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Rhetoric: Welfare Queens, Turncoats, & Birthers (Yes!)

image from graphics8.nytimes.comTeachers are welfare queens.  Reformers are turncoats.  Rhee critics are birthers.  Yes, it's true.  Over the weekend the NYT's Matt Bai described how Republican governors like Chris Christie (pictured) have turned public employee unions into a convenient scapegoat: "Ronald Reagan had his 'welfare queens,'  Rudy Giuliana had his criminals and 'squeegee men,' and now Chris Christie has his sprawling and powerful public-sector unions."  Rick Kahlenberg has taken to the pages of the Washington Post to decry the union-blaming that's going on in Wisconsin and elsewhere and to lay blame squarely at the feet of so-called school reformers like Michelle Rhee: "In a profound sense, Democrats like Michelle Rhee have paved the way for Scott Walker.” At roughly the same time, Rhee biographer Richard Whitmire appears on EdWeek's commentary page to denounce Rhee critics as lefty birthers who are threatened by Rhee's message at a level that is visceral and somewhat deraged: "The birther-like rhetoric is... not likely to abate unless Rhee and her organization make no headway and therefore present no threat."  What to make of all of this?  Whitmire needs to get some smidgen of distance between himself and the Rhee PR machine.  Kahlenberg might have overstated the case just a little bit though there is a clear line between most reformers and anti-unionism. Debate-wise, we're getting closer and closer to Godwin's Law -- I'm not sure I can stand the anticipation of waiting to see whether Ravitch or Rhee allies there first.   Meanwhile, union leaders obviously to get out of their bunkers and make some contributions to the debate (even if they run the risk of getting unseated in the next election).  Reformers need to figure out how to keep up the pressure without becoming co-opted by political interests who probably don't share their passion for educating poor kids. (Their current obsession with last in first out makes no sense to me, politically or substantively.) 

Thompson: Send Duncan To Walk The Picket Line

Cba The destruction of collective bargaining for teachers would be the second worst thing that could happen to poor children.  The worst would be the failure of President Obama to receive 270 electoral votes in 2012.  The Administration opened up a Pandora's Box in Rhode Island when it chose data over due process, thus feeding the union-busting frenzy in Wisconsin and Ohio.  Soon the mortal threat to unions will spread to Florida and perhaps other swing states.  During Meet the Press' Sunday Roundtable, a big point was made about a 2007 campaign promise.  If a state challenged collective bargaining rights, candidate Obama said he would put on his walking shoes and join the protests.  The President is too busy to fulfill that pledge, but he should send Arne Duncan, who helped get him in this mess, to join the protests. - JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.

Movies: PS22 Wins The Oscars Awards Ceremony

There was no Waiting For Superman but the kids from PS22 closed the Oscars ceremony last night, doing great with a simple version of a famous movie tune: A heartwarming performance of 'Over the Rainbow'.  A NY Daily News columnist points out that the music teacher could have been lost if he didn't have seniority and tenure (Teachers union should give thanks to PS 22's inspiring music instructor).  

AM News: Teachers' Job Uncertainty In Providence & Madison

image from webmedia.newseum.org Mayor Tries to Reassure Providence Teachers Over Firing NoticesMayor Angel Taveras said the termination notices that went out this week were a pre-emptive move to give the school district some flexibility in addressing its budget deficit.... RI union tells mayor: Don't fire all the teachers:  A union representing teachers in the state's financially troubled capital city says it has met with the mayor to discuss the decision to send them all termination notices... Wis. Schools Eye Layoffs As Impasse Continues:  Wisconsin school districts are warning teachers that their contracts might not be renewed as Gov. Scott Walker's plan to cut nearly all public employees' collective bargaining rights remains in limbo... Seeking Integration, Whatever the Path:  A North Carolina school district is considering integrating schools based on student achievement...Kansas seeks to opt out of part of "No Child Left Behind" KSNTV:  Davis sent a letter to the secretary of education asking that the requirements stay at levels from last year until the state can implement Common Core Standards.  Those standards would establish uniform expectations of what students should know by high school graduation... Va. African Americans split in battle for school choice:  Latrina Hite cuts up fruit for the children's morning snack at Precious Blessing Academy. She fixes their lunch. She mops bathrooms, bleaches doorknobs to kill germs and helps students with homework in after-school care... L.A. Unified set to renew charter contract despite evidence of cheatingL  The director of Crescendo charters, which operates six campuses south of downtown L.A., directed principals and teachers to let students study the actual exam questions on important standardized tests... Former D.C. Schools Chief Aims To Put 'StudentsFirst':  Michelle Rhee became one of the most controversial figures in education reform when she tied pay increases to merit and fired hundreds of teachers who she said were underperforming. Now, she's heading up a group to advocate on behalf of children — not special interests groups like teachers unions.

Video: Mom Shames Teen For Bad Grades / FCAT Performance

The sign reads "I DID 4 Questions on my F-Cat AND Said I Wasn't Going to Do it!" said the sign, written in black marker on a large piece of paper hanging around the 15-year-old's neck. "GPA 1.22... Honk if I NEED [an] Education." (Mom's public punishment stirs debate) via TDW


Video: Rhee Is "Despised By A Lot Of People"

Picture 102While the debate over the merits of his book and its subject's accomplishments continue online -- see Kahlenberg's followup critique  -- Rhee biographer Richard Whitmire appeared on ABC News to talk about what Rhee did and how it applies to situations in other parts of the country. (Nice glasses -- very Clark Kent.)  Correspondents Karen Travers and John Karl seemed a little disinterested -- I can't believe that this was their idea to do the segment-- and at moments Whitmire seemed a bit uncomfortable endorsing Rhee's firings and turnaround efforts or commenting on the Obama education agenda. My favorite moment? When Whitmire admitted that Rhee is "despised by a lot of people," after Karl brought up the whole Politics & Prose fiasco.  Video here.

Quote: Community College Dropout Factories

Quotes2 The students who go to these colleges are, by and large, strivers... They are steered—via relative tuition costs and geographic convenience—toward precisely those institutions where they are most likely to fail. -- The Washington Monthly "School For Scandal"

Video: Disable Bullying, Says Disabled "Glee" Actor

image from gleehab.files.wordpress.com Lauren Potter, the young actor who plays Coach Sue Sylvester's office helper on "Glee," is leading a bullying prevention campaign focused on bullying of special needs students.  Check out the PSA here.  It's called "Disable Bullying" and notes that too much of the bullying going on in schools is directed against kids with mental or physical differences (in addition to gay, lesbian, and transgendered kids). Of course, this is just an excuse to talk about Glee, which I like almost as much as "Community" (though last night's show was not one of my favorites).  NB:  I thought "disabled" was out but perhaps, obvs, it's not?  Image via Gleehab

Thompson: What If Veterans Got Assigned The Toughest Classrooms?

Principals Morgaen Donaldson of the Center for American Progress surveyed thirty principals about developing of high-quality instruction. Especially in high-needs secondary schools, there is a shortage of qualified applicants, which is a result of their chaotic culture. Except in charter schools, there was a shortage of time. Several principals were expected to evaluate twenty teachers, as well as other staff. Even in strong union districts, many principals had the power to observe teachers at any time and include any information in their evaluations, but concrete realities complicated their efforts. (Emphasis was Donaldson's.) Most principals also had complete power to assign teachers to freshmen classes, but those jobs were dumped on rookies. Those teachers were likely to leave their school.  On the other hand, if veteran teachers who had paid their dues in the toughest classes in the toughest schools were reassigned to teach ninth graders, there would be more discord and the same result.- JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.

Wisconsin: So, Do "Reformers" Support Collective Bargaining?

image from images.betterworldbooks.comThe President's been waffling.  Secretary Duncan's been silent since his bland equivocations in Denver. What about reformy types?  It's been hard to tell.  Michelle Rhee announced a campaign against "last in first out" earlier this week (here) but hasn't made any statements about Wisconsin that I've seen or responded to my emails so far.  (My guess is she'll be OK with strike bans and bargaining limits.) No response yet from Stand For Children, either, though Jonah Edelman's organization did support an Illinois reform package that included strike ban legislation last month so obviously it's not a deal-breaker for them, either. Andy Rotherham claims he's not against unions -- just the laws they help get passed (here).  Only DFER says it straight-out opposes Walker's budget bill (see the email below). Of course, the seeming disarray is all very amusing for long-standing union critics like Checker Finn, who mocks reformers for waffling and ducking (here), or Mike Antonucci, who says he's ready for an end to the "fog of bipartisanship" (here). In reality it's not an easy call for reformistas, who risk losing support and funding if they go too far to the right or losing face (and funding) if they soften their critique or limit their attack. So mostly they're just keeping quiet and hoping no one notices too much.  Image via

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Unions: Wife Of Republican WI Lawmaker Gets Layoff Notice

image from www.salon.com Senate leader Fitzgerald's wife gets layoff notice AP:  Among those receiving preliminary layoff notices this week is the wife of Republican Senate Majority leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau. Lisa Fitzgerald is a counselor in the Hustisford School District... Leader of Teachers’ Union Urges Dismissal Overhaul NYT:  In Ms. Weingarten’s proposal, which she presented at a meeting of union leaders and researchers in Washington on Thursday night, teachers would be evaluated using multiple yardsticks, including classroom visits, appraisal of lesson plans and student improvement on tests.... Nonteachers’ School Pay Under Scrutiny Texas Tribune:  Determined to cut education costs, lawmakers are looking at the salaries of administrators and other nonteachers in the state’s school districts... Image via

AM News: More Districts Looking For Fake Addresses

image from webmedia.newseum.org Schools Boost Efforts To ID Fake Student Addresses NPR:  In a Pennsylvania case, Latoni Crowder used a cousin's address to ensure her eighth-grader could continue at Central Dauphin East Middle School in central PennsylvaniaIn California, the San Francisco Unified School District started cracking down on residency fraud about a year ago. In Georgia, Houston County superintendent Robin Hines said he decided to get tough in 2009 after hearing of parents lying on address affidavits to get their children into his 26,000-student district... Urban Students Fall Behind National Average On Science Proficiency Reuters: Public school students in the nation's largest cities, many from low-income households, trail their peers elsewhere in the United States in a test of science proficiency, said a report released on Thursday... Mastery Charter 'Restarts' Philadelphia's Struggling Smedley Public School Politics Daily:  Unlocking Potential, founded by Scott Given, a 30-year-old former charter principal. Before he even opened up a school, Given had interest from 23 school districts, including those in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore and New Haven, Conn. This fall, he'll undertake the first restart in Massachusetts' history... Ga. principal's 'no gold teeth' rule prompts video:  The principal of Savannah High School was always telling his students to tuck in their shirts and take out their gold teeth. So a group of students decided to write a hip-hop song about the badgering.

Jobs: The Private Sector's (Misplaced) Anger At Public Employees

The Washington Post's Ezra Klein:  "[There's] a perception that people in the "real" economy have suffered greatly, while public workers have been cosseted by their union contracts, their lobbying might and stimulus dollars. And there's some truth to that. The public sector basically sat out the first year of the recession." 

Mother Jones' Kevin Drum: "If the economy tanks, that doesn't mean there are fewer fires, less crime, or a smaller number of kids in school...the demand for their services is just as high as it was before the recession."

Quotes: "A Peek Inside The Boiler Room"

Quotes2 Ideally, [teacher blogs] are doing two things: helping teachers get through the day and [giving] a peek inside the boiler room so we can see what it's really like in a school. -- Yours truly in the Christian Science Monitor story about the Natalie Munroe case

Thompson: No Mystery Why Teacher Quality Became Big

Egypt_protest For a former journalist, Richmire Whitmire shows a notable lack of curiosity into the origins of political conflicts.  In The Bee Eater, Whitmire writes, "To me, the actual reason why teacher quality, Rhee's core reform philosophy, suddenly became a mainstream issue the public "got" will remain a mystery.  It just did." He notes "Waiting for Superman," and the Wall Street Journal's,  Steve Brill's, Deborah Gist's, and others' attacks on unions, and then he expresses wonder that they all happened at almost the same time.  All of  those teacher-bashing efforts that he cites, however, can be linked to Michelle Rhee, The New Teacher Project, and its billionaire donors.  Whitmire writes a biography of the TNTP's founder, as well as a study of five districts honored by the Broad Foundation, but he doesn't have time or energy to ask why attacks on tenure "suddenly pop(ped) to the surface of the nation's pysche?"  - JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.

Video: Colbert Interviews Terrorist Teachers Union Leader

Concerned about terrorist unions, Colbert had "Mullah Sheik Omar Randi Weingarten" on his show a couple of nights ago: "Everybody knows teachers unions are totally discredited.  You hurt our children every day.  Why should we continue to allow you to organize so you can hurt our children and our country and our budgets even more?" he said. Meanwhile:  Wisc. Teachers Who Protested In Madison Docked Pay, Disciplined HuffPo. And:  Could Wisconsin controversy boost teachers’ unions? Yahoo News.

AM News: Pink Slips For Everyone! (In Providence)

image from webmedia.newseum.org Every Providence teacher gets layoff notice in crisis AP:  The financially troubled city issued layoff notices to all its nearly 2,000 teachers because city officials say they must make an unknown number of cuts in the budget and they want “maximum flexibility.’’... Robert Bobb On Why Detroit Has To Close Half Its Schools CNN: Robert Bobb, emergency financial manager, says he'll shut down 70 schools, leaving 72 open. And in order to help fill the $327 million budget gap, it's going to happen fast, he tells CNN... School demonstrates progress Boston Globe:  Using technology to get kids excited about math is just one of many ways education at Silver Hill has changed since the school was transformed three years ago...  Should We Pay Kids To Study? NPR:  Paying kids to get better grades doesn't work. But paying them to do other things — like reading books — does seem to boost achievement... City teacher wins classroom makeover BatlSun:  For her efforts, Abby Haven was chosen over about 20 of her peers for a makeover of her James Mosher Elementary classroom. The city teacher's union will remodel the space over the summer at a cost of about $2,000... Principal in Phoebe Prince suicide case says he will retire Boston Globe:  The principal of South Hadley High School, under fire for his handling of the alleged bullying that drove 15-year-old Phoebe Prince to commit suicide last year, is retiring, he confirmed yesterday... Ed. Dept.'s Melendez Entertains Job Offer EdWeek:  Melendez has not been a high-profile part of Arne Duncan's team. When you think about the big initiatives the department has undertaken—from Race to the Top to ESEA reauthorization to School Improvement Grants—she has not been out front on any... Image via Newseum

Movies: "Bad Teacher" Looks... Sorta Funny

ScreenHunter_23 Feb. 23 15.46Want to know what happens when schools pit teachers against each other to raise standardized test scores for a big individual bonus?  Nothing good -- at least not in Bad Teacher, the new movie in which Cameron Diaz plays the worst teacher ever and only begins to try to do her job when she decides she needs to impress substitute teacher (and possible rich guy) Justin Timberlake.  She'll do anything to get him -- including teaching kids how to pass the annual test.  I'd show you the trailer but it's VERY foul-mouthed and you might not find it amusing.  This is not a very humorous time of year.  But it's around here somewhere.  Maybe over on "Hot For Education," this blog's evil twin.  Now where could that be?

Update: Local Board Rejects "Parent Trigger" Petition

image from www.latimes.comCommunity input is always good -- when it supports the same things you support.  Ditto for democracy -- except when you don't agree. The LA Times' Teresa Watanabe has a story out about Compton's just-announced rejection of the parent trigger petition that was supposed to kick off a turnaround effort at McKinley Elementary School (Compton parent trigger: School board rejects parents' petition).  The signatures are wrong, the petition is constructed incorrectly, etc.  Parent Revolution says it's going to challenge the dismissal though it hasn't responded to specific claims.  Here's the actual document in which the local district lays out its thinking (PDF).  Image via LAT.  Thanks to TW.

Thompson: States Unsure They Can Implement Obama Plans

Consultants In 2007, the Center on Education Policy reported that states lacked the capacity to implement NCLB mandates, and sure enough, children are still being left behind.  Since then, most state departments of education have often suffered cuts exceeding 10%, and more cuts are anticipated in the next two years.  Now, the CEP reports that states will invest an unprecedented amount of federal funding to improve 5,000 of the nation’s lowest achieving schools, but only a handful of states say they have the expertise, staffing, and funding to carry out their promised reforms. In "More To Do, But Less Capacity To Do It," CEP concludes that the Duncan Administration's ambitious reform agenda "may hit a wall in 2012." - JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.

Events: How To Tell An Edu-Reporter From A Teacher-Blogger

image from www.edleadernews.comHere's a fun take on what happens when you mix education reporters and educators together, as EWA and CCNY did last week (The Curious Case of the Alt-Cert Custodian), noting among other things that teachers sometimes out-earn reporters, that reporters write for editors while educators write for each other, and that teachers want to be heard while reporters just want story ideas.  The author also coins the term "blogistical" and mocks me for posting several blog items but not saying much about the conference itself.   I'll take any attention I can get, as you well know, and will only note that I did contribute a couple of relevant Tweets to entertain those in the room and watching from afar.  In any case, check it out.  Via StaceySnyder.

Whitmire: Smackdown At Politics & Prose

image from www.politics-prose.comMichelle Rhee biographer Richard Whitmire probably hasn't been enjoying the last few days of critical attention his book has been getting.  First, a question and answer session at DC's Politics & Prose bookstore turned confrontational, as described by Whitmire here and by a participant here.  Then Richard Kahlenberg wrote a critical review of the book in Slate, my post about which Whitmire thought was unfair and unbalanced (comment here).  Last but not least, a January report purportedly written by retired USDE veteran Alan Ginsburg  (PDF here) questions Rhee's claims about DCPS having the greatest NAEP gains in the nation and making improvements in every subgroup.  This comes after Whitmire's first couple of mainstream reviews from Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews (here )and DC public schools reporter Bill Turque (here) were generally complimentary (surprising in the latter case because Whitmire slams Turque's coverage of Rhee in the book).  Even last month's squall over Rhee's resume didn't seem to dampen anyone's view of the Whitmire book.  

Teachers: Why Attacks On Bargaining Might Not Spread

Will Wisconsin spread?340x_nycoffee WP (Ezra Klein): At this point, it seems clear that the unions have, if nothing else, conveyed the message that ending collective bargaining wil be a difficult, exhausting, and polarizing fight wherever it is tried. And that might prove enough to get other governors to think twice before trying it... Minn. unions rally in support of Wis. cause AP:  Hundreds of state workers, teachers and union allies jammed Minnesota's Capitol rotunda Tuesday to show solidarity for fellow workers in Wisconsin and to vow that what's happened there in recent days won't be repeated in Minnesota... Once-mighty UTLA loses political muscle LAT:  Barring an upset, the largest bloc on the school board will remain generally allied with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a former UTLA organizer who has become a strong critic of the teachers union... Charter school says it's private as teachers try to unionize Chicago Tribune: Eight of the city's 38 charter schools have organized teachers who've negotiated and signed contracts, officials say, and four others are pushing to do the same. 




AM News: Can We Be Done With February Yet?

image from webmedia.newseum.orgOkla. Senate panel OKs changes to teacher firings AP:  A handful of bills making it easier to fire public school teachers and expanding the use of charter schools across the state cleared a Senate panel on Monday... Newark may consolidate schools AP:  Newark school officials are considering a massive reorganization of the city's schools that would make more space for charter schools....Financial scandal hits Seattle Public Schools Seattle Times: Seattle Public Schools spent up to $1.8 million on contract work that was never done or didn't benefit the district, triggering a secret criminal investigation into allegations of financial fraud... Number of breakfasts offered to Md. students increases BatlSun:  A national survey of teachers was released indicating that children regularly come to school hungry... Court won’t hear ‘No Child’ challenge AP:  The US Supreme Court decided against hearing Connecticut’s challenge to the federal No Child Left Behind law yesterday... Census estimates show 1 in 4 US counties are dying AP:  Here as in one-fourth of all U.S. counties, West Virginia's graying residents are slowly dying off...Grading essays: Humans vs. machine USAT:   It can tell you if someone has "knowledge of academic English" and whether someone has the "fundamental skills" needed — enough information to use in placement decisions, along with other tools, as is the case at NJIT... States make gains in building data systems eSchoolNews:  Seventeen states cannot link teacher and student data, 15 states do not collect course-taking information, and 11 states report the inability to link K-12 and postsecondary data. Via Ednews.org



Video Interlude: 4th Grader Sings Lady Gaga

This little girl's cover of "Born This Way" has nearly 8 million views already:

Thompson: What We Need To Know

NeedWe need to know what is in every segment of this outstanding PBS Need to Know  episode, from the roundtable discussion with Susan Szachowicz, Zakiyah Ansari, and Pedro Noguera,  to its scientific evidence that explains why high-quality physical education increases academic performance.  My favorite, however, is the account of Brockton High School where the entire faculty helps improve reading comprehension, writing, and thinking skills.  In educational parlance, this is known as "horizontal alignment,"  which is a fancy word for teamwork.  In Brockton, chorus teachers teach literacy by exploring the history of the music they sing, and science teachers use writing to improve analysis and critical thinking.  Every class should contribute to reading comprehension, outlining the written word, and problem solving, and Brockton shows that teamwork horizontal alignment works.   - JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.

Labor: Will De-Fanged Unions Make Schools Better?

image from si.wsj.netLike you, I'm looking for a sensible middle ground on this whole union / budget / strike rights debate that's going on in Wisconsin among other places (WSJ).  The budget and benefits part seems easiest to me, considering that public employees spend so much less than the rest of us on health insurance.  There's a recession, and everyone needs to pitch in.  But after that it all gets a little murkier.  It's one thing to wish for thinner, better collective bargaining agreements -- or even to support the creation of organizations like DFER, Stand, and Students First that would balance the political playing field.  But it's another to pull the rug out from under the whole collective bargaining endeavor -- to ban teachers from striking, or exclude almost everything from the list of what can be bargained.  In his column today (Power, not money), the Post's Ezra Klein declares that it's an issue of whether governments should be allowed to default on their commitments to the working class much more easily than they can to banks and international creditors. For many of the rest of us, I'm guessing, it's an issue of how far we really want this reform thing to go.  For all the complaints about union contracts and hypocrisy, do you think that a world without effective public sector unions is going to be a better place for kids and education?  

Maps: Which States Have Collective Bargaining?

Republicans in Wisconsin and other places are trying to change their states from light blue to tan.  As you may recall reading here last month, Democrats in Illinois tried a similar maneuver (banning teachers from striking) but were beat back.  Via Talking Points Memo

Media: Selling The TFA Miracle / Disaster Story

There's an interesting anecdote in a recent John Merrow entry about how insufferably polarized foundations and news outlets have become when it comes to education stories (The Influence of TFA).  Down in New Orleans to cover the effort to revamp the schools there, Merrow's team followed a handful of TFA corps members to see how they did, but the outcomes were mixed.  Some did well, others flopped.  A few did a bit of both. And, seemingly as a result, Merrow couldn't find anyone who wanted to fund or broadcast the teacher profiles.  A silver lining of sorts is that they're presented online in "Real World" format (here).  The segment above profiles Jeylan Erman, aka "The Perfectionist."  

Reform: Calling Rhee (Biography) Out

image from img.slate.com Nearly everybody seems to like Richard Whitmire, the former USA Today editorial writer and EWA president whose biography of Michelle Rhee is just out this month, but Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation says that the book has some serious problems (Waiting for Superwoman). And no, his focus is not just on economic integration.  Writing in Slate, the gist of Kahlenberg's critique is that Whitmire (and the rest of the national media) are so enamored of the Rhee fairy tale that they fail to scrutinize the basic usefulness of her top-down, confrontational strategy and the true measure of her accomplishments as head of the DC public schools. Journalists fall for their subjects all the time -- think Jay Mathews (KIPP) and Paul Tough (Harlem Children's Zone).  But Rhee is at the tip of the current school reform spear and Kahlenberg is doing a service by standing up and raising some worthwhile questions about whether Rhee's strategy works and what she did and didn't accomplish in DC.  

AM News: Budget & Bargaining Proposals Roil States

image from webmedia.newseum.org

Wisconsin Governor Refuses Unions' Offer:  Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker again rejected a proposed compromise Monday to end a political stalemate over collective bargaining rights that led to 14 Senate Democrats skipping town and motivated tens of thousands of people to march on the Capitol in protest for more than a week... City teachers receive career 'paths' under new contract BaltSun:  Baltimore City teachers were notified last week of their new career "paths" and salaries by the school system, one of the first developments of the landmark Baltimore Teachers Union contract... Indiana panel OKs labor bill as unions protest AP: Union supporters shouted "lie" and "shame" at members of a Republican-led Indiana House committee who voted in favor of so-called right-to-work legislation, after impassioned arguments that it was aimed at weakening unions and would drive down wages... Democrats split over governor's proposed education cuts Denver Post: Shaffer told reporters Monday that he wants his committee leaders to scrub about half of Hickenlooper's proposed cuts to education by suggesting cuts elsewhere. Shaffer asked for proposals by March 7... In Memphis, old strife heats up over schools, race AP:  A bold bid by the struggling, majority-black Memphis City Schools system to force a merger with the majority-white, successful suburban district has fanned relatively routine fears over funding and student performance into accusations of full-blown racism....Schools using GPS devices to track students NPR:  A school district in Anaheim, California is the latest to distribute GPS devices to habitually truant students. But what role does a private company in Texas have in monitoring the students?.. Family of Fairfax teen suicide victim wants changes in school disciplinary policies WP:  The family of a Fairfax teenager who took his life as he struggled with the fallout of a high school suspension called for changes in the county's disciplinary policies, in a letter sent Monday to school and county officials. Image via Newseum.

Teachers: Turnaround Protest In Philadelphia

The Philly Notebook reports on a teacher who's been removed from her classroom over district plans to convert the school into a charter turnaround (The audacity of Hope Moffett).  Is the district being rash in declaring schools in need of turnaround, or are teachers like Moffett being shortsighted in protesting improvement efforts?  

Technology: Tracking Students With GPS & Tranquilizer Darts

Quotes2 All teachers should get an iPhone app with little blips showing where all their kids are. Twice every day assistant principals can roam the land with tranquilizer darts and 4x4s and bring in the truants. -- Gawker post about truancy pilot effort in California

AM News: Budget Messes In DC and Wisconsin

image from webmedia.newseum.orgDemocrats join GOP in voting to block tighter regulation of for-profit schools WP:  Dozens of House Democrats, including the party leader, joined with Republicans Friday in a vote to block an Obama administration plan to tighten federal regulation of trade schools and colleges operated for profit... Obama makes pitch for his education and high-tech agendaPresident Obama paid a quick West Coast sales call for his education and high-tech agenda, dining with industry royalty at a private meeting in Silicon Valley before touring a state-of-the-art semiconductor plant in Oregon... More LA schools convert to charters as funds dip LAT:  El Camino Real High School has won six national academic quiz championships, boasts test scores that rank it as one of California's top secondary schools, and offers two dozen college-level courses ranging from macroeconomics to human geography...  City to Toughen Auditing of School Test Scores NYT:  The move appears to acknowledge concerns that schools might be manipulating the statistics they are judged by... Md. gets a C for teaching of U.S. history BaltSun:  By the time students get to Matthew Finck's 11th-grade U.S. history class, the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln are vague memories, historical facts they haven't heard about since eighth grade... Wis. Capitol Becomes A Stage For Demonstrators:  Demonstrators are keeping up their nearly weeklong protests in Madison, Wis., amid anger about a plan by Republican Gov. Scott Walker to take away collective bargaining rights for many public employees. Legislators have abandoned the Capitol, and so has the governor, turning the building into something of a giant performance space... School Board Vote Called 'Modern-Day Segregation' NPR:  In a controversial move, the Wake County School board in North Carolina voted to end its "busing-for-diversity" program in favor of sending children to schools in their own neighborhood. Host Liane Hansen talks with Superintendent Tony Tata, a military brigadier general and the former COO of the D.C. school system. Image via Newseum

TGIF: What To Tell Friends Who Ask About Wisconsin

Picture 101Today was the second day of no class for Madison students, whose teachers are engaging in a mass sickout in protest of proposed limiits on collective bargaining as an alternative to budget cuts and layoffs (NYT).  President Obama has suggested that he agrees that unions can be an impediment (Politico).  His education secretary took the middle ground, noting that Governors shouldn't abandong "hardworking teachers" but that there is "room for everyone to compromise." (different Politico)  Or maybe he was just talking about NCLB reauthorization again.  

Quote: USA "Never Led The World" In Education

Quotes2 The United States never led the world. It was never number one and has never been close to number one on international math tests. Or on science tests, for that matter.  - Brookings' Tom Loveless in a recent Jay Mathews post


Thompson: Hang Together or Hang Separately

Join I do not know which was better news, the Madison teachers' sickout, or Secretary Duncan's labor-management conference.  When collective bargaining is threatened, teachers can either fight honorably, even if we go down together, or we can abandon the profession separately.  But if we want to improve education for children, then unions, administrators, and political leaders must hang together.  My complaint with the Duncan Administration is that he has empowered both reformers and "reformers" to innovate to improve student performance, or to damage the teaching profession.  He overlooked the need for checks and balances, as he bestowed incredible power on management.  The beauty of our constitutional democracy is our culture of the "loyal opposition," where we see our opponent as an opponent and not as an enemy.  The conversations started this week could help restore a comparable culture in many of our schools. - JT (@drjohnthompson)  Image via.

Media: Confusing "Well-Heeled" With "Well-Trained"

ScreenHunter_16 Feb. 16 14.50Well-heeled?  Some of them.  Well-trained?  Not so much. From the Washington Post via Patrick Riccards


Teachers: Weighing "Last In" Vs "Highly Qualified"

image from www.nypost.comWhich is worse -- a school losing all of its youngest, most energetic teachers due to budget cuts, or a school losing all of its best-trained and committed teachers because they're older, more expensive, and less obviously flashy?  The question is relevant because you hear a lot these days about how awful "Last In, First Out" (LIFO) is for schools and teachers and kids.  Indeed it can be a devastating thing to have folks let go or bumped purely based on seniority, and several places around the country including LAUSD are trying to modify the practice of seniority-based firings. On the other hand, not all of the newer teachers who are in danger of being let go are fully trained and certified teachers who are planning on making a career out of education.  They're all considered highly qualified thanks to the TFA exemption put into NCLB, but that doesn't mean they all know what they're doing.  What message does it send to those who are considering education as a career and who have been in it for more than a few years to put them on the chopping block?  We're really making a mess of certification, that's for sure.  Not that it wasn't already a mess.  But it seems a shame to make things even murkier while we're still working on reliable new evaluation measures.  And even though certification is considered nearly worthless I think it's a shame that we could end up reducing poor kids' exposure to qualified teachers.  Image via.

Events: Carnegie Corporation / EWA Teacher Training Confab

Here's what journos, bloggers, and educators have to say in real time about the CCNY / EWA teacher training confab that's taking place on this glorious mid-February Friday in NYC: Crossed fingers it's a useful day and the Tweets are interesting:

We're on the 26th floor of an office building near 30 Rock.

Old School: Remembering "The Daily Report Card"

Picture 100Where were you in 1996?  Folks whose work history goes back to the 1990s may remember The Daily Report Card, the email newsletter put out by the National Education Goals Panel and produced for at least part of the time by Barbara Pate.  Check out the old school Telex-style graphics.  Check out the crazy things education reformers were talking about 15 years ago.  As Jeff Bingaman's education LA in the late 1990s I read TDRC every day and think of it as the godparent to mine and nearly every other news-oriented blog that's come since then.  TDRC came to mind recently when I read that Pate was now involved with the Media Bullpen, CER's new effort to call balls and strikes on education journalism (see below). 

Teachers: Free Natalie Monroe!

image from www.csmonitor.comWhat's the proper fate for a teacher who complains anonymously about her students online -- and gets caught?  Should she be chastized or even fired, or held up as a truth-teller?  Her name's Natalie Munroe and she described some of her kids as lazy whiners, among other things -- without naming names.  But the kids figured it out, she's been suspended, and her case has aroused both derision and praise. Maybe teachers should be banned from using social media altogether?  Or limited to happy talk?  You be the judge. Where does free speech and useful feedback end and where do code of conduct violations begin?  Via the CSM.  

Giving: DonorsChoose Invades Your Local Starbucks

Picture 99Log into the free but slow wireless in your local Starbucks and you may see this ridiculously cute Dr. Seuss-loving kid shilling for DonorsChoose on the splash page.  No longer the new kid on the block, DonorsChoose still seems to have some fight left.  No word yet on the mobile giving app that I've been pestering them to add, but other than TFA it's hard to think of an education outfit that's better-branded than they are.  Of course, like TFA, Donors doesn't necessarily offer a long-term, fundamental solution.  But you can't have everything, or so I'm told.  

Thompson: A Little Help For Brownfield Schools, Too?

image from ecx.images-amazon.comRick Hess may be on his way to popularizing a concept that could end our educational civil war. His new book, Education Unbound, promotes "Greenfield" schools that are not burdened by the regulations that have developed over the generations.  I love his assault on the timidity of "the status quo,"  Hess is wonderful in lampooning the failure of NCLB-type accountability. It is the attack on Brownfield schools, that are not free from the legacy of generational poverty, that must be fought. Nobody could expect urban neighborhood schools, that can not "cream" the most motivated students, to meet the same growth targets as greenfield schools.  So, in return for the deregulation sought by innovators when serving niche markets, we should expect their help in freeing neighborhood schools from the micromanaging of the accountability hawks. The deal should appeal to Hess, who did not even speculate how Greenfield schools might address generational poverty. - JT (@drjohnthompson)  Image via.  

People: Mike Piscal's Las Vegas Move

image from graphics8.nytimes.com Former ICEF head Mike Piscal is now in Las Vegas EDing the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy (announcement here).  

As you may recall, Piscal left a job teaching private school to start a South Central chain of charter schools that was generally regarded as effective, only to step down in the wake of financial difficulties last year.  

His network, ICEF, continues under new management.  

Picture via NYT.

Media: Peeling Back The Presidential School Visit Curtain

Picture 96Tightly scripted Presidential school visits are nothing new as this Kent Fischer article from the Clinton era shows -- but as you'll see they're not always a lot of fun for the teachers and kids (PDF).

Standards: Conservatives Battle On Standards, History

image from images.chron.comThe debate over Texas' much-discussed history standards continues with Fordham Institutes new ranking of state efforts.  Fordham called out the Texas standards (Houston Chronicle).  The state board of education chair fired back, calling Fordham's report misinformed.  The state education department noted that Fordham advocates national standards and receives funding from the Gates Foundation (among others).

Quote: Sticking To "Actionable Items"

Quotes2 If the conversation strays from the question of what is the responsibility of the person who is talking, then we’re not on solid ground anymore.  -- Balto supe Andres Alonso in Denver via EdNews CO

Reform: Another Questionable Urban Prep "Success" Story

Picture 98The event was transmitted live online and the Mayor was in attendance along with a throng of media.  There were repeated assertions that what was being done was unique nationally.  The occasion?  The announcement that - for the second year in a row -- all of the senior class at Chicago's Urban Prep had been accepted to a four year university.  But the school's graduation rate isn't really 100 percent.  Roughly 40 kids of the starting class of 2011 didn't make it through at, an issue raised on my blog and in the WSJ (here) last year.  Some transferred to other schools, perhaps even to good ones. But others likely didn't.  There's no mention in the latest Tribune story about the dropout rate, and so far at least no one from the school has responded to my queries. No doubt, there are good things going on at the school, and congratulations to the kids, their families, and the school.  But why exactly does Urban Prep have to make such a big deal of such an obviously questionable number when it has so many other accomplishments to tout?  Image via Tribune.

AM News: Denver Vs. Wisconsin Labor News Showdown

image from webmedia.newseum.org Wisconsin schools closed after teachers call in sick in protest Yahoo News:  Schools are closed in Madison, Wisconsin today after an estimated 1,000 teachers called in sick to protest Gov. Scott Walker's bid to limit unions' right to collective bargaining... School officials, teachers unions scrutinize Obama's divisive education agenda WP:  President Obama often professes his desire to shake up public education while also working with teachers unions. But a question hangs over this week's gathering of hundreds of labor leaders and school officials: Can he do both at the same time? .. U.S. education secretary calls for more teacher-district cooperation LAT: After a year of often using financial incentives to spur school reform, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan unveiled a different approach during a two-day conference in Denver: urging districts and teachers unions to develop trusting relationships and work together to improve student achievement... ESEA's Big 8 Head to White House to Meet With Obama EdWeek:  The administration has been trying to schedule this meeting since before the State of the Union, sources told me. In fact, at one point they were aiming for the day after the speech, but that didn't work out because of scheduling conflicts. Image via.



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