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Tech: Some Parents Side With District Against Webcam Allegations

The mainstream media may have been snookered for a while by one family's juicy Big Brother allegations against a school district, but not parents.  They're now opposing the lawsuit being brought by one family against the Lower Merion School District over alleged webcam surveillance, signing online petitions and attending meetings at which the motives of the plaintiffs family are being questioned.  (Parents Gather to Oppose “WebcamGate” Suit)

Quote: RTTT "Gimmicks"

"I am struck by how many of these [RTTT] things Texas does... and how little difference it's made in the overall quality of education in this state... They're gimmicks."

- Texas education reporter Kimberly Reeves

Turnarounds: Roundup Of Reactions

Tumblr_kyenckRENr1qa42jro1_500 Here's a quick roundup of news coverage detailing reactions to the speech from teachers unions and the business community:

Obama angers union officials with remarks in support of R.I. teacher firings Washington Post

Obama courts Chamber on education POLITICO

Obama cites RI school firings in education speech Associated Press

School Fires Its Teachers In The Name Of Progress NPR

Obama Backs Rewarding Districts That Police Failing Schools NYT

Obama: Controversial Speech Delivered Without Alteration

It must have been tempting to massage the text but President Obama retained the reference to the turnaround in Rhode Island that was in his prepared remarks. [He also, it should be noted, included strong language about the importance of teachers, the use of staff firings as a last resort, etc.] Transcript here.



News: Evolving Positions On Stimulus, NCLB, Desegregation

Gov. McDonnell seeks stimulus money, despite earlier criticism Washington Post:  For more than a year, Robert F. McDonnell has been critical of the federal stimulus package, arguing that it should have been more focused on creating jobs and spurring the economy. 11111111111news

Former 'No Child Left Behind' Advocate Turns Critic NPR:  Once a conservative advocate for the No Child Left Behind Act, Diane Ravitch has had a change in opinion. The former Bush administration education official has written a book spelling out the law's missteps and adverse effects on the U.S. education system.

Once a leader in school diversity, NC retrenches Associated Press:  When North Carolina's Wake County decided to do away with race-based busing to desegregate schools, local officials came up with a novel solution to maintain balance.

HotSeat Interview: What Next For The Harlem Children's Zone?

The dust is still settling around Helen Zelon's City Limits re-examination of the Harlem Children's Zone, one of the biggest, most critical looks that the program has ever received.  It's unclear what happens next for HCZ or the replication efforts that are taking place around the country.  Will momentum lag, or program requirements change? 

500x_scaleFor myself, I came away from reading Zelon's article with deeply mixed feelings.  I was reminded of the power of easily graspable phrases ("conveyor belt," "tipping point," "contamination,"), the organizational zigs and zags hidden beneath the surface narrative of many nonprofits, the collateral damage among teachers and kids who function as guinea pigs, the reality that the impact of so many efforts have "eluded measurement" (as Zelon so delicately puts it).  But Zelon's article also makes clear that big-sounding ideas and big personalities are, for better or worse, often a key element of what's needed to motivate change.  Smaller, perhaps better, more consistently effective ideas may exist, but they fail to capture the imagination needed to motivate action.  We want -- we need -- bold  risk-taking from our leaders.  If that's the case then perhaps we need to be grown-ups about the failures large and small that come from taking big risks.

On the Hot Seat, Zelon describes the "juggernaut" of praise that's surrounded the HCZ effort, the realization that there were lots of unanswered questions about HCZ, the challenges of reporting on the effort, and the uncomfortable experience of digging into a program that everyone seemed to think was a big success. Read Zelon's interview below. 

Continue reading "HotSeat Interview: What Next For The Harlem Children's Zone?" »

Blog Roundup: EdWeek Predicts IL As Likely RTTT Winner

340x_polar_bear_tongueRace to the Top Madness Politics K12:  EdWeek bloggers pick FL, LA, MA, IL, TN for winners, RI, DE, IN, MN, CO as finalists. [IL????]

To Live and Learn in L.A. TAPPED:  The dialogue over the role charters have in a public school system is important. But when a school board can rely on teachers' groups with successful methods that benefit students and please parents, trusting the teachers' groups makes sense. [missing Dana Goldstein right now]

Obama Touts School Improvement Plans PK12 Michele McNeil: Even though this Associated Press story makes it sound like President Obama is making big news today with a school improvement plan, it's really old news.

Quasi-Experimental Data on KIPP Yglesias:  They confirm earlier studies that indicate that it is not, and KIPP provides genuine value-added beyond what’s typical of American schools.  [fine, but it's still a boutique operation whose benefits to the rest/ to most are unclear]

Turnarounds: Obama Endorses Central Falls Decision

"If a school continues to fail its students year after year after year, if it doesn't show signs of improvement, then there's got to be a sense of accountability. And that's what happened in Rhode Island last week at a chronically troubled school, when just 7 percent of 11th graders passed state math tests -- 7 percent."

- President Obama in prepared remarks (see full text below) first noted by @D_Aarons

Continue reading "Turnarounds: Obama Endorses Central Falls Decision" »

Thompson: Three Cheers for Senator Coburn

 Senator Tom Coburn's statement at the President’s Health Care Summit that "a large portion of the tests we order every day aren't for patients, they're for doctors," applies equally to education.

School-lunch21But even that was not his best moment. The conservative senator then said, "I'm talking about paying people who actually do a good job to do prevention; talking about changing the school lunch programs where it meets the needs, nutritional needs, of Americans; changing the food stamp program where it incentivizes people to eat the right things, not the wrong things. We actually create more diabetes through the food stamp program and the school lunch program ..."

Representative Steny Hoyer replied "You mentioned the school lunch and food stamp programs. I'm sure we can get there, too." President Obama added, "The issue of prevention, and that includes, by the way, things like how our kids are eating and getting exercise. And I'm proud of the First Lady for working to see what she can do on that front."

Events: Duncan Smackdown, RTTT Announcement, Fritz

261.x600.feat.essentials.illio14The only things that are really even the slightest bit important this week are the RTTT announcement (see guesses about who's going to win below) and the Miller hearing on Wednesday (where I predict Duncan's going to get hammered about the Rhode Island thing, the mess in Chicago, and his cockamamie notions for RTTTing ESEA and replacing AYP with CCR).  The rest -- tonight's Colin Powell event announcement, etc. -- is pleasant fluff, speeches and requests and pledges that are worth, well, the paper they're written on. Help passing the time, news filler, but not much more. 

Still, every week there are events and reports and stuff all over the place, making people in DC who aren't actually involved in making law feel like they're busy and important.  And if you don't have Fritz (fritz@publicprivateaction.com) you probably are going to miss sending your intern to one of the events (cuz you know they're really boring to go to) or have to fake it when someone asks you what you thought of the panel yesterday.  So get yourself some Fritz.  

RTTT: Picking The Finalist States

Looking ahead to this week's anticipated announcement of RTTT Round One finalists, Tom Carroll of the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability reviewed state applications and declared that Florida, Louisiana, and Tennessee have the best applications (Who's Winning the Race to the Top?).  Delaware, Colorado, and Michigan are the 2nd tier:  500x_snowglobe

"In total, awards to these seven states would allocate almost half of the $4 billion in Race to the Top dollars, leaving about $2 billion unspent—giving states like New York and California another chance to adopt reforms in time for the June 1 second-round deadline. These states would do well to learn from the Round One winners."

(Via @asmarick.) 

News: Connecticut Contemplates RTTT Redo

Conn. lawmakers may beef up "Race to the Top" plan Associated Press:  Connecticut lawmakers are considering ways to fortify the state's application for millions of dollars in education funding under the president's "Race to the Top" initiative, concerned the state won't receive funding in the first round.

In Middle School, Charting Their Course to College and Beyond NYT:  In New Jersey and elsewhere, schools are experimenting with individualized learning plans that are intended to help students create career goals. 11111111111news

RI teachers weigh legal action over mass firings AP:  A teachers' union is considering legal action after the entire staff of a long-troubled high school in Central Falls was fired.

District May End N.C. Economic Diversity Program NYT:  At stake is the direction of a Raleigh suburb school system, the largest to consider income in placement.

Protests and Promises of Improvements at Schools NYT:  Parents, reform organizations and others expressed concerns that the Chicago Public School district has embarked on yet another failed reform effort.

GOP challengers join Texas ed board battleground AP:  Uproar over the evolution curriculum. Divides over religious influences in American history. A board member who called public schools a "subtly deceptive tool of perversion." 

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