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Five Best Blogs: Digesting ProPublica & Debating Brooks

ScreenHunter_42 Mar. 05 19.39 New data reveals the real problem in education The Answer Sheet:  Three thousand high schools across the country serving nearly half a million students had no math classes higher than Algebra 1 in the 2009-10 academic year. ALSO:  A New Way to Measure the Achievement Gap Mother Jones

An Op-Ed To Savor Education Next:  There are no knock-out punches in this fight, but David Brookscomes close with a perspective-setting essay about school reformers and their adversaries.  ALSO:  Who's Fault Is Too Much Testing? Sherman Dorn

Free Fallin’ … Off the Fundin’ Cliff Thompson:  School districts probably face another year or two of reduced state and local support as state budgets tend to lag market indicators. ALSO:  School districts at funding cliff CEP.

Obama & Schooling Rick Hess: The shape of the edu-debates for 2013 and beyond--including the politics of NCLB reauth, the Common Core, and federal support for innovation--is going to be baked by the debates of 2011 and 2012. ALSO:   NEA Convention 2011: A New Reality EIA. 

Teacher of the Year American Spectator:  "Bad Teacher" took in $32 million last weekend and is certain to become a one of the summer's biggest hits. That's very bad news for defenders of the educational status quo like American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.


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If Rick Hess's assessment of federal education politics is correct, it serves as clear evidence showing why we cannot look to Washington, D.C. (at least at the present time) to solve our urgent education dilemmas, and may have to look to our national associations for governors and state superintendents for the best chance to make any national progress at all in the next two years.

Alexander, here's the comment I posted to Peter Meyer on that blog you linked. I think I'm going to put it up in two pieces.

Peter Meyer, you characterize me and dismiss me with two lies, but they're buried in an adverbial clause, modifying the object of a clause of which Brooks is the subject, but which is itself the object of a sentence of which you, yourself, are the subject: "I wish...." eventually gets to

"the difficulty these change-averse educators have in trying to argue that they should be paid more for doing something they claim is impossible to do"

I'm a chemistry teacher in a low income public school. I'm not change averse, nor do I (or any teacher I know) ever argue that schools are impossible to improve. I'm an original education reformer and "agent of change", a graduate of the UCSC natural sciences division, who has spent her life, each day at a time, "improving education" with all my considerable strength, by teaching a powerful subject to real students, with creativity and grace. There is a lot I could teach you about education, in fact, if you ever cared to ask.

You have no evidence to back up your oily attack on me. It's your word against mine.

The Brooks editorial you welcome so fervently isn't meant to convince anybody of his claims. You are, indeed, its subject. It's purpose is to bring you comfort, and salve that queasy guilt that churns in your belly when you hear the truth about what your disruptive innovation is doing to live children.

You venture capitalists are petty cheats and liars. You're stealing the Title I money from my students, mugging the taxpayers for their greasy pizza lunch, and diverting all the actual science equipment money to your data-driven consultants. All you're selling is a massive data-driven fraud industry. And, yes, I do have evidence. We'll be taking it to the American people on July 30 in Washington, DC.

Thank you for your column, Alexander. I guess. It's right there on my favorites list, so I can pull it up every few days and track reform industry discourse. I try not to take it personally, but of course it is personal because this is my life, and my students'lives, they are discussing.

I posted my comment to Peter Meyer and went outside to see the morining star and hear the birds' dawn chorus.

That comment is still awaiting moderation, so I went on to Sean Higgins exhultant piece in The American Spectator. Teacher of the Year.

Now, this is just going to give all the reform hacks more to cheer about, but I actually broke down. I cried. I don't know which "side" you're eventually going to come down on, Alexander. Is it a victory that working teachers can be wounded so deeply? Am I being a wus, for even mentioning my personal stake in this?

I scheduled a 5 hour surgery for the soonest opportunity after the year closed (I have a year of unused sick time, but I wanted to finish the year, because there is no such thing as a sub for chemistry). I'm preparing to do that in three days, at a community hospital because my public employee insurance doesn't give me access to New England Baptist, where my surgeon would prefer to do it.

So, I don't even know what rehab assistance they will or won't cover, but I'm looking toward nine hours a day of determined and painful work to recover function. My big goal - get this - is to stand in front of my class in August, when the new term starts, resilient and strong.

And then, I read the Higgens piece.

And here's Sean Higgens, in The American Spectator:

"Another film has hit the theaters and this one may have a far more potent effect on the education debate...

very bad news for defenders of the educational status quo...

scabrous portrayal of public education...

literally does not care for students at all...

doesn't bother to teach...

Shorter hours, summers off, no accountability ..." she explains....

never in any danger of losing her job or even being disciplined...

using drugs on school property...

nothing that can be done about her...

the fact that the public is ready to accept such a portrayal...

the stench of failure emanating from the nation's public school system...

Something has to explain why the schools are so rotten...

Bad Teacher suggests the problem may be the teachers themselves and the union-controlled system that protects them at the expense of the students...

Tens of millions of people are likely to get that message this summer."

I don't know which side you'll come down, eventually, Alexander. I know you know there are sides, and even what they're about. I hope you'll take a position, while it still means something. Thanks for keeping me posted on the discourse of the for-profit reform industry about us teachers, anyway.

I confess, I broke down when I read Higgens piece. I just have three more days to prepare for the surgery I put off until the year ended. I still have almost all of the sick time I have accumulated over 13 years in my present district, but if I succeed in a very daunting physical therapy program for the rest of the summer, my big dream is to stand in front of my class in September, resilient and strong.

My public servant insurance doesn't cover New England Baptist, where my surgeon would prefer to work. I don't even know what they might or might not cover for rehabilitation. One of my colleagues just went home and eventually failed to recover function. He tried (he's a coach!), but the inpatient physical therapy period described in all the instructions we get turns out to be only for "private" insurance.

So, bottom line is, yes. Even I can be demoralized. I cried.

Thanks for the post. I do not have to agree with all of the five best blogs but it’s always great to know educational interpretations from all sides.

Thanks, Alexander.

After reading through the posted links, the Brooks Op-ed really stood out. As a former teacher now working in policy, I can't tell you how many conversations I've had bemoaning the testing culture of schools. I've taken entire classes in Grad school on how to assess with more than just multiple choice tests to be able to fairly assess a wide variety of learners. While Brooks, like Ravitch, is a selective "citer" of texts to match an argument, I still think his argument was strong: "If your school teaches to the test, it’s not the test’s fault. It’s the leaders of your school." I worry about testing culture in school. And I've fallen trap in many of the aforementioned conversations to believing that the "tests" were what was wrong with my school. In hindsight, students and teachers trapped in a failing school want nothing more deep down than to succeed on any test put in front of them....and for most students, with the right school leadership and culture, they could succeed on just about any test. It's not always the test's fault...a point of view worth weighing in the current debate.

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