Obama Education Reforms to Offer More Carrots Newsweek
It’s particularly noteworthy that Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House education committee, has backed continued use of the competition model to press school reform, since California (which educates one in nine American children and is facing massive school budget crises) seems unlikely to be a winner in the first round of the Race to the Top competition.

State of the Union - Part One PBS
Text of Obama's State of the Union address The Associated Press
Wordle version (here)

News: Waiting For RTTT

States Vie to Stand Out in Race to Top Proposals EdWeek
The plans differ markedly on the details, and in interviews with Education Week, state officials highlighted reform proposals they believed might set them apart in the scoring process.

6a00e54f8c25c988340120a7f7436e970b-200wiL.A. groups bid to run 30 schools LA TImes
Groups from inside and outside L.A. Unified have been making presentations on how they would operate 12 low-performing and 18 new campuses. The school board will decide before March.

Textbook argument divides us Seattle Times
Can an algebra textbook be racist? That's what was argued Tuesday in a Seattle courtroom.

Banned dictionary to return to Riverside County school LA TImes
After being pulled from the shelves for what some saw as racy content, Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary may have the last word in Menifee.

Millot: The Local Politics of One Massachusetts Charter School Fiasco

The politics6a00e54f8c25c988340120a6d7122c970b-150wi of charter schools is highly partisan, but the divide is not drawn along party lines. The contest is better understood as 1) between those who benefit from the traditional public school system based on geographically defined districts, and those who do not, and 2) a small part of a much bigger playing field where elected officials' positions on any issue are as likely to be conditioned on political agendas as the substantive merits of the case.

Both factors are relevant to the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's (BESE) decision to approve the application for the Gloucester Community Arts Charter Schools (GCACS); one more than the other. Both have broader implications for the integrity of charter approval in every state. Today, I’ll cover the local angle.

This tale is set in Gloucester, the historic fishing port captured in Kiplings' Captains Courageous, Longellows' The Wreck of the Hesperus, and the maritime paintings of Winslow Homer. The city's steep decline following the end of the Atlantic fishery has been memorialized in pop culture as the backdrop for the semi-fictional novel and movie A Perfect Storm, and the nonfictional teenage "pregnancy pact" and soon-to-be released namesake Lifetime Original Movie. 

Continue reading "Millot: The Local Politics of One Massachusetts Charter School Fiasco" »

Quote: Duncan On Obama

"He knew it was going to be tough. He maybe didn't quite know how tough it was going to be."
-- Arne Duncan on Obama's first year in office (Politico)

Video: SC Official Says Free Lunch Causes Low Scores

Jon Stewart has some fun with South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer, who was caught on tape comparing poor kids to stray animals, suggesting that free lunch programs should be cut, and claiming that poverty and low test scores are permanently connected.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Thank You, South Carolina - Andre Bauer
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Thompson: Here We Go Again with NCLB II

Kid-kissing-pigIf there is a single litmus test for trustworthiness in the RttT, it is probably found in the tens of millions of dollars for "other measures" that are being proposed for teachers in untested subjects. Perhaps, "reformers" don’t think kids are tested enough ... But there is a big difference between the development of more authentic assessments, diagnostic tests, and data systems focused on children, and another NCLB-like bonanza for consultants and the ongoing battle to close loopholes in the bubble-test accountability wars. Other than teacher-bashing, and/or pork, is there a logical explanation for Florida's obsession with creating tests for 80% of teachers?  Do they not have anything better to do than creating a standardized metric for grades 1 through 3, and judging Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate teachers?  Is there an epidemic of lazy AP and IB teachers, or do they just want to hold the College Board accountable?

Continue reading "Thompson: Here We Go Again with NCLB II" »

Equity: Tough Choices At Berkeley High

Screen_shot_2010-01-18_at_07.37.33 Rich AP science geeks are sucking up resources at Berkeley High that might be better spent on remedial programs for poor minority kids, according to this LA Times story from over the weekend (Berkeley High may cut lab classes).

Berkeley High has one of the biggest achievement gaps in the state.  That hasn't stopped parents and community members from freaking out.

Kudos to BHS for taking a hard look at its own budgets and outcomes and at least considering some alternatives.  That's more than most schools do. 

Real world school reform, unlike the "new money" kinds of things that most policy wonks like to talk about, is hard and contentious work.  There's no easy answer, no easy way to make hard choices or difficult decisions.

Sattler: Transparency Plus Flexibility = A Murky Mix

ScreenHunter_06 Jan. 22 18.49 The US Department of Education seemed to be headed in a really great direction when it unified several definitions across their major Recovery Act initiatives – State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, Race to the Top, and the Title I School Improvement Grants.

For the first time, the public would be able to compare achievement across states, especially in the area of “persistently lowest-achieving schools.” The definition seems – for the government – fairly straightforward: Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring, and secondary schools that are eligible for, but do not receive, Title I-A funds, that are among the lowest-achieving five percent of schools in these groups; or is a high school that has had a graduation rate less than 60 percent over a number of years.

But Secretary Duncan also wants to give states “flexibility,” and it seems that flexibility has crept into those definitions. Read on to see how that's all playing out.

Continue reading "Sattler: Transparency Plus Flexibility = A Murky Mix" »

USDE: Belated Release Of State Disability Policies

8 Disability Scoop reports that, long months after having promised to release information about state restraint and seclusion policies for disabled students, the USDE has promised to provide information in February. (Under Pressure, Duncan To Release States' Restraint And Seclusion Policies)

News: Obama To Ask For Small Funding Boost

Obama to promote more education spending Washington Post
The proposal to raise federal education spending by as much as $4 billion in the next fiscal year was described by administration officials Tuesday night as the start of an effort to revamp the No Child Left Behind law enacted under President George W. Bush.

6a00e54f8c25c988340120a7f7436e970b-200wi6.2% Boost for Education Planned CBS News
The boost in education funding may be part of the president's attempt to soothe middle class anger over the economy.

Race to Top Applications Scrutinized EdWeek
States' aggressive bids for up to $4 billion in competitive grants must now run a gantlet of reviewers.

SC gets cash to replace school cited by Obama AP
A South Carolina county is getting millions in federal funds to replace a crumbling school cited by President Barack Obama in his first address to Congress last year as an example of how the government should help with school construction....

Study: Not All Kids Are Computer Whizzes NPR
A study reveals that kids have more trouble searching on the Internet than we may think.

Money: Spending Freeze Pops The RTTT Bubble

Picture 9 Just a few days ago RTTT advocates and education journalists were all hopped up by the news that 41 states had applied for the grant competition and the President was requesting an increase for additional spending.  RTTT was going to take over the world, morph seamlessly into some kindly version of NCLB 2, and funding levels weren't ever going to come crashing back down.  Now with the news of the planned spending freeze for nondefense discretionary spending -- and the reality that just four or five states may win big RTTT money -- all that seems like a long time ago -- a speculative bubble that may finally have been popped.  It wasn't ever going to happen that way, far as I could tell, even before the spending freeze announcement.  Not enough money.  Not enough states with good applications.  No real legislative strategy.  But gosh there were a lot of people thinking wishfully.

Quotes: RTTT Applicants Are Already Winners

"Every state that applied is already a winner because of the hard work and collaboration required. Each of these states now has in place – win or lose – a blueprint for how they would like to move forward, statewide, on education reform."
-- Arne Duncan Integrity and Transparency Drive the RTTT Process 

TECH: TelePrompters The Latest Classrom Tech Gizmo

I've never seen a TelePrompter in a classroom, but there are intriguing possibilities for teacher instruction and student presentations, don't you think?

Right Pundits

Bring on the Reauthorization- Now!

Fast and furious, but hopeful. That’s the general mood at the National Title I Conference held in Washington, DC last week (agenda and some handouts here). In many states, the same folks responsible for the Race to the Top applications (due last week) were also responsible for states’ State Fiscal Stabilization Fund applications (also due last week) – and are working on the Title I 1003g School Improvement Fund applications, due Feb. 8. All those applications require a list of each state’s “persistently lowest-achieving schools,” and it turns out that those definitions are just a wee bit more complicated than anyone dreamed. Any more new information – or initiatives – and these weary writers may test the conference’s emergency response team.

Some 40 staffers from the US Department of Education attended the conference, including Secretary Arne Duncan, who held a “listening” session Friday afternoon; Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Dr. Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana (bio here); Assistant Secretary for Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Alexa Posny; Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Innovation and Improvement Jim Shelton (bio here); and lots more. Attendees and ED staff seem in perfect agreement on at least one thing: bring on the reauthorization (and more important, kill No Child Left Behind). Some BIG hints from the ED, which has yet to release a reauthorization proposal. They want to focus on student growth as well as test scores; kill supplemental educational services; and exchange flexibility for performance. The crowd goes wild! Oh, and they want a reauthorization this year, preferably by August. There’s no indication from either the House or the Senate that such a timeline is even remotely under consideration.


Another big hint (but no details): look for program consolidation in the upcoming ED budget release, slated for early February.

Thompson: Putting Adults' Contracts Over Children's Interests

Pig Florida's Race to the Top application devoted $462,815,452 of the $570,811,435 that would be directed towards the state to the category of "Contractual" services.  In the proposed Alabama "State Success Factors" budget, 63% of the line items use the verbs "developing," designing," "redesigning," "align," and "scale."  Though facing the second greatest budgetary shortfall in the nation, Arizona's line item for contractual spending includes $6,000,000 for Teach For America, $10,000,000 for web portals, $10,000,000 for K-2 assessments, and $1,000,000 for its growth model.  That's a deal!  Tennessee seeks to invest $1,350,000 just for integrating its growth model results into preservice, in addition to nearly $3 million for integrating core standards into preservice and professional development, nearly $2.6 million for teacher and principal evaluation development, $432,000 for teacher preparation effectiveness report cards, $172,000 for school leaders supply and demand, and $23,387,683 for integrating data to improve instruction. (I will not question its nearly $19.5 million line item for longitudianal data because those numbers are more likely to be used to directly benefit children.)

Continue reading "Thompson: Putting Adults' Contracts Over Children's Interests" »

USDE: Empty Media Schedule For Duncan

16chicago-ariel-515 Better late than never, the USDE released the Duncan media schedule for the week at noon Monday.

However, as you'll see below, there's nothing on it. 

Maybe the EdSec is rolling it back a little for fear of becoming over- overexposed, and making the other Cabinet officials jealous.

Or maybe he's realizing that he needs to rack up some accomplishments to go along with the talk.

Continue reading "USDE: Empty Media Schedule For Duncan" »

News: "Race" Refusers, Female Math Teachers

California's Race To Top Reforms Divide Educators KPBS
San Diego's refusal to sign onto the state's plan could very well hurt the state's chances in the federal Race To The Top competition. That because federal officials want buy-in from the largest school districts in each state. State Senator Romero says San Diego Unified should be ashamed.
Vermont sits out first round in Race to the Top competition Burlington Free Press
Vermont did not show up at the starting line for the first round of the federal Race to the Top education grant competition last week but state officials say they will go after a piece of the more than $4 billion at stake in the second round set for June.

Female teachers may pass on math anxiety to girls, study finds LA Times
After a year in the classroom with female teachers who say they are anxious about math, girls are more likely to share that attitude -- and score lower on tests, researchers say.

College gender gap remains stable: 57% women USA Today
Women represent about 57% of college students, a number that has stayed steady since 2000.

Scholars Identify 5 Keys to Urban School Success EdWeek
A capstone book from Chicago researchers sees the interplay of those “essential supports” as critical to improving student outcomes.

Quotes: A Blind Spot For Policymakers (& Journalists)

"The very existence of TFA shines a spotlight on some of our biggest national shortcomings, but policymakers who support TFA seem oddly oblivious to that fact."
-- blogger Claus Von Zastrow in Public School Insights

Blogs: Gates, Marshmallows, Race To Nowhere

Bill Gates, Coca-Cola, and Third World Farmers Yglesias
What always leaves me scratching my head about uber-rich philanthropists is why so many of their activities are so depoliticized.

2c6639297324f4253460a29f782a220eef8014a1Punching a marshmallow Klonsky
When it came Cunningham's chance to respond, he could do little but agree with each and every one of Rothstein's points.

Teaching without gimmicks Answer Sheet
My guest today is Diana Senechal, who taught for four years in the New York City public schools and is writing a book about the loss of solitude in schools and culture.

Race To Nowhere Daily Riff
The Film Race To Nowhere should be watched by every parent, teacher, administrator and older student, as it takes us on...

Transparency Fail Pk12
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has pledged to conduct an open, transparent competition for $4 billion in Race to the Top funds. But the Education Department is falling short on one key piece: letting the public know who will judge the competition.

Absenteeism declines when principals have more control Phys.org
Two papers authored by Brian Jacob, a professor at the U-M Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, examined a policy change in the Chicago Public School system in which principals were given complete autonomy to dismiss probationary teachers.

Obama: Embattled President Deigns To Visit Community College

"US President Barack Obama gives a student a fist bump while touring the Wind Turbine Manufacturing and Fabrication Lab at Lorain County Community College, in Elyria, Ohio, January 22, 2010. "


Think Tanks: What Next For New America?

500x_95848275 Last week's announcement that Sara Mead was leaving New America had me wondering just who was left working on education over there after so many recent departures.  But it turns out that the bench is not as empty as I'd thought.  Jason Delisle is running the budget project.  Steve Burd is doing higher ed.  Jenny Cohen everywhere.  Lisa Guernsey is taking on a lot of the early childhood work.  And there are also apparently a few rising starts:  Emilie Deans and Maggie Severns. The only open spot is the one Ben Miller used to have.  Looking for work?  Click here

Duncan: New Yorker Magazine ProfilesPuffs The EdSec

ScreenHunter_15 Jan. 25 13.24 Here's a link to the abstract of the New Yorker profile of Arne Duncan that's just out today.  And here's the picture that accompanies the piece, written by Carlos Rotella - a classmate of Duncan's at the U of C Lab School.

By and large, it's the Spellings treatment all over again.  Homey details, celebrity name-dropping, and lots of backstory about Duncan's childhood.  There's also the familiar effort to puff Duncan up over his "unprecedented" budget and his buddy-buddy status with the POTUS, as well as the (to my mind) overheated notion that we're on the verge of some great age of education reform. 

Sure, there was lots of school reform activity during 2009, and Duncan deserves credit for keeping the pot simmering.  But we're a long way from any real impact, and the Obama administration is quickly turning away from serious issues with less than universal appeal and pivoting towards the noncontroversial middle (ie, jobs). 

Video: "Waiting For Superman" Trailer

Just unveiled at this year's Sundance Festival, the new documentary from David (Inconvenient Truth) Guggeinhaim is called Waiting For Superman.
I'm sure it'll be exquisitely shot but wonder if it's going to be anywhere as galvanizing as Inconvenient Truth was.  As we've learned this past year, things like like health care reform may be deemed important but lack the immediacy and breadth of other issues that affect broader swathes of the nation like jobs and the economy.  Alas, liberal guilt and a few outlier success stories is not going to get us there. 

Philanthropy: The Second Annual Gates Letter [upd]

ScreenHunter_14 Jan. 25 12.35 Forget the State of the Union -- take a look at Bill Gates' second annual letter on the state of the Bill Gates philanthropy empire.  It takes a few pages to get to the education parts, a vivid reminder that education is not one of Gates' top priorities.  In education, Gates focuses on how little feedback teachers get about their work compared to students and other workers and touts the big "deep dive" grant Gates made to Memphis, Tennessee; Hillsborough County, Florida; Pittsburgh; and Los Angeles schools last year.  I've got my fingers crossed, but there's a simplistic, childlike quality to the way Gates writes about education.  And it's frightening how little thought seems to go into Gates thinking about the political* and logistical challenges of what he's trying to do, and what happens after the grant money goes away. 

UPDATE:  *Matthew Yglesias makes a similar point here.

Obama: Too Cool For School?

Hitchens-obama-wide My hyper-accomplished former classmate Jacob Weisberg does an excellent with a new Slate article illuminating the political impact of Obama's cool, somewhat detached relationships with people and institutions( including his alma maters, Chicago politics, and even his mother). Educators and journalists who hope to understand the Obama approach (demeanor?) would do well to read it -- as well as my 2008 Slate article about Obama's elusive support for local control in Chicago schools.

Thompson: Sausage Making

Boar Georgia's Race to the Top application (see pages,122,126,140,152, 156, 163, and 183) often reads like a growth prospectus for the New Teacher Project (TNTP) to expand into untapped territories.  When Oklahoma (p.109) contracts with the TNTP to train school leaders in "the art of of staffing schools" in critical needs schools, is that just a down payment on endless litigation costs comparable to those costs visited on the District of Columbia by the TNTP's founder?  D.C., of course, boosted its TNTP's contract. Tennessee's application (p.12) twice misspelled the name of the Democratic Party and then it assumed that William Sanders' VAMs, designed for one set of of purposes, can meet the higher legal scrutiny required to fire up to 30% of the state's teachers. (p.93) "Tennessee gave its districts a choice: They could either participate in all of our reform agenda as "participating" districts, as defined in the application, or they could decline to participate entirely. There was no middle ground of 'involved' status." (p.17)

So it is no surprise that Tennessee asserted "Teacher effect data and the new annual teacher and principal evaluation data will drive all professional development." (emphasis in original)  But what are we to think of the following? Human Capital projects include the expansion of teachers trained by alternative licensure programs such as The New Teacher Project and Teach for America, specifically $30.6 million within the Achievement School District; ... The total budget for Human Capital projects is approximately $61.3 million?" (emphasis mine)

Continue reading "Thompson: Sausage Making" »

News: Reacting To "Race," Doing More With Less

Local superintendents react to 'Race' proposal with skepticism, questions Daily Herald
Local superintendents, many of whom signed on to the state's bid for the program, were taking the news with caution Thursday.

Race to Top Judges to be Kept Secret EdWeek
The department has vetted and selected 60 peer reviewers, and there will be a training session for them tomorrow. But the department won't say who they are

Experts Urge Districts to Do More With Less EdWeek6a00e54f8c25c988340120a7f7436e970b-200wi
Warning that school systems are facing permanent budget constraints, the authors of 10 papers present ideas for targeting spending to achieve results.

More teens are choosing to wait to get driver's licenses Washington Post

According to a new report, 30.7 percent of 16-year-olds got their licenses in 2008, compared with 44.7 percent in 1988.

More Than Academics at Morton Alternative NYT
A program combining intensive psychotherapy with conventional studies to help troubled teens finish school has reported promising results.

Police: Boy found hanged in Texas school bathroom AP
A 9-year-old boy was found hanged in the bathroom of a Dallas-area elementary school in an apparent suicide, police said Friday....

Readings: Deeper Learning

Magazines, weekend reading, and things I missed along the way:

Schools Stop Teaching Foreign Languages — Except Chinese NYT
Perhaps 1,600 American public and private schools are teaching Chinese, up from 300 or so a decade ago. And the numbers are growing exponentially.

No State Left Behind City Journal
Fifteen states lowered at least one of their proficiency standards in math and reading between 2005 and 2007.

Making Mistakes on Hard Tests Miller McCune
When we struggle to learn something, and fail, the moment we finally get the answer it imprints itself more deeply on our mind than it would have had struggle and failure not preceded it.

What to learn from the 1957 Civil Rights Act Slate
The '57 law served as the precedent and prelude to the landmark legislation—the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act—that Johnson would later push and sign as president.

Spending on education Economist
Half of American states will have spent all of their stimulus money for education by the end of July. Cuts will follow.

Firms Seek Aid From Executive-Education Schools WSJ
Companies say they get the same quality of service, broad intellectual insights and deeper executive involvement—with a price tag much lower than that of a consulting firm.

Many Keep Childhood Abuse A Secret Forever Jezebel
Half of all childhood abuse sufferers wait as much as five years before disclosing the abuse. In fact, 16% of women never tell, while a full 34% of men keep secret forever.

Education in Haiti Marginal Revolution
Some 82 percent of all primary and secondary school students attend private, fee-based schools...Public schools are mainly in urban areas.

Suburbs See Poverty Grow With Recession WSJ
The country’s largest metro areas saw their poor population grow by 25% between 2000 and 2008, according to the report, faster than primary cities and well above the poverty growth in small cities and rural areas.

Going For The Golden Globe Jezebel
Claire Danes stars as autistic activist Temple Grandin in an HBO movie version of the Grandin story

Politics: Time For Centrists To Grow Up A Little?

"Either the [centrist] strategy is working better than the alternatives, or else it’s the Landrieu wing that needs to change things up. But defeats can’t be the fault of the people who haven’t been in the driver’s seat since the seventies."
--  The “Never Takes Responsibility for Anything” Wing (Matt Yglesias)

Movies: "Bad Teacher" Stars Hunky Cast

Cameron Diaz: ‘Bad Teacher’ Love Interest Revealed — EXCLUSIVE

"Bad Teacher, which starts filming next week in L.A., is about a filthy-mouthed middle school teacher (Cameron Diaz) who fights for the attention of the school’s model teacher (Bradley Cooper or Jason Segel) after she’s dumped by her boyfriend." (Just Jared)

Politics: Pivoting To Education Not Such A Good Idea

500x_barryjoeA lot of the folks who are saying that the right move for Obama would be to pivot towards education have no idea what they're talking about, frankly. 

It's not their fault.  Smart boys and prolific, they've never worked a reauthorization, or a political campaign for that matter.

Some of the under-noted obstacles and disadvantages to a shift to education: 

School reforms' not nearly as bipartisan or unanimous an issue as it's been described, once you get past vague generalities.

Nor does education address immediate adult concerns like wages and employment.  It doesn't have that kind of political oomph. 

Last and most immediately, there's a giant mismatch between what Duncan et al are talking about doing (let's call it "Super RTTT") and the structure and politics of existing federal education programs like Title I.  

Update:  Check out what Kline and an unnamed Senate staffer have to say about NCLB reauthorization in this new National Journal story by Eliza Krigman.

Blogs: More RTTT Misreporting & STEM

Washington Post Wrong Ed Next Blog
RttT is not the “largest federal expenditure” on public schools; it is less than 6 percent of the amount the federal government spent on schools by the very stimulus package Fletcher refers to.

House Chairm Aims to Renew 'STEM' Education Erik Robelen EdWeek
A key House committee is gearing up to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act, which promotes STEM education.


District walks the talk on performance pay Ed News Colorado
Harrison District 2 Superintendent Mike Miles is launching a merit pay plan for teachers that is markedly different than other efforts in Colorado.

The Pregnancy Pact Trailer Jezebel
The Lifetime original movie The Pregnancy Pact (airing January 23) purports to be "based on a true story," but staff members at Gloucester High School—where the pact was allegedly made—are denouncing it, saying it's a work of fiction.

Period Talk And Gay Men In Cars Dominate Classic Sex Ed Videos Jezebel
Though many of the clips are unintentionally hilarious (who opens a conversation with "So I had a wet dream last night?"), some reveal stubborn societal beliefs.

Reform: Adults' Expectations As Misguided As Kids'

It’s widely noted that too many kids -- especially low-income, minority ones -- seem to think that they’re going to be professional athletes, or performers, or models.  Those goofy kids.  So easily influenced by pop culture. 

What’s less widely noted is that many adults hold onto their own, equally unrealistic fantasies.  They are, I'd argue, just as if not more destructive than kids thinking their going to be ballplayers.

Picture 3Most destructive of all is adults’ the belief in their own or others’ power to fix things for kids, to save them, to turn things around against all odds, make a substantial difference. 

This belief is entrenched in popular culture, in the news media, and to a certain extent in school reform circles.  It manifests itself in “magic bullet” and “secret sauce” stories focused on some special innovation that’s being tried here and there, or the “hero” story in which an individual teacher, principal, reformer, or politician rides to the rescue. 

Not that these things don’t occasionally happen, or aren’t worth attempting.  They do, and they are.  But any such effort should be done with full knowledge of the complex, entrenched dynamics that have created the original situation and will challenge any changes.   And any occasional successes should be treated as just that – a combination of luck, smarts, and effort that might just was well have failed, or may well falter next month or next year. 

Exceptions can't become expectations.  And we adults shouldn't make fun of kids for pinning their hopes on unrealistic expectations until we're willing to do the same first.

Class Struggle - National ed reporting overrated

"Let novice reporters cover national education news.Let the rest of us report the more valuable story of learning at the local level, for which there is still a lot of space in the paper."
-- "Washington Post education writer Uncle Jay" Mathews (National reporting overrated)

RTTT: Funding "Cliff" Looms For Districts, States

In Race for U.S. School Grants Is a Fear of Winning NYT

News: What Next For Common Core Assessments?

Quality of Questions on Common Tests at Issue EdWeek
Cost, reliability, and governance may deter states from using the kind of open-ended questions called for by Race to the Top.

Recession hits state's poorest kids hardest SF Chronicle
The study by UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education & Access offers a timely look through the eyes of principals at what the economic upheaval has meant ...


Several senators oppose Grasmick's school reform plan Baltimore Sun
Roy P. Dyson, a Southern Maryland Democrat, said his understanding of Race to the Top is that it would require "significant changes," potentially reopening ...

Former L.A. superintendent pleads no contest to unlawfully displaying badge LA Times
A former Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent pleaded no contest Thursday to unlawfully displaying a badge while allegedly trying to pull a woman over in Pomona.

Sidwell Friends fires teacher, Robert A. "Pete" Peterson, accused of sex abuse WPost
Police in Montgomery and Queen Anne's counties have charged a Sidwell Friends middle school teacher with sexual abuse of a minor and other sexual offenses, according to law enforcement officials.

Tech: There's Not An App For That

Iphone0 Not even DonorsChoose, the hippest of the education philanthropy types, has mobile text message donations yet. 

The closest thing they have is an iPhone app called CauseWorld that you can check when you enter a place of business and donate to. 

It's free, but the setup sounds pretty 2008 to me. 

Over in the test prep market, however, mobile technology is moving ahead at a fast clip. 

There's an app called BarMax for folks who want to study for the bar via cellphone rather than take a class (or wing it, I guess). The app costs $1,000 (here).

Previous Posts:
K12 Starts Out Behind On Mobile Fundraising
Bring On The Age Of The Cell Phone Bake Sale

Consulting: Edupreneur & Think Tanker Start New Firm

Oneball_brand More think tank news:  As previously reported here on this site by me alone before anyone else thanks to a kindly reader who passed it on to me, Kim Smith and Andy Rotherham are starting a new consulting firm, named Bellwether (Fair Weather?) Partners.  See the press release below.

Others joining the nonprofit firm include Mary Wells and Monisha Lozier. Smith seems poised to do work on turnarounds.  The others are are going to do search, strategic consulting, and, erm "thought leadership." 

Congrats, condolences.  You can guess who's going to be in charge of that last, blustery category. Have we finally seen the last of Rotherham describing a decade-old 10-month Lewinsky-era stint at the OEOB into "Clinton education advisor"? Cause for celebration.

Previous post:  Help Name New Rotherham Consulting Firm

Continue reading "Consulting: Edupreneur & Think Tanker Start New Firm" »

Think Tanks: Shakeup At The Center On Education Policy [updated]

Kol-hat2 Word from the CEP is that they're looking for a new president / CEO, which could be is a replacement for Jack Jennings, long rumored to be thinking about retirement, or part of a reorganization.  I've got a call in to find out and will let you know as soon as I hear back.  CEP has been one of the most reliable, trusted think tanks in town since Jennings founded it after a long stint on the Hill.  Though I have had issues with their reliance on self-reported education responses, the think tank's annual reports on NCLB were the closest we got to a regular report on how the law was being implemented.  See below for the job position announcement.

Continue reading "Think Tanks: Shakeup At The Center On Education Policy [updated]" »



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