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Quotes: "It's Never Just About The Cupcake."

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"It's never just about the cupcake."

 - Columbia professor Jeff Henig in a Times story about race and class conflicts among parents, via Mother Jones' Kevin Drum 

Video: Sprinkling Of Education Mentions In Obama Video

Davis Guggenheim directs. Tom Hanks narrates. Rahm Emanuel makes up words ("cardiotic arrest").  Mostly about the economic crash and foreign affairs, the video has a sprinkling of little education mentions to keep us awake.

AM News: Somewhat Improved Graduation Rate

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U.S. Graduation Rate Makes Modest Gains AP via HuffPost: The last straw for 17-year-old Alton Burke was a note left on his door. The high school dropout picked up the phone and re-enrolled at South Hagerstown High. ALSO: U.S. Graduation Rate Rises Slightly, Report Finds (NPR)

Violence In Schools: How Big A Problem Is It? NPR: The recent school shooting rampage in Ohio has once again focused national attention on the issue of student violence. But experts say such high-profile incidents overshadow an important trend: Overall, violent crime in U.S. schools has fallen significantly since the early 1990s.

Colorado Students Begin to Learn Financial Discipline PBS: A Colorado law that went into effect last year requires schools to teach public school students about financial responsibility -- from drawing coins and bills to deducting purchases from their classroom bank accounts. Correspondent Tom Bearden reports.

At the PTA, Clashes Over Cupcakes and Culture NYT: Culture clashes in parent-teacher groups are increasingly common at schools where demographics are changing.

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Video Interlude: "Hunger Games" High

Who needs a big budget movie version when you can recreate the book on your own at school (with the librarian's help like they did at Bristol High (in CT)?

"Pulled together by the school's librarian (surprise, surprise), this is the kind of triumph educators dream of: finding books that are well written with a compelling plot point that have captured the national zeitgeist and allow them to (yes, I'm going to say it) make education fun." (Oh No They Didn't!)

Thompson: Solutions for Teacher Dissatisfaction, Then & Now

SatThe 2012 Met Life  "The American Teacher" survey shows that 29% of teachers are thinking about leaving the profession, which is two points worse than 1986, when teacher satisfaction hit rock bottom.  Then, and now, secondary teachers in the inner city voice the greatest dissatisfaction.  So, I looked at a 1995 Met Survey to see how education got out of the mess that was created in the mid-1980s by an economic crisis for poor people, in conjunction with a simplistic set of school "reforms."  By 1995,  The percentage of inner city teachers who voiced the most dissatisfaction had dropped from 30% to 16%.  During that time of economic recovery, teachers reported that the percentages of students entering schools without basic skills dropped.  Significant drops in drug uses, teen pregnancy, and students contemplating suicide were also reported.  What teachers want is the chance to teach effectively.  If the Duncan Administration wants to restore the morale of America's teachers, he should back off his from his theories about aligning tests to force educators to become more effective, and align socio-emotional interventions so that teachers can do the job that we love.-JT (@drjohnthompson)image via.   

Conferences: Big Shift In Focus For Yale Education Event

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Once upon a time, there weren't many actual government employees in attendance at the annual Yale education summit, much less up on stage participating in panels. Charter school types, nonprofit and think tank folks dominated.  Charters, innovation, and entrepreneurship were all that mattered (or so it was easy to think). But all that has changed in the last couple of years, and nowhere is that clearer than looking at the list of scheduled speakers for next Friday's event.  Keynoting the event are three reformy state chiefs -- Huffman, Gist, and King.  District and state administrators scheduled to be there include Bill Horwath Houston Alex Shub NYC Cheryl Ohlson DCPS Sophia Pappas NYC Katya Levitan-Reiner New Haven Public Schools Emily Barton Tennessee Department of Education Garth Harries New Haven Public Schools, David Weiner NYC.  Union officials including Randi Weingarten American Federation of Teachers and Lily Eskelsen National Education Association.  The topics -- "Scaling Good Ideas Into Successful Districts," "Mobilizing Communities in Support of Student Outcomes," and "Collaboration between Districts, Unions and Charters" -- are also reflective of this shift.The Thursday pre-event will include appearances from various Connecticut officials and union leaders who may be leading the nation in improving schools or destroying them depending on whom you talk to. 

Media: Ed Writers Announce 2012 Winners

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Some of my favorites among this year's EWA contest winners culled from 340 submissions include: Dana Goldstein, The American ProspectThe Test Generation, Sarah Karp, Catalyst Chicago, The Right Move?.

Some of those I haven't read but am looking forward to are William McKenzie, The Dallas Morning News, Education Reform, John O’Connor and Sarah Gonzalez, StateImpact FloridaStateImpact Florida Blog Coverage, Fawn Johnson, National JournalReport Card, Gendy Alimurung, LA Weekly, Bad Lunch, and Cathey O'Donnell and Gary Stern, The Journal NewsToo Big to Fix.

Last but not least, congrats to some of the folks I've worked with / for, including Nancy Walser, Harvard Education Publishing Group, Harvard Education Letter’s Education Coverage, John Merrow, John Tulenko, Cat McGrath and David Wald, PBS NewsHour/Learning Matters, 2010-2011 Learning Matters Compilation, and Emily Hanford, Catherine Winter and Stephen Smith, American Public MediaDon’t Lecture Me.

Quotes: "Direct Instruction Is Killing Us"

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I don't really know any successful person whose only skill is the ability to work collaboratively. - School Tech Connect (Direct Instruction Is Killing Us)

 

Reform: "Trigger Lock" Legislation Gaining Popularity

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In a handful of statehouses around the country, lawmakers have been introducing a new, controversial kind of legislation that is raising concerns among district and state administrators as well as in Washington. Commonly called PTL ("parent trigger lock") legislation, these proposals would allow parents whose children attend schools slated for turnaround, closure, or charter conversion to block that process with a simple majority vote, and to return their school to its previous state, however low-performing that might be.  "It's our school, and they're our kids," said Jeremy James, the Oxnard, California parent credited with popularizing the idea.  "If we want to keep things the way they are we should be able to do that." A statement provided by the U.S. Department of Education said that the "intriguing" approach was currently being reviewed for compliance with NCLB and SIG grant requirements.

AM News: Budget Cuts Hitting Schools - More Cuts Looming

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Texas Schools Face Bigger Classes and Smaller Staff Texas Tribune:  The number of elementary classes exceeding the state’s 22-student cap soared to 8,479 from 2,238 last school year.

School Districts Wary of Federal Funding Fight Politics K12: The cuts would hit just about every federal education program, including Title I grants to districts, state grants for special education, and the School Improvement Grants.

Survey finds teachers don't trust annual state skills tests USAT:  A survey finds that teachers don't think linking student performance to teacher pay is "absolutely essential" in retaining good teachers.

Majority Of Teacher Retirement Funds Underfunded, Study Says AP via HuffPost: As a new generation of teachers replaces retiring baby boomers, financially strapped states face a quandary - what to do about teacher pensions.

Schools Will Soon Be Able To Opt Out Of 'Pink Slime' Beef AP via HuffPost: The lunch lady won't be serving up "pink slime" anymore at several school districts around the country.

Louisiana Teachers Use Professional-Development Day to Protest TeacherBeat: Teachers in a couple Louisiana districts have gotten the green-light from their districts to take a professional-development day to protest legislative proposals on teacher quality rolling through the statehouse.

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Quotes: Missed Targets, Weak Sauce

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The sloganeering, crude policy proposals, and anti-union broadsides of the “reformers” often fail to address real chokepoints. -- AERA-hating Rick Hess, previewing his new book, Cage-Busting Leadership

 

Government: The Best And Worst Of Being Lobbied

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When I worked on the Hill way back in the 90's (Feinstein, then Bingaman),  I often (some would say usually) had absolutely no idea what I was doing, substantatively, or procedurally or politically. I was constantly in need of reliable information, provided quickly, tailored to my specific situation, dumbed down to my level.

And so, as you can imagine, my best experiences with lobbyists were the ones who gave me useful information when I needed it, whether or not it was something they were particularly interested in, and got it to me quickly, in a useful form (amendment language, for example, or a one-page fact sheet, or a formula run).

Read on to find out who was best and worst at the lobbying game, according to me, and about a new article that might be worth reading.

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Thompson: Teachers' Attitudes Plummet To Reagan-Era Levels

TeachdisThe 2012 MET Life  "The American Teacher" survey reported dramatic increases in teachers' dissatisfaction with their jobs during the last two years.  The percentages of teachers thinking about leaving the profession is higher now than it was in 1986, the year when teacher satisfaction hit rock bottom.  The parallels between the two nadirs for our profession are clear.  Educators are now under attack in a time of economic struggles, and 43% of teachers are pessimistic about whether student performance will improve.  In mid-1980s, as Reaganomics accellerated the decline of America's industrial base meaning that students brought much worse problems with them to school, we were also in an era of "reform." Back then, the Met Survey showed that the "least qualified" and the "most qualified" teachers were equally likely to leave education.  Teachers reported by a two-to-one margin that reformers listened to administrators more than to those of us who were in the classroom. Teachers also reported by a two-to-one margin that their era's reforms were having a negative effect or no effect at all.  For instance, teachers said that merit pay, in theory, could work.  Among the 31 ideas for improving schools, the only one where the majority of teachers said that, real world, the policy "would not help at all" was merit pay.-JT (@drjohnthompson)image via.

Duncan's Schedule: Redacted, Incomplete, & Late

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It's Sunshine Week, all about government transparency, and the Obama administration continues to boast about its FOIA record (though not everyone seems to believe them). Seems like as good a time as any to tell the story of how, way back in 2009, I FOIA'd Arne Duncan's meeting schedule and call lists.  The White House was giving out a list of visitors and I figured Duncan's meetings should be public, too. Plus I was curious about who he was meeting with and what they were cooking up.  Fast forward two and half years to January, 2012, when I received a response.  The calendar was redacted (in white, not black).  There was no call log information. The time period was limited to January to August, 2009.  Click below to check it out.  Note that the New Yorker and other publications have FOIAd and received not only guest logs and meeting schedules but also decision memos between the President and his staff.  Why those are available and this is not is beyond me.  I've appealed the Department's response and anticipate getting an answer to my appeal sometime in 2014.

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AM News: Reform Splits Louisiana Lawmakers

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La. Governor Going Too Fast on Education Bills, Sen. Landrieu Says AP via EdWeek: Gov. Bobby Jindal's fast-track push for his education overhaul bills is ill-advised and wrong, giving even supporters of the proposals too little time to review the details, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said Wednesday, creating a new divide between the state's top two political figures.

Abstinence Push Wins in Wisconsin WSJ: Wisconsin lawmakers passed legislation Wednesday allowing schools to teach abstinence only in sex-education classes and joined a small but growing number of states eliminating or de-emphasizing instruction on contraception.

Why Were Certain San Francisco Teachers Shielded From Mass Layoffs? HuffPost: Dozens of teachers, students and administrators flooded Tuesday night's Board of Education meeting to protest the flood of pink slips issued to over 485 teachers and support staff at almost every school in the San Francisco Unified School District.

New Film Takes An Intimate Look At School Bullying NPR: The documentary Bully follows several middle- and high-school students who are victims of bullying. The Motion Picture Association of America gave the film an R rating for its language. Robert Siegel talks with director Lee Hirsch about the film and its ratings controversy. ALSO: Film Aimed At Getting Bystanders To 'Speak Up'  

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Ratings: A Yelp (Or Facebook) For Schools?

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Folks at the New York Times and Washington Post having been talking about why there isn't yet a Yelp for doctors - a widely used, nationwide ratings website that allows user comments -- but of course my question is why there isn't one for teachers (or for schools, at least, given the issues surrounding value-added ratings)?  Turns out some of the answers are the same.  In Why isn’t there a Yelp for doctors?, the Wonkbook notes that legal complications and data availability play a role, that current and previous attempts have been incomplete or hard to use, and that consumers (aka parents) are hesitant and inconsistent in their interest.  In the NYT's Why the Web Lacks Authoritative Reviews of Doctors, Ron Lieber writes about how hard it is to populate sites with data and comments that make them attractive, and to provide complete and accurate information.  So why not just use Yelp, I wonder, or get Zuckerberg to create 100,000 Facebook pages for schools?

 

Bruno: The *Real* Causes Of "Teaching To The Test"

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He doesn't frame them exactly this way, but Daniel Willingham's recent posts on the lack of elementary-level science instruction shed more light on a point I've made previously: that many concerns about "teaching to the test" are at least partially misguided. 

As he points out,  much of the marginalization of science in elementary schools predates NCLB, which suggests that curriculum narrowing can't be entirely explained by high-stakes testing. (A more likely culprit? Only 1/3 of elementary school teachers feel prepared to teach science in the first place.)

Additionally, Willingham elaborates on the importance of teaching content to promote reading comprehension.  Even as late as 3rd grade elementary students are spending nearly half of their school time on English Language Arts, which leaves little time for the numerous other subjects - like science and history - that are so important to building students' content knowledge and, in turn, their ability to understand what they read.

To reiterate, I think it's pretty clear that many of the practices that are labeled "teaching to the test" are, in fact, problematic. What I believe we need to take more seriously, however, is the possibility that these practices are attributable as much to other factors (e.g., misconceptions about educational psychology and inadequate teacher preparation) as they are to the perverse incentives of high-stakes testing. If we're piling all of the blame on NCLB we're probably misdiagnosing the problem. - PB (@MrPABruno)

Quotes: Emanuel Slams Generous Contracts

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I know what the teachers got, and I know what the politicians got. But I don’t know what the kids got. - Rahm Emanuel in The Atlantic

Events: The Inside Scoop From SXSWedu 2012

This is a guest post from Kimberly Reeves, longtime reporter on education issues in Texas:

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Here are a few lessons I learned learn after attending two major ed tech conferences in Austin in the last month, first the Texas Computer Education Association conference and then last week's SXSWedu:

(1) While many baby boomers might be resistant, ed tech has a broader audience than you think. More than 15,000 teachers and technology specialists attended the weeklong Texas Computer Education Association conference last month. Attendance at every other state conference, and many national conferences, pales by comparison. And, yes, they actually do attend the sessions, rather rabidly.

Click below to read the rest.

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Media: Change "Bully" Rating Or Johnny Depp Will Beat You Up

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Johnny Depp is one of several celebrities (Meryl Streep! Drew Brees!) campaigning to win a PG-13 rating for the new documentary Bully, according to the AP.

But really it's just an excuse to run a picture of Depp.  Thank me later.  

AM News: Lawmakers Lean On Drivers License Incentives

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L.A. Unified budget would cut thousands of jobs LAT: School board OKs a preliminary budget that would also close all of the district's adult schools and cut some after-school and arts programs.

Spanking Lives On In Rural Florida Schools NPR: In parts of Florida and around the country, paddling kids who misbehave is considered traditional discipline — and schools are the only public institution where that's allowed. But parents don't always get a say in whether their kids can be disciplined with spankings.

Driver's License Incentives Used in Some States to Keep Teens in School PBS: A growing number of state legislatures are using driving privileges as an incentive to keep students from dropping out of high school. States' laws vary, but the general premise is the same: If a student wants to stay on the road, he or she must stay in school. Hari Sreenivasan reports.

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Quotes: Obama's Stealthy School Reform Success

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In education reform, I think Obama has done brilliantly, largely because it’s out of the press.  -- Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN) in the New Yorker via EWA's Mikhail Zinshteyn

Thompson: Looking Deeper Into Discipline Disparities

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Christopher Edley, the co-chair of the Equity and Excellence Commission, noted recently on the PBS News Hour that the recent report on racial disparities in discipline is a "smoking gun" showing there is something seriously wrong with the way our schools serve poor children of color.

If schools are "not successful at figuring out why Jamal and Jose are acting out," said Edley, "the chances are pretty slim that they're figuring out why Maria is two years behind in reading." 

To fix our schools, we need to intervene with our kids in a way that "works for each kid."  I am  leery of data-driven solutions to the disparate impact of discipline, however, but not because they are too hard on educators. The simplistic use of disciplinary numbers is too soft on the problem.

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Video: Who Needs SXSW When There's "TED-Ed"?

Fresh off last week's TED 2012, TED has launched a new TED-Ed channel. Via It's Ok To Be Smart

Bruno: When Is A Charter Not A Charter?

ASCENDThe Oakland Unified School District has just granted two elementary schools permission to convert to what they're calling "partnership schools": quasi-charters, essentially, that will continue to pay for and participate in many of the district's programs, but will also have site-level autonomy in terms of staffing and curriculum.

It's a little bit difficult to discern how satisfied the various parties are with the arrangement, which is actually a compromise between the district (which had rejected a previous charter conversion proposal) and the schools (which had appealed the decision to the more charter-friendly county). Superintendent Tony Smith is putting a positive spin on the "partnership" model, but at least some members of the school board are saying the "partnership" model was just the least-bad option available to them.

Click below for my thoughts on the situation.

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Maps: 37 States Spending Less Now Than Last Year

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Center on Budget and Policy Priorities via The American Prospect (No Funds Left Behind)

AM News: Not Much "Reform" Response To OCR Discipline Data

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Black Students More Likely To Be Disciplined NPR: A Department of Education study found from 2009 to 2010, black students were 3 1/2 times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white ones. Though the reasons are unclear, many argue harsher punishments push many black and Latino students out of schools and into the criminal justice system.

End-Game Remains on N.Y. State Teacher Evaluations EdWeek: Although the grand bargain on teacher evaluations in New York state has saved—for now—the state's $700 million federal Race to the Top award, the long-term picture for carrying out the evaluation deal has a lot more fine print involved.

Promising Results Found With Core Knowledge Reading Method NYT: Children at 10 schools who were taught reading using a curriculum designed by the education theorist E.D. Hirsch Jr.’s Core Knowledge Foundation have significantly outperformed students taught at other schools under a variety of other methods, most of which fell under the definition of “balanced literacy,” an approach that was promoted citywide by the former schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, beginning in 2003.

Wisconsin Seeks To Evaluate Aspiring Teachers Through Lesson Plans, Classroom Videos HuffPost via Hechinger Report: Formally known as the Teacher Performance Assessment, the portfolio-based assessment will be required for anyone completing a teacher-education program and seeking a teaching license in Wisconsin after August 31, 2015, the Department of Public Instruction has decided.

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Radio: Best Weekly Education Podcasts / Broadcasts

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There is now a decent handful of weekly education radio shows and podcasts out there, including the Harvard EdCast, Bloomberg EDU, and American Public Radio as well as BAM Radio and a slew of others. I usually include them in my weekend roundup but thought it might be nice to highlight them as a group.  

Loveless, Ripley Compare Education Around World @bloomburgEDU ow.ly/9zMP7

American RadioWorks - Are You Gritty Enough For College? ow.ly/9zMN2

The Great Teacher Checklist - Tom Kane on MET - Harvard EdCast ow.ly/9zMS4

Save the podcast! The Gadfly Show http://ow.ly/9BWB2

Audio is great, because you can turn it on and go about your business and usually count on your ears perking up if someone says anything new or notable.  Or at least that's how I do it.  Any others that you like, or any of these you think are weak?  Let us know.

Advocacy: What Should Educators Think About "KONY2012"

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One of these days there will be a viral education video out there like Kony 2012, the Internet meme of the moment (and perhaps of all time, says the Atlantic Wire). Don't laugh -- I'm sure there are folks out there trying to create a viral hit about schools as we speak.  Your friends will start sending it to you on Facebook with the message "have you seen this? or "check this out!"  But will it help?

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Video: Arne In Texas

"At a town hall meeting at Austin Community College on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan talked about what the Obama administration is doing to keep higher ed affordable." (The Texas Tribune)

AM News: Romney Adds Education (But Will It Help?)

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Romney Adds Education Info to Campaign Site Politics K12: Up until now, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, has had a background section on his Web site letting voters know where he stands on a long list of issues—health care, China, trade—but not education.

Outgunned in Legislature, Mich. unions fight back Associated Press:  After more than a year of what they consider continuous Republican-led policy attacks, Michigan unions are fighting back with a sweeping proposal that would enshrine collective bargaining rights in the state constitution and put them beyond the reach of state lawmakers.

Legislature seeks to restore $200M to NY schools AP via WSJ: New York's Senate and Assembly will try to shift $200 million from a proposed schools incentive program back to traditional school aid when they release budget resolutions Monday, a legislative leader and a legislative official said this week.

Indiana School Teaches Test Prep As Literary Genre NPR: Teachers often prepare their students in advance of standardized testing by getting them ready for what is expected to be on the exam. One school in Indiana has a course helping students learn how to take the test.
'Compelling' evidence of cheating found Philadelphia Inquirer: Pa.'s top education official says evidence of cheating by 56 schools in Philly is strong.

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Video Interlude: "New Girl" Deals With Bullying 5th Grader

She's not just a quirky ingenue, she's a somewhat clueless teacher, too.  

Sure, you can justify / get away with watching a sitcom at work. It's just 22 minutes long, after all.

Parents: The Liberal Case Against Private Education

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There's long been a lament among school reformers that all that's needed to make public schools much better is to make school assignments random rather than neighborhood-based and to ban private schools rather than letting parents with means opt out of the system.  

In recent weeks, a couple of liberal writers are making somewhat the same points, albeit from a different point of view, arguing that it's fundamentally anti-progressive to homeschool your children or even to send them to private schools.

What do you think about your friends and colleagues who homeschool or choose private schools but still consider themselves liberal?  What impact would it have, if any, to have more of those families in the public system, even assuming such a thing be arranged?

Read below for more on the recent articles and what to make of liberals who private school their kids.

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Maps: Where The Non-Waiver States Are

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To go along with this map, Governing magazine has a story about what the non-waivers states like California and Pennsylvania and Texas are planning to do (get other kinds of waivers, most of them).

Most non-waiver states are Republican-controlled and many are planning to do something even if it's not a Duncan waiver.  For example, there's the AMO gambit.  

 

Media: Local NPR Stations Beefing Up Education Coverage

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Southern California Public Radio has added a couple of new folks to its education coverage team, and now Chicago Public Radio is following suit, picking up Becky Vevea from the now-defunct Chicago News Cooperative.  

Meantime, New York City public radio hasn't hired anyone so far as I know but has expanded coverage via SchoolBook, the NYT-WNYC "collaboration." Anyone else out there with expanded coverage?  Let us know.

Texas: Duncan Confronts Protesters, Meets With Rick Perry

A couple of things happened to Arne Duncan while he was in Texas for a San Antonio event focused on Hispanic education.  He sat down with Gov. Rick Perry to talk about waivers (The Texas Tribune) and he dealt with being interrupted by OWS-style protesters (The Answer Sheet).

AM News: GOP Governors Not Fighting Obama On Education

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Education Proves Common Ground Among Obama, GOP Governors AP via HuffPost:  A funny thing is happening between President Barack Obama and many Republican governors when it comes to improving America's schools: They are mostly getting along.

TFA, National Writing Project, New Teacher Center Snag New Fed Grants Politics K12: Two programs that lost funding when Congress revised its rules on earmarks—Teach for America and the National Writing Project—will get some federal money after all, under a new $24.6 million competitive program, the Supporting Effective Educators Development or SEED program.

Teachers' Assessment Preparation Weak, Advocacy Group Claims Teacher Beat: Teachers aren't getting enough formal preparation on how to make use of the reams of assessment data states are generating, contends the National Council on Teacher Quality in a brief released today.

Senator Planning Early Education Bill To Help Economy HuffPost: When Sen. Tom Harkin asked a panel of education experts at a Thursday Senate committee hearing how they would improve the country's public schools, he was surprised by what they didn't say.

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Thompson: EdTrust Value-Added Solution Would Make Things Worse

KeepcalmThe Education Trust has issued another report downplaying the evidence that undermines its agenda.  "Learning Denied," by Carrie Hahnel and Orville Jackson, again calls for more testing to improve teacher quality at the schools where it is harder to raise test scores. Hahnel and Jackson admit that 11% of the students of even the most effective teachers see declines in their test scores to "below basic."  This is an important reminder that there is life, death, and other tragedies outside of the classroom; when there is a downturn in a student's test score trajectory,  the decline may not be caused by ineffective teaching.  In addition, the EdTrust emphasizes that high value-added English Language Arts teachers in low value-added schools are twice as likely to transfer to low poverty schools but it did not mention the most obvious explanation: the stress of dealing with kids who are more likely to be dealing with extreme trauma. Adding more high-stress testing to the challenges faced in the toughest schools might not be a good way to keep the best teachers in the schools where it is harder to raise test scores.  The real issue that needs to be researched is whether teachers with high value-added in effective schools could continue to make the same gains in the toughest schools.  Otherwise, value-added evaluations would accelerate the exodus from poor schools.  (@drjohnthompson) Image via.

Campaign 2012: Democrats Struggle To Deal With Trigger

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Democratic lawmakers and centrist think tankers are all struggling to figure out what to do with the "parent trigger" idea, which many don't think of as very good public policy and is despised by teachers unions among others but sounds so great and is difficult to oppose.  (See Andy Rotherham try and thread the needle here.) Of course, this isn't the first time a great-sounding but perhaps unwise or simplistic idea has created problems for lawmakers because it attracts so much public attention.  Think smaller class sizes, universal preschool, zero tolerance for anyone bringing a gun to school, raising the mandatory attendance age. But the trigger is likely to be one of very few education-related issues to get any attention in the 2012 election cycle.  If asked, it's hard to imagine Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney being against it.  Some Democratic lawmakers -- Miller and (still unconfirmed) Emanuel -- have already come out in favor.  So where will Barack Obama be on this, as well as the rest of the Democratic Caucus?  Nobody seems to know.  The teachers unions won't like it if Democratic candidates support the trigger, but then again they don't have anywhere to go and it's hard to imagine them running against Democrats who support the trigger given all the other things they're already dealing with.  

Maps: Where Walton Spends Money (Differently From Gates)

Earlier this week we learned that Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst organization was one of the beneficiaries of the Walton Foundation's ramped-up education grantmaking -- not really a surprise but something that hadn't been confirmed. Here's a look at where some of the rest of that money is going, provided by the foundation:

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Valerie Strauss has a roundup here, or click "read more" to read the WFF press release. Click back to a recent post (More Evidence Gates Is "Over" Charters) and see if you can glean the differences between WFF and Gates.

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AM News: States Add Testing To Accommodate Value-Added

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Teacher Evaluations Pose Test for States WSJ: Efforts to revamp public education are increasingly focused on evaluating teachers using student test scores, but school districts nationwide are only beginning to deal with the practical challenges of implementing those changes.

Teachers' Morale Reaches 20-Year Low NYT:  The outpouring of reaction to the release of the teacher data reports, as well as the stream of recent articles in blogs and other publications, has provided a pretty good sense of how many teachers in New York are feeling these days: disappointed, angry, depressed, put-upon and fed up.

Who won millions in Walton Foundation grants in 2011 Washington Post: The pro-charter Walton Foundation handed out more than $159 million in 2011 in 16 metropolitan areas around the country to promote school choice. It also committed to giving $49.5 million to Teach for America over five years to double its teaching corps and $25.5 million over the same period to the KIPP charter school network to double the number of students it educates.

No Movement on ESEA, But Lawmakers Still Talk Education Politics K12: Right now, passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act this year looks about as likely, as, well...Peyton Manning returning to the Colts. 

Report: Minority Students Face Harsher Discipline PBS NewsHour:  Jeffrey Brown discusses the disparities with Christopher Edley Jr. of the University of California, Berkeley and the Fordham Institute's Chester Finn Jr.

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Quotes: The Trouble With Numbers

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People love evidence ... when it tells them what they want to hear.  -- The Atlantic Wire 

Thompson: Teachers & Schools At The Mercy Of A Bell Curve

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I have long warned about putting teachers and schools at the mercy of a bell curve. Now we see another bell curve as districts sacrifice both the most improving schools and the most promising individual teachers.

First, NY1's Lindsey Crist has a story Brooklyn School Earns City's Highest Grade, Along With Spot on DOE Overhaul List that describes  a school that is being closed.  Maxwell, the NYC high school with the fifth highest concentration of the city's at-risk students, moved from a grade of an "F" to an "A."  The district still plans to dismiss half of the school's teachers.  The "A" graded school in NYC is apparently being punished because Mayor Mike Bloomberg is angry with the union for opposing his test-driven policies. 

The other end of the curve is illustrated in Bill Turque's Washington Post story 'Creative ... Motivated' and Fired, which recounts the firing of teacher, universally praised as outstanding,  because of the value-added portion of her evaluation.  The D.C. teacher was apparently a victim of her students' previous scores being inflated by the cheating scandal, which was encouraged by former chancellor Michelle Rhee's test score mania.  

This year, we read about the victims in high-challenge schools.  But we should be prepared for reports on the other end of the spectrum - great teachers being fired at great schools because a not-ready-for-prime-time statistical model can't control for student scores on the upper end of its bell curve.-JT (@drjohnthompson)

Media: Not Another EdTech Cheerleader

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@edsurge #edsurge    After months operating as an electronic newsletter, EdSurge has finally rolled out its beta website, including "150+ products, 350+ topics, 150+ organizations, 600+ news items" as well as an archive of the past year of newsletters.  

That's great -- glad to see it -- and I like the fact that EdSurge requires users to sign in to access content and lets them use Twitter or Facebook to do so. But I remain mildly troubled (see previous posts) that the EdSurge team (Betsy et al) describes its offerings as "reporting," its blog posts as "articles," and characterizes its site as "a technology-journalism mashup."  They call it journalism to make you feel better, and to give themselves credibility but I don't really see any journalism here -- not much skepticism, even. And I worry that edtech enthusiasts on the provider and purchaser sides will get even further caught up in the hullabaloo surrounding education technology rather than getting better informed and making smart, difficult decisions. (For example, compare the tone and substance of what you see on EdSurge to this recent EdWeek article on venture capital in education.  Both get funding from Gates, but to me at least there's a big difference in what they're doing and the EdWeek version.)  

All is not lost, however.  I get out of bed on the wrong side pretty much every day and I may be entirely wrong about the site.  You be the judge.  Second, users might end up using comments and social media aspects to balance out EdSurge's enthusiasm. Anything that ensures we don't spend another 10 years talking about and developing technology that doesn't transform schools is fine with me.  Previous posts: New Blog To Hype Blended Learning Bubble June 2011, Wanting A Little More From EdSurge December 2011.

AM News: "Read Or Flunk"

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Teachers Can't Get No Satisfaction, Says Survey HuffPost: After a year that brought budget cuts, booming class sizes, radical hiring changes and governors who curtailed a collective-bargaining rights, teachers' job satisfaction is at a two-decade low, according to a new survey released Wednesday.

Former Ed. Secretary Margaret Spellings is Romney Adviser Politics K12: There's a familiar face among the roster of those advising Mitt Romney's presidential campaign: Former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, the chief architect of the No Child Left Behind Act. Phil Handy, one of three co-chairs for Romney's education team confirmed Spellings' involvement today.

42 Judges Weighing Second-Round NCLB Waiver Applications Politics K12: With 27 applications for No Child Left Behind Act waivers in hand, the U.S. Department of Education has doubled its team of outside peer reviewers who will help decide what changes states must adopt before they can get their second-round proposals approved.

Read Or Flunk NPR:  There's little dispute among educators that kids aren't reading as well as they should be. Now, a growing number of states are taking a hard-line approach, requiring that third-graders who can't read at grade level be automatically held back. But some worry that will do more harm than good.

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Media: TV's "New Girl" Teacher Is She One Of You?

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She's not exactly Mr. Prezbo, but on "New Girl" hyper-quirky actress Zooey Deschanel plays a a character named Jess who lives with three guys and is also an elementary school teacher.  Occasionally, we get to see her doing something education-related, as in Episode 14 when Jess has to deal with a bullying student in her class and ends up apologizing to her principal after losing her cool: 

Jess: I am so sorry, Tanya.

Principal Tanya: Don’t be. I love it! Jess, you’re a real teacher now.

Jess: What?

Principal Tanya: You’re a kid-hater. You’re one of us.

Jess:  But I don't hate her.

Principal Tanya:  Of course you don't.

Link to other lines from the show here. A review of the season from a teacher's perspective here.

Books: School Integration, Revisited

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I'm not particularly interested in school integration as an end unto itself (or unreasonably hopeful that we're going to have integrated schools anytime soon), but the potential for school integration to help increase achievement levels is pretty compelling and findings like the ones released by the USDE about disproportionate treatment of black kids in urban school systems makes the topic all the more worth revisiting.

Tomorrow in Washington, a trio of institutions (TCF, Fordham, and Howard University) is hosting an event on the future of integration and the release of new work by the indefatigable Rick Kahlenberg showing that at least 80 school districts serving 4 million kids have adopted measures to promote integration that fall within current law. The event is Wednesday at noon, National Press Club. Contact events@tcf.org to RSVP.

Included among Kahlenberg's example will likely be some of the handful of mixed-income, heterogenous charter schools like DSST, Capitol City, and Community Roots that I've been spending time at since last year.  I visited Larchmont and Citizens of the World last week in LA. It's a complicated, difficult-to-pull-off approach, fraught with practical and political challenges (as well as some obvious advantages over the typical neighborhood school). I'm interested to see what Kahlenberg has to say.

AM News: Data Shows Uneven Treatment Of Black Kids

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Black Students Face More Harsh Discipline, Data Shows NYT: Overall, African-American students were three and a half times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers.

ALSO Study: Discipline harsher on African-American students in Chicago Chicago Tribune, Black students in L.A. suspended at proportionally higher rate, data show LAT

Where Republican candidates stand now on education Washington Post: The American public education system is going through historic changes but you couldn’t tell that if you have been following the Republican campaign to tap a candidate to take on President Obama in the fall. Politics K12: When It Comes to Testing, Is Santorum Like Romney? 

Schools Get Tough With Third-Graders: Read Or Flunk NPR: There's little dispute among educators that kids aren't reading as well as they should be. Now, a growing number of states are taking a hard-line approach, requiring that third-graders who can't read at grade level be automatically held back. But some worry that will do more harm than good.

School tests California law that allows takeover via petition Washington Post: Trigger laws are spreading beyond California, passing or sparking debates in other states, including Maryland. Even Hollywood has noticed; a feature film, made by the producers of the 2010 documentary “Waiting for Superman,” is coming out this fall.

Feds Buying 7 Million Pounds Of 'Pink Slime' For School Lunches HuffPost: Pink slime -- that ammonia-treated meat in a bright Pepto-bismol shade -- may have been rejected by fast food joints, but is being brought in by the tons for the nation's school lunch program.

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Charts: Diminished Debate Role For Education (So Far)

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Four years ago, EdWeek estimated that just 3 percent of the primary debates addressed issues of education.  (Was it the number of questions or the amount of time?  I don't remember & can't find the link.)

So far this year, that number is down to 1 percent. See chart at left, via Joel Klein in today's Washington Post.

All is not lost, however.  

First of all, who knows what kind of crazy stuff would have come out if the Republican candidates had talked more about education?  

Also, there's still the general election ahead of us.

Predicted debate questions:  college for everyone, homeschooling, NCLB waivers, teaching to the test, parent trigger.  

Media: Experiments In Pinterest

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I'm just as sick of new "must-have" programs as you are and doing my best to avoid them as long as possible, but still I'm playing around with Pinterest, the somewhat new image-sharing site that has been getting a lot of attention.

My first pinboard is "Hot For Education 2012," a version of my Hot For Ed Tumblr, which includes images and videos that I don't have time to blog about (or are too silly -- yes, there's such a thing).  

It's no great shakes, so far -- sort of like Tumblr and Twitter.  Nothing that will change your life or make you a better parent, teacher, or blogger.  But there's a lot of energy at Pinterest, and that's nice.  And it's awfully easy to use.  

Take a look if you're curious.  Are there good people or pinboards to follow that I should know about?  Let me know if you want an invitation to join the site.

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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.