About this blog Subscribe to this blog

Update: School Reform's Nagging Sexism Problem

Image020#dianeravitch     I've written several times in the past about underlying sexism that I think has been part of the debate over school reform in recent years, including during the 2008 debate over Linda Darling-Hammond's role in the Obama administration. At times I've felt like the treatment of Randi Weingarten has been sexist or even homophobic.  It's possible that Michelle Rhee's supporters would be able to point to moments where her critics have gone below the belt, so to speak.  And I know that there are education leaders out there who feel like there are issues of racism at play within education reform circles, but I'll leave that for another time.  The issue of sexism comes up again in a recent Dana Goldstein post linked to by Sherman Dorn (Old-fashioned alt-academic careers ), and implicitly in a Mike Petrilli critique of Kevin Carey's TNR article about Diane Ravitch (What Kevin Carey didn’t say about Diane Ravitch, but should have). So the question stands:  are female leaders of the education debate treated unfairly, or even just differently, than its male leaders?  My sense is yes, at times, critics go further with verbal criticism of women, reaching beyond substantive discussion or issues of character or motivation and into personal lives.  Then again, it is a woman -- Ravitch herself -- who has been going around for years now calling Arne Duncan "Margaret Spellings in drag," a description that seemed meant to emasculate Duncan.  

Five Best Blogs: Students Defend Principal Against Brownback Critic


Brownback Tweeter's High School Classmates Are Bullying Her AW: Politico's Tim Mak says the high school students have actually rushed to throw their support behind their principal, Karl Krawitz. 

How NOT to reform American education Dangerously Irrelevant:  What will it take for Americans to stand up and fight not just against our schooling systems but also against educational reform efforts that take those systems in wrong directions? 

A Deeper Look (Part 3) New America: Some of the proposals for Titles IV and V deserve a thumbs up, and others should include more of a focus on early learning.

The Tidal Wave of Surplus Capital Tom Hoffman: To simply cast contemporary US school reform as a speculative bubble gets convoluted, since the investors mostly aren't looking for financial return. However, I have no doubt that the phenomenon is a direct result of the "tidal wave of surplus capital" looking for someplace to be spent.

ED Abandons ‘Same Cell’ Battle TIDL: No, this is not about biology. This is about another quiet retreat in the Obama administration’s ESEA waiver package — a retreat that shows how much ground civil rights groups have lost in the education debate since the Republican takeover. ALSO: Title I ‘Formula Fairness Campaign’ Faces Uphill Climb

What Inspired Me to Study Parent and Community Engagement HEL:  This experience—the isolation between school and family life—is not unusual, particularly in urban schools where the majority of students are students of color and are taught by White teachers who often live outside the school community. 


Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: Students Defend Principal Against Brownback Critic" »

Video: The "Other" Parent Trigger


You think professional educators are worried about the parent trigger?  What about parents opting out of standardized testing?  It hasn't happened yet in any large numbers, but here's a documentary about one school's experience that you may or may not already have seen, called August to June.  Thanks to Ann Cook at the Coalition for telling me about it.  More here.


Chicago: Charters Not Nearly As Successful As Once Thought

Gossip-460x307Charter fever, when will it break?  For the first time in a decade the state board of education in Illinois is releasing campus-specific data on charter schools in Chicago, revealing that the city's 87 charters vary widely in performance, generally serve lower percentages of special population students than district schools, and generally hire fewer fully certified teachers.  The only area in which the semi-autonomous schools outperform district schools is student mobility.  Chicago's charters are authorized by the local school district and its approval process is generally considered to be a good one. There are some concerns about one politically-connected charter network, but the scandals and outrages reported in other places haven't been as common in Chicago.  (Report finds charters struggling like other CPS schools Tribune, Chicago charter schools produce wildly uneven results on state tests Sun Times, Charter school campuses get state report cards Catalyst).

AM News: Free Lunch Rolls Skyrocket Around Country


Duncan Calls for Urgency in Lowering College Costs NYT: Education Secretary Arne Duncan, reacting to anger over rising college costs, urged higher education officials to “think more creatively” about ways to contain costs and reduce student debt.

Surge in Free School Lunches Reflects Economic Crisis NYT: Millions of students are receiving free or low-cost meals for the first time as their parents have lost jobs or homes in the economic crisis.

Individual Los Angeles schools gain new autonomy L.A. Times: The Los Angeles Unified School District and its teachers union have agreed to a new pact granting local schools more autonomy over hiring, curriculum and work conditions and virtually ending a 2-year-old policy that allowed charter operators and others to take over low-performing and new campuses.

Massachusetts Takes Over Lawrence Schools NYT: The Massachusetts board of education voted Tuesday to take over the Lawrence Public School system, an embattled district where fewer than half of students graduate from high school in four years.

Legislator Plays Ball Against For-Profit Charter Schools HuffPost: State Sen. Rebekah Warren is proposing a constitutional amendment that would ban for-profit charter operators from opening schools in Michigan.

Cartoons: "I Ain't Showin' Nothin', And I Ain't Tellin' Nothin'"

Picture 17

Update: Denver Unveils Unified District Charter Application Process

image from www.blueglass.comThink that charters and districts can't work together, are forever locked into adjacent silos to the eternal frustration and annoyance of everyone ?  Well, most of the time.  But following up on a recent agreement that local charters would accept mid-year enrollments, a coalition of groups in Denver has just announced the creation of a single application process, form, and deadline for all Denver public schools, including charter district and magnet schools.  From a grand total of 62 different forms and dates the district will go down to just "one piece of paper and one single date," says Amy Slothower, whose group Get Smart Schools led the effort with DPS and the Colorado League of Charters, among others.  Parents will list up to five choices, and get assigned from there.  NCLB transfers?  Preschool programs?  Check.  Easy to pull off?  Not at all.  

Continue reading "Update: Denver Unveils Unified District Charter Application Process" »

Thompson: The "Return" Of Building Blocks (Tetherball's Next)

EdtweakFirst, Kyle Spencer of the New York Times reports on the backlash against children having too much time in front of computer screens and "overly academic preschools."  Even some of the most prescriptive of school leaders are embracing the return of old-fashioned building blocks to elementary classrooms.  Then ""Anonymous" at Edtweak  describes Education Secretary Arne Duncan's announcement on the "clear and compelling evidence that physical activity plays a crucial role in learning."  So, Secretary Duncan has added a new requirement for states seeking waivers from NCLB. All primary and secondary schools must now have four tetherball poles.  Duncan is said to also be considering a mandate that schools must serve "that chocolate milk with the adorable cow on the container."  Ignoring charges that he has become "power mad," Duncan is also considering a mandate that schools return to film strip projectors that allowed children to see films forwards and backwards.-JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.

Videos: "Car Kids" & Rigid Reform Ideologies

Here are two "60 Minutes" segments to consider watching.  The first is a followup on poor families in Seminole County, Florida, where people are now being forced out of shelters and motels and into their cars.  Child poverty is approaching 25 percent, and schools are reporting more and more kids living in cars as the recession goes longer.

The second is a chilling profile of Grover Norquist, the conservative kingmaker who has gotten scads of Republican lawmakers to sign a "no new taxes" pledge - or else:


Of course, conservative Republicanism isn't the only orthodoxy being enforced in the American political system.  Labor is another.  Some would argue that the current school reform agenda is already rigid and narrow, though it operates at a much smaller scale.  (Ask yourself:  when's the last time you heard reformers disagreeing with each other?)  Each has a rigid set of ideas it holds dear and each is playing hardball with those who would dare engage in honest debate or hold a difference of opinion. 

Quotes: Rate Research On Quality, Not Source

MicrophoneThere’s plenty of questionable research flying around, and much of does come from organizations and think tanks that have a clear point of view. But the quality of this work varies between (and within) organizations, not by which “side” they’re on in the education debate. - Matt Di Carlo Shanker Blog

AM News: States Will Have To Scramble On NCLB Waivers


No Child Left Behind waivers require big changes fast Stateline: Many states seeking a waiver from the 10-year-old education law will be required to overhaul their education policies over the next few months in order to meet federal application requirements. 

Iowa Governor to Wait on Teacher Pay Plan, Build Support State EdWatch:  The recent tendency of state governors on education policy has been to push for major changes—and to get them done right now. Iowa's Terry Branstad appears to be taking a different approach.

Drug war sends emotionally troubled kids to Texas AP: The drug war raging along the U.S.-Mexico border is bringing a new problem to Texas schools: Thousands of students suffering from emotional troubles not unlike those endured by soldiers returning from battle.

Two more surrender, making 20 arrests in SAT/ACT scandal CNN: Two more students surrendered Monday, making the grand total 20 arrests in an SAT/ACT scandal, according to the Nassau County, New York, district attorney's office.

New Calculation: Math in Preschool WSJ: Scores of preschool and kindergarten teachers across the city are embedding math concepts into daily classroom activities, in a promising new program that gives students a foundation for more complex math and logical-thinking skills in later grades.

Colo. school incentive program awaits more funds AP (Boston Globe): A pilot program to improve college readiness among Colorado teens produced more high scores on students' Advanced Placement tests -- and paid $69,500 to teachers as a reward.


Continue reading "AM News: States Will Have To Scramble On NCLB Waivers" »

Quotes: Slip-Ups When States Try To Value-Add Everyone

MicrophoneIt's non-sensical decisions like this one [in Florida] that play right into the hands of the anti-test, Ravitch crowd. -- NCTQ

Five Best Blogs: NCLB Waiver States Propose Toothless Ratings

image from i.huffpost.com“New and Ambitious” AMOs May be Toothless Thompson:  The primary motivation for meeting (and exceeding) these targets will rest with moving out of one or the other designation. 

Can Unions Be Saved By Making Them Weaker? Mother Jones: Whatever you think of them, unions in their existing form are dying, and there's little reason to think that's going to change....that we needed something to replace them, "a countervailing power as big, crude, and uncompromising as organized labor used to be." 

An "American" Approach to K-12 School Reform Rick Hess: Just for a moment, let's entertain the radical proposition that a better course is to tap into uniquely American strengths like federalism, entrepreneurial dynamism, and size and heterogeneity.

 Teaching Practice NSVF:  Adopting a practice-based curriculum, in law as in teacher training, need not mean gutting conceptual training, but rather determining the right balance of practical skills and conceptual understanding that builds highly effective beginning teachers.

Kansas Gov.: Teen Doesn't Need To Apologize For Tweet AP: There's no need for 18-year-old Emma Sullivan to apologize and his staff overreacted by telling officials at her high school that the teen had tweeted about how the governor "sucked," Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) said today. 


Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: NCLB Waiver States Propose Toothless Ratings" »

Context: In-School Use Of Pepper Spray On Students

image from 1.bp.blogspot.comIt's worth remembering that it's not just protesters and bargain-hunters who get pepper-sprayed, and not just traditional law enforcement who's gotten geared up with increasingly fearsome equipment over the past decade. Some of the same things are happening on school campuses, too.  There were a few days during the reporting on my book about Locke High School when I came awfully close to getting myself pepper-sprayed.  One of the key events during 2009, the first year of the turnaround effort involved the use of pepper spray by security guards on a student, and I thought maybe I would get sprayed to see what it was like.  I'd seen the incident firsthand, they spray of liquid and its impact on one of the biggest, most fearsome kids on campus.  And pepper spray had been used during the so-called riot on campus in 2008 witnessed by the LA Times' Howard Blume, and at other high school melees around Los Angeles.  The security guards at Locke sometimes leafed through catalogs full of pepper spray gear -- the things you might have seen riot police holding that look like paintball guns and don't require close contact to be employed.  Have you ever seen kids get sprayed, or come across stories about its use on school campuses?  I'll check around and let you know what I find.  Image via 

Money: Magnets For Everyone (Just $46B)

ScreenHunter_29 Nov. 23 12.14How much would it cost to give every kid in the US the same quality education offered at magnet schools?  A cool $46 billion, according to the Money Chart (see left).The source is a 2010 Bob Frahm story about controversy surrounding magnets in Connecticut, which are described by an educator in the story as public schools with private school quality.  In Connecticut alone, the number of such schools has risen from 8 to 61 over the past 15 years.  The funding system is complex and inequitable.  

Students: Kansas Teen Defends Criticism Of KS Governor

image from assets.nydailynews.com

Here's the teenager who tweeted some critical remarks to her 65 followers about Kansas governor Sam Brownback.  In a fit of what can only be described as hypersensitivity, Brownback's office turned her into the program that had been used to recruit students for the event, and the student was scolded by school administrators and told to write a letter of apology.  Her sister contacted the media instead. The OWS protesters aren't the only ones learning about the perils and potential of speaking truth to power.   (Politico)

Teacher Prep: Questions About TFA & iTeach Expansions

ScreenHunter_36 Jun. 26 16.44#tfa #iteach   Check out this pair of articles about alternative certification from the Texas Tribune/NYT and from AP.  The first describes the boom in alternative certification programs including particularly for-profit programs like iTeach which are set to spread nationally (For-Profit Certification for Teachers in Texas Is Booming).  I don't have anything against for-profit companies as long as they're doing a good job rather than lobbying their way around being monitored and evaluated.  The second story asks just what taxpayers are supposed to get from the $50M i3 grant that TFA recently received from the USDE (Big expansion, big questions for Teach for America).  TFA is slated to provide up to 25 percent of new teachers in 60 school districts nationwide, according to the article, which also quotes TFA alum Megan Hopkins as a critic of the program.  Longtime readers may recall that Hopkins wrote a paper showing how TFA should add a preservice training year to its program or add a third year of teaching to its core program, which has remained essentially unchanged for 20 years now. She was quoted in a NYT Sunday Magazine article here. My follow-up interview and posts about her (here and here) generated a little bit of reader discussion. 

AM News: Online Learning Under The Microscope


Virtual schools are multiplying, but some question their educational value Washington Post: A Virginia company leading a national movement to replace classrooms with computers is facing a backlash from critics who are questioning its funding, quality and oversight. ALSO:  Online education redefining schools NBC: Nationwide, 250,000 students are enrolled in virtual schools, up 40 percent in the last three years. NBC's Rehema Ellis reports.

Principals Protest Increased Use of Test Scores to Evaluate Educators NYT: More than 650 school leaders from around New York State had signed a letter with complaints, most of them from Long Island, where the movement began.

Big expansion, big questions for Teach for America AP (Boston Globe): By 2015, with the help of a $50 million federal grant, program recruits could make up one-quarter of all new teachers in 60 of the nation's highest need school districts. The program also is expanding internationally.

Debate on whether cursive writing should still be taught Baltimore Sun: Cursive is not included in the so-called common core standards, which will govern teaching and lesson plans in 46 states including Maryland beginning next year, leaving states free to shift away from a subject taught for centuries. 

With Building Blocks, Educators Going Back to Basics NYT: The wooden toys, created in the early 1900s, are making a comeback as some elementary schools focus on unstructured play.


Continue reading "AM News: Online Learning Under The Microscope" »

Hol[i]days: Happy Thanksgiving

image from s3.amazonaws.comThanks to everyone who reads, comments, and sends things to this site -- I appreciate your input even when I don't agree with a word you're saying.  Thanks also to my fellow bloggers and blowhards, who provide me with material to recommend (or mock) every day.  And of course none of this would happen without the education journalists who make the calls and read the reports and deal with the stupid editors' memories about what happened to THEM when they were in 5th grade.  And to the nice folks at Scholastic Administrator who sponsor this site, and Avi and John my excellent contributors.  Last but not least, thanks to the teachers and administrators and parents who are out there in schools every day, doing their best (most of the time) at what everyone agrees is a very challenging job to do well.  You don't need my thanks, of course, but I'm giving it anyway.  See everyone on Monday. 

Quotes: Emotion Trumps Intellect Nearly Every Time

Quotes2Rather than “intellectualize ourselves into the [education reform] debate…is there a way that we can get into it at an emotional level?” -- Longtime union foe Richard Berman

AM News: Looming K-12 Federal Education Cuts


Panel's Failure Means Education Cuts in '13 NYT:  Student financial aid programs — including Pell Grants — will find their current funding levels in jeopardy unless government officials reach consensus on an alternate approach.

School Districts Fear Slashed Budgets After Supercommittee Fails Politics K-12: Education advocates and local school officials are nervously eyeing a series of draconian cuts set to hit just about every federal program next year—including Title I, special education, and money for teacher quality—now that a bipartisan panel tasked with making recommendations for trimming the nation's deficit has failed to reach agreement.

20 students accused in college-exam scandal in NY AP: At least 20 current or former high school students from an affluent New York suburb of high achievers have been charged in a widening college entrance exam cheating scandal that has raised questions not only about test security but about the pressures to score well.

Gingrich: Changing Child Labor Laws Would Improve Schools Politics K-12: Gingrich said that society is "crippling [disdvantaged kids] by putting them in schools that fail. [This] has done more to create income inequality in the United States than any other single policy." His solution: Overhaul child labor laws which are "truly stupid."

Gingrich would teach online course if elected USA Today: Newt Gingrich told a college audience that he'd like to teach an online course if he's elected president, plus tweet from the White House.

Five Best Blogs: Obama Heckled At High School Event

image from cdn.theatlanticwire.comObama Got Heckled at a New Hampshire High School Atlantic Wire:  The hecklers were complaining about the thousands of arrests nationwide at protests by the Occupy Wall Street movement ("Your silence sends a message that police brutality is acceptable.") They were shouted down before they could finish.

The future of educational accountability, as envisioned by 11 leading states Mike Petrilli:  A focus on growth will eclipse the need for “subgroup accountability.” ... Subjects beyond reading and math will count again. 

Philip Kovacs Takes on TFA EdWeek: At best the empirical evidence is mixed, at worst, it is damning. Given that the organization has been around for 20 years, if it was so good, why aren't there dozens of peer-reviewed reports proving it?

Why Stanford Online High School Matters Education Sector: Perhaps Stanford’s move will push other institutions to consider the real game-changer – offering elite quality education, at an affordable cost, on a more massive scale. When will the University of Michigan, UVA, UNC, Berkeley, or any of our other great public universities do this for an entire state?

Dear John Education Sector:  You can try to lump us all into one scary camp of accountability hawk reformers who are bent on launching an educational civil war, but you can’t make it true. 


Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: Obama Heckled At High School Event " »

Quotes: Service Providers Vs. Quality Services

Quotes2All too often in the United States we have programs that are too dominated by the interests of the service providers. -- Matt Yglesias

Video Interlude: This Book Could Literally Save Your Life

via The Atlantic

Charts: "Money Poster" Shows Salaries As 50% Of Overall Spending

ScreenHunter_27 Nov. 22 10.09Yesterday morning the Washington Post's Ezra Klein linked to a massive "Money Poster" with all sorts of figures on it -- including K12 spending ($612B a year) and teacher salaries ($296B).  I'm not sure how the calculations were made but it's curious to me that teacher salaries come in at less than half of overall spending, given how often we're told that teacher salaries the main spending item in education budgets.  Maybe it's a pensions thing -- spending on pension isn't included in teacher salaries here, or maybe the picture is different at the national / federal level than it is in a school or school district. I can't find a list of sources though there may be one out there.  

Documents: Joint Priorities From Brookings, Heritage, CAP

Here for your consideration are the preliminary policy recommendations from the newish campaign called Opportunity Nation I've been trying to find out more about -- apparently borne out of a collaboration from an unlikely group of organizations including Brookings, CAP, and Heritage.  Take a look - what do you think?

AM News: Revamping Teacher Prep At ASU


Cash-strapped cities, schools say: 'Your Ad Here' AP: In the aftermath of the Great Recession, a public school district in Colorado is selling ads on report cards and Utah has a new law allowing ads on school buses.

Plea deal in California gay classmate killing AP: A Southern California teenager pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder for killing a gay student during a computer lab class three years ago that will send him to prison for 21 years and avoid a retrial, authorities said.

‘Exemplary’ Dallas ISD school skipped science, social studies for 3rd-graders Dallas Morning News: Students at a Dallas elementary school learned only math and reading for most of the school year, while teachers were pressured to fabricate grades for other subjects.

As Poorest U.S. City, Reading Also Struggling With High Dropout Rate PBS NewsHour: One city's struggle to regain its economic footing is also tied to significant problems in its schools. Jeffrey Brown reports from Reading, Pa., as part of PBS' American Graduate series.

ASU Reforms Elementary Ed. Content Coursework EdWeek: The university's president, Michael Crow, told me one of his goals is to stop the education degree from being, in his words, "a math-science avoidance degree."

Five Best Blogs: Why's Walton Giving KIPP $25M, Exactly?

Picture 15Reform Beyond Michelle Rhee New America:  Reformers have yet to prove that their strategies can revive a school district in a sustained, measurable way.

I Used to Think...That Experts Understood the World Rick Hess: I now think that experts get so taken with their tiny slivers of expertise that they routinely overestimate both how much they know and their ability to produce broad, beneficial change.

Extending the School Day John Thompson: We cannot afford billions of dollars to destroy "the status quo," and attack teachers and unions, and still have enough resources for kids. Extending the school day, like schooling and like school reform, must be a story of addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division.

A Good Read In The New Yorker The Educated Reporter:  There's no realistic way to scale KIPP to serve as many students who might benefit from the program, which has a remarkable academic track record.

CSSO to tackle teacher prep NCTQ: A CCSSO initiative here represents no less than the 4th signal in the past year that major changes in teacher prep are afoot, with or without the buy-in of higher education.


Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: Why's Walton Giving KIPP $25M, Exactly?" »

Update: Was Bloomberg Article Fair To Bullis Charter?

image from upload.wikimedia.orgLast week's Bloomberg article describing a small charter school in a fancy part of the Bay Area generated a lot of discussion including this comment emailed in from Caprice Young, the former LAUSD board member and California Charter Schools Assocation ED:

"Bullis is a great school!  I would send my kids there in a heartbeat.  And, I wouldn't pay the $5,000 because I can't -- but my kids still could go there and benefit from the fact that those who could donate large sums do. Every school I know fundraises: traditional, charter, private alike.  The fact that billionaires send their own children to public schools benefits everyone.  They could easily put their kids in private schools and their tuition would only benefit rich kids.  Great public schools, including charters, keep our society from getting more divided. Urban public school systems too often feel hostile to middle class families of all ethnicities, as if their kids aren't needy enough to warrant personal attention or a welcoming environment for parents.  That has to stop or our communities will become increasingly divided.PS. Bullis Charter was created because the school district closed down the only elementary in a wealthier section of town.  The existence of Bullis has drawn those families back into a great public school.  Despite Bullis' growth and success, the district has refused for years to provide a facility -- something that is legally mandated in California."

There are also some comments on my previous post about this suggesting that some of the figures in the original Bloomberg story might not have been fair to the school (that it's as or more diverse than some other schools, and has a higher percentage of low-income kids).  What do you think?  

Charts: Education Majors Study Less, Prepared More

image from thinkprogress.org

Just 26 percent of ed school majors say that they study more than 20 hours a week, according to the National Survey of Student Engagement.  Only 18 percent of ed major seniors go to class unprepared a lot of the time. Lots of ways to interpret the data.  What's yours?

Update: Diane Ravitch's Reform Vilification Industry

image from kevinrkosar.comI am happy to report that Diane Ravitch does not spend much time talking about herself in the updated paperback version of her book, which came out a few weeks ago.  The temptation to discuss her (mis)treatment over the past two years must have been strong, but the world doesn't need another "it's-all-about-me" Michael Moore.  (Or perhaps the most recent flare-ups with Brill and others took place after her deadline.)  Ravitch also admits to having been fooled about what was going on in Atlanta under Beverly Hall, which is good of her.  And she describes some of the recent setbacks and rigidity within the reform movement that I and others have been writing about over the past weeks and months.  (I keep going back and forth on whether to think of it as the popping of the reform bubble or simply "Reformageddon.") That being said, there are a few key things that I think Ravitch could have but didn't address or correct. Ravitch's description of NCLB's impact and destructiveness (closings, firings, charter conversions, etc.) is exaggerated and unsupported by data. She also vastly overestimates the power, coordination, and reach of all the reform groups, which suits her purposes in terms of creating a straw man but is also unsupported by the facts and does little to inform readers about what's really going on. 

Quotes: Herman Cain Talks Pizza & Vegetables

Quotes2A manly man don’t want it piled high with vegetables. He would call that a sissy pizza. -- Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain

AM News: Supercommittee, RIP


How education fares if debt supercommittee fails The Washington Post: Failure of the congressional supercommittee tasked with reducing the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion could lead to across-the-board budget cuts, which would have a serious impact on already-distressed public education funding.

Californians support making teachers' reviews public L.A. Times: California voters want teachers' performance evaluations made public, a new poll has found. And most also want student test scores factored into an instructor's review. PLUS:

Motivating Students With Cash-For-Grades Incentive NYT:  It is a problem every parent — and every teacher — has faced: how best to motivate students to work and study. In the United Arab Emirates, the government has decided to try an approach many exasperated parents have considered: cash payments for good grades.

Exclusive: Detroit Public Schools Deficit Has Shrunk By Two-Thirds HuffPost: Though recently reported to be short $327 million, Detroit Public Schools emergency manager Roy Roberts told HuffPost in an interview that the district's deficit now totals less than $100 million. He is expected to announce that news at a Monday press conference.


Continue reading "AM News: Supercommittee, RIP" »

Weekend Reading: Catching Up On What You Missed

Here are some stories, feature articles, and commentary that I didn't get to during the week -- and maybe you didn't either:

Cartoons: "The End Of Public Education Is Near"


Adapted from this week's New Yorker magazine.


Update: What Reformers & Critics Don't Quite Get About Occupy Wall Street

XDHAoIt seems like no one can resist making comparisons between what's going on at Occupy Wall Street and what's going on in education reform.  And you can't blame them.  Some of school reform's most well known names -- Mike Bloomberg, Whitney Tilson, Boykin Curry, Bill Gates, Eli Broad -- are quite literally members of the 1 percent (albeit Democrats). Many other reforms aren't One Percenters but have enough of the trappings -- Ivy League educations, Rhodes Scholarships, Bain and McKinsey pedigrees, a corporate style of dressing  and speaking and a certainty and rigidity about their ideas -- that they are easily lumped in. Many of their ideas -- public school choice, performance pay, and competition -- have capitalist trappings.  

In her article Why Not Occupy The Schools?, Dana Golstein explains that the comparisons don't really hold:  "The dominant ethos of the school choice/Bloomberg/Obama reform movement is one borrowed not from Wall Street, with its desperate lust for profit, but from Silicon Valley, with its commitment to meritocratic innovation that—yes, of course—earns money, but also serves the public." 
That doesn't mean that there aren't problems with school reform, or troubling similarities between reformers and One Percenters.   (Indeed, Silicon Valley companies like Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft are despite all their trappings just as focused on money making as any other company.) Reformers should take heed of the fact that at least some teachers and parents readily confuse them with Wall Street, and that the situation is proving so easy for oppents to use against them.  They should reflect on the possibility that they, the respectable class, have been "taught to believe in their own goodness" in ways that may be limiting their ability to acknowledge issues and blinding to the views of others (via Tom Hoffman). The self-censorship and lack of public dissent within the reform community is really quite startling.  Reformers should acknowledge that some of their ' favorite ideas -- online learning, 1:1 tablet initiatives, common standards -- would bring millions to big education companies.
At the same time, reform opponents need to make sure not to  discredit themselves by trying to turn Democratic-funded philanthropies and well-intended nonprofit CMOs into Wall Street or heartless corporations, or to rush headlong into the arms of teachers unions and organized labor groups that, when all is said and done, have largely gone along in creating a system that does not do right by parents and poor children in particular. School districts, elected officials, and teachers unions have done much too little for poor children for much too long to ever be mistaken as defenders of all that is good and just.   

Hot For Education: PS22 Choir Instructor Tops Salon List

image from media.salon.comSalon's #1 Sexiest Man for 2011 is Gregg Breinberg, the choir instructor for PS22 in Staten Island, whose renditions of pop songs have appeared on YouTube and pretty much everywere else.  Alas, the work has stifled Breinberg's love life.  As he reveals in this interview the brown-eyed 38 year old is single.  Thanks to DA for the tip.  


AM News: NCLB Waiver Process Moves Ahead


NCLB Waiver Judges Identified Politics K-12: The waiver judges are an interesting mix of researchers, think tank and advocacy folks, and those with experience working for a state education agency or local district. In fact, the field of 21 is heavily stacked with people who have deep experience at state departments.

States ramp up use of teacher evaluations AP (Boston Globe): Teachers and principals are worrying more about their own report cards these days. They're being graded on more than student test scores. The way educators are evaluated is changing across the country, with a switch from routine "satisfactory" ratings to actual proof that students are learning.

Charter schools impress half of California voters L.A. Times: In the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll, 52% of respondents had a favorable opinion of charter schools. But voters overall opposed supporting charters at the expense of resources for traditional schools.

South Korean students' 'year of hell' culminates with exams day CNN: Most South Korean students consider their final year in high school "the year of hell." It is when all students are put to the ultimate test.

Calif. teacher with porn sites gets put on leave AP (Boston Globe): A high school teacher is under investigation after school officials said she was maintaining a pornographic website from her school-issued laptop computer.

Five Best Blogs: More Signs Of The Reformapocalypse

image from www.motherjones.com

Being Poor in America Really Sucks Mother Jones:  In Canada, the least-advantaged kids manage to score at the 37th percentile. In the United States they score at only the 27th percentile. 

How Online Learning Companies Bought America's Schools The Nation:  Lobbyists like Levesque have made 2011 the year of virtual education reform, at last achieving sweeping legislative success by combining the financial firepower of their corporate clients with the seeming legitimacy of privatization-minded school-reform think tanks and foundations. 

The student teacher tsunami NCTQ:  We estimate that there are only about 750 elementary classrooms in the 30 districts that surround Phoenix that can provide ASU's  annual production of 730 elementary student teachers with the two most most critical ingredients necessary for a good clinical experience.

A key benchmark for teachers LA Times:  By refusing to entertain the notion that student progress — or lack of it — might have any connection with teacher effectiveness, unions are missing a chance to shape the way these assessments are used to evaluate teachers. 

The Tetris Effect The Awl:  A 2009 study of 400 players of the online role-playing game Asheron's Call found that the most devoted players of the game exhibited a number of behavioral and emotional characteristics that are also closely associated with Asperger's syndrome. 

Kids These Days of the Day The Daily What:  You know those stories of bygone days your grandpappy used to tell you about how he walked five miles in the snow, uphill, both ways, just to get some education? Except instead of 5 miles, it’s 125 miles. And instead of through the snow, it’s through four freezing rivers. And instead of uphill, it’s upmountain.

Pictures: "Blackboards Not Bullets" Says Occupier Anne Hathaway

#OWS  #hotfored She's no John Legend, but there's actress Anne ("Devil Wears Prada") Hathaway out there in the cold and rain saying something vaguely pro-education.  She's part of the Creative Coalition, too.

Thompson: Hidden Costs Of NCLB -- Then & Now

Money-down-drainRemember way back nearly a decade ago when "reformers" laughed at Connecticut's lawsuit challenging NCLB for imposing unfunded mandates?  The state argued that it would need to nearly triple spending on standardized testing or dumb down its assessments.  It estimated that the additional cost of meeting NCLB mandates would be $41.6 million dollars.  Now that 39 states and D.C. contemplate the costs of "getting out from under NCLB's thumb," those arguments don't seem so funny.  John Fensterwald reports in Thoughts on Public Education that California estimates that the "reforms"  required to be granted NCLB waivers by the Duncan administration would cost the state between $2 to $2.7 billion.  It would cost $76 million just to train principals and conduct teacher evaluations.  Children Now acknowledges that that the price tag for such an evaluation system, that might not be long for the world, would be " huge lift."   The California Teachers Union says it would be "money down a rat hole." Connecticut deserves an apology.-JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.

Quotes: Overly Enamored Of Their Own Ideas

Quotes2Are "reformers" wedded to a litany of federal activities, whether or not they're likely to play out as intended? - Rick Hess

AM News: How Obama Lost On School Lunch


Obama administration loses effort to make school lunches healthier WPost:  House lawmakers involved in negotiating the spending bill had wanted to scrap the entire USDA school lunch proposal, citing its $6.8 billion price tag and the financial burdens it would place on school districts, people familiar with the negotiations said. 

Calif. Occupy protests focus on cuts to education AP (Boston Globe): Police arrested 95 Occupy protesters and students Wednesday who stormed into a downtown San Francisco bank and shouted slogans as they tried to set up camp in the lobby.

Couple bug Ohio student to hear teacher bullying AP: A couple raising a 14-year-old developmentally disabled student say they hid a recording device on the girl to prove a teacher and school aide were bullying her, and the audio and subsequent investigations have led to a lawsuit, the aide's resignation and disciplinary action for the teacher.

Race to Top Consolation Prize: $200M for STEM Politics K-12: The U.S. Department of Education has now spelled out what the nine runner-up finalists from last year's Race to the Top competition must do to get a piece of the $200 million consolation prize.


Continue reading "AM News: How Obama Lost On School Lunch" »

Update: How Rookie Mistakes Turn Mini-Crises Into Major Ones

Picture 14Over the summer, Stand For Children's Jonah Edelman got in hot water for revealing how he'd helped get reform legislation passed in Illinois -- and then made things worse with an unnecessary public apology that only confirmed that his critics were right and pushed the story out for another few days or weeks.  Earlier today, Chicago teacher union head Karen Lewis did much the same thing, calling a press conference to discuss her controversial remarks regarding Arne Duncan.  She'd already apologized, the media had already covered the incident, and the crisis was well on its way to being old news.  Now she's put herself in for another round of criticism (including at least some calls for her resignation). The reality is that public officials make verbal gaffes all the time.  Arne Duncan called Hurricane Katrina the best thing that ever happened to New Orleans. Rod Paige called the NEA a bunch of terrorists.  Mayor Emanuel swore at Lewis not too long ago (she apparently swore back.)  It's an understandable urge but still a rookie mistake to make an unnecessary apology, or to apologize repeatedly.  

Five Best Blogs: Even James Heckman Can't Save You

ScreenHunter_56 Sep. 07 10.14

Will Science Reframe Poverty? Think Progress: I’m sure higher taxes on the rich to pay for early childhood eduction would also poll well. From everything I’ve seen, the voters are eager to tax the rich. But none of this shows any signs of actually working as a way of changing public policy. 

Bruno Manno’s “Straw Mom” Argument Annenberg Institute:   The work that Manno describes, on the other hand, is primarily short-lived and does little to build sustained grassroots leadership and voice. SPEAKING OF WHICH: Lessons for advocates from The Education Trust National Conference PIE Network.  

Responding to Diane Ravitch, Randi Weingarten, & others Mike Petrilli: If reformers gain a foothold on local boards, perhaps labor-management negotiations will finally result in good outcomes for kids.

The Dysfunction of Non-Profit Organizations Jay P. Greene:  When for-profit organizations become too large they are either broken-up by regulators with tools like anti-trust or they are divided by shareholders who recognize that the parts are worth more than the whole.  But where are the raiders in the non-profit world?  They don’t exist.  So nothing stops government funded or endowed non-profits from getting way too big.


Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: Even James Heckman Can't Save You" »

Reform: Charter Schools Just Can't Catch A Break

Intel CoreLots of people are talking about John Hechinger's Bloomberg News report about a controversial charter school in affluent Los Altos, CA.  For charter opponents, the story raises concerns about affluent communities using charter laws to create elite enclaves and duck larger responsibilities.  For charter supporters, the story raises concerns about their mission and "brand" becoming confused or muddied. Charters already have enough on their hands, with questions about their effectiveness, cost/scalability, and demographics. The Mathematic/CPRE study was pretty damning, and a Broad Prize and $25M from Walton aren't enough to ease the pain. So let's be clear.  I'm not against charters.  Four out of five charters are in urban areas, which is probably as it should be, but there's nothing wrong with charters being set up in suburban or even affluent communities -- many of which run schools that aren't nearly as good as parents think they are.  But the overwhelming emphasis should be on serving low-income communities, charters should have to serve a comparable percentage of ELL and special education kids as the community in which they are located, and provided services and materials as needed (ie, in Spanish if there is a Spanish-speaking community). 

Video: Animated Videos Bring Student Writing To Life

"Here Jonathan Ashley brings a sentence from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Cunningham's "Olympia" to life." (Literary Magazine for the YouTube Generation via The Atlantic)

Update: Former Obama Official Heads Org. Behind "Opportunity Nation"

image from upload.wikimedia.org

@oppnation       Opportunity Nation is a new entity -- seems like there's one of them announced every other week or so --  and it's not actually an organization but rather a campaign run by an organization called Be The Change, Inc, headed by former USDE staffer Kevin Jennings (pictured), that "seeks to make progress on stalemated issues in our society by bringing together broad and diverse coalitions of organizations and leveraging their collective assets toward a common goal."  They previously did ServiceNation.  Education reform is a big part of increasing opportunity, as you can imagine.  They did a kickoff event in NYC a couple of weeks ago (without inviting me) -- attendees included MA gov. Duval Patrick and controversial pastor Rick Warren -- at which they put out a big report about how limited opportunities are in each state.  They have roughly 200 member organizations, including represenatives of both parties, and they say they plan to push for increased opportunities through at least the 2012 campaigns. Funders include AARP, Ford, and a slew of others.

Video: Districts Consider Single-Sex Classes (Again)

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

AM News: 11 States Apply For NCLB Changes


11 States Seek Relief From ‘No Child’ Provisions, in Return for Raising Standards NYT: Eleven states asked the Education Department for relief from some provisions of the No Child Left Behind law, in exchange for adopting higher standards. See also Stateline.

Gov. Perry Would Scrap the U.S. Department of Education Politics K-12: So it's official: Gov. Rick Perry is now calling for getting rid of the U.S. Department of Education.

Congress Blocks New Rules on School Lunches NYT: Congress blocked changes proposed by the Agriculture Department that were meant to reduce childhood obesity.

Does New Orleans Welcome Disabled Students? NPR: New Orleans has become the center of an education revolution, where more than 70 percent of students attend a charter school. By many measures, student achievement has improved. But the city's new system has led to questions about whether the district is truly open to the most challenging students.

Girl Bullied By Her Own Teachers NBC:  The parents of special needs student Cheyanne, 14, caught her teachers' verbal abuse on tape.


Continue reading "AM News: 11 States Apply For NCLB Changes" »



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.