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Afternoon Video: Gates Talks Education Reform


Here's Bill Gates talking last week about what's known and not yet known about the foundation's education reform efforts. Does he sound less certain than he did a couple of years ago?  That's what Valerie Strauss at The Answer Sheet thinks (Bill Gates: ‘It would be great if our education stuff worked but…’).

Update: Nobody Keeps Xian Down

XianfiredWhatever happened to Xian Barrett, the Chicago teacher activist whose picture was on the front page of the Sun Times when he was laid off earlier this year?

He's now the national director for something called New Voice Strategies, according to a blog entry (My Transition from the Classroom to Amplifying Teacher Voice) posted on reform-friendly Eduwonk.com last week.

It's a strange place to post, as Xian discusses -- but part of the new gig is "to engage this [reform] community in dialogue."  NVS is a part of VIVA Teachers, which is run by Elizabeth Evans.

I've known Barrett for years online, and finally met him in real life 18 months ago moderating a panel.

Here's a post about the VIVA teachers from December 2011 (“Eliminate The Time Wasters”?) I first heard about them earlier that year, and asked you what you thought here.

What do you think?  According to CPS, roughly two out of three of the 1500 teachers laid off last year were rehired this year (though of course they could get laid off again this spring).

Quotes: "Ordinary People" Who Think Reform Is "Destroying Education"

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comMy readers are not leftists. They are teachers, parents, students, administrators, and ordinary people who don’t like to see their local public schools closed down or taken over by a private charter corporation like KIPP... They are destroying childhood. They are destroying creativity. They are destroying love of learning. - Diane Ravitch's contradictory-seeming explanation of her and her followers' views

Bruno: Don't Think Of The Children!

383235239_921f21a25f_mAs John Merrow recently observed, debates about education are often unfortunately polarized.

Participants tend to paint those they agree with as heroes and those they disagree with as villains, and that false dichotomy is distracting and obscures much important, nuanced reality.

Of course, education debates aren't always overly-polarized, and polarization occurs in many non-education-related discussions as well.

So is education worse in this regard than other subjects?

It's hard to say, but a recent post from economist Robin Hanson suggests one reason why education may be especially vulnerable to polarization: it involves children.

Continue reading "Bruno: Don't Think Of The Children!" »

Morning Video: RI State Superintendent Skydives For Reading

News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England Not content to wear or do something funny like most superintendents and principals do as a reward for student achievement, RI supe Deborah Gist agreed to skydive. Reformers are such showoffs. (here)

AM News: Guns At School - Authorized & Otherwise

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com

Guns at School? If There’s a Will, There Are Ways NYT: In an effort to protect students should a shooting occur, some school districts are using a patchwork of concealed-carry laws, special regulations and local policies to arm staff members.

Fear permeates young lives of Newtown witnesses AP: A few nights after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, David Posey heard a strange noise in his house and went upstairs to check on his son. The little boy, who had just seen his teacher and a first-grade classmate gunned down, was pounding on the floor.

The Obama administration funds police officers in schools MSNBC: As part of the Obama administration’s effort to ramp up school security after last year’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, the Justice Department plans to award $125 million in grants nationally, which includes about $45 million for 356 new school resource officer positions.

Teacher-training schools under pressure to prepare for Common Core Hechinger Report: Across the country, most teacher-preparation programs scarcely mention the Common Core in recent course syllabi, said Julie Greenberg, a senior policy analyst at the National Council on Teacher Quality. “In half the programs we see not a smidgeon of reference, direct or indirect, to anything Common Core related.”

Game on! USA Today: Announced in 2010 by President Obama as part of his "Educate to Innovate" initiative, the National STEM Video Game Challenge has introduced thousands of middle- and high-schoolers to game design over the past three years— this year alone, more than 5,000 students from 40 states enrolled. It'll soon see its first games debut on Apple's App store.

Continue reading "AM News: Guns At School - Authorized & Otherwise" »

Afternoon Video: Saturday's Bammy Awards Ceremony

The Bammies -- BAMRadio Network's second annual recognition event for educators, advocates, and journalists -- was last weekend in DC and here's the video in case you weren't there and/or missed it (Protip- Errol says the action starts around 48:00):


Matt Damon's mom was there, as was at least one Newtown teacher.  Or just check out the red carpet pics here if you want to see everyone's fancy duds.  Or here for the winners (in bold). Or here for some back-stage dish on how the event went off.

Previous posts:   "Bammys" Honor Educators, Media, BloggersBest Weekly Education Podcasts / BroadcastsUpstart Station Corners Ed Radio ...Upstart Station Corners Ed Radio Market.

Teachers: Oh, No! Mr. Gosling's Mad At You

Who cares, really -- as if you don't already know -- but just in case:  This GIF is from a scene from the teacher-famous 2006 movie Half Nelson in which teacher Gosling is talking with a student who accuses him of being part of the system that's keeping poor minorities down. Click here to listen or see below for the full dialogue.

anigif_enhanced-buzz-11899-1380137668-22.gif (450×250)










Gosling is also the focus of a teacher-focused Tumblr called Hey, Girl Teacher (remember my 2012 interview with its author?).  It's since been renamed Hey, Teacher presumably since, hey, male teachers need Ryan's support, too.

Continue reading "Teachers: Oh, No! Mr. Gosling's Mad At You" »

Charts: K12 Inc. A Bad Deal For Schools -- And Investors?

image from images.politico.com
Here's an eye-grabbing revenue growth chart from the recent Politico story about the growth and spread of K12, Inc (despite effectiveness questions).  You might also check out Whitney Tilson's recent "short" recommendation against the company -- assumedly on financial grounds as well as effectiveness ones.

Morning Video: Are You Gritty Enough To Watch This?


Here's Macarthur genius Angie Duckworth's TED talk about grit, via Atlantic Education's Eleanor Barkhorn ('We Need to Be Gritty About Getting Our Kids Grittier').

AM News: Here Come District Race To The Top Amendments


Race to the Top District Winners Already Changing Their Plans PoliticsK12: Already, the Education Department has approved eight amendments ranging from technical to more-significant as the districts seek to fine-tune their projects. If the Race to the Top state contest is any guide, there are many more district amendment requests surely in the pipeline.

Howard County Board of Education react to Ellicott City man's arrest at Common Core forum Baltimore Sun: In Howard County, where the new curriculum was given a test run last year, the Common Core has been the reason cited for removing traditional, stand-alone reading classes in middle schools, lower scores on the Maryland School Assessments and a new teacher and principal evaluation system.

Houston reforms, often overshadowed, now in the limelight with Broad Prize Hechinger: Houston has long been a darling of education reformers with its extensive and deeply rooted charter school network and experimentation with controversial ideas like merit pay for teachers. Still, the city’s efforts to shake up its education system tend to get less notice than places like New Orleans or Washington, D.C., where reforms have led to heated and sometimes vitriolic debates about the role of teachers unions, charter schools and accountability for teachers. 

How to Fund Universal Pre-K WNYC: While there is a huge demand for full-day pre-kindergarten seats, there are plenty of half-day seats unfilled. Why? Geoff Decker, a reporter at GothamSchools, said the half-day schedule doesn't work for most working parents.

From China to Chicago, K12 Inc. markets more than virtual schools Politico: K12 doesn’t break down how many of the 4,500 students enrolled in the International Academy last year were foreign nationals (or how many attended just part-time). But the company says it has significant enrollment from China, Mexico, Brazil and Dubai, where K12 runs a tutoring center at a university complex so students can get face-to-face help, for an extra fee.

Continue reading "AM News: Here Come District Race To The Top Amendments" »

Afternoon Video: Jimmy Fallon & The Roots Sing Sesame Street

Quotes: Call Ravitch Et Al "Crusaders" -- Not "Heroes" -- Says Merrow

Quotes2Since when does taking a strong public stand qualify as an act of heroism?  Call them ‘crusaders’ or ‘principled leaders’ or some other term of approval if you wish, but not heroes. -- PBS NewsHour correspondent John Merrow in a post about Ted Cruz, Diane Ravitch, and the Newtown teachers

Reform: Why's Everyone So Angry About ObamaCore?

Screen shot 2013-09-26 at 2.30.23 PM
Thanks to everyone who's been reading (& retweeting) my Slate explainer about the Common Core controversy, which got it (momentarily) onto the front page.  Read it here if you haven't already -- tell me what I left out or got wrong. 

Morning Video: PBS Profiles Special Education Teacher

Here's the trailer for a new PBS documentary, Best Kept Secret, about a teacher and her autistic students in Newark.  Watch the trailer above, or click through and you can watch the entire film online until 10/7. Via @onspeced 



AM News: Cyber Schools Expanding Despite Poor Results

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com

Cyber schools flunk, but tax money keeps flowing Politico: Lately, more states have begun measuring how much students actually learn during the school year — and a POLITICO review of the data shows many cyber schools are flunking that test.

Q&A with KIPP’s Dave Levin about Technology in Education Hechinger Report: One of his Los Angeles schools, which uses a lot of technology in the classroom, recently posted test scores so high (API = 991*) that it not only ranked as the highest performing school in the Los Angeles school district, but also the 10th highest performing elementary school in the State of California. 

A Report Card on Education Reform NYT: A discussion with Education Secretary Arne Duncan; Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University; and John Engler, the head of the Business Roundtable, about the state of the education system.

SAT Results For 2013 Show Low Rates Of College Preparedness HuffPost: Only 43 percent of test-takers in 2013 met the SAT's definition of being prepared for college, a statistic that has remained stagnant since 2009. The 1.6 million test-takers averaged 496 in reading, 514 on math and 488 on writing, according to a Thursday report released by the College Board, the company behind the notorious college entrance exams.

SAT scores hit eight-year high in Va.; D.C. also sees gains Washington Post: Virginia students received their highest scores ever on the modern SAT college admission test this year, and scores also rose in the District even as national averages remained unchanged. Maryland’s scores dropped for the third straight year, according to data for the Class of 2013 released Thursday.

7 states slashing education spending USA Today: While the majority of state school systems have cut spending between fiscal year 2008 and the upcoming fiscal year 2014, the cuts have been much more severe in some places than in others. 

Continue reading "AM News: Cyber Schools Expanding Despite Poor Results" »

TV: "New Girl" Jess Confronts The Cool Mean Teachers

So it's New Girl time again, and this year Jess is dealing with not only a new relationship but also a group of "cool" mean teachers at her school (pictured below):

Screen shot 2013-09-25 at 3.43.32 PM
What's she going to do -- endure their steely put-downs or try and ingratiate herself with them even at the cost of her integrity?  And will her new beau's attempts to help actually work?

Thompson: Goldhaber On The Future Of Research

AEI_logoDan Goldhaber’s Teacher Quality Research Over the Next Decade, presented at The American Enterprise Institute on “Teacher Quality 2.0,” is a hopeful sign that research by non-educators may become more reality-based.

Goldhaber makes a plausible argument that value-added models work at the elementary level, at least in comparison with other ways of evaluating teachers. But, he cites evidence that value-added might not work quite so well at the high school level.

So, Goldhaber asks if less emphasis would have been placed on the value-added of individual teachers if research had focused on high schools rather than elementary schools.

I certainly hope that the answer would be “Of course!”

In his constructive paper on the next era of research to improve instruction, Goldhaber starts by asking how teachers will respond to value-added and, later, to technology and various reorganizations of the schooling process.  He asks all the right questions about the unpredictable ways - constructive and destructive - that teachers’ practice could be altered.

But, instead of asking whether educators will make good choices, we should ask how administrators will respond to these changes.

Continue reading "Thompson: Goldhaber On The Future Of Research" »

Genius: Who's Next For A MacArthur Award?

YesnochartSo Angela Duckworth is one of this year's Macarthur "genius" grant winners -- she's the UPENN researcher behind much of the research into grit and self-restraint.  (Speaking of which, I took the grit test online and got a score of 1.5 -- making me one of the least gritty people in the universe.)

Past Macarthur winners with education connections include the Deborah Bial (founder of Posse), Roland Fryer (whose cash for grades program seems to be working better, now), and Amir Abo-Shaeeer (who?).  I've also written about if and when Wendy Kopp will win one.  

I'm sure there are folks who think Diane Ravitch should be recognized.  Any others, whether you agree with them or not? Common Core honcho David Coleman, I could imagine him getting one.  

Previous posts:  Deborah Bial: An Education "Genius"Educator Wins MacArthur "Genius ...Roland Fryer Wins MacArthur "Genius" AwardWill An Educator Win A 2012 MacArthur Grant?The Genius Behind Teach For America.

Charts: Consolidated Testing Business Remains Competitive

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There are now just six companies that dominate the testing business, according to a new Atlanta Journal Constitution series on the industry.  But the competition between Pearson and McGraw Hill remains fierce.

Morning Video: Parent Disrupts Maryland Common Core Meeting

He's not going to be charged, but this Baltimore County parent disrupted a Common Core meeting and was removed.  (Baltimore Sun: Charges dropped against Maryland parent)

AM News: Vouchers, Common Core -- Jindal!

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comDOJ Says School Voucher Lawsuit Resolution In Sight, Jindal Still Displeased Huffington Post: According to the amendment filed at midnight on Tuesday, the Department of Justice is pleased with a Sept. 18 court order that created a schedule for Louisiana to come into compliance with the desegregation orders and provide the information the feds want.

Jindal has concerns about 'Common Core' The Advocate: Wading into a national debate, Gov. Bobby Jindal said Monday that he is concerned Louisiana public school classrooms would be saddled with a “federalized curriculum” sparked by a series of tougher standards called Common Core. via Politico.

Charges dropped against Maryland parent who spoke against Common Core standards Baltimore Sun: The Howard County father whose arrest became a viral web video and a cause celebre of conservative talk radio won't be prosecuted for disrupting a meeting on state education standards.

State school board won't back off MSAs Baltimore Sun: Maryland's state Board of Education said Tuesday that state testing will go forward as planned, despite calls from school district superintendents and the teachers union for a one-year moratorium.

Continue reading "AM News: Vouchers, Common Core -- Jindal!" »

Afternoon Video: Lousiana Gov. Slams Obama Voucher Decision

Is he talking about the USDOJ voucher position or about Common Core?  It's har d to tell (via HuffPost: Louisiana Voucher Lawsuit Opposition Aligns Minority Families With Republican Politicians)

Media: WNYC's SchoolBook Adds Features For New Year

Originally a partnership between the New York Times and WNYC Public Radio, SchoolBook survived the departure of many of the NYT journalists who were behind it all and is now adding some features for 2013-2014 that readers might find useful.


The latest changes include a new and improved school search feature (NYC added a whopping 70 schools over the summer, so it's hard to keep track), and some enhanced school application help when application season arrives (tomorrow).  Editor Patricia Willens (@pwillens) is encouraging parents to comment and to submit opinion pieces and personal essays (schoolbook@wnyc.org).  They're also partnering with the Daily News.

While it isn't the original juggernaut it was at the time of its launch, when for example NYT/SchoolBook had its own reporter, and WNYC doesn't appear to have the big education reporting team that Southern California Public Radio has gathered, SchoolBook is good to have as part of the city's education journalism and service scene along with InsideSchools, GreatSchools, GothamSchools, the NYT, and all the rest. (Or is one of the sites much better than the others?)

Previous posts:  How SchoolBook Aims To Get More Folks InvolvedSchoolBook To Rely On Crowdsourcing, Require Facebook IDNYT Editor Leaving SchoolBook In Good HandsNew York Times' Diminished Role On Education SiteOnline NYT Site Loses Top Education ReporterNew NYT-WNYC Site To Cover Education.

Image: Credit AR

Quotes: The Two [Extreme] Faces Of American Education

image from www.nybooks.comWe don’t have to think, as Rhee does, that “great” teaching is a magic bullet in order to agree with Ravitch that the training of teachers ought to be more rigorous. -- Andrew Delbanco in the NY Review of Books (The Two Faces of American Education) via LA School Report 


Reform: Putting Testing Flaws In Context

77304767Anyone who's been reading the AJC series on testing mistakes and their consequences should probably also be familiar with Todd Farley's hilarious/depressing book Making the Grades: My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry, which is now available online:

"Todd Farley's behind the scenes account of his years in the standardized testing industry is provocative, instructive, and often hilarious...."

To see whether testing practices and safeguards have gotten any better or worse since NCLB began, you should also check out Jacques Steinberg's big NYT series on testing from more than a decade ago (The Test Industry's FailuresWhen a Test Fails the SchoolsRight Answer, Wrong Score ).

Previous posts:  Test Scoring: The Elephant In The RoomA Scathing, Humorous Look Inside The Testing IndustryDan Rather Examines Test Scoring ...; "The Truth About Testing" At Columbia J-SchoolTesting Companies "Streamline" Scoring, Oversight.

Image via Flickr

Morning Video: PA School District Roiled By Racist Texts

Former Coatesville school officials accused in text scandal | 6abc.com via Gawker (Pennsylvania School Officials Sent the Most Racist Texts Ever)

AM News: FL Governor Bends To Tea Party Education Push

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comFlorida Curbs Role in Consortium Developing Common Core Exams WSJ: Florida is dialing back its participation in a national group developing exams for tougher math and reading standards known as the Common Core.

Florida Governor Alters The Plan For Common Core NPR: Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday that the state is dropping out as fiscal agent for an organization developing tests for Common Core, the new educational standards. Scott, a Republican facing re-election next year, says he agrees with many of his Tea Party supporters who want the state to drop it entirely.

Schools lose academic ratings after claims of cheating LA Times: The reports showed that suspected  cheating was isolated, usually one teacher acting alone. And the number of affected campuses was small in a state with more than 10,000 schools.

Enrollment in teacher preparation programs plummets EdSource Today: A  report for the commission indicates a 24 percent reduction from the previous year’s total of 34,838 students. Enrollments have declined by 66 percent from a decade earlier, when 77,700 students were enrolled.

Parents and Schools WNYC:  During the Bloomberg years, many parents felt cut out of the education system, from decisions around school closings to the rise of testing. Will the next mayor's DOE be different? 

School Technology: Pros Outweigh Cons? NPR: As kids across the country start another school year, they might find tablet computers in their bags along with those books and binders. Host Michel Martin speaks with former New York Schools chancellor Joel Klein.  

Diane Ravitch on School Reform WNYC: New York University professor Diane Ravitch discusses school reform in New York City and the challenges expected for the next mayor around charters, "Common Core" testing, and more.

Five Top Tweets: Florida Drops PARCC, Teacher Quits TFA

Gov. Rick Scott calls for Florida to drop out of PARCC http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/gov-rick-scott-calls-for-florida-to-drop-out-of-parcc/2143392 … via @TB_Times via Joy Resmovits

Rep. Jared Polis doesn’t want you to know he thinks Diane Ravitch is evil | Twitchy http://ht.ly/p84nl 

I Quit Teach for America - Olivia Blanchard - The Atlantic http://ht.ly/p7PhN 

Do American public schools really stink? Maybe not http://ht.ly/p6CvS  Politico's @StephanieSimon_ debunks reform myths (or not).

The missing half of school reform - Education - @AEIeducation http://ht.ly/p8DvI  @rhess99

Continue reading "Five Top Tweets: Florida Drops PARCC, Teacher Quits TFA" »

Afternoon Video: Trapper Keepers - The Original Smartphones?

Voiceover: “Most students keep the Trapper Keeper in their locker. Then, they just change Trappers from class to class. With no large notebooks to carry around, they travel light and easy. After school, they take the Trapper Keeper home with all the Trappers inside.” (The History of the Trapper Keeper | Mental Floss)

Thompson: AEI's Hess Nails What's Wrong With "Reform 1.0"

Rick_hessThe American Enterprise Institute's conference, Teacher Quality 2.0: Will Today's Reforms Hold Back Tomorrow's Schools? showed that the times, they are a-changing. And it's about time.  If "reformers" don't admit that they are stalled in the wrong lane of history, our schools will be hurt badly.  

The AEI's Rick Hess kicked off the discussion by asking whether the goal of Reform 1.0 is the evaluation of "whether you are a good classroom teacher in a conventional environment?" 

Hess then summarized the ways that this "Teacher Quality 1.0" mentality could undermine online instruction, team teaching, and other ways of reorganizing schools. Hess then questioned the codification of this one-size-fits-all approach to teacher evaluation into law.

Teaching should be a team effort, and that applies to schools that serve intense concentrations of poverty and trauma, as much as it applies to the innovative schools that Hess wants.  Isn't that the real harm of Reform 1.0? It had the temerity to ram through laws that constrain all types of cooperative learning across our huge and diverse democracy.   

Although we disagree on most things, can advocates of the flipped classroom and of full-service community schools join together to reverse laws mandating value-added evaluations?-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via

Weekend Reading: Good Stuff You Probably Missed

Every weekend I go through online versions of magazines, radio shows, and other sites to find education-related news that I might have missed during the week and/or has come out over the weekend:

Do American public schools really stink? Maybe not http://ht.ly/p6CvS  Politico's @StephanieSimon_ debunks reform myths (or not).

Against Redshirting: Why It Pays to Be the *Youngest* Kid in Class : The New Yorker http://ht.ly/p4ITf  via @nextdraft

EdX, MIT, and online certificates -- the iTunes of higher education? http://ht.ly/p6fhE 

AVID college prep system quietly spreads to 48 states/250k kids, says WPost's Jay Mathews http://ht.ly/p6Fok  What's not to like?

Massive differences between offerings at Lab School vs. Bret Harte Elementary http://ht.ly/p5jbx  @valeriestrauss

Education icon Diane Ravitch championed education reform from vouchers to charter schools. WBURhttp://ht.ly/p6eW5 

Sandy Kress on Accountability, Waivers, Common Core; and the Power of No Child @dropoutnationhttp://ht.ly/p69Ys 

Schnur, Paul, Kohn Discuss Measures of School Success (Audio) http://ht.ly/p6eLP 

Author of key report says students need both knowledge and knowhow; content and the skills to apply it. @AmRadioWorks http://ht.ly/p6fTY 

Abolish Public Schools: Ron Paul's Education Proposal | New Republic http://ht.ly/p6fOJ  by @KevinCarey1

Banned Books I Love __ The Toast http://ht.ly/p6fN0 

America's Most Surprising Banned Books via @feedly http://ht.ly/p5h3k 

Parents Should Force Kids to Take Music Lessons | New Republic http://ht.ly/p6fLZ 

Some journos are overdoing it with their use of reader/viewers' tweets, says TNR http://ht.ly/p6fGe  Anyone in edmedia doing this?

Charts: State By State Testing Problems From AJC

The AJC's testing examination continues with this story (Scoring errors jeopardize tests) and a hand-dandy state-by-state listing of testing errors that have created real world problems for kids and schools:

AK Teachers and administrators complain about a host of problems with new state tests in 2005, including questions with no clear correct answer and missing pages. State says most of the problems were probably with pilot questions that didn't count.
AL Scoring errors in 2005 affected about 2,500 students.
AR Error by scorers in 2006 led to inaccurate school-by-school results for 238,000 students.
AZ Delays, reporting errors in 2012 such as kids reported in the wrong group or school, errors in field test items on AIMS state test. "These errors are public, and have damaging effects on the public perception of the Arizona Department of Education and AIMS testing."
CA Problems in 2007 included errors in the directions for a writing test that created the need for a scoring adjustment for some students and the delivery of some testing materials late.
CO A scoring error on a single question resulted in incorrect scores issued from 1997 to 2002.
CT A test company's failure to update scores properly on a 2005 reading test led wrong results to be reported for 355 high school students.
DC A sixth-grader complains in 2013 of a question with confusing directions and another with two possible right answers.
FL Federal investigators found errors in how a scanner read students’ bubbled-in answer choices, a 2009 report found.
Items 1—10 of 51
What I haven't found out yet is whether the error rate AJC found [signs of potential problems in nearly 9 percent of exams] is any different for annual NCLB tests than it is for other tests like the NAEP, AP, GED, or LSAT. More to come.

Morning Video: Border Crossing For A US Education

Here's the video that goes along with this Washington Post story about border crossing and education. Seventy-five percent of the students at the Palomas school cross the border each day. EdSec Duncan visited recently - and approves.

AM News: Duncan Pushing College Ratings


Education Secretary: Colleges Need Grades Too TIME: The president's Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, discussed the plan with leaders in government and higher education at a TIME magazine summit on Friday. 

Duncan Chides 1 Dupont Inside Higher Ed: Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Friday admonished critics of the Obama administration's plan for a federal college rating system and pledged to move full-speed ahead in developing the metrics by which institutions will be judged. 

Scoring errors jeopardize tests AJC: In Mississippi, a computer glitch on a test led high schoolers to drop out. A scoring miscalculation in Massachusetts nearly cost students college scholarships. In New York City, multiple errors caused thousands of children to be told they were ineligible for gifted programs when they had in fact qualified. In Illinois, a fourth-grade Chicago Public Schools teacher noticed an entire class received zeros for responses to written-answer questions on the 2011 state test. The students were not alone: 144 students in five schools had wrongly received zeros

NYC sitting out national move to tie charter, district admissions GothamSchools: In Denver, parents can apply to every charter and district school through one form and a single process. In New Orleans, the same is possible, with the exception of some of the city’s highest-performing charter schools. Newark is well on its way, as is Chicago, and similar discussions are taking place in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

In Push For 'Common' Standards, Many Parents Left Uneducated NPR: The Common Core initiative would standardize academic goals nationwide. Forty-five states have signed on, but lawmakers in some states are rethinking their support. While both sides are stepping up their messaging, a poll out this month shows 62 percent of Americans have never heard of the Common Core.

Children cross Mexican border to receive a US education Washington Post: The mothers, holding the small hands of their children, can go only as far as the glass door, where Mexico ends and America begins. They lean down and send off their little ones with a kiss and a silent prayer.

Continue reading "AM News: Duncan Pushing College Ratings" »

Afternoon Video: Flying Eagle Would Be Great At Next PD Session


On the off chance you haven't seen this already this week, here's the eagle flying with the camera attached. Add some cheesy music and you've got an inspiring professional development video for the next no-student day.

Quotes: Ripley "Less Certain" Of PISA Towards End Of Book

Quotes2The deeper Ripley goes, however, the less certain she is of the answer to our school problem... Upbeat statements about the [PISA] tend to disappear later in the book. - Washington Post education columist Jay Mathews in a review of Amanda Ripley's "Smartest Kids"

Photos: Mayor Duncan?

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Sure, Arne Duncan has been spending a lot of time lately in the Big Apple (nobody calls it that), but now he's being confused with Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio (upper right, I think). Image via NY Mag (via GS).

Morning Video: How Facebook Founder Learned About Dreamers

"Zuckerberg said that his views had changed after he began doing volunteer-teacher work in a local public school," writes The Atlantic's James Fallows about this recent interview. "He found that one of his best students wasn't interested in going to college, not for any academic reasons but because of a legal barrier." (What the CEO of Facebook Has in Common With a Michigan School Administrator)

AM News: TFA Agrees To Eight-Week Training In Minnesota


U of M, TFA reach first-of-a-kind teacher-training deal MinnPost: The Twin Cities program will be the first in which TFA’s summer training is conducted in collaboration with a university. The new program will take place at the U of M and will last eight weeks instead of TFA’s customary five. 

California takes a left turn on state exams Washington Post: California is on a collision course with the U.S. Department of Education over its plans to suspend standardized tests this school year – a move that Education Secretary Arne Duncan says is wrong-headed.

Once racially troubled, a district shrinks the achievement gap Hechinger Report: On a spring morning at Ossining High School in suburban New York, a group of students gathered in a small classroom at the end of the school’s science hallway. It was a day traditionally known to the senior class as “skip day,” when most of the school’s 12th graders play hooky and head to the beach to celebrate their impending graduation.

Report: Sports causes American students to falter MSNBC (Morning Joe): Author Amanda Ripley explains why high school sports are causing American high schools to fall behind their international counterparts.

Private Schools Are Expected to Drop a Dreaded Entrance Test NYT: A group representing New York City private schools said it would no longer recommend using the test because of concerns that test-preparation courses rendered it meaningless.

Charts: Lots More "Excellent" Teachers Under New Chicago System?

Looking at the green areas on the Chicago Sun-Times graph below it certainly looks like there are lots more excellent teachers now than in the past (as well as more unsatisfactory teachers in red):

ScreenHunter_04 Sep. 19 09.55

However, a closer look (and a helpful explanation from Sun-Times reporter Lauren Fitzgerald) reveals that the results of the new evaluation system are shown in the second bar from the right, which reveals somewhat fewer excellent teachers and lots more developing ones.  

The bar on the far right is, I'm told, the distribution of ratings for tenured teachers circa 2010-2011, some but not all of whose work has been evaluated using the new system starting last year. 

Media: First Look At The Atlantic's Education Page [@TheAtlanticEDU]

Good news-bad newsSo it's been a few days now since the Atlantic education page launched, and while others may have been paying closer attention (tell me!) I feel like I'm beginning to get the sense of what it's going to be all about (at least for now).

Edited by Eleanor Barkhorn (veteran Atlantic.com channel editor) and staffed by Julia Ryan (@julialeighryan), you can read the introductory explanation from Barkhorn here (Introducing The Atlantic's Education Channel) and get a look at a recent post by Ryan here (How Much Homework Do American Kids Do?). 

So far, at least, it's basically shaping up to be an all-education version of the site's National page, which has has long carried education reporting from EWA's Emily Richmond (What Makes a Great Teacher: Training? Experience? Intelligence? Grit?) and Hechinger. For a long list of posts I've written about or with Atlantic.com material in the past, click here.

But that's not all.  There's also education-related commentary, which was previously verboten on the National page, such as this post from Robert Pondiscio (Poor Students Need Homework). That could be great, if it's smart and edgy stuff, or could devolve if it becomes predictable or is full of just the most self-serving kinds of viewpoints (a la Huffington Post).  Look also for personal narratives such as this one ('I Don't Want My Children to Go to College').
My favorite piece so far has been Todd Tauber's rant on education's latest latecomers (When Media Companies Try to Become Education Companies), partly because of the topic and also because of Tauber's obvious familiarity with the field and willingness to do some reporting.  Crossed fingers for more of like that, though it may be hard or expensive to find people who can do that kind of work.

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Thompson: Tennessee's Rushed Implementation of "Race"

RaceToTheTopElaine Weiss, of the Broader, Bolder Approach, has written an early draft of the history of the Race to the Top.  Her Mismatches in Race to the Top Limit Education Improvement recounts the “unrealistic and impossible” promises made by states to win federal grants, and how they are likely to undermine future efforts to improve schools.

Anyone who doubts Weiss’ warnings about the RttT should turn immediately to Appendix Two, a case study on Tennessee’s implementation of the grant, and how it created “a culture of fear.”    

After winning its RttT grant in March, 2110, Tennessee authorized a capacity review of its department of education which concluded that “the organization and the work wasn’t organized in a way that supported implementation.”  

Within four months, however, Tennessee leaped ahead and committed to Common Core standards. Despite anticipating a decline of as much as 50 points on average per grade and subject, state still insisted, “We believe our ultimate goal of 100% proficiency is still the right one—no matter whether the assessment is old or new.” 

The rush to reform accelerated in 2011 when Tennessee tackled the heart of the RttT, its teacher evaluation promises.  Only three months had been allocated for formulating teacher observation tools and training evaluators in their use. A four-day summer session trained over 5,000 evaluators.

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Morning Video: Former Dropout Brings Magic Johnson To Tears

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Former NBA basketball player Magic Johnson has been funding dropout recovery programs and was brought to tears by one student's introduction at a Chicago event on Wednesday. Click the link here to watch.

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AM News: Louisiana Governor Fights Obama For Vouchers


Jindal won’t give up the fight for vouchers MSNBC: On Wednesday, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott spoke in protest of the Justice Department’s suit at the National Press Club, echoing Jindal’s criticism of the efforts to block the program.

La. Governor Demands Feds Drop Suit Against State ABC News: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Wednesday demanded that federal officials abandon their challenge.

Montana schools chief wants to avoid giving 'No Child Left Behind' tests The Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Montana's public schools chief announced Wednesday she will seek to avoid giving students the state's No Child Left Behind test next year, when all schools would be “failing” the federal goal of 100 percent proficiency in reading and math.

Delaware Seeks to Steer the Poor to Top Colleges NYT: The state plans to use application fee waivers and other information to address a pattern that limits social mobility.

GAO: Race to Top States Have Mixed Record on Teacher Evaluation Politics K12: Sustaining the new evaluation systems is going to be a tall order, nearly all Race to the Top states report released Wednesday. But overall, most Race to the Top states are happy with the level of support they're getting from the U.S. Department of Education.

NJ considers GPA requirements for teachers NY Post: A handful of states and many college teaching programs already require a 3.0. New Jersey is also looking into a final college exam for teachers. via GS

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Afternoon Video: Kid President's Back To School Message

Kid President urges ‘Get your learn on!’ MSNBC

Teachers: New Evaluation Quadruples Failing Chicago Teachers

Cps_posterCCLedsimulationBehind all the drama and cussing of the last couple of years, Chicago and its teachers union have developed and now rolled out a new teacher evaluation system to replace the quickie checklist that had been used for years -- largely without complaint.

According to the latest reports, the implementation has gone OK:  

Teachers are confused and worried about being rated in part (25 percent) based on student growth.  

Principals are complaining about having to spend more time evaluating teachers than they used to.

The percentage of nontenured teachers found to be the worst has quadrupled -- to three percent.

EdWeek: Chicago Teachers See Value in New Evaluations, But Eschew Test Scores; Catalyst: New teacher evaluations get positive reviews; Chicago Tribune: No dramatic changes in CPS teacher evaluations; Chicago Sun-Times: Mixed reviews from CEO, principals, teachers

EdTech: Three Articles Raise Big Tablet Questions For Amplify

image from www1.pcmag.comOver the past week or so I've come across three big articles raising questions about the efforts Amplify and others are putting into getting tablets and interactive software into US schoolchildren's hands: 

Mashable's late-August piece (Inside News Corp's $540 Million Bet on American Classrooms) raised a slew of questions about the motives and feasability of Amplify's efforts.

From the headline of the story to the tag line at the end, Carlo Rotella's recent NYT Sunday Magazine piece (No Child Left Untableted) persistently casts tablets -- and Amplify -- in a consistently critical if not negative light.

But perhaps the most hair-raising of them all (from the Amplify perspective) might be Todd Tauber's look at the disappointing economic history of media companies trying to get into the education game (When Media Companies Try to Become Education Companies). 

Then again, I'm a notorious reactionary/scaredycat when it comes to education technology (except when it comes to broadband access), and the coverage also helps publicize the company's efforts and gives what they're doing a sense of inevitability. So perhaps I'm just reading it all wrong.

Image via PC Magazine

Quotes: Ravitch Seeking To "Expiate" For Previous Views

Quotes2Part of the energy that I have to try to change things is to expiate whatever responsibility I had in terms of advocating something that turned out to be so terribly wrong for children. -- Diane Ravitch in recent NYT interview via Liza Bearman 

Bruno: There Is No Teacher Pension Free Lunch

6736138697_7eca0c0603_nJosh McGee and Marcus Winters recently released a plan to reform teacher retirement plans.

Chad Alderman helpfully summarizes its two main components:

First, have "benefits accrue smoothly" over the entirety of a teaching career, rather than suddenly at the end of a long career.

Second, shift the allocation of compensation away from retirement accounts and into salaries "to match the norm for similarly situated workers in the private sector".

This is probably solid education policy. Teachers value their defined-benefit pensions, but probably not as much as they value an equivalent - or even somewhat smaller - increase in salary.

And as a relatively new teacher who has experienced some employment uncertainty, I'd certainly prefer to accumulate benefits more steadily and reliably.

Shifting away from generous defined-benefit plans may have some negative effect on teacher retention, but that would likely be at least partially offset by the retention (and recruitment) benefits of higher take-home pay.

Still, when reformers refer to this plan as a "free lunch", that's a little myopic.

It's important to remember that "good education policy" is not the same thing as "good policy" in general or "good retirement policy" in particular.

Teacher retirement plans are famously problematic, so it's natural enough to want to reform them. But the fact is that private sector retirement plans are a bit of a mess as well, with most plans providing only limited retirement security for most people. 

In other words McGee and Winters are proposing sacrificing educators' retirement security to achieve a system that is in some respects more fair and - perhaps - educationally more efficient. So there is no "free lunch" here; the trade-off is very real.

So the McGee/Winters plan may very well be good education policy. And, absent additional revenue, teachers' defined-benefit pensions should probably be made somewhat less generous if for no other reason than to help keep them sustainable.

Nevertheless, private sector retirement plans are not obviously deserving of imitation. We may find that, like democracy, relatively generous defined-benefit pensions are the worst system except  for all the others. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)



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.