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Foundations: Ways To Improve Feedback & Credibility

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comIn Philanthropy gets in the ring, AEI's Rick Hess highlights the current danger of funders creating or sticking to bad policies because of (a) a dearth  of honest criticism from fearful observers who don't want to risk losing funding or panel invitations and (b) the preponderance of "incendiary voices and marginal figures with ideological agendas and nothing to lose."

Quite reasonably, Hess suggests that funders encourage more public debate and constructive criticism, but he doesn't address is exactly how Gates and Broad and others should operationalize any new open-ness to legitimate criticism they might hope to foster.

Not to worry.  I have lots of ideas -- most of them probably not very good ones.  

Continue reading "Foundations: Ways To Improve Feedback & Credibility" »

Video: Duncan Makes News Answering "Same Sex" Question

This is Arne Duncan looking really uncomfortable on Morning Joe yesterday AM, thinking he's been ambushed and had maybe pulled a Biden.  Duncan was just there on the MSNBC show to promote Teacher Appreciation Week.  His answer didn't make things any easy for the re-elect folks trying to do the ridiculous job of walking back Joe Biden's remarks the day before.  Maybe somebody should have warned him this might happen and what to say if it did.  But still it was still admirably candid and simple. 

AM News: Malloy Reforms Pass CT Senate

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Conn. Senate approves education overhaul AP via Boston.com: Connecticut senators on Tuesday morning approved a series of education proposal championed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who just hours earlier had announced an agreement with legislative leaders on plans for changes that include helping low-performing schools and culling ineffective teachers from the classroom.

Scandal Distracts Klein From His Education Goals at News Corp. NYT:  Joel I. Klein’s involvement in helping News Corporation confront a phone-hacking scandal in Britain has delayed his own ambitions for improving the company’s efforts in education.

Report: Some charters spend more than traditional schools Washington Post: A new report concludes that charter schools operated by major charter management organizations in three states often spend more to educate children than the surrounding public schools.

Teachers Sue Over Closings WSJ: For the third time in as many years, the city teachers union is suing to try to stop school closings, saying on Monday that Mayor Michael Bloomberg had attempted an "end run" around the union to get rid of bad teachers. ALSO Unions Claim School Closings Violate Their Contracts NYT


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Video Interlude: It's Like "Spellbound" - But With Ballet

Forget The Avengers.  "First Position bowls you over by showing young people operating with deeply focused, adult intensity." (The Atlantic Wire.)

Congress: So You Still Think Education Is Bipartisan, Do You?

Agreement-groups-in-the-US-625x565There's a group of reform types who have long liked to claim that education is a special area of policymaking in that it's especially bipartisan.  

Well, I've never thought that was particularly true -- even 20 years ago before things got especially ugly there were plenty of partisan cheap shots and ideological obstacles.  

This cool new interactive infographic (Agreement Groups in the United States Senate) shows just how separate most Republicans and Democrats are and have been for a long time now (overall, not on education in particular).  Mostly I just thought it was a cool graphic.

Are you not entertained?  Then check out Ezra Klein's analysis of what a second Obama administration would be able to accomplish with a Republican Congress (which is what we're most likely to get).   He seems to think that Republicans would be deflated by failing to win the White House.  I think they'd be psyched to be able to pass all sorts of new laws and dare Obama to veto.  


Bruno: What Summers & Lehrer Get Wrong About "Critical Thinking"

Higher_education_poster-p228483144150711475tdad_400Katharine Beals rightly chides Larry Summers and Jonah Lehrer for offering similarly misguided critiques of contemporary higher education.  As she points out, both Summers and Lehrer rest their criticisms on the fallacious assumption that "critical thinking" consists mostly of domain- and context-independent skills.

Beals claims that the problem is that Summers and Lehrer have "venture[d] out of their fields of expertise and start[ed] making recommendations to educators", but I think that's not quite right. Frankly, a distressingly large fraction of educators is confused in exactly the same way about "critical thinking". Ditto for "creativity", "21st century skills", "inquiry skills", reading comprehension, etc. (Don't get me started on "learning styles" or "multiple intelligences".) I think the field of education needs to get its own house a little more neatly in order before condemning interlopers too severely.

For my part, I'm a little more puzzled as to why the Summers/Lehrer crowd thinks college is a good time to teach students to "study for a test" (Lehrer) or "work with others" (Summers). Why on earth wouldn't we want to teach those things at some point during the first 13 years of a student's academic career? If we wait until college, about half of students would never get that training at all!

Of course, students do get taught those skills well before college. Maybe there's a case to be made that students' K-12 training in those areas could be better, but if students are getting to college without knowing, for instance, how to study for a test, that's not really a problem with higher education, it's a problem with K-12 education. Heck, it's a problem if kids are getting through middle school without being taught how to study for a test.

Shouldn't our goals for a college education be more ambitious than our goals for a middle school education? - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Media: Education Writers Who Have Won Nieman Fellowships

Tumblr_m2zpxh5l5z1qz6f9yo1_500The Nieman Fellowship is a big deal among journalists, and this year's crop doesn't include any education writers.  But that doesn't mean they haven't won in the past.  

Past winners, according to an informal ask-around, include Philadelphia's Dale Mezzacappa, Chicago's Lori Olszewski, Newport News' Cathy Grimes, Oregon's Bill Graves, and EdWeek founder Martha Matzke.  

Any of these wrong?  Anyone I missed?  Let me know.  

Celebrities: What Kind Of Doctorate Did Shaquille O'Neal Get?

image from img.gawkerassets.com
It's being described as a doctorate, which I assume means an EdD.  Or can you get a PhD in education taking classes online these days?  Perhaps you can.  He did write a thesis of some kind. Barry University says it was a PhD. Image via Gawker. Video below (it's for work!)

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AM News: Lots Of Layoff Notices - But Not Many Actual Layoffs

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California's 4th Year Of Teacher Layoffs Spur Concerns AP: Roughly 75 percent of teachers who received layoff warnings were either never laid off or laid off and called back to work, according to a 27-page report that recommended changes in the layoff process. ALSO Washington Post:  “Excessing” notices for 333 DCPS teachers

AP surges as tool for schools raising standards AP: In the next two weeks, 2 million students will take 3.7 million end-of-year AP exams – figures well over double those from a decade ago. Last year, 18 percent of U.S. high school graduates passed at least one AP exam (by scoring 3 or higher on a scale of 1 to 5), up from 11 percent a decade ago.

Tornado Recovery Offers Joplin Students New Lessons NPR: It's been nearly a year since a tornado tore through Joplin, Mo., destroying several school buildings. As the city rebuilds, some students have been attending a makeshift facility at the mall. Students, teachers and administrators reflect on a tumultuous year that has brought healing and hope.

Major groups beg Congress to rewrite NCLB Washington Post: A coalition of 10 major organizations of state and local government officials just sent a letter asking — or, rather, effectively begging — Congress to finally do its job and reauthorize No Child Left Behind.

LAUSD charter elementary with low test scores gets a reprieve Los Angeles Times: Academia Semillas del Pueblo, an LAUSD elementary charter school in El Sereno, teaches in three languages and has ambitious goals, but it narrowly escaped closure recently because of low test scores.


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Events: Weekend Thoughts On NSVF 2012

Nsvf2012 logoWe're still waiting for the Howard Fuller and Rahm Emanuel videos but, with the benefit of a couple days to reflect, here are some thoughts about last week’s NSVF summit that I haven't seen elsewhere:  the newfound prominence given to the parent trigger, the honest self-criticism about public engagement, the choice of Howard ("Storm The Bastille") Fuller as opener, the general disappointment following Emanuel's speech.

Plus a reward video at the end.

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Charters: So You Say You Want To Become An Authorizer

Line_drawing_march2012.261Everybody wants to be an authorizer these days -- unions (Union-backed group given green light to authorize charter schools) and district superintendents (like DCPS's Kaya Henderson mentioned it again earlier this week).  But it's not so easy to do, or do well, and Chicago might be the best or most convenient example of this.  Until this year, CPS was the sole authorizer.  There were caps on the number of charters (though not so much on the number of campuses).  There was an elaborate process for applying for and getting approval from the Board.  But the in-house nature of the approval process didn't necessarily help ensure that Chicago charters were so much better than charters in other places, or even as well or better coordinated with regular schools as in other places. So while I can understand the desire to get into the authorizing game, both practical and political, I'm not sure that there's a case to be made that we know it works.  Personally, I'd rather have districts and unions work on revamping their overall operations -- charterizing them, if you will -- so that district schools have some of the advantages of charters.  Then again, I'm not yet convinced about relinquishing, either, so perhaps I'm just a neanderthal on this stuff.  

Thompson: When Wonks Become Parents, Things Change

BrainScott Joftus' "When Education Gets Personal," in Education Next, is excellent in several ways. Although he is an advocate of increasing academic standards, Joftus had an epiphany when his 2nd grade daughter was pushed into doing worksheets on probability "before she had any real understanding of the concept."

Inner city teachers might be frustrated to read that it took twenty years for a policy wonk to understand what happens when a troubled child is so disruptive that a teacher has to spend "more than half of her time trying to keep this boy on task." Even so, we must respect his acknowledgement that even one child "reduced learning time for my daughter, and seemed to steal some of her innocence and excitement about school." 

Perhaps he can now get a sense of the frustration of inner city teachers and students in classes with eight to ten traumatized students. Joftus' best point was his affirmation that, "One of the best teachers my children have had is our regular babysitter, who speaks English as a second language and never graduated from high school." 

Perhaps he will now endorse community schools that bring the full range of service providers and mentors into urban schools, and bring students out of their buildings and into the full diversity of our democracy. Perhaps Joftus will now remind reformers that education is more than forcing testable information into a narrow part of the brain.- JT (@drjohnthompson) image via

Video: Expanding Charters Into District-Level Work

We're still waiting on that Rahm Emanuel video (it may be a long wait) but in the meantime here's Roland Fryer and Tom Boasberg talking about Houston and Denver at #nsvfsummit, via NBC News:


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

It's interesting to note the difference between the approach to charters being taken in Houston and Denver compared to the approach in New Orleans and DC.  

AM News: NJ Gov. Calls Democrats Out On Reform

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Christie says education reform is led by GOP Yahoo! News: Christie said it was "ironic" that he, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana—all Republicans—were the only national political leaders to address the conference. 

Education websites awarded Webbys CNN: Khan Academy took the top prize for education at this year's Webby Awards, the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences announced on Tuesday.

Center on Education Policy Joins George Washington University Politics K12:  Since its founding, CEP has put out some blockbuster research—including this report questioning the administrations dire prediction that 82 percent of schools would fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress or AYP.

Why Is Special Education Suffering? California Watch via HuffPost: After failing for the eighth straight year to meet service delivery targets for special education, Los Angeles Unified School District has begun interviewing staff to understand why records indicate thousands of students with disabilities are not receiving their prescribed services.

AP: Privatization an issue in Conn. education bill AP via Boston.com: The prospect of greater privatization of Connecticut schools has emerged as a hurdle in closed-door negotiations over Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposals to overhaul public education.


Continue reading "AM News: NJ Gov. Calls Democrats Out On Reform" »

Philanthropy: Advocacy Philanthropy In Higher Ed, Too

We all know about advocacy philanthropy in K-12 education, but perhaps it's not so well known that much the same is happening in higher education, too.  There, the push from Gates (and Lumina) for a focus on college completion --  a “direct and unapologetic desire to influence policy and practice" -- is loved and loathed in roughly equal measure, according to an April article by Doug Lederman in Inside Higher Ed about some new research presented at AERA by to researchers Hall and Thomas.  (Lederman also takes the opportunity to throw some shade at trade competitors EdWeek and the Chronicle, who take Gates and /or Lumina funding to cover specific issues.)

Screen shot 2012-05-03 at 9.40.09 AMEveryone agrees there is tremendous action and momentum in higher education right now-- "the closest thing to a national higher education strategy the country has had since the G.I. Bill" -- but is it too narrow, homogenized, and focused on the right issues?  Are there enough independent voices? Are intermediaries too beholden to give candid advice? The report lists think tanks and other intermediaries that received funding from these hands-on foundations, and raises lots of questions about the vertical integration that's been created (including foundation-run intermediaries, media partnerships, and direct work with state and federal policymakers rather than relying on pre-existing organizations in the field).

Of course, whether this approach is a good thing or not depends as much on what you think of the agenda as much as what you think of the consolidation of efforts.  Robert Wood Johnson did much the same thing around antismoking efforts, and I bet you didn't bat an eye about that.  A November 2011 article by Lederman if you're interested in reading more: Consensus or Groupthink?

Video: Adding Wings To A Car Doesn't Make It A Jet

Here's some mind-expanding video from #nsvfsummit about disruptive innovation in health and energy conservation to help you get through your Thursday morning:


Thompson: Get Real About Chronic Truants & Accountability

John kingThe Buffalo New's Mary Pasciak  finally got New York Education Commissioner John King to explain his demand that teachers be held accountable for the test score growth of chronically truant students. King accepted the obvious - "that attendance is not solely the responsibility of educators." But King said that educators, who are only one factor in regard to the attendance rates, must be accountable for the test score growth of students who they do not see in class.  King forgot that growth targets are largely set by the test scores of students who come to class regularly. He did not mention a way for make those targets fair for teachers in high-poverty neighborhood schools. He did not say how he would determine how much responsibility each teacher has for chronic truancy. King is the former principal of Roxbury Prep, and commenters suggest that he is an idealist who is over his head and who thinks that his selective school faced the types of problems that neighborhood schools face. Tom Hoffman, at Tuttle SVC, responded by digging up the attendance policy from King's charter schools.  Roxbury Prep's rules say, "Unexcused absences are never acceptable and may result in at least a .25% reduction in the student’s final grade for each class missed. More than three unexcused absences in a trimester may result in no credit and a zero percent average in each class for the trimester. More than seven unexcused absences in a school year may result in no credit for the year." - JT (@drjohnthompson) image via.

Media: "You Are So Much More Than The Worst Thing You Have Done"

image from images.fastcompany.comCheck out Doug McGray’s new Fast Company piece about Homeboy Industries, LA’s long-running nonprofit social services program.  Homeboy isn't technically an education program, but "House Of Second Chances" is full of education connections and lessons for those working with or learning about social services agencies.  The program’s executive director, a Jesuit priest named Greg Boyle, frequently tells unemployed ex-convicts “You are so much more than the worst thing that you have done” – then finds them jobs or hires them himself.  In addition to job training and job referrals, Homeboy offers tattoo removal.  The program had to be bailed out in 2010 and one of the folks who helped, Bruce Karatz, was a disgraced executive from KB Industries, Eli Broad’s company. Writer McGray is the guy who wrote the May 2009 profile of Steve Barr and Green Dot.  

AM News: Top Colleges Expand Free Online Courses

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Harvard and M.I.T. Offer Free Online Courses NYT: The universities announced a new nonprofit partnership, known as edX, that will offer vast new learning opportunities for students around the world. NPR: Top Universities Expand Free Online Classes

The Best Ways To Integrate Special Needs Students NPR: NPR education correspondent Claudio Sanchez and Thomas Hehir of Harvard University talk about how to integrate special needs students into mainstream classrooms.

City to Add Teachers Next Year WSJ:After years of swelling class sizes, the number of New York City schoolteachers will increase next year for the first time since 2008, city officials said.

Can Sleeping Improve School Performance? HuffPost: In high school, Melissa Edwards woke up at 6:30 a.m. to catch a bus. It was dark, she was tired and the school's 7:15 a.m. morning bell forced the St. Louis teen to eat lunch at 10:45.

Miramonte Elementary teacher calls LAUSD treatment unfair SCPR:  Maria Miranda, a first grade teacher at Miramonte Elementary School, calls L.A. Unified's treatment of the teachers "unfair" in her comments to her union peers. We provide excerpts below.


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Philanthropy: Broad, The Book (And Twitter, Too)

Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad has a new book out, The Art of Being Unreasonable, and he talks about it on MSNBC (above) and in a press release:  "I wanted to share my successes and mistakes so that other people could learn from my experiences and go on to accomplish great things of their own."  Like him or loathe him, you can catch him on Twitter, his weekly blog, and Facebook.

Video: "Great Schools Change Everything"

New promo video from 50CAN:  "In Rhode Island, Minnesota, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania, our state campaigns have unique and powerful stories to tell, stories about movements of citizens who will not rest until every child has access to a great school... great schools change everything."

Bruno: The Reproducibility of Educational Research

Referees-have-asked-Newton-to-reproduce-the-apple-gravity-experimentThere's been a lot of buzz recently for The Reproducibility Project: an effort by a group of researchers to attempt to reproduce the results of every study published in several prominent journals of psychology over the course of a year. Reproducibility is something that's underrated - and disincentivized - in science generally, so this has the potential to be important work.

The journals being covered - Journal of Personality and Social PsychologyPsychological Science, and Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition - sometimes include education-related studies, but as a teacher I'd really like to see stronger reproducibility tests in educational research specifically. My experience is that a lot of studies of educational interventions have weak controls, poorly defined comparison groups, and small sample sizes. It wouldn't surprise me at all to find that a third or more of education studies failed to be reproduced by a new set of researchers.

If things go well for The Reproducibility Project, however, we might just see a market for this kind of thing spring up and spread to other fields. You can actually check out their progress as they work through the studies here. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

AM News: Reviews Of 13 Of 27 States' NCLB Waiver Applications

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Ed. Department Offers States Feedback on Waivers Politics K12: Education Week examined 13 of the 27 letters, and found some common areas of concern:

24 schools seek charter status Los Angeles Times: The high-performing L.A. Unified campuses hope to gain funds and flexibility from the move while maintaining most ties with the district.

Climate In The Classroom: Teachers Share Their Stories PBS: This week, the PBS NewsHour will report on one teacher's struggles to teach climate change in her Colorado classroom. 

RI schools chief: state can be proud of schools AP via Boston.com: Rhode Island's top education official is telling state lawmakers they have reason to be proud of the state's public schools.

Phone Companies Ignore Low-Price Requirement ProPublica via HuffPost: At the dawn of the Internet era, Congress set out to avert a digital divide between rich and poor students. In a landmark bill, lawmakers required the nation's phone companies to provide bargain voice and data rates to schools and to subsidize the cost of equipment and services, with the biggest subsidies going to the schools with the most disadvantaged children.

'Don't Say Gay' Bill Gets The Axe HuffPost: A controversial bill in Tennessee meant to restrict public school discussion of sexuality and LGBT issues is set to die without a vote after the key GOP sponsor announced on Monday that he simply wouldn't bring it up.


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Bruno: Interest Matters More Than Empathy

image from www.usswisconsin.orgDeanna Kuhn has a piece up at Education Week about the potential value of incorporating more social science into our science standards.

I'm sympathetic to that, but disagree slightly about why. Kuhn's argument seems to be that social science contexts might be especially good for "hooking" students into science because "they address phenomena students likely already know something about". I think this is true to the extent that our goal is to teach content-independent inquiry skills.

The fact of the matter, however, is that most of what we should be aiming to teach kids isn't content-independent at all. Rather, we should mostly be trying to expand their content knowledge so that they can apply their inquiry skills to more diverse contexts - including, of course, social science contexts.

Continue reading "Bruno: Interest Matters More Than Empathy" »

Quotes: The Fiction Of Social Mobility

Quotes2American social mobility is now more fiction than fact...Top or bottom. Market winners or market losers. Once you’re sorted into one or the other, your position is probably permanent. -- Conor P. Williams (What Social Immobility Does)

People: Obama, Duncan Early Childhood Expert Retiring

image from www.erikson.eduLast week, Valerie Jarrett's mom Barbara Bowman retired from the Chicago Public Schools after a long career in early childhood education that included co-founding the Erickson Institute and helping expand Head Start nationally.  

That's mom on the far left, and Jarrett on the far right. The President sent a hand-written congratulations, as did Arne Duncan, who convinced Bowman to join CPS in 2004.

Read about it here.  We should all hope to have such long and successful careers.  

Thompson: Reformer Urges Focus On Institutions Not Individuals

ExceedsAt first read, Neerav Kingsland's  "Top-Third Tina, Bottom-Third Barry" at Title I-Derland seems like an invitation for value-added researchers to tackle an arcane methodological point when estimating the effectiveness of TFA.  Kingsland's theory is that you can take the "Top-Third Tina" and "Bottom-Third Barry" and if you put them in either a low performing law firm or a low-performing school they, "will perform roughly the same after two years."  Many TFA teachers work in high-performing charter schools and "in high-performing environments TFA teachers add a lot of value." But Kingsland's takeaway is that in "poorly managed schools, the impact of the institution itself will drown out a lot of potential variance in effectiveness. Nobody gets trained or supported. Few people excel." Kingsland urges a focus on the real problem.  If we make poor performing schools better, "two things will happen: (1) all teachers will improve and (2) the 'talented' teachers will show a significant effect that was not picked up in the poorly run school." - JT (@drjohnthompson) image via.

Video: Dropout High Turns Things Around - Sort Of

'Dropout Nation' Turnaround: How Shelbyville Fixed its Dropout Problem PBS, How can we best prevent HS dropouts? One Indiana town has a plan Learning Matters 


AM News: Duncan Critiques VA Waiver Request

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Virginia’s NCLB waiver request needs work, says Education Department Washington Post: Eleven states have already received waivers. Virginia submitted its initial application in February and now has until Tuesday to respond to the Education Department’s critique. Maryland and the District also have submitted waiver requests.

Duncan Road Tests General Election Speech to "Mom Congress" Politics K12: He talked-up some of the department's greatest hits over the past three years, such as No Child Left Behind waivers, Race to the Top, Promise Neighborhoods and the Investing in Innovation grants, as well the president's push to boost Pell Grants and invest in community colleges. 
CPS names Barbara Byrd-Bennett as interim chief education officer Chicago Sun Times:  A national education consultant who helped lead reform efforts in Detroit, Cleveland and New York City has been tapped as “interim” chief education officer in Chicago, officials said Monday. ALSO:  Daley: Longer school day isn’t the answer.
Facing outcry from educators, Kenneth Cole to remove billboard GothamSchools: Hundreds of angry educators from across the country seem to have taught the clothing retailer Kenneth Cole a lesson about diction—and union politics.


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