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Commencement: Education Will Break Your Heart

image from dribbble.s3.amazonaws.comSpeaking of commencement speeches, here's the closest I've ever come to giving one -- a 2011 Huffington Post piece riffing off of Jonathan Franzen's amazing speech at Kenyon that spring.  I'd nearly forgotten about it until Sara Mosle read and reminded me.

It's called Education Will Break Your Heart, and it's my attempt to reflect on the challenges of working on education issues, which can be such a daunting and heartbreaking endeavor (yes, even for someone who spends most of his time behind a laptop).

In case it isn't clear, I find education issues pretty much endlessly fascinating -- even as efforts to make it better confuse and vex me.

True, I spend most of my time annoyed at what I see going on around me (the efforts to fix things, the coverage of those efforts, the political and cultural reactions). And yes, the problems education faces may not be solved or even improved in any dramatic way anytime soon.  (Seriously, you know that, right?)

But occasionally enough I'm inspired or even just interested in something new or different, and there's always more to learn (especially about drones).   And occasionally I feel like I've captured something, helped explain it, or even just introduced it in a useful way.  

[Image courtesy Ryan Mulligan]

Charts: Education Receives 13 Pct of Charitable Donations

image from www.washingtonpost.com
That's what this chart says -- second to religious organizations -- part of a Washington Post piece about where charitable donations go and whether they benefit the poor, the rich, or a little bit of both.  Remember, it's education writ large, not just K-12.

Bruno: Why Reforming Teacher Preparation Is So Hard

6424741497_d08a242758I don't know if -- as Alexander suggests -- we are on the cusp of a national rethinking of teacher preparation programs.

I do, however, agree with Lisa Hansel that many programs could be improved by focusing less on issues of social justice and more on preparing new teachers to teach specific content to their students.

In my mind the problems Lisa identifies in existing standards are mostly related to excessive vagueness. After all, most programs are already subject to standards that require some sort of training in, say, organizing curricula coherently.

The real problem is that programs can fulfill that requirement in too many ways.

So, for example, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) requires that teacher training programs prepare teachers to "select or adapt instructional strategies, grouping strategies, and instructional materials to meet student learning goals and needs."

Significantly, the standards do not specify what strategies or materials should be considered best for different purposes. Arguably this is an appropriate amount of flexibility to provide an education school but it does mean that in practice many programs get away with providing very little of this instruction at all.

Continue reading "Bruno: Why Reforming Teacher Preparation Is So Hard" »

Quotes: "You Can't *Talk* About It [Teaching]"

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comYou can’t talk about it, you can’t have conversations about it, you can’t see videos about it. You actually have to see it and you have to be in it.

- Teaching candidate Alycia Jones in Jackie Mader's Hechinger Report piece on the growth of alternative certification programs including residency-based models.

Morning Video: Best Commencement Moments 2013 (So Far)

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Here's NBC News' roundup of best moments (so far) from commencement season 2013. Congrats to everyone.  Are there others? 

AM News: Tea Party Groups Rally Against Common Core

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Tea party groups rallying against Common Core education overhaul Washington Post: Tea party groups over the past few weeks have suddenly and successfully pressured Republican governors to reassess their support for a rare bipartisan initiative backed by President Obama to overhaul the nation’s public schools.

Obama Student Loan Speech Signals Renewed Battle With Republicans Huffington Post: Since the law's expiration last year, Congress and the White House have publicly clashed over student loans, seeking to paint each other as unhelpful to students. 

Arne Duncan Touts Advantages of Bilingualism Education Week News: His comments aren't likely to ignite a new battle in the bilingual education wars, but U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan over breakfast yesterday gave perhaps his clearest statements to date on the benefits of dual-language development.

Online College Courses Get A Big Boost, But Doubts Persist NPR: Degree-granting institutions are responding to austere budgets by catapulting themselves into the world of online education. But some professors point to low online completion rates as evidence that these "massive open online courses" do a disservice to students.

Oklahoma schools destroyed by tornado to rebuild AP:  Administrators believe rebuilding a pair of Oklahoma elementary schools destroyed by a May 20 tornado will help their neighborhoods' long-term recovery, though some parents and children aren't sure it's a good idea to put up new schools on land where seven third-graders perished after being crushed by debris.

Back-to-School Shopping Campaigns, Already? NYT: The tenuous state of the economy is a major reason for the earlier arrival of back-to-school shopping campaigns.

Afternoon Video: The Kid Who Beat Rahm Emanuel (Sorta)


Just in case you haven't seen this, from last week. He's been on TV pretty much constantly since. And his school was one of just a half-dozen who were taken off the closing list, so it worked.  

Advocacy: Fundraising Is Not Enough -- But What *Is*?

image from laschoolreport.comOver at LA School Report, Hillel Aron has written a pretty fascinating look at the reform community's current predicament -- and how well it matches up to pretty much the same position they were in back in 2003.

Then as now, reform allies led by a sitting Mayor and with a lot of cash on hand lost two out of three school board races because they were out-organized, over-confident, and (my take) unwilling to villify their opponents as much as their opponents were willing to villify them.

What should they do next, with the cash on hand, the lame duck Mayor, and another four seats up for grabs in 2 years?  It's not entirely clear but they've got some ideas. 

Needless to say, there are some useful lessons for those of you not in LA, whether you be pro- or anti-reform (or just part of the frustrated middle).

Read all about it:  What Next for the Coalition for School Reform? Look around, there's also some interesting coverage of the little-understood factors behind Monica Ratliff's surprise school board win, including racial polarization and Latino voter participation rates.

My Vicious Attack: Sad Educators vs. Poor Parents

image from laschoolreport.com

The latest LA Times piece on the parent trigger process at Weigand Elementaryfocuses its attention on the principal being pushed out (and the teachers who may go with her) rather than on the dismal results under her leadership and the frustrated low-income parents who petitioned for her removal.

The debate over the merits of the Weigand petition have gone national, in the form of dueling blog posts between two education pundits, Brooklyn-based NYU historian Diane Ravitch and Washington, DC-based Rick Hess.

A former Bush administration education official who has since switched views on school reform, Ravitch wrote two blog posts deploring the outcome of the process this past weekend.  In response, right-leaning American Enterprise Institute education guru Hess wrote that — while he’s long been a Ravitch admirer and has questions about the trigger method of revamping schools — Ravitch was all wrong to call Parent Revolution “revolting” and Parent Revolution’s Ben Austin as “loathsome.”

As to the parents’ desire for speedy change at Weigand, Hess notes that, “despite [Principal] Cobian’s apparent popularity with the current staff, she has not been able to make a difference during nearly a half-decade as principal.”

Given how they’re being treated in the Times and by Ravitch (and by the teachers who appear to be more loyal to the principal than to the kids), the Weigand parents may be well be wishing that they’d opted for restaffing (Option A), or a charter conversion (Option C), instead of merely demanding a principal who could be responsive and effective for their children (Option B).

Meantime, UTLA is hosting a meeting this weekend to help prepare union representatives at other LAUSD schools where parents are similarly (or even more) frustrated than those at Weigand.

Image via StudentsFirst. Cross-posted from LA School Report. Response from The Chalk Face: Alexander Russo’s vicious attack on Weigand Teachers

Thompson: What If Schools Only Served Kids Who Applied?

TCharter_School_of_Wilm_Mascot-1he Boston Foundation's Charters and College Readiness concludes that their city's charters produce "substantive differences" in their students' outcomes.  Boston charters do not increase the percentage of students taking the SAT or attending higher education.  But, they improve the scores of their SAT-takers, and their graduates are more likely to attend four-year universities, as opposed to community colleges.  The Foundation did not find evidence of pushing out their lower-performing students.  But, the selection process produces a more favorable "peer composition" for incoming students.

That raises the question of what our public schools would be like if they also were application-only.  If public schools did not have to take all comers, they would have never been seen as broken.  Most poor children would have gained. We could have created school cultures that attract and retain great teachers.  We would have never had these destructive "reform" wars. 

If schools only served students who entered a lottery, they would often be praised as examples of American institutions that excel.

Continue reading "Thompson: What If Schools Only Served Kids Who Applied?" »

Morning Video: "Do The Khaki Dance" (School Uniform Protest Song)


"A bunch of grade school kids in Minneapolis, MN, decided to make a [suspiciously polished] rap song that makes their decidedly uncool uniforms look cool." (Chris Hayes All In)

AM News: MOOCs Take Another Step Towards K-12

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Online college classes, once aimed at advanced students, target the masses Reuters: Coursera, a popular for-profit provider of massive online open courses - known as MOOCs - will host a series of basic general education classes to be developed in partnerships with 10 state university systems across the United States.

Universities Team With Online Course Provider NYT: In a move that could open online classes to 1.25 million students at public institutions, a California company is forming partnerships with 10 large state university systems.

Universities bolster MOOCs for online learning USA Today: In recent weeks, faculty at Amherst, Harvard, Duke and San Jose State have urged their administrations to use caution. But the involvement of entire state university systems "signals a new level of acceptance of MOOCs," said George Mehaffy, a vice president at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Reading Gains Lag Improvements in Math NYT: Among large public urban districts, which typically have large concentrations of poor students, six raised eighth-grade math scores on the federal tests known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress from 2009 to 2011. Only one — in Charlotte, N.C. — was able to do so in reading.

The number of high-poverty schools increases by about 60 percent Hechinger Report:  Poverty is getting so concentrated in America that one out of five public schools was classified as as a “high-poverty” school in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Education. About a decade earlier, in 2000, only one in eight public schools was deemed to be high poverty. That’s about a 60 percent increase in the number of very poor schools!

Jeb Bush Pushes Michigan's Questionable Charter School Sector Huffington Post: But it is difficult to concisely characterize charter school quality nationwide, and the study on Michigan's schools Bush touted is less definitive than he made it sound.

Sneak peek at new California standardized tests Southern California Public Radio: The new tests, administered on computers, allow for more than multiple-choice bubbles. They include boxes where students will write out answers for reading comprehension and math problems in full sentences and paragraphs. The point is to measure critical thinking and writing skills.

Continue reading "AM News: MOOCs Take Another Step Towards K-12" »

Afternoon Video: Spelling Bees Are The Best (Right)?


This is from last year but 2013 is already happening (and it's a slice of the best that our education system has to offer)! Get a roundup of the excitement here.

Media: LA School Report Snags Local Press Nominations

image from laschoolreport.comThe LA Press Club has named LA School Report as a finalist in two categories (group blog, online-only website) for this year’s Southern California Journalism Awards.

That’s pretty exciting news for a media outlet that launched just last August. Thanks to all the informal advisors and betters who helped us figure how to get this far.  

Meantime, we're looking for a reporter and a news editor, if you or someone you know live in LA, have some great clips, and love education politics as much as you should.

Send to alexander at laschoolreport.com with editor or reporter in the subject line.

Read all about it here.

Morning Video: Chicago Schools Chief Looks Ahead

Chicago public TV covers Byrd-Bennett's speech about what happens next in Chicago, with coverage of the full speech and the teachers union's response (another lawsuit) here and here (and also on my Chicago site, www.district299.com).

AM News: State Chiefs Reject Common Core "Pause"

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com

State Chiefs: Common Core Requires Flexibility, Not a Pause Politics K12: What the chiefs do want, however, is some flexibility from the U.S. Department of Education and from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan—from No Child Left Behind itself or the waivers already granted—during these next couple of tricky years as the common core is fully implemented and common tests come on line.

24 Virginia schools apply for third-grade testing waivers Washington Post: Two dozen Virginia elementary schools, including one in Alexandria, have applied for waivers from the state Board of Education to free schools from mandatory state testing requirements in science and social studies for third-graders so they have more time to develop reading skills.

Gates foundation funds group to help charter schools Seattle Times: In November, Washington became the 42nd state to allow the independent public schools. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has now pledged nearly $800,000 to start a charter-school incubator for help with planning.

Anthony Weiner In Debate Questions Some Bloomberg Education Reforms Huffington Post: Fresh off the announcement of his campaign for New York City mayor and Tuesday's promising poll numbers, the disgraced former congressman spoke at the first mayoral debate of his 2013 run. The debate, hosted by the union-funded New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, focused on education in the nation's largest school district.

High court reverses Lobato ruling EdNewsColo: In a 4-2 decision, the Colorado Supreme Court has overturned a district court decision in the Lobato v. State lawsuit and ruled that the state’s current school finance system is constitutional.

llinois Bans New Online Charter Schools for 1 Year EdWeek: Illinois has put a one-year moratorium on new virtual charter schools outside Chicago at the urging of a handful of west suburban school districts.

The school yearbook business is a scandal. Here’s how to fix it. Slate via GothamSchools: You wouldn’t know it to look at the products, but the school yearbook business is kind of shady. There’s a good chance you and your kid’s school are paying way too much for yearbooks—sometimes thousands or tens of thousands a year too much.

Quotes: What Advocacy Assessment (Usually) Leaves Out

Quotes2Most of the advocacy assessment proposals I've seen treat advocacy efforts similarly to the way economists have studied policies--independent of the political institutions they seek to influence. Political feedback, interaction among groups, and long term institutionalization of interests are usually overlooked. - MSU Political scientist Sarah Reckhow (in response to the LFA Group report)

People: Education's Newest Power Education Couple

Bus-LAUSDWe've had education power couples before, sure -- most of them on the reform side (that I know of).  

But perhaps not ones with views on education that may (at least behind the scenes) be different.  

LA School Report's Hillel Aron breaks the news that the wife of LA Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti has a School Reform Past that includes working for a pro-reform organization that operated during former Mayor Richard Riordan's stint heading the city.  

Her candidate husband Garcetti ran on a pro-charter, pro-trigger education platform -- as did his opponent -- and was endorsed (but not funded) by the UTLA.  

Morning Video: From Homeless to Head of Class

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AM News: Federal Cuts Affect Schools Unevenly

News2Navajo Schools Lose Funding Due To Sequestration Cuts NPR: Indian reservations don't collect state property taxes, meaning most of their education budget comes directly from the federal government. 

'Miracle' L.A. school board triumph LA Times: Ratliff had what Sanchez lacked: The authenticity of a 12-year teaching career and a deep emotional commitment to her students that visibly surfaces when she talks about those who need her help.

Oklahoma School Principal, Teachers Reunite With Students NBC News: Plaza Towers Elementary School Principal Amy Simpson breaks her silence on the Oklahoma tornado that destroyed her school and left seven children dead.

Perseverance at a Newark school following midyear teacher turnover Hechinger Report: One after another, they kept leaving. Between December and February, five teachers at Quitman Street Renew School quit, including the entire staff for middle school science and math, subjects now staffed by long-term substitutes.

'Boy or Girl?' Gender a new challenge for schools AP: AFrom the time they are born, we put our boys in blue beanies and our girls in pink ones. It's a societal norm, an expectation even, that you just are what you are born - a boy or a girl....

Horace Mann Apologizes for Abuse but Won’t Start New Inquiry NYT: The elite Bronx private school announced that it would establish an advisory board on student safety, allowing outside experts as well as at least one victim to make policy recommendations.

Morning Video: First Lady's Tough Love At Bowie State


"For generations, in many parts of this country, it was illegal for black people to get an education ... Today, instead of walking miles every day to school, they’re sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV."

AM News: Chicago Teachers Aim To Oust School Closing Lawmakers


Losers In Chicago School Closings Target Elected Officials NPR: The Chicago school board voted to close dozens of schools, despite community protests that the closings disproportionately affect minority students. Now the teachers union and community activists want to change the system and oust the elected officials who disagreed with them.

Fairfax County online standards tests hampered by Internet problems Washington Post: Widespread technical glitches interrupted thousands of Fairfax County schools students taking Virginia’s standards of learning tests online Thursday.

Is Performance Pay Back on the Front Burner? TeacherBeat: There must be something in the water: Performance pay, after going through a fallow period following a 2010 study that found few effects on student learning, all of a sudden seems back on policymakers' radar screens.

New Superintendents in Clark County, Nev., and Boston Education Week: As this school year comes to a close, we can expect a flurry of activity—and some superintendent musical chairs—at the helms of school districts.

Arne Duncan Is Worried About Education Debt. Can He Fix It? Washington Monthly: Education Secretary Arne Duncan is getting concerned about America's estimated $1.1 trillion student loan burden. Speaking Tuesday during testimony before the House education committee, he said, “the fact that that debt surpasses a trillion dollars ...

Conn. bill gives families say over Newtown records AP: The public release of any photograph, videotape or digital recording related to last year's deadly Newtown elementary school shooting would require the written consent of victims' family members, according to a working draft of a bill released Wednesday by the governor's office.

Lessons From LA: Sentimental Selections, Bad Polling, Unintended Results

Bus-LAUSDThere are some obvious lessons from Monica Ratliff's stunning and instructive defeat of Antonio Sanchez in this week's LAUSD School Board runoff for District 6. 

Ratliff went from having come in ten points behind Sanchez in the primary (34-44) to beating Sanchez by four points in the runoff (52-48).  The Coalition and the SEIU spent over $2 million to elect Sanchez. Ratliff, meanwhile, spent roughly $50,000 and had no special interest support.

Many of these are covered in Valerie Strauss's latest piece (The billionaires lose one), and I hope they'll be remembered the next time there's a race like this.  Money and political pedigree are no guarantee of victory.  Sometimes at least the underdog wins.  

But there are other less obvious lessons and considerations:

Sanchez was recruited and selected by Mayor Villaraigosa in what seems like a sentimental move more than a clear-eyed decision about who would stand the best chances of winning the seat.[Rumors are that Ratliff was recruited to run by the UTLA from her spot as a House of Representatives delegate have never been confirmed.] There were other candidates that could have been chosen, none of them perfect but in hindsight Sanchez seems extremely weak.

The reform community in LA has been personality-based, an ad hoc set of individuals who come together for a brief period of time and then go back to their day jobs in between elections.  There's an independent expenditure committee, the Coalition for School Reform, that appears every couple of years as a collection point for contributions, but there's no nonprofit c(3) or c(4) organization laying foundations and building relationships in between elections along the lines that UTLA and many other operations have.

Last but not least, the union's decision to endorse all the candidates from the start (rather than have to go through the process of re-endorsing candidates along the way) seemed to most of the world like a big win for Sanchez, who was also getting massive outside support from the Villaraigosa camp, but also prevented Sanchez from attacking Ratliff for her union affiliations. UTLA couldn’t spend any real money on Ratliff, but it also meant that the Coalition couldn’t attack Ratliff for being beholden to the union.

“We took away from the Coaltion the one thing they desperately needed — a negative message,” said Brent Smiley, a Ratliff supporter. “We didn’t let them hit the teachers union. They had absolutely nothing negative to say.”

Tidbits:  Going negative is not a prerequisite for winning. Field work and turnout are key, as are absentee (vote by mail) ballots.  Internal polling isn't reliable.  (The Coalition's polling had Sanchez ahead by 20 points, leading them to pull back on spending the more than $750,000 they had in reserve.) Refrigerator magnets. 

For two post-election reports on what happened, read here and here.

Charts: BofA Center on Philanthropy Study 2012

Screen shot 2013-05-17 at 6.33.25 PMThe New Science Behind Philanthropy via WSJ

Thompson: Testing Foul-Ups in Oklahoma Will the Past Be Prelude?

K2This year’s testing foul-ups included more mistakes by Pearson in New York City, and computer malfunctions during testing in Indiana and Oklahoma. Carrie Coppernoll’s Testing Fallout Persists, in the Daily Oklahoman, describes the political decisions that must be made after high-stakes testing was disrupted, last month, by computer crashes.

Before No Child Left Behind, Oklahoma had its share of testing fiascoes. In 1997, Harcourt Publishing sent the wrong writing exams to 8th and 11th graders. In 2001, Riverside Publishing lost its contract with the state after significant delays in providing test results.

In the last ten years, Oklahoma has used five different testing companies. Harcourt regained the contract but then it printed incorrect answers on the sample test. In 2007, Pearson was awarded the contract for end-of-instruction tests, but it made data classification errors and mishandled its portfolio assessments for profoundly disabled students. Now, Oklahoma has to decide how to deal with McGraw-Hill’s latest mess.

Economics 101 would predict that after NCLB dramatically increased the demand for standardized tests,  the quality of the testing product would decline.  Even with the primitive old bubble-in tests, that seems to be happening.  When the far more complicated Common Core assessments are rushed into production, shouldn't we expect even more testing debacles?-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via

Morning Video: Chicago Board Votes to Close 50 Schools

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NBC Nightly News coverage of yesterday's 50-school closing day, plus NYT coverage (Despite Protests, Chicago to Close 49 Schools) and a roundup of local coverage at District 299.

AM News: Chicago District Officially Votes to Close 49 Elementary Schools

CPS approves largest school closure in Chicago's history ChicagoTribune: Months of argument and anguish over Mayor Rahm Emanuel's push for sweeping school closings came to a climax Wednesday as his hand-picked Board of Education voted to shut 49 elementary schools and transfer thousands of children to new classroom settings. Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett withdrew her recommendation to close four other schools at the last minute as it became clear some board members would fight to save them.


Is District Participation in Race to the Top Waning? PoliticsK12: The fallout in Delaware comes a couple months after several districts in Ohio were poised to drop out of that state's grant because they decided that the costs just weren't worth any federal grant money. Are these isolated, state-specific incidences or part of a broader, worrisome trend?

Charter schools in Boston score higher on key tests, but have lower graduation rates BostonGlobe: Boston charter schools outperform other public schools on three popular barometers of student achievement — the MCAS, the SAT, and the Advanced Placement exams — but tend to have lower four-year graduation rates, accord­ing to a study being released Wednesday.

D.C. Chancellor Force Teachers in Two Schools to Reapply for Their JobsWashingtonPost: More than 100 teachers and other staff members at two D.C. schools learned this week that they must reapply for their jobs after Chancellor Kaya Henderson decided to “reconstitute” the schools in an effort to spur improvement. Cardozo High and Patterson Elementary schools have struggled for years with low test scores, and in such cases, Henderson has the power to reconstitute — remove an entire staff and then rebuild it.

Science Project Left On Bus Leads To Bomb Scare At Boulder's Fairview HighHuffPost: A science project left on a school bus this morning led Boulder police to lock down Fairview High with the school's students corralled in the gym and auditorium, shut down streets and bring in the department's bomb squad.

More Americans have degrees, but lead is slipping HechingerReport: But while more young Americans have at least bachelor’s degrees than their counterparts in other developed countries, their lead has shrunk from 12 percentage points to 4 percentage points in the last 10 years as rival nations increase their production of graduates.

Advocacy: More Ways To Measure Advocacy's Impact

Screen shot 2013-05-22 at 3.53.40 PMToday's as good a day as any to share with you the draft report I heard about a couple of weeks back when last discussing the issue of how to assess reform advocacy efforts.

As you may recall, the question keeps coming up if and how funders are going to assess the impact of their advocacy efforts, whether they be grants to nonprofits or direct contributions to campaigns or PACs:

"Teachers unions (AFT, NEA) and nonprofits on the other side (Broader/Bolder Alliance, Shanker Institute, and the new Ravitch thing) are actively engaged in advocacy as well, and have to figure out if their spending is making a difference, too."  (What About The Impact?)

As with teachers and schools, poor evaluations can lead to poor understanding, however.  It's not so easy to get it right.  Michigan State professor and TWIE contributor Sarah Reckhow took a stern look at several recent recommendations for advocacy evaluation (A Misleading Approach to Assessing Advocacy)

This newest report, called a Media Measurement Framework, is funded by Gates and Knight and produced by the SF-based LFA Group: Learning for Action, who tells us that the Knight Foundation is in the process of creating an online, interactive version of this framework. This static version will become a collection of online resources. 

No word yet on whether the framework is any good or if any advocacy grantees are using it yet.  That's where you come in.

Previous posts: A Misleading Approach to Assessing Advocacy [Reckhow]; So How'd The Advocacy Groups Do?Gates Shifts Strategy & Schools Get Smaller Share [Reckhow]; EdWeek's Balanced View Of Reform Advocacy

Quotes: Buying School Reform (Facts Are Facts)

Quotes2I support teachers unions. But facts are facts. When it comes to the issue of spending to influence voters, teachers unions take a back seat to no one.  Former LAUSD teacher Walt Gardner) in Education Week (Buying School Reform

Update: Classroom Teacher Wins LA School Board Runoff

ScreenHunter_03 May. 21 13.44Underdog LAUSD classroom teacher Monica Ratliff (right) has won a surprising upset victory in her school board runoff agaainst rival Antonio Sanchez (left) , according to a story posted on KPCC and tweets from LA Times and LA Daily News reporters:

“Elementary school teacher Monica Ratliff faced a David-and-Goliath competition for a seat on the Los Angeles Unified School Board — and won.” (LA elects new city attorney, controller and 3 city councilmen)

“Monica Ratliff wins #LAUSD race with 52%, says final #LAelection tally posted at 3:16 am,” tweeted LA Daily News‘ Barbara Jones. “Upset for reformers and candidate Antonio Sanchez… #LAUSD tally shows 37,022 of District 6′s 250,000+ voters went to the polls. That’s 16% turnout. Ratliff ahead by 1,464 votes.”

“Monica Ratliff edges out Antonio Sanchez for the Board of Education seat,” tweets LA Times reporter Laura Nelson. According to Nelson, the vote is “Almost final, but not quite,” with all of the precincts having been counted but not all the mail-in ballots.

Ratliff only campaigned part-time (she's a 5th grade teacher) and didn't have any outside campaign contributions (compared to Sanchez, who had boatloads of money).  She didn't even have the unequivocal endorsement of her union (UTLA endorsed both candidates). In the March primary, she was a whopping 10 percentage points behind Sanchez, 34 percent to 44 percent. This time around, it was 52-48 in her favor.

LA School Report will have a full analysis of how Ratliff won and what it means (or people want it to mean) later today.  For more background in the meantime, see: Ratliff Holds Narrow LeadVoter Turnout Will Determine Outcome

Morning Video: Teachers' Heroism In Oklahoma Tornado

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"Thanks to the heroic efforts of teachers such as Rhonda Crosswhite, many of the children survived" via NBC

AM News: Per-Pupil Public Spending Drops for First Time in Over 30 Years

Public Spending Per Student Drops WSJ: U.S. public-education spending per student fell in 2011 for the first time in more than three decades, according to new U.S. Census Bureau data issued Tuesday. Spending for elementary and high schools across the 50 states and Washington, D.C. averaged $10,560 per pupil in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2011. That was down 0.4% from 2010, the first drop since the bureau began collecting the data on an annual basis in 1977, the agency said Tuesday.


Oklahoma Tornado: Long Minutes of Desperation Inside School Razed by Storm WSJ: When the tornado-warning sirens blared, Kelly Law was already in the hallway of Plaza Towers Elementary School, huddled against the wall, shielding as many students as she could with her body. Another eight or 10 teachers did the same, she said. For the long minutes it took the tornado to pass, she shut her eyes and prayed. The roof was ripped away. "It sounded like rivets being pulled out by a monster," Ms. Law said.

Chicago School Closings May Leave Some Communities Without Old Lifelines NYT:  And yet, the possible move to Gregory [a better-performing school] has generated a visceral reaction from Bethune families, underscoring broader fears about school closings that officials have found difficult to ease. By uprooting elementary schools like Bethune, where around 98 percent of the students are black and from low-income homes, parents say officials are uprooting the personal and academic lifelines of Chicago’s neediest communities.

House Panel Presses Arne Duncan on Loans, Waivers, Common Core PoliticsK12: Student loans are at the top of Congress' agenda this summer—and they were the number one topic when U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified today before the House Education and the Workforce Committee on President Barack Obama's fiscal year 2014 budget.

D.C. Bets Big on Common Core EdWeek: The District of Columbia, where she's taught for 11 years, was quick to adopt the Common Core State Standards. But putting them into practice demands a heavy lift: With their emphasis on mastery of complex text, the standards require far stronger literacy skills than most students here—and many in the 46 states that also adopted the common core in English—currently possess.

Oklahoma Schools Lacked Consistent Tornado Shelter Rules HuffPost: The two elementary schools leveled by the deadly tornado that swept through the Oklahoma City area Monday lacked designated safe rooms designed to protect children and teachers, despite state warnings that the absence of such facilities imperils lives. At least two other schools in Moore -- the epicenter of the disaster -- did have safe rooms. So far no fatalities have been tied to those schools, whose buildings were fortified after a devastating twister hit the area in 1999.

Quotes: Negative Norms Around Teacher Observations

Quotes2If evaluation systems are a vessel meant to ferry teachers to better practice, then observation systems remain the lead weight tied to the back, dragging systems down with unwaveringly positive feedback that obscures true insight into teacher practice. - Mac LeBuhn in new DFER paper, The Culture of Countenance.

Thompson: Schott Foundation Head Proposes Reform Revamp

PoorPresident John Jackson of the Schott Foundation, in his Moving from Standards to Support, explains how school “reform” went wrong and how we should change course. Nearly a generation ago, sincere non-educators, influenced by the corporate worldview, mandated standards-driven school reform driven by “outputs.”  Jackson says that we must reject their failed focus on flawed metrics (outputs) and concentrate on a tough-minded system of supports (formerly known as inputs.)

Standards and standardized test-driven “reform” failed because it ignored the root cause of the achievement gap – poverty. As Jackson explains, “Standards-based reform creates an inherent system of winners and losers by raising the bar and assessing who makes the cut.” Because of its focus on tests for punishment, standards for children who are academically drowning have moved the shoreline further away in order to teach them how to swim.

It is time to hold “reformers” accountable for their educational outputs i.e. their results in terms of student performance.  Under any objective reckoning, test-driven accountability backfired. It is time to invest in “supports-based reforms.”  We must strategically align:

High-quality early education for all students; mandatory kindergarten with assurances that all students are achieving at grade level by 3rd grade; recruitment and retention of high-quality teachers, along with supplying the training and resources those teachers need to provide more learning time and deeper learning approaches; access to student-centered learning and personalized academic, social, and health plans to keep all students on a college path; and equitable resources and policies so that all students remain in engaging, high-quality educational settings.

Continue reading "Thompson: Schott Foundation Head Proposes Reform Revamp" »

Bruno: Do Educators Want Cameras In Their Classrooms?

5225996344_b156b88dc9Bill Gates used his most recent TED talk to make the case for putting video cameras in every classroom. Teachers, he says, don't get enough feedback about their practice and performance; recording and submitting lessons for review would have a "phenomenal" impact on teacher quality for a modest price.

To be clear, Gates badly underestimates how much feedback teachers currently receive. I've certainly never had a single evaluation in which I "just got one word of feedback", so I have no idea why he thinks "98% of teachers" get so little. New teachers in particular are often assigned dedicated coaches, and formal observation and coaching is not the only way to get feedback.

Still, it's not unreasonable to think that frequent videotaping and coaching could help teachers improve.  Sarah Brown Wessling agrees, and Cassandra Tognoni is so excited by the prospect of a camera in every classroom that she thinks Gates should just put up the $5 billion required to buy them himself.

But if cameras offer so much promise for improving education, it's worth asking why they're not already more heavily used. An adequate camera can be purchased for about $100: not nothing, but not so much that an enthusiastic teacher, administrator, or coach couldn't invest in one.

Continue reading "Bruno: Do Educators Want Cameras In Their Classrooms?" »

Morning Video: 2 Schools Hit Hard By Oklahoma Tornado

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Plaza Towers and Briarwood Elementary Schools were directly affected. Segment via Rachel Maddow MSNBC last night.

AM News: Alaska, Hawaii & West Virginia Join List of NCLB Waiver States

Alaska, Hawaii, West Virginia Win NCLB Waivers PoliticsK12: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has now awarded No Child Left Behind Act waivers to 37 states plus the District of Columbia. Alaska, Hawaii, and West Virginia are the latest additions to the list, the Education Department announced today. This means that the vast majority of the country is now operating under their own federally approved but state-crafted accountability plans as Congress continues to refrain from rewriting the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, of which NCLB is the latest version.


Source: Fewer than 5 Chicago schools to be spared ChicagoTribune: One source said the six-member school board is likely to vote for saving fewer than five of the schools on the closings list. "It's a few," said Henry Bienen, president emeritus of Northwestern University, a board member who was willing to go on the record. "I don't think it's a large number of schools."

20 children among 51 victims in Okla. Tornado; toll could hit 90 USAToday: Firefighter Russ Locke was among those who helped search through the crushed remains of Plaza Towers Elementary School, where about 75 students and staff had huddled when the tornado hit. At least seven children were killed there; others were pulled alive from the wreckage.

Windows XP Deadline Puts Pressure on Schools EdWeek: Microsoft's plans to end support for Windows XP, believed to be the dominant computer operating system in K-12 education, could pose big technological and financial challenges for districts nationwide— issues that many school systems have yet to confront.

Aspiring teachers learn from their avatars HechingerReport: Started ten years ago, the so-called TeachLivE lab was developed by faculty in the education school at UCF, and at least 22 other universities across the country have opened their own labs using TeachLivE technology. Much like a flight simulator trains pilots, faculty use the virtual classroom to train teachers-to-be by helping them isolate and master strategies like higher-level questioning or behavior management.

Video: The Myth Of "Crack Babies"

A small, preliminary study, a talkative researcher, media hype, plus underlying cultural stereotypes and fears. Sound familiar?  Retro Report via Kottke.

HotSeat: Florida's Tony Bennett

image from www.scholastic.com

So far, Florida’s new state superintendent of education, Tony Bennett, is having what seems like an awfully good time. He’s head of one of the most pro-reform school systems in the nation. He’s got the support of both the governor, Rick Scott, who tapped him for the job, and a powerful business and reform community headed by former governor Jeb Bush.

A member of the reform-leaning state superintendents’ group Chiefs for Change, Bennett speaks with the rapid confidence of someone who has been a building and district administrator, a state education leader, and a classroom teacher.

But Bennett hasn’t been in his current position long. Just this past November, he was ousted from his spot as the head of public schools in Indiana—the position is an elected one and his policies had become controversial. Some of the same challenges will undoubtedly emerge in the Sunshine State, where administrators are pursuing an aggressive timeline for implementing the Common Core, and state lawmakers are considering a “parent trigger” that would allow parents to convert failing district schools into charters.

Click here to read the interview, which appears in the Summer 2013 edition of Scholastic Administrator, which sponsors this blog. Image via Scholastic.

Quotes: Inequality & The Culture Of Celebrity

Quotes2Instead of robust public education, we have Mr. Zuckerberg’s “rescue” of Newark’s schools. - NYT oped contributor George Packer (Inequality and the Modern Culture of Celebrity)

Weekend Reading: Online Tablets Projects Oh My

Here are some interesting items from over the weekend and long-form sites and magazines I don't get to during the week:

New Dade Cty teachers union boss Fedrick Ingram rose from poverty to president MiamiHerald ow.ly/lbzVr via @RoxannaElden

College Is Going Online, Whether We Like It Or Not - Zachary Karabell - The Atlantic ow.ly/la4ee

"One day, you will see [grad] speakers ditch the podium & go straight for the telemarketer ear piece and microphone" ow.ly/la4kD

Lyndon Baty and the Robot That Saved Him - - Dallas Observer ow.ly/l9xyX A sick boy and his robot sidekick keep beating the odds.

Can Venture Capital Deliver on the Promise of the Public University? n+1 ow.ly/lbmil

Educators Discuss the Use of Tablets in K-12 Education (Audio) ow.ly/lbm9T

Beware Batch Processing Of Kids: Ed Tech Expert - Education - Online ow.ly/lbm8d

How classroom teachers may be able to combat the impact of stereotype threat @AmRadioWorks ow.ly/lbmve

Continue reading "Weekend Reading: Online Tablets Projects Oh My" »

Morning Video: First Lady Speaks At High School Commencement

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Segment via NBC -- apparently the First Lady's only HS commencement speech this year.

AM News: Teacher Training Programs Face National Scrutiny

Florida Plans Increased Scrutiny For Education Schools StateImpact: Nationally, education schools have been criticized for being far too easy and, as a result, pumping ill-equipped teachers into the system and harming student achievement. Schools across the country are trying to mitigate the criticism by changing curriculum or increasing the amount of field experience teachers receive.


Chicago Teachers Union re-elects Karen Lewis Tribune: Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, an often controversial figure who took on Mayor Rahm Emanuel by leading a seven-day strike last fall, was easily re-elected to a second three-year term Friday, according to unofficial results released by the district.

Will Arne Duncan Consider Causing Pause in Common Core Stakes? PoliticsK12: Late last month, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten called for amoratorium on any high stakes attached to the Common Core State Standardsas they are being implemented, to allow teachers more time to prepare. This month, a majority of Washington "insiders" believe states will enact some sort of moratorium on stakes. A small portion, or 18 percent, thought the U.S. Department of Education would take such action, according to this Whiteboard Advisers survey.

Obama Urges Morehouse Graduates to ‘Keep Setting an Example’ NYT: President Obama came to Morehouse College, the alma mater of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on Sunday to tell graduates, 50 years after Dr. King’s landmark “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, that “laws and hearts and minds have been changed to the point where someone who looks just like you can somehow come to serve as president of these United States.”

Schools Add to Test Load, Just to Assess the Questions NYT: As school districts across the country rush to draw up tests and lesson plans that conform to more rigorous standards, they are flocking to field tests — exams that exist solely to help testing companies fine-tune future questions.

Afternoon Video: "Cheap and Cheesy" Slogans Won't Cut It, Says Hess.

There are numerous worthwhile speakers in this segment, but at rroughly the 22 minute mark, AEI's Rick Hess shows up onstage in his trademark cargo shorts and flipflops, and delivers a rushed, somewhat impassioned speech that hits a lot of critical points about the narrow reform agenda, the inadequate response to setbacks, the chronic refusal to converse with much less learn from critics. 

Continue reading "Afternoon Video: "Cheap and Cheesy" Slogans Won't Cut It, Says Hess." »

Afternoon Video: Meet John & Laura Arnold


"A young Houston couple is planning to give away $4 billion—but only to projects that prove they are worth it. Can they redefine the world of philanthropy?" The New Science Behind Philanthropy (WSJ via @mikepetrilli)

Thompson: The Columbus Cheating Scandal

NewsignThe Columbus Dispatch editorial, Another Blow to City Schools complains that the city's schools “scrubbed” 2.8 million attendance records since 2006.  They allegedly marked some students with low scores as withdrawn so they wouldn’t be counted against the district. 

Columbus schools are also facing criminal investigations for grade changing. Obviously, I have no idea whether Columbus schools are guilty and, if they are, whether they did something qualitatively different than accumulating millions of speeding tickets.

Statistical gamesmanship predated data-driven "reform," and those policies are not an excuse for cheating.  They just create a "perfect storm" where the damage done by education's longstanding "culture of compliance," is combined with inherently destructive and punitive accountability schemes, and where all are made worse by the resulting malfeasance.  I also know that I must be particularly careful with my words when addressing this tragedy.

"Juking the stats" is not limited to schools.  It has long been said that the prime qualification for a policeman, for instance, is a course in creative writing.  As it was cryptically explained in The Wire, our legal system could not function without the ability to "turn felonies into misdemeanors." 

I suspect that the cumulative damage of manipulating the nation's withdrawals and grades, as well as other tricks for jacking up attendance rates, will dwarf the consequences of outright cheating scandals. But, the Ohio case prompts die-hard supporters of test-driven accountability, such as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Andrew Rotherham, to grasp at more straws. They seem to claim that because test-driven accountability has opened multiple doors to a wide variety of scandals that, somehow, their favored policies aren't to blame.

Continue reading "Thompson: The Columbus Cheating Scandal" »

Update: What Next for TFA?

image from educationnext.orgRead between the lines and there are lots of interesting tidbits in June Kronholz's Education Next piece (Still Teaching for America) for both TFA fans and skeptics.

The piece takes a look at the much-discussed school reform organization as it goes through a key transition of leadership and size.  

Two new co-CEOs have taken over from founder Wendy Kopp, and the annual budget that in 2012 was $320 million is expected to go up to half a billion dollars within the next three years.

Kronholz boils the organization's successful growth (if not large-scale impact on educational outcomes) on things like regional innovations (Houston's content coaches, Jacksonville's localized summer institute, South Dakota's rural principal leadership incubator), and its willingness to create and scrap ideas that don't pan out.

As has become increasingly common in recent years, TFA's new leaders are focusing as much on what alumni do as what they accomplish in the classroom:

"Kramer also paints a vision of TFA as an instigator of change, producing alumni that TFA expects—just expects—will become the sort of shake-up-the-beast leaders who will “do something radically different” for the schools."  

However, TFA won't share its specific leadership goals. And the organization is hampered by the need for more local and regional EDs, says Kronholz. Four of the regions were empty earlier this year, and plans to expand to two new (unnamed) cities) were scrapped for lack of management talent.  How interesting that an organization with such a surplus of applications for initial teaching spots is having trouble finding enough qualified candidates to staff its own expansion.

Image via Education Next.

Morning Video: DFER's New " Education Reform News"

AM News: Here Comes Steve Jobs's Widow

Steve Jobs’s Widow Sets Philanthropy Goals NYT: Laurene Powell Jobs has tiptoed into the public sphere, pushing her agenda in education as well as global conservation, nutrition and immigration policy.

Money contines to pours, unevenly, into LA Unified school board race KPCC:  As election day looms for this year's remaining undecided seat for the L.A. Unified's board, outside groups continue to pour money into the race -- all of it for her opponent, political newcomer Antonio Sanchez.

Would Arne Duncan Consider Calling for Pause in Common Core Stakes?Education Week: So I asked Education Department press secretary Daren Briscoe about whether Arne Duncan would echo these calls for pausing stakes tied to common core, and take relevant action at the federal level.

Do new exams produce better teachers? States act while educators debate Hechinger: It took less than a minute for Mario Martinez to finish the first six questions of the algebra exam that his professor, Ivan Cheng, had just handed to him.

Tennessee to Offer Teacher-Transfer BonusesTeacher Beat: Using its share of federal School Improvement Grant funds, the state will give $7,000 signing bonuses to teachers from nonpriority schools who transfer, and agree to stay for two years, in the priority schools. It will also give $5,000 retention bonuses to high-performing teachers already working in such schools.

Afternoon Video: The Creepy Rich Guy Who Gave $100K For Junior Prom


From a recent Saturday Night Live



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.