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Reform: Are They Stepping Back From The Brink?

ScreenHunter_15 Oct. 19 10.33 Maybe it's the looming midterms or the increasingly overheated and ridiculous rhetoric but there are at least a handful of things that suggest maybe the Democratic party has decided against an all-out civil war over school reform:  (1) There's the announced labor-management relations summit in early 2011.  (2) The profile of Randi Weingarten in the NYT which notably includes no harsh attacks from top officials.  (3)  The elevation of the term "war on teachers"  in the WSJ.  (4) The miserable box office returns for WFS compared to Jackass and the Facebook movie.  Or, perhaps the inspirtation was sworn enemies Colbert and Stewart burying their differences and combining forces for their upcoming Fear/Sanity rally.

AM News: Technical Assistance Company Made $40M On RTTT

Politics, alleged conflict at center of state supreme court case over charter school funding Atlanta Journal Constitution:  With Georgia's reputation as a leading education reformer on the line, the state's highest court will rule in the coming months on the tug-of-war over power and money that has pitted seven school districts against the state in a fight over local control. The case has already raised a question over fair play... Students Explain Science Experiments to President Obama: President Obama honored these and other students at the first-ever White House Science Fair on Monday, kicking off a week of events focused on science, math, engineering and technology (STEM) education. The award-winning projects were plucked from a series of nationwide competitions. They are part of an effort to show that the White House is taking science seriously... Documentary critical of Oliver High, but the school has changed a lot PPG:  The district's point man on a five-year plan to restructure and improve the city's low-performing high schools, Mr. Lopez is pushing significant changes at Oliver, starting next fall, which will include an extended school day and year, career academies and a partnership with the Community College of Allegheny County...VA Firm Made $40M for RTTT Tech Support Politics K12:  So whatever happened to all that great, unprecedented technical support that states were supposed to get from the U.S. Department of Education for the $4 billion Race to the Top competition? Well, it looks like ICF Incorporated, a Virginia based firm, got more than $42 million in federal funding to help out with that. (Here's a department of education notice about one $38 million grant. Plus, ICF got an additional nearly $5 million on top of that, also for Race to the Top technical assistance.).. The strains on schools a worry statewide Boston Globe:  When work crews went to inspect the city’s schools this summer, they knew years of neglect had taken a toll. But the damage still took them aback... How Handwriting Boosts the Brain WSJ:  Writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development.

Blogs: Corrections And Self-Reflection

Tumblr_ktvx0s6B0W1qzj1h3o1_500 A couple of things you'd never get from many of today's "never wrong" education blogs and commentators:  a correction and an admission of uncertainty:

DailyKos's TeacherKen says he got a Mathematic study on KIPP schools wrong (A correction).

Kevin Drum says he's not sure what to make of little-noted progress on minority achievement (School Testing Followup).

Quote: "This Is Not A War On Teachers"

Quotes2 This is not a war on teachers en masse. It is recognition of what every parent knows: Some teachers are exceptional, but a small number are dreadful.  - Eric Hanushek

Magazines: Pretend This Article Is About School Reform

ScreenHunter_04 May. 26 15.44 When Atul Gawande writes these long fascinating pieces about health care in the New Yorker I read them and pretend they're about school reform because, well, I wish that they were and, well, many of the issues are the same.  This one describes quality and cost variations in different parts of the country and how one network -- Mayo -- and a few towns like Grand Junction CO have  gotten rid of individual incentives and broken down barriers between different parts of the provider system in order to improve outcomes and lower costs. There are some lessons in there about individual performance pay, too.    

Testing: Don't Blame NCLB For IL Testing Hijinks

0817-los-angeles-times-test-scores_full_380For years the Illinois tests (ISAT and PSAE) just seem to have been getting easier and easier.  Fewer questions, lower cut scores, etc.  It seemed that had come to and end but the Tribune finds that it keeps on happening -- and the state is claiming that it's just a statistical equating process (New ISAT lets kids pass with more wrong answers).  Others disagree:   "It absolutely does not make sense,'' said Sherry Rose-Bond, a Columbus, Ohio, school testing official on the board of directors of the National Council on Measurement in Education. Some will blame NCLB for this, of course.  Others will say that testing is inherently evil.  But I think it's probably more to do with human nature, and bureaucratic creep writ large than anything in particular related to testing. 

Video: Young City Council Member Joins "It Gets Better" Campaign

Of all the "It Gets Better" videos against gay bullying this one -- from a young openly gay City Council member in Fort Worth TX -- has gone viral:

In the testimonial given at the start of the council session, Joel Burns reviews what's happened to several students recently and describes his own experiences being tormented at school and coming close to ending his life.

AM News: Baltimore To Re-Explain, Not Re-Negotiate Labor Deal

News2New Jersey School District Loses 80 Educators NPR:   The federal education jobs bill has not reached districts like West Orange, and many schools say they will hold onto that money until next year, which promises to be even worse... Discipline rate of black students in Del., elsewhere is probed USA Today:  Besides Delaware, the school districts under review are in New York, North Carolina, Utah and Minnesota... SAT Score Is ‘Seldom a Deal Breaker’ NYT:  A dean of admission at a highly selective college describes the sometimes messy, rarely formulaic way in which standardized test scores are considered... Baltimore teachers union and district leaders to return to negotiating table Baltimore Sun:  As Baltimore school and teacher union officials prepare to return to the negotiating table next week, they said they don't expect to make significant changes to the tentative agreement that educators rejected Thursday and will concentrate instead on clearly explaining the terms of the innovative contract... Maine, NH schools look to China for new students Boston Glober:  Three school administrators from Maine and one from New Hampshire are traveling to China to recruit new students for their schools... Michael Jackson's name gleams again at Hollywood school  LA Times:  For seven years, the letters proclaiming Michael Jackson Auditorium at Gardner Street Elementary were covered, placed at the behest of parents shortly after the pop singer's arrest in 2003. Now, a year after his death, the sign is back.

Weekend Reading: Abolishing The USDE, Charter Repeaters

ScreenHunter_04 Aug. 16 19.20 Why does Rand Paul hate the Department of Education? Salon: The thing is, it was created by Jimmy Carter, which makes it bad... It's Not the Teachers' Unions The American Prospect:  Is it possible, though, to praise teachers and oppose teachers' unions? Repeat Performance The American Prospect:  Schools in charter hotspots like New York and Houston report retention rates as high as 23 percent... Class Swap NYT:   The switch was approved, but within a week I discovered that many of the sophomores had severe difficulties — some were on medication; some were being treated by psychiatrists — and should be taught by a specialist... The other Blind Sides Slate: In hindsight, Lewis says, perhaps it wasn't amazing journalistic acumen that led him to the story of The Blind Side. "Maybe I stumbled onto it because it happens so often," he says... Solitary Study is the Key to Winning Spelling Bees Miller-McCune:  The kids rated solo study as “more effortful and less enjoyable than the alternative preparation activities,” but it was also the most effective technique... Innovative school design is hard, but it doesn't have to be Slate:  Whoever has the most pull at the right time wins. In this case, which was not unusual, the construction department prevailed over the innovators...  Picture Books Languish as Parents Push ‘Big-Kid Books’ NYT: Picture books are so unpopular these days at the Children’s Book Shop in Brookline, Mass., that employees there are used to placing new copies on the shelves, watching them languish and then returning them to the publisher.

Media: Like Don Draper Meeting Anna Wintour

ScreenHunter_05 Oct. 15 20.46 ScreenHunter_04 Oct. 15 20.45

ScreenHunter_06 Oct. 15 21.00 ScreenHunter_07 Oct. 15 21.03



Six things to note about Trip Gabriel's effervescent NYT profile of Randi Weingarten (Despite Image, Union Leader Backs School Reform):  (1) A flattering Times profile is a nice coup for the union leader, who's recently had to resort to things like the Huffington Post to get her message out.  (2) Reporters quoting Tim Daly should note he's not exactly a dispassionate observer, right?   (3) Smart on RW's part to do the interview at Green Dot New York City, the charter-union collaborative, almost guaranteeing a mention. (4) The celebrity profile touches like the mention of watch brands and speaking manner show that you can take the reporter out of the Style section but you can't take the style out of the reporter.  (5) That awkward moment when she's checking his forehead for fever is included to reveal that she's overly solicitous, he's appealingly vulnerable, and WASPs don't like to be touched. (6) Left unmentioned is Weingarten's concern that local presidents from Detroit, DC, and Baltimore will get ousted and replaced by hard liners as happened in the 1990s. 

USDE: Duncan Does The Future Farmers [updated]

image from weaselzippers.us

There are probably some campaign events they're not telling us about but here's the "official" media events for Duncan for the week -- including FFA and a propaganda briefing session for stakeholders.

UPDATE:  Folks assigned to monitor this blog closely realized that there was a dumb CFR event on the Wednesday schedule and that Duncan had better to do with his time, called Peter Cunningham's hotline and got the event yanked.  A million Internets to anyone who can tell me where Duncan goes instead of the CFR luncheon on Wednesday, or who spots him in line at the Starbucks ordering one of those girly caramel drinks I love so much.

Continue reading "USDE: Duncan Does The Future Farmers [updated]" »

Superintendents: Unlearned Lessons From Pittsburgh

Schoolbus-thumb-240x190-43875 You'd never know it from reading the national education press but just recently Mark Roosevelt announced he will be leaving the Pittsburgh public school system after five years (Roosevelt plans drew national praise despite local controversy, Roosevelt is one leader who lived up to promise). The former MA legislator (and Broadie) got a new contract signed helped his district win a federal TIF grants.  He also downsized the district by 22 schools to reflect dwindling enrollment, and took steps towards fixing some schools.  Was he a bust?  It doesn't sound like it.  Is there anything to learn from the experience?  You wouldn't know it.  I guess it's true we really don't pay attention anything that's not sexy or argumentative or a useful example of the latest fad or cause. 

Thompson: Why The NEA Is Supporting Bennet

Hopehefails Education Week’s Alyson Klein described the NEA’s active support for Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, which the teachers’ union had battled. This is a great lesson in citizenship, as well as the values of loyalty and duty. There is no need for the navel-gazing speculation about whether a Republican victory would be good for education "reform." If you are a Democrat, now is the time to bury differences and unite for the common welfare. Afterwards, we can continue the fight over the ways to create equity in education. Besides, after the election, I doubt that union-bashing will seem like such an attractive strategy. - JT

Chiefs: Former GA Chief's Game Show Winnings Divided

image from www.ajc.com Former GA state superintendent Kath Cox went on a TV game show in 2008, won $1 million, and pledged her winnings to three underfunded schools educating the deaf and blind. 

But then she and her husband declared for bankruptcy, and her creditors wanted some of the cash for themselves. Two years later, the winnings are going to be split 50/50 between the schools and the creditors -- an outcome Cox says is unjust. 

Via AJC.

Campaign 2010: Eliminate Public Schools Says Tea Party Candidate

image from carnet.csdecou.qc.ca Remember when Republicans would say they wanted to eliminate the US Department of Education in order to appeal to their conservative base?  That's so 1990s.  Ditto with bans on dirty dancing and hugging and all that other stuff.  Very over.  This guy -- California congressional candidate David Harmer -- wants to get rid of public schools entirely. Via Slate.

Turnarounds: The Charlotte-Mecklenberg Model

image from farm2.static.flickr.com It's a tailored turnaround, a school reform version of of a poker game where you can toss out a few cards you don't like and get new ones.  Here's how it works: take your best principals, offer them a three year stint revamping the district's worst schools (and a raise).  They get to bring in eight handpicked folks to help, and get rid of five folks they think are going to stand in the way. (How One District Fixed Its Failing Schools) Question is whether it's allowable under SIG -- and of course whether it works.

Quote: Who Lost Yglesias?

Quote-mark Institutions committed to “education reform” as their mission sort of can’t focus on [poverty issues] and the people who fund such outfits are generally not interested in funding talk about the desirability of higher taxes.  - Blogger Matt Yglesias on poverty vs. school reform

USDE: Labor Summit In Early 2011

340x_easybakesmall22310 Duncan, Weingarten, and Van Roekel are announcing a summit on labor-management reform for early next year, according to this press release citing many of the examples we've heard several times before (Evansville, Baltimore, New Haven, Pittsburgh, Detroit). 

Notably left off the list -- so sensitive of them! -- is Washington DC.  Still some hurt feelings there, I guess.  Or maybe it wasn't as reformy as some claimed at the time. 

See release below.

Continue reading "USDE: Labor Summit In Early 2011" »

Thompson: Obama's Favorite Teacher

Obamaface12710  Barack Obama's favorite teacher was Martha Minow, according to Jonathan Zimmerman's "What Are Schools For?" in the NYROB.  But Obama isn't paying enough attention to Minow's In Brown's Wake and Brown, which suggest NCLB-type "reforms" are doomed.  Zimmerman wants the Obama Administration to pay more attention to scientific evidence, and to fulfill the promise of Brown by devising an theory of civic engagement and of schooling to promote collective goals, not just standardized test scores.     - JT

White House: Gibbs Claims Obama Has No Regrets Over Rhee

Picture 28 Politics Daily follows up on the story I told you a few weeks ago -- the White House's abandoment of Rhee (and Fenty) and the questions it raises about what Obama will and won't do for its education champions (Did the White House Abandon Michelle Rhee?). 

The best part is this dismissive quote from Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs:  "I don't think the president has any regrets about not getting involved in a mayoral race."  Well, I'm not so sure about that.  It wasn't just any old mayoral race and it's not like the President hasn't stayed out of local matters before (beer summit, anyone?). But at least now Bennet, Klein, and other reformers know they're on their own when they get in a jam.

Previous 9/20 post:  How the White House Abandoned Rhee

Quote: "You Can't Criticize The Unions"

Quotes2 I don’t know where it’s written that you can’t criticize the unions. Otherwise, you hate teachers.   - Davis Guggenheim via EdWize

Media: Rhee's Departure Meaningless, Claim Reformers

Ralph You get a lot of spin and wishful thinking when you ask a bunch of reformy types (Klein, Johnston, etc.) what Rhee's departure is going to mean for reform.  These are the same people who made such a big deal of her presence at the helm of the DC schools in the first place.  These folks (other than Hess) all have a vested interest in making as little of her departure as possible.  They ARE Michelle Rhee.  But  Sam Dillon's NYT piece today (Rhee’s Resignation Isn’t Expected to Slow Public School Reform) doesn't get far beyond that, sticking close to the reformy talking points.  It would have been interesting to have an academic perspective, or a political one.  Even a cable news hack would have described this as a major setback for reformers, who are -- or should be -- licking their wounds and figuring out how to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.   

AM News: Teacher Changes Move Ahead In Baltimore & LA

L.A. Unified settlement of lawsuit mushroomed into assault on long-held district practices LA Times:  An effort to lessen layoffs at three middle schools became a vehicle to propel fundamental changes, such as requiring layoffs at the same rate campus by campus. It also sidestepped teachers union resistance... Education Overhaul Effort Loses Key Player WSJ:  Ms. Rhee said her own future remained unclear. She said she planned to take some time off and then look for another job in the education arena... Gray vows to continue school reforms as he names interim D.C. chancellor Washington Post:  Vincent C. Gray promised Wednesday to move ahead with the District's aggressive school reform agenda even as he allowed its most visible leader, Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, to exit the stage... Authorities look for clues in Minn. teen deaths AP:  The bodies of two teenage friends were found near a gun in a heavily wooded area, and authorities looked into Facebook postings and text messages for clues Wednesday but said they were not searching for suspects... NEA Continues Its Ad Ground Game PK12:  It's tough to say that Bennet and the NEA are best buddies, at least when it comes to policy... Teachers begin voting on progressive contract Baltimore Sun:  Baltimore teachers began voting Wednesday on what is being hailed as one of the most progressive union contracts to emerge in the nation, which, if ratified, would give teachers unprecedented pay and autonomy and tie raises to proven effectiveness in the classroom.

Blogs: "An Endless Stream Of Credulous Punditry"

1269898805444Schools and Poverty Kevin Drum:  An endless stream of credulous punditry keep[s] suggesting that the answers are out there if only we'll fund them and take them seriously. But they aren't... Show Them The Money Eduwonk:  You’d think that the folks who want to see more money spent on education – especially in a basket case state like California – would be using schools like ICEF as an argument to do so, rather than naysaying... Can Free Cell Phones Motivate Kids to Learn? GOOD:  One-third will get a set number of minutes each month, while two-thirds can earn minutes in exchange for reading books... What Jerry Bracey would have said about Locke High Jay Mathews:  The target of this first Bracey memorial scolding is the otherwise admirable Green Dot Public Schools, whose Aug. 16 press release on test score gains at Locke High School in Los Angeles caught my eye... Peabody Public Schools  Colbert Report:  A school district sells ad space on permission slips...Truck driver pay for performance Mike Goldstein: In public schools — traditional or charter — the government pays exactly the same per-student amount whether the kids learn a lot or a little. Since the total pie can’t get bigger, merit pay raises tend to be zero sum. This, of course, is less attractive to teachers.

Quote: "A Menace To The Status Quo"

Quotes2 Anyone who thinks this is the last they will hear from Michelle Rhee obviously hasn't been watching very closely.  She has the potential to be even more of a menace to the status quo from the outside of the system.    - DFER head Joe Williams in the WSJ

Thompson: That Gimmicky Manifesto

1464_light dark keyboard Like many educators I'm not sure what to make of the manifesto signed by 16 superintendents and published in the Washington Post over the weekend (here).  It seems to show just how disconnected school system heads can be from the facts on the ground in schools.  A reality-based policy would mend, but not end, seniority.  Ditto for the teacher removal process.  It wouldn't rely on performance pay, technology, and charter schools which may help a little but are really just sideshows right now.  Education remains a people process, not a market for whatever tutorials that favored vendors are peddling.  - JT


Commentary: Seven Signs Of Spinning

Mmw_testinglearning_article There are a lot of blogs out there but how can you tell whether they're really any good? Michael Kinsley says that the key is intellectual honesty, which he distinguishes from regular old honesty (as in not lying or making things up):  "Intellectual honesty is more demanding: It means being truthful about what’s going on inside your own head."  So ask yourself if the people you're reading are really being truthful about what they're thinking -- signs of which, according to me, include things like admitting doubt, acknowledging alternative views, correcting errors, disclosing self-interest, some semblance of consistency or coherence, and a willingness to differ with friends and allies and those more powerful than they are. If not, then they're just after your pageviews, or spinning you, or both. [I really hope this blog entry makes me look better than everyone else, and wish I could think of more than just Jay Mathews as an example of an intellectually honest commentator.]

Quote: Is Tenure Really The Main Problem Here?

Quote-mark Maybe there's two bad teachers per school. Is it worth throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

- Teacher quoted in AP story fact-checking WFS (via GothamSchools)

Research: Early-Onset Schoolyard Mean-Ness

image from t0.gstatic.com No one's clear whether there's really any more early elementary school bullying or whether we're all just noticing bullying (aka "social aggressiveness") more.  "It could just be heightened awareness among hyper-parents, ever attuned to their children’s most minuscule slight. It could be a side effect of early-onset puberty...Or it may be that an increase has yet to be captured; relational aggression wasn’t a focus of academic research until the mid-1990s." This NYT story details the gaps in the research and shares expert opinion as well as some pretty horrible anecdotes.   (Mean-Girl Bullying Trickles Down to Grade School)

AM News: Joint Rhee Departure Announcement

News2 Study challenges mayoral control of schools AP:  Mayoral control, advocated by politicians pushing to overhaul underperforming school systems, fails to improve student achievement, according to a two-year study... L.A. school board votes to proceed with plant manager cuts LA Times:  Members vote 4 to 3 to keep the budgetary move that will affect hundreds of elementary schools after Supt. Cortines threatened to retire early... Rhee, Washington Schools Chancellor, to Resign NYT:  The joint announcement was a compromise resulting from a standoff in which Ms. Rhee refused to step down and Mr. Gray refused to fire her... U.S. House Races to Watch for Edu-ramifications PK12:  The folks to watch.. School cafeterias to try psychology in lunch line AP:  Hide the chocolate milk behind the plain milk. Get those apples and oranges out of stainless steel bins and into pretty baskets. Cash only for desserts... Lauded Harlem Schools Have Their Own Problems NYT:  The Harlem Children’s Zone’s costly efforts are breathtaking in scope, but its overall impact is unclear.

Atlanta: Is Beverly Hall Being Railroaded?

image from media.npr.org The next big city superintendent to go this year - after Rhee, Huberman, and Cortines (almost) -- might be Atlanta's Beverly Hall, the 2009 natinal superintendent of the year whose administration is under fire for how it handled a cheating scandal.  But would Hall's departure be a just and useful outcome?  Is this really about accountability (or the evils of testing, depending on your perspective)?  It makes me suspicious that so much of the drumbeat comes from Sonny Perdue and his accountability watchdog Kathleen Mathers (both pictured).  The decision of the USDE start its own investigation raises its own red flags, not the least of which is the question of jurisdiction.  (Many of the schools under suspicion received miniscule grants under the federal "Distinguished Schools" program.)  The AJC reports that there are some personality issues involved in this as well. For her part, Hall has signed on to an independent review, removed 12 principals and sent over a hundred teachers' names to the state review board.

Reform: Questions About HCZ Reach The New York Times

Long-known concerns about the HCZ model have finally made the New York Times, making me unexpectedly sad. There's got to be a better way to do things than to repeat this cycle of hype and disappointment we always seem to go through. 

Magazines: RI Schools Commissioner Profiled In Atlantic

There's an interesting Q and A with RI commissioner Deborah Gist in this month's The Atlantic, which features "Brave Thinkers."  Diane Ravitch is also included -- any other education types I missed?


Research: "Associates" Instead Of Friends

Quote-mark Some relied on their cousins for help or turned to older teens for protection. Some instigated fights just to make sure they were not “disrespected.”... And many avoided investing emotionally in friendships altogether.

(Chicago Kids Take on Bunker Mentality, No 'Friends') Miller McCune Via Chicago Reporter

AM News: Stakeholders Adapt To Turnarounds In Boston, LA

News2 Workers hailed for halting school shooting suspect AP:  Children returning Monday to an elementary school where a gunman wounded two girls on a playground cheered and hugged construction workers who police said knocked down the shooter as he struggled to reload his gun... Pa. school settles 2 webcam spy lawsuits for $610K AP:  A Philadelphia-area school district agreed Monday to pay $610,000 to settle two lawsuits over secret photos taken on school-issued laptops... L.A. teachers union aims to prevent layoffs at 'bad' schools  USA Today:  The Los Angeles teachers union is promising to challenge a proposed agreement that would change how teachers are laid off in the nation's second-largest ... Schools enforce year-round conduct rules USA Today:  Students across the country are going on notice that drinking, smoking, using drugs or posting risqu photos on the Web on weekends and during ... The Rise and Fall of New York Student Achievement NYT:  Next year, for the first time, the tests will not be released publicly... Cheating Investigation Focuses On Atlanta Schools  NPR:  More than 50 schools in Atlanta were flagged for cheating. Official investigations are under way, as parents and state officials try to figure out what happened... Dismay, worry at schools slated to close Boston Globe:  The plan also calls for converting the Patrick Gavin Middle School in South Boston into a district-run charter school and merging the struggling Lee Academy Pilot School with the better performing Joseph Lee Elementary School, both located in the same building on Talbot Avenue in Dorchester.

Superman, Reinvented: The Focus Is All On The Kids Now

See? Problem solved. The wonders of savvy media manipulators.  Now there's no more rich Hollywood guy telling us to do something he himself hasn't done, or pushing solutions that aren't as effective or practical as presented.  Now it's just the story of five kids who want a good education. 

image from i.huffpost.com
Sitting on the coach are from left to right, Francisco Regalado, from Bronx, NY., Bianca Hill, Harlem, NY, Daisy Esparza, East Los Angeles, Emily Jones, Silicon Valley Calif., and Anthony Black from Washington, DC. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

White House: Obama Meets "Superman" Kids

image from questgarden.comIt's a great get for the folks at Paramount and PARTICIPANT media to get a meeting with President Obama this afternoon -- and a smart move to start showcasing the kids rather than keeping only Guggenheim out there as the movie's public face -- but I'm not entirely sure that it's a great move for the White House.  They just saw Michelle Rhee go down, and people are talking about a "war on teachers," so maybe now's not the time to push the reform charter thing?  Then again, there are lots of folks who are smarter than I am over there and I'm sure they've done the polling and thinking and it'll all work out just fine in November.  Right?  

Books: Cover Designs For "Stray Dogs, Saints, and Saviors"

Picture 23
Something along the lines of one of these is probably going to be the cover of my upcoming book, "Stray Dogs, Saints, and Saviors," a look inside the Locke high school turnaround effort that's now in year three. (The spires / missiles -- likely not to be a part of the final version -- are the nearby Watts Towers.)

Video: Math Teacher Meltdown

"Teaching high school math for 17 years finally caught up with Donald Wood. Yesterday, the Tennessee teacher lost his mind during class and started throwing chairs and desks across the room. Wood was cuffed and removed from school grounds. The incident at McGavock High School was recorded by a student using a cell phone." (High School Teacher's Classroom Meltdown Caught on Video Via Gawker) 


People: Civil Rights Lawyer Leaving Administration For New Post

19essay-3-articleInline-v2 Over the weekend, Dianne Piche announced that she's leaving the Office of Civil Rights at the USDE and heading to the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, where she'll head the education policy team.  You can reach her there at Piche@civilrights.org. "The Leadership Conference is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. Through advocacy and outreach to targeted constituencies, The Leadership Conference works toward the goal of a more open and just society – an America as good as its ideals." Piche was for many years with Bill Taylor at the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights.  Congrats, condolences.  

Thompson: A Little Bit Thuggish

26ec05a2634042a2bb2515dca2a04fc0bbb8d8a0_m Is it "a little bit thuggish" for the head of the NEA to describe films like Waiting for Superman" as a blip? That's the case made by Andy Rotherham, noting that the entire field of education is biased against changes that are "popular in theory but controversial in practice."  Yes, it's true, we union goons  teachers are tired of the steady stream of fads that are now called "reform" and are hoping to beat some sense into  school Rotherham.  Before we let Rotherham et. al experiment we want evidence of "reformers'" credibility.  Education is a great chain of conversations, and referring to your opponents as thugs is not the best way to share ideas. - JT

Quotes: Colorful Charter Founder Steps Down

Quotes2I'm always going to be available for anything they need me to do, but it's time for me to step back.  

 - Charter school network founder Mike Piscal announcing his resignation

Magazines: Weekend Reading (Cortines Didn't Quit)

100927_TheHive_desks1 L.A. schools chief threatens to retire, then backs off LA Times:  To save money, the district is planning to instead rely on teams of lower-salaried cleaners who move from school to school at night...Schools confront gay suicide surge, minus specifics AP:  A spate of teen suicides linked to anti-gay harassment is prompting school officials nationwide to rethink their efforts against bullying -- and in the process, risk entanglement in a bitter ideological debate... Students and teachers photograph the best—and worst—places in their schools Slate:  The "Through Your Lens" exhibit features an awful lot of peeling paint and broken windows—the kind of environment you wouldn't want your kid in for an hour, much less a childhood... How Performance Pay Works TNR: The point of performance pay isn't to wring better results out of the same teaching pool. It's to change the composition of the teaching pool... New research shows precisely how the prison-to-poverty cycle does its damage  Slate:  Much of that growing inequality, which Slate's Timothy Noah has chronicled, is linked to the increasingly widespread use of prisons and jails.

Duncan: A Three-State Week For Arne


It must be campaign season with all this criss-crossing (and the non-publicized campaign events that are part of the package):

Duncan's headed to North Dakota on Tuesday and Florida on Wednesday and Thursday and then -- hooray! -- up to Boston for a City Year event and a speech at Hah-vahd.

Continue reading "Duncan: A Three-State Week For Arne" »

Thompson: Another Strange Report From TNTP

Post_full_1283259091school The New Teachers Project has released yet another report that demonstrates they are oblivious to the realities of teaching and learning. They propose evaluations where teachers must show that "nearly all students at all skill levels master the lesson objective" using a checklist that is "specific, student-centered" and "leaves little room for inference." Have they ever stepped foot in an inner-city high school class where skill levels may range from 2nd grade to college, and the majority of students are English Language Learners, special education students, and/or wrestling with extreme trauma? Similarly, what is the basis of the TNTP’s extraordinary statement that tests using district-wide writing prompts "generally" yield more useful information than teacher-designed take-home essays? Contrary to the TNTP’s theories, effective teachers must embrace ambiguity and  should be held accountable for old-fashioned expectations such as making thoughtful and accurate assessments of student understanding. Real world "inference" is what educators do, nonstop, and our our work cannot quantified. - JT


Video Interlude: "Gimme Shelter" Meets "Give It To Me"

This mashup combines the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" with the funk hit "Give It To Me" to mesmerizing effect. Also with cute animals.

The 10 Best Mashups Of September: 

Video: Comparing Guggenheim To Gore

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Davis Guggenheim
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election March to Keep Fear Alive

Guggenheim did pretty well against Colbert last night, I thought.  But when I saw a Twitter comment afterwards about Guggenheim's "sexy mouth" I finally figured out that the big difference between Superman and An Inconvenient Truth is that this time out Guggenheim is playing the role of Al Gore and -- as with Truth -- reactions to the movie have a lot to do with how we react to him.  Problem is, the personable Guggenheim doesn't have the gravitas or the wonkiness of Gore (and he sends his kids to private schools). They're sort of stuck with him as their protagonist at this point, but the smart folks behind the film seem to have realized this - you can see Guggenheim working hard to put the focus on the kids and the lofty ideals of opportunity and altruism.  They've also backed way off the "we know the solutions" stuff, too.  

Parents: Emanuel Departure Opens School Spots


DC parents are pondering the effects of Emanuel's departure on highly coveted slots in local private schools like Maret, according to Al Kamen (What about his kids' school slots?)  I'm sure there are parents in Chicago freaking out over "losing" spots to the Emanuel kids if and when they switch schools. Good enough reason to vote against the guy?  I'm not so sure it isn't. Yes, this is the world we live in.  


AM News: Seniority / Performance Pay Deal In LA

News2 Michelle Rhee likely to have pick of top education jobs, but would she want one? Washington Post:  The Republican candidate for governor of Iowa thinks she'd be a great head of the state's department of education. Political chatter in New Jersey has her on Gov. Chris Christie's list of candidates for the top job there. Others see her as secretary of education in a second Obama administration... Legal Questions Cloud Facebook Founder's Gift to Newark EdWeek:  Legal types said that could amount to a violation of state law, since New Jersey doesn't permit mayoral control of schools. The governor and some urban-school activists pulled no punches in reacting to those legal questions... NEA to spend $15 million on midterm campaign Washington Post:  The nation's largest teachers union is jumping into the midterm congressional elections, mostly on behalf of Democrats, with what it describes as a $15 million advertising fund "to elect education champions."... Deal with ACLU would reward teachers at some campusesLA Times:  A potentially groundbreaking settlement that could limit teachers' seniority protections would also require instructors at a small number of schools to be judged and rewarded based on their ability to boost the campus' academic performance, according to documents released Thursday.

Money: Showing Us The Money

image from schoolloans.org The good folks at CEF put this handy-dandy chart showing which states got which grants from the Stimulus to the magnet schools thing.  Check out out and see how your state did. Seems like everyone got something (which is, I suppose, the point of CEF sending it around).  Download CEF Grants Worksheet





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