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Thompson: Tracing How "Reform" Went Haywire

Tumblr_lpzih7aduP1qzv6y7o1_500According to Steve Brill's Class Warfare, an arcane finding in an academic paper by Tom Kane et. al became the basis of a revolutionary change that even Gates saw as extremely risky.  Three like-minded scholars concluded that surprisingly low test score volatility by teachers in the same buildings is evidence that teacher quality must be the key to closing the achievement gap. Then they apparently bought the argument that school districts do not evaluate teachers because it was thought that they "can learn nothing about a teacher's effectiveness." Three years later, they worked to prevent incoming President Obama from being exposed to dissenting opinions, condemning the views of traditional school reformers, like Linda Darling-Hammond, and seeded the Education Department with "trustworthy team players" from the Gates organization.  So, the opinions of a few policy theorists about things that " just seemed so obvious" to them weren't subjected to peer review or even robust dissent before being imposed upon the entire nation.  Through this path, Obama administration "unleashed a swirl of forces whose ferocity would exceed anything"  that even the reform wonks expected.- JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.

Media: New NYT-WNYC Site To Cover New York City

The NYT and WNYC (New York public radio) are joining forces to start a new education site called SchoolBook (@SchoolBook) which it describes as a "comprehensive resource and online forum for parents, teachers, administrators, and experts."  It kicks off September 7.  Like InsideSchools, one of the first NYC-focused education sites, it will include a page for each of the city's public schools -- and the 800 private schools -- as well as lots of data.  Like GothamSchools it will inlude journalistic reporting and breaking news.  

ScreenHunter_01 Aug. 22 12.36At the Times, Jodi Rudoren is the education editor and Mary Ann Giordano will edit the page.  She's also the editor of The Local.  Presumably Anna Phillips will be the main reporter providing content to the page.  At WNYC, John Keefe is the senior producer of news and Beth Fertig will be a major contributor. There's lots more to learn but but SchoolBook sounds intriguing -- if it works. Some previous versions of this kind of thing -- GreatSchools comes to mind -- didn't really take off as much as expected.  I'd love to know how the pageviews, workload, and the revenues (if there are any) will be shared, and how much new content will actually be created as opposed to repurposing of regular WNYC / NYT reporting.

Video: Watch RFID-Tagged Kids Interact


Watch what it looks like if you attach RFID tags to 232 French elementary school kids and track their social interactions: "the between-class rush, playground cliques, snatched hallway conversation and the fifth-graders who are too cool for everyone else." Usefulness?  I'm not sure.  Click the link to see how the interactions were coded and for other cool diagrams (A School Day as Data Wired).

AM News: Budgets, Census Numbers, & More


Schools Reopen to Face Tough Budget Choices EdWeek: As students around the country begin the 2011-12 school year, many of them will be returning to districts that have been forced to restructure their operations in the face of budget cuts. ALSO:  Five ways students will feel budget cuts Stateline

Review of Census Data Reveals Information Tied to Schools NYT:  The Census Bureau counts the number of students, average teacher salaries and the rising cost of college.

Students Tackle 'Kids' Science Challenge' NPR:  For three years, a national competition has challenged third through sixth grade students to come up with problems that can be solved via science, then matches winners with mentor scientists to tackle their questions. 

In Texas schools, a criminal response to misbehavior Washington Post: An array of get-tough policies in U.S. schools in the past two decades has brought many students into contact with police and courts — part of a trend some experts call the criminalization of student discipline.

South Dakota schools cut costs with 4-day week Yahoo!News: This fall, fully one-fourth of South Dakota's districts will have moved to some form of the abbreviated schedule. Only Colorado and Wyoming have a larger proportion of schools using a shortened week. According to one study, more than 120 school districts in 20 states, most in the west, now use four-day weeks.

Principal who changed grades resigns, but gets new job New York Times: The principal of a Bronx high school who was found to have improperly changed student grades has agreed to resign from the school, but will continue to work for the Department of Education, possibly advising principals and teachers on curriculum and other matters, city officials said Friday.

Eager for Spotlight, but Not if It Is on a Testing Scandal New York Times (Winerip): As voracious as she is for the media spotlight, Ms. Rhee will not talk to USA Today.

Plastic bag lobby wins favorable revision for school textbooks Sacto Bee: Under pressure from the American Chemistry Council, a lobbying group for the plastics industry, schools officials in California edited a new environmental curriculum to include positive messages about plastic shopping bags, interviews and documents show. Via LF

Chart: Back To School Waste

image from 27.media.tumblr.com

Eco-friendly back to school shopping: Want to get your child off to their greenest year yet? Ethical Ocean’s Back to School Shopping Guide is filled with eco-friendly finds like pencils made from newspapers, litterless lunch kits and more.


AM News: "No-News" Duncan Accidentally Makes News


Duncan Slams Perry's Texas Talking Points Memo: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is taking a rhetorical shot at one of President Obama's possible election opponents, slamming the education system in Gov. Rick Perry's home state of Texas. ALSO:  Perry Says Evolution is a Theory with "Some Gaps In It"

Reports show troubles of teen in Fla. school plot AP:  A year and a half before he was accused of plotting to bomb his high school, a shirtless and shoeless Jared Cano confronted police with a metal baseball bat when they came to his apartment looking for a stolen pistol.

Duncan: States Don't Need to Join Common Core for Waiver Politics K-12:  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said today in no uncertain terms that states absolutely do not have to participate in Common Core in order to qualify for one of the department's yet-to-be-determined NCLB waivers.

Higher prices: the big trend for back-to-school AP:  Stores are trying everything they can think of to disguise the fact that you're going to pay more for clothes this fall.

Ackerman dares bosses to fire her Philadelphia Inquirer: In an impassioned speech the embattled Philadelphia School District Superintendant addressed rumors of her departure with new candor.

D.C. Commission School Analysis Washington Post: The study is the strongest signal yet that Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) is prepared to treat charter schools — which are publicly funded but independently operated — as full partners in a reform effort that was heavily focused on traditional schools during the tenure of his predecessor, Adrian M. Fenty (D).

Chicago agricultural H.S. to breed horses Chicago Tribune:The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences will have students raise horses that will be sold and used in harness racing.

Five Best Blogs: The Supercommittee & Education

Picture 9 Rick Perry Gives Up the Ghost on the 'Intelligent Design' Lie Gawker: Rick Perry was asked this morning if he believed in evolution, and his answer was surprising. Not because he does not, in fact believe in evolution (it's just "a theory that's out there"), but because he admitted that the alternative to teaching evolution in schools is essentially religious indoctrination. 

Bachmann and the changing Republican education agenda Slate:  It's safe to say that the political era of George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind is now officially over, even as the law's testing mandates continue to reverberate in classrooms across the country. 

Will Congress Sacrifice After School Tutoring Programs to Protect Yacht Owners? Unfinished Business:  Now that the super committee required by the recent debt deal reached in Congress is coming together, it's important to think about the choices our elected officials will have to make.

Poverty and education reform — and those caught in the middle Hechinger Report:  Increasingly, educators and experts are questioning the reformers’ tactics and asking whether the single-minded focus on schools has become an excuse to avoid the hard work of addressing poverty.  


Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: The Supercommittee & Education" »

Cartoon: Dual-Language Teaching

Teach by text via The Week

Video: "Up With People" Lives On


Remember "Up With People?"  Only if you're old.  But the UWP type hasn't disappeared.  To the contrary it seems to have flourished in ed reform circles.  Like UWP, they're young and perky and super optimistic, live and travel (and party) together, and keep their participation to a brief but intense period of time and then congratulate themselves and each other for what they've done.  They don't know or care who funds them.  Via The Awl.

Brill: Time's Up For "Race" Laggards (Like NY & HI)

Tumblr_lpda2bnLRq1qzleu4o1_500 The whirlwind process of reviewing and approving $5B worth of Race To The Top applications is for me the most interesting and useful part of Steve Brill's new education book, Class Warfare, as well as being one of the focus points of the interview he did with me for the September issue of Scholastic Administrator.  In the book, Brill describes how boxed-in Duncan and his team were when it came to a review process that resulted in some obviously in accurate state application ratings.  In our interview, Brill argues that Duncan was right to go along with the outside scoring of the state applications at the time but should stop payment or even try and recover funding from states where there has been and will likely be very little progress implementing the promised reforms. It's one of Brill's better suggestions, given how much time has passed and how little seems to be happening in some of the 12 states that got all that money.  A draft version is below. The good stuff comes towards the end.

Continue reading "Brill: Time's Up For "Race" Laggards (Like NY & HI)" »

AM News: Joplin Goes Back to School After Tornado


Joplin, Mo. students return to school in converted mall Washington Post: Three months after a tornado claimed 160 lives, students in Joplin, Missouri returned to school Wednesday.

Joplin defies odds, just by opening schools The New York Times:  Joplin, Mo., has raced to regain its footing since a tornado killed 160 people and displaced thousands more three months ago. 

Police: School bomb plot aimed for mass casualties AP:  Police were already keeping an eye on 17-year-old expelled student Jared Cano when they were tipped off that he was allegedly planning to bomb his old high school when classes resumed.

L.A. Unified bests reform group in most cases, data show L.A. Times: Struggling schools under district control see test scores rise more than most operated by the mayor, a charter organization, and others, a Times analysis finds.


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Quotes: Why People Don't Like NCLB (Really)

Quotes2 Some people don’t like the mirror. Some don’t like what it reveals. - Steve Peha 

Five Best Blogs: Are Elite Public Schools All That Good?


Baltimore's Catch-22 NCTQ: A recent CALDER study calculated annual principal turnover in districts that included Miami-Dade County, Milwaukee, San Francisco, and New York City, and found rates ranging from 19 to 26 percent.

Do Exclusive Public Schools Teach Better? Matthew Yglesias: At the policy level it’s more important to identify institutions that are unusually good at helping people learn, not institutions that are unusually good at screening. 

A State-By-State Sex Ed Primer Jezebel: Did you know that 24 states don't require sex education? 

High School Girls Have the Right to Upload Lewd Pictures Gawker:It's official: High school girls have a constitutionally protected right to post to Facebook pictures of themselves in lingerie toying with phallic lollipops.

Florida Police Foil Potentially "Catastrophic" School Bombing Slate:  Florida police said on Tuesday that they had foiled a potentially "catastrophic" mass murder plot by an expelled student in a Tampa school district. 

Chart: Costs Of Online Instruction 40 Percent Less

Picture 19
Yesterday, more than 58,000 people signed up for a free online course at Stanford.  Today, the folks at Knewton sent me a chart that, among its many factoids, includes this one that I feel is behind at least some of the current push towards blended learning. Yes, things are that slow.  Yes, I'm that lazy.  No, I don't actually believe that the cost difference is so great or the effectiveness is that clear.  

NCLB: AYP Minus One (Or Two, Or Three)

Good_work I'm one of a very small (but extremely wise and influential) group of people and organizations extremely worried about the Duncan administration giving in to state and local bureaucrats and gutting the accountability measures in NCLB in a cyncial deal to get states to adopt Race To The Top-style reforms (or at least promise to).  But I'm prepared to compromise on a couple of small, sensible fixes if it will help everyone feel better about themselves and get on with more important things (like checking to see how RTTT and SIG are actually being implemented).  Everyone talks about expanding the safe harbor/growth model provisions so that schools get credit for progress but what about -- this is my own crazy idea far as I know -- an "AYP minus one" system in which schools that make AYP for all but one, two, or three subgroups can still be said to have made AYP.  That would allow schools to focus on what they need to focus on but still keep the clear subgroup accountability for everyone.  Solved.  Next problem?

AM News: Public Still Favors Schools


Parents give thumbs up to local schools USA Today: A new survey finds that more Americans today like their kids' public schools than at any time in the past 36 years — even though they believe U.S. education in general has taken a bit of a dive. ALSO: Americans Trust Teachers, Split on Teachers' Unions EdWeek

Most Schools Flagged For Possible Cheating Likely To Be Cleared Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Most of the 90 Pennsylvania schools whose results raised red flags for possible cheating on the 2009 state assessment test probably did nothing wrong, and the Department of Education likely will clear them, a department spokesman said. 

2011 ACT scores show problems with college readiness Washington Post: Only 1 in 4 graduates of the class of 2011 who took the exam met four key benchmarks that supposedly show readiness for success in the first year of college.

NYC Laundromat Doubles As English Classroom NPR: At Magic Touch Laundromat in Manhattan, you can get some ESL instruction while your clothes get clean.

Schools restore fresh cooking to cafeteria The New York Times: Districts in Colorado have become leaders in the back-to-scratch school lunch movement.


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Media: WSJ Education Reporter Leaves Paper

image from s.wsj.net WSJ education reporter Barbara Martinez, who covered the New York City schools, is no longer at the paper, according to Whitney Tilson (and confirmed by others. Apparently she's off to freelance.  Will let you know if I find out more.  You can find a listing of her stories here.

Five Best Blogs: The Texas "Miracle" Is Back


The Origins of the 'Texas Miracle Atlantic:  The "Texas miracle" phrase harkens back to the 2000 presidential race, when George W. Bush campaigned on statistics that showed improving test scores and graduation rates for Texas public school students -- a "Texas miracle" he called it. ALSO: How will Rick Perry’s budget affect education? 

Mike Casserly Is a Stud Rick Hess:  They [CGCS] showed their mettle when requesting the urban trial NAEP, in embracing accountability a decade ago, and in coming to the table with ideas other than a plea for more funds.

Is The Oprah Winfrey Brand Of Philanthropy The Guardian:  In practising what should really be called “humanitarian privatisation”, Winfrey and other philanthropists like Bill Gates have targeted public education with missionary zeal, speaking authoritatively on a subject they know little about. 

Baltimore Schools Chief Alonso Discusses Urban Education: Bloomberg EDU:  Andres Alonso, chief executive officer of Baltimore City Public Schools, discusses conflict and collaboration with the teachers union, high stakes testing and reducing the high school dropout rate.

Can Will.i.am Make Science Geeks the Rock Stars of the Future? Liz Dwyer: Over 2.1 million people tuned in, which is, as the TV by the Numbers blog notes, more than usually watch anything on the Science Channel.  


Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: The Texas "Miracle" Is Back" »

Research: CMO Money, CMO Problems

Picture 17EdWeek checks in with the charter network crowd and finds that getting bigger isn't making things necessarily easier.  It's a particularly appropriate topic this week given all the time and attention Steve Brill pays to charters in his new book (and because of the possiblity that charter expansion will be part of the conditional waivers that Duncan et al are scheming up).   

Thompson: Are Testing -- And Cheating -- The New Normal?

Testing Joy Resmovits of the Huffington Post summarizes a seemingly arcane debate about the causes of cheating on standardized tests in which consultant Gregory Cizek predicts that as schools get used to being measured, "cheating will normalize and decline."  But behavioral economist Dan Ariely argues that "Cheating begets cheating. Once you cheat in some way, the next act of cheating is easier. We're not dealing with separate instances of cheating but we're dealing with things that have accumulated."  Given the spike of cheating after 10 to 15 years of high-stakes testing, the evidence seems to support Ariely.  The saddest thing, however, would be for this bubble-in craze to be seen as "normal."- JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.

Cartoons: Charter School Lottery-Motivated Superhero

ScreenHunter_36 Aug. 15 21.32
It's a pro-reform / anti-union comic book! The new and somewhat controversial comic book adaptation of Spider Man (he's multi-racial!) includes a charter school lottery failure as part of the main character's backstory. Is it the lottery that's bad, or is it the neighborhood schools (in the comic book storyline)?  You be the judge.  Via EIA & others.

AM News: Duncan Allows Montana "Do-Over"


Ed. Dept. Allows Montana to Rewrite Its NCLB History EdWeek: This NCLB do-over, announced today by Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, means 155 schools will make AYP when they shouldn't have. 

State school systems find plenty of uses for leftover cash Stateline: The spring brought headlines of historic cuts to education, but a few states are finding unexpected money that could soften the blow.

Urban Cities Group Backs Education School Review EdWeek: Though CGCS believes the review is being conducted transparently, Casserly writes, "we are concerned that your data-collection process may make it difficult to get a complete picture of the field."


California students show moderate gains in English and math LAT: Overall, 54% of students scored at the 'proficient' level or higher in English-language arts and 50% scored proficient or better in math, the highest scores since testing began in 2003.

Phila. District says 13 schools need deeper study on cheating Philadelphia Inquirer:  The state had earlier directed Philadelphia to offer explanations for 28 schools it had flagged.

L.A. teachers test a pilot evaluation program LA Times: This is what one of Los Angeles Unified's most ambitious reform efforts looks like: about 30 people gathered in a Gardena school auditorium, watching a video of a teacher trying to get her young students to understand a John Updike poem.

Judge Denies Request to Block Ind. Vouchers EdWeek: A judge Monday declined to halt Indiana's broad new school voucher program, allowing the law to remain in effect while a group of teachers and religious leaders challenges it.

N.J. Superintendants Call State Agency Ineffective The New York Times: Nearly three-quarters of New Jersey school superintendents said the state Education Department did not play an important role in helping districts raise students’ achievement or prepare graduates for college and careers.


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Photo: Steve Brill's School Reform Sustainability Problem

Jessica reid wsj
This is Jessica Reid, a minor character in Steve Brill's new book who, as Brill reveals in this WSJ excerpt, at the end of the book quits her grueling charter school job and takes one at a traditional public school that she feels will be more sustainable. Following a similar path, Brill acknowledges in the last pages of his occasionally fascinating 400+ page account that the "no excuses" charter schools and Race To The Top reforms he focuses on aren't really sustainable, either. If only someone had told them sooner.  My interview with Brill -- he's quite a character -- will be in the next issue of Scholastic Administrator.

Five Best Blogs: Money, School Reform, & Campaign '12


The Perry-Obama education fight The Answer Sheet: As the campaign battle between Obama and Perry heats up, expect education to be part of the fight.

The End of the Era of Accountability? EdNext: The current revolt may not be as populist as it may seem, and the new pushback against accountability may, in fact, be a lot like the original one.

Petition on US Department of Education TeacherKen: Most of what Duncan is doing has not been blessed by the Congress.  What the petition asks could potentially at least start the appropriate discussions. 

K-12 Downsizing NRO:  One can imagine a scenario in which one or several cities emerge as hubs of teaching talent, with large numbers of small firms of specialist teachers contracting with blended schools around the country and around the world. 

How the Kochs Are Ending Public Education Robert Greenwald: The Koch apparatus was trying to rewrite the social contract that made the Wake County school system a magnet for teachers and families and the surrounding communities prosper.  


Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: Money, School Reform, & Campaign '12" »

Media: HuffPost Education Page Editor

Emmeline zhao Meet Emmeline Zhao, the HuffPost associate editor in charge of the site's education page.  Graduated from Duke ('11).  Worked at the WSJ.  Can translate Chinese dissidents' Twitter updates. Twitter (313).  Currently on the front page:  Montana Reaches Compromise With Government On NCLB, and Billionaire Brothers And The Racial And Economic Battle Over Wake County Schools. Corection: Zhao graduated in '11 not '10.

Video: Bachmann Opposed Common Core ...In 2002

Here's a nearly decade-old video of Republican presidential front-runner Michelle Bachmann, then with the Maple River Education Coalition, talking about the dangers of the new math standards, part of a series of videos that liberal magazines say show Bachmann's fear-mongering about government  (Bachmann in '02: School reform will lead to Holocaust Salon via Mother Jones)

Chart: A Real-Time NCLB "Waiver Watch"

The Center on Education Policy has created  cool new #nclbwaivers page and map. "As of August 12 there are 4 states that have formally applied for waivers and are awaiting a response, 1 that has been granted a waiver, 1 that has been denied a waiver and 15 that have expressed interest in applying at some point in the future."

AM News: What Next For NCLB?


State Challenges Seen As Whittling Away Fed. Ed. Law The New York Times: Some education officials and experts see signs that years of federal dominance of public school accountability may be drawing to a close.

As Ravaged Joplin heals, schools return on time USA Today: The resumption of classes "is a benchmark … the biggest benchmark since this storm," says Melodee Colbert-Kean, a city councilwoman and mayor pro tem, who maintained since the first days after the disaster that Joplin's recovery should start with its schools.

With Post-Its and Checklists, Schools Cut Their Energy Bills The New York Times: Simple yellow Post-it notes with the message “When not in use, turn off the juice,” pointedly left on classroom computers, printers and air-conditioners, have helped the Mount Sinai School District on Long Island save $350000 annually.

Teachers willing to ask for strike, union chief says Chicago Sun-Times: The president of the Chicago Teachers Union said Friday on a radio show that there is a “very high” likelihood that teachers will ask her to take a strike vote, given how angry and disrespected they feel.

In Future Math Whizzes, Signs of 'Number Sense' The New York Times: Previous studies have shown that there is a connection between number sense and mathematical ability in adolescents. But this is the first study to explore the connection in children with little formal education

Md. school board faces flood of discrimination lawsuits Washington Post: It’s not unusual for a board of education to face a handful of employee discrimination cases at any given time. But the Prince George’s school board now faces 16.

Ex-Agent's Charter School is Set to Open The New York Times: Former Hollywood power agent Tom Strickler is slated to open a school in Los Angeles this fall.

Weekend Reading: NYC's $100M SIG Stalemate

A roundup of magazines, sites, and columns I didn't get to during the week:

Post collegiate flow chart of misery and pain

"Mass Resistance" To Education Reform Jonathan Chait (TNR): That sounds like devolving policy to the level of government at which local interest groups (in this case, teachers unions) will exert the most sway, and foreclosing the possibility of using evidence-based methods to drive policy toward more effective practices. 

Fixing Schools, Fixing Teachers WNYC: The state refuses to release the $100M until the city and the teachers' union can agree on a new teacher evaluation system that combines test scores and classroom observations [for the 33 SIG schools].

Top Right's Faces of Innovation Slate:  Khan’s educational videos are revolutionizing how kids learn math and science. 

Math Teacher Full of Tangents Slate: A student who is fed up with his math teacher's disruptive digressions seeks counsel from Slate's advice columnist Prudence. 

The sex ed hall of shame Salon:  This week people were abuzz over news that New York City had  mandated sex education -- and some were simply scratching their heads at the realization that this wasn't already the case. Seriously, it took this long?

Five Best Blogs: Defending Duncan - Defending AYP Ratings

Tumblr_lpdgwp2Igs1qb3mmfo1_500 Obama Shows Spunk Pushing Brave Education Plan Jonathan Alter: It’s a different kind of local control and a different vision of accountability than we’ve seen before.

Yes Virginia… Eduwonk:  Is it really so surprising that when a law comes along that requires the use of disaggregated data – so overall averages can’t obscure big pockets of low-performance – 60 percent of schools need to do better? 

Proficient in Texas, but not in Missouri Joanne Jacobs: A Tennessee eighth grader could be considered proficient without being able to read a graph, while a Massachusetts student meeting the proficiency benchmark “would likely be able to solve a math problem using algebra and geometry.”

Lawmakers outsource duties to ALEC Midwest Voices:  In Missouri, House Majority Leader Tim Jones... sponsored a bill called the “parent trigger act.”

The Internet Is Making It Hard For Teens to Have Fun Atlantic: In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that students can be disciplined for bad behavior outside of school, "so long as the school can prove the activities were disruptive or posed a danger and that it was foreseeable the activities would find their way to campus," the AP explains.

Etsy Saves Your Freshman Year with Indie School Supplies: Chances are you’re not into rainbow tigers anymore, and you might not have much use for a new box of crayons in Sociology 101. But that doesn’t mean you don’t still want a cool new notebook. 

Thompson: Duncan Cares About Data More Than Due Process

Picture 79 The successful Tennessee Race to the Top application was reportedly based on "deep buy-in" by teachers.  But the new Tennessee governor repudiated those principles with an all-out assault on due process and by imposing a new evaluation system over the protests of teachers. Secretary Duncan has remained silent while Tennessee as well as Rhode Island and Florida have violated the collaborative spirit which RttT was supposed to foster but, as EdWeek's Michele McNeil reports, come  down hard on California for cutting data systems rather than people during a recession. McNeil says it is understandable that Duncan would draw the line on that issue because it "isn't just any policy, but a critical one for Duncan."  It is worrying that an education secretary would place so much more value on numbers than on students and teachers.  And Duncan's seemingly arbitrary willingness to assert his own preferences over everything else is doubly problematic in light of his overreaching plan to award conditional waivers based on whether states fully implement the policies that he desires.- JT (@drjohnthompson)

Advocacy: Dirty Tricks -- Or Lazy Journalism?

image from www.emchez.comThe Huffington Post recently reported that "gay rights advocate and blogger" @asherhuey was calling for Michelle Rhee not to speak at a leadership summit at a suburban Chicago megachurch this morning -- Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz had already backed out -- because of its anti-gay reputation. Rhee's organization defended her attendance at the event, pointing out that President Clinton and Bono have appeared at the event and that President Obama had invited the church's pastor to an immigration event. Left out of the original version of the story -- since corrected -- was that the person making the protest against Rhee's presence works for New Partners, which is affiliated with the AFT and other labor groups critical of Rhee's work. Here's the current / corrected version. It's not clear whether Huey attempted to hide his professional identity, simply didn't mention it, or wasn't asked (I've asked both parties what happened).  The issue has come up several times in the Washington Post over how to identify Mark Simon (as a parent, a union activist, etc).  Bottom line:  To maintain credibility and avoid passing along dubious claims, journalists and bloggers need to be ever more careful about finding out who they're talking to and identifying their sources for readers. Ditto for advocates and opinionaters; your arguments are undercut mightily if it comes out later that you have a personal or professional stake. Link to scary mask pictures here.

Quote: "It Is Tiring To Make This Point Over And Over Again"

Quotes2 The research consensus has been clear and unchanging for more than a decade: at most, teaching accounts for about 15 percent of student achievement outcomes, while socioeconomic factors account for about 60 percent. It is tiring to make this point over and over again. - Dana Goldstein in The Nation

Cartoon: Credit Ratings In The School Cafeteria

image from 3.images.theweek.com

I've been waiting all week for someone to do a credit rating / education joke.  Image via 

AM News: Everyone Hates NCLB (For The Wrong Reasons)


GOP Candidates Criticzie NCLB in Debate EdWeek: Two candidates were asked if—as president— they would continue to enforce the No Child Left Behind Act. The answer was an emphatic "no."

U.S. Children Face Low Bar to Pass State Tests Bloomberg: Almost all states give children math and reading proficiency exams using standards that fall short of federal benchmarks, even after eight raised their requirements since 2007.

62% of Va. Schools Labeled 'Failing' Under NCLB The Washington Post: Education leaders attributed the dramatic increase to “arbitrary” rules that “misidentify” schools, state officials said Thursday.

Calif. reports eighth-grade dropout rate for first time LA Times: A new system that tracks every public school student finds that about 3.5% of eighth-graders — 17,257 in all — left school and didn't return for ninth grade. The high school dropout rate is 18.2%.

Bullying climates at schools may be linked to lower test scores LA Times: Bullying can affect a student's academic performance, but a school's bullying climate may be linked with lower overall test scores, a study finds.

Detroit Residents Monitor Fate Of Local Schools NPR: Detroit Public Schools will continue closing schools this year, in an effort to keep up with a steady decline in the number of students.  

Continue reading "AM News: Everyone Hates NCLB (For The Wrong Reasons)" »

Five Best Blogs: Illegal... And Unwise

Global warming

#nclbwaivers  New Plan To Reform Education Is Likely Illegal TNR:  Many [Republicans] see it as a bad idea for education reform, but also because it fits nicely into their ready-made narrative about the Obama administration’s dangerous and unconstitutional use of executive power.

The Duncan Precedent, 2013 Edition: "First off, congratulations Congresswoman Bachmann on being named U.S. Secretary of Education by President-elect Perry."

I Think These Critiques Of Parent Trigger Laws Are Missing The Point Larry Ferlazzo:  There probably aren’t many people who are bigger critics of the parent trigger than me, but this condescending objection is insulting, short-sighted, and ___________ (insert just about any other negative adjective you can think of).  

We’d All Love to See the Plan Mike Antonucci: The teacher union reform field is littered with the bodies of those who sought to alter the union’s primary mission – protecting teachers – and found themselves ousted in favor of challengers who promised to get tough with administrators. 

Teachers to Take Center Stage at Education NationLiz Dwyer: While it remains to be seen how much this year's event will present teachers as experts with real solutions, this fresh approach certainly seems like a step in the right direction. 

Rebecca Black Withdraws b/c of Bullying ABC News:  Now her mother is her teacher, and said she agreed to pull Black out of school because her daughter was being made fun of and so she had more time to focus on her career.

Media: Associated Press Names New Education Editor

image from media.linkedin.comAfter what seems like years of limping along without a real point person on national education issues - the so-called "team approach" -- the AP has just announced a new education editor and plans for expanded coverage.  The new editor is Carole Feldman, a Washington-based veteran of 35 years. No real specifics about what the expanded coverage will look like, who their lead reporter in DC is going to be (if anyone).  Read the full press release below.  UPDATE:  I'm told that Dorie Turner and Christine Armario will continue covering federal ed issues for the time being.  

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Update: So DFER Is Liberal & Pro-Union Now?

Work-clockThe Obama administration and many school reform organizations and talking heads were noticably AWOL during the Wisconsin decertification debate last winter, or appeared on the scene only belatedly to offer their support for collective bargaining rights. So it was interesting to hear DFER's Joe Williams express what sounded like pretty strong concerns about the linkages between reform and anti-unionism in Claudio Sanchez' NPR piece last night:  "The notion that education reform could get wrapped up so closely with attempts to eliminate collective bargaining has made it very difficult to have this conversation all over the country."  DFER is described as a liberal organization in the piece, which I don't think is accurate.  DFER often fights to remove charter caps, and eventually came out against Scott Walker et al last winter.  

Thompson: More Time, Yes -- But Better Planning, Too

24brooklyn_lede Education Week's Sarah Sparks has just written about updated research from the National Center on Time and Learning showing that it "generally takes an increase of 300 hours of additional time each year to make a real difference for students."  The problem is that systems do not take the time to plan for using that time effectively. So, districts fall into "the Christmas tree effect—just adding more things."  I was pleased to learn that Oklahoma has inventoried the quality of time use in our schools.  I was not happy to learn, however, that schools spend as little as 32 minutes a day on academic instruction, or that other states have not looked into the ways that discipline problems and scheduling issues detract from learning.  The best news in Sparks' piece was that the Brooklyn Generation School  "staggers four sets of teachers throughout the school year to create a schedule of 200 seven-hour days, with class sizes below 18 students and more teacher training time."  Also, both Joel Klein and the NYC union have been equally enthusiastic in praising the school.  More unplanned time, doing the same old things, is a recipe for burnout for adults and students.  Increasing time on task must be a team effort.- JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.

Reform: Smearing Ravitch Could Blow Up In Reformers' Faces

image from i141.photobucket.comHow much do Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, and Geoff Canada get paid for their appearances at various conferences and events, by whom -- and where are these payments disclosed to those who are listening and to the public?  How much did Steve Brill get paid to write his book and who was it who first suggested to him that he should look into Diane Ravitch's speaking fees?  These are some of the questions that come to mind in light of the attacks on Diane Ravitch in Brill's book that are the focus of Whitney Tilson's emailings this morning (see below).  I have issues with Ravitch -- earlier this year she demanded to have her blurb removed from the back of my book over my my expressing these thoughts -- but I have no questions about her integrity.  It's no secret that she has spoken to teachers at union events around the country, and (to me, at least) no particular problem that she's taken speaking fees for sharing her views without declaring the income at every opportunity. I have, however, had several Ravitch critics mention to me that I should look into her being paid over the past year or so. That Brill has made Ravitch's fees part of his book -- and Tilson has made them the focus - reminds me of the smear campaign conducted by Tilson and others against Linda Darling Hammond two years ago when reformers were (ridiculously, unnecessarily) woried about her role in the Obama administration. Ravitch supporters (especially those who think there's a secret Ravitch Group operating inside the USDE to destroy her reputation) will only be fueled by having their champion attacked (again). Reform supporters should be dismayed to see fearful people on "their side" resorting to cheap, below-the-belt, "blow-up-in-our-faces" tactics in order to try and sway opinion that is not necessarily trending their way. TILSON EMAILS BELOW 

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Standards: New Report Undercuts Duncan Waiver Argument

Walker-wide mitch blunt The WSJ's Stephanie Banchero and Huffington Post's Joy Resmovits both use the release of a new report from NCES to describe about how state assessments have gotten more rigorous in recent years, though they still vary widely and are too many of them too easy. This shows two things that are important to note in light of the Duncan waiver proposal: First, that states are already many of them moving in the right direction in terms of more rigor. ( Eight states have raised standards for reading and math in recent years.  SC is the only state to drop standards.  Two more states -- NY and TN -- have raised them more recently than the report parameters allow.) Second, letting states create their own hodgepodge of accountability on a state by state basis will only further erode comparability. You think it's hard to compare states now, with a relatively uniform AYP reporting system in place?  It could get much harder under the Duncan waiver scheme, especially during the years between now and when common core standards and assessments are implemented (which could be a while). WSJ here: States Fail to Raise Bar in Reading, Math Tests.  HuffED here:  Standardized Tests' Measures Of Student Performance Vary Widely Image via NYTSM

AM News: Districts Criticize Duncan Waivers


#nclbwaivers  Districts Not Fans of Duncan's NCLB Waiver Ideas EdWeek:  The letter also says that the conditional waivers are likely to come with mandates and it will be difficult for cash-strapped states to comply. 

 Colorado Takes To Computer Testing To Prevent Cheating Denver Post:  In light of cheating scandals across the country -- and higher stakes associated with the implementation of Senate Bill 191, which ties teacher evaluations to student test performance -- Colorado is considering changes.

Teachers Feeling 'Beat Down' as School Year Starts NPR: They're facing layoffs and deep budget cuts and many say they're tired of being blamed unfairly for just about everything that's wrong in public education. 

High Turnover in Baltimore Baltimore Sun: Since Baltimore schools CEO Andrés Alonso took the helm four years ago, only about one-quarter of the system's principals have remained in their posts.

NYC Schools Fight for Life PBS: As some New York City high schools dubbed "dropout factories" face closure, they are still fighting to increase the number of graduates.


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Media: Media Mischaracterization Of NCLB Then & Now

Flickr daniel blume The Education Writers Association has an interesting interview with Gene Hickock, fromer top USDE official in the Bush administration, who notes that the media have long struggled to report on NCLB accurately. He describes reporters "going to their local sources–school boards, union leaders, the superintendent’s office–that were often misinformed or biased" back when NCLB was first passed and continuing to mischaracterize the law as labeling or punishing schools. He also notes how difficult it was even under NCLB to compare states or prevent them from cooking the books in terms of performance [it will only get worse under waivers], and thinks the Obama administration has gotten too much credit for Race To The Top before any results are in.  Image via Flickr/Daniel Blume.

Thompson: Why Saturday School Remediation Rarely Works

Saturday The Philadelphia Public School Notebook's Katrina Morrison reports that attendance rates for Saturday School for the city's Promise academies was 48%.  This is further confirmation of the work of Robert Balfanz and others that explains why remediation is not the way to improve schools.  Students who are behind need the same holistic and engaging instruction that works for high-performing students.  When after-school remediation works, it is due to opportunities for one-on-one attention and field trips.  So, why not institutionalize them during the school day?- JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.    

Quotes: A Statistic Unlikely To Be Affected By Reform

Quotes2 The number of homeless children in public schools increased 41 percent between the 2006-7 and 2008-9 school years.  -- CDF report via NYT's Charles Blow 

Reform: Illinois Teacher Reform Effort Comes In Last

Picture 15
With funding from Walton, the pro-reform DC consulting firm Bellwether Partners has taken a look at several states' teacher quality reforms and rated the strength of the laws that have been passed.  Not surprisingly (to me, at least), IL's reform effort gets the lowest rating of the bunch.  Indiana, Colorado, Florida, and Tennessee all come in ahead.  Note that the ratings don't take funding or implementation into account.  

AM News: MD Trains Teachers On Common Core


Teacher's trained on new national curriculum Baltimore Sun: With 10 training sites and 4 representatives from each of Maryland's 1,450 schools required to attend, state officials are calling it the most comprehensive common core training ever attempted.

Calif. Jeopardizes Stimulus Funds EdWeek: By giving up federal funding to implement this data system, California seems to be willfully flouting the rules governing the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.

Perry: The Anti-Obama on K-12? Education Week: He witheld from Race to the Top and reject Common Core State Standards. So Alyson Klein must ask: Is potential presidential candidate Rick Perry the Anti-Obama on education?

High Teen Unemployment Molding 'Lost Generation' NPR:  Across the country, 16- to 19-year-olds are facing the end of the third summer in a row of unemployment rates above 20 percent.

Beverly Hall: The Scandal is Not the Whole Story Education Week: The former ATL superintendant responds to critcism over recent scandal and defends school testing. PLUS:  Atlanta's Schools Work Through Cheating Scandal NPR


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Five Best Blogs: Waivers, Failures, And Redefining AYP


Why states should refuse Duncan’s NCLB waivers The Answer Sheet: Based on his track-record with “Race to the Top” and School Improvement Grants, Duncan probably will replace these sanctions with a requirement to use student test scores to judge teachers.

Beyond NCLB’s ‘Avoiding Failure’ Plans Julie McCargar: Across Tennessee, almost half of the public schools did not make adequate yearly progress (AYP) this year, and 17 percent of the schools are on the list of low-performing schools. 

'No Child Left Behind' set to relieve states in budget crisis CSM: Jennings said Duncan "should be concentrating on making sure they’re asking for waivers that make sense in terms of maintaining accountability.” 

Niche Reforms Are Not The Answer David Cohen: Most school systems in the world have at least several elements of an infrastructure.  The U.S. Advanced Placement Program has several elements, as do a few charter networks and some of the Comprehensive School Reform designs. Effective and sustainable school improvement will take more than piecemeal niche reforms.  

The Conversation Atlantic:  Joel Klein’s take on the public education system, The Failure of AMerican Schools, received more letters than any other article so far this year. Union leaders, teachers, parents, and students alike wrote in. Many attacked Klein; a few praised him; others offered their own theories about what’s plaguing U.S. education.

Nationalization Chickens Come Home to Roost Jay Greene Blog: I get the sense that conservatives who like Common Core want a do-over. They want to disengage from their former allies among the nationalizers and reposition themselves as champions of high state standards. 

Thompson: Targeted Class-Size Reduction For Toughest Schools

ScreenHunter_22 Nov. 13 08.42In "Does Class Size Really Matter?,"by Peg Tyre, explains that reducing class size, by itself, is not going to save low-performing kids.  Research shows, however, that the positive effects of small class size are long-lasting, and that is more than can be said about test-driven reforms. Moreover, "African American kids who attended predominantly African-American schools get a bigger boost from small class size than did white kids."  Tyre reports that there are very different ways to reduce class size to serve very different purposes.  It makes no sense for affluent parents to see small classes as the "litmus test" for school quality, but common sense says that reducing class size for harder-to-educate kids is the smart choice.  California's unfortunate experiment in reducing class size must be remembered, but we should also note that the state "went on a hiring spree at a time when there were not a lot of highly qualified teachers waiting around on the sidelines to be hired."  Tyre is equally correct in concluding that "good teachers, it seems, are even more important for increasing student achievement."  I would only quarrel with one of her points.  Few or no urban school districts have a line of qualified teachers waiting to be thrown into the toughest schools.  But reducing class size in the toughest schools would be an effective way to recruit scarce talent to those schools, and improve results at the same time.- JT (@drjohnthompson)

Video Interlude: Dude Grows Massive Beard In 38 Seconds

It's August.  This has nothing to do with education.  Trim from Petey Boy on Vimeo.



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