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Bruno: The Slippery Slope of Charter Conversions

TimthumbBack in March, the Oakland Unified School District begrudgingly approved charter conversions for two schools dissatisfied with district control. This week, a third conversion proposal was rejected over concerns about the budgetary impact to the district.

Nevertheless, at least one CMO advocate maintained that "the tide has shifted" in favor of charter schools, and the district seems to agree that they've begun sliding down a slippery slope. The same night that the Lazear Elementary charter conversion was rejected, the school board passed a resolution stating that it intends to "Provide school governance teams increased decision-making responsibility and authority" and "Strengthen the ability of school governance teams...to determine the composition of their employee teams." 

It's a little hard for me to see how or why this should stem the apparent swelling of support for charter school-like school site autonomy. The district can't afford to keep all of its schools open - for example, Lazear is slated for closure - but nobody's ever happy about losing a public good they've become accustomed to. And if it's staffing autonomy a school really wants, the district doesn't have the authority to grant exemptions from union contracts anyway. (The school board's resolution concedes that staffing autonomy must be consistent with "established collective bargaining protocols and agreements".) It actually seems to me like there's not much in the way of substantive autonomy that the district can grant.

In other words, most of what people are demanding they can only get through a full charter school conversion anyway. The district may be able to temporarily slow such conversions down, but ultimately appeals will make their way to the more charter-friendly county board. So OUSD's resolution on school site governance signals that they are concerned about losing more schools, but it probably won't do much to prevent that outcome. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Video: Anti-Bullying Activist Apologizes For Mocking Homophobic Students

Dan Savage has now apologized for comments he made at a high school journalism convention a couple of weeks ago when Christian students walked out as he was telling the room that the Bible can't be used to justify bullying any more than it can be used to justify slavery or stoning women. Accused of being a hypocritical bully, Savage said he wasn't attacking anyone's religion. Via Gawker.

Update: What Gail Collins Gets Wrong About NCLB

School-clock(1)A couple of folks didn't like it much when, using that Twitter thing, I attempted to rain on their parade of passing around Gail Collins' recent column (A Very Pricey Pineapple).  The column makes the case that education is being privatized, and that Pearson in particular and in general is taking over, and that NCLB is the cause of it all.  Collins writes:  

"No Child Left Behind has created a system of public-funded charter schools, a growing number of which are run by for-profit companies... An American child could go to a public school run by Pearson, studying from books produced by Pearson, while his or her progress is evaluated by Pearson standardized tests."

Where to start?  Well, most charters aren't run by for-profit companies, so that's pretty much a red herring.  NCLB didn't invent or have any real direct impact on creating more charters (charter funding preceded NCLB and there were very few charter conversions).  The transfer provision was used very little.  Far as I know, Pearson does not yet run any charter schools.  

Sure, NCLB was good for testing companies because it required annual tests for reading and math instead of the periodic  ones of the past.  But this isn't news, really.  It isn't even new anymore.  Collins is trying to gin up outrage like so many others are.  But my feeling is that outrage should be reserved for truly outrageous situations.  Of which there are many.  But not this one.  

Video: Colbert Interviews Star Of "The Revisionaries"


""The Revisionaries," a documentary about textbook standard-setting in Texas, recently debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival, and key subject Don McLeroy talked to Stephen Colbert Monday about the state's textbook debate."


Poster: "Shouldn't Everyone Be Well Red?"

image from media-cache3.pinterest.com

Kenneth Cole put up a billboard in New York City raising questions about teachers' self-interest, and as you can imagine teachers aren't particularly happy about it. GothamSchools has the backstory on the company's history of controversial positions and where Cole sends his kids. 

AM News: Debate Heats Up In Connecticut

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Parents Take Gamble for Top School Slots WSJ: As competition has intensified for slots at the city's elite public and private schools, a growing number of parents are pursuing both options, anxious to secure a top education for their children.

Malloy pitches education plan to urban districts AP via Boston.com: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is reaching out to state lawmakers who represent some of the lowest performing schools in Connecticut, urging them to back his ideas for overhauling the state's public schools.

Former Ohio State Chief Confirmed as K-12 Assistant Secretary Politics K12: It's official! Deborah Delisle, who served as Ohio's state school chief, has been confirmed as the Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education.

CPS must spend $16M on tutoring — or it loses the funds Chicago Tribune: Cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools is racing to spend about $16 million in federal tutoring grants by the end of the summer to avoid losing the money in a program plagued by dwindling participation and financial missteps.

States move slowly toward digital textbooks Stateline: Despite enthusiasm for digital textbooks at the national level, states have been slow to get on board. But the movement is gaining strength.


Continue reading "AM News: Debate Heats Up In Connecticut" »

Weekend Reading: All The News You Might Have Missed

Here are some links to stories from over the weekend, in Twitter form:


Follow along in real time at #thisweekined

Thompson: In Praise of Seat Time

Dropout_nation_blog_main_horizontalThe Washington Post's Jay Mathews and Title I-Derland's Nancy Connor have both published new critiques of "credit recovery" programs.  Mathews notes that the "D.C. schools have long been accused of looking for excuses to give diplomas to students who have not mastered the material," and he speculates about the "many lackluster students [who are] suddenly and mysteriously cleared for graduation just before the big day."  Similarly, Connor, "find(s) it very hard to believe that most students already considered over-age and under-credited (the very students to whom these alternatives are targeted) will really learn as much as traditional students by sitting down at the computer and cranking out class requirements in a matter of weeks." The problem is not necessarily credit recovery, but the incentives for its abuse in an age of "accountability." In a story on dropout prevention, PBS News Hour's John Turlenko reported on a successful credit recovery program, and linked to Y-2ress' Keshia Smith and Jeanette Green, who were both age 18 when they described what it takes for credit recovery to work.

Continue reading "Thompson: In Praise of Seat Time" »

Poster: "Keep Calm And Continue Testing"

A test season riff on the WWII poster "Keep Calm And Carry On," via @mikeklonsky.  Is this for real, or even new?  I have no idea but would love to know.  There's an ACT logo and they're getting back to me about whether it's official or not.  If this was done by ACT rather than bootlegged it would be all the better.  Other versions of the same idea are here.

AM News: Some Teachers Disagree Over Seniority System

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Seniority Still a Splinter Issue in AFT Districts Teacher Beat: Although neither of the teachers' unions is crazy about efforts nationally to undo the weight given to seniority in various personnel decisions, the question seems to be emerging as a particular issue in cities and states with American Federation of Teachers affiliates.

Proposed Mich. school funding plans differ greatly AP via Boston.com: The education budgets proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder as well as those passed this week by the Michigan Senate and House significantly differ, which means lawmakers will have plenty to work out before a plan can become law for the budget year beginning in October.

Head Start Faces New Test WSJ: Some local Head Start programs for the first time will have to compete for a share of $7.6 billion in federal funding under a plan aimed at weeding out low-performing preschool centers.

Victims of cyberbullying fight back in lawsuits AP via Boston.com: When a Georgia middle school student reported to police and school officials that she had been bullied on Facebook, they told her there was not much they could do because the harassment occurred off campus.

Teaching The LA Riots At Two City Schools NPR: It's been 20 years since four white police officers were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King and Los Angeles erupted in riots. NPR visited two schools – one not far from the flashpoint of the riots and the other surrounded by million dollar homes – to see how the riots are being taught to students who weren't born when the violence hit.


Continue reading "AM News: Some Teachers Disagree Over Seniority System" »

Media: Districts Hire Social Media Directors To Quash Rumors

34285_4908c996555efca846340e4550f2ddd0_5c54ee7c565e1d22f4412805bfbd3cdbDoes your district (or CMO) have a social media person yet?  It soon will, according to this Government and Technology article (Social Media Directors are Finding a Place): "From the White House to New York City to small cities and counties, people are being hired to focus on how social media strategies and efforts can best be used by government to interact with the public."  

But having a social media director doesn't necessarily mean things always go smoothly. The presence of a social media director (Stephanie Abrams) didn't prevent the LA Times and Drudge and several other outlets from passing along a false rumor about LAUSD . KPPC has that story here: LAUSD proposes to eliminate Ds as passing grades.

Movies: To "Monsier Lazhar," With Love

A school in crisis where no one wants to teach. A mysterious volunteer to take over a teacher-less class.  Unusual methods cause trouble - and intrigue. It's an Oscar-nominated film that's gotten lots of positive reviews (NYT, Slate, Boston Globe).   Links to more clips below, provided by the film's publicists.  Opens this weekend.

Continue reading "Movies: To "Monsier Lazhar," With Love" »

Fads: "Nerd Coachella" Site Will "Flip" Education

ScreenHunter_15 Apr. 26 11.16So TED has come to education, and if recent experience is any guide its arrival will be greeted by great cheering throngs of pundits and reporters and enthusiasts and largely ignored by principals and teachers who have better things to do (like administer standardized tests).  

The Atlantic Wire calls TED the "nerd Coachella" and predicts that "In the Future All Children Will Be Taught By TED Talks." The Chronicle says that TED-ed "Turns YouTube Videos Into 'Flipped' Lessons."

Indeed, the welcoming page points visitors to both 62 videos and 585 "flips."  Gak. 

Thompson: Fun Ways To Resist the Standardization of Writing

Pineapple3The annual spring testing madness always prompts condemnations of "reform" that are rooted in evidence and logic. This year, students are teaching teachers where we went wrong as we tried to reason with the data-driven crowd. For instance, testing critics have attacked the latest standardized "nonsense answer" involving the timeless issue of whether  the pineapple is smarter than the owl. But, in "When Pineapple Races Hare, Students Lose, Critics of Standardized Tests Say," the New York Times reports that the same basic question has been asked in many states since 2007.  Eight graders have the savvy, however, to use derision against the bubble-in regime, proclaiming, “Pineapples don’t have sleeves.” Similarly, Wineri'ps Facing a Robo-Grader? Just Keep Obfuscating Mellifluously" will prompt plenty of sober criticisms of a testing industry which dumbs down its human graders so that they produce the same grades as a algorithm. The better approach is to revel in the absurdity of our hi-tech teach to the test regimes. When the annual test prep season sucks all of the life from classrooms, teachers should prep students on creating prose to compete with this top-ranked essay, "The average teaching assistant makes six times as much money as college presidents..." because "Their union is greater than the Teamsters or Freemasons, though it is slightly smaller than ... Jedi Knights." Students can thus learn the tricks of the testing trade and wrestle with the real message being sent by "reformers" about, "the real reason for education,  to get those good grades without thinking too much."-JT (@drjohnthompson) image via.

AM News: Dropout Factory Raises Graduation Rate (Really?)

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'Dropout Nation' Turnaround: How Shelbyville Fixed its Dropout Problem PBS: Six years later, Shelbyville's graduation rate jumped to 90 percent, but how did they turn things around?

Education Slowdown Threatens U.S. WSJ:  Despite years of effort, high-school dropout rates remain stubbornly high. College tuition is rising and the prospect of shouldering heavy debt discourages some high-school graduates from enrolling in college or sticking with it.

Student veterans group revokes charters from 26 schools USAT: A national advocacy group for student veterans has revoked chapter membership from 26 for-profit campuses.

Two Parties Find a Way to Agree, and Disagree, on Student Loan Rates NYT: Republicans and Democrats are arguing over how to pay $6 billion for a subsidized benefit. ALSO:  Flurry of Bills Introduced to Stop Student Loan Rate Hike Politics K12

Teachers' Unions Enter Super PAC World Teacher Beat: The organized labor movement may not like the movement toward super PACs that have multiplied in the wake of recent campaign-finance decisions, but their motto for now seems to be, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.


Continue reading "AM News: Dropout Factory Raises Graduation Rate (Really?)" »

Video Interlude: Obama "Slow Jams" Loans On Late Night

Fallon:  "The Pell grant is a beautiful thing, but with college getting more expensive is it enough by itself to satisfy all your college needs?  Oh, Pell no!" (Obama 'Slow Jams' Student Loans with Jimmy Fallon)

Bruno: In Defense of Multiple-Choice Tests

Testing-31With people using a confusing pineapple-related question on a standardized state test to prove the supposed evils of standardized testing,  it's probably worth mentioning that multiple-choice tests are not, in fact, inherently flawed. Yes, multiple-choice tests have some limitations in terms of what they can assess. And yes, poorly-designed questions can make them deeply problematic.

By the same token, though, when they are well designed, multiple-choice tests can be very useful for teachers and other educators. Obviously, they're quick and efficient to grade and analyze, which can be important given how little time we have to work with and for our students. Granted, they're often easiest to use to test factual recall, but factual recall is badly underrated by many educators, who sometimes don't appreciate how necessary recall is for "higher level" thinking abilities.

And maybe most importantly, taking multiple-choice tests can help you learn. This isn't just because self-testing is a good way to learn in general, although that's part of it. It's also that in some respects multiple-choice tests are better for learning than open-ended recall tests.  As Wray Herbert explains, new research finds that, compared to recall tests, "the learning fostered by the multiple-choice tests was broader, including even material that had not been tested". This is apparently because "the wrong answers were plausible enough that the students had to think about why the correct answer was correct", something students aren't forced to do on an open-ended recall test.

This is one of the reasons I don't mind my students having to spend a couple of hours during the year taking a multiple-choice test for the state. It not only has the potential to be informative for me, it might even be good for them. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Photo: Emanuel, Gorbachev, and Sean Penn In Chicago

image from www.chicagonow.com
That's Mikhail Gorbachev, Rahm Emanuel, and Sean Penn at a Nobel Laureate event at Chicago's Von Steuben High School on Monday.  Plus translator. ("The tiny Mayor of this landlocked village does not appear to use offensive language nearly as much as has been reported to us."

AM News: Debate Continues In Connecticut

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Conn. Gov. continues education tour in Bridgeport Boston Globe:  Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will be continuing his state tour on education in Bridgeport to promote his overhaul proposals.

Struggle over how to evaluate special ed teachers AP via Boston.com: Since the first day of class this school year, Bev Campbell has been teaching her students how to say their names. 

Reform-ey Groups to Congress: Fund Competitive Grants Politics K12: It's no secret that the Obama administration hearts competitive grant programs—particularly the ones they came up with themselves, like Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, and Promise Neighborhoods.

Can a charter school be a neighborhood school? Washington Post: Charter purists don’t like it, but there is growing political energy behind the idea, as evidenced by Tuesday’s D.C. Council hearing for the FY13 budget.

District outlines radical overhaul Philadelphia Inquirer: The plan calls for drastic reduction in central office staff, closure of 64 schools and moving students to charters.

Confederate flag dress keeps Tenn. teen from prom USA Today:  Texanna Edwards' dress with bright blue stripes and white stars inside the stripes kept her out of the dance.


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Thompson: Teach To The Heart (Not Primitive Standardized Tests)

HeartEnglish teacher Claire Needell Hollander, in her "Teach the Books, Touch the Heart," identifies the key to teaching and learning.  Schooling is primarily an affair of "the Heart," not "the Head." She begins her New York Times opinion piece with Franz Kafka, who wrote that “a book must be the ax for the frozen sea inside us.” Hollander recounts her teaching experiences to explain the original sin of "reform."  The data-driven crowd does not understand why the tough-minded approach to schooling is to appeal to students' moral and emotional strengths. She complains that standardized testing is teaching students, "that words do not dazzle but confound." Even when our bubble-in tests "succeed" and scores are raised, the costs are too high because we fail to teach  kids "that reading can be transformative and that it belongs to them." Hollander concludes, "We cannot enrich the minds of our students by testing them on texts that purposely ignore their hearts. By doing so, we are withholding from our neediest students any reason to read at all."-JT (@drjohnthompson) image via.

Video: Obama Announces 2012 Teacher Of The Year

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

Congrats to Burbank CA 7th grade teacher Rebecca Mieliwocki ("Milwaukee"), a career changer several times over. Via MSNBC.  

Events: Preview Of NewSchools Summit 2012

1335034892A week from now is the umpteenth annual NewSchools Venture Fund Summit #Nsvfsummit, being held again near the San Franscisco Airport.  All your friends and enemies will be there, schmoozing and being schmoozed during what must be one of the most compact conferences out there.  It's not quite speed dating, but it's close.

Rahm Emanuel is one of the headliners, along with Howard Fuller, Michael Bennet, Margaret Spellings, Jonah Edelman, and Roland Fryer.  Some of my favorite education folks will be there too -- Ellen Moir, David Coleman, Kenji Hakuta.  

Late last week I had the chance to talk with NSVFers Jonathan Schorr and Joe Ventura about this year's program highlights and changes, which include the addition of a new sponsor (NBC News) and a new focus (poverty).  

Continue reading "Events: Preview Of NewSchools Summit 2012" »

Bruno: Hidden Ripple Effects From School Closures

29cc29947af077712045bc26e4f01eabThe decision by the Missouri Board of Education to shut down the charter schools in the state run by Imagine Schools, Inc. is obviously going to be rough for the students currently enrolled at the six affected sites. If anything, though, the article understates the breadth of the problem by focusing on the fact that "[m]ore than 3,500 students will be displaced." 

That's because while school switches are typically most difficult for the students doing the switching, it can also be a challenge for the receiving school. This is especially true if the school invests heavily in establishing standard academic expectations, behavioral norms, or a sense of community. Such investments can be immensely helpful in promoting student success and maximizing instructional time, but they are also undermined by the arrival of new students to whom the standards and expectations may be entirely new. After all, much of the point of establishing school-wide culture - or even a classroom culture - is to avoid having to continuously dedicate time to creating it from scratch.

I've sometimes wondered if closing schools shouldn't be phased out in much the same way that new schools are often phased in, so that at least some students are able to finish their careers at a school before making the transition to a new site. I don't know enough to know how feasible that would be - I can see that money and staff morale could both be a problem - but if the accountability movement sustains its momentum or if district budgets are further strained, school closures are going to continue to disrupt many, many students' lives. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Testing: Mixed Reactions To Robot Reader Study

image from www.smashingrobots.comThere are robots (computers, really) reading and scoring student essays on standardized tests.  Here's a roundup of stories about a new study:

Computer scoring of essays shows promise, analysis shows USAT: Funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the analysis was part of an ongoing competition, an X-Prize of sorts, that Hewlett is sponsoring to push the field forward.

Robo-readers - the new teachers' helper in the U.S. Reuters:  Today, computers are used to grade essays on South Dakota's student writing assessments and a handful of other high-stakes exams, including the TOEFL test of English fluency, taken by foreign students. 

Robo-Readers Used to Grade Test Essays NYT (Winerip): The automated reader can be easily gamed, is vulnerable to test prep, sets a very limited and rigid standard for what good writing is, and will pressure teachers to dumb down writing instruction.

Image via.

AM News: Romney Declines To Differentiate On Loans

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Romney, Obama on Same Page When It Comes to Loan Rates Politics K12: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the presumed GOP presidential nominee, is on board with temporarily freezing interest rates on federally subsidized student loans—a position that could put him at odds with some congressional Republicans, who are concerned about the impact of the proposal on the deficit. ALSO Romney Backs Obama's Proposal HuffPost

In Push For More College Grads, 'Very Profitable Nonprofit' Cashes In Hechinger Report via HuffPost: The national push to increase the number of Americans with college degrees is enriching at least one key beneficiary: the College Board, the nonprofit organization best known for administering the SAT.

Big push to restore arts to Calif. schools USAT: Politicians, business leaders, educators, artists and parents are making a big push to restore the arts to California public schools.

Lawmakers Want Rural Focus in District Race to Top Politics K12: A bipartisan group of senators wants to make sure the Obama administration doesn't leave rural schools out in the cold when it crafts the next generation of the Race to the Top competition, which is aimed at districts and could befunded at as much as $417 million.

Actors, artists aim to turn around failing schools AP via Boston.com: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kerry Washington and Forest Whitaker are adopting some of the nation's worst-performing schools and pledged Monday to help the Obama administration turn them around by integrating arts education.


Continue reading "AM News: Romney Declines To Differentiate On Loans" »

Cartoons: Sioux City Newspaper Takes On Bullying

ScreenHunter_13 Apr. 23 18.22

The Sioux City Journal editorial board went big with a front-page editorial against bullying, including this image, and media watcher Jim Romenesko (and NPR) took notice:

Sioux City Journal editor explains front-page anti-bullying editorial

As I've said before it seems like policy types don't take bullying very seriously.  Truth be told, a lot of teachers and administrators feel helpfless and confused about what to do bout it, too.  But maybe that will change.  


Quotes: Media Hype Outpaces Digital Adoption

Quotes2For all the noise nationally, movement to digital has been slow at the state and district level. - Stateline


Media: What's Next For The Spencer Fellowship?

image from farm6.static.flickr.comThe latest Spencer Fellowship announcements are officially out now -- Twitter followers knew about this weeks ago. Liz Bowie from the Baltimore Sun, Ann Hulbert from Slate, and Heather Vogell from AJC are all going to be Spencers next year at Columbia.  Bowie is going to focus on the growth of the College Board's AP program.  Vogell is going to focus on cheating in the NCLB era.  Hulbert is going to focus on community colleges. Press release below.  Congrats and condolences.  Getting a Spencer is like winning Mega Millions. 

Continue reading "Media: What's Next For The Spencer Fellowship?" »

Campaign 2012: Ignoring Inequality, Missing Opportunity

Tumblr_lz5runbtCz1qdl9dfo1_500There's a long New Yorker article you might find useful to read about why income inequality hasn't emerged as a powerful policy or political issue despite its massive growth in recent years.  The collapse of Occupy Wall Street, single issue advocacy efforts, and infighting among groups with different responses to income inequality are some of the main factors, according to writer Nick Lemann.  

Reading through it, I thought about how sad it is that the two main education factions --  both deeply concerned about equalizing educational opportunity -- are spending so much of their time and energy attacking each other and defending themselves rather than banding together to fight against the status quo.  Both sides are to blame, of course -- reformers for abandoning wraparound services & being tone deaf on societal and economic issues during a recession, reform critics for letting themselves be convinced that the folks they disagree with were mortal enemies rather than merely obnoxious and somewhat misguided allies.  

It occurs to me that it's been a difficult struggle for reformers in particular to come to terms with the reality that education is not longer the route out of poverty that it once might have been -- that economic mobility is no longer a hallmark of American society. Some elements of society are better than they were 20 years ago -- violence, teen pregnancy -- but social mobility is way down and inequality is way up. You can hear in the rhetoric from the reform folks that they haven't fully absorbed that yet.

It's possible that the economy will recover and the campaign will be over before anyone figures out a way for reformers and educators and parents to form a powerful coalition for change.  But studies like this recent Brookings Institute report and articles that have been written off of it (Living near a good school will cost an extra $205,000Education For Poor Students Threatened By Exclusionary Housing Policies, Report Says) are a constant reminder of all that's being left out of the current policy and political debate over education, and of the crisis that reformers and reform opponents together seem to be letting let go to waste.    

AM News: Bullying As A Campaign 2012 Issue?

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It's not a "serious" policy issue but campaigns, parents, and the press don't care.

President Endorses Anti-Bullying Legislation Politics K12: President Barack Obama today endorsed a pair of bills that would protect students who are bullied at school and in some cases, provide for students or their families to collect damages from school districts that don't act swiftly or strongly enough in students' defense.

Iowa paper devotes front page to fighting bullying AP via Boston.com: In a rare and forceful act of advocacy, an Iowa newspaper devoted the entire front page of its Sunday edition to an anti-bullying editorial after a gay teen committed suicide.

New $60 Million in Promise Neighborhoods Grants Announced Politics K12: Another $60 million in grants for the Promise Neighborhoods program will be made available by the U.S. Department of Education, both for existing grantees and for a new round of grants, the department announcedFriday.

'Secret Meeting' in South Carolina Held to Quash ESEA Waiver Politics K12: While Duncan didn't explicitly call for Zais to be invited, when he realized Zais wasn't there he told the group that it's always best to have all parties in the room, even to discuss contentious topics, according to Education Department spokesman Daren Briscoe. Some in the South Carolina education community felt that although several meetings were held to discuss the state's waiver application, it changed little in the months of debate before it was turned in.


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Connecticut: Pay No Attention To The Gyurko Behind The Curtain

image from www.tc.columbia.eduThe behind the scenes involvement of former UFT / NYC DOE staffer Jonathan Gyurko (pictured) has roiled some of the folks fighting against changes being pushed in Connecticut, according to this Ct. Post article (Malloy's education consultant arouses union fears). They seem to hope that you'll be angered or distracted, too.  

I don't know enough about the Connecticut reforms or the no-bid process but this doesn't seem particularly substantive to me.  Gyurko is one of the few education reform folk out there who's worked on both sides of the reform aisle -- for the UFT and for the NYCDOE.  Matt Gandel, Jo Anderson, and Brad Jupp are among the few others I know about (Working Both Sides Of The Street). Sure, he works for evil capitalists now, but so do a lot of people you know.  

There's no middle ground out there right now, especially among reform opponents. Skim over this oped from CEA heads Phil Apruzzese is president and Mary Loftus Levine (Connecticut teachers' unions battles powerful outsiders over reform).

AM News: You Call This News?

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Alabama School Strife Strikes Outside Of Class NPR: Alabama is near the bottom of the country's academic rankings. The state has problems with test scores, school improvement ratings and dropouts. But the district in Birmingham has a different kind of issue. The state recently took over the school board because of infighting on the board. The move has triggered cries of racism.

State Reviews Its Toughest Test WSJ: The toughest mandatory exam for New York's high-school students could soon be optional.
RI school chief to run Central Falls school budget Boston.com:  Rhode Island's Education Commissioner has taken over financial decision-making in the Central Falls School District.
LAUSD proposes to eliminate Ds as passing grades SCPR: News spread fast Wednesday that the Los Angeles Unified School District was planning on lowering their standards and would soon allow Ds to be passing grades. Small detail: it wasn't true. 
Arizona Proposal To Teach 'Bible' In Public Schools Becomes Law HuffPost: An Arizona bill that creates a high school course for public and charter school students that teaches the Bible and its role in Western culture is now law.


Ideas: Differences Among Diverse Charter Schools

image from graphics8.nytimes.comIt was probably a mistake for Todd Sutler and his band of young teachers to let themselves become part of this week's SchoolBook story about diverse charter schools in mixed-income neighborhoods. Though there are obvious similarities, the school they teach at -- Community Roots -- is far more progressive than the mixed-income Upper West Success Academy that Grannis' wife, Eva Moskowitz, runs. They would have done better getting their own story rather than getting lumped in with Grannis.  Or maybe I'm just mad that Sutler let SchoolBook break the news of his next adventure (and that Grannis invited Anna Phillips to one of his parent meet and greets when I'd been asking him about doing just that over the last several months). My pitiable whining aside, the SchoolBook story seems to do little to advance anyone's understanding of how these schools -- diverse charters with varying degrees of progressive elements -- actually operate.  Gentrification and controversy are only interesting to a point -- a point we're well past at this point, in my view.  I have yet to find a home for my feature story about these schools -- I've spent a fair amount of time in several of them at this point -- but at some point I hope to be able to share the complicated, fascinating world of diverse charter schools.  They're a small but noteworthy response to practical and political problems in urban school reform.  

Thompson: Core Core's Mistaken Notions About Urban HS Teaching

MacbethBeing a former inner city high school teacher, I have not had more than an academic interest in the Common Core debates. If Fordham's Kathleen Porter-Magee is right, that is all I will ever need, because those standards will not really be taught in my old schools. According to Porter-Magee's "Are 'Just Right" Books Right for Common Core," today's prevailing wisdom is the “Just Right” or “Goldilocks” books approach, where "teachers should assign (or students should select) books that are pitched at their instructional reading level—not too easy so that they don’t stretch themselves but not too hard so that they don’t get turned off to learning." Especially in high school classes where the majority of students read on 5th grade levels, it is tough enough for teachers to take the next steps, to frequently assess student comprehension and "gently push them up levels with incrementally more difficult texts."  Even if done right, Porter-Macgee concludes, those students are not likely to get to Macbeth. So, Common Core requires the "Grade Appropriate Approach" to selecting reading material. The first step in teaching students to read academic texts that are five years or so above their reading levels is providing remediation and scafffolding for struggling readers. It would be tough enough, however, to devise those systems so that the "Goldilocks" method works for all. If history repeats itself, urban schools will have more than enough of a challenge providing the background information required for grade level books, and that will become the real objective.  Reading for comprehension will be pushed back to someday over the rainbow when inner city kids are ready for F. Scott Fitzgerald.-JT (@drjohnthompson) image via.  

Video: Hidden Education Issues Raised In HBO's "Girls"

image from www.chicagotribune.comIn a perfect world one of the New York City 20somethings on HBO's new show, "Girls," would be a TFA corps member or Teaching Fellow or even a regular first-year teacher. Instead, they're interns, gallery assistants, and other random things.  But that doesn't mean the show -- the pilot is free to watch (HBO is desperate) doesn't have something to say about education.  There's the de rigeur mention of crushing student loan debt.  There's some tasty discussion of unpaid internships, which as many have noted tend to exacerbate inequities.  And the show, cast with the offspring of famous parents, itself raises issues of talent versus opportunity. So there.  Now you can watch the show at work and tell yourself it's part of your job.   

Video: Duncan Town Hall At Madison's East High


This is Duncan in Wisconsin yesterday.  As usual, it's mildly amusing to watch the expressions on the faces of the kids and adults behind Duncan as he speaks.  He's not saying anything particular notable.

AM News: State Board Closes Six For-Profit Charter Schools

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Missouri closing six Imagine charter school campuses Washington Post: Missouri's board of education has decided to close six charter school campuses run by the Virginia-based Imagine Schools Inc., the country’s largest for-profit charter network, saying that it “would be a disservice” to children to keep them open because of academic and fiscal issues.

States' Waivers Weak on Extended Learning Time, Report Says Politics K12: Most of the dozen states that have already gotten wiggle room from the No Child Left Behind Act don't have very good plans in place when it comes to a key piece of the U.S. Department of Education's requirements for turning around low-performing schools: extending learning time, according to a report out by the Center for American Progress today.

Exclusionary Housing Leads To Educational 'Segregation' -- Report HuffPost: Tanya McDowell, a Connecticut mother, made headlines last year when she was accused of stealing -- specifically, of stealing an education for her son.

Obama Administration Seeks to Remake Career-Tech Programs Politics K12: The largest federal program for high schools—the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education program—would get a major makeover under a proposal that advocates expect the Obama administration to unveil Thursday.

Should Teachers And Students Be Facebook Friends? AP via HuffPost: Should students and teachers ever be friends on Facebook? School districts across the country, including the nation's largest, are weighing that question as they seek to balance the risks of inappropriate contact with the academic benefits of social networking.

Senate Bill Targets Multi-Billion Dollar Ad Spending At For-Profit Colleges HuffPost: The rapid growth of for-profit colleges over the past decade has been aided by billion-dollar ad campaigns on daytime television, the Internet and highway billboards across the country.


Continue reading "AM News: State Board Closes Six For-Profit Charter Schools" »

Video: Teacher Town Hall In Denver

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

Rehema Ellis and local journalists talk about what's going on in Denver and elsewhere in the state. #ednatdenver

Reform: ALEC Joins Gates In Making A Mini-Retreat

image from www.emersonkent.comLast week, the Gates Foundation announced that it would not give any additional funding to ALEC, the controversial "legislative exchange" that some are blaming for laws like Florida's "stand your ground" statutue, but wouldn't withhold or ask for the return of any of the $377,000 it granted.  See previous post:  Gates Reverses On Risky "ALEC" Bet

This week, ALEC announced that it would stop advocating on public safety and elections and focus more on business and the economy, but left itself lots of wiggle room.  Nobody's really buying it -- on the left at least.  Color of Change dismissed the announcement (here).  The American Prospect's Abby Rapoport notes that ALEC's latest education publication compares the teachers unions to World War II evildoers Germany and Japan (here).  It's an implicit comparison, but it's there in the opening paragraphs. Image via


Thompson: Two Cheers for Wendy Kopp

KoppIn her Atlantic piece "How Micromanaging Educators Stifles Reform," Wendy Kopp explains that "we've built an education system based on our distrust of educators, and we didn't rethink it when we embraced accountability."

But Kopp still embraces the Manichean view of reform, where "mission-driven" heroes, who are freed to "work 12 hours a day, six days a week," embrace accountability in a saintly manner, without giving in to the temptation to impose teach to the test.  School and central office administrators both face the same pressure to micromanage.

Real-world, top down mandates are imperfect efforts to prevent the most troubled 5 to 10% of students from being dumped on the streets.  I wonder how many of the administrators who Kopp praises would still protect their teachers from top-down mandates if they we held accountable for raising all students' test scores.-JT (@drjohnthompson) image via.

AM News: More On Romney (Slow News Week)

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Did Romney Slip by Saying He'd Slash the Dept. of Ed.? Politics K12: So presumed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is taking a bunch of flak for telling a room full of campaign donors that he'd slim down the U.S. Department of Education if he were elected president.

Why Education Department may be safe for now, even though it's a GOP target CSMonitor: “One of the things I found in a short campaign against Ted Kennedy was that when I said, for instance, that I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, that was used to suggest I don’t care about education,” Romney told The Weekly Standard.

From Silicon Valley, A New Approach To Education NPR: Four major universities — Stanford, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania and University of Michigan — are joining forces with a startup called Coursera to offer free online classes in more than three-dozen subjects. The professors involved hope this kind of online interaction transforms higher education.

In Sin City, Out-of-Work Adults Double Down on Education PBS: The recession hit many Las Vegans very hard. The burst of the housing bubble meant construction and landscaping jobs requiring little education dried up. And fewer tourists in Sin City meant casinos shed even more.

CPS principals plan for longer school day, budget constraints Chicago Tribune: Changes to the length of next year's school day, a continuing budget deficit and ongoing teacher contract talks are providing a challenge for Chicago Public Schools principals as they prepare for next fall, several school leaders said.

City to Open 54 New Schools in September NYT: Mayor Bloomberg said Tuesday that the education department will open 54 new schools this fall, bringing his administration closer to the goal of having 1,800 New York City schools by 2013.


Continue reading "AM News: More On Romney (Slow News Week)" »

Charts: 39 Percent State / 2 Percent Federal

image from www.washingtonpost.com
That's the percentage of state spending that goes to k12and higher education education, state and federal.  Yes, two percent. Via Wonkbooks.  

Video Interlude: 26 Ingredients In That Lunchroom Burger

"NPR's web series Tiny Desk Kitchen investigates what chemicals like disodium inosinate are doing in kids' food. While some ingredients add vitamins, protein, and minerals, others are raising red flags with parents."

Ideas: The "Power" Civics Curriculum, For Kids & Adults

image from www.cinecraze.netWant to make civics interesting and popular again, Justice O'Connor and others?  Forget telling us how important the topic is.  Instead, says former Clinton deputy domestic policy advisor Eric Liu, make it sexy and violent, like the TV show Game Of Thrones.  Writes Liu in The Atlantic:

"Imagine a curriculum that taught students how to be powerful -- not only to feel empowered but to be fluent in the language of power and facile in its exercise.... How to see the underlying power dynamics beneath every public controversy. How to read the power map of any community... There is a secret curriculum that explains how stuff actually gets done in America. In a democracy, that knowledge should be democratized."

Actually, now that I think about it, plenty of school reformers and educators would do well to learn Liu's version of power civics.  They'd learn that power comes in many forms, that there are limits to the power and influence of their opponents (whom they often imagine as all powerful), etc.  

Hill: House Labor-HHS Appropriations Staff Moves

image from m4.licdn.com

Jennifer Gera (left) has been tapped to handle education issues for the House Labor/HHS/Education appropriations subcommittee, according to the Knowledge Alliance.  

She's replacing Susan Ross, who was promoted to clerk.   

Congrats, condolences to all.  Any other arrivals or departures of note, let me know.  

Thompson: Refocus On Classroom Instruction, Brookings Urges

Curriculum101webThe contemporary data-driven "reform" movement, fundamentally, is a theoretical bank shot, where in the name of "output-based" accountability non-educators'  change the subject away from teaching and learning in order to somehow improve teaching and learning.  "Choosing Blindly," by the Brookings Foundation's Grover Whitehurst and Matthew Chingos, is a reminder that the best way to improve classroom outcomes is to concentrate on the real interactions in the classroom and not some statistical models.  The better approach, all along, would have been to target the interactions between flesh and blood students, teachers, and the learning materials that they actually use. Whitehurst and Chingos write, "students learn principally through interactions with people (teachers and peers) and instructional materials (textbooks, workbooks, instructional software, web-based content, homework, projects, quizzes, and tests). But education policymakers focus primarily on factors removed from those interactions, such as academic standards, teacher evaluation systems, and school accountability policies."  They then nail the essence of the contemporary accountability movement, "It’s as if the medical profession worried about the administration of hospitals and patient insurance but paid no attention to the treatments that doctors give their patients."  Even better, "Choosing Blindly" recommends data-informed research into the effectiveness of learning materials BEFORE imposing curricula based on non-teachers' hypotheses.-JT (@drjohnthompson) image via


AM News: Savvy Romney Proposes USDE Downsize

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Romney offers policy details at closed-door fundraiser MSNBC:  "The Department of Education: I will either consolidate with another agency, or perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller. I'm not going to get rid of it entirely." Romney added that he learned in his 1994 campaign for Senate that proposing to eliminate the agency was politically volatile. 

Should Teachers Text With Students? HuffPost: This year has already seen a slew of controversial incidents involving teachers texting students. Earlier this month, Pennsylvania teacher Timothy Moll was accused of texting one of his students and offering good grades for naked pictures.

Programs encourage new grads to try entrepreneurship USA Today: Opportunities are springing up nationwide for budding entrepreneurs.

Mayoral Fight Seen in N.J. School Race WSJ: A school-board election on Tuesday that most years would be sleepy is shaping up to be a hotly contested affair in Jersey City, as some see the race as a proxy war between mayoral candidates in the state's second-largest city.

Kan. gov., lawmakers may hit impasse over schools AP via Boston.com: Gov. Sam Brownback and Kansas legislators appear headed toward a stalemate over spending on public schools that could block any significant increase in aid or change in how dollars are distributed.


Continue reading "AM News: Savvy Romney Proposes USDE Downsize" »

Video: Electroshock Video From MA Finally Shown

You don't want to watch this, but you might have to. "The video's release is a huge victory for the Center's opponents, since the school convinced a judge to seal the video eight years ago and its attorneys tried their best to stop it from going public this week." (After Eight Years, Video of Autistic Student Electroshocked by Teachers Finally Goes Public)

SIG: Three SIG Stories To Help Make It Through Monday

ScreenHunter_04 Apr. 16 10.59The wait is over.  Those Hechinger/EWA / EdWeek feature stories I told you about a couple of weeks ago are finally out:

What’s the payoff for $4.6 billion in School Improvement Grants?

Federal teacher evaluation requirement has wide impact

Haven't read them yet, hoping there's lots of new and interesting stuff in there.  Let me know?

Quotes: "Your Children Are Missing All Of That"

Quotes2I would like to take these parents who insist their children go to the best preschools and then Yale, etc, etc, and grab them by the scruff of their necks and take them to the Charles Town poker room and say, ‘These people are really fun and smart, and [your children] are missing all of that.’ -- Charles Murray in Financial Times via Dana Goldstein



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.