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Cartoon: "I'm Bored"

Picture 38
From this week's New Yorker.  It's going to be a long summer.

Thompson: It's Not So Easy Balancing Accountability & Trust

Safe According to Managing for Results at the New York City Department of Education, a part of the AIR retrospective on NYC reform written by Stacey Childress et al, NYC's leaders knew all along that accountability couldn't just be a punitive regime. There also had to be high levels of psychological safety for adults to learn -- a high level of trust. Schools with high accountability and "high organizational learning" outperformed schools with low accountability (as they defined it) and low organizational learning." But engineering high accountability and high trust together at the same time wasn't easy.  Childress found 172 schools that were "high/high," meaning they had both a culture of accountability and earned their autonomy, while 180 were "low/low," meaning that something backfired.  Read the full report and see summaries of several others here.  JT(@drjohnthompson) Image. via

Quotes: SWAT Team Visit Not Instigated By USDE

Quotes2 The [USDE's] Inspector General’s office does not execute search warrants for late loan payments. -- Justin Hamilton, USDE spokesperson

Media: Another Attempt To Judge Media Bias

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Check out FairSpin, which looks like it's attempting to crowdsource views on the accuracy and bias of mainstream coverage like this Stephanie Banchero WSJ story.  I'm not sure how well they're doing it, or if it's any better or different than the Media Bullpen (about which I've heard nothing since its launch), but thought you might want to know.

Video: An Education Mention On A Sunday Talk Show

CBS's Bob Shieffer: "We keep talking about American exceptionalism and how our core strength is American values. But if our students don't know enough history to understand HOW our values were shaped and WHO shaped them, don't we risk losing though ignorance what those who came before us fought and died for?" (Schieffer)

AM News: Changes Coming For Detroit, Newark

image from webmedia.newseum.org Rick Snyder to announce sweeping DPS reforms Detroit Free Press:  There are no plans to dissolve the school board, sources said... . Fight Ensues Over Facebook Money for N.J. Schools NPR:  Nine months later, jubilation over the gift has turned to anger and suspicion about the real purpose behind the money... Ohio, Idaho Look To Repeal Education Reforms HuffED: A volunteer group of public workers that shares a building with the Ohio Education Association, announced Friday that it had surpassed its goal in receiving enough signatures to put up to popular vote a law passed in March that strips public employees of most collective-bargaining rights...  'Save Our Schools' Grassroots Movement Hoping For Staying Power EdWeek:  Thousands of educators, parent activists, and others are expected to convene in the heat and humidity of Washington next month for a march protesting the current thrust of education policy in the United States, especially the strong emphasis on test-based accountability...  Wasserman Foundation donates $1 million to L.A. Unified LAT:  The private foundation's contribution will fund four programs and up to five positions for the school district, which has been battling multimillion dollar shortages for several years...  Wisconsin Expands Private School Voucher System EdWeek: In yet another controversial move, Wisconsin's Republican-led legislature has approved a potentially major expansion of the state's voucher system... At High School in Queens, R.O.T.C.’s Enduring Influence NYT:  The program at Francis Lewis High School, which has grown every year since its inception, is the largest of the 1,725 high school chapters in the country... Difficult to Place, Students May Be Relocated Again Bay Area Citizen:  The San Francisco Unified School District plans to end its partnership with the Erikson School, which teaches children with severe behavioral problems... Woonsocket teen becomes RI's first online graduate AP: A teenager from Woonsocket has become Rhode Island's first public school student to complete nearly all of his credits through online classes...  After Home Schooling, Pomp and Traditional Circumstances NYT:  A nontraditional movement goes mainstream, embracing many of the trappings of the graduation season. footballs.

People: Meet Andreas Schleicher, Education's Malcolm Gladwell

image from cdn.theatlantic.comWriter Amanda Ripley takes up the challenge of making a data geek seem interesting in her new Atlantic Magazine profile of Andreas Schleicher, aka "The World’s Schoolmaster."  As anyone who has seen Schleicher speak can attest, Ripley has her work cut out for her.  She describes Schleicher as "a rail-thin man with blue eyes, white hair, and a brown Alex Trebek mustache" and gently mocks his speaking style and his data-cluttered Powerpoint. Her profile follows Schleicher at the international meeting of administrators and unions arranged by the Obama administration in New York earlier this year, at times edging close to overhyping its subject  (a necessity to get a story like this assigned in a general readership magazine). Still, it's interesting to find out a little more about how Schleicher became involved in the international data comparison industry, how PISA became a household word - in Germany, at least -- and to read about the reassuringly familiar resistance to international comparisons among nations (mirroring the resistance you can find domestically among states, districts, and even schools claiming their students are different despite NAEP, etc.). There's one news tidbit included:  a 50-100 school-level PISA pilot coming to the US next year.  Towards the end, Ripley addresses the underlying question of whether Schleicher's "willingness to convert data into pragmatic advice" is a problem, especially given there are only 165 schools in the US PISA sample. AIR's Mark Schneider calls him a salesman, and the concern reminds me of concerns social scientists raise about writer Malcolm Gladwell, who popularizes and simplifies complex findings and research in ways both useful and not.  

AM News: Expansion/Backlash Continues For Charter Schools

image from webmedia.newseum.org New Charter School Laws In Maine, North Carolina, Tennessee HuffED:  Despite these new laws, charter schools face sustained backlash, the most prominent of which came in the form of a Georgia Supreme Court decision... House GOP Seeks to Bolster Charters in ESEA Rewrite EdWeek: Even though charters have fans on both sides of the aisle, the bill doesn't have a bipartisan stamp of approval just yet... Henderson has council support Washington Post:  Acting Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson coasted through her D.C. Council confirmation hearing Thursday with seven of 13 council members pledging support. She should be approved next week... Maintaining Pre-K Day, via Tuition Texas Tribune:  Faced with the loss of grants for full-day pre-kindergarten programs, some schools plan to charge tuition to those who can afford it — and possibly some who cannot... Walker promises swift action on Wis. budget AP: Gov. Scott Walker promises swift action on his budget now that it's passed the Republican-controlled Legislature without a single Democratic vote... City Reduces Chronic Absenteeism in Public Schools NYT:  One of every 15 elementary school students in New York City were absent on a given day this year, compared to 1 in 9 in 1995, a study shows...  Study finds students confident AP:  Should the word “entitled’’ be used when talking about today’s younger people?...  Teachers Union Confronts Some Crucial Decisions Chicago News Cooperative:  Now that the Board of Education has rescinded a 4 percent pay raise, the Chicago Teachers Union has some crucial decisions to make. [Whatever happened to the Washington Post's national education coverage?  Will it ever return?]

Five Best Blogs: "Sorry About Your Burning Village"

Dance_steps_multiple_small Unions Assail Duncan's NCLB 'Regulatory Relief' Scheme Teacher Beat:  NEA wants the whole law waived, no strings attached! AFT probably feels like it's more likely to get changes to its liking through a rewrite than through a waivers-and-strings approach... Sorry About Your Burning Village Cato:  Most people in education policy pick and choose when they’ll invoke the Constitution based on whether or not they like what the Feds are doing or are proposing to do...  The No Child Left Behind Showdown Rotherham:  If the almost universal unpopularity of Duncan's proposal ends up bringing people together and energizing the legislative process, then it's a clever act of leadership... Stop blaming teachers for poor student performance Baltimore Sun:  The entire focus of President Barack Obama's educational policy is to replace public schools with charter and non-union schools... Younger People Have The Most Favorable View Of Labor Unions Matthew Yglesias: This may just be that young people are more left-wing in general. Or it may be that older cohorts’ views of labor unions are very impacted by labor’s role in the inflation of the 1970s... Do American Schoolkids Suck at History? Mother Jones:  American schoolkids aren't getting any worse at history. It's also clear that the history profession has a very high bar for what it considers minimal proficiency in U.S. history...  Tiger Mom's Daughter Was Valedictorian Gawker:  Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, perfect Chinese daughter of tiger mom Amy Chua, gave the valedictory speech at her high school graduation. 


Chart: US Education Spending/Achievement Vs. Other Nations

See the pretty balloons and ribbons -- it looks like a birthday card! 

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Click here to see the full chart and where it came from. Let us know in comments whether you agree with the presentation and/or the data.  Via Whitney Tilson. 

NCLB: What's Your Favorite Loophole?

image from www.affordablehousinginstitute.org All this talk about NCLB waivers reminds me of all the waivers and examptions that are already part of the NCLB framework -- many of which make the law (according to me) too lax rather than too strict.  Some of the loopholes were added even before the law was enacted:  letting states backload AYP targets and lower state test standards, letting districts refuse student transfers out of hand, letting districts receive funding despite massive payroll inequities between schools. Others have been added since: redefining TFA corps members as highly qualified, letting low-performing districts provide their own federally funded after-school tutoring, letting schools use n-size definitions that limit subgroup accountability. These are only a few of the ones I can remember off the top of my head -- maybe you have a favorite? There are lots of waivers and loopholes and exemptions already in place for states and districts receiving billions in federal education money every year.  A few of them made sense but many didn't.  So let's make sure that any new set of exemptions is extremely targeted and justified beyond the short-term convenience of state and district administrators and their representatives in DC. Image via

People: Kathleen deLaski, StudentsFirst Engagement Director

image from bov.gmu.edu#studentsfirst You think you know everyone in town but then spot a strange name or face at a big statehouse hearing -- someone possibly younger and shinier than the rest of the folks who've been doing this for eons.  Who's that, you wonder?  These days it's probably some startlingly young or well-dressed hire from Stand For Children (or DFER, or StudentsFirst) come to the Capitol to tell credulous lawmakers how bad things really are and what needs to be done (and maybe even how to do it). He or she may not know where the bathrooms are but might know a lawmaker or lobbyist by first name. And -- who knows? -- he or she might bring some good ideas or energy into the room, too.  That's basically what happened last week in Pennsylvania, where, tucked into the agenda for the hearing in Room 1 North Office Building was the name Kathleen deLaski, the "Engagement Director" for StudentsFirst (yes, seriously that's a title).  deLaski used to be a program officer for the Walton Family Foundation (boo! yay!). Before that, she was at Sallie Mae (communications), and AOL (politics and government), and a few other places including the Clinton administration.  Pictured right, rocking the cat-eye glasses and a sort of dressed-up Anne Heche look.  Bio here.  Any new faces showing up in your statehouse?  Let us know who they are, what they're wearing, and how they're doing.

Continue reading "People: Kathleen deLaski, StudentsFirst Engagement Director" »

AM News: No Raises (But Pay Increases) For Chicago Teachers

IL_CT (7)Chicago to Rescind Teacher Raises WSJ:  The board of education voted unanimously Wednesday to rescind 4% raises that teachers were scheduled to get in the next school... School Board rejects teacher raises, union plans to negotiate decision Sun Times:  Roughly 75 percent of all teachers will get automatic raises of between 1 percent and 5 percent for adding another year of experience or for increasing their credentials... The year school budget cuts went straight to the classroom Stateline:  Governors have proposed a net of $2.5 billion in cuts to K-12 education and $5 billion in cuts to higher education, according to NASBO... Phasing Out State Control of Post-Katrina Schools HuffED:  A new proposal for running New Orleans' schools mandates the creation of three school boards: one general elected board that manages the schools' overall finances and facilities but cannot directly operate them; one appointed board that oversees charter schools, which are publicly funded and can be privately run; and another that runs traditional public schools... .. Gun at anti-violence film shoot leads to arrests AP:  Police arrested an Oakland student, teacher and school counselor after finding a real gun among props that were being used to shoot a video in a public park about the dangers of gun violence.... Michelle Obama helps build DC school playground AP:  First lady Michelle Obama mixed and poured concrete, attached swings to a swing set and raked mulch for an hour Wednesday at a charter school in a low-income Southeast Washington neighborhood... Food aid stirs emotions, splits GOP Politico: Already on the defensive, scores of House Republicans joined with Democrats on Wednesday to beat back repeated conservative attempts to make still deeper cuts from nutrition programs and food aid overseas.


Video: NFL Star Gives Speech To Alternative HS Grads

Speaking of "troublemakers" here's a video clip of NFL quarterback Michael Vick giving the commencement speech to kids graduating from an alternative high school:

He was speaking to graduates one of five Camelot Schools in Philadelphia. Camelot is an alternative school provider who's been used a lot by Vallas, among others. (Vick gives commencement address to graduates)

Thompson: Why Turnarounds Work (Or Fail)

Centralfalls You can call the attempted transformation of Central Falls High School a "shambles" or a "joke" or a "cautionary tale" but you can't call it a success. As chronicled in Claudio Sanchez' recent NPR story said that the restructuring was "pathetic." Indeed, as the first year of school turnarounds at scale comes to a close, we are bound to read of more failures 

Probably the best example of what it takes to turn around the toughest schools is Kenyatta Stansberry, the tattooed, spiky-haired principal of Marshall High School in Chicago, recently profiled in the Chicago Tribune. Stansberry, "the Marine," "will not take any lip. She can defuse a hard-core gangbanger." And "she patrols Facebook into the night, looking for signs of a brewing school fight or just to tell her students. 'It's 11 p.m. Time to go to bed.'" 

To gain control of the school, however, 161 students were sent elsewhere, 104 of them transferred to other schools, and 34 went to alternative schools. (I wonder whether the principals of the 104 transfers will be equally diligent in addressing behavior, so that the influx of potential troublemakers does not further damage their schools.) Then, the love part of the tough love approach was able to show results. Stansberry identified a core group of remaining troublemakers and met with them once a week. "That group of 10 is now down to five -- she calls them 'the Fab Five.'" 

It is true that "troublemakers" are potential leaders, but turning them around takes a commitment that has been lost on most data-driven reformers.  We should honor leaders who respect the moral core of students and do the hard work required to create safe and orderly schools. Apparently it took ten years for Dr. Bertie Simmons to turn around Furr High School, in Houston, but when violence spun out of control, the hand-picked principal decided against expelling gangbangers. Instead, "She took 32 gang members, none of whom had ever been on an airplane, to Ground Zero. They saw the empty footprints. They walked the hallowed ground. They prayed in Trinity Church. Dr. Simmons also took them to the United Nations, to Chinatown, to Central Park, to the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. They even saw a Broadway show. In one trip, these kids saw more of the world than they had seen their entire lives. When they got back to Houston, the violence abruptly stopped."

I have experienced the hard work, as well as the joy, of appealing to the better angels of teens, as we introduce them to the wider world. Because of NCLB, however, we do not even bring kids in Oklahoma City on field trips to the Murrah Federal Building Bombing Memorial. But while I expect many more stories about turnarounds that failed after taking the quick and easy approach of blaming violence and disorder on teachers, I hope that true believers in turnarounds will learn from Dr. Simmons and Ms. Stansberry.

JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via. Cross-posted from the Huffington Post.

Quote: Accountability Helping Kids Do Better At History

Quotes2 Focusing more clearly on making sure that kids aren’t falling behind in their core skills is helping the worst-off kids do better across the board even at history. -- Blogger Matthew Yglesias

NCLB: Waiver Proposal Fails To Break Logjam

6a00e54ef964538834014e89004d86970d-800wiFive days in and there's still pretty much no one besides the state and district administrators clamoring for relief who likes Duncan's Plan B "recess reauthorization" -- though Patrick Eduflack Riccards comes close -- and it's not at all clear that the idea has done anything to jumpstart reauthorization talks on the Hill, either (the underlying goal of the Duncan proposal).  NEA president Dennis Van Roekel came out against the idea almost immediately, caling it "more of the same bad patchwork quilt of disparities in our education system."  George Miller came out against it at yesterday's CAP event, according to EdWeek (Rep. Miller Not a Fan of Duncan's NCLB Waiver Plan) as did AFT president Randi Weingarten who said a waiver approach "creates a disincentive to get the law reauthorized (at about 44:20).  Chairman Kline noted on NPR that Race To The Top was already one giant waiver and NCLB didn't need to be turned into another.  It's a double whammy -- folks either don't like the idea of waivers, or they don't like the idea of attaching Race To The Top-like strings (see FireDogLake and Hess), or both.  Not even NCLB's harshest critics -- the Diane Ravitches of the world -- have come out in favor of the waiver plan.  Meantime, the tough work of making sure that Race generates some real changes continues with state implementation visits (Department Officials Visit Massachusetts to Learn About Race Implementation), and House Republicans are moving ahead with their piecemeal approach. 

Books: "New Culture Of Learning" Named Summer's Best

The only education book Atlantic Magazine includes on its list of 10 Essential Books for the summer is A New Culture of Learning.  

"Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown bring a refreshing perspective on the subject with equal parts insight, imagination and optimism...[making] a compelling case for a new kind of learning, one growing synchronously and fluidly with technology rather than resisting it with restless anxiety, a vision that falls somewhere between Sir Ken Robinson's call for creativity in education paradigms and Clay Shirky's notion of 'cognitive surplus.'"

Full review, complete with video interviews with the authors, here.

AM News: Don't Know Much About History

image from webmedia.newseum.org Students Stumble Again on the Basics of History WSJ:  Fewer than a quarter of American 12th-graders knew China was North Korea's ally during the Korean War... Few Students 'Proficient' In U.S. History HuffED:  If you can identify one advantage American troops held over the British in the American Revolution, chances are you know more U.S. history than most eighth graders... U.S. Students Remain Poor at History, Tests Show NYT:  American students are less proficient in their nation’s history than in any other subject, according to results of a nationwide test released on Tuesday... States balance budgets with cuts, not taxes Stateline: For many [incoming Republicans], big budget gaps represented not a crisis but an opportunity to realign state government around a smaller mission... In Teaching, Pink Slips Are A Way Of Life NPR:  For many teachers, job uncertainty is one of the biggest downsides of their profession...  A Missed Opportunity to Discuss Education? EdWeek:  This must be a key talking point for Democrats today, because former press secretary Robert Gibbs sent a fundraising email to folks pointing out the same thing... How much influence does a parent have on a child's education? NPR:  A look into the overall influence parents might have on their kids' collegiate futures... Suspected pipe bomb part of Ohio student project AP: What authorities in Ohio feared was a pipe bomb left in the bleachers at a school track has turned out to be a prop in a summer class project.... L.A. Unified names arts high after Cortines LAT: The LAUSD Board of Education unanimously overrode its own procedures as well as objections from some parents and teachers to name its downtown arts high school after Ramon C. Cortines, who retired as the district's superintendent in April... Homeless mom who became education touchstone busted for selling crack, cops say The Lookout:  Tanya McDowell, the homeless mom in Connecticut who started a national debate when she was arrested for enrolling her son in a neighboring school district, has been arrested for allegedly selling crack and marijuana and offering prostitutes to undercover cops.

Five Best Blogs: (Not About Duncan's Waiver Proposal)

100927_talkcmmntillus_p233 The 14 Biggest Ideas of the Year The Atlantic:  The conservative damning of the public unions was not entirely wrong, but it was crucially incomplete... NPR Gives Up On CFHS Tom Hoffman: Out of all the schools in the state, CFHS's turnaround should have been approached with care and caution, not haste... Full disclosure is fine with us NCTQ:  The belief that the teaching profession is way overdue for significant reform in how we recruit, prepare, retain, and compensate teachers is no longer partisan... 10 Things A Good Business Article About K12 Would Cover Tom Vander Ark:  Last week John Hechinger posted a lame wandering attack on learning online, K12 in particular, and oddly one early investor in the public company, Michael Milken...Do You Know More U.S. History Than a High Schooler? Atlantic: In 2010, American students appear to be worse at U.S. history than any other subject. Naturally, we wondered how hard these questions could be--and, to be honest, some are difficult... High-School Confidential New Yorker:  I was an awkward child. Tall, gangly, and, like everyone else in my family, severely myopic... 

Thompson: "No Excuses" Supe Blames Everyone Else

Blame-game The Broad Center proclaims that "the superintendent is responsible for the education of every student in the district," and poverty must not be blamed as an "excuse." So, how did the former superintendent of the Broad Academy deal with the data on school violence provided by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s year-long series on the mayhem in the city’s schools? According to published reporters, Superintendent Arlene Ackerman blamed everyone but herself, claiming that  "school violence is a national ‘public health problem’ that will require an entire community to resolve: ‘We're going to have to fix it as a collective effort and not expect the school to take on the responsibility for trying to do everything.’" Then she blamed teachers, "Good discipline occurs in classrooms with good teaching." And then she blamed her principals, "When young people rush into a classroom, when they roam the halls, that's an adult problem - of the educators in that school. Having been a teacher, having been a principal, I never had that happen in my classroom, and I sure didn't have it happen in my school.".- JT(@drjohnthompson)Image via.

Update: Texas Close To Enacting Parent Trigger Law

image from rpmedia.ask.comThere are two new articles about parent triggers that have gone live today -- with dramatically different takes. More of a primer on the issue, TIME's Kayla Webley emphasizes the energy, controversy, and frustration behind trigger proposals in her piece, while noting that legislation has been proposed in 14 states and that the Texas version has passed both legislative chambers. EdWeek's Sean Cavanaugh paints much more of a glass half-empty scenario. He notes logistical and political obstacles standing in the way -- underplaying the ferocious political opposition a bit in my opinion (oppenents in California described it as a "lynch mob provision") -- but noting that the newness of the idea plays a part too (which is almost certainly true).  What both stories leave out is the reality that, while funded by Walton, Wasserman, and Gates, Parent Revolution and the whole parent trigger idea have been given the cold shoulder by most of the wonky center-left school reform community. Reformers already have a way to get new schools: charters.  Not many seem to have an appetite for fixing existing schools.  Even more fundamentally, the parent trigger is relatively simple, eye-catching and political (and relies on actual grassroots organizing).  It's a community organizer's version of school reform, or a politician's  (or a Republican's!) -- not a policy wonk's vision or a reformer's complicated scheme. And in today's reform world that's just too simple and too hard to control to be a favorite.  Image via.

Quotes: Fancy Technology Leaves Systems Unchanged

Quotes2 Some believe iPads and laptops are the key to reigniting U.S. education but these are simply new tools in an old system. - Inventor James Dyson on the STEM/future disconnect

Teachers: Losing Talent Vs. Losing Youth

image from t1.gstatic.comAs of last year, about 200,000 teachers & staff had lost their jobs, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  From the way the media portray it, the vast majority are youngish teachers of the year unfairly being pushed out for nothing more than being callow youth.  But I bet the reality is that a good portion are veterans, including not only ineffective or uncaring teachers but a lot of talented individuals with much to give.  So I was interested to read about one such teacher in Chicago who's fate is discussed in the Huffington Post by Matt Farmer (Another Marshall Plan) and in the Chicago Reader by Ben Joravsky (Ousted teacher gets cut off). His name is Tony Skokna (such a Chicago name!) and until last year he taught at Marshall High School. (The school was recently profiled in glowing terms in the Chicago Tribune despite the admission included in the story itself that the new principal had expelled or transferred most of the troublemakers to other schools.)  A couple of years shy of his 20 year pension, history teacher Skokna was let go along with most of the older teachers, but then brought back for three months as a substitute.  This isn't sentimentality.  If Skokna was a lame teacher, then so be it.  But if it was just his age, or demeanor, or -- a nagging possibility -- cost, then I think we have a problem.  Which is to say, I think we have a problem if we end LIFO prematurely or adopt sledgehammer turnarounds rather than careful ones where talent and experience are valued as much as enthusiasm and white teeth.  

AM News: Bipartisan IL Reform Package Becomes Law

image from webmedia.newseum.orgIllinois' New Teacher Law: Model for Other States, or Outlier? EdWeek:  Several aspects of Illinois' new law, and a separate teacher-evaluation measure approved by the state last year, will prove tricky to implement... Illinois Teacher Accountability Now Official HuffED:  Stakeholders in Chicago also applauded the passage of the bill Monday, but they say what the law will actually do is not yet entirely clear... How Stand for Children helped push Illinois school reforms through Tribune:  The group's work in Colorado attracted the attention of Bruce Rauner, a wealthy Chicago venture capitalist who backs school reform. Rauner has strong ties to Emanuel and former Mayor Richard Daley... R.I. High School's Troubled Year Ends On A Sour Note NPR:  A year ago, teachers and administrators at Central Falls High School agreed to an uneasy truce.It proved to be much harder than expected, with disappointing results... Texas Considers Law Giving Teachers Criminal Histories Of Their Students AP:  Forty-six states require that schools be notified of criminal acts committed by students, although usually not until the student is formally judged delinquent, according to the National Center for Juvenile Justice...  5,200 New Teach For America Teachers  TFA:   In the upcoming school year, 9,300 first- and second-year corps members will reach 600,000 students in 43 regions across 34 states and the District of Columbia, including new sites in the Appalachia region of Kentucky, Oklahoma City, Seattle, and the Pee Dee region of South Carolina... Vegas School With 85 Percent Homeless Rate Gives Kids Clothes, Food HuffED:  As a growing number of families fall victim to the recession, public schools are reporting sharp increases in the numbers of homeless students. Unlike Whitney students, however, many homeless children have difficulty succeeding in school... Most state legislators have college degrees:  The Chronicle of Higher Education says 75 percent of state legislators have earned at least a bachelor's degree... 

Video Interlude: Serious Vs. Silly (Or Both)

Still not done?  Here are two videos, one silly one serious.  Which will you watch (first)?  One is a viral clip of a nine year old boy dancing to Madonna.  The other is the Terry Moe - Debbie Meier AEI confab on teachers and unions from last week.  I'll make it easy on you and start you with the serious one.  

Teachers Unions and American Education

Continue reading "Video Interlude: Serious Vs. Silly (Or Both)" »

Best Five Blogs: Does *Anyone* Like Duncan's Waiver Idea?

image from www.goldminemag.com

I mean, besides the bureaucrats?  If so, I can't find any:  Will States Accept Duncan-Style Reforms for NCLB Relief? EdWeek:  He offered so few details about what that relief would look like that the reporters spent much of the call flummoxed over what the news actually was... Duncan's Disregard for the Constitution Rick Hess:  Our earnest Secretary of Education, who famously (and bizarrely) promised Congress a billion-dollar edu-bonus if it reauthorized NCLB by the administration's deadline and to the President's satisfaction, was back at it on Friday... Duncan Wants to Use NCLB Sanctions to Force More Education Reform Measures FireDogLake: This just sounds like another version of Race to the Top, only a bit worse... What’s Plan C Anyway? Eduwonk:  Congress doesn’t like being preempted – and there is, of course, a natural tension between two co-equal branches of government.  But there are also a host of policy issues at play in this specific instance... “Give me the money or I shoot my foot!” and other political theories of education reform Sherman Dorn: If I had a crystal ball, I would guess this trial balloon will sink ignominiously by the end of the summer... Arnius Duncanus? Mike Petrilli:  Duncan’s plans to tie regulatory relief to new requirements indicates an incredible amount of tone-deafness, not to mention Constitutional ignorance... Give Us What We Want Or You're Dead Jim Horn:  There is a time bomb in your basement, and it is set to explode in 2014, maybe sooner.  Only two people have the ability to disarm it... Image via.  DID I MISS ANY GOOD ONES?  SEE MY TAKE BELOW.


Update: Unsolved Mysteries Of Locke High & Green Dot

image from images.huffingtonpost.comEven having written a book there are many things I still don't know about Green Dot and Locke High School -- an ignorance often exposed by curious interviewers as during my talk with Stephen Smith at American RadioWorks (here), which just came online Friday.  Here are some examples:  Why's it called Green Dot? What really happened to Emily the counselor?  Did they really have to include the note in the 99o tax form that ended up exposing Barr's mis-spending?  Could they have cut a deal with UTLA to allow more Locke veterans to stay without losing benefits?  No idea.  There are lots of others -- questions I never got a satisfactory answer to, or issues I couldn't track down because they didn't fit into the already complicated story I was trying to tell.  The more you get into the reality of school reform, the more details and questions you have.  It was hard enough getting a clear picture of the disputed events and decisions that I included.  Still -- keep asking.  I love getting stumped.

NCLB: Duncan Parachutes Into Hostile Territory

image from www.freewebs.comIt's an attack from above -- an all-out aerial bombardment!  Here's audio of the secret Friday conference call Team Duncan held with an elite group of education reporters (invitation only!). Here's the remarkable little slew of news stories that the call produced: Duncan Threatens to Alter No Child Left Behind WSJ, Arne Duncan's 'Plan B' May Leave 'No Child' Behind NPR, Duncan vows some easing of landmark education law AP,  Education Secretary May Agree to Waivers on ‘No Child’ Law Requirements NYT.  Here's the commentary Duncan got published in Politico (Revamp No Child Left Behind - now) to go along with the one Spellings wrote in the same publication. And they're not done.  There's ANOTHER press call this afternoon, just in case anyone hasn't heard the word. But is it a good idea, what they're doing, and is Duncan right?  Read on for a few thoughts on the matter.

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AM News: A Year Unlike Any Other?

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A Year of Drama and Hard Feelings Stateline: What makes this year different from the previous two years is that more school districts are running out of ways to absorb the cuts without affecting what takes place in the classroom.. Work Cut Out for Him, a Schools Chief Dives In Chicago News Cooperative:  As he begins his new job heading Chicago Public Schools, Jean-Claude Brizard, a former principal from Rochester, N.Y., has his work cut out for him... School Districts Look at Increase in Tax Rates Texas Tribune:  School districts are looking at trying to raise local property tax rates to compensate for a decrease in state financing... Teachers Speed-Date For Jobs In Rhode Island Boston Globe:  Earlier this year, the city of Providence, R.I., fired all of its nearly 2,000 teachers, shut down five schools and consolidated some programs. Most of the fired teachers were rehired, but when the dust settled, 400 teachers were left without jobs. To give them a chance to apply for 270 positions elsewhere the district, Providence officials are using an unusual device... N.A.A.C.P. on Defensive as Suit on Charter Schools Splits Group’s Supporters NYT: The N.A.A.C.P. says traditional New York City schools suffer when charter schools grow, but some black leaders say charter schools give minorities more opportunity...  Las Vegas high schooler wins car for good records AP:  A Las Vegas high school senior has won a new car for having good grades and no unexcused absences.... Tiny Town Recruits Students Worldwide NYT:  Enrollment in Newcomb, N.Y., had hit bottom when Superintendent Clark Hults advertised an American education to students around the world... SEE PREVIOUS POST FOR WEEKEND STORIES.

Weekend: Duncan Threatens "Recess Reauthorization"

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Education Secretary May Agree to Waivers on NCLB  NYT: Unless Congress acts by this fall to overhaul NCLB Secretary of Education Arne Duncan signaled that he would use his executive authority to free states from the law’s centerpiece requirement that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014... Duncan Threatens to Alter No Child Left Behind WSJ: Mr. Duncan is promising to waive specific requirements of the law in exchange for states agreeing to adopt other efforts he has championed, such as linking teacher evaluations to student achievement, expanding charter schools and overhauling the lowest-performing schools... NCLB works but needs updates Margaret Spellings:  These are the same voices that once complained to me that No Child Left Behind was too draconian — then asked Congress to fully fund it... 5,200 New Teach For America Teachers TFA:  In the upcoming school year, 9,300 first- and second-year corps members will reach 600,000 students in 43 regions including new sites in the Appalachia region of Kentucky, Oklahoma City, Seattle, and the Pee Dee region of South Carolina... Department Officials Visit Massachusetts to Learn About Race Implementation USDE: Today's visit to Malden focuses on Massachusetts' progress in building statewide capacity for their education reform plan and the state's efforts to improve teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance... Self-control in childhood predicts future success Boston Globe:  What will children need to thrive in this environment? Not catalogs of facts, but the discipline of mind to focus, persevere, and make good choices. A good start would be to make Tools of the Mind — or something similar — a staple of the 21st-century classroom...  Where's Emma Watson off to this fall? Emma had quit US' Brown University in April saying she face trouble finding time to commit to her studies while also carrying out her film, promotional and modelling work.

Duncan: A(Nother) Light Media Week For The EdSec

110613_r20979_p465 The highlight of the week, such as it is, is probably the Center on American Progress event on Tuesday, which will feature Dunca, Miller, Weingarten, and Spellings.  Guess what the topic is going to be? More info about the event here.  Still, it's just a confab -- all fun and games until a bill lurches forward into markup or an amendment gets offered to a must-pass legislative vehicle. Click below for the rest of the EdSec's media schedule for the week. For day to day events and meetings, sign up for the FritzWire (still email-only, far as I know).  

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Five Best Blogs: Hubris, DFER Standout, & Ugly Habits


Does Reform Have to Equal Sagging Polls? EdSector:  Which would you rather have: a sweeping reform whose implementation is delayed in the courts and likely to be overturned at the next election? Or a reform effort that elicits buy-in and thus long-term impact?... The Right Way to Approach School Reform American Times:  Hubris is at the heart of all this overreach, in Florida, in Wisconsin, in Michigan. And hubris comes at a price. ... The Inside Game Tom Hoffman:  Boy that guy from DfER is a real standout jackass... And the Most Overhyped Edu-Entrepreneur of the Moment Is...? Rick Hess: We have this ugly habit in education of taking sensible ideas, overselling them, turning them into fads, inviting backlash, and then slouching away when they inevitably fail to deliver on ludicrous, inflated expectations... On Ron Wolk's new book Annenberg Institute: He considers the school district to be an outmoded governance structure that mostly serves to perpetuate the mistakes of the past and the flawed assumptions of the present... Time to Make Professors Teach WSJ:  Roughly 21000 articles have been written on Shakespeare since 1980. Wouldn't 5000 have been enough?... This Seems Kind Of Wrong of the Day: The Daily What: Iowa State Senator Shawn Hamerlinck (R-Dixon) tells student leaders attending a Senate Education Committee meeting on budget cuts to pipe down while adults are talking about their future...

Video: Zuckerberg Advises 8th Graders To Skip Shortcuts

The scene is Menlo Park's Belle Haven Community School.  The principal introduces him as Zuckerman.  The theme is not taking shortcuts and doing things you love and having fun (Mark Zuckerberg to 8th Graders via Gawker).

Update: Growing Disagreement Over Illinois "Hoopla"

Ward_mapThough they appear to agree about everything and everyone, reformers don't always agree on just what qualifies as reform.  Yesterday, proponents of IL's much-touted reform law including Jonah Edelman took the time to slap down a critique of the law claiming it was full of loopholes and not worth all the hoopla that came from not from outside the reform camp but from another pro-reform group.  The DFER critique echoes concerns I'd heard earlier this spring.  While DFER is preparing a response, the Center on American Progress has announced a Monday media event at which the benefits of the law (known as SB7) will be touted. That same day, the governor of IL is scheduled to sign the law -- and the "trailer" bill that clarified some key issues -- into law.  

Media: "Nation" Writer Named New America Fellow

image from www.danagoldstein.netBig congratulations to writer Dana Goldstein, who's been named a fellow at the New America Foundation, which Goldstein describes as having "all the most fascinating events, policy papers, and writers."  Coming out of her Spencer Fellowship at Columbia, Goldstein's working on a book about the politics of teaching and has been publishing stories in a bunch of places over the past few years. While I sometimes have issues with her take on school reform there's no doubt that Goldstein is a smart, energetic up-and-comer.  Her article on faux innovation in the Obama administration was one of 2009's best, IMHO.  Earlier this year I nominated her as a non-reform education hero.  At New America, Goldstein joins Amanda Ripley, who's written about education issues and is working on a book on how other countries have improved their education programs that is slated to come out next year. I haven't seen a formal announcement from New America yet but Goldstein has blogged about it here and The Nation has it as part of her bio here.

Radio: Showdown Between Ravitch & Alter

image from www.artsjournal.com Ever wonder what would happen if Diane Ravitch and Jonathan Alter were on the same stage or in the same studio?  Who would interrupt whom?  Would apologies and FOIA requests be required to get access to the tape?  Thanks to a Denver progressive radio show, it's happened (here), and nothing untoward seems to have taken place.  However, it may not have been enlightening or definitive.  Grumpy Educators describes it as a "must listen" (and tells us that Ravitch will be debating Rhee on C-SPAN later this summer).  Mike Klonsky says Alter received a "spanking" from Ravitch.  EdNews Colorado describes the debate as a dual filibuster.  Take a listen -- what with the heat and my general grumpiness I can't bear the thought -- and let us know what you think about who won, what was revealed.  Win extra points by conceding that the person you generally disagree with might have said something interesting.  Image via.

AM News: New Study Reaffirms Preschool Effects

IL_CT (4) Preschool benefits last into adulthood, study says AP:  Preschool has surprisingly enduring benefits lasting well into adulthood, according to one of the biggest, longest follow-up studies of its kind....Do more on jobs, Dems tell Obama The Hill:  Harkin thinks such a package could lower the unemployment rate by as much as two percentage points... NJ gov pushes public-private school pilot program AP:  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie added a new element Thursday to his efforts to give children in the state's lowest-performing school districts a better education while keeping the costs to taxpayers down...Education board: Zais should reconsider grants AP:  Secretary Arne Duncan announced two weeks ago that SC and eight other finalists could compete for $200 million in grants ranging from $10 million to $50 million each... DPS slows plan to change schools to charters Detroit Free Press: The ambitious plan to convert as many as 45 Detroit Public Schools buildings to charter schools by fall has slowed significantly... Alabama State Schools Chief to Resign EdWeek: As state schools chief, Morton pressed for a number of politically difficult changes, such as increasing the amount of tax revenue flowing to schools... One in Seven People Lives With a Disability Atlantic:  In the first report on the prevalence of disabilities since the 1970s, the World Health Organization and the World Bank predict this number will only go up as we get older... Detroit's School for Young Mothers to be ClosedCatherine Ferguson Academy, a Detroit public school that has educated young and expectant mothers since 1988 and won numerous accolades and honors along the way, will not reopen this fall... Sex Doll Prank Backfires, Indiana High School Student Faces 8-Year Prison Term Gawker:  When school officials saw surveillance video of a hooded figure wearing latex gloves entering a women's bathroom carrying a suspicious package and leaving empty-handed, they tipped off authorities.

Five Best Blogs: "Nobody Gives A Crap About Turkey"

ScreenHunter_62 Mar. 15 15.22 How to Blog Irresponsibly (About Education) Thought News: Given that the educational lives of vulnerable American students are at stake, we should be even more suspicious of those who would dismiss action on grounds of uncertainty... Nobody Gives a Crap About Turkey Tom Hoffman:  If a group of people from one country quietly start a bunch of schools in another country -- that's news, period... School success stories not in doubt Jon Schnur: We cannot be paralyzed in our effort to improve our schools. We must act on multiple fronts now... Moe v. Meier Hess:  There was clear agreement about the value of teacher professionalism and voice, with Harding flagging the promise of new organizations intended to give teachers a voice in policy. The question was really about how that voice can and should be channeled... Some Notes on Leaving TFA Two Years At The Blackboard:  Ultimately what I see, and have seen throughout the year, is an organization that cares about the opinions of its members, and isn't afraid to be criticized.  Hell, TFA has been re-tweeting my posts practically since I started this thing...

Thompson: Firing Bad Teachers Burdensome (But Worth Doing)

Kitchen1 Frankly, I have always doubted that union leaders were telling the whole story when describing the failure of principals as the main reason why incompetent teachers were not fired.  A new report by the Center for Reinventing Politics, "Teacher Quality Roadmap," has now set me straight. It explains that principals in Los Angeles could not dismiss bad teachers because principals were required to "document a teacher as ‘below standards’ in an evaluation; include detailed recommendations as to areas of improvement ...; notify the employee in writing and describe unsatisfactory performance; and meet with the employee to recommend improvements ... and assist the employee making those improvements."  Those modest steps are seen as so onerous that principals cannot fire more than a couple of teachers per year.  Even so, if every LA principal fired two teachers per year, for the last five years, nearly 60 times as many teachers would have been terminated.- JT(@drjohnthompson)Image via.

Quotes: Critique Of IL Reform Law Lacks Common Sense

Quotes2 Had Mr. Tupa taken the time to talk to anyone in the state, he would have realized that his conclusions were either wrong, or not driven by common sense and good policy... -- Jonah Edelman (Stand For Children) & Robin Steans (Advance Illinois)

Video: Michelle Ree Is Talking To *You*

Miss her? You know you do.  And she's addressing you, directly, via AOL:

Cartoon: Walt Whitman Poem Featured In "The Simpsons"

“The world below the brine; Forests at the bottom of the sea—the branches and leaves, sea-lettuce, vast lichens, strange flowers and seeds…” (Lisa consoles a beached whale with Leaves of Grass)

AM News: Reformers Departing, Endangered In NC and ID

image from webmedia.newseum.org Critics Push To Oust Idaho Superintendent AP: At issue is a polarizing new education package that restricts teacher collective bargaining, eliminates tenure and arms every high school student with a laptop... Superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg District to Resign AP:  He is resigning as superintendent in order to take a job with the education division of News Corp... More Hispanic students finishing high school AP:  A higher percentage of young Hispanic adults is finishing high school, and the number attending a two-year college has nearly doubled over the last decade, according to Census data released Wednesday...Charter school teachers may pull out of union Boston Globe:  The federation recently defied the wishes of the school union o push for unionizing several part-time orchestra instructors... Education program to focus on jobs Politico: President Barack Obama on Wednesday unveiled an expansion of an administration program to improve industry partnerships with community colleges...  New Teachers Most Vulnerable In NYC Layoffs WNYC:  A school in Chinatown could lose four of its 55 full-time teachers, including Juhyung Harold Lee, who is wrapping up his third year... Student Sues District For Distress Caused By Being Spied On Through Laptop Webcam AP:  The district has since removed the monitoring software that took the pictures and instituted stricter privacy policies... Service Dogs Teach Educators About DisabilitiesWBUR:  Nathan Selove relies on his service dog, Sylvia, to help him deal with meltdowns and other issues related to Asperger's syndrome... I.R.S. Ends Exemptions for 275,000 Nonprofits NYT:  Many small organizations were not aware of a new federal requirement that they file tax returns.

Best Five Blogs: Reality Is Indifferent To Your Ideas & Entreaties

ScreenHunter_10 Jun. 04 00.25 Wishing doesn't make it so Freddie deBoer: If I could ask popular writers on education for one thing, it would be to understand that reality is perfectly indifferent to their frustrations... Better teacher evaluations may not help much Jay Mathews: I am beginning to wonder if it’s worth so much effort...  Poverty Matters: Does Education? Yglesias:  The relevant issue here is whether or not provision of educational services is a promising way to help people overcome those disadvantages...  Facts and opinion from Steve Brill’s new book Hechinger Report:  Those in the education realm, including those on Brill’s side, may be less certain on some of his points, however, so I thought I’d explore a couple in more detail here... Grad Rates Edged Up in 08 Tom Vander Ark: We knew more about bottles of ketchup 25 years ago than we know about American students today, and that’s just criminal... Dept. Of Education: We Did Not Raid Man's Home Over Defaulted Student Loans HuffPost:  Stockton, Calif. resident Kenneth Wright told the local ABC affiliate that on Tuesday, approximately 15 officers stormed into his home at 6 a.m.

Thompson: It's Not Cheating -- It's Human Nature

Cheater-300x300 Education Week's Sarah Sparks reports that the National Academies of Sciences ten-year study of NCLB was written by a veritable "who's who" of education scholars.  Its chairman explains the failure of data-driven accountability as uncomplicated and unavoidable:  “It’s human nature: Give me a number, I’ll hit it.”  In New York City, the NAS scholar's prediction is precisely on target.  The district recores Regent Examinations that fall just below passing.  As a result, students are five times as likely to hit the passing mark, or slightly exceed it, than score just below. Over at the NYT, Sharon Otterman reports that "even on the algebra exam, in which there are no essays, 8,451 students got grades of exactly 65, while a combined 7,145 students ended up with a score of 61, 62, 63 or 64."  Teachers call this process "scrubbing."  It began as a reasonable procedure to ensure fairness to students.  As the stakes on adults were raised, however, scrubbing became an "all-out effort to find points to help students graduate.". - JT(@drjohnthompson)Image via.

Quotes: Xenophobia Behind NYT Charter Schools Story?

Quotes2 Substitute "Canadian" for "Turkish" and "Christian" for "Islam" and.... no one would care. -- An email response about NYT cover story yesterday (via Whitney Tilson). See below for full quote.

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Events: Psst! Bootleg Audio From New America / Slate Event

MegaphoneThe voices you're hearing on this muffled bootleg tape (download herefrom last night's Slate / New America Foundation event in Tribeca include Steve Brill, author of the forthcoming Class Warfare, Megan Irwin (SFC), Lisa Guernsey (New America) Eva Moskowitz (Success Charter Network), Timothy Daly (TNTP), and David Plotz Editor, Slate Magazine.  Given the panelists and the setting it's perhaps not surprising that there wasn't much heat expressed among the panelists over all -- though I had the feeling that not everyone up there necessarily agreed with each other, either; deference, fearfulness, and heat fatigue may have played a part.  Bullet-headed Brill's take on the education landscape is pretty absolutist in its conclusions (that the unions are the problem) -- he's shaping up to be a reformers' version of Ravitch -- though he did have delightfully disparaging things to say about TFA's refusal to release ratings of its teachers' performance.  Moscovitz made the common but somewhat ludicrous claim that everything done in small nonunion charter networks can be replicated in a national system of 3.2 million teachers. Daley and Guernsey made reasonable, nuanced points -- largely to no avail.  Irwin didn't seem to have much to say.  The crowd was small and very well dressed -- a stark contrast to the Parents Across America event at a nearby school this past winter.  There was an open bar and more cheese and fruit than any group that size could have ever hoped to eat.  I may have been hallucinating, but I think I saw one woman in the audience wearing a one-shouldered cocktail dress.  

AM News: Legislation Slowed In Dem-Controlled Senate

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Democrats grumble over Harry Reid's agenda Politico:  Not having a budget, Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor said, “makes it harder to do things that we just need to do — there are people talking about an education bill, a highway bill — a lot of other things you just don’t know how much you have to spend.”...  Judge Puts Philadelphia Layoffs On Hold EdWeek: District leaders have said that layoffs will damage the progress at those struggling schools, according to local news reports... PreK-3 movement trying to overhaul early education, but faces obstacles Hechinger Report:  A handful of foundations...and an increasing number of schools, districts and even whole states, including Nevada, Wyoming, and Washington, are in the process of implementing the reforms... Critics Target Growing Army of Broad Leaders EdWeek:  As the number of influential school leaders trained by the Broad Superintendents Academy grows, so does the criticism surrounding the program... Lobbyists Want Fries And Pizza To Stay In School:  Those lunchroom faves may be too popular for their own good. The USDA is proposing guidelines that would limit their availability to kids at school. Potato and frozen food lobbyists say their products are unfairly blamed for obesity... Considering the actual benefits of college Marketplace:  A study reveals confidence in higher education is low, but people may just be responding to these tough times right now... 2nd grader brings inert grenade to Michigan school AP:  Authorities say a second grader brought an inert U.S. military grenade to a central Michigan elementary school for show-and-tell, prompting a lockdown... Push for A’s at Private Schools Is Keeping Costly Tutors Busy NYT:  Private SAT tutors have been de rigueur at New York private schools for years, but the proliferation of subject-matter tutors is a newer phenomenon that is inciting a backlash... 

Five Best Blogs: Debunking IL's SB7 Reform Law (Again)

ScreenHunter_09 Aug. 23 18.20 Don't Believe Everything You Don't Read DFER:  Had anyone taken the time to dig deep into [Illinois SB7] they might have stopped to scratch their head in wonder as to why all the hoopla...  An Interesting Few Days Diane Ravitch: The night before Alter criticized me for "phony empiricism," I received the Daniel Patrick Moynihan award from the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences for promoting "the use of informed judgment to advance the public good"... The ends of education reform Mike Petrilli:  If we are to get beyond the “100 percent proficiency” or “all students college and career ready” rhetoric, these are the conversations we need to have.... Whither ESEA Reauth?  Eduflack: Assuming Duncan and company can secure the dollars for their agenda in the upcoming budget, 2013 doesn't seem so bad after all... Low-income students and KIPP charter schools Rick Kahlenberg: It remains telling that on the one occasion when KIPP took over a regular high poverty public school KIPP failed and got out of the business of running regular neighborhood public schools... A Glut of New Reports Raise Doubts About Obama's Teacher Agenda Dana Goldstein:  Athough much of the Obama administration's education reform agenda promotes test score-based teacher evaluation and pay, the tide seems to be significantly turning against such policies, at least among wonks and academics. 



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