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Five Best Blogs: People Only *Say* They Support Education

A daily roundup of all the best education blog posts and commentary I can find. Write something interesting or unexpected and yours might make the list:

Site News: Meet Paul Bruno

Gas Mask Photo

As many of you have already noticed, middle school science teacher Paul Bruno (not pictured) has become a regular contributor here, adding a new voice and perspective to my thoughts and those of veteran teacher John Thompson.  Over the past few weeks he's posted about resistance to raising the dropout age, conflicting reform messages on the role of parents, excessive optimism on NCLB reauthorization prospects, the 'gotcha' mentality behind "take the test," and how if there's going to be standardized testing he'd like science included. I don't always agree with him, but that's the point. My goal, as always, is to make this blog as interesting and fresh as possible, and Bruno -- a relatively young district* school teacher -- has some interesting views on things that are different from mine and from Thompson's.  I like the fact that he seems pretty curious and relatively fearless about taking on orthodoxies of all kinds.  

*Corrected:  The original version of the post said Bruno was at a charter school.

Thompson: MDRC Study Doesn't Justify Bloomberg/Duncan Turnarounds

Bloomberg--300x300The latest Gates-funded MDRC study of small high schools in New York City has stimulated an outstanding debate which could inform a discussion of best ways to turnaround schools, as long as those conversations remain intellectually honest. GothamSchools' Geoff Decker quoted the study's co-author, Howard Bloom, who argued that " these new schools made a positive change for a very large population of highly-disadvantaged students."  The Coalition for Educational Justice, however, makes an equally compelling case that, "the new small schools are producing higher graduation rates, [but] it is not clear that these schools serve the same population.” Then, MDRC's Bloom, replied that the two papers’ were "talking about different issues," and "they are  just factually different perspectives.” Both are right.  The MDRC study addressed the benefits for small schools but not the damage done to schools left behind. I read both papers as arguing for deliberative, planned, and respectful environments to stimulate innovation for all students, as opposed to the Bloomberg/Duncan policies of engaging instruction for some poor kids and teach-to-the-test for others.  But sure enough, Bloomberg used the MDRC study to defend his "trigger-happy" Turnarounds workarounds designed to defeat unions.  And Duncan issued the whopper that claimed that the study lent support for his turnaround strategies that also encourage rushed, scorched earth tactics that are the antithesis of  small schools designed, "to stimulate innovative ideas from a range of stakeholders and institutions.”-JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via

Cartoon: "I Feel Like You're Limiting Me."

image from www.newyorker.com

Student's reaction to receiving a bad grade from his teacher:

"I feel like you're limiting me to correct answers."

From this week's New Yorker.

Media: Muck Rack Writer Ranking Dominated By Brits

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What's wrong with this Twitter-based ranking of the top 24 education writer types via Muck Rack  --besides the fact that I'm on it?  

So many Brits! Three of the top six are from the Guardian or the Financial Times.  And it just keeps on going.  

Come on, American journalists!  You can do it! Recover your exceptionalism in 2012. You are your own brand.  

Actually, I'm pretty sure that folks just need to sign up for Muck Rack to change these rankings around.  A lot of folks just haven't bothered to submit their resumes and fill out the application essay.  


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AM News: USDE Slams State Waiver Applications

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com

Feds Have Harsh Criticism, Disappointing Reviews For States' Education AP via HuffPost: The letters were obtained by The Associated Press for all of the states except Tennessee and Kentucky, which declined to provide them until an announcement is made on whether a waiver is granted. The Education Department has previously said it expected to notify states by mid-January.

Utah Schools Start Adopting Open Source Textbooks AP via HuffPost: Utah classrooms may soon be making the switch to open-source online textbooks that can be cheaper and easier to update.

Documents For $100 Million Facebook Pledge Ordered Public AP via HuffPost: The state's largest city must produce a list of documents related to a $100 million pledge to its public schools from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, a judge ruled Friday.

New Sex Education Mandate Taking Effect NYT: A new sex education mandate is taking effect in New York City public schools, starting Tuesday in the high schools. All public middle schools and high schools are required to include sex education lessons in existing health classes

More City Principals Sign Letter Protesting Evaluation System NYT: All of the political talk in the last week about negotiations over a state teacher evaluation system seems to be having some impact: more principals are putting their name to a letter that protests the state's system. The latest tally is 1,318 signatures. New York lists 4,511 principals in the state.

Florida Bills Would Allow Parents To Fire Teachers, Require Teachers To Grade Parents HuffPost: Two bills in the Florida legislature would give parents overarching power to demand sweeping changes at low-performing schools.


Site News: Changes To "Five Best Blogs" & "Weekend Reading"

As with most things, there are some good and bad aspects to the changes I've made recently to my daily and weekly roundups ("Five Best Blogs" and "Weekend Reading").  Since a couple of you have asked (or complained), I thought I'd take a moment to explain what I'm doing and why.  Basically, I'm now sending out the items Twitter first, and then using a blog widget to make them appear on this blog, too.  For those of you on Twitter, you get my recommendations (to use the term loosely) immediately, rather than waiting for me to collect them all and post them at the end of the day / weekend. Ditto for those of you on Facebook, where everything gets posted automatically in something close to real time.  For those of you who love coming here to the blog site and seeing what's what, it's a messier setup than before, I realize, but a small price to pay I hope.  (If anyone can give me some advice, I still hope to figure out how to make it so that you only see what I Tweet out, not the retweets and responses from others using the #5bb or #thisweekined hashtags.)  The main weakness of this approach is that the individual items I've posted don't show up in RSS readers like Google Reader or Bloglines, which I and many others use to speed read the Internet.  I'm reassured knowing that most of you who use RSS are also on Twitter, and the new approach has the advantage of notifying you if yours is one of the chosen items rather than making you check to see, and making it easier to pass along individual items (your own or someone else's).  I'm not sure what to do about the RSS reader situation.  Again, any advice appreciated.  Is anyone else doing it better or differently?  I may well be missing some obvious solution.  


Five Best Blogs: Policy Is For Suckers

A daily roundup of all the best education blog posts and commentary I can find. Write something interesting or unexpected and yours might make the list:

Bruno: Pros And Cons Of "Mutual Matching"

Despite it being on my home turf, John beat me to the punch writing on the Oakland Unified School District's new "mutual matching" proposal for reassigning teachers so this is going to come across more as a counterpoint than I'd intended. I actually think he's right that it's basically an open secret in Oakland that the district is trying to undermine contractual seniority privileges in a way that should make teachers nervous.  I also agree with John that seniority rights are a way of recognizing real value in veteran teachers and that mutual matching may do too much to push those veterans out of the classroom altogether. At the same time, though, I think it's easy to underestimate the disadvantages of the seniority status quo in OUSD.  

Continue reading "Bruno: Pros And Cons Of "Mutual Matching"" »

Video Interlude: Maurice Sendak Schools Stephen Colbert

Sendak's comments about how adults misperceive kids are pretty great, as is Colbert's sendup of the straight world's assumptions about gay men and children.  Part 2 is here.


Reform: Lost In Chicago

image from www.chicagonow.com
It's not an easy thing to believe in change, to hope, to leap, and sometimes the folks leading the charge for change don't make it any easier by being, well, a little full of themselves, or picking unlikely or unwise strategies for making things better.  They make it easy to doubt, or even reject the notion that change -- this kind of change, at least -- can work. Why am I bringing this up now?  Well, one of those reform-curious people going through the process of belief and doubt is former teacher Seth Lavin, who writes Chicago Schools Wonks*and was one of the first people to figure out the real identity of @mayoremanuel.   In the excerpt below, you can see Lavin is struggling in a way I think many people like him are struggling.  He's not saying anything particularly new -- you read and hear this all over the place these last few months in particular - but he's articulating a thought process that I think is important for everyone to understand, reformers and counter-reformers alike. You can be gleeful about his frustrations -- I have no doubt some of you will be -- but it would be so much more interesting if you shared your own instead, mirroring Lavin's self-reflection rather than mocking it. [Cross-posted from D299]

Continue reading "Reform: Lost In Chicago" »

AM News: Full-Day Kindergarten Mandate In MI

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Schools Must Offer Full-Day Kindergarten Or Face Funding Cuts Huffington Post:  In September, public schools must offer all-day kindergarten to receive full funding for each kindergarten pupil, under rules approved last year by the Legislature.

Harnessing Gaming for the Classroom NYT: At the Learning Without Frontiers conference in London, the experts gathered to explore the pros, and some cons, of computer gaming as a learning tool.

Virtual schools on the rise, but are they right for K-12 students? CNN: It's a Tuesday morning in January, and seventh-grader Katerina Christhilf is learning algebra. But it's no ordinary class. This one takes place entirely online, led by a teacher a few miles away.

Higher Dropout Age May Not Lead To More Diplomas NPR: In his State of the Union address, President Obama called on every state to require students to stay in school until they graduate or turn 18. But unimpressive results in states that already have that requirement raise questions about how effective the initiative would really be.

Adult education on L.A. Unified's chopping block LA Times: With financial woes in Sacramento and new freedom on spending earmarked funds, the district proposes a budget that has no money to help adults get high school diplomas, learn English or acquire career skills.

An L.A. teacher reviews her review LA Times: Evaluations don't take into account the real world of today's Los Angeles Unified School District classrooms.

Draft of a Corbett plan for Chester Upland district stirs a debate Inquirer: It calls for state takeovers of distressed districts, starting with Chester Upland and Duquesne City, that would put Philadelphia School Reform Commission-type oversight boards in place.

Five Best Blogs [Of The Day]

If you're more of a Twitter person, you can also get these recommendations via the hashtag #5bb

Thompson: Oakland's "Mutual Consent" Unfair To Veteran Teachers

Too_old_for_your_gadgetIt's hard not to agree with the notion presented by Jill Tucker in this SF Chronicle article that "there is a particular type of teacher who wants to work in an urban environment,"  and that many teachers who are great "in schools with few challenges" would not make it in the inner city." That is why we have such a shortage of teaching talent in the toughest schools.  That also explains why so many great teachers work their hearts out in the toughest schools for a certain time period and then use seniority rights to transfer to schools where better conditions allow for great teaching over a sustainable career.  In my experience, those dedicated educators fret through months of sleepless nights before moving to the easier schools.  Others may disagree but it felt to me like Tucker was editorializing against unions for protecting their members' health and from being treated like interchangable widgets.  The politics of "mutual consent" are no different than the other politics that made seniority (and civil service and age discrimination laws) a necessity. "Mutual Consent" will, again, create more problems than the system it replaces.  It will drive off veterans with the institutional memories that schools need, while replacing them with inexperienced, low salaried teachers with no interest in making a career of teaching.  Seniority should be reformed, but these attacks on collective bargaining agreements ignore the realities of urban education.  More importantly, they are a distraction from the hard work necessary to transform "an urban environment." Poor schools will attract and retain talent when we address the conditions that drive out teachers while beating down students.-JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.

Bruno: Status Quo Bias in Action on Dropout Age



This is a guest commentary from middle school science teacher Paul Bruno, who tweets at @MrPABruno:

I for one was pleasantly surprised to hear President Obama endorse increasing the dropout age to 18 in his State of the Union address, since compulsory attendance laws both significantly improve students' lifetime earnings and relieve a number of other burdens to society. So I've been somewhat surprised at the objections to the proposal based on worries about unintended consequences: that, for example, compulsory attendance may financially burden poorer families that rely on a child's extra income or strain the instructional capacity of schools.


I agree that these are serious concerns, but think they're overstated in part because compulsory attendance laws are likely to accommodate them and in part because I think we're seeing an example of status quo bias in action.

One way to think about it is to imagine a scenario in which the status quo is compulsory schooling until the age of 18 and the President's proposal is to reduce the dropout age. In that situation I don't think we'd feel comfortable saying, "Well, yes, if we reduce the dropout age many of our already-disadvantaged students will enjoy considerably less professional success in their lives, but we think that's worth it to reduce the strain on our nation's high schools and compensate for our ragged safety net."

As a country we probably do need to strengthen our economic safety net and build capacity in our high schools, but I don't think those are burdens that should be borne on the backs of kids who should be in school. To some extent the trade-offs we're making seem more palatable than they should just because we happen to be used to them. - PB (@MrPABruno)

Video: Student Loses Science Contest, Wins College Fund

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Quotes: Duncan Uses MDRC Study To Defend Turnarounds


Much of the conventional wisdom about the impossibility of turning around chronically low-performing high schools is either mistaken or badly exaggerated. - Arne Duncan on MDRC small schools study (via email)


AM News: Romney's English-Only Views On ELLs

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Romney Hearts English Immersion, Mrs. Gingrich Likes Music Education Politics K12: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is a huge fan of English immersion programs. Romney's state used a CNN-sponsored debate in Florida to reiterate his love for programs that teach kids only in English. He's said in other debates, and in his recent book, that kids don't learn as well in bilingual education classes.

Phila. district must cut $400,000 a day Inquirer: City Controller Alan Butkovitz expressed serious concern Wednesday about the Philadelphia School District's continued financial viability.

At turnaround schools, wide range in college readiness rates GothamSchools: A handful of the high schools the city wants to “turn around” are already doing a better-than-average job at preparing students for college.

As Evaluation Talks Resume, Some Teachers Press for a Resolution NYT: Teachers petitioned the city and union to reach an agreement on a new teacher evaluation system that would fulfill the requirements of a federal grant and free up $58 million that the state has been withholding. 

The term paper is disappearing Chicago Tribune: The high school research paper, that academic rite of passage riddled with footnotes and anchored by a bibliography, has faded from many classrooms, a consequence of larger class sizes that leave teachers with more students and less time.


Continue reading "AM News: Romney's English-Only Views On ELLs" »

Five Best Blogs [Of The Day]

If you're more of a Twitter person, you can also get these recommendations via the hashtag #5bb

Campaign 2012: Differences Within Pro- & Anti-Reform Camps


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There are some interesting internal differences and disagreements going on in education-land right now, differences which I think are healthy on the whole in that they illustrate substantive differences of opinion, independent thinking among entitities that too often agree with (or disagree with) each other automatically, and the reality that neither teachers, nor reformers, nor Democrats or Republicans are as monolithic as they are sometimes depicted on education issues.  

So, for example, while union leaders expressed strong support for the President's remarks on education earlier this week, some teachers (see John Thompson below) were deeply disappointed that the President didn't go further towards dismantling NCLB's accountability system.  They see the NCLB waiver scheme as more of the same, rather than any kind of surrender on testing and accountability. 

In the meantime, several civil rights and some reform groups are banding together to express concerns that the Kline NCLB reauthorization proposal and top Democrats on the Hill are urging the Administration's waiver scheme not to go too far in sending responsibility for educating children back to the states.  But at least one group, Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst, declined to sign onto the letter to Kline because it didn't include praise for the teacher evaluation measures in his proposal.

There's no big mystery behind the differences, really.  Teacher advocates opposed to standardized testing and accountability want to push back against the current system as much as possible, knowing that they will only get some of what they ask for.  Teachers unions want to create an environment in which they are heard without going so far as to scuttle a Democratic President's re-election chances.  Civil rights and some reform groups are more concerned about schools' longstanding habit of not paying much attention to poor, minority, and special needs students than they are about teachers' pedagogical or curricular autonomy.  Rhee's organization is building its reputation as being the most politically indepedent of the reform organizations, and the most narrowly concerned with teacher evaluation issues rather than broader concerns about accountability, etc. 

These internal differences do make things interesting, though, in the sense that they show that no one --not reformers or reform opponents -- can claim an entirely unanimous front. Teachers, teachers unions, and Democratic leaders on the Hill are all in somewhat different places right now.  Ditto for reform groups.  

Thompson: No Real Relief From "Teaching The Test" In SOTU

Barack-Obama-state-of-the-007Teachers know how to "take one for the team." Had President Obama chosen to look tough in his State of the Union Address by labeling teachers as pointy-headed intellectuals, or borrowed from Oklahoma’s former Republican governor by calling us "slugs," I would have said that that’s politics. But President Obama should not insult our intelligence by saying that we should "teach with creativity and passion," and "stop teaching to the test," when his policies make it inevitable that more bubble-in test prep will result. Throwing a couple of gratuitous insults at educators would have gotten him the political points he sought.  However, he did not need to condemn our students to more educational malpractice.  So, teachers like me will swallow our anger and help re-eelect our president. Next term, we will work within the system to ameliorate the damage done by Obama's tougher, meaner  version of NCLB.  We will thus do what teachers have always done, shake off the insults, and make the compromises necessary to help kids.- JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via

Chicago: Quick To Call Police, Slow To Report Data

image from www.chicagonow.com
School safety and discipline issues don't usually get much love from policymakers and professional education pundits -- too gritty, not sexy enough, plus jurisdictional complications between schools and law enforcement.  But safety and enforcement are often a prime point of interest for teachers, parents and students who spend their days in school.  A group in Chicago has put together a study showing that one out of five arrests last year took place on school grounds -- usually a black male student, usually for fighting (rather than assault on a teacher, say) -- and that the school system does not provide data on these incidents to the school community or centrally: Youth advocates want more data on school arrests Catalyst Chicago, Advocates say disproportionate number of black kids arrested WBEZ, In-School Officers Put Teens On Road To Prison Huffington Post.  The report is full of interesting maps and information.  For example, there are two police officers assigned to each high school in Chicago, and principals have resisted giving them up despite financial incentives.  Of course, Chicago isn't the only district dealing with disparities: In Maryland, discipline reform aims to limit students’ suspension from school Washington Post.  In New York City, arrests are supposed to be reported publicly along with suspensions and expulsions.

AM News: Growing Concerns About Waivers, Kline Proposal

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Harkin, Miller to Education Secretary: Set a High Bar for Waivers Politics K12: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, any day now, is supposed to announce which states will get waivers from parts of the NCLB Actt, in exchange for embracing certain education reform priorities.

Broad Coalition Argues Bills Undercut Brown v. Board HuffPost: A broad coalition of 38 civil rights, education reform and business groups sent House education chairman John Kline a scathing letter Wednesday, describing his No Child Left Behind legislation as potentially racist.

New Rules for School Meals Aim at Reducing Obesity NYT: The Obama administration announced long-awaited changes to government-subsidized school meals, issuing rules that add more fruits and green vegetables and reduce the amount of salt and fat. ALSO: Kids Have A Say In Louisville's School Lunch Menu NYT

New York City Students at Small Public High Schools Are More Likely to Graduate, Study Finds NYT: A project tracked the academic performance of more than 21,000 New York City students who applied for ninth grade admission at 105 small high schools, mainly in Brooklyn and in the Bronx, from 2005 to 2008.


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Five Best Blogs [Of The Day]

If you're more of a Twitter person, you can also get these recommendations via the hashtag #5bb

Quotes: Misuse Of Data Has Turned Teachers Against It


We have to transform the way we think about data from a hammer that’s going to hurt teachers to a flashlight that’s going to help them. -- Data Quality Campaign ED  Aimee Guidera




SOTU 2012: Let's Not Make To Much Of This

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What to make of the education elements of the President's speech last night?  Not that much, to be honest.  For all the media attention the event generates it's just a speech -- one given during an election year; a week, a month, a year from now, the real-world impact of Obama's remarks will be minimal.  (Obama can call for states to raise the mandatory attendance age to 18 but he doesn't have a magic wand to make it happen anytime soon.) In terms of political theater, however, the event was rich and textured.  One of the valiant Chester Upland teachers who's working without pay was sitting with the First Lady.  Classroom teachers, the President has not forgotten you.  (Also sitting with the First Lady was a recently-homeless Siemens Science contest winner and a rising TFA corps member from Colorado.)  The President asserted the oft-made [but misleading, I think] claim that the Race To The Top competition resulted in changes in nearly every state's education laws for very little money.  (The spreadsheet showing the state changes illustrates the minimal, preliminary nature of many of the states' legislative changes made in hopes of winning the federal funding.  NPR's Claudio Sanchez notes that even those who won the money are struggling to make good on their promises.)  The President called for an end to teacher-bashing, which seems like a decent and politically smart thing to do, at the same time he bragged about moving responsibility for education back to the states (via NCLB waivers), which I see as a politically smart move that's problematic at a substantive level.  (I'm not alone in worrying about the NCLB waiver process -- several civil rights, disability, and minority groups are opposed to the accountability rollbacks in state waiver plans.)  I'll stop there -- what did you think, or did you not bother?

AM News: State Special Ed Rates Vary Widely

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State special education rates vary widely Stateline: Federal education data show that states differ widely in how many students they designate for special education. Those differences could have a financial impact for some states in the face of possible cuts to federal aid.

States weaken teacher tenure rights AP via Boston.com:  A few states have essentially nullified tenure protections altogether, according to an analysis being released Wednesday by the National Council on Teacher Quality. ALSO:  RI's strides on teacher quality among best AP

School lunches to have more veggies, whole grains Associated Press: First lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are expected to announce Wednesday that most school meals, including pizza, will have less sodium, more whole grains and more fruits and vegetables as sides.

Obama Wants Lower College Costs, Higher Dropout Age Politics K12: President Obama gave college affordability a prominent place in his domestic agenda during his annual State of the Union address, calling directly on universities to hold down costs in order to make higher education more accessible to the middle class. ALSO Obama: States should require kids stay in school until 18 or graduation Washington Post


Continue reading "AM News: State Special Ed Rates Vary Widely" »

Five Best Blogs [Of The Day]

If you're more of a Twitter person, you can also get these recommendations via the hashtag #5bb

Thompson: Value-Added Study Ignores High-IEP Classrooms

Miseducation_1_jpg_800x1000_q100The policy implication of Long-Term Impacts of Teachers by Chetty, Friedman, and Rockoff is that incorporating value-added metrics in teacher evaluations can improve the educational outcomes of students who attend poor schools.  But, a key policy issue is whether it is more difficult for teachers in the inner city to meet their growth targets, and whether the use of value-added would thus encourage an exodus of teaching talent from the toughest schools.  So, Chetty et. al could have made a solid contribution to the debate by studying teachers who left high-performing schools for low-performing schools, and estimating whether they able to add the same "value" in their new, tougher environment.  Also, Chetty et. al excluded the 6% in their sample of observations in classrooms where more than 25 percent of students are receiving special education IEPs.  Why are they not making a big deal out of that qualification?  I can't recall a freshman or sophomore class where fewer than 25% of my students were on IEPs!  Shouldn't the advocates of value-added issue the warning that the 5 to 10% of secondary schools that serve a disproportionate number of students with learning disabilities and, more importantly, high percentages of students with Severe Emotional Disabilities should be exempt from data-driven evaluations?- J T (@drjohnthompson)Image via.  

Video: Beware Of Storytellers

I finally found a TED video I really like.  Here, economist and blogger Tyler Cowen talks about the way stories dominate our world even as they filter out important details, boil down to the same few basic structures (good vs. evil, rebirth, rags to riches), and both please and dumb down readers and conveyers.  The world of stories has no luck, or mess, or accidental events, or unintended consequences, and it's pretty fixed.  

Cowen acknowledges the fundamental human-ness of stories, but sets out some clues and warning signs to use to make sure you're not falling prey for these stories, or using them too much on others. Transcript here.

Charts: Education Publishing Much Bigger Than You Think

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Still trying to digest Apple's recently-announced foray into the textbook market?  The education textbook business is big, notes Wired -- much bigger than most people understand.  The biggest education publishers in the world -- Pearson, Reed Elsevier, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Thomson Reuters -- are most of them much bigger than the better-known book publishers like Random House or Penguin (owned by Pearson).  They're bigger than AOL or the New York Times company.  Only multi-platform companies like News Corp and Amazon have bigger revenue or profits, according to the piece. Scholastic, which sponsors this blog, comes in at number 10.  

AM News: Previewing The President's Speech (Yawn)

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Middle-Class Message Likely To Focus On College Cost HuffED:  Obama released a webcast to his supporters last week that previewed the speech's content, saying it would focus on "getting people the education and training they need so they're ready to take on the jobs of today and tomorrow." ALSO: Education Expected to Take Turn in State of the Union Spotlight PoliticsK12.

Educators say it will take more than dollars to lure effective teachers to struggling D.C. schools Washington Post: D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown got a generally positive reception at a Monday hearing for his proposed pilot program of bonuses, income tax credits and housing benefits to lure good teachers to low-performing schools. 

How Tucson schools changed after Mexican-American studies ban CNN: Some books have been removed from classes, teachers are uncertain about what curriculum to use and some students said they'd like to give district and state school administrators some homework.

After Homelessness, Honors From a National Science Fair NYT: Samantha Garvey, an 18-year-old senior in Long Island, was named a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search for her work with mussels.
Stanford Takes Online Schooling To The Next Academic Level NPR: Last semester, Stanford University professors tried something radically new: They opened their classes to the world for free. Within hours, thousands had signed up to participate. The classes' success could transform the way we look at higher education.


Continue reading "AM News: Previewing The President's Speech (Yawn)" »

Video Interlude: PS 122 Sings Lady Gaga's "Edge Of Glory"

PS 122′s “Edge Of Glory” Is Your New Life Anthem via Best Week Ever

Five Best Blogs [Of The Day]

If you're more of a Twitter person, you can also get these recommendations via the hashtag #5bb

Quotes: "You Need To Let Reporters See What's Happening"


To get the buy-in and for the proper public discourse on what’s going on, you need to let reporters see what’s happening on the ground at schools, without interference from district officials who might try to manage the situation in a way that we only see certain things. -- New Haven Independent's Melissa Bailey via EWA

Bruno: Inconsistent Messaging On Parents & Teacher Ratings

Andrew Rotherham has a column up at TIME.com arguing for not just "school choice" but for the right of parents to choose particular teachers for their students and deploring the fact that "the whole system is stacked against empowering families in this way."

There are lots of potential problems with this suggestion.  It's not clear whether we could make such a system fair to teachers or equitable for students.  Nor would I envy the administrators and counselors tasked with satisfying the individual scheduling requests of potentially hundreds of parents and guardians...

This is a guest commentary from middle school science teacher Paul Bruno, who tweets at @MrPABruno. Click below to read the rest.

Continue reading "Bruno: Inconsistent Messaging On Parents & Teacher Ratings" »

Media: Examining Bloomberg's "Segregated Charter Schools" Story

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The notion that charter schools not only don't outperform district schools but are also guilty of promoting segregation is an increasingly popular -- though far from uncontrovertible -- narrative.  Here, Charter school expert Joe Nathan rebuts the Bloomberg News article from a couple of weeks ago, “Segregated Charter Schools Evoke Separate But Equal Era in U.S.

"There’s a lot more that the Bloomberg reporter left out.  I know in part because he interviewed me, twice... Charters in Minneapolis and Minnesota enroll a higher percentage of low income, limited English speaking and students of color than the average district public schools."  

Check out the full response below and let us know what you think.  Are charter schools mirroring community segregation, or exacerbating it?  Are homogenous low-income, predominantly minority charter schools a problem if they reflect neighborhood demographics?  

Continue reading "Media: Examining Bloomberg's "Segregated Charter Schools" Story" »

Audio: Reformers Hold Massive Telephone Town Hall

On Wednesday WBEZ Chicago Public Radio broke the news that Stand for Children IL was conducting a massive phone operation to reach out to Chicagoans on the South and West Sides of the city, hoping to create "a giant conference call" among people in areas affected by CPS's turnaround plans (and to demonstrate support among parents for dramatic improvements). The event took place and, according to Stand IL, about 9,000 people participated. Here's the audio. Where did the idea of doing these things come from?  No idea.  Are they an effective way of demonstrating support for change?  I'm guessing sorta.  One thing I do know:  One more example and we've got a trend.  Michelle Rhee's organization, StudentsFirst, did a version of the same thing a few weeks ago (audio here). 

AM News: Setback In Hawaii's Progress On "Race"

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Hawaii Teachers Reject Contract Politics K12: Hawaii is already in big trouble with the U.S. Department of Education for failing to hit key milestones the state promised to deliver as part of its $75 million Race to the Top prize. 

In Teacher-Evaluation Fight, One Deal Won’t Be Enough WSJ: State education and union officials said they had initiated formal talks, the first public sign the two sides were working together after a threat from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

In Obama’s Race to the Top, Work and Expense Lie With States NYT (Winerip): The president’s education program leaves a New York school district pondering how band teachers can be statistically evaluated.

More Agreement Than Disagreement on How to Assess Teachers NYT: Disagreements between unions and politicians on how best to assess teachers are not as significant as the amount of agreement.

Defending Climate Science's Place In The Classroom NPR: NCSE executive director Eugenie Scott talks about how teachers and parents can fight the push to get climate change denial into the classroom.

Growing tech students: A new high school model CNN: Despite the nation’s high unemployment rate, IBM executives say they have a hard time filling those positions because few candidates have the backgrounds in math and science to qualify. IBM hopes to change that by fostering future employees among high school students.


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Video Trailer: Ryan Gosling Is Not In This Troubled Teacher Movie

Adrien Brody is a troubled substitute teacher in Detachment, which opens next month. Via Popculturebrain

Five Best Blogs: What Obama Might Say About Education

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But Will They Help Students? TIME:  Without a program to offer iPads at discounted rates to students, teachers and schools in reality most students will still be using the same old textbooks for years to come. 

Little Kids Are Homophobic Jerks, and Teachers Don't Know How to Stop Them Jezebel: A significant number of teachers know their school is a shitty environment for kids who don't conform to traditional notions of gender, but they're not doing anything about it. Some of them may not know how. 

Review of MAKING THE GRADES Mr Teachbad:  If I tweak my inter­pre­ta­tion of a rubric in the mid­dle of grad­ing a stack of papers, it’s with kids I talk to every day. As a teacher, if I cre­ate a hor­ri­ble rubric or make a hor­ri­ble deci­sion about a rubric, I could really only mar­gin­ally affect about 200 peo­ple at a time, at most.

Report: Miami district needs to improve teacher evaluations Miami Herald / Hechinger:  Walsh called it “indefensible” that only 10 teachers — 0.05 percent of the workforce — were fired... That compares to 10 out of 2,144 teachers in Springfield, Mass., and 280 out of about 29,000 in Los Angeles, which used to have a lower rate.

Obama Should Go Big and Bold for State of Union Jonathan Alter: He wants to fund early childhood education, hold schools and teachers accountable for performance, act to reduce dropout rates, and expand Pell Grants for college. 

Politics: The Case Against Obama's Liberal Critics

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You might not have seen Andrew Sullivan's lengthy takedown of Obama critics on the left and the right -- or you may not have agreed with his assessment -- but it was one of the big thought pieces of the week and is worth considering if just for a moment.  In essence, Sullivan's cover story (How Obama's Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics) argues that Obama has been much stronger on liberal and progressive issues than he's being given credit for, and that progressive supporters just don't understand the limits of what a President can do or the patience that's required to get things done.  He also points to several accomplishments that Obama critics tend to forget or ignore when they are wailing and gnashing their teeth.  (Sullivan doesn't specifically mention the $100B for education in the stimulus or the Edujobs bill, but I'd add it and the dismantling of NCLB to the list.)  Die-hard Obama critics won't be persuaded by any of this, of course, and in some ways it makes me crazy that Obama has wasted so much time and money mollifying teachers a small set of whom are, it often seems to me, beyond any hope of mollification. But for those of you out there still able to absorb information or hold nuanced views, it's some food for thought.  Rhetoric-wise, Obama's support for reform priorities like charter schools has been much louder than his support for traditional public schools.  Substance-wise (dollar-wise), he's done much the opposite.

Teachers: Bill Nye, Rafe Esquith -- Aaron Reedy?



Until last week, Kelly High School science teacher Aaron Reedy was unknown outside of his school to all but a handful of colleagues and science geeks.  Then it was announced that he would be presenting at the world-famous TED Talks 2012 in March, along with celebrity educators like Bill Nye and Rafe Esquith.  Below he tells us a little more about himself, his rise to Internet fame, and his views on hot education issues.  Like many real live teachers, he's neither totally gung-ho for every reform idea out there nor wholly insistent on defending each and every feature of the existing system:


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Audio: "This American Life" Features Kids, Teachers, Schools

It's not too late to check out the most recent installment of This American Life, titled Kid Politics, described as "stories about whether, when it comes to governing, kids do any better than grown-ups."

Sometimes they can, it turns out, and sometimes they can't.  One segment profiles the Brooklyn Free School, another involves an educator trying to convince a climate warming skeptic student. 

Video: Apple Rolls Out $15 iPad Textbook Initiative

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Apple and its publishing partners announced plans for $15 textbooks -- but they require $500 iPads to run. So far, there are just 1.5 million iPads in American schools, according to Apple.  See also:  Apple Pushes Interactive Textbooks On iPads NPR, Everything You Need To Know About Apple's New Education Tools HuffED.  


AM News: Fiscal Crisis In Philly; DC Drafts NCLB Waiver

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In grave fiscal trouble, SRC introduces big changes Inquirer: The Philadelphia School District’s governing body on Thursday moved to tear up its leadership structure and name a “chief recovery officer” to get the battered organization through the next six months.

D.C.’s ‘No Child’ waiver application draft available for comment Washington Post: The District’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education has posted a draft of its application for relief from the federal No Child Left Behind law

Brown sharply differs from Obama on education policy LAT: In his State of the State address, Brown calls for limits on standardized tests and wants reduced roles for the U.S. and state in local schools.

Negotiators Tackle Teacher Ed. Reporting Revisions TeacherBeat: The panelists selected to revamp federal teacher education reporting requirements certainly have their work cut out for them.

The Truth Behind 'Private' Money In 'Public' Schools California Watch via HuffPost: School foundations and PTAs used to raise money for the extras - high-tech projectors and special field trips. But these days, private donations to schools have grown dramatically and are being used to prevent teacher layoffs, keep libraries open, and save music and foreign-language classes.

Walker unveils education reform legislation Wisconsin State-Journal: Gov. Scott Walker unveiled Thursday an education reform package that would rate schools, link teacher evaluations to student test scores and require all kindergartners to take a state-funded reading test starting next school year.


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Five Best Blogs: Toss Him Out (And Bad Data, Too)!


Retired D.C. teacher says he was thrown out of ed data summit Valerie Strauss: A retired D.C. teacher who has written critically about Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee said security guards escorted him out of an education data summit where the two were speaking on Wednesday.

Follow up on Fire First, Ask Questions Later schoolfinance101: You don’t just unload your bottom 5%  or 15% players in on-base-percentage and hope that players with on-base-percentage equal to your team average will show up on your doorstep. 

How to measure teacher effectiveness fairly? Hechinger Report:  The problem with the approach that Friedman and others advocate is that it assumes we have all these wonderful, high-quality teachers just waiting in the wings to take over the jobs of the bad teachers we fire. 

The Ringer Gary Rubinstein:  When I started working on the application I thought I might be shut out because of my outspoken criticism of TFA, but by the time I finished the application which also included a video taped lesson, a series of lesson plans, and samples of student work — all which were great — I thought there was really no way I could lose. The lesson here is ‘never overestimate TFA.’

Classroom Practices That Need to Be Reconsidered Robert Pondiscio: An increasingly common feature in classroom are data walls—bright, cheerful displays that show if students are advanced, proficient.

Charts: Where Education Fits In The Universe Of Research

This is a map of where education research fits into the rest of the world of research -- not based on publications or citations but on actual online use.  Check out the methodology here

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Media: No One Wants (Me) To Rate The Think Tanks

Following up on the interest some of you expressed in last week's blog post about rating think tanks, I wrote to senior people at EdWeek, EWA, the Hechinger Report, ProPublica, the Woodrow Wilson Institute and the Gates foundation to see if they wanted to make it a reality:
"Is anyone interested in having me do a think tank rating project based on measures such as original research, public impact, media mentions, and credibility/independence? Based on everyone's love of ratings, the splash school ratings make, and the reaction to rick hess's recent attempt to rate education scholars' public impact, I think such a thing would win media attention and be of interest to funders and lawmakers and could of course be turned into an annual event."
I thought the project might be useful on its own merits and a helpful corrective to the current enthusiasm for ratings.  No response so far.  I'll let you know.  Previous posts:  Value-Added Ratings -- For Think TanksWhat Used To Be Called Think Tanks

Bruno: Policy-Level Agreements On NCLB? So What.

This is a guest commentary from middle school science teacher Paul Bruno, who tweets at @MrPABruno: 

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Last week Michael Petrilli waxed optimistic about the chances for ESEA/NCLB reauthorization in the near future.  He emphasized the considerable bipartisan consensus that exists around issues like testing and school sanctions and concluded by saying that "with a little presidential leadership and goodwill from both parties, a deal could be hammered out quickly."

My sense, however, is that taking a step back and looking at the current political environment makes the case for reauthorization pessimism look much stronger. I agree that there's broad bipartisan consensus on ESEA in Washington at the moment, but it's easy to overestimate the importance of this kind of substantive policy agreement.

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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.