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Blogs: Best Blog Posts Of The Day (So Far)

Keyboard_surfing_the_internetBrookings, Ed Media, and Missed Opps Eduwonk:  Ultimately, the data provided by Brookings makes for lovely water cooler or cocktail party chatter for those in ed policy circles, but it does very little, if anything, to help advance improving communications in the education arena...  You Cheated Me? I Believe It… Eduwonk::  There are numerous professions with high-stakes consequences for performance where cheating is not rampant. Besides, that argument insults teachers by implying that they can't achieve challenging goals without cheating...Education Love-Fest on "Morning Joe" Daily Riff:  Not embracing the status quo and doing everything we can to push for re-invention and self-renewal in education." Howard Shultz, Randi Weingarten, Geoffrey Canada... Education: two important proposals teacherken:  This morning, two pieces of legislation intended to address some of the inequities of current federal educational funding will be introduced by Rep. Chaka Fattah, D- PA02... Where’s Obama resolve on the budget battle? EJ Dionne: He talks periodically about his priorities, but he hasn't put any muscle behind those who are actually trying to defend them in the brawl that's raging at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue... What We Talk About When We Talk About School Closures Ed Schmidt:  But schools are like homes and these venerable old buildings are connected to countless families. There are powerful emotional threads in the schools that tug at the hearts of children, parents, grandparents... The Best Parody Ever of UCLA Student Alexandra Wallace's Anti-Asian Rant GOOD:  The parody has over 2.6 million views—Wong actually has a really great voice—and is downloadable on iTunes. Best of all, he's donating the proceeds to charity. ANY MORE - WHAT'D I MISS?

Quote: "Reformers" & "True Progressives" Both Wrong

Quotes2 On the one hand we have “reformers” who don’t really care if tests are accurate as long as “reformers” are in charge of school systems. Then on the other hand we have people who’ve decided that the one true progressive pro-teacher position is to insist that schooling doesn’t matter and educational attainment can’t be measured. -- Matthew Yglesias

Cartoon: The Secret Gentrification Plan

Tom Toles on Gentrification from 1998 via Matt Ylgesias

Media: "Futures Of School Reform" Blog Looks Like The Past

This is the *future* of school reform?  I gotta say it sorta looks like the past (and don't think Rick Hess really needs yet another outlet for his wisdom).  Then again I'm no spring chicken myself and have long called for more folks who actually know what they're talking about to weigh in on education issues being discussed online.  So here's to the olds -- welcome! -- let me know if they say anything interesting.  (The Futures of School Reform).

Books: Reform Lessons From "Four Fish"

image from www.fourfish.org What's a 2010 book about the future of fish have to do with education reform (or anti-reform, if that's your thing)?  A lot, if you ask me.  Tthe book describes the success of well-known campaigns like the Greenpeace effort to stop whale hunting, the campaign to "give swordfish a break," and also the limitions of efforts that relied on individual consumer behavior to generate large-scale change (sound familiar yet?).  The book reminds us that there is presently no environmental lobby in DC -- no Greenpeace for education, no NRDC, no World Wildlife Federation to counterbalance the industry (just the EdTrust doing it fulltime, really).  And it reminds us that luck and radical behavior are sometimes necessary to making change.  I'm not saying you should go fire up the old Zodiac, but the Monterey Bay Aquarium's "good fish, bad fish" cards haven't done the job and I'm guessing information and altruism alone won't be enough to get things changed for the better in education, either.  

Thompson: D.C. Scandal Shows Why We Still Need Checks and Balances

BlindJustice Perhaps the defining characteristic of this generation of young accountability hawks is their impatience with institutions that slow their righteous crusade to transform schools.  For instance, the main idea of mayoral control of schools in D.C. and elsewhere is to remove obstacles to "reform." USA Today's analysis of possible cheating in D.C. schools reveals a system that was oblivious to the need for checks and balances.  Firstly, D.C. claimed that its internal investigation of testing irregularities was adequate.  Then, members of the State Board of Education were kept in the dark about the findings of outside investigators.  The district created an environment where students' and teachers' concerns were ignored, and it lived up to its reputation of disrepecting parents. The District alone decided what newspaper stories were worthy, as it stonewalled other investigations.  It only cooperated with "the fourth branch of government" when it made them look good. Our constitutional democracy can be slow, but the Washington Post reports that now there will be independent investigations.- JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.   

AM News: Rhee Recants Attacks On USA Today Story

image from webmedia.newseum.org Rhee says her remarks on test erasures were “stupid” Washington Post:  She said that she thinks cheating might have occurred in the District and that she is glad her successor, Acting Chancellor Kaya Henderson, ordered a new investigation... As Sweeping Layoffs Loom, Schools Gird for Turmoil NYT:  Minneapolis schools shed 15 percent of their teachers, the report says. But each year half the teachers laid off in the spring were rehired in the fall. Half of those rehired returned to teach in a different school.... House Passes School Voucher Bill NYT:  The SOAR Act will provide $20 million annually for five years to provide scholarships for low-income students... Obama woos Hispanic vote on education AP:  President Barack Obama, aware of news that the U.S. Hispanic population has hit 50 million, is turning his attention on issues key to Hispanics, including education... First lady Michelle Obama speaks at DC school AP:  First lady Michelle Obama urged high school students on Wednesday to think about their career goals and the job market before deciding what type of education to pursue... Detroit Considers 45 Charter Schools DA:  The state-appointed manager of Detroit Public Schools identified 45 schools in the struggling district that could be turned over to private charter operators in a bid to improve student performance... Grasmick to step down June 30 BaltSun:  Maryland schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick is stepping down from her post as the nation's longest-serving education chief. Grasmick, 72, announced her retirement to a gathering of workers at the Department of Education office that bears her name, above... MORE NEWS BELOW

Continue reading "AM News: Rhee Recants Attacks On USA Today Story" »

Blogs: Rounding Up The Best Commentary Of The Day

9-25-2010 2-04-33 PM-thumb-350x299-44585 Subpoena Rhee and others in D.C. cheating scandal probe Valerie Strauss:  The only way to know for certain whether a D.C. public school cheated on tests is to subpoena everybody with potential involvement, including Michelle Rhee... It's Common Core-tastic!? Eduflack: There are some great products and services out there that do match up well with Common Core and can help districts and schools meet their current and future obligations.  But anyone can slap a label on a product.  It is up to educators to discern the strong from the squishy...  Vouchers! And Fine Print? Eduwonk:  It’s not worded as strongly as it could be or as some would probably like.  As a general rule stuff like that matters, these things are worded carefully... Boring double-talk on testing Klonsky:  Speaking at a townhall event in Washington, D.C. President Obama said that too much testing makes education boring, and that performance should be measured in more ways than test scores. Classic administration double-talk. It's getting boring.Déjà Vu on the Whole "Turnaround" ThingRick Hess:  When it comes to something like school improvement, something that's a matter of practice, fidelity of implementation, and on-the-ground commitment, the frustrating fact is that federal policymakers can't really do much.

Video: Does President Obama Understand Spanish? No.

image from www.globalpost.com At the Monday event on Hispanic education, Obama appears to understand a question posed to him by a Bell Multicultural High School teacher en espanol! But no, it's an illusion.  The President confesses in his prepared remarks that he's getting help through an ear piece


Thompson: How Today's "Reformers" Will Fail (Again)

2m28duq.jpgBack when I was an excitable young Teamster, I had the same anger toward my corrupt union leaders as today's "reformers" have towards the educational "status quo."  But a union reformer shared the old Okie wisdom of "don't go off rootin' and tootin'..." and, eventually, democracy prevailed in our labor movement.  Today, data-driven school "reform" is a two-barreled shotgun blast from the hip.  The first target,  is bad teachers.  Given the harm that the bottom 5 to 10% of teachers cause, the quick-draw approach of the accountability hawks is understandable, even though their scatter-shot aim is bound to destroy the careers of many good educators.  But the second shot is directed towards our best educators.  Anyone old enough to have an institutional memory, and recall the lessons of earlier unsuccessful reforms, is fair game. Since most of today's "reforms" are recycled quick fixes that have already failed, top-down policy wonks want to make sure that young educators are not exposed to the lessons that veterans learned during previous experiments.

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Reinstatement: Chicago Union Loses Case, Claims Victory

ScreenHunter_04 Mar. 30 10.50Fighters often raise their hands in victory after even the most lopsided bout and that's what's happening in the latest court decision in Chicago, in which both the school board and teachers union sent out press releases claiming victory last night. But it's a victory for the teachers in only the narrowest sense, and a hit on their credibility that they're making such a big deal out of a decision that doesn't get anyone's job back.  Do they think we're idiots? I guess they do. Read all about it  here. [Cross posted from D299)

Celebrities: Madonna's $15M Malawi School Mess-Up

image from fastcache.gawkerassets.com Celebrities want to do good with their money and fame but it's just not that easy to get things done. The latest case is Madonna, whose Raising Malawi charity is being sued by employees and has yet to produce the $15M school it promised (Madonna Charity Targeted by Grand Jury via Gawker).

Quote: Rhee Belatedly Declares Support For Unions

Quotes2 We founded StudentsFirst to create a balance with other special interests, not to snuff out other voices.  -- Former DC public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee


AM News: Union Limits Moving In Ohio, Indiana, & Nebraska

image from webmedia.newseum.org Ohio Panel Approves Public Worker Union Bill AP:  A panel of Ohio lawmakers made a bill to limit collective bargaining rights for 350,000 public workers even tougher for unions on Tuesday, as the state moved closer to Wisconsin-style restrictions... Indiana GOP pushes ahead with big voucher program AP:  Indiana's Republican leadership is pushing ahead with a proposal that would be the nation's broadest use of school vouchers, allowing even middle-class families to use taxpayer money to send their kids to private schools.... Anti-union mood moves to Nebraska's modest unions AP:  In the struggle between governors and unions over public employee costs, Nebraska would seem like an unlikely battleground. Teacher salaries are modest, workers pay toward their benefits and a right-to-work law prevails... School Founder Says Class Size Doesn't Matter NPR: Eva Moskowitz, founder and chief executive of the Success Charter Network, argues that formula doesn't guarantee a good education...School Paddling Still Stirs Debate NYT:  Prompted by the threat of lawsuits and research that questioned its effectiveness, states gradually started banning the practice... Texas Rape Inquiry Shows a 3-Month Ordeal NYT:  An 11 year old girl was repeatedly abused without any adult intervening, or even seeming to register that something was amiss, until sexually explicit videos of the victim began circulating in local schools... L.A. elementary schools to switch reading programs LAT:  The board drops Open Court, which many teachers said robbed them of independence. California Treasures 'is very supportive if you don't have the expertise and respectful of those who do,' says a review panel member... Brady resigns as Providence school superintendent Providence Journal:  Mayor Angel Taveras said Brady had made it clear his mind was made up and thanked the superintendent for staying to oversee the school closings and teacher recalls this spring. Via GreenCramer... First lady Michelle Obama to speak at DC school AP:  First lady Michelle Obama will visit a District of Columbia high school as part of a mentoring initiative in honor of Women's History Month....

Thompson: Toledo Teachers Respond To Peer Review Cuts

Good_Faith_Bargaining When Toledo faced budgetary problems last year, many policemen called in sick with the "blue flue" but Francine Lawrence and the local AFT worked collaboratively and granted concessions -- a move they may be regretting now.  For three decades, reformers like Francine and Dal Lawrence have helped remove ineffective teachers using peer review, but now Toledo wants to save $300,000 by cutting the Toledo Plan and in response the union had no choice but to withdraw its support for the district's Race to the Top grant. The Toledo Blade complains that $10.8 million of federal money has been frozen.  But there's a bigger danger.  By strong-arming unions to grant concessions to states that now may be governed by rightwing Republicans, Ohio's 20 electoral votes were  placed in jeopardy.- JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.

Cartoon: The Annual Parent-Janitor Conference

image from www.newyorker.com
From this week's New Yorker.

Roundup: 10 Best Commentaries Of The Day


Take back that blue ribbon, Secretary  Jay Mathews:  I think the series’ revelations will force a turning point in the national debate over raising school achievement... Incentives To Cheat Yglesias:  Does this mean we should turn all education funding into an unregulated voucher? Does it mean that public schools are just a kind of intangible neighborhood benefit (like a park) that should be funded exclusively at the municipal level?... What would Al Shanker do? Petrilli:  If we reformers don’t understand those assumptions and why they made sense at one time, we’ll never be able to change their minds... Oh, Those "Government-Run Schools" Eduflack: Has no one told these White House aspirants that their beloved charter schools are public schools too?.. The money behind school reform Klonsky:  Gates has been among the loudest champions of building more nukes in this country. He and his foundation have billions of dollars invested in nuclear development, here and around the world... Jaw-dropper of the week Valerie Strauss: All of this sounds like just another unfunded education mandate. So old school... MORE BELOW.  What am I missing?  Anything else I should have included?

Continue reading "Roundup: 10 Best Commentaries Of The Day" »

Quote: Feeling Like We're Onto Something New

Quotes2 Unfortunately, it is a characteristic of reform movements…for its participants to feel they are on the edge of history, solving with new ideas and new tools the problems that flummoxed everyone before. - UCLA prof Mike Rose via Valerie Strauss

Video: Michelle Rhee Describes What Happened

Rhee declined to comment when the USA Today called, but answered some questions from Tavis Smiley on PBS last night.  Via the helpful commenters on Jay Mathews' column on the possibility of cheating in DCPS.

AM News: Obama's *Other* Monday Speech

image from webmedia.newseum.org

Wisc. Schools Told To Hold Off On Teacher Contacts AP: Many school districts, counties and municipalities had been rushing to reach deals before the law that takes away nearly all public employees' bargaining rights kicked in... Race to Top Winners Work to Balance Promises, Capacity EdWeek:  Some states are scaling back ambitious plans and deadlines as they implement their education-reform plans... Obama: Standardized Tests Often Punitive AP:  President Barack Obama said Monday that students should take fewer standardized tests and school performance should be measured in other ways than just exam results. Too much testing makes education boring for kids, he said... Obama focuses on Hispanic education NBC:  Obama talked about the need to invest in early education programs, improve teacher quality, increase parental involvement and fund bilingual and immersion programs for students who have trouble speaking English...Top School Flunks Budget Test WSJ:  In 1997, Academy Heights was converted to a year-round school and now enrolls mainly white, middle-class students from Pinehurst and neighboring communities... Indiana Dems return after 'softening' GOP agenda Associated Press:  Indiana House Democrats are back at work after a five-week boycott to protest a Republican agenda they consider an assault on labor unions and public education, but whether their efforts will ultimately change the outcome of the legislation they opposed is unclear... Jury: Calif. teen guilty in school pipe bomb case AP:  A Northern California teenager accused of setting off two pipe bombs at his former high school in a plot to kill three former teachers who gave him bad grades has been found guilty of attempted murder and weapons charges... 

Cartoon: To Dive For The Ball... Or Not

image from www.newyorker.com

"Still, diving for it *would* look good on my college application." (From this week's New Yorker)

Media: Trust No One (Not Even Yourself)

3D-8bit-Characters-by-Cezkid#mediafail A couple of recent articles highight what you already know:  trust nothing that you read without considering the coverage -- and your own preconceptions -- carefully.  Slate's Jack Shafer describes how journalists continue to fudge the numbers when they can't find one that confirms their storyline and can't be bothered to come up with their own calculation (What journalists write when they encounter known unknowns).  "They grab the nearest [data] available—or most frequently repeated figure—and couch it with the phrase "numbers are hard to come by."  Shafer lists a handful of hilarious examples of this kind of vaguery, including one from the Chicago Tribune about the number of sexual crimes involving teachers and students.  The other story from the Atlantic Wire (How News Sources Change the Way We See News) describes how readers tend to trust what they read depending on what publication runs the story -- not on its individual merits (whether it includes facts, sources on both sides, etc.). Uncritical (most) readers attribute quality to news coverage based on the halo effect not inherent quality.  

Update: Green Dot & Steve Barr Finalize Their "Divorce"

image from graphics8.nytimes.com

Sam Dillon reported in Saturday’s New York Times that Steve Barr's spinoff organization has now changed its name in order to clarify the legal and operational separation between Barr’s current work and Green Dot Public Schools, Barr’s original organization. Dillon describes Green Dot and Barr as “going through a divorce” and is kind enough to mention some of the uncomfortable dynamics that led up to the split that are described in my forthcoming book.

The story behind Barr and Green Dot parting ways is understandably fascinating to education watchers, who rarely get to see any of the internal strife and sausage-making that goes on behind the velvet school reform curtain communicated to them by the mainstream media and reformy blogs. But internal conflicts and partings of ways aren’t really all that unusual in education or other fields (think politics, business, or entertainment). Jon Schnur left New Leaders just a few months ago after having gone through a slew of senior staff over the years. Richard Colvin departed less than two years after having announced the “new” Hechinger Institute. Co-founders Tom Toch and Andy Rotherham fell out with each other and their board and left Education Sector after just four years. The CDF and the Forum have had a lot of turnover.  Tom Vander Ark and the Gates Foundation went their separate ways in 2007, after eight years together.  

The only thing particularly notable about the Barr/Green Dot split is how poorly covered and understood it was for such a long time -- and how long everybody seemed to leave it that way. Marco Petruzzi replaced Barr as CEO of Green Dot in the fall of 2008 and Shane Martin replaced him as board chair in 2009.  The organization formally known as Green Dot America never had much to do with the "real" Green Dot. But no one in the media or among any but the anti-reform bloggers seemed to grasp (or be willing to say out loud) what was happening, and Green Dot and Barr both seemed understandably content at the time to let the circumstances remain vague. [Much the same thing is happening now with Rhee and Klein, whose untimely dismissals are usually ignored in news stories and at conferences.]

The situation would have remained unclear for even longer but a recent NYT article about Barr’s possible expansion in NYC made apparent just how confused everyone was.  (A story in GothamSchools fails to explain the split or the rationale behind the renaming.) Friday's news was the signing of the final divorce papers after a long separation – and the beginning of what one hopes is a strong future for the work being done by Barr and Petruzzi.

Media: Big Day For Annual Education Journalism Prize

image from spencer.jrn.columbia.eduToday's the big day for the annual Spencer Education Fellowship at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.  The current crop (Goldstein, Toppo, Carr) -- it's year three if you're counting -- have already presented their updates to the advisory board members, who are then locked in a room in the basement until they agree on three Spencers for next year, plus an alternate or two.  If necessary, the heat will be turned off and the lights dimmed to an annoying flicker.  Rave music has been used in the past.  Then some calls are made, the new folks are announced via puffs of white smoke out the window of Sam Freedman's 8th floor office, and the cycle begins all over again.

People: Solomon To Head Boston Reform Group

image from www.bostonteacherresidency.org News out today is that the Boston Plan for Excellence, the "critical friend" to the Boston Public Schools long headed by former Kennedy staffer Ellen Guiney, is soogoing to be run by Jesse Solomon, who's headed the Boston Teacher Residency program for the past several years.  Details below.  Congrats, condolences.  

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Thompson: Attendance Challenges For Charters & Nabe Schools

Absenteeis The New York Times report on absenteeism at Chicago's Talent Development Charter is important, but I was struck by its mention of the city's Marshall High School.  It has an attendance rate of 53.5%! After checking out that story, I concluded that Chicago's leadership was absent without leave of their senses!  According to a 2008 Catalyst report, students at Marshall missed an astonishing average of 50 days of school. So, the district addressed the truancy problem with a new rigorous curriculum, as if it was the lack of engaging instruction that was the real problem.  Little was done to address attendance and in-house suspension was cut.  - JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.

Video: Geoff Canada, Reform Hostage, Makes TV Appearance

Geoffrey Canada

The Huffington Post reminds us that Geoffrey Canada appeared on Jimmy Fallon last week to talk about the Harlem Children's Zone, a fundamentally "broader, bolder" initiative that was hijacked by the mainstream media and the reformy crowd (and Canada's decision to serve kids using charters instead of neighborhood schools).  Come back, Geoff.  Come back.  (Get over the charter schools, progressive types.  Get over it.) Video here.

AM News: Districts Hiring Failed Principals To Run Turnarounds

image from webmedia.newseum.org Ousted principals quickly find new education jobs AP:  It didn't take long for Ev Arnold to land on his feet, though: The same district now pays him the identical salary to oversee the school's turnaround...  'Value-added' teacher evaluations: L.A. Unified tackles a tough formula LAT:  In Houston, school district officials introduced a test score-based evaluation system to determine teacher bonuses, then — in the face of massive protests — jettisoned the formula after one year to devise a better one... As Student Absenteeism Rises, a Charter School Fights Back CNC:  At the Chicago Talent Development Charter School, the administration and staff are trying different tactics to fight a citywide problem of student absenteeism... Madonna’s Charity Fails in Bid to Finance School NYT:  Plans to build the $15 million school have been abandoned amid criticism of what auditors called $3.8 million in outlandish expenditures... Behind The Scenes: How Do You Get Into Amherst? NPR:  Admissions committees at selective colleges sometimes have to plow through thousands of applications to choose the members of next year's freshman class. The committee at Amhest College in Mass., will accept only 1,000 of the more than 8,000 students who applied... Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann Criticize Public Schools Reuters: Three potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates expressed hostility toward the public school system at a home schooling rally on Wednesday in the early presidential caucus state of Iowa... When test scores soared in D.C., were the gains real? USAT:  Twice in three years, Rhee rewarded Noyes' staff for boosting scores: In 2008 and again in 2010, each teacher won an $8,000 bonus, and the principal won $10,000... One Student Shot at Indiana Middle School Atlantic Wire:  According to CNN, the student in custody may have been "recently expelled." .. School Named In Honor Of Teacher Jaime Escalante AP:  A Los Angeles-area school has been named for late calculus teacher Jaime Escalante, whose story about pushing underachieving students to succeed was chronicled in the 1988 hit movie "Stand and Deliver."

Events: Notes From Yale SOM 2011

Picture 19 #somELC It was something of an "off" year for the Yale SOM education conference – not in terms of attendance or quality of the program but rather in terms of VIPs and the atmosphere of self-congratulation. Faced with charter quality problems and political setbacks and all the rest, could reformers have finally learned humility to go along with their urgency?  It wouldn't be a bad thing. In any case, there was no video greeting from Arne Duncan or even any high level USDE officials in attendance.  [Andy Rotherham complained that the USDE’s Brad Jupp had to conference into the morning session because the Administration was being “run like a Central American country."] There was no Wendy Kopp, Jon Schnur, Jonah Edelman, or even Michelle Rhee. There weren’t any other reporters or bloggers there (that I know of).   Some sort of fall-off was inevitable, considering that the previous two events took place shortly after Obama was elected and right when the hullabaloo surrounding the competition for Race To The Top was in full force. Plus a recession and all of that. 

In a positive development for a community that can be pretty insular, there were not one but two sessions focused on unions and contracts – one morning session with the AFT’s Joan Devlin and New Haven’s Garth Harries, among others, plus a lunchtime session with the superintendents for New Haven and Baltimore plus Randi Weingarten.  My small but growing list of school reform “amphibians” (those few who’ve switched from school, district, or state work to nonprofit or private sector work, or switched from labor to management):  Andy Smarick, Chris Cerf,  Garth Harries, Kevin Huffman, Sandra Scandera (NM state supe), Mike Johnston, Jon Schnur, Andy Rotherham (sort of), Brad Jupp, John King, Jo Anderson, Michelle Rhee.  

The best session I saw focused on the reform movement’s inattention to (hostility toward?) community engagement and featured some powerful insights about why reformers often find themselves fighting against (and losing to) the people they think they are trying to help. Derrell Bradford, Danielle Smith, Ref Rodriguez, and Michala English lit up the room, IMO. Ellen Winn moderated.  I wish Michelle Rhee and Jonah Edelman and others who are hoping to beef up this part of the reform effort had been there to listen because I worry that they are about to make some preventable mistakes.  Reformers are beginning to understand the need for stakeholder involvement but only as an afterthought not from the start (Danielle Smith/ BAEO Connecticut)

Other things I heard, thought, saw below the jump. TLDR?  Twitter feed here.

Continue reading "Events: Notes From Yale SOM 2011" »

Video: Real-Life 12 Year-Old Bests "Good Will Hunting"

So this is a 12 year old boy with what's described as mild Asperger's who is apparently smarter than Albert Einstein, pretty much done with college, and on his way to solving several of the world's toughest problems:

Daily Mail via Slatest

Thompson: Aspen Institute Documents Flaws of Teacher Evaluation System

StressThe Aspen Institute study of  Washington D.C.'s controversial IMPACT evaluation system provides more evidence that it was not ready to be more than a pilot study. IMPACT only produced "a modest correlation" between the evaluators' judgments and value-added test score growth.  In addition, IMPACT imposed this intense stress and conflict on all educators in order to increase the percentage of teachers eligible for immediate termination from .2 to  3% -- something that could have been accomplished by sending a memo to principals instructing them to be less forgiving of their worst performers.  And even if the district now takes the time to correct IMPACT's flaws, how will it address its effect on the 700 teachers who were indicted as "minimally ineffective" under its not-ready-for-prime-time debut?- JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.

Turnarounds: Day One At The "New" Locke High School

Viewer (1)

"As the 8:00 a.m. starting time approached, a stream of nearly 2,500 black and Latino students flowed toward Locke High School from every direction. Off the bus, out of parents' cars, or (mostly) on foot, the throng passed the school's electric marquee and a couple of squad cars and TV news trucks before finally reaching the front gate.

"Not all of the arriving students were allowed to pass inside, however. Several stood in little clusters off to both sides of the gate unbuckling their belts and shoving the tails of their polo shirts down into khaki pants. Once inside, the teens tugged their shirts and rearranged their belongings like airline travelers after going through security.

"Monitoring them was rookie assistant Zeus Cubias, the 34-year-old former Locke math teacher who had been tapped to help oversee the returning Locke students. He had long, wavy brown hair, small hoop earrings in each ear, a closely trimmed goatee, and chunky glasses. A tiny microphone was perched on his lapel, courtesy of the camera crew from Nightline, just one of several media outlets on campus.

"Cubias was willing to go along with Green Dot if it meant making Locke better. He'd gotten his first tattoo, Christ the Redeemer superimposed over the nearby Watts Towers, to commemorate his decision to stay. And if there ever was a movie version of the Locke turnaround story, he wanted Johnny Depp to play him."

This is the first of an occasional series of excerpts from my forthcoming book, Stray Dogs, Saints, And Saviors. You can preview the book here.  

Events: Yale Education Conference 2011

Sorry about the lack of updates but I'm at the Yale SOM education event. I'll do a writeup tonight or over the weeken but in the meantime here are some of the Twitter updates that are being sent out:

My first take is that there is lots of interesting and useful discussion but a very different vibe from last year or the year before -- no video greeting from Duncan, no Michelle Rhee, much less talk about Race To The Top and charters as a reform vehicle, less of the past self-congratulation.  It's not quite humble but it's not quite so brash as I recall from previous years.  

Quote: "A Nation Of Cowards" On Issues Of Race

Quotes2 Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. - USAG Eric Holder (2009)

Teachers: Send teacherken To National Blogging Conference

image from www.democracyforamerica.comOne of the nation's top classroom teacher bloggers, Ken Bernstein, needs your vote to go to the Netroots Nation blog conference this year -- and I don't think you even have to agree with him in particular to support the effort.  Click below to read the details, or skip all that and click here to vote for him. He's leading the pack right now but needs your support against the hordes of others.  It's free.

Continue reading "Teachers: Send teacherken To National Blogging Conference" »

Infographics: Kids Will Soon Turn Assignments In This Way

One of the new Huffington Post hires first came to widespread attention a couple of months ago when he was just a wee journalism student and turned his resume into an infographic (a graphic timeline, the oldsters might call it):

image from tctechcrunch.files.wordpress.com

I predict that students will soon apply to colleges using these -- or substituting them for your olde timey book report / diorama assignments -- and that the results won't be nearly as elegant or useful as this example. It gets worse.  Pretty soon PowerPoint will have an infographics option, along with the Facebook version, and there will be an Infographics app for your smartphone offering to turn any report, website, or dataset into an easy to read visual representation for just 99 cents.  

Reform: Whatever Happened To The CDF?

image from www.childrensdefense.org

Back when I was growing up, the CDF was a widely-recognized and seemingly powerful advocate for low-income children's interests, but by the time I arrived in Washington 20 years ago it was greatly diminished and no longer really working on K12 issues as far as I can tell.  Nothing seems to have changed much since then, and I rarely hear or read about the CDF any more.  I'm not sure I'd agree with what the organization might have to say on school reform issues but I'm still curious?  What happened?

Quote: The Sneaking Dangers Of Confirmation Bias

Tumblr_li92xa0vYI1qznj3eo1_500"Everyone's vulnerable to confirmation bias. Everyone has to guard against it. Everyone." 

-- Sherman Dorn

Thompson: Toxic Circumstances, Toxic Classrooms

John-Legend-Nadine-BurkeIn yesterday's NYT, Bob Herbert piece explains that schools with "toxic concentrations of poverty" represent an intractable problem - at least if we commit to the "reform" of turning up the stress on teachers and principals.  This reminds me of the story from last week's New Yorker in which writer Paul Tough describes how adversity in early life can disrupt the brain circuits that are needed for literacy. Young students who have been traumatized often find it harder to sit still and follow directions.  These teens engage in more risk-taking and confrontational behavior and when just ten of these students experience the chemical imbalances created by trauma they help "create in a classroom a culture of hitting, of fighting - not just for the ten kids but for all thirty."  - JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.

Change: School Reform's "Red Envelope" Problem

image from www.benjaminroyce.comThere'll be lots of shiny young MBA types looking for jobs at the 2011 Yale SOM education conference later this week -- and lots of TFA and KIPP and New Leaders recruiters looking for new hires (87 pp Chrome-crashing PDF here).  But is that really the right thing for them to be doing at this particular point in the game? I'm not so sure.  

Hard as it might be for them to contemplate pivoting away from the programs they've dedicated their lives to and made a name creating, reformers might need to do just that to a much greater extent than they seem willing to do thus far (despite lots of lip service to the importance of movement creation and advocacy that's going around).

Continue reading "Change: School Reform's "Red Envelope" Problem" »

Update: Two Richards Enter, One Richard Leaves

ScreenHunter_02 Mar. 22 12.15The latest in the Whitmire/ Kahlenberg debate over Michelle Rhee's accomplishments as head of DCPS is Whitmire's apparently asked for -- and been denied -- a correction in Kahlenberg's Slate article and brought in his own expert on NAEP data to dispute Alan Ginsburg's reoport comparing Rhee's NAEP scores to her predecessors (Slate Refuses to Correct Kahlenberg article on Rhee).  Now I've known Mike Casserly a long time and never thought of him as a NAEP expert.  I can't tell at this point whether Whitmire is defending his book or Rhee, though it's clear he's enjoying the debate or convinced deeply of his rightness (why else announce you've been turned down for a correction).  But shouldn't it be Rhee who's demanding a correction, not Whitmire?

People: American Teacher Loses Life In Japan

Wow, that's sad.  Her name's Taylor Anderson, and she was a 24 year old English Teacher.  She died after helping everyone evacuate her school.  Via Jezebel (Teacher Is First American Victim Of Japanese Tsunami)

Video: Blackboard Down

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Odyssey Dawn

"You can't simultaneously fire teachers and Tomahawk missiles.  No, wait, hold on... I just got me a brilliant idea:  At oh six hundred hours the United States commenced Operation Blackboard Down.  'Your essays are still due on Tuesday...."   From The Daily Show last night -- sorry not to have posted it earlier.  The fun starts at the 2:45 mark

Thompson: The Spring Uprising Many Kids Are Missing

TahirI wonder how many young teachers have been so thoroughly socialized into "teach-to-the-test" they do not even attempt to buck the system by bringing an in-depth study of  contemporary world history into World History classes.  According to WNYC , many teachers across the NYC metro area offer wonderful, one-day lessons on the revolutions spreading through the Arab world.  But they have no time to go into the depth that the transformations deserve because of the relentless pace required to cover the state's curriculum, real instruction takes a back seat to standardized testing.  This seems deeply unfortunate, if not entirely wrong. - JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.

Ideas: Accountability, Flexibility, & School Lunch

image from www.chicagomag.comThanks to Chicago writer Whet Moser for helping me finally understand why I should care about the whole school lunch debate, which as a "serious" education blogger I've generally thought of as silly yuppie parent/ public health stuff.  Not my business.  School lunch is something of a big story in Chicago because not only is the system weaning itself off its infamous daily offering of cheese nachos (remember from last year?) but also experiencing a new mandatory school breakfast program that teachers hate but kids apparently need.  Still, I'm not interested until Moser connects lunch food to something bigger:  "We demand accountability, as we should, but demonstrating accountability calls for data, which calls for standardization, which calls for structure across schools, districts, and even states...That can make it hard to run a "small, nimble operation," whether it's a school or a school cafeteria." (The Other School Reform)

People: Michelle Rhee's Diane Ravitch Problem

image from images.nymag.com
Along with a fair amount of rehashing of old material there are lots of interesting tidbits and insights in the latest New York Magazine profile of Michelle Rhee (here) including the news that Rhee opposes the effort to strip teachers of bargaining rights in Wisconsin and that she's building an organization that she hopes will be a powerhouse force along the lines of the NRA, the Obama 2008 campaign, and the Tea Party.  What's missing from the article is both obvious and subtle:  that Rhee chose to stay silent during the Wisconsin debate rather than step forward and assert her leadership and vision, that she views attacking LIFO as an easy win rather than a problematic and unnecessary quagmire, and that her message is still problematically vague and negative (something she shares with Diane Ravitch), .  I guess it boils down to two opposing concerns:  that she's a misguided but unstoppable force whose efforts will make things worse, or that she's not quite ready for the task she's taking on and her efforts will fall short of their gargantuan scope.  My concerns come from both sides of the ledger -- I know what she's against but I want to know more about what she's for, and I want a better sense of exactly how she aims to accomplish it.  How about you? 

Media: Huffington Post Hires New Education Reporter

image from www.mediabistro.com Former contributor Amanda Millner Fairbanks has just been hired as education reporter at the Huffington Post, which is on a post-AOL merger hiring spree.  After a stint running GOOD's education page and previous work at the NYT, Fairbanks will now cover national education news and her work will appear on both the main page and on the education vertical. Given the merger and all the other staffing changes it seems like there may also be changes in how the education page is handled going forward.  As you may recall, HP's education page was created last year under a deal with an LA-based outfit called Causecast, which also ran its social action page (called "Impact").  It clustered a slew of bloggers (most of them familiar names) onto the page, posting five to seven commentaries per day, plus reported and (mostly) aggregated content above the fold.  Fairbanks is based out of New York and is being edited by a HuffPo editor.  It'll be interesting to see how this pans out.  

Parents: Comparing Test Protest Moms To Vaccine Moms

image from 5magazine.files.wordpress.com"Pulling your kid out of testing to save his curiosity feels a little tone-deaf when many children are struggling with reading and addition... Any attempt to scuttle standardized testing needs to acknowledge that even if the tests are problematic, the deficits they attempt to address are real — and any alternative approach needs to face these deficits, not just walk away from them." Via Jezebel: Parents Wage Misguided War Against Standardized Testing.  Feel free to disagree in comments.  (Pretty much only people who disagree with me read this blog.)  

Video Interlude: The "Indie" Version Of "Ferris Bueller"


Thompson: The Return of Boss Tweed

Tweed New York City established the Office of Family Engagement and Advocacy to build communication between schools and families, long a problem in urban districts around the country.  The NY Times reports, however, that the city recently asked nearly 400 coordinators to round up parents’ signatures on a petition supporting Mayor Bloomberg's top political issue -- a story first broken by  GothamSchools.  Not surprisingly, people are upset.  The politicization of the parent outreach office had been increasing for months. Then the office's coordinators were told that their jobs were endangered because of seniority.   There was little discussion of the ethics of politicizing parental outreach, and coordinators were told to express, “No negatives, only positives.”   In fact, that phrase would "become like a mantra, repeated over and over during the meeting."  The district won't say who was responsible, or really apologize. -- JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.



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