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Quotes: "Grave Reservations" About Online Learning Hype

image from blog.earnmydegree.com"Anytime you have an industry in which the government (read: we taxpayers) are footing the bill, providing 90% or more of the money to for-profit companies (it’s especially dangerous when the company is public, as there’s tremendous pressure from analysts and investors to hit quarterly growth, margin and profit targets), then it seems to always lead to widespread abuses and, often, outright fraud (in addition to for-profit schools, the entire subprime lending industry and the healthcare industry come to mind)." - Whitney Tilson in his most recent email blast (not yet posted online)


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Teaching: Too Many Countdown Clocks In The Classroom?

ScreenHunter_18 Dec. 30 08.32There are countdown clocks everywhere, including in a lot of classrooms I've been in recently.  They're used to help teachers keep things moving and to help students know how much time they have left but can make things seem rushed or stressed (at least to me). This Nick Paumgarten Talk of the Town column laments their overuse and suggests that there's something being lost.  What do you think?  Meanwhile:  Just one more day before New Year's Eve.  

AM News: What Michelle Rhee's Been Up To Lately

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Former D.C. schools chief busy lobbying, helping politicians WP:  More than a year after she resigned as chancellor of Washington, D.C., Public Schools, Michelle Rhee remains as high-profile as ever.

Break for School Funds Times Union: The New York State Education Department has apparently backed off its threat to "suspend" more than $5 million in grants to Albany and Schenectady school districts because they had not finished negotiations on a new evaluation system for teachers and principals.

New Teachers Reflect on Teaching in 2011 Huffington Post:  To wind down 2011, we asked some first-year public school teachers to tell us what they've learned now that they have some experience in the classroom.

Schools marred by testing scandals in 2011 USAT:  From Waterbury to Atlanta to Asbury Park, N.J., public schools came under fire this year from media and public officials after investigations found evidence of test tampering by educators. 

Mandarin immersion program flourishes at L.A. school LAT:  Broadway Elementary in Venice launched the effort to boost enrollment. The plan worked so well the principal is concerned that dual-language learners will outnumber students in regular classes.

In San Francisco Bay Area, New Ideas on Innovating Out of Dropout Crisis PBS: One of the toughest jobs in modern America has got to be running an urban school district. Superintendents of schools in big cities like Washington, D.C, Los Angeles and Oakland, Calif., don't have very good job security because if they are taking any risks, and messing with the status quo, it provokes controversy and opposition.

Experts call for more attention to bullying of special needs students Baltimore Sun: They say students are targets and need more protections.



Magazines: They're Monetizing High School Football

image from www.newyorker.comThere's an education-related story in this week's New Yorker that might be worth checking out if you've ever come into contact with high school sports programs and realized how powerful even small ones can be.

"Halloy is monetizing high-school football, spawning a new class of nationally touring high-school teams," notes the story, which chronicles a New Jersey school that's become a football powerhouse.  

Education types don't like to talk about it a lot but sports programs can play a big role in education and budget issues at schools and in districts, whether it's scheduling, school consolidation, or district consolidation.  

It's not just happening in Texas or on Friday Night Lights.  

AM News: Keegan & Moe Sign On With Gingrich

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Gingrich Lines Up Experienced Education Adviser Politics K12: Joining Keegan is Michael Moe, an entrepreneur and investor who now serves as CEO of GSV Asset Management Center, an investment company.

Study: Testing firms not complying with law on disabled USA Today: A federal study criticizes the Justice Department for failing to enforce laws that provide disabled students with special accommodations.

Pa. school settles another webcam spying lawsuit Boston Globe: A suburban Philadelphia school district has settled another lawsuit over its alleged spying on students through laptop webcams.

Appeals Court: Ark. Can't Stop Desegregation Funds AP via NPR: Arkansas cannot cut off millions of dollars in funding for desegregation programs in Little Rock-area school districts until the state asks a federal judge for permission to do so, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.

Kansas City Schools Slammed With Lawsuit Over Transfers HuffPo: Five suburban school districts have filed suit to stop student transfers from Kansas City Public Schools to their districts until various issues like costs and student eligibility are resolved.

New York Schools Fail to Get Medicaid Money for Special-Needs Services NYT: New York City has failed to recover tens of millions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements for services it provided to special-needs students in recent years.


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Media: Reform Opponents Are Winning Online (For Now)


There's a strange dynamic going on inside the online education reform debate in which the well-funded reformers play the role of wimpy David and the scrappy traditional educators are Goliath.  But the mismatch could change quickly in the new year, and if it does things will get noisier but also -- I hope -- a little more interesting.

As anyone who reads education sites or goes on Twitter knows, "reform critics" -- they're still working on a better term to describe their views -- have a slew of current teachers and veterans out there talking about their classroom experiences and opinions nearly every day.  Nancy Flanagan, TeacherKen, Anthony Cody, and John Thompson to name just a few. It's not just that they're out there shouting randomly into the wind, either.  At least some of them seem to be coordinated behind the scenes by SOS or PAA or Leonie's listserv, bird-dogging individual sites -- Caroline Grannan seems to have been (self-)assigned to this site -- and converging on a blog post or Twitter comment (as happened to me last week when I first posted on this topic).  If past experience is any guideline, the comments here and Twitter RTs will come from them.  

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comIn contrast, reformy folks have lacked a SWAT team of feisty and prolific school-level champions defending articulating their message. The now middle-aged reform movement seems to have relied on institutional and organizational voices -- Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Wendy Kopp, et al -- and mainstream news outlets, where they dominate.  But these voices are neither coming from the classroom nor active in the online debate during the days and weeks between mainstream news stories, which are an increasingly large part of the education discussion.  This leaves others - think tankers and crackpots and Whitney Tilsons and such -- to fill in the empty spaces. But those folks aren't numerous or prolific or tenacious or, ultimately, credible enough, either.  They are too self-important to leave comments on other sites, and too professional to post on weekends or after hours when everyone else with a day job is most active.    

This imbalance may be changing as more and more reform efforts focus on advocacy, teacher voices, and (so slowly!) embrace social media.  StudentsFirst did a decent job digging up pink-slipped teachers of the year to tell their anti-LIFO story and calling on supporters to write into Congress when the Senate was considering that ridiculous Harkin replacement bill.  Stand For Children could press a button that would encourage its supporters to write or email or tweet, and at some point soon will see fit to do so.  The CTQ has a bunch of teacher bloggers out there, many of them on a group blog at EdWeek -- which looks a little bland and slow by current standards but it's a start.  The folks at TeachPlus have a teacher evaluation post up at HuffPost here, which is again a start. There's a charter-positive TFA alumni named MathInAZ over at Teach For Us.

I'm not taking sides here as to who's more right or more wrong (most everyone's wrong, far as I'm concerned).  And perhaps there are bloggers and commenters out there I've missed in my looking and asking around.  I put out a call for school-based reform-positive voices last week and am happy to continue to learn more. 

AM News: Duncan Pressures Hawaii; NY State Pressures NYC

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 States Hit Turbulence in School Overhauls WSJ: The major stumbling block is the state's inability to reach contract agreement with the Hawaii State Teachers Association. 

New York State Schools May Lose Aid Over Teacher Evaluations NYT: The state education commissioner put pressure on New York City and nine other districts to prove they will carry out new evaluation systems for teachers and principals. Also GothamSchools here.

Gov. Brown says he will increase education funding LAT: The governor's 2012-13 spending plan, to be released in January, assumes billions in additional revenue from his tax increase initiative. If the measure fails, Brown says, more drastic cuts would be needed.

Fla. legislators likely to cut budget again AP via Boston.com: It's almost becoming an annual rite each year in Tallahassee: Another year, another billion-dollar plus budget shortfall.

Battling Anew Over the Place of Religion in Public Schools NYT: Despite Supreme Court rulings in 1962 and ’63, open prayer and Christian symbols have never really disappeared from some schools.


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Video: New Haven Press Officer Confronts Reporter -- Resigns

The confrontation between New Haven Independent reporter Melissa Bailey and a New Haven schools press official has gotten attention on Jim Romenesko's blog -- and now the school official has turned in his letter of resignation. Not everyone thinks the situation is as cut and dried as it may seem, including some of the 120 commenters on the New Haven Independent site and Hartford Courant columnist Rick Green. What do you think?  

AM News: Hawaii Preps For "Race" Review

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Hawaii bracing for US Ed Dept. review The Republic: State officials are bracing for a federal review of Hawaii's public schoolsystem early next year that could determine whether the state continues to receive millions in competitive education grants.

School Spending Under Microscope WSJ:  The New York City lawyer who helped win a landmark court ruling in 2006 that ordered billions of dollars more spent on schools has been quietly building a new case to show that even after more than a decade of litigation, the state still may be failing its most impoverished students.

Company rewards teachers for school trips SignOnSanDiego: AOne of the companies that provides the trips in San Diego offers lucrative rewards for teachers based on the number of students and fellow teachers they can recruit to go on the trips.

The Touchy-Feely Future Of Technology NPR: With the gift-giving season winding down, All Things Considered takes some time to look at a technology that likely played a part in many of this year's offerings — touch screens. 

In Face of Holiday Sales, Colorado Students Begin to Learn Financial Discipline PBS: A Colorado law that went into effect this fall requires schools to teach public school students about financial responsibility -- from drawing coins and bills to deducting purchases from their classroom bank accounts.

IQ isn't fixed at birth, can increase with education USA Today: Children who have more schooling may see their IQ improve, Norwegian researchers have found.

With A Job, Life Improves For 9th Grade Dropout NPR: Nearly three decades ago, Kenny Buchanan decided to drop out of school. Over the last 26 years, he's jumped from job to job and unemployment. He now has a full-time job and for the first time in years, he and his family have health insurance and can enjoy a few luxuries.

Video: Examining Louisiana's Much-Improved Graduation Rate

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

NBC News' Rehema Ellis has a segment on the much-improved Louisiana high school graduation rate (Video: Louisiana schools make the grade)

AM News: Drama In Los Angeles, DC -- And Kansas City

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Judge denies LA Unified request to block state funding cuts KPCC: A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge Thursday denied an L.A. Unified request to immediately stop California from carrying out significant midyear cuts in state support.

Suburbs Brace For Kansas City Students Kansas City, Mo., schools are losing their accreditation on Jan. 1. Missouri law allows students from unaccredited districts to enroll for free in nearby school systems, so the suburban districts outside Kansas City are bracing for an influx of students.

Outside firm will check for cheating on District’s standardized test Washington Post: A D.C. government education agency is seeking an outside firm to investigate the city’s 2011 standardized test scores.

California Educators Look To Better English Learning HuffPost: California has the largest Hispanic student population in the nation but ranks at the bottom for Hispanic reading and math achievement. Only 11 percent of the state's 1.6 million English learners – the vast majority of them Spanish speakers – reached proficiency levels in English in the last school year. About a third drop out of school.

To Make Algebra Fun, Rethink The Problem NPR: For most people, the word "algebra" conjures classroom memories of Xs and Ys. Weekend Edition's math guy, Keith Devlin, says that's because most schools do a terrible job of teaching it. He talks with host Scott Simon about what algebra really is. Plus, Devlin explains how algebra took off in Baghdad, the Silicon Valley of the ninth century.


Affluent Children Are More Physically Fit Than Poor Ones Bay Citizen via NYT: Elementary schools in affluent districts have far more physical education specialists than those in poor ones.

Thompson: CAP Waiver Analysis Misses Much

1971_SchoolCrossingDoes the Center for American Progress have a specific vendetta against Oklahoma schools?  Or were we just a random target? Jeremy Ayers, author of the CAP's "No Child Left Behind Waiver," criticizes the Oklahoma NCLB waiver request as too complex but he gave no indication that he understands either the state's educational policy or politics. Oklahoma's performance-driven evaluation law was based on the Colorado law that the CAP pushed, and yet Ayers complains that we have not rushed past Colorado in nailing down the details.  This is even though just last week, the OK State Board of Education reached a sensible compromise on teacher evaluations.  The Board's logic was that the key to success is building a constructive culture of accountability, as we will learn from a pilot project in 2012.  Ayers complains  that Oklahoma has not nailed down metrics for evaluations of teachers of nontested classes.  Apparently, he would like us to follow Tenneessee's absurd plan and evaluate PE teachers based on reading scores.  Oklahoma has enough on its plate with increased federal micromanaging, as we switch over to Republican control. After carefully studying the policies and the process initiated by our new Republican Education Secretary, Janet Barresi, I have to admit being pleasantly surprised. A year ago, I would have never thought that Barresi would be so open to collaboration.  I can't say I have the same reaction to reading the CAP report.  Perhaps those in other states are having the same reaction. -JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.    

Update: Charter Closures Decline As Number Of Schools Surges

image from i.huffpost.comEither charter schools have gotten a lot better over the past decade during which they've grown enormously in number -- this is what CER's Jeanne Allen tells HuffPost reporter Joy Resmovits -- or, well, they've just gotten better at avoiding being closed.  Graph to the left, story here.

Interesting to see that even in the recent SIG era, during which charters were eligible to be closed for academic reasons (not just at the discretion of the authorizers), academic closures remain rare and overall closures are actually declining.  

Note that the percentage of noncharter schools closed over this same period was pretty damn miniscule, too.  There were precious few outright closures or conversions during the NCLB era except in a few big cities.  Even restructurings (restaffings) were rare.  

Still no official comment from the National Alliance on Public Charter Schools, or NACSA, or any of the other pro-charter folks, far as I've seen.  Maybe they're already on vacation -- or the reporters who would be calling them have already flown the coop. CORRECTION:  NAPCS was there at the CER event and gave remarks.

AM News: USDE Puts Hawaii On Notice - Finally

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Ed. Dept. Takes Action Against Hawaii for Race to Top Stumbles Politics K12: The U.S. Department of Education notified state officials yesterday that the state has not made "adequate progress" in fulfilling the promises it made as part of last year's $4 billion competition. ALSO: NPR, AP.

National education reformer to lead Bridgeport CT Post: Paul G. Vallas, an education reformer who has led some of the nation's most troubled school systems, including the New Orleans district after Hurricane Katrina devastated that city, is taking on a new challenge: The Bridgeport school district.

Will Early Education Get a Piece of New Race to Top Funding? Politics K12: On the heels of last week's announcement of the winners of the Race to the Top Early Learning challenge, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said he isn't sure yet whether there would be a second round of funding for early-childhood programs.

New York Attorney General Is Investigating Pearson Education NYT: The New York attorney general is investigating whether the nonprofit arm of Pearson Education acted improperly to influence state education officials by paying for perks.

Texas Schools Grapple With Big Budget Cuts NPR: State lawmakers slashed more than $4 billion this year from education, one of the largest cuts in the Texas history. More than 12,000 teachers and staff have been laid off. Some districts halted construction on much-needed new schools; others have parents pay for extra programs. And low-income students may fare the worst.


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Charts: Too Many Education Types, Not Enough Education Jobs

image from www.epi.orgThis handy dandy EPI chart shows that there are many more workers than job openings across a bunch sectors including education (and health).

It's not as bad as in wholesale and retail trade, or even in leisure and hospitality, but it's not very good, either.

Again, education sector unemployment seems to have hit classroom aides and paras and other noncertified staff (preschool teachers?) as much or more than classroom teachers.  

Thompson: It's Not "Research" Just Because Someone Says It Is

BrassknucklesRobin Rogers' guest post in The Education Optimists explains that contemporary philanthropists are creating a hybrid method of effecting change.  The bad news is that "billionaire policymaking" can instill fear of retaliation, thus quashing open discussions. She also notes that some reformers believe that this "brass knuckle philanthropy" is a basically good idea.  "Philanthro-policymaking," as Rogers dubs this new approach, funds numerous position papers that have the veneer of academic scholarship, given what she calls the "language of science." Rogers characterizes its method as "funding ‘research’ and gathering ‘evidence’ in ‘experiments.’" These non-peer reviewed papers are not educational research, however, as much as reports on "policy experiments." Rogers concludes that, "we must not allow the language of science to obscure the power of the economic elite."  She sees this "policy seeding is an effective political strategy," as opposed to an objective search for truth. Rogers also makes the sensible point that by giving the phenomena a name, we can better discuss its implications.-JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via

Five Best Blogs: Why Pilot [Lunch] Programs Fail At Scale


Why Pilot Projects Fail Megan McArdle: Rolling something out across an existing system is substantially different from even a well run test, and often, it simply doesn't translate. Sometimes the success was due to the high quality, fully committed staff.  Sometimes the program becomes unmanageable as it gets larger. 
Getting Serious About Improving Head Start: New America:  Among them were the New York City Administration for Children’s Services; Northern Virginia Family Services, and the cities of Baltimore, Detroit and San Antonio. Also on the list are the public schools of Pittsburgh, PA; New Haven, CT; Richmond, VA; and Milwaukee, WI. 
Education reform paralysis — and how to fix it The Answer Sheet:  Don’t you get bored repeatedly reading about variations on the same topics? Standardized testing, useful or harmful? Charter schools, the answer or the new problem? Teachers maligned, teachers defended, teachers resistant to change. No Child Left Behind, revise or eliminate? 
Influence Politico:  A survey of 50 current and former administration, Capitol Hill aides and state level leaders found that the National Education Association, Education Trust and The Council of Great City Schools are the top three most effective education lobbyists in Washington (via @eduwonk).

The Best and Worst in Education 2011 Rick Kahlenberg: Some charter schools make terrific progress, but most are mediocre. And it’s hard to imagine how they will attract great teachers for the long haul when... one of the “innovations” at some charter schools is to save money by offering teachers no pensions whatsoever.


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Video Interlude: Inept Customer Service Provided By Math Teacher

Turns out the guy who plays Peggy, the sketchy and inept Eastern European customer service person in that Discover card ad you may have seen, is an LA-area algebra teacher in real life. His kids love it.  Wonder what his principal and superintendent think.  Anyone know what district or school?  Via Medialite and @susaw

Charters: Advocates Play Catch-Up On Accountability

Photos-625x389Can charter schools' reputation be rescued before it's too late?  In a situation that seems like an eery preview of what will soon happen in online learning, charter advocates are now madly -- belatedly -- trying to play catch up on charter quality and accountability issues -- even as lawmakers and charter operators ramp up operations.  

The Huffington Post outlines the push for accountability and claims from CER that closure rates are north of 15 percent (Charter School Proponents Focus On Accountability In Word If Not In Deed). You can watch the live press conference going on now here.  

The problem is that the Obama administration opened the barn door wide open with its irresponsible Race to the Top charter cap elimination priority, left the charter quality/closure issue to the SIG process, which is a mess, and in the meantime the national charter school groups are limited by their operators/ association members from taking a strong stand on charter closures and revokations.  The National Alliance figures are a little different from CER, as you can see here, and has been somewhat stronger on charter accountability than CER going back a couple of years now (see here).  NACSA, the organization of authorizers, has been trying to bring attention to quality issues for years now, but has for the most part been drowned out by the enthusiasm of the charter operators and reform folks pushing charters to their current 5600-school level. 

Meanwhile, states continue to expand charter options -- the latest being Michigan (Charter School Expansion Underway in Michigan State EdWatch, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signs law lifting charter school limits Freep).  

AM News: More Georgia Cheating Unearthed

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comCheating Found Among Schools in Georgia’s Dougherty County NYT: Officials in Dougherty County, south of Atlanta, were found to have tampered with standardized testing mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act.

Key Obama K-12 Programs Won Out in Budget Deal EdWeek: The 2012 federal spending plan reflects Obama administration success in defending Race to the Top and other programs from funding cuts.

State Waiver Plans: Much Work Still To Do, New Reports Say Politics K12: The Center on Education Policy has released a pair of reports that indicate states have a lot of work to do as they apply for waivers under the No Child Left Behind Act and try to take the reins on school accountability.

Federal Head Start reauthorization puts city’s status in jeopardy GothamSchools: New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) is at risk of losing a $190 million grant, after the federal government included it on a list of 132 substandard Head Start agencies across the country this week.

Six Hours of State Tests Coming This Spring NYT: With increased emphasis on standardized testing a sore point (to put it mildly) for many parents and educators -- and with this year's test results also factoring into teacher evaluations -- the state's decision to extend the length of the math and language arts for elementary and middle school students was, needless to say, met with some scorn.

Project aims for national standard in music education The Baltimore Sun: A budding musician with high marks in one state is not necessarily on the same level, judged by the same criteria, as a budding musician in another. 

Five Best Blogs: Dem Think Tank Scrutinizes Waiver Applications


Mass., Tenn. Praised in New Report on NCLB Waiver Plans PK12: Colorado's data system can't link student data to individual or multiple teachers, Florida's plan makes it unclear whether schools would be held accountable for subgroup performance, and Indiana didn't specify what factors would be used in new teacher evaluations. 

A Sellers’ Market for SIG T1DL: So, when did “what the market will bear” become an accepted practice in public education? 

Cracking Down On Charter Schools? Huffington Post: The most recent call to close underperforming charter schools came not from a teachers' union or a school district, but from a charter-school trade association. 

2011 Year in Review NSVF: NewSchools played a key role in supporting the Growing Excellent Academies for Teachers and Principals Act to support the creation and expansion of teacher and principal training academies, approved by the Senate in October. 

The stories behind the story of K12 Inc. The Answer Sheet:  Local reporters in farflung places were paying attention to virtual schools long before folks in big cities took notice. And for that, they deserve a heap of credit.

Quotes: Balancing Philanthropy's Personal & Analytic Extremes

Quotes2[Philanthropy] is a field that can run aground on the shoals of being excessively personal and anecdotal or being excessively strategic and analytical, and [Laura Arrilaga-Andreesen] weaves that middle ground in a way that speaks to a lot of people. --  Foundation Center's Bradford Smith

Media: Instant Analysis Of The Dillon Era (& What Happens Next)

Tumblr_lwb812LTDK1qz6f9yo1_500News got out yesterday via email and the NY Observer that longtime national education reporter Sam Dillon was leaving the K12 education beat and taking a buyout -- planning to do some occasional writing on a contract basis (and he says he's also going back to school to improve his command of the German language). 

His most contentious story might have been his 2006 coverage of alleged curriculum narrowing, which I named one of the most prominent stories of the NCLB ear.  But he didn't stop there.  His most recent big story was the admirable piece on the Gates advocacy surge, which created a decent-sized hullabaloo. 

Longtime readers know that I didn't always love Dillon's coverage -- sometimes I felt like he listened to the reformy types a little too much, or wrote stories that felt knee-jerk. But then again criticizing other people's work is what I do, and criticizing the New York Times is an easy thing to do a lot of.  Despite my silly complaints Dillon has always been decent to me and in fact showed me inordinate consideration in his story about the "divorce" proceedings between Green Dot and Steve Barr.  

No word yet from inside the Times on how they're going to shuffle things around to fill in for Dillon's departure. Alan Schwarz is ostensibly on the national education beat.  Trip Gabriel.... whatever happened to that guy?  Matt Richter and Stephanie Saul have been doing a ton of writing about education technology.  It's possible there could be some new faces in the new year.  Sharon Otterman hasn't been replaced, either.   

Update: Rise Of The "TeacherPreneur"


I had the chance to catch up with Barnett Berry a few days ago and it was interesting to hear what he’s been up to and what it’s been like for the head of the Center on Teaching Quality riding the recent wave of interest in teacher empowerment and leadership programs. “A couple of years ago I couldn’t raise a penny for this kind of teacher leadership,” said Barnett. Old timers among you may recall that Barnett did a lot of work on national certification in the 1990s, and worked with Linda Darling-Hammond and NCTAF as well.  Over the dozen years since then, Barnett's organization evolved from a think tank and now focuses on cultivating and spreading the expertise of teachers. The work includes in depth work in places like Denver, Seattle, and Tampa, a book called Teaching 2030, 325 checks written to teachers totaling nearly $500,000, and 4 designated "teacherpreneurs" who serve as bloggers, mentors, essayists, policy researchers.  The organization is getting funding from Gates, Rose, MetLife, and Stewart among others. Now working with roughly 1500 teachers through its virtual network, the organization is slated to ramp up to 15,000 within two years thanks to a new Gates grant.  At a certain point, Barnett hopes, districts and unions will see the benefit and start covering the costs themselves. It may be a while before something like that happens, but it will certainly be an interesting ride. Image via

AM News: Delaware Threatens District's "Race" Money



Delaware tells Brandywine schools to make time for teachers to plan NewsJournal via GothamSchools: The state has threatened to withhold $2.5 million in federal funding from the Brandywine School District because it believes it is not giving teachers enough time to plan how to best educate students.
Decades Later, Did Those Scholarships Pay Off? NPR:  In 1988, a group of Maryland fifth-graders received college scholarships from two philanthropists. Now those students are in their 30s and their lives are chronicled in The Washington Post magazine. Host Michel Martin speaks with reporter Paul Schwartzman and one of those students about how the scholarship affected their lives.


Five Organizations to Create New 'Promise Neighborhoods' Politics K-12: More than two years ago, President Barack Obama pledged to scale up the Harlem Children's Zone's model of pairing education with health and other community services. Now that idea is finally bearing fruit: Five communities are getting up to $6 million each implementation grants to create new Promise Neighborhoods under the federal program of that name.

Court rules in Ga. case on student's view of gays AP: A federal court has upheld a ruling that Augusta State University in Georgia was within its rights to require a graduate school counseling student to keep her biblical views on gays to herself.

A White Writer Gives Advice To A 'Poor Black Kid' NPR: Writer Gene Marks caused a ruckus online with his recent blog post offering advice on how poor back children can succeed in life. He drew a great deal of criticism, including a sharp response from author and blogger Baratunde Thurston of The Onion.

Calif. teen sentenced for killing gay student AP: A teen who fatally shot a gay junior high classmate in the back of the head during a computer lab nearly four years ago was sentenced Monday to 21 years in state prison, capping an emotional case that focused attention on how schools deal with sexual identity.


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Quotes: K12 CEO Slams NYT Online Learning Story

Quotes2The article was laced with factual inaccuracies and misleading anecdotes, leaving out every success story of how K12 has worked with public schools and educators to serve students.  - K12 CEO Ron Packard"

Five Best Blogs: Promise Neighborhoods -- And Poverty

ThenewrepublicFive Organizations to Create New 'Promise Neighborhoods' Politics K12:  Most of these organizations—with the exception of Northside Academy— got Promise Neighborhood planning grants from the department last year to do local needs assesments and think through how best to help their communities. 

Five Promise Neighborhoods Get More Funds: Without these essentials, community-school partnerships can be messy. They can tricky and political. But when done well they can be fruitful and effective. One particularly bright finding in Cincinnati, since Strive’s inception in 2006, shows a substantial increase in the percentage of children who come to kindergarten ready to learn. We can’t think of a better way to start school.

Poverty of children demands attention Juan Williams: Poor schools and a scarcity of jobs now combine to depress the odds, making the poor feel disconnected from people with education and opportunity, their government and their country.  ALSO:  Inconvenient Income Inequality Charles Blow (NYT): Some recent surveys seem to suggest that many Americans are in denial about the seriousness of the gap between the rich and poor.

Race to the Top Slogs On National Journal: Could this be the end? With limited funding, what happens to the concept of competitive grants? Are competitions like Race to the Top an appropriate way to drive public policy? Does the Education Department's grant program work better when it has more money and is financing larger projects? Or is it a better use of funds and leverage when the grants are tailored to more specific goals? 

Confidential Student and Teacher Data to Be Provided to Limited Corporation Leonie Haimsen:  Where are the independent experts on privacy, and even more importantly, the input of parents, who really should be allowed to opt out of the Shared Learning Collaborative ?


Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: Promise Neighborhoods -- And Poverty" »

Charts: Don't Pass Research Along By Reputation Or Organization

A recent American Scientist article takes issue with how the authors of Freakonomics have been presenting research -- in part because they seem to rely on trusted colleagues and friends without "adequate vetting of research."  

image from www.americanscientist.org

Of course this makes me wonder if this happens in the dissemination of education research by scholars and journalists, too -- studies getting passed along based on reputation or organization rather than quality.  Plus there's a fun chart showing how it all ends up in the public hands.

Research: You Can't Compare NCLB To A Massive Meteor Strike

image from img.thedailyblend.netI admit that I haven't read the report and only just skimmed this EdWeek writeup but don't think I need to in order to state that I find it hard to believe that anyone would try and compare the passage of NCLB to the meteor strikes that, according to some, ended the era of dinosaurs on the planet and began the transformative process that's led us to the present, non-dinosaur world that we inhabit now.  Even if we allow for some creative license, the comparison just doesn't hold up.  The meteor strike was bad; it ended dinosaurs.  NCLB was good; it ended lazy teachers.  The meteor strike had effects that lasted for a while; NCLB was over (politically) within months of being signed into law.  Etc.  OK maybe I should actually read what Schneider wrote. Image via

Magazines: The Homeless Substitute Teacher Of Occupy Wall Street

image from blog.seattlepi.comA homeless substitute teacher with a degree in physics pays a minor role in a New Yorker story called "All The Angry People" abut Occupy Wall Street that's being touted as one of the best reads of 2011.  

The economic recession has hit college-educated educators much less hard than it has hit paraprofessionals, minorities, and others, but still --  a million Internets to anyone who's figured out who the guy is, found him, and can get an interview or an email or something.  

Originally posted via #thisweekined

Celebrity: Robo-Calls Helping Kids At 90 Schools

"Students and parents can sign up for the twice-weekly wake up calls that, in combination with school-wide attendance challenges and activities rolled out in 90 schools across the nation, encourage teens to get up and get to school." (Celebrity Calls Urge Students To Get Up, 'Get Schooled' PBS)

AM News: Concerns About Social Media, Virtual Learning

News2Rules to Limit How Teachers and Students Interact Online NYT: School boards in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia have updated or are revising their social media policies this fall. 

Virtual schools booming as states mull warnings AP:  More schoolchildren than ever are taking their classes online, using technology to avoid long commutes to school, add courses they wouldn't otherwise be able to take - and save their school districts money....
M.I.T. Expands Free Online Courses, Offering Certificates NYT: The new online learning platform will provide access to online laboratories, self-assessments and student-to-student discussions.

Calif teen to be sentenced for killing gay student AP (Boston Globe): A Southern California teenager faces 21 years in state prison when he's sentenced Monday for killing a gay student during a computer lab class three years ago.

New York City Student Testing Over the Past Decade NYT: Thanks to the best education minds in Washington, Albany and Lower Manhattan, we now have finely calibrated state tests aligned with the highest academic standards.

LA schools look to teachers to lead reform efforts AP:  For some, the new policy gives teachers long overdue license to enact reforms they want. For others, however, it doesn't make sense to eliminate charters from the reform equation.

Behind the Numbers: Why Dropouts Have it Worse Than Ever Before PBS:  While the demand for blue-collar work has declined, the supply of undocumented cheap labor has increased. The bottom of the labor market is now flooded with undocumented immigrants, greatly decreasing the opportunity for native-born high school dropouts.


Five Best Blogs: A Case Is Made For "For-Profit Teaching"

Picture 28

Surprises in Early Learning Challenge New America:  Pennsylvania, long regarded as a leader in coordinating its early learning services, didn’t win. Neither did Oklahoma, famous for its state-funded pre-K program. ALSO:  Race to Top Early Learning: Tales of Woe for 3 States Politics K12. 

An RTT Cookbook With One Recipe Title I Derland (Guest Post):  Could we also lose very good, effective teachers — teachers who produce high value-added scores — simply because their particular “style” of teaching does not match the rubric?  

2012 Plan of Action StudentsFirst: Improve local schools in some of the most populous states and in states where the need is great by passing student-focused reforms.Elect pro-reform candidates. Influence Federal legislation, like the re-authorization of No Child Left Behind.

Denita’s Choice Mike Goldstein:  Is it annoying that some guys are getting rich off this? Yes. Is it ridonkulous that the largest shareholder is Michael Milken, the junk bond king from the 1980s? Yes. With all that said, will more parents choose online charters (combined with home schooling) in the coming years, and will taxpayers underwrite more of these schools? Yes.

What's So Bad About For-Profit Teaching? John Bailey:  Given the urgency of improving the US education system, we can no longer afford to shut out an entire group of providers. 

Software Eats The World The Atlantic: Retail, advertising, communications, and entertainment: You're down. Health care and education: You're up next. 


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Update: "Occupy" Movement Gets Active On K12 In Chicago

image from www.chicagonow.comUnhappy with proposed school closings and the creation of 12 more charters (among other things), protesters in Chicago shouted down schools head Jean-Claude Brizard and forced the Board of Education to retreat into private session for three hours -- during which speakers who'd signed up to address the board spoke to empty chairs.  The effort was coordinated in part with Occupy Chicago, the local version of the Occupy Wall Street movement that has addressed student lending and international trade but not really K12 education thus far. The protest might not change the Board's mind but it was a pretty vivid demonstration of community dissatisfaction and apparently -- this surprised me -- a first in nearly 20 years for Chicago. You'd have thought that opponents would have given the Daley-era school chiefs (Vallas, Duncan, and Huberman) the same kind of treatment but apparently not.  [Cross posted from D299]

Quotes: A Newfound "Spirit Of Collaboration" In LA

Quotes2Our members hope this spirit of collaboration continues and that UTLA and LAUSD will get back to the negotiating table to finally agree on a meaningful teacher evaluation system. -- Ama Nyamekye, ED of E4E LA 

Research: The Prevalence Of Unconscious, Automatic Racism

Picture 27We all like to think we're not racists but study after study seems to suggest that we are -- especially when we're not paying attention or under time pressure or a little bit confused.  (It's not just a white thing, either -- blacks and Latinos demonstrate a racial preference against their own kind too.) This latest nonrandom nonrepresentative study reveals 54 percent of respondents with a strong or moderate automatic preference for whites over blacks. Take the test and see how you do. I did, and managed to ome out in the middle 17 percent with "little to no autonomatic preference.  Even though it didn't come out on the test I felt that automatic preference for white faces and association between white faces and positive feelings.  It was there.  I felt it.  Does that make me a racist?  No, I don't think so, not in the traditional sense.  But it makes me, along with lots of other people, someone whose automatic responses aren't as neutral as I might think they would be. 

Video: Khan Lessons Merely Adequate, Says Rubenstein

"His examples are not well planned. His pacing is inconsistent...The numbers don’t work out nicely for the first example. The last example also doesn’t work out well. He skips from an easy concept to a hard one with no transition. Also, there is absolutely no interactivity." 

AM News: Nine States To Get Fed "Early Learning" Grants


9 states to win early learning grant AP: Nine states will share $500 million in grant money won in a high-profile competition intended to jump-start improvements in often-overlooked early childhood programs.

LAUSD moving forward with new contract, value-added teacher evaluations KPCC:  Los Angeles Unified’s teachers’ union announced Thursday that its members have overwhelmingly approved a contract that will grant individual campuses more control over the way they operate. 

Education Companies Battle Over 'Race to The Top' Testing Contract The Ledger:  The filing with the Department of Administrative Hearings argues that the department used the wrong criteria in weighing the offers of McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the final round of bid consideration. via @gothamschools

Tiny Increase for Title I, Obama Ed. Programs Survive Politcis K-12: Key formula programs that school districts depend on—Title I grants for disadvantaged kids and special education—would see a tiny increase under a spending bill for fiscal year 2012 put forth early Thursday.

House Budget Revives Money for Abstinence-Based Sex Ed Politics K-12: The U.S. House's $1 trillion spending bill released Wednesday revives an abstinence-based sexual education program killed by lawmakers just last year, and advocates and opponents of the program believe the Senate has agreed to resurrect the program, too.


Continue reading "AM News: Nine States To Get Fed "Early Learning" Grants" »

Five Best Blogs: No Such Thing As Middle-Class Parents Or Teachers


National School Experiment Starts In New Haven, New York, D.C. Huffington Post: The program offers a lower-cost, one-on-one route alternative to Teach for America for young adults to work with urban schoolkids.

Teach Plus: Introducing the New Majority Huffington Post: So what is driving great early-career teachers away? For a large proportion, it is a lack of leadership opportunities.

The Phantom Menace Rick Hess. When it comes to the question of for-profits and American education, there's often more hysteria than analysis. 

Yes, Our Urban Kids Is Learning Kevin Drum: These results are consistent with plenty of other NAEP results: poor and minority kids are still doing a lot worse than middle-class and non-minority kids, but they are making progress. 

Half of Americans are Poor or Low Income Atlantic Wire:  New census data gives some confirmation to the notion of a disappearing middle class: Nearly 1 in 2 Americans are now officially either low income or impoverished.  

Cartoons: "Blame It On The Educational System"

Picture 25
Senator to a staffer:  "Well we can always use the 'ol' stand-by' and blame it on the educational system." Via Scholastic Administrator

Video: Robot Day Care

Mother: "Daycare can be expensive/ So to save some money I found one that uses robots instead of real people. Because robots work for free." Robot teacher: "Good morning female child." Mother: "Flaws? Umm, Maybe."

Thompson: A Distressing View Of Online Education

Rihanna-umbrella-4b84aThe New York Times' investigative reporter, Stephanie Saul, introduces us to the Virtual School's new culture of compliance.  It is same as the old brick-and-mortar school's culture of compliance. "Profits and Questions at Online Charter Schools" describes a pattern familiar to traditional teachers, "When you have the television and the Xbox and no parental figure at home, sometimes it’s hard to do your schoolwork.”  Even dedicated parent/teachers of students being homeschooled online have to compete with Spider-Man and Batman action figures for students' attention.  And when a student, who is lip synching Rihanna's hit song, "Umbrella," is caught not listening to the lesson, the excuse is no different than in school, “I concentrate better with my music.”  As with the brick-and-mortar "status quo," online students address these challenges by playing games with attendance figures, narrowing the curriculum, and pressuring teachers to "pass students on."  One online school's grading policy requires teachers to give a “50” rather than a zero for missed assignments.  Students who don't do their work are often given "unlimited retakes." In other words, Saul's article is another reminder that education is a people process, and the way to improve schools is to honestly address the human dimension of learning.-JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.

Charts: "Brace Yourselves, Suburban Parents"

image from www.amandaripley.com

"Brace yourselves, suburban parents," writes Amanda Ripley in presenting how our richest kids do on PISA compared to rich kids in other countries -- not so good in reading, and pretty damn awful in math (2003) and science (Why Do Our Rich Kids Rank 23rd in Math…?

AM News: Duncan AYP Projection Off By 34 Percentage Points


Report: half of schools fail federal standards AP: Nearly half of America's public schools didn't meet federal achievement standards this year, marking the largest failure rate since the much-criticized No Child Left Behind Law took effect a decade ago, according to a national report released Thursday.

Education Secretary Overstated Failing Schools Under No Child Left Behind, Study Says NYT: A study by the Center on Education Policy says that under the No Child Left Behind law, 48 percent of schools would be labeled as failing this year — not 82 percent.

Duncan's 82% NCLB Failure Prediction Way Off Base, New Data Show Politics K12:  Duncan said yesterday in a statement that even though the numbers are different, the message is still the same. "Whether it's 50 percent, 80 percent, or 100 percent of schools being incorrectly labeled as failing, one thing is clear: No Child Left Behind is broken," he said. "That's why we're moving forward with giving states flexibility from the law in exchange for reforms that drive student success."

An Insider's Guide to the 11 NCLB Waiver Plans Politics K-12: If you haven't had time to read the thousands of pages that make up the NCLB waiver applications for the first 11 states, that's okay. Your intrepid Politics K-12 bloggers, along with other EdWeek colleagues, have.

TNTP to Incorporate Student Surveys into Evaluations Teacher Beat: Teacher-training group TNTP plans to incorporate a student-feedback measure into the system it's developing to evaluate its teachers, becoming one of the first organizations in the nation to use such measures formally.


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Five Best Blogs: Happy Birthday, StudentsFirst!


2011 Impact #StudentsFirst: Through their organizing, our members have passed over 50 new policies in 7 states impacting the education of 8.7 million students.  

What It's Really Like to Be a Poor Black Kid The Atlantic Wire: He did not actually talk to any poor black kids. It's paternalistic. It doesn't address the real problems poor black kids face. It assumes poor black kids don't work hard as a norm. It contains flawed logic. And lastly Marks is pretty sure of his own gifts. 

School closing protesters take over Chicago board meeting PURE:  Today in Chicago, parents and teachers are demonstrating just how that happens. After camping out overnight in frigid rain in front of the Chicago Public Schools central office, [...] 

The health care news story that’s about education GothamSchools: In the last three years, Medicaid has overtaken schools as the biggest recipient of state funding.

In The Markets Andrew Rotherham: We saw this movie before on for-profit colleges and those stocks basically recovered as a class (to be clear – in terms of perception and seem to move more based on underlying valuation of individual companies today). 



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Classrooms: The Science Of Lines

image from chartporn.orgPass this along to your favorite classroom management / Doug Lemov / operations person and I'm sure they'll say thanks (Which Checkout is Fastest?).

It's officially about innovations in checkout lines at Whole Foods and such, but as with airline boarding and similar topics the connections to classrooms and schools is pretty clear (lunch lines, recess line, bathroom line, entering and exiting school, etc.) 



Cartoon Education Experts All In A Row

ScreenHunter_07 Dec. 14 21.32
From Slate, a while back -- still a favorite.  Sorry it's a little fuzzy.  Anyone got a better version?

Reformageddon: Reform's "Rich Republican Job-Loss" Problem


Why are low-income minority communities, classroom teachers, middle-class parents and the public so indifferent if not outright hostile to school reform efforts?  That's the question reformer Whitney Tilson tries to address in his latest email (copied below -- it usually takes him a few days to post them on his blog). Best known as a reform fanatic whose emails (along with this blog) were primary resources for Steve Brill's book, acknowledges what few of the blowhards and finger-waggers out there seem willing to do.  It's not just the unions' fault, or even Stockholm Syndrome. Reform has problems, despite its progress, and ignoring them won't make them go away.  These include (a) the practical and political obstacles that any job-threatening reforms create, (b) the realities of poverty and the resources that will be required to bring people out of it, (c) race and class issues that arise when reformers are rich and white and reformees are not, and (d) how what was once a strength -- bipartisanship -- is now toxic to the Democratic base.  Or at least that's what I think he's saying.  Check it out and let me know. It's not something you've never thought or read before, but perhaps not from someone in Tilson's camp.  

Continue reading "Reformageddon: Reform's "Rich Republican Job-Loss" Problem" »

AM News: What To Do With Hawaii?


Michelle Rhee On 'Take No Prisoners' Approach NPR:  A year ago, she started StudentsFirst, a group formed in response to increasing demands for a better public education system in America.

Pressure Mounts on Hawaii in Race to Top EdWeek: Teacher evaluation proves among the toughest issues as Hawaii seeks to put its $75 million Race to the Top grant into effect.

L.A. school board ends preference practice at charter schools LAT: The admission preference had been offered by two popular charter schools overseen by the L.A. Unified School District.

Florida Charter Schools Failing Disabled Students NPR:  Despite state and federal laws requiring charter schools to give equal access to students with severe disabilities, most charter schools in Florida have few of these students on their roster. 

Bill Eyes Diploma, Progress to GED for Unemployment Benefits Politics K-12: The U.S. House of Representatives is set to consider a bill that would require those seeking Unemployment Insurance to have a high school diploma or GED—or be working toward one—in order to receive those benefits. 

$1B in new cuts for Calif. schools, services USA Today: Tax revenue are $2.2 billion below projections made this summer when the budget passed.


Continue reading "AM News: What To Do With Hawaii?" »

Five Best Blogs: "Something Of A Bubble" Around Online Learning


School Turnarounds and Profiteers DFER:  You have numerous outside turnaround partners obtaining big money contracts, without having proven their ability to successfully turnaround a school.

I'm Skeptical But Intrigued By AFT Initiative, NEA Report Rick Hess: I'm skeptical when folks who've seemed to drag their heels offer up nifty new proposals and innovations. So, I don't want to sound all "gee, whiz" here. At the same time, it's important that skepticism not morph into reflexive dismissal. 

Online Yet? Andrew Rotherham:  This story takes  a pretty strong point of view (too strong in places in my view) that shouldn’t obscure that quality in the online space is quite mixed and there is something of a bubble around virtual and ed tech more generally. 

From Finland, an Intriguing School-Reform Model NYT:  Ever since Finland, a nation of about 5.5 million that does not start formal education until age 7 and scorns homework and testing until well into the teenage years, scored at the top of a well-respected international test in 2001 in math, science and reading, it has been an object of fascination among American educators and policy makers.

Teach for America ‘research’ questioned The Answer Sheet: We now live in a world where foundations and organizations have millions of dollars to spend lobbying and at the same time can bypass peer review in order to make a case for whatever they are selling. If you have enough money, science no longer matters. 

All the Cool Kids Are Quitting Facebook The Atlantic: Joining Facebook isn't cool. You know what's cool? Quitting Facebook.


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