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Afternoon Video: A Flight Simulator - For Teachers?

Here's Teach Live, one of those things mentioned in the Gates/AFT joint oped Effective Teaching in The New Republic:


There might be better videos out there, or other edschools or companies doing other versions of the same thing.  You might recall this from a January 2012 Amanda Ripley story about 12 ed schools with classroom simulators.

Thompson: Two Ways of Speaking Truth to Power

MoneytalksThe Annenberg Institute's Warren Simmons set the tone for the discussion of school reform at Columbia's Teachers College panel discussion, "Reconciling Race, Community, and School Reform," and in doing so he also highlighted some of the best features of the work of Sarah Carr, Sarah Garland, and Amy Stuart Wells.

Simmons explained how “ideologues” came to New Orleans and used its schools as a great experiment for their theories about charters and performance management.  Those reformers now proclaim New Orleans a great success, he said, even though it clearly is not. The people with power, Simmons explained, ignored the voices of the people.  They used their favored metrics as a “proxy” for the discussion that was needed about race and class. Some of these “reformers” have finally listened and, perhaps, learned.  Others, especially those with money and power, have not.

Another view of power was described by “reformers’” Brian Johnson and Joshua Thomas at the California Charter Schools Conference.  They saw unions as the power that will only respond to power.  They participated in a panel discussion, "Politics, Policy, and Advocacy,"   that focused on ways of telling their stories.  In fact, the panelists mostly agreed that everyone should have an opportunity to express their own beliefs.

But, then, Johnson and Thomas crossed a line that should never be crossed, saying that we teachers who support LIFO and oppose value-added teacher evaluations “believe that all poor children of color can’t learn at the highest levels.”  It is our prejudice that explains why “power” “hates high-performing charter schools.” Even if these young “reformers” can’t respect the voices of others, they should at least stop questioning the integrity of families and educators who have different stories to tell.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.      

Quotes: Small Failures Lead To Big Success

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comThe most challenging students (and families) are those who expect success to be automatic, a birthright, something they should achieve just by showing up. How Middle School Failures Lead to Medical School Success (The Atlantic)

Morning Video: PBS's Peabody-Winning "Poverty" Series

Watch Park Avenue: Money, Power & the American Dream on PBS. See more from Why Poverty?.

Here's just one of the several PBS segments on poverty that ran in late 2012, focused on the giant chasms between rich and poor and the reduced class mobility that has arisen in recent years.

AM News: NJ Governor Announces State-Takeover Plan for Camden

Governor of NJ Announces State-Takeover Plan for Camden WSJ: Gov. Chris Christie said Monday his administration could take over the public school system here in as little as six to eight weeks, but what state control would look like in one of New Jersey's most impoverished urban centers remains unclear. In the weeks leading up to the announcement, Mr. Christie said, he and advisers discussed various options available to help boost one of the state's worst-performing districts. One extreme example: New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina, the state's "recovery district" took control of most of the city's schools and converted many to charter schools.


Indiana Supreme Court upholds school vouchers IndyStar:  Public tax dollars may be used to fund private school tuition under Indiana's voucher program, the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled today. The ruling, on a teachers union-supported lawsuit from 2011, ends the legal challenge to the program at the state level. The case could be made again in federal court. But in 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a similar program in Ohio, making any federal case a long shot.

With Vouchers, 17 States Shift Aid for Schools to Families NYT: Currently, 17 states offer 33 programs that allow parents to use taxpayer money to send their children to private schools, according to the American Federation for Children, a nonprofit advocate for school vouchers and tax-credit scholarship programs that give individuals or corporations tax reductions if they donate to state-run scholarship funds. To qualify, students generally must fit into certain categories, based on factors that include income and disability status. 

Digitally Aided Education, Using the Students’ Own Electronic Gear NYT: Educators and policy makers continue to debate whether computers are a good teaching tool. But a growing number of schools are adopting a new, even more controversial approach: asking students to bring their own smartphones, tablets, laptops and even their video game players to class. Advocates of this new trend, called B.Y.O.T. for bring your own technology, say there is another advantage: it saves money for schools short of cash.

Civil Rights Groups: School Safety Not Dependent on Guns EdWeek: In a pre-emptive move against a school safety proposal from the National Rifle Association that is expected to include a call for more people trained and approved to carry guns at schools, acoalition of civil rights groups unveiled its own safety planRequires Adobe Acrobat ReaderThursday. It seeks the creation of positive school climates, thoughtful and comprehensive crisis plans, and improved safety features that don’t turn schools into fortresses.

Afternoon Audio: EdTech Taking Practitioners For Granted

It's not so much that there weren't many educators at SXSWedu earlier this month, notes this NSVF blog post (Elevating the Educator Voice), but rather that educators and entrepreneurs tended to participate in different tracks and that the business and innovation tracks tended to be more popular.  
So even if you were there, you might have missed 2012 National Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki’s half-filled talk on Supercharging the Teaching Profession. Listen to it above.  

Thompson: The Tragic Endings of "180 Days" (Plus DCPS Response)

RUFUSViewers had been warned, but the tragic conclusion of PBS's 180 Days was more excruciating than anticipated.  The first two hours balanced the sorrows that students had endured with their concrete displays of grief and coping.   Delaunte was covered in tattoos in a way that could terrify outsiders. They are tributes to his deceased mother, Viola. His "FOE" tat is not a gang symbol; it means "Family over Everything." Raven shows us her private shrine for deceased loved ones, as well as symbols of triumph.

Similarly, the educators at D.C. Met alternative school prepared conscientiously for the best practices of demonstrating abstract concepts in concrete and understandable ways. Sports and the music program (which was destined to be cut) played essential roles.

Early in part two, the educators' efforts to keep Rufus in school died when his mother transferred him.  It was the only scene that I could not watch, forcing me to twice leave the room.  The goodbyes were interminable because everyone knew what the future would be for the kid with that captivating personality. Rufus was in a daze, a doomed student walking, not noticing a classmate he bumped into.  As Rufus exited his last loving sanctuary, he looked to be preparing for his cruel fate.

D.C. Met did the opposite when trying to avoid its predestined outcome.  In panic, a helter-skelter approach to test prep was thrown together.  Hands-on instruction became a parody of itself as the rush to remediate morphed into the syndrome known as "lost in activity."  Students were forced to drink from a firehose with only a desperate hope that enough disembodied facts would stick in their brains until testing concluded.

Continue reading "Thompson: The Tragic Endings of "180 Days" (Plus DCPS Response)" »

Charts: Even Cody and Klonsky Don't Overlap Much

Screen shot 2013-03-25 at 4.44.19 PMIt's not much of a surprise that Michelle Rhee and Diane Ravitch followers don't overlap much, but Klonsky and Cody?  

They only share 16 percent of the same followers, according to a piece by Mike Petrilli from a little while ago.  And Andy Smarick and Jeanne Allen only overlap 24 percent.

You'd think they'd have lots of followers in common. 

Maybe someone's figured out why, or found another way to measure social media overlap?

Via Education Next (Tweet Thine Enemy)

Charts: What The Rich Think About Education

Check out the poll results below, which are a followup on Friday's post and discussion about wealthy liberals' abandonment of education reform critics: As you can see, wealthy people -- liberal and conservative alike -- have somewhat different views on education than the general public:

image from journals.cambridge.org
To be sure, the wealthy lean to the right when it comes to ideology, so it's not even-Steven in terms of access to cash.   As the paper notes, "about twice as many of our respondents considered themselves Republicans (58 percent) as considered themselves Democrats (27 percent)."

Then again, there's no shortage of liberal wealthy individuals -- take a look at the Democratic fundraising operation during the 2012 campaign for a sense of that -- and sometimes conservative fatcats create philanthropies that support liberal-leaning causes -- like the Ford Foundation's funding of this week's PBS show, "180 Days."

Thanks again to Sarah Reckhow for pointing me to this article. 

Morning Video: Rhee Talks At Brookings


Check out the video of Rhee and others at Brookings yesterday, talking charters, quality teachers, and the role of districts.

AM News: Over 50 School Closure Protesters Arrested in Chicago

Protest Of CPS School Closings: Arrests, Tangled Evening Commute Stem From Loop Rally HuffPostEdu: A throng of protestors, police and media descended on Daley Plaza Wednesday, kicking off what are expected to be several weeks of demonstrations against the Chicago Public School closures. Protestors from across the political spectrum swarmed the Loop just before Wednesday's evening rush, calling for a moratorium on the district's plan to close 54 schools in mostly low-income black and Latino neighborhoods due to what the district has pegged an "underutilization" crisis.


In Chicago, Dozens Arrested As They Protest School Closures NPR: "'People have a right to the neighborhoods in which they live,' [Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis] said. 'Children have the right to a safe, nurturing, loving environment.'During the sit-in, crowds of people on the sidewalk and on northbound LaSalle continued to wave signs and chant 'save our schools' as some of the crowd sat down. "Police soon began making arrests, leading more than 50 people away one by one to a holding area outside a building just south of Washington Street." 

Fourth Round of Investing in Innovation Kicks Off With Pre-Screening PoliticsK12: The U.S Department of Education is accepting "pre-applications" for its small $3 million development grants, which are part of a larger $150 million Investing in Innovation grant contest. The deadline to apply is April 26. Applications for the larger "scale-up" and "validation" grants—which require more evidence of past success but can win applicants up to $25 million—will be available later this spring.

San Diego Superintendent Pick Has Deep Parent Ties EdWeek: Two years ago, a parent leader in San Diego introduced Cindy Marten, the principal of Central Elementary School in City Heights, this way: "Meet the next superintendent of San Diego Unified." It seemed a more-than-generous welcome, considering that about 850 students attend Central, and 133,000 are enrolled in the district, California's second-largest. The elevation of an elementary educator directly to such a level—the superintendency in the 19th largest school district nationwide—would be highly unusual, if not unprecedented, in the nation.

Beleaguered? Not Teachers, a Poll on ‘Well-Being’ Finds NYT: Recent battles over school funding, performance evaluations and tenure have given rise to public perceptions of a beleaguered teaching corps across the United States. But a new analysis of polling data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index that examines “well-being” as measured by a number of indicators, including physical and emotional health, job satisfaction and feelings of community and safety, found that teachers ranked second only to physicians.

Afternoon Video: Anderson Cooper Spelling Bee

Quotes: A Little "Boredom" Can Be Good For Learning

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comChildren need to have stand-and-stare time, time imagining and pursuing their own thinking processes or assimilating their experiences through play or just observing the world around them. -- Teresa Belton quoted in "Children should be allowed to get bored"

Thompson: The Essence of Inner-City Teaching and Learning

180Days_TanishiaWilliamsMinor_t700Watching Part 1 of PBS's "180 Days" is like gazing across the Grand Canyon.  You want to share your feelings about it, but first you must silently revere its majesty.

This masterpiece chronicles a year at the District of Columbia's  D.C. Met High School. When students like Raven Q., Raven C., and Rufus open up to the camera, this viewer forgot he was sitting on a couch.  I was back in school, listening, sharing, contemplating, and feeling the same gratitude that fellow human beings would open up the way these teens do. School is not the place for adults to impose solutions.  Our job is to contribute our experience, love and support, as we accept the invitation to join in their journey.

And, who would not commit to following principal Tanishia Williams-Minor wherever she dares to venture? Watching her coach the cheerleaders, I bet she could even teach me some moves! Ms. Williams-Minor understands that teaching and learning is an affair of "the Heart," not "the Head."  She knows that the moral and emotional consciousness of students is the rock on which schools must be built.

I am glad that I missed the first five minutes which foreshadowed a problem with the D.C. Schools central office, so I forgot politics. For the next two hours, the filmmaker portrayed so much of humanity's most profound emotions that I completely forgot that the D.C. accountability hawks were also watching the school. Even the central office IMPACT evaluator seemed cool. Surely, any administrator could see the genius at work in leading D.C. Met. 

Watching the previews for part 2, which show Ms.  Williams-Minor crying before the faculty, I got sick at my stomach. I didn't feel outrage that some bureaucrats might think they know what is better for her students.  I just mourned. 

Continue reading "Thompson: The Essence of Inner-City Teaching and Learning" »

Bruno: The NPE's Positive Agenda

3454586331_2e2ef4f62bLast week I complained that the Network for Public Education seemed to be defining itself mostly in negative terms.

I'd therefore be remiss if I didn't note that the NPE has since begun articulating an affirmative agenda.

In a note in the group's most recent newsletter, leader Diane Ravitch says that while you probably already "know what we oppose", the NPE also intends to advocate for a variety of education policies.

Some of those policy positions are a bit vague, like "professionalism for teachers" and "democratic control" of schools. And others are still essentially slightly-repackaged opposition statements.

Some of that is inevitable, especially early in a group's development, and as I said before there's nothing wrong with an advocacy organization dedicating itself substantially to opposing policies it considers ill-conceived.

I also happen to like most of what I see in the NPE's "positive agenda," so I'm hoping they flesh it out and advocate for it vigorously. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Charts: Growth Of Foundations, 1993-2010

image from bostonreview.netLast week, the Atlantic Magazine noted that the wealthy don't give as much as you might expect, proportionately -- and not to the things you might expect them to give, ideologically (Wealthy Liberals Ignore/Abandon Reform Critics).  This week, in the Boston Review, Stanford professor Rob Reich discusses the pros and cons of philanthropic expansion, which has been pretty massive in recent years (What Are Foundations For?)

Morning Video: "180 Days, Part 2"

Didn't watch Part 1? You can see it below, or skip it and go straight to the second half of the year.

Watch 180 Days : A Year Inside an American High School Episode 2 on PBS. See more from 180 Days.

I'm doing my best to goet some additional information about the outcomes and the story behind the making of the show.

AM News: "Personalized Learning" A Common Theme for Race to the Top Districts

'Personalized Learning' Varies for Race to Top Districts EdWeek: The 16 Race to the Top district winners, pushed by $400 million in federal grants that put a premium on personalized learning, are embarking on vastly different makeovers of the classroom experience—from districtwide approaches to a narrower blueprint focused on middle school math. Despite the divergent approaches, a review of the winning applications shows those districts are tapping similar tactics. 


CPS School Closings Will Leave 61 Vacant Buildings: What Happens to Them? DNAInfo: Tim Cawley, CPS chief administrative officer, said the district is still in the process of unloading buildings vacated from last year's closures. "We haven't closed on any buildings closed last year, but we have offers," he said, adding that CPS is in the final phases of fielding bids at some locations. Cawley said public schools' CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, "has had multiple conversations with community leaders to try to think about how these schools can continue to serve a useful purpose in their communities."

The Precedent for NCLB District Waivers PoliticsK12: State education officials in California have offered a tepid blessing of the No Child Left Behind waiver application that a group of nine districts have submitted to the U.S. Department of Education. In a March 22 letter to federal officials, Tom Torlakson (the state chief) and Michael Kirst (the board president) said the California Board of Education "expressed enthusiasm" for the waiver. But the two also went on to express reservations about how such a waiver would work, including the role of the state in monitoring these districts, whether other districts will be able to join in, and the process used by federal officials to approve the request.

Phoenix Schools Under Fire For Program Linked To Scientology NPR: Applied Scholastics is a program based on something Hubbard called Study Technology. The idea is that some kids struggle because they can't overcome learning barriers. They misunderstand words or progress through the content too quickly. The Church of Scientology makes no secret of its support for the program. It even distributes highly produced videos on it.

Partnership Blends Science and English Proficiency EdWeek: These pupils at El Verano Elementary School aren't just learning the science behind shadows, they're also improving their English-language skills. Their instruction is part of a federally funded collaborative project between the 4,600-student Sonoma district and the Exploratorium, a science museum in San Francisco.

Afternoon Video: "180 Days, Part 1"

Watch 180 Days : A Year Inside an American High School Episode 1 on PBS. See more from 180 Days.

Maybe you missed it last night. Maybe you're wondering what a Ford Foundation-funded education documentary looks like (as opposed to a Gates Foundation-funded one). Maybe you just can't get enough of this stuff, or want to catch up with the series before Part 2 airs tonight.

Thompson: Classroom-Level Reform (There's Still Time)

KathleenKathleen Porter-Magee’s words of wisdom to fellow “reformers” provide a “teachable moment.” Her “Opening the Black Box: Common Core as a Classroom Level Reform” draws the distinction between systemic and classroom reforms. 

Systemic reformers seek to reimagine school systems. They advocate for charter schools, vouchers, portfolio districts, and teacher-evaluation policies. Classroom-level reformers, however, try to actually change what happens in the classroom.

Porter-Magee writes "the classroom is a black box to systemic reformers. While many leaders have made it their business to understand inputs and student achievement outputs, too few have focused their attention of what it takes to drive achievement within the four walls of an American classroom." She then explains why the failure to understand classroom dynamics has prompted systemic reformers to be in too much of a hurry to shake things up.  Paying proper attention to the classroom, however, would force reformers to prioritize.  It would force policy-makers to establish feedbacks loops that use data for instruction, as opposed to systemic accountability.  

Porter-Magee supports Common Core, which she says is  pushing reformers to take classroom-level change more seriously, "but realizing this potential means accepting that, so far, our efforts may be falling short of what the moment requires."

She is correct.  Real world, reformers must decide whether they only care about the exciting challenge of creating new governance systems or whether they want to improve schools.  Had they looked into the black box which is classroom instruction, "reformers" would have known that schools never had a chance of implementing all of their contradictory agendas. Consequently, as districts focused on complying with systemic reformers' demands, the opportunity to improve instruction was put on hold.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.

Events: Next Week's Yale Summit

There's lots that's familiar about this year's Yale Education Leadership Conference, including the location (New Haven), the visit to Amistad (Thursday morning), and some of the panel topics and panelists.

image from cdn.e2ma.net
But there are also some new/newish elements -- a panel on the parent trigger, a segment on building diverse coalitions, and how other non-education sectors have changed. Providence Mayor Angel Taveras or Louisiana State Superintendent John White are doing the Friday morning keynote. See full agenda panel lineups here.    @YaleELC and use #ELC2013

Morning Video: Tavis Smiley's "Education Under Arrest"

Watch "Education Under Arrest" Promo on PBS. See more from Tavis Smiley.

This show is supposed to air tonight.

AM News: Chicago Students Target Mayor's Office in School Closings Protest

Chicago Students protest school closings ChicagoTribune: Light snow flurries fell as the group chanted "Education is our right — we won't go without a fight" and walked along Clark Street from CPS headquarters to City Hall, escorted by several police officers. Once inside City Hall, the group read their letter outside of Emanuel's office, prompting a representative of the mayor to meet the students and accept their letter. The group asked for a meeting with the mayor but did not get one.


Congress Tweaks State Special Education Spending Mandates PoliticsK12: States that run afoul of federal rules for special education funding will be punished—though not forever—under a technical, but important tweak to state maintenance of effort under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The change, which was crafted with the help of the U.S. Department of Education, was included in the giant spending bill for the rest of this fiscal year (better known in Inside the Beltway as a continuing resolution, or CR) that Congress passed this month.

Teacher-prep programs zero in on effective ‘practice’ EdWeek: The Match Teacher Residency is one of a small number of teacher-preparation programs focusing on what’s coming to be called “practice-based” teacher education. The approach is growing in popularity among charter groups and beginning to emerge in university-based programs as well. “The principle underneath it is that this is not a sink-or-swim model,” said Morva McDonald, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Washington, in Seattle, which runs traditional and alternative teacher-education programs.

Q&A from Alaska: Teachers sleeping in the classroom and fighting the achievement gap HechingerReport: The persistence of the Native American achievement gap has stumped educators for decades. Even as black and Hispanic students have made gains in recent years, test scores, high school graduation rates and the college-going rates have stagnated for Native students. Many Yupik Eskimo families who live there depend on whaling and berry-picking to survive, and college can seem irrelevant. Using a pot of $2 million in federal funds, the St. Lawrence schools have launched a set of reforms outlined by the Obama administration, which include an extended school day and new teacher evaluations based partly student standardized test scores.

Girls Excel in the NYC Classroom but Lag in Entry to 8 Elite Schools in the City NYT: In the United States, girls have outshined boys in high school for years, amassing more A’s, earning more diplomas and gliding more readily into college, where they rack up more degrees — whether at the bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral levels. But that has not been the trend when it comes to one of the highest accomplishments a New York City student can achieve: winning a seat in one of the specialized high schools.

Afternoon Video: Pi Visualization Mural


I came across this interesting-sounding high school math / mural project over the weekend, at roughly the same time as I first learned about Fibonacci numbers, which are apparently being used by management consultants to boost productivity in ways I don't quite understand (yet).  A visualization of pi for high school math students (Flowing Data).

Quotes: "Treating Tablets Like Surgical Instruments"

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comParents end up treating tablets like precision surgical instruments, gadgets that might perform miracles for their child’s IQ and help him win some nifty robotics competition—but only if they are used just so.  -- Hanna Rosin in "The Touch-Screen Generation"

Bruno: Do The Common Core Standards Tell Teachers How To Teach?

8571472456_eedf77c67eOne of the virtues of content standards is supposed to be that they tell teachers what to teach -- but not how to teach. Is that true about the Common Core?

James Shuls thinks not. Instead, he argues, the Common Core standards are so thoroughly informed by constructivist educational thinking that the CCSS can't help but require teachers to use constructivist methods - like discovery learning - and to avoid more traditional, guided methods of instruction.

 Shuls is probably right about the constructivist origins of the CCSS; their language makes the influence of progressive educational theorists difficult to miss. And I'm second to no one in my skepticism about the virtues of constructivist pedagogy, especially for the most vulnerable students.

Still, if the standards tie teachers' hands it is not through their language but through their assessments; the tests represent the bar that our students will eventually have to clear. And how, exactly, are the tests going to tell teachers how to teach?

It's not enough to point out, as Shuls does, that the standards (and their associated documents) stress that students should be able to demonstrate "not only procedural skill but conceptual understanding". After all, even critics of constructivism aren't opposed to conceptual understanding.

Rather, more traditional "instructivists" (like me) just think the distinction between procedural skill and conceptual understanding is overblown and emphasize that the former often facilitates the latter.

An assessment of "conceptual understanding", then, is no more objectionable to a teacher just because he happens not to be a constructivist. If I believe additional procedural fluency will help my students develop greater conceptual understanding, I remain free to allocate instructional time accordingly.

Similarly, while many CCSS supporters appear to endorse the constructivist - and mostly false - notion that critical thinking skills are readily transferable across contexts, this need not lock teachers into constructivist teaching methods aimed at fostering such skills.

On the contrary, if I believe that critical thinking about a subject is only possible given extensive related background knowledge, I am still free to use lots of direct instruction to promote factual fluency. If I doubt that constructivist methods will help my students on the tests, what about the standards requires me to use them?

I am concerned that the Common Core standards endorse - and therefore promote - numerous confused notions about teaching and learning. Nevertheless, even if a teacher is uncomfortable with the language of the standards, why should he feel constrained in his methods by the likely nature of their assessments? - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Weekend Reading: Duncan Backs Chicago School Closings

image from cdn.urbanislandz.com

Duncan statement on #cpsclosings: “No educator ever wakes up in the morning wanting to close a school..."

How powerful groups (think higher ed) can use the rulemaking/regulatory process to block statutes they don't like ow.ly/jmBeX (The Washington Monthly)

Smart poor kids still don't apply to highly competitive colleges despite scholarships etc. ow.ly/jlKtW

From Jay Mathews: Why my grandson, 4, won’t be taking a gifted ed test: My eldest grandson, Ben Mathews, just ...bit.ly/ZN23Xt

Think you could turn a school/district around better? That's what the star of Apple & Target thought about JC Penney ow.ly/jmZgy

"Hey, wait a second, you're reading Carol Dweck? I'm reading Carol Dweck!" ow.ly/jlI25

That's singer/performer Rihanna, at Barrington (IL) High School, where she appeared four hours late on Friday and stayed for less than a half hour.  Via Instagram.

Charts: Education Employment Up Nearly 10 Percent

ScreenHunter_01 Mar. 25 00.09
Here's another chart showing that education was not hit nearly as hard as other fields, at least not initially -- reminding us again that teachers and other educators are in very different economic boats than the communities in which they may work.   

AM News: Chicago Mayor Defends School Closings as Tough But Necessary

Rahm Emanuel On School Closings: Chicago Mayor Defends Action As Tough But Needed AP: Mayor Rahm Emanuel responded Saturday to widespread criticism of his plan to close 54 Chicago Public Schools, saying he wasn't interested in doing what was politically easy and that the pain of the closings doesn't compare to the anguish of "trapping" kids in failing schools. "If we don't make these changes, we haven't lived up to our responsibility as adults to the children of the city of Chicago," Emanuel said in his first public statements since Thursday's announcement. "And I did not run for office to shirk my responsibility."


CPS School Closing Protests: District's Announcement Angers Parents, Aldermen, Communities HuffPostEdu: After Chicago Public Schools officials on Thursday unveiled their plan to shutter 54 of the district's elementary schools, the Chicago Teachers Union, parents and community groups vowed to dig in their heels and continue to push back against the proposal. Joining their ranks by the week's end, however, were a number of elected officials who, like other critics of the mass school closings, view the action as having a disproportionately detrimental impact on minority students in low-income, high-crime neighborhoods, points made all the more dramatic by one map that went viralon social media Friday.

Goldman Sachs Hopes To Profit By Helping Troubled Teens NPR: Last year, the New York City Department of Corrections did something no other city in America has ever done — it asked for private, corporate investors. Goldman Sachs opted to invest $9.6 million in the Adolescent Behavioral Learning Experience program, a new curriculum that seeks to bring down the number of youth offenders going back to prison.

Will Funding Flexibility for Schools Come With Sequestration Cuts? PoliticsK12: So now that school districts are coping with a 5 percent across-the-board cut to all federal programs, thanks to sequestration, many advocates are asking the department for what they see as the next best thing to more money: Greater flexibility with the funds they actually have. For instance, advocates are wondering how the cuts will affect maintenance of effort, which requires states and districts to keep their own spending up at a certain level in order to tap federal funds. Do they get a break because they're getting less Title I and special education money?

Same-Sex Marriage Cases Hold Implications for Schools EdWeek: This week, the U.S. Supreme Court takes up their case, Hollingsworth v. Perry (No. 12-144), which asks whether California's limitation of marriage to a man and a woman violates the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Among the scores of briefs filed by parties and "friends of the court" on different sides of those cases are several that address same-sex marriage and the schools. The issues include schools' treatment of same-sex parents and their children, the impact of the debate on gay students and on those who object to same-sex marriage on religious grounds, and the influence of the trend on the curriculum.

Report: Mayoral Control Helps Districts (Mostly)

new report out from a Washington DC think tank closely associated with the Democratic Party takes a look at the history of “mayoral control” of big-city school systems in which City Hall runs a district rather than an independently elected Board of Education.

According to the report, written by a pair of academics from Brown University and the University of Minnesota (and funded by the Broad Foundation), mayoral control doesn’t work everywhere but is associated with rising test scores and “can be a catalyst for reform.”

A recent oped in the Washington Post suggests that mayoral control limits community engagement and has proven itself not to be the silver bullet that had been hoped.

Voter turnout in the recent LA school board elections was roughly 14 percent, and the two candidates won election outright did so with roughly 15,000 and 30,000 votes.  Image via CAP. Cross-posted from LA School Report.

Philanthropy: Wealthy Liberals Ignore/Abandon Reform Critics

This new Ken Stern article in the Atlantic points out that the very rich don't actually give that much to charity, proportionately, and that they don't give that much to things like K-12 education when they do (Why the Rich Don't Give to Charity). 

Stern tries to unpack why the wealthy are so relatively stingy, but my main interest is wondering why whatever money is available from wealthy individuals doesn't go to K-12 education or to agencies that provide services to the poor:  


"Of the 50 largest individual gifts to public charities in 2012, 34 went to educational institutions, the vast majority of them colleges and universities," writes Stern, "Not a single one of them went to a social-service organization or to a charity that principally serves the poor and the dispossessed." 

Ouch.  That isn't very good.

A secondary question -- not addressed in the Atlantic article but on my mind -- has to do with the notable absence of wealthy donors who choose to fund programs supported by reform critics.  There are rich liberals all around -- fatcat Democrats and do-gooders who do their best to limit fracking and get Elizabeth Warren elected. But those who are giving to education -- Broad, Zuckerberg, Jobs -- aren't giving to reform critics, at least not so far as I know.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's my impression that wealthy liberals have in recent years either ignored or abandoned the approaches and efforts espoused by reform critics. That wealthy liberals would do so -- fund reform efforts rather than the approaches espoused by reform critics -- is either very sad, or it tells you something about the level of frustration and impatience with the ideas and programs reform critics espouse. 

Charts: Service Industry Wages, 1960-2010

ScreenHunter_04 Mar. 22 12.29
If I'm reading this correctly, average wages in education and health services (the blue line) have risen from 15,000 to the low 20,000's between 1960 and 2010.  

Morning Video: How Children Use Touch-Screen Technology

Here's an interview segment that I found embedded in Hanna Rosin's new Atlantic Magazine story, The Touch-Screen Generation, which will probably engage or appall you depending on your predisposition towards technology and your income level. 


Is interactive media any different from old-fashioned TV time? Is the iPad any more addictive -- or informative -- than previous technology?    Really, just go read the article. 

AM News: Chicago to Close 61 Schools, Projects $560 Million in Savings

Chicago Moves to Close 11% of Elementary Schools in Fall WSJ: School officials here said Thursday they plan to close 53 elementary schools and one high school, one of the largest mass school closings in the nation's history, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel seeks to fill a gaping budget hole. The move to close about 11% of the 472 elementary schools in the nation's third-largest school district this fall sparked anger from the teachers union, some elected aldermen, parents and neighborhood groups who vowed to fight the move. The Chicago Board of Education, appointed by Mr. Emanuel, a Democrat, must approve the final plan.


CPS to close 61 buildings, expects to ultimately save $560 million ChicagoTribune: Savings from closing schools, though, won't kick in immediately. Officials estimate school upgrades and enhanced security and other transition costs will add $233 million to expenses in the short term, most of it paid for through bond debt at a time when the district's credit rating has dropped. Some of the increased costs will also be covered by staff cuts from schools that close. Over the next decade, however, CPS projects savings of $560 million from the closings.

Senate Republicans Push Federal Voucher Program in Budget Debate PoliticsK12: Parents would be able to take their child's Title I dollars to any school of their choice—including a private school—under a budget amendment written by two very high profile Republican senators: Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a tea party darling, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, the top GOP lawmaker on the Senate education committee. Does the policy sound familiar? It should if you were following the presidential election. It's very similar to the policies Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, pushed during the 2012 election.

Head Start Programs Gutted By Sequestration Cuts HuffPostEdu: Citing budget cuts caused by sequestration, a Head Start program near Fayetteville, Ark., has decided to take the dramatic step of closing its classrooms for the summer 13 days earlier than planned. The closure will help the Washington County Head Start program cut a required $150,000 from its operating budget by the end of September. But the ripple effects of taking 30,000 hours of educational and family development services and 10,000 meals from 381 families who rely on the program will result in a major economic blow for the neediest in the area, officials warn.

Budget cuts to hit Native American schools the hardest USAToday: The mandatory, across-the-board budget cuts from the federal sequestration are causing little noticeable effect on most school campuses, but schools for Native Americans are already feeling the pinch. Jacquelyn Power and her students have been living with less since last November. Power is both superintendent and principal of the tiny Blackwater Community School on Arizona's Gila River Indian Reservation, one of about 1,300 school districts nationwide that receives federal Impact Aid for schools that can't collect local property taxes. 

Thompson: Secrecy, Not Privatization, Marred Broad Grad's Oklahoma City Tenure

BroadAlexander' recent Scholastic Administrator Profile of Eli Broad makes a strong case that Eli Broad does not seek to privatize public schools.  Those of us who despise Broad's policies are on firmer ground when explaining how the harm he has caused is due to his self-proclaimed "art of being unreasonable." 

Russo cites the education blogger (and critic) Tom Hoffman who says the Gates Foundation is “feckless and trendy” on school reform, as compared with the “focused malice” of the Broad Foundation. I agree, but, who cares whether Broad's damage is the result of his impatience or anger?

According to Russo, Broad has been willing to make adjustments in his metrics, and two districts asked his foundation to do diagnostic audits of their systems.  I welcome any diagnostic metrics and I would also offer a suggestion. 

Oklahoma City's Broadie ordered audits of seven aspects of our school system, but he kept them private.  Because he did not use public funds, the audits were not even subject to Freedom of Information requests.  I have always wondered if our very talented and sincere Broad graduate would not of have produced a six-month disaster before resigning if those audits had prompted an open policy discussion. So, I wonder if Eli Broad would support diagnostic and transparent audits. -JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.

Listen: Newark Officials Discuss School Improvement, Local Control

A forum last night featuring Newark's Cory Booker, superintendent Cami Anderson, and others seemed pretty interesting from the recap discussion I heard on WNYC earlier today:


Or, if you want to hear the entire thing as it happened, live, click here: 


Show page comments are here.

Update: Reformers Reflect On Los Angeles

This is a post I wrote yesterday for LA School Report in which insiders defend -- and critique -- the Coalition-funded campaign on behalf of three LAUSD school board members:

image from laschoolreport.comInsiders who spoke with LA School Report over the past few days generally rejected criticisms aimed by some outside observers at the Coalition for School Reform-funded campaign to elect a slate of reform-minded candidates to the LAUSD School Board.

“Because Kate [Anderson] lost, every single thing [the Coalition] did looks wrong,” said one insider who — like most of those contacted for this story — declined to talk on the record.

In particular, insiders denounced the notion that the campaign consultants hired by the Coalition were incompetent or conflicted by their work for other clients including labor groups.

“The way consultants get clients is by winning,” said another insider.  “Pulling punches for the possibility of future client work makes no sense.”

However, the insiders – a half-dozen campaign and school reform veterans familiar with the Coalition and its consultants — generally agreed that there were specific strategic decisions and actions that SCN Strategies, the consulting firm hired to do most of the Coalition-funded work, might have wished it had decided differently – and might have affected the outcome of the District 4 race, which Zimmer won with 52 percent of the votes.

One insider described SCN as “good people who didn’t run a great campaign.“

Read the full post here: A Good - But Not Great - Campaign.  Of particular interest nationally is the discussion of how LA reformers failed to respond to the "outside money" attack and will continue to hear it until they come up with a better response.

Chicago: Closing 50 Schools

Closing signAfter an interminable and complicated process, Chicago Public Schools is announcing 50 schools to be closed for underutilization today -- roughly 10 percent of the system.

Proponents say it has to be done, due to enrollment declines and demographic shifts within the city.  Critics say it doesnt, and that Mayor Emanuel is off skiing.

Follow live updates about #CPSClosings from the various news outlets on Twitter.

#CPS is another hashtag to try, though you'll also get Persepolis and other topics that way.

Morning Audio: What It's Like To Be A School Security Officer

Stockton Unified School District Police Officer Myra Franco and Chief Jim West patrol 50 schools in California's Central Valley region. One of the campuses was the site of a 1989 shooting massacre.

Roughly a third of schools in the US have some kind of armed security on campus, and here's NPR's long segment about them from yesterday morning (How To Be The Good Guy With A Gun At School)

AM News: Chicago Touts New Perks Ahead for Students Affected by Closures

CPS School Closing Investments: Despite Budget Deficit, CEO Pledges To Bolster Receiving Schools HuffPostEdu: In the ongoing battle over Chicago Public School closures, the district is putting a glossy sheen on the news thousands of the city's children — most of them black or Latino — will see their neighborhood schools shuttered as they're moved to a new "welcoming" school this year. In an interview with NBC Chicago, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett trumpeted new school enhancements geared toward making the transition for displaced students easier post-consolidation.


More States Consider 'Parent Trigger' Laws EdWeek: The push for the “parent trigger” option for turning around struggling schools continues, with new laws under consideration in 12 states’ legislative sessions, even as such laws already on the books remain unused in all but one of the seven states that have them. Many education advocates opposed to what they view as efforts to privatize and corporatize public schools are watching with trepidation as lawmakers in Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, and elsewhere review parent-trigger bills. Opponents argue that the mechanism ultimately hurts schools and ruptures communities.

For teachers, the perks of union membership can include a personal touch HechingerReport: The public face of the New York City teachers union is often that of a political heavyweight engaging in battle with opponents like the mayor and charter school supporters. For many teachers, the union is often something more personal and classroom-focused. The face of the United Federation of Teachers and its state affiliate, New York State United Teachers, is that of a training organization for many teachers who take courses with the unions and get in-person help in the classroom.

Arizona: Tucson Schools Chief Resigns NYT: The superintendent of the Tucson Unified School District, which has been shaken by a dispute over its Mexican-American studies program, announced his resignation on Wednesday. The superintendent, John Pedicone, is leaving on June 30, a year before his contract ends. Internal disagreements over the way the district handled the state’s targeting of its Mexican-American studies program, banned by legislation that said it fostered hatred against white people, pushed other educational efforts off course, he said. 

How To Be The Good Guy With A Gun At School NPR: Ever since the Newtown, Ct., school shooting, there's been a raging debate over how to keep America's schoolchildren safe. National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre proposed stationing an armed guard in every school in the country. Critics said that idea was impractical and would be too expensive to carry out. But many schools and school districts already have armed police officers. Since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, about one-third of the schools in the U.S. have added some kind of armed security, according to federal data.

Reckhow: "You Can't Bring Reform To A Community"

ScreenHunter_02 Mar. 20 16.55The feature article in the newest issue of One Day (the Teach for America alumni magazine) struck a chord for me.

It tells the story of George Washington Carver High School in New Orleans--a historically black high school and anchor of the black community in NOLA's Ninth Ward. The school was reopened after Katrina, but it has been restructured and currently houses 2 charter operators.  

The article shows reformers who bear little resemblance to Michelle Rhee in their style and approach to politics, and includes voices of community members who fought the charters in Carver.

The article still advances some bold claims about academic progress in NOLA and details Teach for America's substantial presence. But once you get past those few paragraphs, it's not typical "One Day" material, and it's an interesting read.

Continue reading "Reckhow: "You Can't Bring Reform To A Community"" »

Photos: Former Pro Athlete Becomes School Crossing Guard

image from img.gawkerassets.com
Why Is One Of The NBA's All-Time Greatest Scorers Working As A Crossing Guard Now? For health insurance, apparently.  Deadspin via @gothamschools

Audio: Talking NOLA & Desegregation At Columbia

Here's the audio from last week's Hechinger Report event at Columbia's Teachers College, which as you may recall included some testy/insightful? comments from the Annenberg Institute's Warren Simmons about young white women writing books about poor black and brown communities.  image from www.southerneddesk.org

Liz Willen, director of the Hechinger Institute, moderated  the panel (titled Reconciling Race, Community and School Reform).  The other panelists were Sarah Carr, Sarah Garland, and Amy Stuart Wells.  There was some lovely wine and cheese afterwards.  

Quotes: Danner Defends Rocketship Changes

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comOnly in public education, would continuous evolution be seen as a negative.   -- Rocketship founder John Danner, via Quora

Morning Video: Poor & Black - At Prep School


"Two African-American Boys Enter a Prestigious Private School and Their Families Confront the Opportunities and Frustrations Presented by the Changing Face of Success in America" (POV) Airing this Fall.

AM News: Philadelphia Advocates Seek 1 Citywide School Application

Philadelphia Advocates Eye System with 1 Citywide School Application TheInquirer: While the number of district-run and parochial schools shrinks and the city's charter-school population booms, a group of education advocates is looking at a plan to implement a single, citywide enrollment process. The result could alter Philadelphia's educational landscape. The plan, still in the early stages, would involve students' filling out one application that would place them on lists at district, charter and parochial schools in the city, said Miles Wilson, director of the Great Schools Compact for the Philadelphia Schools Partnership. 


Minority Groups Remain Outnumbered at Teaching Programs, Study Reports NYT: According to a study being released Wednesday by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, which represents colleges and universities with teacher certification programs, 82 percent of candidates who received bachelor’s degrees in education in 2009-10 and 2010-11 were white. By contrast, census figures show that close to half of all children under 5 in 2008 were members of a racial or ethnic minority.

Pennsylvania Keystone Exams loophole undermines impact of standardized tests TheMorningCall: On the surface, the "Keystone Exams" action by the State Board of Education appears to establish firm standards for high school graduation in Pennsylvania. Not quite. There is a loophole.  Unfortunately, the new standards allow students who do not pass the Keystones to get diplomas based on "validated local assessment," which means a local school district can dish out diplomas to students just to get rid of them, as is done now.

Math Teachers Strive to Bring Core to At-Risk Students EdWeek: The Common Core State Standards for mathematics, now being introduced in schools across the country, set new grade-by-grade expectations for deepening students' understanding of math concepts, with an emphasis on algebraic thinking. But while many accomplished math teachers are enthusiastic about the standards' emphasis on mathematical reasoning and strategic expertise over rote computation, some say the transition to the new framework poses daunting challenges for students who are already behind in math.

'Green Schools' Go on National Display EdWeek: The impact and design features of the growing number of environmentally sustainable school buildings are on display at the National Building Museum as part of an exhibit on green school space. The exhibit, which opened earlier this month, also houses the first display of "Sprout Space," a new sustainable modular classroom designed by the Chicago-based architecture firm Perkins+Will. Featuring solar panels, a low-flow toilet fed by rainwater, and large glass doors and skylights, Sprout Space is designed to improve health and educational outcomes, the firm says, while also reducing the cost of construction and eliminating energy costs.

Charts: Who's In Charge Of Teacher Prep?

image from www.nctq.org

NTCQ asks and answers "Who's in charge of teacher prep?" with this map followup on states' roles in this area.  Governors appoint state chiefs and/or state board members who oversee teacher prep in 39 states. 


Update: Growing Criticism Of LA Reform Campaign

image from cdn.theatlantic.comThe Republican National Campaign isn't the only outfit trying to figure out what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening in the future.  

Somewhat reluctantly, reformers are trying to understand the outcome of the March 5 primary day election for the LAUSD School Board, which included a win for incumbent Monica Garcia but a frustrating loss for challenge Kate Anderson.

According to many observers, absentee ballots played a big part in giving UTLA-endorsed candidate Steve Zimmer a massive lead even before primary day votes were cast -- and before the Coalition-funded campaign got into gear  (How Steve Zimmer *Really* Won).  

But there were other issues.  Challenger Kate Anderson and her allies declined to attack Zimmer for his videotaped 2009 remarks in support of UTLA (The Zimmer Attack Ad That Never Was) or to make him explain his position on the removal of teachers accused of sexual abuse, which is a hot-button issue in LA.  

Most recently, a rival campaign consultant sent a letter to former Mayor Richard Riordan slamming the Coalition-funded campaign for over-relying on mailed flyers and running a static cable TV ad campaign (Coalition Campaign was “Half-Hearted and Incompetent”). 

More to come.  All via LA School Report.  Image via RNC.

Bruno: Exit Exams Are For Students, Not Adults

5843577306_06fd6132f7The Providence Student Union is organizing an anti-high-stakes-testing protest in which adults take a test similar to the one required of students in Rhode Island to graduate high school. This isn't the first time this sort of publicity stunt has been performed, but since it's in the news it's worth remembering that the underlying logic of the protest is totally confused.

The rationale behind the protest isn't always clearly articulated, but the main assumption seems to be that if "accomplished" adults struggle with a test, it's unreasonable or unfair to expect much younger students to complete it successfully.

The problem with that line of thinking is that many adults are well out of school and have long since taken academic and career paths that happen not to involve the specific knowledge covered by the test.

Continue reading "Bruno: Exit Exams Are For Students, Not Adults" »

Morning Video: Tavis Smiley, "Top Dog"

Watch Authors Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman on PBS. See more from Tavis Smiley.

Authors Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman



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