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Thompson: The Promise of "Clustering" in Scaling Up Reform

MassinsightMass Insight's In The Zone offered a thoughtful response to “Common and Uncommon Ground,” a guest post at Rick Hess Straight Up by Neerav Kingsland and me. It also previewed its new report on the potential of “clustering” in order to scale up school improvement.  Mass Insight argues for:

A “Smart District” of the future, focusing on changing systems and structures so as to give schools more power to focus on the classroom level. Districts would create clusters of high schools and their feeder schools, bringing in Lead Partners to cover administrative and operational support for these clusters, and allowing central office to monitor performance, set standards, and serve as the go-between for federal and state agencies.

Clustering, I believe, is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for systemic reform.  Until we hold clusters of school accountable, charters will remain free to focus on relatively easier-to-educate low income students and dump the most traumatized children on neighborhood schools.  Clustering, alone, will not force reformers to heed the research of the Consortium for Chicago School Research and Paul Tough which explains the additional challenge of improving schools with the most intense concentrations of extreme poverty. But, it could slow the “creaming” of more motivated students that has damaged neighborhood schools.

Continue reading "Thompson: The Promise of "Clustering" in Scaling Up Reform" »

Video Interlude: Jimmy Fallon & Friends Do TV Theme Show Medley


It's not as good as his 2010 masterpiece with Justin Timberlake (History Of Rap), which -- admit it -- you first saw here. But it's not bad, either. Now, back to work. 

On The HotSeat: Interview With A Blogger

image from today.uconn.eduAt some point in the not too distant past, as you may recall, the Huffington Post launched an education page

The arrival of HuffED  was arguably the biggest thing to happen to online education news and commentary in the past decade, easily eclipsing the Washington Post's vibrant but aging set of education blogs and EdWeek's numerous but little-read offerings. With HuffPost’s now-familiar mix of serious and silly items, and scads of unpaid commentary, the education page provided an enormous amount of material each day. 

But who is behind all that HuffED content, and how does she do her job?  She's Emmeline Zhao -- you may recall reading about her here first  -- and she sits right next to Joy Resmovits at the Huffington Post offices, which, it turns out, are not deep in bunker or in a TriBeca penthouse.  Read all about her below, though be warned there's no attempt to settle issues like whether HuffPost is good for the world. We already know the answer to that.  Nor do we delve into the whole sponsored page thing, which the page shedded a few months ago.  Everyone agrees that was a horrible idea. Plus it's Friday!

Continue reading "On The HotSeat: Interview With A Blogger" »

Morning Video: Daily Show Mocks "School Lunch Rebellion"

Via the Atlantic Wire, which notes that this is also being used as a way to slam the Obama administration: "The protests are really about Michelle Obama's push to make government-subsidized lunches healthier and, of course, big government. "

AM News: Dept. of Education Awards $290 Million to Incentivize Teachers

Education Department Awards $290 Million In Grants To Incentivize Top Teachers AP: The Obama administration is awarding $290 million in grants to reward top teachers and boost opportunities for teachers who work in impoverished schools. The Department of Education says the funds will flow to almost 1,000 schools in 18 states plus the District of Columbia.


PTA Claims For-Profit Rival Poaches Members WSJ: The National Congress of Parents and Teachers, the umbrella organization of the PTA, sued the parent company of PTO Today on Wednesday in U.S. District Court, accusing the for-profit company of using "false and misleading statements encouraging members to leave the National PTA" and opt, instead, to form a local parent-teacher organization, or PTO.

Romney, Obama Education Speeches Paled In Comparison To Bill Clinton, Jeb Bush At Political Conventions: Insider Survey HuffingtonPost:Whiteboard Advisors, a consulting firm that specializes in school policy, recently conducted one of its monthly surveys of 50 to 75 anonymous political and policy "insiders," including current and former senior staff from the U.S. Department of Education, White House, Congress and think tanks. Respondents were asked to weigh in on the Democratic and Republican National conventions, as well as the ongoing presidential campaign.

Admissions Policy to Elite NYC Schools Prompts Complaint Schoolbook: Claiming not enough black and Latino students are gaining admission to New York City’s eight specialized high schools, civil rights advocates on Thursday filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education questioning the use of the specialized high school admissions test (SHSAT) as the sole criterion for entry.

Parsing Fact From Fiction In 'Won't Back Down' NPR: In Won't Back Down, union leaders care more about their collective bargaining rights than about kids. This was fresh in people's minds as they walked out of a screening in Chicago, literally a day after the teachers' strike there ended.


Five Best Blogs: Another Term For Duncan, Obama Willing (And Able)

White House freakout sounds! Duncan tells NatJourn he'd stay on as EdSec @fawnjohnson ow.ly/e33It

Education Week: Standards Backers Seek Out Support of Parents ow.ly/e330p #5bb Win the parents, you win everything.

While I appreciate her mentioning my book, Goldstein's review of WBD is perplexingly...oh, right, The Nation ow.ly/1OEotu 

Building bridges on a minnow sanctuary@ the Rio Grande. PBL in serious effect at Ace Leadership!... @OdysseyInitiate

A frequently-displaced Chicago teacher talks about seniority placements and teacher evaluation ow.ly/e33kU


Five Best Blogs: Another Term For Duncan, Obama Willing (And Able)

White House freakout sounds! Duncan tells NatJourn he'd stay on as EdSec @fawnjohnson ow.ly/e33It

Education Week: Standards Backers Seek Out Support of Parents ow.ly/e330p #5bb Win the parents, you win everything.

While I appreciate her mentioning my book, Goldstein's review of WBD is perplexingly...oh, right, The Nation ow.ly/1OEotu 

Building bridges on a minnow sanctuary@ the Rio Grande. PBL in serious effect at Ace Leadership!... @OdysseyInitiate

A frequently-displaced Chicago teacher talks about seniority placements and teacher evaluation ow.ly/e33kU


Pictures: Four Secretaries Of Education

I know this makes me a sentimental geek, and I have issues with at least some of the policies they all pursued, but I thought it was great to see the last four education secretaries together onstage earlier this week at Education Nation. (Riley's chair should have been a little higher than the others' given he served two terms, no?)  Courtesy NBC News.

Reform: The Internal Battle Over Charter Schools

Man_reading_newspaper_1Today's Emily Bazelon piece in Slate about district-charter cooperation in New Haven sounds pretty cool as these things go -- a teacher exchange between the district and a charter network that seems to be a  win win for both parties.  

I'm told that something similar is going on in Denver, with three CMOs helping train district teachers to become district principals.  

But the article reminds me that there's a second, behind-the-scenes battle going on over charter schools in addition to the public one going on out in the open between districts and charters.  This second battle is basically taking place between charter school operators (CMOs, state associations, charter ideologues) and charter school reformers (a more diffuse group including authorizers, think tank folks, and a small subset of high-performing operators).  

It may be more important than the one going on out in public.  I'm not sure the good guys are winning, or seem to have much of a chance.  Basically, charter school reformers have lost control of their movement. 

Continue reading "Reform: The Internal Battle Over Charter Schools" »

Quotes: Movie Critics Won't Affect Audience Experience

Quotes2If you look at the successful issues movies, 'Erin Brockovich,' 'Norma Rae,'... I bet you don't remember what the issues are. What you remember are the characters realizing they can accomplish something, going up against a monolithic institution and being able to change it. - WBD backer in LA Times

Advocacy: State Advocacy Groups Talk Policy - Not Tactics

If I wasn't headed to my high school reunion in Chicago I'd probably be skulking around the annual PIE Network conference being held this year in Minneapolis (and for the first time seeking public attention).  

Tumblr_le6ezgEid81qavnbio1_500PIE is a fascinating creation, made up as it is of new and old state advocacy groups and born from five Washington DC think tanks who realized that their papers and pontifications weren't having much effect out in the real world (much less on Capitol Hill, which they continue to treat as a grimy cousin). 

As you can see from the agenda, the event will include speakers familiar (Mike Johnston, Don Shalvey) and not so much (Jamie Woodson, Tennessee SCORE, Anthony Kim, Education Elements). Along with lots of foundation and advocacy group folks, there's even going to be an NEA member there (Maddie Fennel, NEA). They're going to talk about the growing role of states in the NCLB waiver era, turnarounds in the post-SIG era, and charter school quality.  Once again, Rick Hess will be doing his standup act.  

All in all, pretty standard, wonky policy stuff.  Somewhat disappointingly, there's no Dirty Tricks Workshop on the official agenda, nothing about How to Hack the Speaker's iPhone.  Interestingly, there is a panel about engaging teachers in reform, but nothing about the breakout ed reform issue of 2012, parent empowerment.  That's policy, too, isn't it?  Or maybe they consider that tactics, which I'm told is handled at another separate event.

Morning Video: Fat Kids Complain About Skinny School Lunches


ABC News says that video complaints about school lunches have gone viral, but I'm not so sure.

AM News: Half of NYC Classrooms More Crowded than Union Allows

New York Class Size: Nearly Half Of Public Schools Have Overcrowded Classrooms, UFT Says HuffPostEdu: NEW YORK -- Nearly half of New York City’s public schools have classrooms that are more crowded than the teachers' union contract allows -- a “very disturbing trend,” United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said on Tuesday.


Studies Find Payoff in 'Personalizing' Algebra EdWeek: While "personalization" has become a buzzword in education, it can be hard to determine what really makes a subject relevant to individual children in the classroom. An ongoing series of studies at Southern Methodist University suggests learning students' interests upfront and incorporating them into lessons can get struggling students to try harder and substantially improve their performance in algebra.

Standards Backers Seek Out Support of Parents EdWeek: The parent outreach has received financial support from one of the most prominent backers of the overall common-core initiative: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Council of the Great City Schools and the National PTA both say they have received Gates funding in support of their parent outreach. (Gates also supports Education Week's coverage of the education industry and K-12 innovation.)

Filmmaker Finds No Quick Fix to Dropout Rate Schoolbook: Frank Koughan said making the documentary “Dropout Nation,” which profiles a troubled public high school in Houston, Texas, convinced him there was no easy solution to keeping more American teens in school even if they are motivated to stay.

UC OKs $1 Million Settlement In Pepper-Spray Suit NPR: The University of California will pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Occupy protesters at UC Davis who were pepper-sprayed last November, according to a preliminary settlement filed in district court.


Five Best Blogs: It's Parent Support, Stupid


Teacher Association Sues For-Profit Rival PTO Today ow.ly/e0Wzj #5bb

Richie Rich Aces the SAT ow.ly/e0FM0 Want to improve standardized test scores? Increase Americans’ incomes. #5bb @thepropect

A reformer ponders parent choice, parent triggers, and politics @ThompsonEdu ow.ly/e0DaB #5bb

How Self-Expression Damaged My Students - Robert Pondiscio - The Atlantic ow.ly/e1hQo #5bb

How does ProPublica do it? Can it scale [in education]? ow.ly/e1hUv #5bb

National [Education] Reporters Should Learn to Be a Little Bit Ruder | Mother Jones ow.ly/e0FZ2@KevinDrum #5bb


Thompson: Reforms Should Be Based On Evidence, Not Faith

MeadSara Mead's Education Week blog entitled "The Problem With Demanding Proof on Teacher Evaluation" went to the heart of the reason why not-ready-for-prime-time "reforms" provoked the Chicago teachers strike.  Mead argues, "One of the weirder memes I've seen going around the last few days is the notion that 'the real problem here is that there's no evidence the teacher evaluations Rahm Emanuel wants to put in place work.'" She then acknowledges that it is "by and large true that there's no evidence that the evaluation system proposed in Chicago will improve student achievement."  Like so many "reformers," Mead sees nothing wrong about conducting risky experiments on teachers and students. But in her next post, "Value-Added is Not a Magical Black Box," she takes their faith-based logic even further.  She ridicules the idea that the architects of experimental statistical models should have consulted with teachers while designing them.  Then, she argues that "experts," alone should engineer systems ranging from air conditioning to buildings' structure.  However, would Mead feel comfortable in a building where its structural engineering calculations were not tested?  Only in education would outsiders demand that theoretical systems should be imposed before research is conducted as to whether they make sense.  We teachers are used to the "Fire, Aim, Ready" approach to school improvement.  The so-called "teacher quality" movement, however, has taken the evidence-free school of reform to its illogical extreme.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.     

Nonprofits: Schnur Starts A Hybrid Education Group

Right under your noses, while you weren't paying attention, the ever-present but never quite seen Jon Schnur has created a new school reform organization called America Achieves, and assembled a Seal Team 6 of education operatives to join him.  Michele Jolin.  Bethany Little.  Wendy Kopp.  Dave Medina. Mike Johnston as a board member. Melody Barnes as an advisor.  My grad school girlfriend. Other people.  Bloomberg, Gates, Arnold, and Noyce for funding.

Picture 8

As you may recall, the former Gore education advisor started New Leaders and then served as a policy advisor on the Obama education team.  Schnur formally left New Leaders a year and change ago, but wouldn't say exactly what he was up to next.  (A book.  Family time.  I'll call you back, he always said. Or maybe I was supposed to call him back.) For a time, there were murmurings about a new outfit called Proof Points. Then, in less time than it takes a Senegalese street vendor to whip out the umbrellas on a rainy day, there was America Achieves.  

America Achieves.  What does that even mean?  Is it a statement of fact ("America achieves about as well as some small European countries.")?  Or is it an imperative ("America achieves, or dies!")?  I have no idea.  There's a Broad-esque fellowship program for superintendents -- and teachers.  There's a Rising Leaders Policy Program (ie, Velociraptors Boot Camp). There's some Common Core, natch.  A West Village address with easy access to the PATH train (and, probably, a secret tunnel to the local Equinox).

 Worth noting: America Achieves does not look to be set up as a pure advocacy group, and doesn't seem like it's going to be a pure think tank, either.  I'd call it a nonprofit consulting firm, with some services and leadership development angles.  

Media: Where'd That Story Come From & Why Is It So Familiar?

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comIf you ever wanted evidence of (a) the struggles going on behind the scenes for the attention of education journalists, (b) journalists' struggles to indicate to readers where they get their story ideas, and (b) the unfortunate habit among news outlets of presuming we haven't seen previous coverage of a similar story (and pretending it doesn't exist), yesterday's NYT story about union contributions to Republican candidates (Seeking Allies, Teachers’ Unions Court G.O.P., Too) had it all.  

Continue reading "Media: Where'd That Story Come From & Why Is It So Familiar?" »

Morning Video: Rescuing - And Disappearing - Students In Houston

Last night's PBS Frontline took a look at one of Houston's Apollo 20 schools, where they're trying to lower the dropout rate -- even if it means having at risk students move in (or saying that no-shows have moved back to Mexico).

AM News: Romney Talks Common Core

Romney: No Federal Support for Common Core PoliticsK12: Instead, the Republican presidential nominee thinks states alone should pony up the money for their implementation. The Obama administration has allocated $360 million to two consortia of states to help develop tests that align with the standards, which were created through a partnership of the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. And the administration gave states that adopted the standards an edge in the Race to the Top competition.


Romney says teachers' unions should be barred from making political ... Washington Post: Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said Tuesday that he thinks teachers unions should be banned from making political contributions because union leaders often negotiate contracts.

Romney Demurs on Dems in Cabinet at Education Summit ABC News (blog): NEW YORK –Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney today refused to divulge whether he would include Democrats in his cabinet like Education Secretary Arne Duncan, should he win the White House in November. 

Philadelphia District: Closings could mean end of neighborhood assignment, middle schools Notebook: In order to close up to one-fifth of the city's traditional public schools by the fall of 2013, Philadelphia District officials are considering some dramatic steps, including a move away from the traditional system of assigning students to schools based on their home address.

Five Best Blogs: Districts Returning TIF Funds

Screen shot 2012-09-01 at 1.43.10 PM

Districts returning TIF funding over impasses with teachers, says @DFER_News Charlie Barone http://t.co/busEH1dI 

Richard Lee Colvin: A hopeful future for the National Board ow.ly/dYCb1 #5bb

Stars Don’t Back Down from Film’s Politics | Observer ow.ly/dXKIH"seems like the politics might be misinterpreted

From The New Yorker: "How is Kayli going to be class president if she won't disclose the contents of her lunchbox?" ow.ly/dYGJS

Thanks to SS for the correction on the first item.  I had it as RTTT at first.  

NCLB: Duncan Cherry Picks NCLB History To Sell Waivers

image from www.susanohanian.orgIt was an evenly matched two v. two at today’s four-secretary panel on education policy, with the two Democratic appointees (Riley and Duncan) criticizing NCLB and the two Republican appointees (Spellings and Paige) defending. 

But Arne Duncan tossed up the most junk, especially when it came to his oft-repeated line about NCLB creating a “race to the bottom” as states lowered standards to avoid looking bad on AYP.

 Yes, it’s true, something like 24 states did lower their standards in the years following NCLB.  There’s nothing in the law to stop them from lowering proficiency thresholds, making tests easier and other such gimmicks besides some nonbinding language asking them not to and the reality that their scores would be compared to NAEP scores (as if they cared about that). 

However, Duncan forgot to mention a few things.

Continue reading "NCLB: Duncan Cherry Picks NCLB History To Sell Waivers" »

Quotes: What Labor Leaders Get From Keeping "Shhhh"

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comThey know that Democrats are reluctant to get into an open fight with them, and that this can be used for political leverage. They know, too, that they can look bad when they fight the Democrats over necessary workplace reforms.  - Unsigned article on unions and the elections in The Economist

Morning Video: Rhee Downplays Differences With Obama

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

Wearing a soft gray top (not the rust red that everyone else was wearing), Rhee expresses concerns for subgroup accountability under NCLB waivers, but doesn't go quite as far as Miller in terms of raising questions (see below).

AM News: Union Support For Republicans Doubles To 8 Pct.

Seeking Allies, Teachers’ Unions Court G.O.P., Too NYT: Over the past few years, even as Republicans have led efforts to thwart unions, lawmakers previously considered solid supporters of teachers’ unions have tangled with them over a national education agenda that includes new performance evaluations based partly on test scores, the overhaul of tenure and the expansion of charter schools.

Race to Top Winners Push to Fulfill Promises EdWeek: As the 12 Race to the Top winners reach the midpoint of their four-year, $4 billion federal grant program, states are shifting their work from the planning stages to what is perhaps the more difficult part: implementing new programs and school improvement efforts in the classroom.

Miller to Duncan: Waivers May Offer Too Much Leeway on Grad Rates PoliticsK-12: Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Education committee, is worried that the department isn't holding states' feet to the fire when it comes to monitoring graduation rates in states that have received waivers from parts of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Chicago Schools Chief: 'I've Never Been A Yes Person' Huffington Post: "I got in a car and drove from school to school," he told The Huffington Post in his first lengthy interview since the strike ended on Sept. 18. From the beginning of the strike, Brizard said he engaged with teachers on the picket lines from 6 a.m. until lunch.

SAT Scores Fall as More Students Take Exam WSJ: SAT scores for the high-school graduating class of 2012 fell in two of the test's three sections, with reading dropping to the lowest level in four decades on the college-entrance test, according to data released Monday. ALSO SAT reading scores hit a four-decade low Washington Post

Cartoons: Chemistry Teacher At The Breaking Point

image from www.newyorker.comVia The New Yorker

Five Best Blogs: Rise Of ACT Endangers Coleman World Takeover

ScreenHunter_10 Sep. 18 09.21Uncoordinated super PACs waste millions, contradict each other, says WSJow.ly/dX8Rj #5bb Sounds like some reform groups.

Charter Schools Unionize With a Bang, De-Unionize With a Whimper EIA #5bb ow.ly/dXoWI

Interest in Web-based courses is hitting a plateau rather than accelerating. ow.ly/dXmoj #5bb

Moving Families Out Of Poor Neighborhoods Makes Them Happier ow.ly/dXmcz #5bb But Doesn't Change Ed Outcomes

ACT edges past SAT as most popular test, says AP's Justin Pope ow.ly/dXaAN #5bb Serious dint in D. Coleman world takeover plan

Rejecting test scores as a core value - Los Angeles Times ow.ly/dXah8 #5bb

Quotes: "Stop Behaving Like Ninnies"

Quotes2Neither these nor any other policies are likely to have any meaningful effect unless the adults that purport to care about education stop behaving like ninnies -- NSVF's Benjamin Riley on teacher recruitment

Thompson: Hotline Helps Expose Bullying In Oklahoma City

HotlineIt was no surprise that the Daily Oklahoman had to close its comments section following this article: Boy, 10, Reports Stabbing on Oklahoma City Public School Bus.   That common practice illustrates part of the difficulty in honestly discussing school violence. But the more that districts across the country try to hide the extent of crime and bullying in schools, the more that patrons believe the worse. This perpetuates the practice of "juking the stats." 

The author later reports on a first step towards addressing bullying in the OKCPS. The district  opened a bullying hot line.  In less than a month, 155 reports were made.  Since the system is new, only a third of the reports have come from the community. One report was from a social worker.  Coppernall wrote that "a girl who lives in a group home was being kicked during dance class.  Now, instead of the girl suffering in silence, an entire team of school officials knows about the problem." Who knows what will be learned about the extent of unreported violence once the community is aware of the hotline?  Already, the district has been informed of two cases of weapons in schools and 25 other acts of violence.-JT(@drjohnthompson)Image via.

Bruno: What's So Bad About Bilingual Education?

2268962162_8f32396d9b_nChecker Finn thinks it's hypocritical for liberal teachers to complain about Louisiana providing vouchers to schools that teach creationism because "curricular craziness, often in defiance of scientific truth as well as common sense, is by no means confined to the science classroom or to private schools." He lists a number of examples of "idiotic ed-school-fostered ideas" supported by traditional public schools including Ebonics, "fuzzy math," and whole language instruction.

I agree that some of those ideas are misguided, and others I'm not familiar with at all, but I was surprised to see him include bilingual education in this list of "idiotic" ideas. Does bilingual education really "trap immigrant youngsters with only the language of their homeland"? This isn't a controversy I've followed closely, but my understanding had been that bilingual education seemed to have some beneficial effects for English learners.

Here's one informal summary of the research stating that bilingual education is superior to English-only instruction. In his own meta-analysis Jay Greene - no "politically correct" left-winger! - concluded that "an unbiased reading of the scholarly research suggests that bilingual education helps children who are learning English."

Again, though, even as a California resident this isn't an issue I've paid much attention to so I don't know if the controversy is primarily political or scientific.  So I'm genuinely curious: is bilingual education really such a bad idea that we should be embarrassed to be funding it with public money? Or is it just intuitively or aesthetically unappealing to some observers? - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

People: "Bammys" Honor Educators, Media, Bloggers

Last week was the 1st annual Bammys, a "cross-discipline" awards ceremony for "Educators, Thought Leaders, National Officials and Twitterati."


From the press release: "Some 350 prominent educators, thought leaders, and national officials, together with the education Twitterati, came to Washington, D.C., from around the nation to be part of the inaugural annual Bammy Awards recognizing excellence across the education village."

As you may already know, Huffington Post's Joy Resmovits won for best education reporter.  That's her on the left, holding her award statuette, with education page editor Emmeline Zhao.   (Red carpet pics stolen off of Facebook.)

Read below for the full list of awardees, which includes other familiar names including Sam Chaltain, LDH, Diane Ravitch, and John Merrow. Toppo was there.  A bunch of bloggers were recognized, too, including Chris Lehmann and a bunch of other names new to me. If I was only going to follow one of them, who should that be?

NB This is all part of the BAM Radio Network, which I've appeared on, and as I undertand it is a campaign funded in part through AASA.  

Continue reading "People: "Bammys" Honor Educators, Media, Bloggers" »

Morning Video: George Miller & Bill Hansen Debate Federal Policy

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

"Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and education policy adviser to Mitt Romney, William Hansen, to talk about the politics behind President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" and President Barack Obama's "Race to the Top" plans for education."

AM News: Shaping Perceptions Of Chicago Strike

Idaho Education Overhaul Is Subject of Referendum NYT: Chicago’s fight may be over, but in Idaho, the debate over schools has morphed into a harsh discussion about whom the voters should trust.


After Chicago success, teachers unions spread their message Washington Post: Union leaders who won gains after striking in Chicago are hitting the road, spreading the message that effective changes in public education can't be imposed by mayors or governors. [See Weingarten/ Lewis opinion piece in the WSJ here.]

Teachers wary of new evaluations in aftermath of Chicago strike Hechinger Report:  In a poll taken during a teacher town hall hosted by Education Nation on Sunday, 72 percent of teachers in attendance said they believe less than a third of their rating should depend on student test scores. 

Teachers Strike First Of Many Challenges Ahead For Rahm AP:  The grueling teachers strike is over. Now comes the hard part for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. As he welcomed children back to school, Emanuel nodded at the difficulties ahead: "We have other tough things to do."

Improving education in Chicago (Emanuel in the Tribune): We are on our way to having 12 turnarounds and 14 academies so CPS has the capacity to transform 10 failing schools a year. The teachers union should join us in turning these failing schools around.

Duncan On Chicago: 'When Adults Fight, Kids Lose' NPR: The Chicago teachers' strike came to an end this week. Host Scott Simon speaks with Education Secretary Arne Duncan about the resolution.

Video: Gyllenhall: Adults fighting each other msnbc: Academy award nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal talks about her role in “Won’t Back Down,” and what she learned while researching the role of a determined mother trying to make a difference in the education of her children. (msnbc)

Continue reading "AM News: Shaping Perceptions Of Chicago Strike" »

Afternoon Video: Georgia Math Teacher Goes "Gangam Style"


Finish off the week with a Gangam Style-style high school pep rally in Marietta, GA.  Don't know Gangam?  You should. Via the HuffPostEdu page's tireless Emmeline Zhao (who has either the best or worst job in the world).

Five Best Blogs: Will An Educator Win A 2012 MacArthur Grant?


MacArthur "genius" grants are out tomorrow. Two education types won MacArthur genius grants last year, then before that it was 2007 ow.ly/dTVmm

Simmering contract fights in Patterson, Newark, & NYC, says TIME's @kaylawebley ow.ly/dTWn6 #5bb Dont' forget LAUSD!

If Chicago teachers *really* loved poor kids they'd go back on strike for equal funding, says CAP's Matt Millerow.ly/dTUOi#

More Chicago stats and comparisons from @NCTQow.ly/dTTRu 

Teacher Larry Strauss lists "who benefits from a failing education system?" ow.ly/dTNhR #5bb But his list is incomplete.

The influence readings in the new Atlantic rundown of ed reform groups seem high given recent eventsow.ly/dTNG0 

People: From Pro Quarterback To High School Math Teacher

image from nbcsportsmedia2.msnbc.com
"First of all, I’d like to apologize to you," says former pro QB Jon Kitna, now a high school math teacher and coach. "That is not how I should have handled that. That’s not how real men react.” h/t You Know Who

Thompson: Military Metaphor Makes Data Obsession Clear


What were they thinking when they declared war on teachers in order to supposedly help kids?

Lawrence Baines's Education Week Commentary, "What If We Brought Education Reform to the Military?," suggested satirically that, "An infantryman in Afghanistan, outnumbered by well-armed terrorists, who fails to accomplish the mission should receive a deduction in pay. An accountant stationed in Honolulu, who balances the payroll, thereby accomplishing his mission, should get a raise. ... There are no excuses."

I loved Baine's article, but not being a veteran, I do not use combat metaphors when describing inner city schools.  Even at the height of our school's gang violence, I did not write about my morbid estimate of the number of classmates that my students buried.  Reentering the classroom, I have become even more of a peacenik. I am reminded that deescalating conflict is job #1 in the inner city. I am even more dismayed that the data-lovers took such a belligerent approach to improving schools. - JT(@drjohnthompson)Image via.


Quotes: When Skepticism Becomes Irresponsible

Quotes2Doubt is the lifeblood of the academy... Yet there is also a point at which such skepticism becomes pathological and irresponsible. --  Times Higher Education "Smoke And Mirrors" via Arts & Letters Daily

Lunchtime Video: Rahm's Boring $1M Ad

I don't mind the $1M in outside money being spent, but this might be the simplest, least interesting political ad I've seen in a long time. A Chicago site called Capitol Fax picked it up first, then the Huffington Post got it, and finally the Tribune wrote about it a few hours later, noting that the city also sent a letter home to parents (but not mentioning where it got the story from). The teachers union is also running its own post-strike ad on radio.  

Media: Are You The West Coast Version Of Joy Resmovits?

image from laschoolreport.comLaunched last month, LA School Report is an independent education news and commentary site focused on the Los Angeles public schools that has been taking the LA education scene  by storm.

In just the lat few weeks, we've tracked campaign funding and broken news about possible school board candidates. We've helped readers understand the issues and dynamics behind the use of student achievement in teacher evaluations. Our material has been picked up by the Huffington Post and others.

Now we're looking for a writer/reporter/blogger/researcher to join the team and help us make the site even better. It's a paid, half-time position. Hours are flexible, however, candidates must be based in LA, have reliable transportation, and be proficient at blogging, Twitter, and Facebook. Most importantly, we're looking for someone who is deeply interested in education policy and politics, self-motivated, and able to work quickly and accurately. There's a lot of ground to cover, and we need someone who's going to help us crush this beat.  Yes, we need a West Coast Joy Resmovits.

Think you've got the goods?  Send a resume and links to writing samples to alexander at laschoolreport.com.  Know some folks who might be good for the job -- grad school buddies, former colleagues, etc?  Pass it along.

Listening: Ira Glass, Paul Tough, Alex Kotlowitz - How Can You Resist?

image from www.thisamericanlife.orgIf you're like me and you've been hearing about but haven't yet actually listened to it, it's not too late.  Here's the most recent This American Life, called Back to School.

The episode "turn[s] away from questions about politics and unions and money and all the regular school stuff people argue about, and turn to something more optimistic." 

The lineup includes Ira Glass (host), Alex Kotlowitz (There Are No Children Here), Paul Tough, James Heckman, Nadine Burke Harris, and a teenager named Kewauna Lerma -- plus a soundtrack that includes "You Don't Learn That In School" by Louis Armstrong.

Social Media: How Reformers Got Crushed Online In Chicago

image from theantisocialmedia.comMainstream coverage and commentary might have skewed towards Rahm Emanuel's side of the issue, at least initially when it came to the substance, but on social media, teachers and reform critics crushed the Board of Education, City Hall, and reform supporters. 

This blog post tells you about the work of Kenzo Shibata, CTU's social media director: Social media acts as megaphone and sword in CTU strike (Chicago Public Radio)  Kenzo and his kind were more active, much more impassioned (annoyingly euphoric towards the end), and -- for better or worse -- much much more willing to be mean.  

Did it make a difference?  Made it feel different, at the very least, for the bloggers and journalists working online.

AM News: Grading Obama -- And Rahm Emanuel

Obama’s overhaul of public education Washington Post:  In 31 / years in office, President Obama has set in motion a broad overhaul of public education from kindergarten through high school, largely bypassing Congress and inducing states to adopt landmark changes that none of his predecessors attempted.

Emanuel uses TV and a letter to parents to sell strike settlement Tribune via GothamSchools:  In a political-style TV and radio ad blitz launched Wednesday, Emanuel says "change is never easy" but declares the outcome "the right deal for our kids." The ads are being paid for by a nonprofit arm of a political action committee started by Wall Street hedge fund managers who believe the creation of privately run charter schools is the best avenue to reform. image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com

Texas Politicians Focus on Education, With Eye on Voters Texas Tribune: In the wake of deep cuts in Texas’ public education budget, some Republicans are talking about getting more money into classrooms by raising teachers’ pay.

Tennessee To Withhold Millions From Nashville Schools For Rejecting Charter School HuffPost:  Last week, the Metro Nashville school board disobeyed an order by the state Board of Education to approve an application from the Phoenix-based Great Hearts Academies, which it had already twice rejected.

American Schools Still Heavily Segregated By Race, Income: Civil Rights Project Report HuffPostEdu: According to a new analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education, 80 percent of Latino students and 74 percent of black students are in schools where the majority of students are not white. 

Continue reading "AM News: Grading Obama -- And Rahm Emanuel" »

Five Best Blogs: There Are Never Just Five Of Them

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com
Violence in Libya saved Obama from intense media scrutiny over Chicago strike, notes Rick Hessow.ly/dSd4c 
The Chicago strike’s silver lining ow.ly/dSciKWinning ugly reminds us of unions' ugly underbelly, argues Checker Finn 
Karen Lewis for AFT President? Numbers Don’t Add Up | Intercepts ow.ly/dSc2Z
This segment is OK ow.ly/dRxb2 but I really want video of the full Bruce Rauner union rant the Trib described...
The Schoolmaster - Dana Goldstein - The Atlanticow.ly/dSce8 
YES Prep joins KIPP in publishing its (40 pct) college success data, notes Mike Goldstein - plus some other stuff ow.ly/dSc5Q
Victoria Walker, 11-Year-Old, Wins $20,000 At AT&T Hackathon For 'Rode Dog' App ow.ly/dREen
Government School PR Group Hammers “Won’t Back Down” Movie - Kyle Olson - Page 1 ow.ly/dRrZo

People: Much-Deserved Award For John Merrow

image from learningmatters.tvBig, completely sincere congratulations to John Merrow, the longtime education journalist who's just been named a winner of the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education. The annual award honors "outstanding individuals who have dedicated themselves to improving education in this country and whose accomplishments are making a difference today." He's been the PBS NewsHour's main education correspondent for years now, produced a number of major education documentaries, created and grown his own independent production company, helped with the development of the Education Writers Association, and along the way turned himself into a thoughtful commentator.  (He's also been incredibly supportive and helpful to me and many other education journalists along the way.)   We should all be so lucky to have such a career.  Here's the announcement from the NewsHour:Education Correspondent John Merrow Wins McGraw Prize

Maher: Not Every Alternative Certification Program Is TFA

This is a guest post from NCSU's Michael Maher (@mj_maher):

Check-box-imageIn early 2013 the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) will release it’s National Review of Teacher Preparation Programs.  Few of us in teacher education expect to fare well, regardless of the quality of our programs and candidates.  A quick glance at their website makes clear where they stand. 

Yesterday, Education Week reported on the findings of the Task Force on Educator Excellence in California.  That task force reported a staggering decrease in the number of teaching credentials issued from 2004 to 2010 and the number of students in teacher preparation programs dropping by 50%.  Undoubtedly, statistics such as these and reports written testifying to failing teacher preparation will once again lead to an increasing call for more “alternative certification” programs.  

Before making any such move, however, policymakers should understand that alternative programs are no longer few and far between, don't necessarily differ from traditional programs as much as may be assumed, and aren't all of the same high quality.

Continue reading "Maher: Not Every Alternative Certification Program Is TFA" »

Magazines: Atlantic Helps You Get Over Your Strike Hangover

image from atlanticlive.theatlantic.comThe Atlantic is here to help you get over your Chicago strike hangover, with a bunch of school-related stories including at least a couple that will generate some buzz over the next few days:

Why Kids Should Grade Teachers (Amanda Ripley): A growing number of school systems are administering the surveys—and might be able to overcome teacher resistance in order to link results to salaries and promotions.

The Writing Revolution (Peg Tyre):  Faced with closure, the school's principal went all-in on a very specific curriculum reform, placing an overwhelming focus on teaching the basics of analytic writing, every day, in virtually every class. 

New advocates, new ideas (Nicole Allan): In recent years, a new generation of activists has stepped up to lobby legislators and drive the conversation. A rundown of worthy upstarts.

The Homeschool Diaries (Paul Elie): In New York City, where private schools cost tens of thousands of dollars a year and many public schools are just meh, teaching your own kids can make the most practical sense. 


Quotes: Quality Observation More Important Than Test-Based Evaluation

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comCan we get time and expertise on the part of principals to get into classrooms to really look carefully at practice... and then have additional teachers available to help teachers who are struggling? -- Linda Darling Hammon, on the PBS NewsHour last night

AM News: Spotlight On Segregation & English Language Learners

Segregation Prominent in Schools, Study Finds NYT: White students account for just over half of all students in public schools, down from four-fifths in 1970, but they are still largely concentrated in schools with other whites.

Calif. Poised to Spotlight ELLs Stalled in Schools EdWeek: California is poised to become the first state to unmask the extent to which English-language learners languish in public schools for years without ever reaching fluency.


Conference on 'action civics' meets in Philadelphia TheNotebook: The effort, called the National Action Civics Collaborative (NACC), is also aimed at working with schools to move civics beyond classrooms and textbooks into real-world projects and activities, especially in schools that serve less affluent, marginalized students.

Tennessee Middle Schools Nix Graded Homework, Extra Credit In Hopes Of Improving TCAP Scores HuffPostEdu: In an effort to improve scores on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools are scrapping extra credit and graded homework for middle schoolers, WSMV reports. Administrators are hopeful these measures will allow for better confirmation that students have actually mastered the material they are being taught.

What 'The Influencing Machine' Teaches College Kids NPR: Several colleges and universities have adopted a common read program, in which first year students read the same book during the summer, then discuss it when they get to campus. NPR'S Neal Conan talks with Brooke Gladstone, co-host of On The Media, about her book, The Influencing Machine, a graphic novel that tries to decipher the rapidly changing media business and the ways people interact with it.

KIPP gains survive new scrutiny, with a footnote WashingtonPostLocal: New research on the nation’s largest and best-performing charter school network has a dull title — “Student Selection, Attrition, and Replacement in KIPP Middle Schools” — but it adds fuel to a fierce national debate over why KIPP looks so good and whether schools should follow its example.

Thompson: School Reform As A Kind Of Wonky PTSD

As you may already have read here and on other sites, education writer Paul Tough said in a recent interview  "I think education reform has probably hurt the very poor.” The author of How Children Succeed argues that "the better-off portion of low-income kids are more likely to find alternatives [like charter schools]. That leaves the original schools more concentrated in their disadvantage, and thus even worse learning environments.”


What you may not have heard about yet is Tough's analysis of how and why school reform took the course it's taken -- and what can be done about it.

Tough's book takes us on a comprehensive tour of cognitive and social science, while describing the limits of contemporary school reform efforts, finally explaining why reformers took the wrong path. "The War on Poverty left some very deep scars on the well-educated idealists who waged it, creating a kind of posttraumatic stress disorder on policy wonks.” 

This contributed to a movement which, to borrow a phrase from historian Larry Cuban, “deputized” teachers as the driving force in fighting poverty.   Tough writes, “education reformers have mostly united around one specific issue: teacher quality.”  He terms it as “an article of faith” for reformers. 

Continue reading "Thompson: School Reform As A Kind Of Wonky PTSD" »

Quotes: No Such Thing As Good Use Of VAM Data For Evaluation

Quotes2Using VAM to evaluate teachers is akin to using Lysol as a mouth wash because it does a good job killing germs on your kitchen counter.  - Principal Carol Burris, in The Answer Sheet 



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.