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Quotes: "Not Every [Closing] Will Be A Civil Rights Violation"

Quotes2We know closings can destabilize [communities]. But it doesn’t mean every one will be a civil rights violation.

-- USDE's Civil Rights guy Seth Galanter

Weekend Reading: Turnarunds & Tirades

Here's a look at some of the best stuff that came through over the weekend -- or from weekly magazines and other sites I don't check during the week:

AP: School turnarounds prompt community backlash ow.ly/hnvI0 LA Superintendent Deasy calls failing schools "immoral"

Michelle Rhee Gets an Education - NYTimes.comow.ly/hmOHa

Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Early Education (Audio) ow.ly/hmOQ8

Dear Bill Gates: You Are Cooler Than Steve Jobs - Esquire ow.ly/hndLv

Holding Education Hostage by Diane Ravitch | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books ow.ly/hmQm8

Do Unions Have a Shot in the 21st Century? -NYTimes.com ow.ly/hmOJt

From Jay Mathews: Why much-praised KIPP D.C. expels kids: Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, founders of the KIPP ch... bit.ly/TvHb6P

Land's End Founder's Attempt to Save a Chicago Neighborhood | Chicago Magazine via The Billfold ow.ly/hnTsu

Venture Capital's Massive, Terrible Idea [Udacity] For The Future Of College | The Awl ow.ly/hnTnB

Rocketship’s cofounder departing for online learning startup | EdSource Today ow.ly/hovUs

Morning Video: Rhee Interviewed On Sunday News Show

Here's Rhee's 4-minute interview with George Stephanapolous, in which she admits she probably should not have fired someone on camera but that testing opponents forget that the long period of time before the accountability era weren't particularly good ones for many kids.  "We had decades where there was no accountability whatsoever."

AM News: GOP Leaders Pressure Arne Duncan on D.C. Voucher "Roadblocks"

GOP Leaders Press Arne Duncan on D.C. Voucher Program PoliticsK12: Top GOP lawmakers on K-12 issues in the U.S. House of Representatives—including U.S. Rep. John Kline, the chairman of the education committee—are worried that the Obama administration has been throwing "roadblocks" when it comes to student participation in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, which helps low-income students in the nation's capital cover the cost of private school.


Pressure Mounts in Some States Against Common Core EdWeek: Critics of the common core have focused recent lobbying and media efforts on Colorado, Idaho, and Indiana, all of which have signed on to the standards. Forty-six states have adopted the standards in English/language arts, and 45 have done so in math.

Minn. Superintendent Pioneered ELL Reforms EdWeek: As the director of the district's ELL programs from 1998 to 2006, Silva oversaw one of the most dramatic shake-ups of instruction for English-language learners in any major school system at the time. She dismantled the district's use of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) centers, where beginning English-learners were taught separately from their native English-speaking peers for up to two years, and put ELLs directly into mainstream classrooms.

Michelle Rhee: I Wish I Had Paid More Attention to Test Security in D.C. NYT: "My initial reaction was, Well, the investigation showed nothing. I was frustrated that people couldn’t accept that a district of largely low-income kids of color had the ability to grow a lot in a short period of time. In retrospect, what I know is that you have to ensure that you’re doing everything possible when there are allegations of wrongdoing."

Carrot Juice Instead Of Coke? USDA Proposes New School Snack Rules NPR: The Department of Agriculture has proposed a new "Smart Snacks in School" rule that aims to promote more healthful options in school vending machines, snack bars and cafeterias across the country. The USDA's updated regulations, which are open to public comment for 60 days, will set nutrition standards and calorie limits for snack foods that are sold in schools.

In a Memphis Cheating Ring, the Teachers Are the Accused NYT: In addition to the senior Mr. Mumford, eight people have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the investigation into the ring, and on Friday, a federal prosecutor, John Fabian, announced that 18 people who confessed to paying Mr. Mumford to arrange test-takers for them had been barred from teaching for five years.

Reform: Sure, The Reform Brand Is Tarnished. But So Is The Other Side's

The New York Times' Sara Mosle has posted a fascinating entry about the issues facing the current school reform movement, using the work of Gary Rubinstein as a focal point. Go read it, if you haven't already.  I can wait.

I have no issue with the issues Mosle raises, and Gary deserves the attention for his work expressing concerns and trying to engage with reformers about them.  But, as I wrote on Twitter last night, the complaints about reformers -- their hubris, misuse of data, and distance from the classroom -- are pretty familiar now.  I can recall any number of posts and articles that have raised these points in the past.  

What I wish Mosle had done in her piece was to make one further connection, addressing the issue of school reform critics' blind spots.  In my experience, reform critics' exaggerations, misuses of data, and hubris (some would call it hypocrisy) too often match those of the reformers they love to tear down, and this practice has become as much of a problem as the ones Mosle focuses on in her piece. 

For her part, Mosle seems to agree with the point, writing on Twitter:  The "dialogue has to be both ways, with both sides occasionally conceding a point (the hard part) not just making them."

As it stands, both sides occupy some pretty shaky ground. Who's going to get this discussion restarted?  The rabble rousers on both sides will continue to exaggerate and pontificate -- that's their job, or at least their habit -- but what's really needed is someone who can figure out how to admit past mistakes and move forward. 

The reform "brand" has become tarnished, sure, but so has the reputation and credibility of all too many reform opponents.  And right now, those of us in the vast middle sort of hate you all -- both sides --  in roughly equal measure. 

Quotes: Growing "Cynicism About The Ed Reform Community"

Quotes2The number of ed reforms that hold up when the evidence is looked at critically seems to be tiny. The number that continue to work when they're scaled up seems to be tiny. The number that continue to show results all the way through high school seems to be tiny. The number that can withstand critical scrutiny seems to be tiny. And of the ones that are left, the cost to keep them up usually appears to be prohibitive... My cynicism about the ed reform community grows by leaps and bounds every time I read a story like this. And that's pretty often.  - Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum, responding to news that early results from a much-imitated San Jose reform effort were inflated.

Philanthropy: Four Responses To Bill Gates' Annual Letter

Mega-philanthropist Bill Gates has been doing the media rounds over the past couple of days, priming the pump for his annual letter. Here's a roundup of what's been said so far:

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comThe first notice I came across was from the WSJ, via the indefatigable Larry Ferlazzo (who wondered whether this was the first time Gates has specifically endorsed merit pay). I'm not sure, frankly -- I think I sort of assumed that Gates was for it all along, whether he said so or not. Has anything changed?

Next thing I noticed was Slate's Jacob Weisberg, livetweeting tidbits from a reporter roundtable Gates did (including Gates' observation that he shouldn't rightly be counted as a college dropout since he had so many credits he could have graduated).  Check that out via @jacobwe.

Yesterday writer Dana Goldstein passed along her account of the meeting, which included hints that the BMMGF might do something to create an alternative college ranking system to measure retention and graduation of remedial students (and make The Washington Monthly's Paul Glastris super happy), and doubts about Florida's timeline for coming up with standardized tests in art and music.  Forbes' Luisa Kroll picks up on the college ratings revamphere. You can read Goldstein's writeup focused on Gates growing enthusiasm for big data here

Last but not least, uberblogger Jason Kottke wrote up some thoughts about meeting Gates and what he has to say -- general favorable response to Gates' characteristic optimism (though Gates noted that education R&D were drastically underinvested). He compares Gates to Bloomberg.

Or just skip it all and read the damn thing here, or jump in to the education section here, or follow the suggested hashtag #billsletter. Mashable points out that last year's letter was more focused on innovation (so passe!) but this year's version was presented as a multemedia presentation (alas without interactivity).  Image via the BMMGF.

Morning Video: Districts In 28 States Face Ballooning Bond Payments


This California Watch report shows how more than a thousand districts in 28 states are using a new kind of bond financing that makes building cheap in the present but extremely expensive when it comes to paying off the debt. Roughly 400 CA districts have borrowed $9B but will have to pay back $36B.

AM News: Race to Top Progress Report Spotlights Struggles in D.C., Georgia, & Maryland

Race to Top Winners Make Progress, Face Challenges, Ed. Dept. Reports EdWeek: Education Department officials say they are most worried about three recipients for which second-year performance took a nose dive: the District of Columbia, Georgia, and Maryland. Georgia and Maryland have both struggled with implementing their teacher-evaluation systems, while the District of Columbia’s sluggish pace on school turnarounds means it has only worked with one persistently low-achieving school with its grant funds so far.


Race to Top Progress Report: Georgia, D.C., Maryland Flounder PoliticsK12: The second annual progress report on the $4 billion Race to the Top program reveals that the majority of winners are struggling in two areas: implementing teacher- and principal-evaluation systems, and building and upgrading sophisticated data systems that will do everything from inform classroom lessons to identify students at risk of academic failure.

GOP Players in Congress Step Forward on K-12 EdWeek: Two Republicans have ascended to key education roles in a Congress with a lot on its plate when it comes K-12 policy and spending: U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who has a long record on school issues, and Rep. Todd Rokita of Indiana, a relative newcomer to Washington.

Skepticism of for-profit companies managing public schools HechingerReport: JACKSON, Miss. — When state officials here tried last year to recruit a for-profit company to manage schools in rural Tate County, the community outcry was swift. Concerned residents spoke out in the media, argued their case to lawmakers and circulated a petition against the “privatization” of Tate County Schools.

Ohio Governor Seeks to Expand Voucher Plan ColumbusDispatch: Administration officials stressed that under the plan no school district would receive less state aid than it did this year. That means a number of districts will remain on what is known as a “guarantee” – meaning they get more money than the formula otherwise says they should get. 

Massachusetts school districts turn to public relations aides when trouble surfaces BostonGlobe: Suburban school districts are increasingly turning to public relations professionals to manage crises and help them communicate with parents and residents, often at a cost of thousands of dollars to taxpayers.



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.