About this blog Subscribe to this blog

NCLB: Just Can't Stop Talking 'Bout #ESEA

Lobbyist finalAttack of the Ed Reform Killer ChimerasDFER Charlie Barone: NTEA Party. Accountability Chickenhawks. Amnesiac Historians.  Washington Knows Best States' Rights Purists. Test-Enlisting Anti-Testing Advocates. 

ESEA political scorecard: Halloween version Sherman Dorn:In the group category, I see that Education Trust, DFER, La Raza, and other civil rights groups are all wearing the Ghost of ESEA Past costume

Except For Them! Eduwonk: In his own subtle way Winerip’s work is actually a spectacular argument for No Child Left Behind-style policies requiring disaggregation, transparency, and accountability.

Night of the Living Reauthorization Thompson:  "It’s not much of a deal to offer states a choice between AYP and a test-based teacher evaluation system. Both are based on rhetoric rather than evidence of effectiveness in improving schools and neither will make a dent in the issues facing our most challenged students.” (Ellen Forte)

Five Best Blogs: New News About Denver's ProComp


Money for nothing Joanne Jacobs: The 31 Abbott districts received more nbsp;money than the rich districts, because inner-city kids have greater needs. The court funded all-day kindergarten, half-day preschools for three- and four-year-olds and transition programs to work or college, plus money to build or update school buildings. 

ProComp Final Evaluation Results EdSector: It doesn’t give us the final answer to the big question—does it work? But it does tell us a lot about what’s happened since ProComp—and most of it’s good. 

New data Bill Gates, other ed reformers should care about The Answer Sheet:  Many teachers see poverty up close, although our students do their best to hide it...They tease one another about buying clothes at Salvation Army, or living in a cardboard box. 

Unions See Their Future in Protesters' Ranks WSJ:  Union members who descended on Occupy Wall Street encampments armed with tents, food and organizational expertise hope to turn young demonstrators into enduring labor allies, part of a larger effort to rejuvenate the movement's aging ranks. 

A Match.com for Innovation Title I Derland: The need for the registry for the i3 grant and beyond is incredibly obvious, maybe even more so than Match.com was 15 years ago. 


Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: New News About Denver's ProComp" »

Chart: Consumer Spending On Education (& Vegetables)

Education spending ($1,074) has nominally risen 12-13 percent since 2007 -- second only to the purchase of processed vegetables (up 29 percent) -- but decreased slightly in real dollars.

ScreenHunter_12 Oct. 29 20.41
What Americans buy now via The Economist

Thompson: Ban Those Infernal Cell Phones

Cell-phones-on-planesThe New York Times' Patricia Willens writes in "To Ban of Not Ban Cellphones" that parents are intensely divided on the issue of cell phones in schools.  I wish all schools were orderly enough so that students could be taught to use personal electronic devices in the learning process, but that is impossible in the anarchy of many urban schools. We cannot teach students to learn for mastery if they have not been taught to master their technology. When schools can not control cell phone abuses (and I have never seen one that could)  students are continually distracted by text messages, gossip, and arranging fights. Some parents complain about the double standard of using metal detectors in some schools to confiscate cell phones, but not in more affluent schools where those systems are not necessary. Metal detectors, however, are like "zero tolerance" policies; they are largely ineffective fig leaves for when nothing else works.   Confiscating cell phones, while politically difficult, can work.  If parents must retreive banned property, they will make sure that students check their phones before entering restricted areas.  The issue is whether school leaders have the will power required to keep cell phones from disrupting the educational process. - JT (@drjohnthompson)Image  via.

Quotes: Concocting Explanations For Test Score Changes

Quotes2If we don't come up with a reason, it looks like we don't know what we're doing. But we simply don't know.  - Former NYC testing chief Bob Tobias

ESEA: Where Were *You* When NCLB Got Rewritten?

Picture 9Whatever your position on NCLB, or the Harkin-Enzi bill, or the Duncan waiver plan, there's one thing that seems really clear:  Many of those who are (or could) be major players in the debate over federal education policy have yet not come anywhere close to exerting their full influence.  This is unfortunate, given that time is short (see Alyson Klein EdWeek story here) and the logistics are complicated (see Joy Resmovits here). We could end up with current law, or waivers, or -- who knows?  Michelle Rhee seems to have been ramping up her activities on the reauthorization front, including an email (see below) from last week calling on members to oppose Harkin-Enzi in its entirety.  Several other notables (Stand For Children, 50CAN) are absent from the field of battle, insofar as press releases, priority letters, or other declarations would seem to indicate. Others (Diane Ravitch, BBA, PAA) are taking positions so far outside the debate that no one involved in crafting legislation will take them seriously. Many (TFA, the Alliance, NSVF) are focusing on narrow issues of self-interest such as the highly qualified teacher definitions, the expansion of ESEA into high schools, or the creation of a new principal leadership initiative.  It's a strategy that is understandable enough but raises issues of leadership.  What is the point of building organization capacity and political capital if not to use them? How can education advocates call on educators and administrators and politicians to look beyond their own immediate self-interests without doing so themselves? 

Continue reading "ESEA: Where Were *You* When NCLB Got Rewritten?" »

AM News: "So Long, SES," Say Waiver States


Waivers spell likely end for tutoring program AP: Dozens of states intend to apply for waivers that would free their schools from a federal requirement that they set aside hundreds of millions of dollars a year for after-school tutoring, a program many researchers say has been ineffective.

Clock Ticking on Senate Bill to Overhaul NCLB EdWeek: Leaders of the Senate education committee still aim to push a bipartisan revision of the much-criticized NCLB Act through Congress by year’s end, in time to stave off the Obama administration’s move to offer states waivers of parts of the nearly decade-old law.

In trimming school budgets, more officials turn to a four-day week The Washington Post: At least 292 school districts nationwide have a four-day week, according to a Washington Post survey, more than double the 120 estimated two years ago.

Trick and treat: Schools closed in snowy Northeast AP: Thousands of schoolchildren around the Northeast had one of the earliest snow days in memory Monday after a storm dumped as much as 30 inches of wet, heavy snow that snapped trees and power lines, caused widespread power failures and threatened to disrupt Halloween trick-or-treating.

Continue reading "AM News: "So Long, SES," Say Waiver States" »

Video Interlude: Trailer For Dr. Seuss' "The Lorax"


Prepared for them to ruin yet another childhood memory?

Five Best Blogs: Happy Edu-Halloween


A tale of two teacher evaluations Joanne Jacobs:  Rhames almost quit teaching because of her experience, but is “now happily working at my charter school where teacher evaluations are fair, substantive, and self-reflective.” 

What teachers think about teacher prep NCTQ: 81 percent of respondents think there should be a national review of teacher preparation. 59 percent of all teachers felt "very prepared" or "prepared" in their first year in the classroom. 

Charters Line Up For Extended School Day Cash Catalyst: Of the 41 charter elementary schools that can apply, 32 are planning to, he said. The schools will get the same amount that regular public schools have been offered: $800 for each teacher and $75,000 for each school that starts in January.'

Read' Shakespeare In Minutes? CliffsNotes Films Makes It Happen HuffED: Now, it's coming to the masses in an even simpler form. "CliffNotes Films -- The Fastest Way to Learn," a collaboration among AOL, Mark Burnett, Coalition Films and Josh Faure-Brac, is launching with animated shorts -- each narrated by nerdy super hero Super Cliff who guides the audience through classic works.

Teacher Claims VeganismMade Her Crazy Enough To Sleep With Students Jezebel: Shockingly, the judge didn't buy her vegan/antidepressant/alcohol/IBS defense, and sentenced her to four years in prison.

The Lost Tweets of Ichabod Crane The Tangential: Excited to be starting my new job @TarrytownSchool! I hear every child in Sleepy Hollow is above average. Charming school-house! Classic log-cabin construction, very charming. Bit drafty, but no matter. I hear my reputation as a disciplinarian has preceded me! I merely do as I must. #sparetherodspoilthechild. 

Power Couples: Emily & David Sirota

Picture 8#edcolo Meet David and Emily Sirota, education's hottest couple for October.  The husband is a left-leaning columnist and radio host.  The wife is a former Democratic staffer who's running for school board in Denver.  The election is next week.   As you know from earlier in the week, the husband has been writing about his wife's experiences in the race, and that -- among other things -- has attracted national media attention including an MSBC appearance. Alas, the media attention has gotten less accurate as it's gone viral, as EdNewsColorado explains in detail.  The George W. Bush visit to Denver wasn't an implied endorsement of Sirota's husband. Pretty much all of those involved in the race on both sides are Democrats. There's not really all that much support for vouchers in this race. Both candidates have gotten money from outside the state. Sirota has taken money from the local teachers union.  None of this means that there isn't too much unregulated money in the race, or even that Sirota woudn't make a good board member.  But the story that this is some simple Republicans vs. Democrats kind of thing isn't quite accurate.  

Thompson: Bill Tucker's Incomplete Tally Of Testing Costs

Greek_PhalanxI have no idea how much America spends on testing, and neither does the Education Sector's Bill Tucker.  Tucker's "The Truth About Testing Costs" listed some costs and problems with testing but ducked the real issues. Tucker should have evaluated the learning time wasted on preparing for tests that do not align well with meaningful ideas and skills, and to estimate the price tag for the time devoted to ineffective test prep.  A complete estimate of the costs of testing would include  the billions of dollars of computer systems and the opportunity costs of transforming digital technologies into systems for command and control. Another big cost is the diversion of professional development investments to training educators how to jack up their scores. Standardized testing is the point of the spear in our educational civil war, and it has made our fratricidal conflict more costly. (By the way, Tucker also called for an end of "vitriol." This is the same Bill Tucker who wrote in a previous post, Scholarly Discourse, that "Tea Party activist Education historian Diane Ravitch, agitating educating her 20,000+ Twitter followers about readiness assessment programs ...?") - JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.

Events: Journalists Study Testing Uses & Misuses

Check out all the livetweets coming out of the "Truth About Testing" conference for journalists at Columbia's J-School today and tomorrow.  Look back at previous panels via #goodschools hashtag

Media: "This American Life" To Cover Middle School

Picture 7#TAL   NPR's Ira Glass started out as an education reporter in Chicago, you may know, and he's always had a soft spot for education stories.  

This week, his TAL show is focusing on a middle school:  "This week, at the suggestion of a 14-year-old listener, we bring you stories from the awkward, confusing, hormonally charged world of middle school."

Here's the teaser audio.  Hope they do a good job.  Can't wait to hear it.  Meantime I'm calling around to see if I can get any details about the show's focus, the school focused on, etc.  

AM News: Republican Candidates Diss The USDE


Candidates Call For Diminished Federal Role In Schools HuffPost: The desire for a lighter federal hand in the nation's schools ruled the discussions at an education forum Thursday night with four of the GOP presidential hopefuls.

Republican candidates blast Obama’s student-loan plan Hechinger: Republican presidential candidates on Thursday night criticized the Obama administration’s newly announced plan to lower student-loan repayments, saying it would simply shift the burden of costs from students to taxpayers.

Obama Using Education Issue as Political Sword EdWeek: His administration is using its record on education—and that of congressional Republicans—as a political weapon as Campaign 2012 heats up.

National focus on DPS race EdNewsCO: A national media blitz by Denver school board candidate Emily Sirota is shaking up the race in southeast Denver but it’s unclear whether it will help her win.

When School Dropouts Start to Look Like a Budget Blessing Texas Tribune: Texas’ two-year spending cycle gives greater regard to short-term political gain than to the long-term consequences of aborted educations.


Continue reading "AM News: Republican Candidates Diss The USDE" »

Five Best Blogs: Souvlaki For Everyone!


Just say No! EdNext: The Harkin-Enzi bill “lowers the bar,” says the Times, and “backs away from requiring states to have clear student achievement targets for all schools.” 

What Our Kids Is Doing Mother Jones:  To be honest, I'm a little surprised that TV watching is only two hours a day for 5-8 year-olds. On the other hand, I'm sort of appalled that 75% of 0-2 year-olds watch TV, and of those, the average TV-watching time has increased from 1:02 to 1:30 over the past six years. 

A primer on corporate school reform The Answer Sheet:  Instead, they went after collective bargaining, teacher tenure, and seniority.  And they went after the universal public and democratic character of public schools. 

The Gap On The Gap Eduwonk: A decade after an overwhelmingly bipartisan effort to get serious about school accountability, it’s open season on a strong federal role in education. How did we get here? 

Comment on “A Perfect Confluence” ERS:  We are in the midst of the perfect confluence, and the prospect of converting it into a new educational order for school children is exciting indeed. 


Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: Souvlaki For Everyone!" »

Media: Keeping Busy At The Hechinger Report

RonSwanson-Mask-PackageWondering what the Hechinger Institute/Report has been up to recently ?  Me, too. There's no RSS feed for Hechinger-produced stories that I know of, and there haven't been any blockbuster investigations or newsmakers like the LA Times' value-added series, but head honcho Liz Willen was kind enough to fill me in about some of THR's recent doings:  There was an international education story in the Washington Post that just debuted, an earlier Post piece on war vets returning to college, a USA Today story on charter schools and minority college attendance, a series on early education that's been picked up in various California papers, a story on online learning that's recently run in the McClatchy network, and a Miami Herald story on the arrival of merit pay there.  And that's just the mainstream print stuff. They had a piece in The American Prospect about how much money consultants were raking in from teacher evaluation reforms. (I love that kind of follow the money story.) They also recently added former Marketplace bureau chief Jill Barshay to their roster.  Anything else I'm missing?  Let me know. Yes, that's a Ron Swanson Halloween mask.  Don't ask.  

Quotes: Harkin-Enzi Slammed By NYT Editorial Page

Quotes2The bill’s main sponsors should take the criticism to heart and go back to the drawing board-- NYT editorial page

AM News: Vouchers Might Come Back In PA


Pa. senate approves plan for taxpayer-funded school-tuition vouchers Philadelphia Inquirer: The push for school choice cleared its first major legislative hurdle when the state Senate voted Wednesday to provide taxpayer-funded tuition vouchers for impoverished students in 

In Denver, Obama Seeks Student Support AP: President Obama promoted new rules to expedite and ease repayment for graduates with federal student loans.

New York's Mayor Bloomberg joins fray over control of state school board NOLA: Jones, the local Teach for America leader, is in a runoff for the seat with incumbent Louella Givens, a local attorney who has served on the board for almost eight years.via Gothamschools.

Private donors funding new statewide district for struggling schools
 Detroit Free Press: Start-up money for the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) will be held by the new Michigan Education Excellence Foundation. 

Franken mixes math, mirth and education-bill backing MinnPost: Franken depicted the bill as a bipartisan victory and a "real improvement on NCLB."


Continue reading "AM News: Vouchers Might Come Back In PA" »

Five Best Blogs: Still More On The #ESEA Markup & Duncan Waivers

ScreenHunter_03 Oct. 06 11.09

What Does ESEA Re-Write Mean for Ed Reform on the State Level? Alex Johnston: In taking the fundamental outlines of federal education policy for granted, we may not have looked closely enough... at what aspects of NCLB are essential to preserve, and what’s best left alone, and what’s most in need of an upgrade. 

 The Latest GREAT News NSVF:  Should we succeed in getting GREAT included in the House legislation... we may actually create a new legislative pathway to support high-performing teacher and principal training programs. 

 Senators Playing Politics with EducationThe committee vote was a "stick out the tongue" moment by Sen. Harkin directed at President Obama, as well as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, for offering states waivers on the current NCLB law.

Harkin/Enzi ESEA Bill Would Formalize Rewards for High-Performing Schools New America: This is one of the few places where we see Congress attempting to create what are known as “communities of practice” – opportunities for schools to come together to share best practices and work together to improve student achievement. 

Arne vs. The Rules Title I Derland: One of the overlooked features of Duncan’s new ESEA waiver package is the fact that there is no new money in it. Yet state and local educational agencies are supposed to implement a host of intensive interventions in “priority” schools. 


Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: Still More On The #ESEA Markup & Duncan Waivers" »

Teachers: Most State Policy Changes Not Yet Implemented

A quick roundup of views and commentary on the #NCTQ report (which FWIW contrasts with the DFER report on many of the same states):

image from www.nctq.org

4 Race to Top States Lag in Teacher Evaluations Politics K12: The report's conclusions about Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Hawaii seem especially troubling.

States move quickly to change teacher evaluations: 33 and counting Hechinger Report: But how will these new policies change what happens in classrooms? Will they lead to improved student achievement?  The response on the conference call yesterday was, essentially, we don’t know yet.

Too Much Change Too Fast? EWA: How will the push toward evaluations affect the teachers themselves? Will it result in a measurable improvement in student achievement? 

Sea change in teacher effectiveness policies NCTQ: Just two years ago, only 15 states required annual teacher reviews and 35 states did not, even in the most cursory way, recognize that student achievement was of any use in assessing a teacher's effectiveness in the classroom.  

UFT continues to drag its heels on supporting NYC's new evaluation systems DFER: The union's stalling has real implications, because NYC can't qualify to apply for the full range of award programs without demonstrating labor support for the new evaluation system. 

Policy changes are great, but implementation is the thing that creates changes that could improve outcomes for kids.  Let's these state laws turned into action before we let anyone declare victory.  

Thompson: Turnarounds Serving Fewer Kids, Not More

Catcoverfall2011Sarah Karp of Catalyst Chicago continues an in-depth analysis of the turnaround of Marshall High School.  Nationally, the student population of schools undergoing turnarounds and transformations have declined by 27%, and the shrinkage has been sharper in Chicago.  Marshall, for instance, is competing against twelve new schools, mostly charters.  As a result, only 16% of students in Marshall's attendance area attend their neighborhood high school.  Of course, those numbers cannot be reconciled with the spin that charters and are selective schools are serving "the same students."  Those selective schools serve a disproportionate number of kids who would have been leaders at Marshall, and students who can't meet the academic, behavioral, and attendance standards of new competing schools are free to return to the neighborhood high school.  Marshall's turnaround would probably be impossible if it was not now drawing more of the lines that charters can draw when creating safe and orderly learning cultures.  On the other hand, only 1/6th of the kids in the neighborhood go to Marshall, and only 1/5th of them were counseled out of the school.  Even in our toughest neighborhoods, only a small percentage of students have undergone trauma to the point where they cannot function in a neighborhood school.  If we can afford billions of dollars for turnarounds at scale, we can afford the alternative services necessary to make those turnarounds possible.- JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.     

SIG: Dumping Money On Bad Schools Doesn't Work (Duh)

image from www.ednewscolorado.org#edcolo @ednews       Here's an EdNews Colorado blog post and podcast of my talk in Denver last week (The “brutal work” of turnarounds), during which I focused on what made the Locke rescue effort unusual (teacher ratification, charter unionization, neighborhood responsibilities) and what Green Dot did that worked and didn't. The Obama initiative to fix the nation's worst schools seems still to be struggling with implementation and capacity issues -- an Obama-created race to the bottom for turnarounds.  As I said during my talk, I don't think you can spend your way to fixing broken schools, or get any sense that the SIG program was designed or has been implemented with any create care. This is work that's too hard to do well for mere money.  There has to be a leader, a group of teachers, or a community organization ready to do the work.  And there has to be someone willing to play bad cop.

Quotes: Duncan Pleased At #ESEA Bipartisanship

Quotes2I was pleased that folks are working together in a bipartisan way, but we want to make sure we’re driving reform and not perpetuating the status quo in which education in the U.S. is stagnating. - Arne Duncan on results of Senate education committee markup (from Friday)

AM News: Federal TIF Program Too Rigid, Says Oregon City


School District Says No To Teacher Bonus Grant NPR:  Oregon City, just south of Portland, Ore., has rejected more than $2.5 million in federal funds. The school district turned down money that would have given performance-based pay bonuses to teachers, a controversial part of the Obama administration's education policy.

DOE glitch: Student data revealed POLITICO: When the Education Department’s direct loans website fell pray to a technical “glitch” earlier this month, the financial details of thousands of students were made public, an education official said in a congressional hearing on Tuesday.

Gov. Perry's Tax Plan Would Slash Ed. Funding in Half Politics K-12: Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is in a furious race for the GOP presidential nomination, unveiled a flat tax plan today that also takes direct aim at federal education spending.

SAT Officials Vow Tighter Test Security After Arrests NYT: Stung by the arrest of seven Long Island teenagers accused of cheating on the SAT, the College Board said Tuesday that it was hiring a former F.B.I. director to review its security procedures

ETS Says SAT Cheating Attempts Not Uncommon NPR: The Educational Testing Service admitted Tuesday that attempts at cheating on the SAT are not as uncommon as it had previously claimed.


Continue reading "AM News: Federal TIF Program Too Rigid, Says Oregon City" »

Five Best Blogs: The School Reform Windfall


Campus Cash TAPPED/Hechinger: Mathematica was paid more than $500,000 to design the model for the Washington, D.C., public schools. Pearson began marketing Teacher Compass, a new teacher-observation software program. Learning Sciences International, is selling iObservation, a computerized data system designed in collaboration with a group of researchers.

Report details problems with full-time virtual schools The Answer Sheet: In 27 states, the report says, full-time “cyber schools” are now operating, including scores of virtual charter schools. More than 200,000 students are enrolled in full-time virtual schools, and more than 30 percent of the country’s 16 million high school students have been enrolled in at least one online course. 

The NCLB Saga Continues Sandy Kress: When she was a historian, Diane Ravitch would never have spit out as truth a speculative statement from a government official, particularly one she doesn't trust. Yet, here she is repeating Duncan's charge that 80% of the schools will be labeled failures this year. 

Senate on Track to Make No Child Left Behind Even Worse Heritage:  If you think No Child Left Behind (NCLB) isn't working, what Senators Tom Harkin (D–IA) and Mike Enzi (R–WY) have in mind for the nation's schools is only going to make things worse.

End It, Don't Mend It Bridging Differences (Diane Ravitch): So long as Congress tries to breathe life into the moribund NCLB legislation, its members are wasting their time.


Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: The School Reform Windfall" »

Cartoon: Sometimes Editorial Cartoons Are Just Dumb

image from 4.images.theweek.com

The schools left behind The Week.

Update: What MSNBC's O'Donnell Gets Wrong About Denver

#edcolo @ednews Following up on recent coverage in The Nation and on Salon, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell did a segment with Denver school board candidate Emily Sirota in which he seemed to  have the view that the big-money opposition to union-supported Sirota was coming entirely from pro-voucher Republicans.  

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The Denver race may make the case for campaign limits for school board elections but let's be clear that this fight is not really between Democrats and Republicans but between Democrats who favor charters and other reforms being undertaken by the current superintendent and those who who oppose them or at very least want to go slower.  Pro-voucher Republicans are in there, too, but the mayor of Denver, the Governor, and several others are all supportive of Sirota's opponent. Too often, education debates these days are viewed (or cast) as liberal vs. conservative (or Democrat vs. Republican) when they are really internal Democratic debates in which Republicans and conservatives are somewhat involved.  Also, as Denver's alt weekly Westword noted, O'Donnell's viewers might have wanted to know that Sirota's husband is a columnist who's been writing about the race -- the likely source of the segment idea in the first place.

Thompson: Full-Time Online Learning Unrealistic

VirtualMorgan Smith of the Texas Tribune writes in the New York Times  that virtual education offers opportunities for at both ends of the learning spectrum. It empowers advanced students,  as well as offering remediation for struggling students.  Smith described  a student who graduated from high school two years ago but who did not succeed in college because of his dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  For students like this young man, online learning was a "godsend." Or, at least it is now that he has the maturity to take advantage of the tool.   His mother has seen a transformation of the student's self-esteem and his improved threshold for frustration. It is far from clear that as a younger student he could have succeeded without face-to-face instruction.  But fulltime virtual education is being offered to third graders.  The problem with this promising educational technology is two-fold. It requires an excellent curriculum and software development by just a few for-profit companies.  Secondly, virtual students need the same loving guidance as students in brick-and-mortar schools, but that is not the best feature of our market economy.- JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.

NCLB: No One Needs Harkin-Enzi To Happen But Harkin

image from i2.cdn.turner.comSeveral folks including the National Journal are now -- finally! -- taking note of just how much Harkin and the Democrats gave up last week during the #ESEA markup, without much of a fight, in order to get just three Republican votes (The Saga Continues).  But was that a good call, politically and substantively?  

Education Sector notes that the Harkin strategy leaves room for further Republican demands on the Senate floor and in the House (Markup Roundup).  What else do they have to ask for? I'm sure they'll think of something.  

Title I Derland thinks that it made sense for Harkin to pull and replace his own bill over the weekend, given what happened to stall the Miller plan four years ago (The Lessons of 2007).  Well, maybe, if you think movement is absolutely necessary.  

If anything, Harkin seems to be working off the playbook of the Obama administration's first two years, during which the White House gave up tons to get its priorities done, sometimes offering concessions in advance of Republican demands.  You see, Congressional Republicans might not relish hearing the President bash them for inaction -- Politics K-12 reminds us that this is indeed the plan -- but the Duncan waivers will bail Republicans as well as Democrats out in terms of giving relief states and districts.  Republicans don't really need this reauthorization to go through, and neither does the White House.  With the waivers in its pocket and the knowledge that the President could veto a bill if it was truly awful, the Duncan team seems generally unconcerned about the shape and speed of the reauthorization.

How much more Harkin (and perhaps Miller) will give up to get a bill through when their allies are so divided over the process is unclear.  What happens if  the reauthorization plays more than a passing role in the Presidential election is another unknown. 

Video: An "Inflection Point" At Stanford?

It sorta tells you something that it took more than an hour for the panelists at the school reform roundtable held during the Stanford University homecoming/reunion last weekend. But that wasn't the only notable aspect -- and the 90-minute panel included some important moments.


Founding TFA member Kim Smith described how new teachers struggle until year 3 and then had to scramble for a response when host Charlie Rose asked her how many TFAers get that far.  She redeemed herself with a great comment about how the ed reform debate is hindered by its overreliance on anecdote and ideology -- on both sides, I'd argue.  Reed Hastings sounded much more optimistic about charters and reform than he did last spring at NSVF (and continues to talk about how charters are going to replace elected school boards without any real explanation for how that's going to happen and why nonprofit charter boards won't be just as good/bad as elected school boards.) Cory Booker talked a lot -- glad I didn't have to share seminar airtime with him as an undergrad. There was a lot of talk about an "inflection point" in education, a description that seems to me more hopeful than real. What's the implementation and research on the Kahn Academy?  For more see hashtags  #stanfordrh #stanfordroundtable or watch the video above. 

AM News: Louisiana Says "No, Thanks" To Early Race Money


Louisiana Says No to Race to Top State EdWatch: Kyle Plotkin, a spokesman for [Governor] Jindal, said that a number of state agencies, including the Department of Children and Families, studied the grant and determined that it was the "exact opposite approach our state should take to help our kids." ALSO: Oregon City School District Walks Away From $2.54M Grant HuffPost

Senate proposal to reauthorize NCLB meets opposition Florida Independent: A diverse group of organizations have rejected the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2011, recently passed by the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and that will now move to the full Senate. 

NCLB Waivers: Part of Obama's Re-Election Strategy Politics K-12:  Whether or not these waivers make good political sense for Obama doesn't likely matter a whole lot to the states and districts that have been clamoring for flexibility under NCLB. 

Study raises questions about virtual schools Washington Post: Five for-profit companies account for most full-time virtual schools: K12, Educational Options, Apex Learning, Plato: A+LS and Connections Academy.

Screen Time Higher Than Ever for Children, Study Finds NYT: The report also documents for the first time an emerging “app gap” in which affluent children are likely to use mobile educational games while those in low-income families are the most likely to have televisions in their bedrooms.


Continue reading "AM News: Louisiana Says "No, Thanks" To Early Race Money" »

Five Best Blogs: Attack "Race To The Top" -- Or Defend It?

ScreenHunter_09 Oct. 24 10.02

#rttt @politicsk12 @eduwonk @shankerblog, @harisevugan @bigswifty

When Should We Ask for Our Money Back? EdWeek:  If the 12 winners don't show improvement in student achievement in Year 2 (which would be next year at the latest), "Shame on them," declared former Louisiana schools chief Paul Pastorek.

 Let’s Make A Deal? Eduwonk: So is getting the amount of change we’ve seen in a notoriously change-averse field for a one time shot of $3.5 billion a pretty good deal?  That’s a hard sell politically but it just might be the case. 

The Teachers’ Union Hypothesis Shanker Blog: The existing research is mixed, and suggests that there is only a weak relationship between unions and achievement scores. 

The impact of Michelle Rhee’s ‘culture of urgency’ The Answer Sheet:  Actually, it was Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who hired Rhee and gave her carte blanche, who made school reform the city’s top priority. 

W. enters my wife’s schoolboard race Salon:  In the last few weeks, news broke that oil CEOs and financial executives were cutting $10,000 and $25,000 checks to her opponent. 

Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: Attack "Race To The Top" -- Or Defend It?" »

Senate: Random Support For Harkin-Enzi #ESEA Bill

ScreenHunter_12 Jan. 24 10.01Wondering who supports the Harkin-Enzi legislation?  Me, too.  Good thing the folks in Harkin's office put out this press release with blurbs from a variety of folks (many of whom are praising specific provisions of the bill not endorsing the whole thing).  It's a pretty random list, I have to say.  Among those listed includee Save the Children, America Forward, City Year, Alliance for Excellent Education, American Public Health Association, National Association of Charter School Authorities, Citizen Schools, Magnet Schools of America, Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, Teach For America, Voices for America’s Children, First Five Years Fund, Conditions for Learning Coalition.

Continue reading "Senate: Random Support For Harkin-Enzi #ESEA Bill" »

Events: "The Truth About Testing" At Columbia J-School

30-days-of-average4Following up on last Spring's workshop on private philanthropy, the Columbia Journalism School is putting on another workshop this weekend -- this time on standardized testing.  I'm disappointed that testing industry insider Todd Farley isn't a panelist but am hoping that there will be some challenging voices there along with testing experts.  It's certainly an interesting time to think about testing, given changes proposed to NCLB, the spread of the Common Core, and the rise of interim assessments in some districts and schools.  Scheduled panlists include Daniel Koretz, Jon Snyder, Robert J. Tobias, Heather Vogell, (reporter, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution), David Coleman, Laura Slover.  Titled "The Truth About Testing," the event runs Friday and Saturday and is invitation only.  Sponsored by Atlantic Philanthropies.  Related post:  The Myth Of The All-Powerful Billionaires.

Video: Still Lots Of Interest In Promise Zone Schools

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

AM News: Blame NCLB For Atlanta Rule-Breaking?


Atlanta high schools broke rules to meet performance standards Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The improprieties seem no less insidious: cheating on standardized tests, falsifying attendance records and changing grades, all to award undeserved diplomas that helped administrators meet performance targets.

Ron Paul: End U.S. student loans POLITICO: Republican presidential contender Ron Paul said Sunday he wants to end federal student loans, calling it a failed program that has put students $1 trillion in debt when there are no jobs and when the quality of education has deteriorated.

Schools fear worst budget cuts ahead AP: Even in a best-case scenario that assumes strong economic growth next year, it won't be until 2013 or later when districts see budget levels return to pre-recession levels.

Declining numbers of blacks seen in math, science Boston Globe (AP): The percentage of African-Americans earning STEM degrees has fallen during the last decade. It may seem far-fetched for an undereducated black population to aspire to become chemists or computer scientists, but the door is wide open, colleges say, and the shortfall has created opportunities for those who choose this path.

A low-tech school in the heart of Silicon Valley NYT:  Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policymakers say it is foolish to do otherwise. 


Continue reading "AM News: Blame NCLB For Atlanta Rule-Breaking?" »

NCLB Reauthorization: Where Was Duncan?

Er-h-TNR-color-DumbestDC3The passage of Harkin-Enzi #ESEA out of committee last night was a victory for the committee (protecting its turf against the waiver option), conservatives and teachers unions and bureaucrats (a rollback of federal oversight over school performance), and innovation-oriented moderate Republican reformers (getting Washington out of the way). Perhaps reform opponents will also consider it a victory (fewer sanctions from the meanies in Washington, the end of NCLB), too.  But is Harkin-Enzi better than current law, or even the waiver option that's waiting in the wings?  I'm not so sure.  Civil rights and disability groups certainly seemed not to think so.  And so did Arne Duncan, though there was no full court press that I saw.  Duncan expressed his disappointment in the legislation on Monday but then went off to push the $35B teachers/first responders package (which failed last night).  Was there a desperate but ultimately ineffective behind the scenes effort to improve Harkin-Enzi from the Duncan folks and the White House, or do they want any bill they can get (see Mike Petrilli here), or are they just hoping that this all falls apart on the Senate floor and in the House so that they can do the waiver thing?  Others may know better but from afar the Duncan effort to restore accountability to the reauthorization vehicle seemed lackluster and ineffective.  

Travels: Checking In On Denver's School Reform Movement

image from i.huffpost.com#edcolo @ednews   There wasn't nearly enough time to do everything I wanted to do while I was in Denver -- thanks for all the suggestions! -- but I did get to see some interesting things.  The feature event was a chance to talk about school turnarounds at an event hosted by a bunch of organizations including A+ Denver, Get Smart Schools, Donnell-Kay Foundation, and the Colorado Education Association.  (They know turnarounds here. The attempt to rescue Manual High School was one of the most-watched [New Yorker5280] turnaround efforts of the last decade, the Central Falls of 2007-2008.) Afterwards it was fun to meet and/or hang out a bit with Denver's close-knit school reform mafia (Van Schoales, Mariah Dickson, Rob Stein, Alicia Economos, Tony Lewis, Kristina Tabor, Rob Kellogg, among others).  The next day I got a tour of one of the 3 DSST charter schools, combined middle-high schools that feature a big focus on building community culture and a relatively high degree of student diversity for a charter school.  I also got to see the Lake Middle School turnaround, part of the local district-charter compact that features a district-run IB school sharing a building and doing coordinated recruitment with a charter school (West Denver Prep) that gives priority for neighborhood kids and allows midyear transfers.  And it was great to catch up with Alan Gottlieb and Kristina Tabor to talk about what makes for good education blogging and to hear about all the interesting things going on at EdNews Colorado,  which features in-depth journalism that few other education sites offer.  Anyway, it seems like there's lots going on in Denver.  There's a board election that could alter the current 4-3 alliance that supports the current superintendent.  Former President Bush and his Bush Institute team were in town to talk education.  I should be paying more attention, and perhaps so should you. 

AM News: Senate Rejects $35B Dem. Teacher Hiring Plan


Senate Kills Pared-Back $35 Billion Jobs Bill NPR:  President Obama first called on Congress to pass his whole jobs bill. When that failed, he started calling on lawmakers to pass it piece by piece. The measure rejected by the Senate Thursday night was aimed at helping state and local governments avoid laying off teachers and firefighters. ALSO:  Senate rejects slimmed-down Obama jobs bill Associated Press

Senate committee votes to update education law USA Today: A committee forwarded to the Senate Thursday evening a bill that rewrites the education law No Child Left Behind. The bill would give states more control over accountability in schools and alter some of the law's proficiency requirements.

Melody Barnes to Exit White House Politics K-12: Barnes, whose portfolio included high-profile education matters such as Race to the Top and ESEA reauthorization, gave the canned, but credible reason for departing what must be a grind of a job: a desire to spend more time with her family.

PTA wants state to reconsider charter schools Seattle Times:  The Washington PTA wants charter schools to be a part of the state's education reform agenda, even though the idea has twice been rejected by voters and repeatedly shot down by lawmakers. 

State school board races dominate Louisiana elections Stateline: A  state at the forefront of some controversial changes in education is seeing more than $1 million in campaign donations pour into what are usually quiet elections.


Continue reading "AM News: Senate Rejects $35B Dem. Teacher Hiring Plan" »

#ESEA Update: Harkin-Enzi Makes It Out Of Committee


Wow.  Late on Thursday Senator Harkin sent out a press release touting the passage of the #ESEA rewrite by the Senate education committee stating that "Tonight is a victory – both for our nation’s children and for bipartisanship."  

We'll see about that.  Meantime, here are some of the early writeups:  Senate Panel Approves ESEA Overhaul EdWeek:  Harkin hopes to move the bill to the floor of the Senate before Thanksgiving, and he believes it's "possible" that Congress could approve a rewritten version of the nation's main education law before Christmas.Senate committee votes to update education law AP:  A committee forwarded to the Senate Thursday evening a bill that rewrites the education law No Child Left Behind.  ESEA mark-up: Bill moved from committee, 15-7 Ed Sector: Here’s highlights of approved amendments from the afternoon, in the order they were considered (with some fun tidbits, when applicable).

There'll be lots more coverage and analysis but meantime inside are some blog posts and commentary from Thursday afternoon (along with the full Harkin press release touting the legislation):

Continue reading "#ESEA Update: Harkin-Enzi Makes It Out Of Committee" »

Five Best Blogs: Real World Education

ScreenHunter_02 Nov. 23 08.33

Jeb Bush, Distance Learning, and the Hype Cycle Sherman Dorn: What School of One offers is algorithmic programming, not individualized education. 

Fighting the War on Poverty with Early Childhood Education CAP: As it stands, only three percent of TItle I funds are used for early childhood education. 

Trigger Happy? Title I Derland: If the goal of the waivers is to support state innovation, it seems strange to risk stifling a plan that puts school improvement solutions in the hands of parents in favor of one that is prescribed from Washington. 

Early Childhood Education Involves Taxes Matthew Yglesias: The actual question is what offsetting budget changes will make it possible to implement an early childhood education program.  Also from Yglesias: DC Education Reform Has Raised Teacher Salaries Substantially

Blame Game Eduwonk: We have a teacher quality problem and a management problem, teachers are not to blame for all that ails our schools, we can’t fire our way to better schools, but removing some percentage of low-performers would be quite good for students.  


Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: Real World Education" »

Teaching: The New, Highly Technical Classroom Teacher

Picture 2If you haven't been in a classroom in a while you might be in for a bit of a surprise at how it's being done these days. They're not just jumping on their beach cruisers and pedaling as hard as they can any more -- at least not in the handful of charter schools I was in last week .  It was my first time in class since back at Locke High, and it seemed pretty technical to me.  The lessons are broken down into small sections, transitions are tightly managed, and there's lots of use of stock phrases, procedures, count-downs, and praise-giving ("I see Honor with her notebook open.").  This is obviously a reaction to the poor preparation, weak planning, and lackadaisical lessons that were for many years and still are too much a part of teaching in many schools -- a week full of rambling class discussions, self-indulgent teacher talk, and the never-ending Rainforest Unit, or just as bad the class out of control where it takes 20 minutes to get everyone with their books open to Chapter Two. Bringing urgency, structure, and life to a classroom is no easy task. But it's also not necessarily as much fun or as fluid.  Image via

AM News: Senate Committee To Try #ESEA Again Today


Loss for Waivers at Kick-Off of ESEA Markup EdWeek:   Lawmakers have said they'd like to get this bill passed in the Senate before Christmas to negate the need for waivers.

Civil Rights Coalition Harp On Harkin's Education Bill HuffED: StudentsFirst's CEO Michelle Rhee fired off a missive of her own to her group's members Wednesday morning, saying the bill doesn’t go far enough in holding teachers accountable.

ESEA Markup Paused Due to Sen. Paul Procedural Objection Politics K-12: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., employed a rarely used procedural move to put the brakes on the Senate education committee's consideration, saying that lawmakers hadn't had enough time to digest the bill.

States rewrite education rules, with or without Race to the Top Stateline: Six states were near-miss finalists in the first two rounds of a federal competition that rewards changes in state  education policy. Most of them are continuing the school reform process with their own money. 

Tennessee Teachers Find It Hard To Make The Grade NPR:  Tennessee overhauled its teacher evaluation system last year to win a grant from the federal Race to the Top program, and now teachers say they are struggling to shine. 


Continue reading "AM News: Senate Committee To Try #ESEA Again Today" »

Video: Bennet Gets Heated Over #ESEA Delay

"Finally, after two-and-half years, we're told that meeting for two hours is too long."

Reform: Rhee Organization Dips Toe Into #ESEA Debate

British-General-PO-PhonesThe folks at StudentsFirst sent out an email from Michelle Rhee this morning expressing concern about the teacher evaluation provisions in the Harkin-Enzi draft that was supposed to be considered earlier today: "The legislation sets up an unfair, two-tiered system where only some children would have access to teachers who receive meaningful feedback and are held accountable for their work...[and] would move us in the wrong direction." (see full text below).  There's some confusion over whether Rhee signed onto the broader accountability letter from the civil rights groups, reform chiefs, disability advocates, the Chamber, and a couple of reformy groups like TNTP and DFER (see EdWeek about that here).  She's not listed as a signatory but I'm hearing that she may have signed on at some point.  Either way, it's a good start that Rhee and her organization are getting involved rather than sitting on their hands or saying 'that's federal -- we don't do federal.' Symbolically and practically, reformers are going to have to go wherever the debate happens to be, and lead or be prepared not to be taken very seriously.  Most of the rest of the reform crowd -- TFA, KIPP, the Harlem Children's Zone, and Stand For Children -- remain AWOL.     

Continue reading "Reform: Rhee Organization Dips Toe Into #ESEA Debate" »

Thompson: The Folly Of Intercession Study Periods

BreakScott Elliot of the Indianapolis Star reports on the latest chapter of our educational blame game.  The latest culprits are students and teachers who do not work long enough hours.  So, following the new conventional wisdom, Indianapolis instituted a two week intersession for students needing remediation or seeking enrichment.  The district persuaded just over half of its students to sign up for the extra work, but only 57% of those students have shown.  This has prompted a debate over who is to blame and whether to make the intersession mandatory. My district in Oklahoma City persuaded 1/6th of its students to attend a similar intersession and only had an attendance rate of 60%.  A teacher praised the remediation as "a little boot camp getting these students ready for the test." But my feeling is that it's time to back off from this worship of more work hours.  Why not put ourselves in the students' shoes and ask if we would be willing to give up our vacation? If students have struggled in our schools as they are now constituted, why would working through breaks make a sustainable difference?  -JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via

Power Couples: Jane & Brian Williams

image from upload.wikimedia.orgJane Stoddard Williams is the host of a weekly radio show called Bloomberg EDU (on which I will probably never be asked to appear again).  

Brian Williams is  the host of NBC Nightly News (whose hand I shook at Education Nation, NBC News' annual ed reform conference).  

In addition to their day jobs, the two are also involved in various nonprofits and philanthropic efforts.

Previous Power Couples Quiz -- ID them off their first names alone:  Joe and Ann. JC and Brooke.  Wendy and Richard.  Emily and Stephen.  Michelle and Kevin. 


Five Best Blogs: Whatever Happened To Universal Preschool?

2cc7172ac8ff48dc4b4cdf5ed88f2ff062e16223_mA Tea Party Defeat on Schools in North Carolina Century Foundation:   The rebound in support for integration in Wake County echoes earlier fights in districts like La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Is Occupy Wall Street Really about Education Reform? Amanda Ripley Blog: Occupy Wall Street is about our nation’s willingness to over-promise and under-educate. It is about the urgent need to finally get serious about making our education system worthy of our ambition.  

Preschool Wars Go Mainstream ERS: Time Magazine’s “The Preschool Wars” provides a powerful summary of what’s happening—or what’s not happening—to protect it. 

Is the Charter School Boom Really Good for Kids? GOOD:   Instead of ensuring that those ideas are passed back to traditional schools and to other charters, districts are handing out new charters like candy, creating an atmosphere where pretty much anyone with some semblance of a plan can open a school.

Excellence in Failure Jay P. Greene: These generous severance packages are the fault of boards, not the departing executive.  Boards sometimes choose to get rid of someone on a whim or simply because the majority composition of the board changes.  

The Coming Digital Learning Battle Paul E. Peterson: School districts and teacher unions can be expected to fight publicly funded online learning that offers students a choice of taking courses outside their local district school.  

NCLB: Reformers Sit #ESEA Debate Out At Their Own Peril

Where have all the reformers gone? A year ago they were everywhere, pushing to revamp teacher evaluation and end LIFO.  Now when the NCLB debate is heating up it seems like they're nowhere to be found. 


A decade ago when reform-minded education organizations like KIPP and TFA stayed out of the ESEA reauthorization fight, it was curious but not really a surprise.  Nonprofits and reformers didn't really do policy back then, lobbied Congress only infrequently, and considered advocacy to be out of the question.  The outcome wasn't particularly good from a reform perspective, as you may recall.  The original version of NCLB's highly qualified teacher requirement classified TFA corps members as unqualified, which required schools to send a letter out to parents.  TFA had to get the law changed and has had to protect it every year since then against folks like Public Advocates who see the alt cert loophole as, well, a loophole.  As for KIPP, the law's weak restructuring options didn't require districts to create conditions that would have encouraged CMOs like KIPP who were interested in doing turnarounds.  (Ditto for SIG, by the way -- another missed opportunity.)

Maybe they're working behind the scenes, masterfully manipulating the process from their lakeside cabins and remote mountain lairs. Or, more likely, they've been told not to worry, that Team Duncan will take care of everything for them, and have forgotten  that the White House is currently pushing a reform-free Edujobs 2 bill and would sell school reform down the river without blinking an eye if it would look good for Obama next year.  If a bad bill goes through, reformers will spend the next year trying to work out operational fixes and the next decade having to work around it. 

Quote: NEA Denies Flip-Flopping On Harkin #ESEA Bill

Quotes2NEA continues to stand by its policy statement released earlier this year, which calls for a comprehensive overhaul for both teacher evaluation and accountability systems. We don’t, however, believe that the federal government is the right entity to be mandating teacher evaluations. ... Our educators are having much success working at the local and state levels to create teacher evaluation systems that work for all involved. -- NEA Federal Advocacy Manager Mary Kusler




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.