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Quotes: Charter Renewals Too Easily Given, Says Charter Advocate

Quotes2In the charter school space, too often there's a willingness to give failing charter schools more time. We shouldn't be giving out yearly probationary renewals as much as we have done. -- NACSA head Greg Richmond in the Huffington Post

HotSeat Interview: Former Duncan Comms Guy Peter Cunningham

Peter cunning cunninghamSafely back in Chicago after four years commuting to DC, former USDE communications chief Peter Cunningham shares his thoughts about the ups and downs of working in the Obama administration, the differences and similarities between working for a local Board of Education and the US Secretary of Education -- the local reporters are more obnoxious, apparently -- and what makes Arne Duncan better than most other appointees and elected officials.

Finally on the HotSeat, Cunningham credits Joanne Weiss for making Race to the Top a big success, and Carmel Martin for the NCLB waiver program. (Despite all my feeble attempts to give him credit/blame for naming RTTT, he says it wasn't him.) Cunningham describes how difficult it is to do parent engagement from Washington, and says that "edujobs" was one of the projects he's most proud of during his time in DC.

Check it out and see what you think.  

Continue reading "HotSeat Interview: Former Duncan Comms Guy Peter Cunningham" »

Thompson: Charter Schools, "Bad Teachers," & Special Education

War-on-teachersIn Are Charter Schools Better Able to ‘Fire Bad Teachers’?, the Shanker Blog’s Matt DiCarlo provides a valuable discussion regarding the dismissal of teachers.

He starts with a discussion of whether charters serve disproportionately fewer students with disabilities, however, and this post will concentrate on that.  After all, if charters exclude the most difficult-to-educate students, comparisons of their instructional effectiveness with neighborhood schools are just another apples-to-oranges distraction. 

DiCarlo cites research showing that charters serve fewer special education students. I wish he would push that point further because the real questions are whether charters fail to serve larger numbers of students with more serious disabilities and whether they have concentrations of IEP students and others who make it more difficult for schools to raise student performance.

But DiCarlo correctly argues that “there is certainly no evidence for asserting a widespread campaign of exclusion.” I know that many friends will complain when I agree with DiCarlo, but his conclusion conforms with my understanding of the motivations of charter school educators.

Continue reading "Thompson: Charter Schools, "Bad Teachers," & Special Education" »

Media: EdSource (CA) Adds Another Reporter

image from www.edsource.orgJohn Fensterwald, Kathy Baron, and Louis Freedburg have been joined by Lillian Mongeau at EdSource Today, "an education-only news publication covering California public schools and education issues."  She'll be covering early childhood education.  Her first feature can be found here.  Like most of the news outlets adding education coverage, EdSource is a nonprofit public affairs outfit supported by foundation funds rather than commercial advertising.  Via EWA.

Morning Video: NewsHour Goes "Deep"

Watch Teachers Embrace 'Deep Learning,' Teaching Practical Skills on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

This is a NewsHour segement from last night's NewsHour featuring Deeper Learning.

AM News: Charter School Report Casts Doubt on Obama's Education Policy

Charter School Report Casts Doubt on Obama's Education Policy  HuffPostEdu: The report, "Charter School Growth and Replications," found that, with some exceptions, charter schools that start strong are likely to stay that way, just as low-performing schools usually remain at the bottom. The study ranked charter schools within five levels based on performance, and found that 80 percent of schools in the bottom level during their first year remained there for five years. 


Fresh Wave of Head Start Centers Told to Recompete for Aid EdWeek: The announcement that a new wave of more than 100 Head Start grantees will need to recompete for their federal funding has redoubled attention on the federal government's efforts to ensure the effectiveness of the $8 billion preschool program that serves about 1 million low-income children.

Race, the UFT & NYC’s top schools NewYorkPost: The union’s delegate assembly voted last month to support a lawsuit that would destroy New York City’s top academic high schools. The suit by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund aims to throw out the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, which it claims discriminates against Hispanic and black students.

Cuomo: State Might Impose Evaluations WSJ: State officials will impose their own job evaluation system on New York City's teachers if a deal isn't reached soon between the union and the city, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

School Shooting Drills: How Realistic Should They Be? AP: While the end of the Cold War removed the duck-and-cover exercises that had students crouching beneath desks under threat of an atomic bomb, the intent is the same: to protect against the unimaginable. But not all experts agree on how realistic the exercises need to be.

A Decade of Writers Promoting Reading at Public Schools WSJ: Behind the Book, a not-for-profit literacy organization that works with New York City's underserved public schools, celebrated its 10th year anniversary with a cocktail party and fundraiser on Tuesday evening in Midtown. The organization brings local authors into K-12 classrooms to work directly with students.

People: Veteran Times Reporter Joins Education Nonprofit

ScreenHunter_01 Jan. 30 18.53Back in the day (by which I mean 1995-2002), the New York Times' Jacques Steinberg was one of the most prominent education reporters in the nation. Check out his 2100-story NYT archive here.

Then, like many others he left the beat for a time -- to cover politics, if I recall -- and then returned (if only to focus on higher education issues) in 2009. (see Jacques Is Bacques).

Now he's gone for good from the Times, having taken a buyout. Steinberg explained his departure in this January 10 post on The Choice blog, which he founded to chronicle the transition from high school to college: "I plan to continue to focus on issues of access to higher education, and its affordability, as well as the hurdles that so many students face in graduating from college in six years, let alone four. One area of particular concern to me is the enormous caseloads of public school counselors, many of whom are responsible for guiding 500 students or more."

But he didn't say exactly where he was going, and there wasn't a press release sent out until yesterday (see below). Now it can be told.  He's joined an education-related outfit called Say Yes To Education, "a program that partners higher education institutions with Say Yes to provide financial support in the form of college tuition for tens of thousands of Say Yes students."

Heard about this on the EWA listserve.  Image via Facebook.

Continue reading "People: Veteran Times Reporter Joins Education Nonprofit" »

Quotes: Beware "Big Data"

Quotes2Would-be reformers have consistently overestimated the potential of data and have used new data in inappropriate and troubling ways. - Rick Hess and Jal Mehta in Educational Leadership

Video: Who Do You Choose? Nick, Or Joe?


Lots of familiar and expected faces at National School Choice Week -- plus an appearance from Joe Trippi. Via Reason. Take that, John Legend.  

Events: Gates To Keynote SXSWedu Event In March

ScreenHunter_01 Jan. 30 14.42Before I forget, you might be interested to know that Bill Gates is keynoting SXSWedu.com, closing things out on March 7.  

What is SXSWedu?  It's this thing that used to be a music event, then morphed into a tech event, and now includes some education, too. Last year, the documentary Brooklyn King premiered at the event, so ... anything can happen.

There will be lots of edtech, needless to say, and lots of talk about how technology is going to save (but not replace) us all.   This year, I think I'll send my vGo telepresence device instead of attending in person, or perhaps just monitor the event via my personal drone.

Reform: TFA's Engagement & Ideological Diversity Campaign

Teach For America Founder Wendy Kopp has written an open letter to critic Gary Rubinstein that you might not have seen and might find interesting (Open Letters FROM Reformers I Know) if only because reformers aren't generally known for engaging in open dialogue with their critics (or for spending much time engaging in debate online, for that matter).  

image from farm3.staticflickr.com

In her letter, Kopp reminds us that slightly more than half of TFA work in district schools, claims that there's no necessarily any "us vs. them" in education if we focus on the kids, and in particular rejects the notion that TFA is or has become ideologically rigid and narrow:

"Active and vocal alumni like you are proof that there’s no shortage of diverse opinion within the Teach For America community."  

But Kopp admits that TFA hasn't done enough to highlight the differences among TFA alumni, and blames the delay on TFA's much-delayed embrace of social media.

It's interesting to read how Kopp says she avoided having TFA take positions in part to create a big tent within the TFA community -- and only slowly came to realize that doing so didn't work.  

"I’ve learned the hard way that silence just reinforces misunderstanding... When corps members and alumni assume their opinions defy conventional wisdom and no one wants to hear them, they often choose not to speak up. This becomes a self-perpetuating problem. The people who do speak up express similar views, which reinforces the impression that we all think one way and discourages dissenting opinions."

It's going to be difficult, Kopp acknowledges - a culture change as much as a technological or policy change.  On this front, she may understate the problem.  More opeds and encouraging blog posts are a good start but probably aren't going to cut it -- not even open letters like this one.

Putting folks like Rubinstein, Kamika Royal, and Steve Zimmer out front will be key.  What happens after that?  I have no idea.  If TFA pursued and achieved ideological diversity it would change the perception and practice of the organization at many levels, which could either reduce its reach and appeal or -- watch out, TFA haters! -- make TFA even more popular and compelling.

Previous posts:  TFA Responds To AFT "Bar Exam" Proposal,  Naive To Print Teachers' Scores, Says TFA FounderTurning School Reform Into A Soap Opera (critique of Brill book), TFA Founder Under Fire For Value-Added Views. Image via CCFlickr

Book Excerpt: Today's Reforms Could Suffer Integration's Fate

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comThe following is adapted from Divided We Fail: The Story of an African-American Community that Ended the Era of School Desegregation (Beacon Press) by Sarah Garland:

On June 28, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling that officially ended the era of school desegregation that followed Brown v. Board of Education. Five of the nine Justices declared that race alone could no longer be used to assign students to a school, undermining the biggest civil rights cases of the previous century. Under the new interpretation of the law, school districts that had labored for half a century to integrate under plans once forced on them by the courts were told those plans were now unconstitutional.

Two cases led to the decision, one out of Seattle and another out of Louisville, Kentucky, the most racially integrated school system in America. The Louisville case had a long history. Ten years earlier, parents had gone to court to fight desegregation in order to save one school, Central High.

Continue reading "Book Excerpt: Today's Reforms Could Suffer Integration's Fate" »

Violence: Killings In Chicago Undercut Reform Efforts

Now this is image from farm3.staticflickr.comis extra sad:  Fifteen year old Hadiya Pendleton went to the Inauguration in DC, came back to her South Side high school in Chicago, and was shot in the back and killed last night (Sun times, DNAI, Daily Mail).  

The murder didn't take place during school, or on school grounds.  There is little or no direct connection to education.  But this -- gun violence and street gangs -- is a big part of what's going on in some parts of Chicago -- the South and West Sides, mostly -- and it's a big part of the reason that the Board of Education's Utilization Commission recommended that no general high schools be closed in Chicago even if they were half-empty.  (Remember that the brutal videotaped death of a Fenger High School student several years ago in Chicago was caused, some say, by a school closing that required students to travel outside their home neighborhood.)

Chronic poverty, discrimination, unemployment, and inadequate housing are all important to understand and address. But violence is the out of school factor that trumps all the others. In places like New York City where it has been addressed (legally or otherwise), school reform efforts have some hope of progress.  In places like Chicago, where violence has been shoved aside and ignored (thanks, Mayor Daley and the current one), efforts to improve schools really struggle.  

AM News: Debate about School Closings and Charter Schools Rages On

Activists to U.S. Education Department: Stop school closings now WashingtonPost: Activists fighting school closings across the country converged at the U.S. Education Department on Tuesday to demand federal action to stop the shutdowns, which they say disproportionately affect poor and minority students. In a raucous meeting, parents, community organizers and students from as far away as California detailed how school closings are disrupting lives and destabilizing neighborhoods.


Charter advocates rally as school-closing critics pack meetings ChicagoTribune: As opponents of school closings in Chicago pack community meetings this week to make their voice heard, charter school advocates took part in a rally Tuesday at Union Station to draw attention to their call for greater school choice.The rally was part of a cross-country tour organized by the coalition behind National School Choice Week. The local organizer, the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, used the occasion to fire up parents who it says want access to higher-quality schools.

School Board Members to Arne Duncan: Back Off PoliticsK12: For the most part, school board members didn't want to hear about his agenda. Instead, they sent a clear message: Your policies continue to overreach into our territory. (They voiced similar complaints about federal overreach last year, and fought with him over mayoral control of schools in 2010.)

Union Backs 'Bar Exam' For Teachers NPR: The system for preparing and licensing teachers in the U.S. is in such disarray that the American Federation of Teachers is proposing a "bar exam"similar to the one lawyers have to pass before they can practice.

Internships Help Students Prepare for Workplace EdWeek: "The central goal is to get students out of the classroom and into the real world so they can feel and see the entire work process," said Randy McPherson, a counselor at Trezevant Career and Technology Center in Memphis, Tenn., and the American School Counselor Association's counselor of the year in 2011. "Otherwise, they don't really grasp what a day looks like or what a job entails."

Books: What Reformers Can Learn From Integrationists

image from www.amazon.comToday's the day that Sarah Garland's new book, Divided We Fail: The Story of an African American Community That Ended the Era of School Desegregation, finally comes out in bookstores.  Get it.

Despite the title, Garland doesn't consider the book anti-desegregation.  "I found [desegregation], in the end, still to be a very compelling idea, and argue integrated schools are essential for a successful future. It's the way it was implemented that was often problematic. "

Garland also finds much to compare between deseg efforts and the current reform movement:  "As the era of desegregation ended, black communities across the nation were once again facing unilateral school closings and mass firings of black teachers. Many felt disenfranchised, and wondered whether reformers cared about their own vision for their children’s education. Some took to the streets in protest. Others filed lawsuits."

Garland writes for the Hechinger Report and was a Spencer Fellow, too.  She grew up in Louisville and experienced school integration efforts there herself, which is more than most education journalists can say about the topics they cover.  

Thompson: Rebalancing The Teacher Quality Discussion

War-on-teachersJoshua Cowen’s and Marcus Winters' recent Do Charters Retain Teachers Differently? (in the journal Education Finance and Policy, via Shanker Blogfinds no discernible difference in the ability of elementary charter schools in Florida to dismiss poorly performing teachers.

Using a large data base over a six-year period, Cowen and Winters find charter school teachers are more likely to exit than similar teachers in comparable non-charters and low-performing are more likely to leave than higher-performing teachers.

Neither conclusion is surprising.  But, then they discover something that probably should not be surprising. Cowen and Winters thus fail to find evidence that collective bargaining agreements impede the removal of ineffective teachers.

Continue reading "Thompson: Rebalancing The Teacher Quality Discussion" »

Wonks: The Limits Of Dispassionate Policy Analysis

image from farm6.staticflickr.comThere's a curious chronic avoidance I sense among education pundits to taking on or even linking to the posts of top DC policy wonks Ezra Klein (Washington Post) and Matthew Yglesias (Slate), who cover many things including occasionally education policy. And so it's worth noting the publication of a curious piece in In These Times, if only to raise the topic (Programmed for Primetime).

The ITT piece is a bit mocking, as you might expect given that neither Klein nor Yglesias are particularly progressive - or at least they aren't any more.  "At some point, Klein and company stopped being liberals. They even stopped being human. The wonks had become robots, ready to force enlightenment down our partisan throats."

Obviously, there are some hurt feelings here related to Klein and Yglesias's absence from the field of battle in the most recent progressive resurgence.  But the piece makes a good point over all -- that objectivity and number-crunching only get you so far, that policy debates are often eclipsed by political and ideological ones, and that mainstream wonkery may make it hard to retain progressive roots.  

Now if only someone could explain (or disabuse me of) my notion that the two are under-noted in the online education debate that swirls around so uselessly every day. Image via CCFlickr

EdTech: Remembering The "One Laptop" Debacle

Need any reminders of what an edtech bubble looks like -- the hype, exaggerated promises, enormous influxes of cash and media attention and wastes of time -- then refresh your recollection of the 2005 One Laptop Per Child phenomenon in which Nicholas Negroponte said he was going to transform the world by giving poor kids low-income laptops.

image from farm2.staticflickr.com

Well, he did -- 2.4 million XOs have been given out -- and the world remains largely unchanged.  The plastic green and white machine seems downright ancient from the perspective of 2013 -- not to speak of being expensive (at $200).

According to this Reuters column from last week (Hotspots and have-nots), the main problem Negroponte faced was that the problem he proposed solving -- getting computers into peoples' hands -- was about to be solved on its own through cheap smartphones and netbooks. The main problem he didn't solve -- Internet access -- remained a massive obstacle.  The solution? According to this columnist, it's a massive universal Internet access initiative to make the Internet really accessible and help nations solve their own problems and develop their own economies -- and, hey, learn online.  

In that sense, I guess OLPC's failure could be used as a justification for online learning's future disappointment.  There's really no stopping the enthusiasts -- just like there's no stopping the naysayers.  Image via CCFlickr

Morning Video: RFK Family Visiting NYC Schools

There's lots of great NYC schools footage in Jingle Bells, the 1964 documentary I got to see last night at the Film Forum along with a handful of other films.  

What a great reminder the films and Pennybaker (who was there with Al Maysles) were about how fascinating schools -- and people -- are, and the value of finding interesting people and situations and following them along.

AM News: Federal Complaint Alleges School Closures Discriminate Against Minorities, Poor

Federal Complaint Alleges City School Closure Policies Discriminate Against Minorities, Poor WSJ: The complaint made by a New York City parent is one of dozens filed recently by opponents of school closures, who are targeting the practice in cities nationwide, including Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit. Schools chosen for closure generally have higher proportions of minority, impoverished and special-education students than others.


Ed. Dept. Raises Evidence, Research Ante in Grant Awards EdWeek: Using the Investing in Innovation program as a building block, the U.S. Department of Education is taking the next formal step to make research and evidence far more important factors as it awards competitive grants. The goal is twofold: to reward projects that already have established a research-based track record of success and to encourage grant winners to produce rigorous evidence detailing the extent to which their project does—or does not—work.

L.A. school district’s college-prep push is based on false data HechingerReport: San Jose Unified has quietly acknowledged that the district overstated its accomplishments. And a Times analysis of the district’s record shows that its progress has not, in fact, far outpaced many other school systems’ and, more important, that most San Jose students have never qualified to apply to a state college.

No Academic Harm Found in Early Retirement of Teachers EdWeek: Separate studies of teachers in California, Illinois, and North Carolina paint a complex picture of the choice increasingly faced by education leaders: Keep your most experienced—and expensive—teachers, or encourage them to retire to ease budget woes.

'Learning Community' Nebraska Program Brings Diversity To Some Highly Segregated Public Schools America'sWire: But unlike the typical school in this highly segregated region, or the typical school in many still-segregated communities across the country, Wilson Focus School reaches across two counties to bring together students from a mix of racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds. Yet, even with its well-documented successes, the Learning Community is being threatened by public officials who question the value of the diversity it brings. 

Bruno: Education Is Not A Morality Play

4067099731_05da0835d3Education is not Paul Krugman's beat, but one of his favorite points about economic discourse applies equally well to discussions about education.

Economics, he says, is not a "morality play  in which doing what you think is right is also the magic elixir that solves all problems."

We should think the same way about education.

An education policy we prefer - or even the policy we think is best - is probably  not going to have only desirable effects. Nor is it likely to positively impact every single one of the problems facing education. If a pundit is telling a story to the effect that their preferred policy is going to cure everything that ails American education, we should probably suspect wishful thinking.

You might think such wishful thinking is extremely rare but in fact it's quite common, at least implicitly.

For example, ConnCAN's new report implies that by implementing the right policies - presumably their preferred policies - the state of Connecticut can not only raise student achievement but actually close entirely achievement gaps between students from different income groups or racial backgrounds in a mere 8 years.

And it's not just reformers who mistake their favorite policies for magic elixirs. It's not unusual to see critics of NCLB claim that repealing the law would bring big benefits to new teacher recruitment and teacher job satisfaction, for instance. And the Chicago Teachers Union recently defended arts education as likely to significantly boost - among other things - math scores.

Of course, it's always possible that some particular policy really would have a lot of different benefits in a lot of different areas. Too often, though, education commentators overstate the virtues of their position out of a combination of wishful thinking and the defensiveness that results from a highly partisan debate environment.

If everyone was just a little more forthcoming about the possible shortcomings of their positions, the dialogue might be more productive. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Quotes: Ed Schools Make For-Profits Look Easy

Quotes2The ed schools know how to fight this stuff off. If the Administration thought the for-profits were tough, just wait. -- Unnamed Whiteboard Advisors insider commenting on the chances for teacher prep reform in 2013

Weekend Reading: Bill Gates, Rocketship, Atul Gawande!

Here are some of the best education stories from over the weekend and some magazines that you may have missed -- let me know what I missed:

Why Tom Harkin Retiring Is a Big Deal - Politics - The Atlantic Wire ow.ly/h9YML

Bill Gates on the Importance of Measurement -WSJ.com ow.ly/haXRj via @Larryferlazzo

Mindshift follows up with more on the coming changes to the Rocketship computer lab model ow.ly/hamK5 It wasn't broken!

Prison Prep School - In These Times ow.ly/hamuI It's not just charter schools that are pushing kids out

BloombergEDU has @rweingarten talking about the teacher bar exam and other topics ow.ly/hamlL

The New Yorker's Atul Gawande makes all my dreams come true talking about education on the @HarvardGSE EdCast ow.ly/hamem

Teachers Flip for 'Flipped Learning' Class Model - AP via ABC News ow.ly/haVYG

Dartmouth’s unresearched swipes at AP: Most college professors rightly consider themselves par... bit.ly/10Xst7m

What to do / tell kids about surviving / recovering from high school, via Jezebel ow.ly/hamQE

Gun Industry Spends Millions to Get Children Into Automatic Weapons NYT via Slate ow.ly/haJGk

Morning Video: Los Angeles School Board Candidate Forum

They still have elected school board members in LA -- so quaint! -- and the forum for two candidates running against each other to represent the Westside -- that's how they spell it! -- was held Thursday (hosted by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles) and posted online over the weekend.  The candidate on the left is Kate Anderson, a parent and advocate who's challenging incumbent Steve Zimmer, center. 

People: The Funder Becomes The Fundee

image from www.newschools.orgLongtime NSVFer Jordan Meranus -- who's name and portfolio I mangled more than a few times over the years (and whose vague resemblance to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel I only just noticed this very moment) -- left the NSnest a year ago to help build something called Ellevation and -- wouldn't you know? -- Ellevate has just been announced as one of NSVF's latest investments.  

What's Ellevation, you want to know?   "Ellevation provides a set of tools for teachers and administrators who work with English language learners (ELLs). It saves time and simplifies compliance requirements, so that educators can focus on their most important task—helping ELL students to succeed."

Congrats, etc. That sounds pretty exciting.  I once was on the verge of taking a foundation job when EdTrust's Kati Haycock told me that it was much more fun to get money than to give it out (Thanks, KHay!). I bet it's fun to go from giving it out to gettting it, too -- especially when you're getting it from the outfit you used to work for.    Image via NSVF

AM News: State Finance Lawsuits Stir Up K-12 Funding Landscape

State Finance Lawsuits Roil K-12 Funding Landscape EdWeek: As state budgets slowly recover from several years of economic contraction and stagnation, significant court battles continue to play a related yet distinct role in K-12 policy, even in states where the highest courts have already delivered rulings on the subject.


The GOP And Taxes: In The States, It Can Get Complicated NPR: Now, state revenues have crept back to pre-recession levels in Indiana and 24 other states,the National Conference of State Legislatures reports. The debate is over how much money to restore — and to what programs. Pence's budget would increase K-12 funding by $137 million over the next two years, boosting funding for Indiana's new full-day kindergarten program.

Top K12 Senator Tom Harkin to Retire PoliticsK12: Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who sits at the top of the Senate panels that deal with both K-12 spending and policy, isn't planning to seek re-election in 2014. This is a very big deal: Harkin is arguably the most powerful lawmaker in Congress when it comes to education. 

Schools Background Check Visitors In Illinois For Criminal Record HuffPostEdu: Visitors to schools in a suburban Chicago, Ill., district are now required to undergo a background check as part of added security measures in the weeks following last month's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

In Surprise, Educator Tied to Cheating Rejects Deal NYT: MEMPHIS — In an 11th-hour reversal, an educator accused of running a large test-cheating ring in three Southern states rejected a plea deal on Friday and elected to go to trial. Clarence Mumford Sr., who is accused of soliciting teachers to take certification exams for others, said the proposed 9- to 11-year sentence was “too severe for what I am charged with.”

Some Say Common Core Standards for Kindergartners Have Gone Too Far  NYPost: Way beyond the ABCs, crayons and building blocks, the city Department of Education now wants 4- and 5-year-olds to write “informative/explanatory reports” and demonstrate “algebraic thinking.” Children who barely know how to write the alphabet or add 2 and 2 are expected to write topic sentences and use diagrams to illustrate math equations.

Admissions Deadline Confusion: Sandy Delays High School Decisions WSJ: Applying to high school in New York has become even more fraught in recent years, with increasingly competitive—and costly—private schools, a rise in test preparation for specialized public schools and a proliferation of options that can seem daunting to navigate.

Afternoon Video: Inside the Mind of a Bilingual Learner

Southern California Public Radio is doing a big series on multilingual education. You can see some of the other segments here.

Reckhow: The Short, Sad Story Of PENewark

image from farm9.staticflickr.comThis is a guest post from MSU political scientist Sarah Reckhow:

The Newark education story often looks like ed-reform goes to Hollywood. The cast is packed with larger than life personalities (Cory Booker, Chris Christie, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah!). The plot line starts out so out heroically (Young billionaire tries to save city schools!).

But the protagonist is facing some setbacks.  The latest is the Christmas Day email release showing how team Newark and team Facebook (mostly Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg) managed the PR surrounding the announcement of Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift. The media coverage of the emails has emphasized how the Facebook and Newark teams sought to burnish Zuckerberg's image, but the emails also contain some juicy nuggets about the working assumptions of big budget education philanthropists. 

Some of the key takeaways include: internal jockeying among matching funders over what interventions to support, an expensive but ineffective community outreach effort, and the dangers of creating brand-now (and short-lived) nonprofits to do foundations' work.

Continue reading "Reckhow: The Short, Sad Story Of PENewark" »

Davos: Think Gates Cares About Education? Think Again

image from farm8.staticflickr.comWhy is education such a rare topic at Davos, the annual conference on global well-being, and what would it take to make education a top global funding priority along with health care?  

The question is raised in this recent commentary from Al Jazeera:  "On the face of it, there should be little need to make the business case for education. It is intrinsically tied to all positive development outcomes. Economic growth, health, nutrition and democracy are all boosted by quality schooling. If all children in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills, poverty would fall by 12 percent - and that's good for business. The private sector benefits directly from an educated, skilled workforce."

Education development from the private sector totals just $683M a year, according to the latest Education for All Global Monitoring Report. "This is equivalent to less than 0.5 percent of the annual profits of the ten biggest companies in the world," writes Pauline Rose is the Director of the Global Monitoring Report on Education published by UNESCO. "It is about the same as the price of two Boeing 747s or the amount Americans spend on pizzas in just over a week."  Meanwhile, there are 61M children not going to school.

One reason for the relative inattention to global education is that it's eclipsed by global health efforts, which receive more than half of US foundation funds (vs. 8 percent for education).  Ironically, many of these global health initiatives are funded funded by none other than the Gates Foundation.  (Image via FlickrCC)

Quotes: CA Gov. Whinges Over NCLB Waiver Rejection

Quotes2Distant authorities crack the whip, demanding quantitative measures and a stark, single number to encapsulate the precise achievement level of every child. - CA Governor Jerry Brown, via Huffington Post's Joy Resmovits

Los Angeles: School Board Candidates Debate Deasy

Last night was the first of three candidate forums being hosted by the United Way of Los Angeles (among others), this one featuring the Westside's current Board member, Steve Zimmer (center), and his challenger, parent and advocate Kate Anderson (left).  

ScreenHunter_06 Jan. 25 00.13
According to this account from LA School Report (which I edit), the discussion focused on core issues such as teacher evaluations (Anderson called the new agreement "too mush"), charter school oversight (Zimmer is pro-charter but has proposed a moratorium), and whether LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy is receiving the support he deserves.  Both Anderson and Zimmer claim to support him.

Unlike many other big city school systems, LAUSD is still governed by an independent elected school board.  Zimmer has been endorsed by the teachers union.  Anderson is being supported by the Coalition for School Reform, which includes charter school supporters and allies of Mayor Villaraigosa.

Image courtesy LA School Report

AM News: Schools Must Provide Disabled Students with Sports Rights Under Obama

Schools must provide sports for disabled, US Dept. of Ed says AP: Students with disabilities must be given a fair shot to play on a traditional sports team or have their own leagues, the Education Department says. Disabled students who want to play for their school could join traditional teams if officials can make "reasonable modifications" to accommodate them.


Missouri Parents Required To Report Gun Ownership To Schools Under Proposed Bill HuffPostEdu: Democratic state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal's Senate Bill 124 would make it a crime for parents to fail to report gun ownership to a school, punishable by a fine of up to $100. It also bars parents from failing to properly lock or secure firearms, and would punish parents who fail to stop their child from illegally possessing a firearm.

Niskayuna Schools: No thank you to lunch regulations, will lose federal aid WNYT: In addition [the school board member] says kids who were forced to take certain foods wound up tossing it into the trash. Lunch prices increased, portions decreased and the number of kids who were buying their lunch at school was cut in half. By November, the school district's food operation was $59,000 in the red.

To Raise Graduation Rate, Colleges Are Urged to Help a Changing Student Body NYT: In an effort to improve the college completion rate and fend off new regulations, a commission of the nation’s six leading higher-education associations is calling for extensive reforms to serve a changing college population — one increasingly composed of older and part-time students.

Fairness For Struggling Students Act Would Reform Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Rules HuffPostEdu: Three U.S. Senators unveiled legislation Wednesday to reverse a 2005 change in bankruptcy laws that makes it nearly impossible to have private student loan debt discharged.

Thompson: Houston Debates Teacher Bailout

image from www.houstonisd.org

In HISD Teachers Walk Out of Contracts in Record Numbers, Union Says, the Houston Chronicle reports that 700 or more teachers may have walked out of their contracts by January.  That would be more than 6% of all teachers.  The record number resignations would mean that teachers are so fed up that they ignore the union's warnings that breaking their contract will be seen as a termination and will stay on their record. 

The Chroncle also reports the contradictory numbers generated by the Houston school system, as well as their denial that a record number of teachers are leaving.  If Houston, and its "reform" superintendent Terry Grier, want a heads-up on why teachers are disgusted, they could listen to union leaders who explain, "A lot of our campus administrators are absolutely abusive ... No one wants to be told to sit down and shut up in a faculty meeting, or be yelled at in front of students, parents or their peers." -JT(@drjohnthompson)  Image via HISD

Quotes: "The Objective Here Is Not To Have More Charters"

Quotes2The objective here is not to have more charters; the objective is to have great schools. -- Green Dot CEO Marco Petruzzi, appearing on a Southern California public radio show about the parent trigger.

Update: More Lessons From The 2012 Gay Equality Campaign

For a long time, gay marriage was nearly unthinkable.  Then it went down in defeat 31 times in a row -- including 2008's massive failure in California (Proposition 8).  Advocates couldn't agree on what to focus on, or who should lead.

image from farm7.staticflickr.com

Four years later, however, gay marriage laws are being passed in bunches (Maine, Washington, Maryland, and Minnesota), the Democratic candidate for President of the United States felt it was politically advantageous to announce his support, Congress might reverse DOMA, and tthe Supreme Court might overturn the California law.  

What can education advocates learn from recent successes of the gay rights campaign?  Here are some of the preliminary answers  I got out of this Atlantic Magazine article (Inside This Year's Epic Campaign for Gay Equality).  Maybe you'll find more or different.

You need a single, dedicated national organization able to operate across multiple states and multiple election cycles (in the case of gay marriage, it was a small outfit called Freedom to Marry).  You need a tireless but not ego-driven leader  who's willing to herd the cats and let the issue be the star (in this case, someone you've never heard of named Evan Wolfson).  And -- this may be the hardest part for reform proponents and opponents to grasp -- you need to pick an issue that unites the diverse coalition of interested parties who are prone to disagreement, research the most compelling emotional rather than intellectual appeals, and then force everyone to keep working together even when they want to spin off in different directions.   

Previous posts:   Learning From The Gay Rights Movement How Vouchers Are Like Same-Sex Marriage, Image via FlickerCC.

Pictures: The Arne Duncan Inauguration Mystery

You may have seen this already but it wasn't until today when I was looking around for images of EdSec Arne Duncan at the Inauguration that I come across his twitpic from the Inauguration in which Beyonce and Jay-Z are seen trying to avoid Al Sharpton's questions about lip-synching.  Anyone seen a picture of Duncan at the event?  I'm still looking.  

Morning Video: HS Senior Comes Out To His Class


At some point, these coming-out videos will become passe (and indeed, this one may mark that point), but for now/just in case: here's a New Jersey high school student coming out to his classmates. Towleroad via Buzzfeed.

AM News: Florida Bill Proposes Taxes on Gun Sales Fund School Security

New Florida Bills Would Make Gun And Ammo Taxes Pay For School Security HuffPostEdu: In the wake of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, one Florida lawmaker wants to make gun owners foot the bill for students' safety. In order to pay for these increased safety measures, Stewart proposes creating a Safe School Trust Fund (HB 327) within the Department of Education, and she wants it funded by taxes collected on Florida gun and ammo sales.


Districts Get Bold on School Security EdWeek: President Barack Obama's announcement last week of a wide-ranging anti-violence plan in response to the Newtown, Conn., school shootings comes as many districts are adopting new and sometimes dramatic measures—including arming teachers and volunteers—intended to prevent similar tragedies in their own schools.

 D.C. Schools Consider Dropping U.S. Government High School Graduation Requirement HuffPostEdu: In an ironic twist, public school leaders in the nation's capital are considering allowing its high school students to graduate without taking an advanced level course in government functions.

NY Gov.'s education plans get lukewarm response AP: BUFFALO, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to spend 4.4 percent more on schools next year received a lukewarm reception Wednesday from educators and advocates who praised some of the planned initiatives but said funding would remain short of what it should be under a landmark court ruling six years ago.

To Raise Graduation Rate, Colleges Are Urged to Help a Changing Student Body AP: In an effort to improve the college completion rate and fend off new regulations, a commission of the nation’s six leading higher-education associations is calling for extensive reforms to serve a changing college population — one increasingly composed of older and part-time students.

Afternoon Video: Donations Pour In For "Caine's Arcade" Kid

Caine’s Arcade video leads to scholarship fund

Bruno: Beware Of "Breakthrough" Education Research

image from farm2.staticflickr.comKeith Humphreys had a fascinating post last week explaining why "breakthrough medical findings" - he uses the example of fish oil pills - often don't live up to the hype after additional research comes in.

He's talking about medical research, but I think the same issues arise in education research all the time. As Humphreys explains, it's difficult to perform a large-scale, well-controlled experiment to test out a new idea, and journals aren't interested in publishing small studies that find small (or no) effects. If you do enough small experiments, however, eventually you'll come up with large effects just by chance. Those results might be exciting enough to get published, but they may not be borne out by larger subsequent experiments.

If you follow education research at all, you know it's not uncommon for journals to publish studies with small sample sizes. That's often justifiable - it's hard to do big, well-controlled experiments to test educational interventions - but it does mean that big, novel findings from such studies should be taken with a grain of salt. Think of them as clues or stepping stones rather than reasons to dramatically rethink schooling. - PB (@MrPABruno) Image via Flcker CCommons

Events: "Education Mayors" Headline West Coast Summit

Just over a month from now -- and just a week before a key election day -- United Way Los Angeles is hosting its Education Summit 2013, which will feature three "education mayors" (Emanuel, Villaraigosa, and Booker) as well as many of those who want to replace Villaraigosa and become the next Mayor of LA.  

United Way LA has been active on education issues and is hosting candidate forums for the three LAUSD board member spots that are also up for grabs on March 5. The first one is tomorrow night, featuring incumbent (and TFA alum) Steve Zimmer, who's been endorsed by the teachers union, and parent / advocate challenger Kate Anderson, who's been endorsed by the pro-charter, pro-accountability Coalition for School Reform.

High School: "The Giant Box Of Strangers"

There are lots of reasons to read Jennifer Senior's new New York Magazine article Why You Never Truly Leave High School (or at least save it for the weekend).

Screen shot 2012-12-17 at 7.29.31 PM

The main reason to read it is to grasp Senior's descriptions of the importance -- and fundamentally flawed nature of -- high school and its impact on students' future lives.  High school isn't just important in our individual memories and culturally (they're making Heathers into a musical).  How adolescents experience those key years not only determines how much they enjoy high school but also influences how they do as young adults and afterwards.

“If you’re interested in making sure kids learn a lot in school, yes, intervening in early childhood is the time to do it,” says Laurence Steinberg, a developmental psychologist at Temple University and perhaps the country’s foremost researcher on adolescence. “But if you’re interested in how people become who they are, so much is going on in the adolescent years.”  

“It’s not adolescence that’s the problem,” according to one researcher cited in the story. “It’s the giant box of strangers.”  

The article is also a pretty good overview of why school -- high school especially -- is so important, and so fraught, for adults as well as adolescents.  In every tale of success or faillure we encounter, parents, teachers, taxpayers are all re-experiencing our own teen years.  We remember more from those years, and always will.  our deepest and most vivid experiences of success, shame and agression, among other things, come from this period.
People always ask me why I think education is so interesting, and I think they mean classrooms and pedagogy.  But obviously school is much much more than that -- parents, teachers, and public officials, policy considerations, social issues, religion and ideology -- both in the present and from the past.

Morning Video: High School Graduation Rate Inches Up

Here's NBC News' Brian Williams with the news:

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

AM News: 113th House Ed Committee Keeps NCLB Reauthorization a "Top Priority"

Education Committee Revs Back Up In 113th Congress HuffPostEdu: Today, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, held his first organizational meeting with the 113th Congress's iteration of his committee. In his opening remarks, Kline said reauthorizing No Child Left Behind will remain a "top priority." NCLB, the sweeping law that governs public K-12 education, expired in 2007.


Colleges Overproducing Elementary Teachers, Data Find EdWeek: Data, while imprecise, suggest that some states are producing far more new teachers at the elementary level than will be able to find jobs in their respective states—even as districts struggle to find enough recruits in other certification fields.

Charters Adjusting to Common-Core Demands EdWeek: Charter schools throughout the country are coping with myriad challenges in preparing for the Common Core State Standards, an effort that could force them to make adjustments from how they train their teachers to the types of curriculum they use to the technology they need to administer online tests.

Florida Mother Writes $12,000 Check for Armed Guard at Elementary School FirstCoastNews: School Superintendent Janet Valentine said she's thrilled and surprised to learn that a parent wants to chip in more than $11,000 to pay for a deputy to provide security during the day at Old Kings Elementary School.

Asian Influx Gives Private Schools Foreign Aid  WSJ: As growing numbers of Chinese students seek a college education in the U.S., many are turning to American high schools as a steppingstone. The resulting surge in Chinese enrollment has helped private high schools, and religious academies in particular, reap much-needed revenue.

Afternoon Video: Trailer For "Blackboard Wars"

Here's the trailer for Blackboard Wars, which you may remember was screened last week in New Orleans and recapped here last week.  The Discovery-produced reality show opens next month on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Update: First Lady's Alma Mater On School Closing List

image from www.cps.eduThey're not closing high schools (because gangs are in charge) and even half-empty schools might be allowed to live another day in Chicago, but Michelle Obama's elementary school alma mater is on the Chicago Sun-Times' unofficial list of 193 schools that might get closed in order to help downsize Chicago's school system and help it deal with a $1 billion deficit.  According to her Wikipedia page, the First Lady went to Bryn Mawr Elementary School (later renamed Bouchet Academy.)  The school has been trying to turn around since at least 2008. Image courtesy of CPS.

Thompson: A Daring New Idea - Trust Teachers

image from www.teachersinpartnership.orgEduwonk guest blogger Kim Farris-Berg's recent post, "What Happens When Teachers Call the Shots," reminds us that each student is different. Teachers continuously adapt to our students’ varying needs. That is why reformers need to tap the collective wisdom of teachers.  

Even better, Farris-Berg critiques the single worst policy to grow out of our mistrust of teachers. Top down curriculum pacing "guides" often tell teachers what textbook pages to cover and how many minutes to spend on what days.  Some scripted mandates tell teachers what to say on each page. In an effort to ensure that all students are exposed to the same content,  schools are turned into assembly lines. Advanced students get bored. Struggling students get frustrated and drop out.  The joy of learning is squeezed out of classroom instruction.

These mandates are designed to help transient students, but I would add that they are among the worst victims.  Teachers of highly mobile students need more, not less discretion in determining the the pace of instruction. With my high school students, however, I earn my salary by building relationships, reading my kids' body language, probing their understanding, and timing my instruction.

I will never forget the introduction of our old school's pacing mandate.  In one day, I was supposed to cover, "Standard 16.4, Examine the rise of nationalism, the causes and effects of World War II (eg Holocaust, economic and military shifts since 1945, the founding of the United Nations, and the political positioning of Europe, Africa, and Asia)."  

I ignored the guide, but teachers is tested subjects couldn't.  Across the school, 40% of the students dropped out during the semester-long fiasco.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via TrustingTeachers.org

Bruno: DC Blame Game Distracts Us From Root Causes

image from farm1.staticflickr.comOne of the larger Michelle Rhee-related controversies revolves around how much cheating on standardized tests took place during her time running the schools in Washington DC, and whom to blame.

Richard Whitmire came to Rhee's defense in the Washington Post last week, but in the process he got bogged down in an unhelpful game of finger pointing, going on at some length about how the right targets for "blame" are teachers rather than the administrators holding them accountable.

There's obviously some reasonable appeal to assigning blame for cheating, and it's intuitive enough to assign that blame to the individuals most directly involved. As satisfying as it is to assign blame, however, it's only tangentially related to the policy issue at hand: namely, the extent to which cheating is a problem under Rhee-style reforms and what we should do to mitigate it. The causes of cheating are therefore much more relevant than the assignment of guilt.

Continue reading "Bruno: DC Blame Game Distracts Us From Root Causes" »

Events: EdGrowth Summit In NYC

Screen shot 2013-01-22 at 12.43.32 PMEveryone who's anyone (of a certain type) is at the Education Growth Conference in NYC today and tomorrrow.  Held at the superfabulous Times Center, the invitation-only #EdGrowth event "dives into the complexities of investing in an industry in which market and mission converge and examine the intricate mix of risk and opportunity across the global education marketplace." Yep.

Journalist-type folks from EdWeek, Bloomberg, USA Today, and the Hechinger Report. will be there.  Plus lots of education investment types (including NSVF) and a handful of district and public agency types. Plus Diane Ravitch (scheduled). Image courtesy of EdGrowth Partners.

Quotes: The "Game" Of Measurable, Objective Results

Proponents of [human-directed teaching] are often drawn into the game of defending their approach only by measurable, objective results. -- The Art of Coffee (Aeon Magazine)



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.