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Events: So Long -- I'm Quitting Blogging & Joining TFA

image from 30daystox.comIt is with *extremely* mixed emotions that I'm announcing that, as of midnight tonight I'm shutting down this site, the related Facebook and Twitter pages, and also my Chicago blog and Tumblr. [Some auto-scheduled tweets from over the weekend may appear in your feed or on your Facebook page, but I officially sent my last tweet last night.]

Wow, that's hard to write. But I'm done.  You don't need me doing this every day.  I don't need to be doing this every day. It's been a long, amazing ride. I'm really proud of what I've done, and incredibly grateful to have been allowed to do it. Thanks to everyone who's helped make it happen.

What am I going to do instead of blogging?  Good question. You see, on a lark this past fall I applied to Teach For America. I told myself it was just for the book I was writing. Nobody was more surprised than I was when I actually made it through and got picked. I had to think long and hard whether or not to quit blogging and accept the spot.  But finally I said yes and so I'm going to Houston this summer and starting teaching -- here in Brooklyn, I hope -- in the fall.   Wish me luck - I'm going to need it!

Afternoon Video: A Mashup (Supercut) Of School "Happy" Videos, Please?


Someone needs to edit all these great "Happy" videos together to create some sort of crazy happy breakthrough (Harmonic Convergence) that would result, right?  This one from Chicago's Legacy charter school is particularly informal and fun.

Teachers: Hey, That Older Dude Doesn't *Look* Very TFA

Unnamed (6)Tucked in at the end of Motoko Rich's recent NYT story about career-switching teachers (Teaching as a Second Act, or Maybe Even a Third) was mention of military veteran Scott Graham, 49, who initially "laughed when his daughter, then a Teach for America corps member in San Antonio, suggested he try [TFA], too."

After he was done laughing, however, Graham applied, got in, and was sent to Houston for training just like everyone else.  Now he works in a San Antonio middle school and is training to become an administrator.

That's Graham with his daughter, pictured (courtesy TFA). You can read a blog post he wrote a couple of years ago, and another written by his daughter here

Charts: Of 12 Graphs Illustrating The Life Cycle Of America's Class System, #9 Is The Most Disturbing

Over at the American Prospect, there's a series of charts showing the life cycle of America's class system that's pretty intense to scroll through (America's Class System Across The Life Cycle).  The visutals are intense, the chart headings are intense -- #9 ("Even The Strivers Don’t Do As Well") might jump out at you if you're a reformer:

image from demos.org

The conclusion by Matt Bruenig is most damning of all: "Confronted with the reality of our society’s entrenched class system, our national politics in its present state offers three responses. The first response is to deny reality altogether, usually in favor of an anecdote or two. The second is to accept that it exists, but pretend there is nothing you can do about it because those on the bottom are inferior (see Murray, Ryan). And the last response is to note it exists and offer lukewarm solutions that nibble around the margins of the problem without ever doing anything that might actually even things out."


Thompson: LA School Report Misstates On Vergara Lawsuit

DemocracyLA School Report's Michael Janofsky, in Analysis: Vergara Approaching Time for Tru Judgment, fundamentally misstates the issues in Vergara v. California, which seeks to overturn the state's tenure, seniority, and due process laws.

Janofsky claims that the question is, "Are the laws, as they exist, the best and only way for the state to provide California school children access to a quality education, as the state Constitution provides?"

No! Even the best of laws are the flawed results of the imperfect sausage-making that is self-government. In our constitutional democracy, Janofsky, the corporate reformers, and the economists who testified for the plaintiffs have a right to believe whatever they want about the best ways to help poor children of color. The issue is whether they proved their case, supporting their opinion that duly enacted laws, passed with the intent of helping teachers, but not hurting students, should be stricken. 

If those laws are stricken, who will determine the best and only way to provide a quality education?  

Janofsky also claims that the plaintiffs' arguments are more "systemic," while the defendants' are more "granular."  Perhaps he means that the plaintiffs' experts are economists viewing schools from 30,000 feet, but unaware of education research or facts on the ground. He is correct, however, about their tactic of "using the experiences of nine students as a motif" for showing that California needs better legislation for firing teachers. "The fact that one child’s education could be compromised," writes Janofsky, repeating the plaintiff's public relations spin, "means all children are at risk."

Yeah, that's an interesting motif and a nice soundbite, but it is completely divorced from reality.

I'd say that the demand for a system where no terminations could be mishandled  and no students could be assigned an ineffective teacher is a pretty granular goal, and it is downright utopian to boot. Where did we get this idea that because voters haven't cured all our social ills, the elites should determine the laws of the land? Why believe that the corporate funders of Vergara would not, once again, take inequities and make them worse?-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via

Media: Education Journalists In Fellowship Limbo Until May?

image from www.journalism.columbia.eduThe Spencer education journalism advisory board met on Monday to pick the next year's three fellows but the applicants --I know who got in but am holding off on saying for some reason-- are most of them still in the dark about whether they got the nod or not and the Columbia journalism school can't announce winners for another few weeks.  

Why the delay?  Two of the three top picks for the Spencer also applied for other prestigious journalism fellowships (Nieman, Knight, etc.), whose notification timelines could stretch as late as May. 

These fellowships -- as well as the New America program -- all serve slightly different purposes. I'm partial to the Spencer for many reasons, including that it is focused on education journalism in particular and also encourages the stream of long-form education writing that's come out in recent years.

If either of the two top picks gets into one of these other programs and decides to decline the Spencer, then one of the alternates would get a spot.  (That's what happened the first year, when I got a spot after Stephanie Banchero went off to Palo Alto for the year.  I think that it's happened at least a couple of times since then.)

A month of waiting seems wasteful and nerve-wracking.  Wouldn't it be nice if Michigan, Stanford, and Columbia could coordinate so that this doesn't happen?  I mean, if charter and district schools can coordinate application deadlines and forms in some places -- and colleges can agree on some sort of window for letting students know -- then so should a handful of journalism fellowship programs.

Meantime, congrats to the folks who got picked for next year, and no hard feelings if you decide to go to Ann Arbor or Palo Alto instead of Manhattan. Someone else will happily take your place. 

Previous posts: What's Next For The Spencer Fellowship?New Spencer Fellows, New Research TopicsSpencer Fellow Gets Big Book DealNew America Fellow Writing Book On "Future Of Testing".

People: Young Joins GreatSchools [Plus Unsolicited Advice]

image from m.c.lnkd.licdn.comMeet Caprice Young, though you probably knew her already. She's a former LAUSD school board member who helped right the ship at LA's troubled ICEF charter network then went to work for the Arnold Foundation. She also worked as a Deputy Mayor and for a distance learning company along the way, and was a Coro Fellow.

Young left the Arnold Foundation fulltime last year and did some consulting but then decided to join GreatSchools as a senior advisor because she things the site is fascinating and as yet under-used. You might not hear a lot about GreatSchools, but it's got impressive pageviews, according to Quantcast -- 5-6 million pageviews a month (much higher than Kahn Academy and other big-name sites, according to Young).

Now 15 years old, GreatSchools keeps adding features and collaborations like this week's Detroit rollout in partnership with Excellent Schools Detroit.  Not too long ago, the site began producing its own stories (Diversity: "When The Melting Pot Boils Over"). They've partnered with real estate site Zillow and are fending off competitors like Niche and Education.com that do similar things just not as well, says Young.  Next up after Detroit is an effort to deepen the school profiles using social media and qualitative data, and a spinoff dubbed GreatKids that is intended to help parents understand what it looks like when their children can do, say, 2nd grade math. 

What would be really cool -- in the category of unsolicited suggestions -- would be if GreatSchools partnered with big-city districts who are doing universal/streamlined application and admissions processes, so that parents could see ratings, user reviews, and apply all in one place. Yeah, sort of like HealthCare.gov, I guess.  Would make NSA spying on parents easier. Loaner tablets for parents who don't have computers? 

Previous posts: Was Bloomberg Article Fair To Bullis Charter?Is GreatSchools Helping, Or Hurting? A Yelp (Or Facebook) For Schools?New NYT-WNYC Site [SchoolBook] To Cover New York City

Media: March Madness Pits 16 Sites Against Each Other

Blank Boxes 16 Filled In Final v2
Who do you think wins the tournament this year?  Fill out a bracket and let us know who makes it to the red square (or who was unfairly omitted or seeded wrong).  

Morning Video: Most Homeless Students Live Outside Big Cities


"Homelessness is often treated as an urban problem, even though less than half of all homeless people live in big cities. As a result, teens like Gilpatrick are less likely to be counted, and noticed." (America Tonight Al Jazeera America) Watch Part 2 here.

AM News: Decision Looms In CA Teacher Job Protection Case


Teacher job protections attacked, defended in landmark trial’s closing arguments KPCC: The roughly 80 people in the audience included former California Governor Pete Wilson and LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy, who’d testified for the plaintiffs that the teacher firing process is ineffective. The presidents of the state’s top teachers unions held press events before the proceedings, in which they said that this case is an effort to undermine teacher protections which are crucial to academic freedom and effectiveness. See also LA Times

Cheat Sheet: Race to the Top Progress PK12: What have the dozen winners of the $4 billlion competition actuallly accomplished, and what do they have left to do? Check out this chart, created by the Michele half of Politics K-12, which provides a handy, at-a-glance guide to the department's reports.

“Respect the parents’ decision” to opt out of tests, city principals are told  ChalkbeatNY:The guide offers answers to frequently asked questions about participation in state tests, which begin next week. With the city and state grappling with the simultaneous rollout of tougher standards, which last year led to much harder tests, and a new teacher evaluation system that weighs test scores for the first time, anxiety about the tests is high, and some families are planning to opt out in protest.

On charter reset, de Blasio heard from Bill Clinton Capital NY: Before delivering a conciliatory speech on charter schools last Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio chatted with Bill Clinton about the issue, according to three soures familiar with the phone call.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: Decision Looms In CA Teacher Job Protection Case" »

Afternoon Video: MSNBC Covers Suspended Preschoolers Study (Sort Of)

It wasn't Rachel Maddow (who rarely books education segments) or even Chris Hayes (somewhat more frequent) but rather newbie Ronan Farrow (son of Mia) who got the job of covering last week's big disparate discipline & teaching experience study.

Charts: Education Majors Make Top 20 Money-Losing Schools List

Yikes! Getting an education degree from a place like Virginia Commonwealth or Bowling Green State University isn't a good idea, earnings-wise, according to this chart from The Atlantic based on self-reported earnings published yesterday by an outfit called PayScale. Even big-name schools like Indiana and Ohio State are on the list.  Read the story for cautions and caveats in interpreting the data (including colleges' impacts on student outcomes). There are also charts about colleges and degrees with the highest impact on earnings (none of them are education degrees, obv.).

Quotes: "A Chance Of Repercussions" [But, Really, Not Much Of One]

Quotes2Anytime you break a law, there is a chance of repercussions. -- Illinois State Board of Education spokesperson Matt Vanover, playing it coy about the possible loss of funding due to parents opting out of state tests (in Catalyst)



Morning Video: Kaya Henderson Talks DC School Progress On MSNBC

AM News: Common Core "Field Tests" Going Well In CA (So Far)


Early response to Smarter Balanced field tests encouraging LA School Report: As the Smarter Balanced field tests got underway yesterday in California and 21 other states, officials are receiving positive feedback from the schools that are participating. The testing starts in LA Unified next Tuesday. By mid-morning yesterday, 16,633 students completed the test and 19,677 students had begun but had not yet finished it.

Report: NY schools are most racially segregated AP: New York state has the most segregated public schools in the nation, with many black and Latino students attending schools with virtually no white classmates, according to a report released Wednesday....

With Melendez gone, Garcetti not sure about replacing her LA School Report: A week after his education liaison left to join LA Unified, Mayor Eric Garcetti is reconsidering whether he will even have an education deputy on his staff. Jeff Millman, spokesman for Garcetti, told LA School Report the mayor’s office “has not decided” if it will seek a replacement for Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, who left her post as director of education and workforce development after only seven months on the job.

Can The Success Of D.C.'s Best Middle Schools Be Replicated? WAMU: Mayoral contender and D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser said she wants to replicate the educational successes of Alice Deal Middle School. But does the school really offer a model for the whole city?

Calif. Testing Waiver Draws Civil Rights Concerns Education Week: In remarks March 14 to the National Association of State Boards of Education at its conference in Arlington, Va., U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan defended the decision, saying that allowing millions of California students to participate in the .

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: Common Core "Field Tests" Going Well In CA (So Far)" »

Afternoon Video: Can Home Visits & Portable Gadgets Help Close The Word Gap?

This video from Motoko Rich's NYT home visits story today shows a cloud-based device that tracks word use at home.

Quotes: IL Union Spends $3M to Praise Republican Candidate [Still Loses]

Quotes2Senator Dillard has been a tireless advocate for public schools and our communities and a strong voice for teachers and retirees -- Illinois Federation of Teachers president Dan Montgomery on behalf of losing Republican candidate (via Politico)


People: Meet Conor Williams, New America's New(ish) Education Guy

image from newamerica.netI had the chance to meet New America's Conor Williams the other day, during a reporting trip he took to Brooklyn.  (For the record, the Tea Lounge on Union Street is still there and doesn't smell as bad as it used to.)

He's got the tweed jacket professor thing down, though he's only been at New America for about a year and came to them pretty much straight from grad school.  

Since then, he's been writing up a storm: You probably saw his recent post at The Atlantic (What Applying to Charter Schools Showed Me About Inequality“). Or maybe it was this one from the Daily Beast (The Charter School Trap).  He also writes for the Talking Points Memo (Why Doesn’t English Language Learning Have The Same Cachet As Pre-K?).

But his writing goes back well before his current stint at New America.  You may remember him being mentioned here in the past, going all the way back to 2011: "One of the most frustrating things about the current education reform wars is the cults that form around dominant personalities." (Twilight for Education Policy's Idols). Or: "Want to hear that you hate teachers? Claim that those that do their jobs poorly should be dismissed... Want to hear that you don't care about students? Claim that poverty might be a factor worth considering for educators working with low-income students." (Ending the Education War).

More recently, on reform critics: "They need a message that goes beyond critiquing reformers and defending the miserable status quo." (The Charter School Trap)

Increasingly, his writing mixes policy, journalism, and personal narrative (Why Men Shouldn’t Wait to Have Kids). But he can go deep when the need arises; he's got a Phd in political science (take that, all you MPPs!). He's a dad, and he has some classroom experience, too. (He's a TFA alum, but you wouldn't necessarily know it from his writing.) Image courtesy New America.  Tweet him at @ConorPWilliams. Personal blog here.

Morning Video: Too Much Focus On Testing, Agrees Michelle Rhee

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

On the TODAY show, a Boston teacher tearfully resigns from her job (a story too good to check), and Michelle Rhee complains that teachers stopped teaching her kids after testing is over each spring. 

AM News: White House Takes "Race To The Top" Victory Lap


Obama officials tout Race to the Top, saying it has unleashed ‘enormous positive change’ Washington Post: In a conference call with reporters to mark the fourth anniversary of the creation of Race to the Top, the White House’s Domestic Policy Council director, Cecilia Muñoz, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan rattled off examples of what they said was proof that the $4 billion competitive grant was driving “dramatic change.” See also PK12, USA Today, Hechinger.

Arne Duncan heads to New Zealand, Hawaii with gaggle of staffers  Washington Post: My Post colleague Lyndsey Layton asked the Education Department about Secretary Arne Duncan's trip this week to New Zealand and Hawaii — which will round out his visits to all 50 states during his tenure. 

In an about-face, Indiana decides to drop Common Core PBS: While Indiana was one of the first states to adopt the standards in 2010 — which set out guidelines for the topics and skills students should study at each grade level — opposition to the guidelines has been building since Pence took office in 2012. Last year, the state’s Republican-controlled legislature put the standards roll-out on hold and work began on drawing up Indiana’s own standards.

Hearing Weighs How Congress Should Improve Teacher Preparation PK12: One of the big questions facing lawmakers: Should the federal government call for colleges of education to track their graduates into the classroom? And, if so, what exactly should that look like?  Already, states are required to identify teacher prep programs that aren't up to snuff and help them improve. But states aren't exactly knocking themselves out to fulfill that requirement, noted Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate education committee, at Tuesday's hearing. As of 2013, nearly half the states and the District of Columbia hadn't pointed to a single low-performing program, he said. 

School-Finance Overhaul in Kansas Could End Early-Education Push StateWatch: A plan to boost school funding in Kansas in the wake of a court ruling could mean Gov. Sam Brownback's plan to increase pre-K spending won't succeed.

The Writing's On The Wall For Cursive — Unless Lawmakers Can Save It NPR: The Common Core State Standards have ended lessons in cursive writing, but lawmakers in some states are trying to change that. Blake Farmer of WPLN reports on an effort in Tennessee to revive cursive.

Video: Teacher brings Elvis inspiration into classroom TODAY: TODAY’s Bob Dotson travels to Sand Springs, Okla., to tell the American Story of a teacher who’s using his talents (including impersonating the King of Rock ’n’Roll) to inspire students, reminding them to keep their promises. 

More news throughout the day at @alexanderrusso.

Maps: Scared, Or Not So Scared By This Creationism Map?

Screen shot 2014-03-25 at 1.36.14 PM

This map showing where Creationism might be taught using public voucher funds at private schools should scare you, because it's so dark and scary-looking.  Or, perhaps it will remind you of the worst cell phone coverage map ever, and you will resist being scared by the people who are (and want you to be ) scared. PS This is where Politico's Stephanie Simon apparently got much of her recent story.

Thompson: Musings on This Year's Spring Break Grand Canyon Trip

Brandy%20standing%201[1]I just returned from another Spring Break trip to the Grand Canyon, although my travel companions are now thirty-somethings. It was a reminder of the wonders of teaching in the inner city. Whether it is playing basketball with students, or being schooled by the kids and by former students on cutting edge digital innovations, there is nothing like the joy of teaching.

Being quick (some say too quick) to see something new on a trip and to turn it into an outdoor lesson, I'm reminded of how much I loved classroom instruction. Even so, it is only one part of the job. It is no more than the point of the spear in the war on underperformance. And, that prompted a first musing.

Marveling at the Grand Canyon, I could ignore the problems with teacher evaluation regulations, described by Education Week's Michelle McNeil's Arne Duncan on Who's Winning the Race to the Top.  The RttT, like his School Improvement Grants, and other innovations were drafted by noneducators who did not understand that teaching and learning are acts of love, not the results of rewards and punishment. Those expensive programs were doomed because the wisdom of veteran educators, who understand the need for trusting relationships, were shunned by the programs' architects. So, even though I did my best to not think about school reform while at the Grand Canyon, I could not resist a thought experiment.

How many students' lives could have been transformed if the $5 million SIG grant at my old school of Centennial had been invested win-win solutions to our real problems? Our educational defeats were due to the predictable result of too many poor children, with too few adult role models, being segregated in a world with too few opportunities for hopes and dreams. What would have been the result of well-funded, well-planned, high-quality field trips inside and outside of the city? A series of intergenerational adventures would have nurtured the bonds necessary to learn for mastery and prepare for life after school.

Continue reading "Thompson: Musings on This Year's Spring Break Grand Canyon Trip" »

Quotes: Lay Off Those Local Assessments, Says NY State Superintendent

Quotes2It is our hope that as you, your principals and teachers get more comfortable with the new state assessments, you will reduce local standardized testing or test prep programs and dedicate as much learning time as possible to providing a well-rounded curriculum that meets our highest expectations of a great education. -- John King (King urges districts to pull back on local testing ChalkbeatNY)

People: Big Changes At DC Think Tank [Job Opening!]

Flickr albastrica mititicaLongtime education guru Cynthia Brown -- I first met her when she was at the state chiefs (CCSSO) -- is now listed as a Senior Fellow at the Center on American Progress.  She's cutting back on her work time, she says via email.  Meantime, former Kennedy and Duncan staffer Carmel Martin is VP for policy, overseeing education and other policy areas. Which means that CAP needs a new Vice President, Education Policy. Could be an interesting gig, considering CAP's prominence and presumed role in supporting the Clinton Democratic campaign for President in 2016.  Or, alternately, could be a tough spot given Martin's connections on the Hill and in the White House.  Image via Flickr.

Morning Video: De Blasio Says NYC System "Broken In So Many Ways"

"We need to be able to say, that despite the good efforts of so many, the school system is still broken in so many ways," admitted de Blasio according to a Gothamist roundup of coverage (De Blasio Doesn't Totally Hate Charter Schools, Okay?) "Our brothers and sisters in the charter movement point to this reality. And I acknowledge that many people of good will in that movement are trying to shake the foundation. And we will work with them in good faith. But we need to work on solutions for the whole."

AM News: Common Core Field Testing Begins Nationwide


California schools are rolling out new standardized tests LA Times: Schools across California are set to begin administering new standardized tests Tuesday that are designed to demand more of students and offer a clearer picture of how much they are learning.

See also Seattle TimesChalkbeatNYHechinger Report

Indiana Drops Common Core Wall Street Journal:Indiana's governor on Monday signed legislation withdrawing the state from the Common Core, making it the first to officially dump math and reading standards that have been adopted by nearly all the states.

Indiana Cuts The Core Without Telling Teachers What Comes Next NPR: Indiana became the first state to adopt, then repeal, the Common Core State Standards. As Elle Moxley of WFIU reports, the repeal has left some teachers scratching their heads. 

New school tests don't make the grade Al Jazeera America: “There’s kind of a belief in a town like Montclair that the more we test, the more we can be sure that our teachers are delivering a quality curriculum,” says Michelle Fine, a CUNY psychology professor who is a member of the parent group Montclair Cares About Schools. “I think that’s magical thinking.”

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: Common Core Field Testing Begins Nationwide" »

Afternoon Listen: Latest Common Core Shifts Challenge For Teachers



Here's today's NPR All Things Considered segment on the Common Core turnaround in Indiana, which infuses the political debate with real-world practical considerations. Reported by Elle Moxley of WFIU.

Weekend Reading: Best Education Articles You Probably Missed

Because sometimes the best stuff comes in over the weekend:

How the Poor Won the New York Tax War -- New York Mag http://ht.ly/uStxQ Hint: $4M a year from @NYSUT @UFT

4 Millions Of Kid in 36 States To Test New Education Assessments http://ht.ly/uSs67  @khefling

Arne Duncan: all-powerful, un-stoppbable -- @learningmatters profiles EdSec http://ht.ly/uSzBd 

Parent trigger school gets high marks on parent survey [commissioned by @parentrev ] - San Bernardino Sun http://ht.ly/uSLvi 

Education in California: Dance of the lemons | The Economist http://ht.ly/uSsYq  #vergara @TeacherBeat

Conference of Mayors Urges E-Rate Reform -- THE Journal http://ht.ly/uSuU6 

How a radical caucus took over Chicago's teacher's union, by Jacobin's @micauetricht http://ht.ly/uSukO  @CTULocal1

What’s the ‘Sweet Spot’ of Difficulty For Learning? | MindShift http://ht.ly/uSvFN 

Which Side Is Your [Teachers'] Pension On? | Jacobin http://ht.ly/uSyTy  @arotherham @MichaelPetrilli

Obama's view of black culture isn't all that different from Paul Ryan's, says @tanehisi http://ht.ly/uSA0M 

The limits of data [journalism] via New Republic http://ht.ly/uSzy0 

Oh, no! Matt Damon caught using inaccurate (outdated) child health stats on TV PolitiFact http://ht.ly/uSxAk 

From Jay Mathews: Why most people, including me, like homework http://wapo.st/1jrUbne 



Events: Key Takeaways From The NJ TFA Media Panel

Image (1)

This past weekend's media panel at the NJ TFA summit included Camika Royal (soon to be at Loyola University in Baltimore), USC's Doug Thomas, free agent (for now) Derrell Bradford, and WSJ metro education reporter  (to be) Leslie Brody (pictured above).  

The panel included comments from me about the complicated but important process through which most education stories are assigned, written, and massaged before they're published -- and how unrealistic a picture of the education debate you can get from social media (where reform critics rule).  

There were also much more useful observations from others:  how important it is to find a workspace where you can speak your mind (Royal); teachers are unfortunately reluctant to talk to reporters about what they're seeing even when they're willing to appear in photos (Brody); Twitter is much less constructive and useful than Facebook or other venues where anonymity and unwanted intrusions can be limited (Bradford). 

Oh, and Brody [@lesliebrody] told the audience that her new email will be leslie.brody@wsj.com -- though she's not there yet. More from the summit via #njsummit, @TFA_NJ.  Picture courtesy CR.

Charts: Vouchers Coming Back (Should You Be Alarmed?)

image from images.politico.comFourteen states already spend about $1 billion to send kids to private schools, reports Politico's Stephanie Simon.

As presented, this is an alarming notion (they're teaching Creationism!) that should be of concern to all.

However, some caution may be appropriate, too.

A billion dollars is a tiny amount, given then $500B-plus annual spending on education.

The number/percentage is much higher in higher ed, where we already have a mixed (public-private) system.

Some parochial schools do a better job than local district schools).

Most private and parochial schools aren't teaching Creationism.  

Media: Where Does That Public Radio Coverage Come From, Anyway?

Flckr-radio-020210The announcement that This American Life is changing distributors is a good opportunity to remind that the public radio education coverage that you and I listen to all the time comes from a bunch of different places even though most of us get it from just one location (a radio station or streaming online).  

Most of us don't really care about what goes on behind the scenes -- we just want good coverage -- but it's useful to know that what you're hearing on that clock radio by your bed or in the kitchen or in the car (or boombox!) comes from a variety of sources and is distributed by a variety of methods. Image via Flickr.

So, for example, Washington DC's WAMU radio is the delivery point for news stories that are produced by all sorts of folks including local stations like WAMU, national stations like NPR's flagship shows Morning Education and All Things Considered.

These are distributed to WAMU by a handful of organizations including American Public Media and PRI to stations who want them.  Some of these distributors also produce shows like Marketplace (APM), which is ramping up its education coverage, and American Radioworks, which already produces a bunch of education covarage.

To make matters slightly more complicated, some shows (like This American Life) share their "broadcast" show one way (through a distributor like PRI) and produce their online digital content (extras, podcasts, etc.) another way (independently).  And some newsteams divide their education teams so that one set of folks are mostly doing broadcast radio and another set of folks are doing online/digital. 

Morning Video: "Big Patterns Of Disparity By Race"

Here's PBS NewsHour's coverage of the big Office of Civil Rights report (first in 15 years, apparently) that came out on Friday, plus an online explainer. The segment features USDE's Catherine Lhamon and doesn't mention differences in patterns by type of school.

AM News: NYC Mayor Changes Rhetoric On Charters

News2From de Blasio, Gentler Words About Charter Schools WNYC:  Mayor Bill de Blasio, in an effort to mend fences on charter schools, emphasized common ground and a desire to “shake the foundations” of the school system. See also ChalkbeatNY

Ready, set ... California schools finally start new computer test this week KPCC: For the next 10 weeks, California students will embark on that dreaded annual rite of passage: the standardized test. But this year, they won't need their number 2 pencils. Test will be given on computer for the first time this year - and school districts and the test provider have been scrambling to get ready.

‘Union Power’ wins big but most UTLA members didn’t vote LA School Report: The progressive group — which plans to call for a strike if a new teacher contract can’t be negotiated soon — won outright in races for NEA Affiliate vice president, AFT Affiliate vice president, Elementary VP, Secondary VP, Treasurer, and Secretary. The race for President will be decided in a run-off pitting Union Power leader, Alex Caputo-Pearl, against incumbent Warren Fletcher.

All staff to be dismissed at three low-performing CPS schools WBEZ: Under the turnaround model, new staff are also CTU teachers. But the union blasted turnarounds as a strategy to get rid of veteran African American teachers, whom Sharkey says kids need as role models. Nearly all students in the three schools targeted for turnaround are poor and black.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: NYC Mayor Changes Rhetoric On Charters" »

Movies: 'Ivory Tower' Documentary To Get June Release

Hollywood_1575288cA much-discussed documentary about higher education costs and quality is getting a full theatrical release this June, according to various Hollywood outlets ('Ivory Tower' Lands). Paramount and Samuel Goldywn are distributing theatrically and online, and Participant (TEACH, Waiting For Superman) is doing the social action campaign."Directed by Andrew Rossi (Page One: Inside the New York Times), Ivory Tower questions the value of higher education among spiraling tuition fees and student debt."

Charts: Public Schools' Discipline & Teacher Quality Problems

image from images.politico.comYou might have been told that charter schools were the only kinds of schools that struggled to provide a equitable, quality education to everyone, but this new discipline and teacher quality data suggests that the problem is much more widespread. Via Politico

Morning Video: Rahm Emanuel Grilled On School Offerings

Rahm Emanuel Says D.C. Is Denying Oxygen To Chuck Todd's BrainRahm Emanuel Jabs Chuck Todd

AM News: Minority Students Receive Tougher Discipline,Weaker Teaching

School Data Finds Pattern of Inequality Along Racial Lines NYT: Racial minorities are more likely than white students to be suspended from school and be taught by lower-paid teachers with less experience, according data released by the Department of Education.

American Schools Are STILL Racist, Government Report Finds HuffPost: Most minority students and English language learners are stuck in schools with the most new teachers. Seven percent of black students attend schools where as many as 20 percent of teachers fail to meet license and certification requirements. And one in four school districts pay teachers in less-diverse high schools $5,000 more than teachers in schools with higher black and Latino student enrollment.

Bleak picture for minority kids in public schools USA Today: Education Secretary Arne Duncan, left, speaks after a roundtable discussion at Family Source Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Duncan's visit aimed to highlight excellence in education and the importance of community involvement and support.

Black Students Less Likely to Be Taught By Certified Teachers, Ed. Dept. Data Show TeacherBeat: Students of color are more often taught by unqualified, inexperienced, and lesser-paid teachers, according to U.S. Department of Education data.

Maryland and DC schools to begin field-testing new Common Core exams next ... Washington Post: Tens of thousands of students in Maryland and the District are slated to log on to computers this spring to take practice versions of a new standardized test, exams meant to gauge their performance

New Schools Squad Will Try to Broker Peace WNYC: Starting within the next two weeks, the first protocol that we're putting in place is that schools will not be fighting each other in a building," Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña told the City Council's education committee Thursday. She said the D.O.E will be sending "campus squads" to settle questions such as who gets what room on what floor in a shared school, and how to use the rooms.

'Horndog High' teachers fired after sexy romp get their jobs back: court NYDN: A Manhattan appeals court ruled language teachers Alina Brito and Cindy Mauro can have their jobs back at James Madison High School in Midwood, Brooklyn, because the pair has ‘unblemished’ discipline records and had a ‘lapse in judgment’ on the day in question.

Afternoon Video: A New Kind Of Playground Encourages Risk-Taking


Here's the trailer from a new documentary about kids and risks that accompanies Hannah Rosin's new Atlantic Magazine article about The Overprotected Kid.

Inspiration: Let Actor Kevin Spacey Get You Fired Up

Screen shot 2014-03-20 at 3.18.18 PMYou don't have to know or like actor Kevin Spacey or his current political thriller, "House of Cards" to appreciate this speech he gave about creativity, teaching, innovation, and much more ('A Sense of Total Abandon').  

In the transcript of this 2013 speech, Spacey -- not known for playing nurturing characters -- credits a drama teacher who saw potential in him for directing him towards an acting workshop and a long-running mentorship with Jack Lemmon. He also talks about the efforts he made as head of the Old Vic theater to do school and community outreach to give kids a creative outlet in acting.

Most of all, he talks about finding and cultivating a sense of "abandon" and creative energy, which is appropriate for teachers, parents, innovators, and entrepreneurs. 

Image via Byliner.

Charts: Elementary Students Doing More Homework Than Before

image from www.washingtonpost.com" The shift in homework burden for elementary students is a significant one, and one that parents of primary school-aged children are likely to feel keenly." (New study: Elementary students are doing more homework than they used to Washington Post) 

Morning Video: Google & Microsoft Duking It Out Over Schools


This scene from CNN's Chicagoland documentary series showing Google's Eric Schmidt visiting a Chicago school with Mayor Rahm Emanuel illustrates the battle over the education marketplace that includes more and more "free" versions of software. This is not OK with union president Karen Lewis (or some privacy advocates concerned about data mining). Or watch a new interview with Bill Gates on education reform.

AM News: Duncan Visits LA "Promise" Program


U.S. Education secretary praises L.A. program LA Times: Arne Duncan visits the Hollywood FamilySource Center, which provides students in high poverty areas with the support and enrichment offered to their more affluent peers.  Tucked in the corner of a grimy East Hollywood strip mall is a shining hope of public education. See also LASR.

Bobby Jindal: Bill De Blasio A 'Petulant Tyrant Holding Low-Income Kids Hostage' HuffPost: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio does not have a friend in Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. On Tuesday, the New York Post published an op-ed by Jindal in which he criticized the mayor’s hostility to charter schools, saying that de Blasio’s actions have the “markings of a petulant tyrant holding low-income students hostage.” 

Charter school group spends $3.6m on TV ads attacking de Blasio NYDN: "They have parents believing there’s no way they’re going to find space for these 194 students,” said Zakiyah Ansari of the labor-backed lobbying group Alliance for Quality Education.

Growing Number of Parents Want Students to Opt Out of High-Stakes State Tests NY1: In 2012, there were 113 students in the city who opted out. A year later, that number nearly tripled, with 320 students sitting out the tests. This year, there may be considerably more.

Report: As Teacher Demographics Change, Districts Must Prioritize Retention TeacherBeat: 
To reduce the achievement gap, schools should pay attention to teacher retention, says new report.
Check @alexanderrusso for news and commentary throughout the day.

Afternoon Audio: NPR Coverage Calms Common Core Freakout

Screen shot 2014-03-19 at 2.43.57 PMI can't get the embed to work but I encourage you to listen to this Q and A with NPR education correspondents from yesterday for a steady, balanced overview of what's really going on with the Common Core.


See more NPR Common Core stories here and here.

I hate to say it, but all that scary/sliced bread stuff you're seeing on Facebook and Twitter (and in a lot of mainstream media coverage) isn't giving you as good a sense of reality as you might think.

Too often, what you're probably seeing is really fear-mongering, advocacy, political maneuvering, and journalistic attention-seeking.  

Remember, the Internet magnifies everything and makes everyone seem much more confrontational than in real life. 


Quotes: What Really Works In Education (You're Doing It Wrong)

Quotes2It’s not just more money. Or more choice. Or more tests. Or more organizational innovation. None of those options has succeeded because none has focused on improving instruction in high-poverty schools and developing a successful approach for students to master critical skills. - WSJ's David Wessel (Two Economists on School Reform)

Media: You're Missing All The Good Stuff On Tumblr

Don Harder via Flickr Creative CommonsIn case you hadn't heard, here's this awesome, somewhat lawless place on the Internet called Tumblr -- sort of halfway between a blog and Twitter.

It's over where I and others can post all sorts of images, cartoons (like this harsh NYC charter school example), videos, and GIFs that can't go here (because: copyright).  

You should check it out here, or follow it on Twitter (@hotfored), or simply friend me on Facebook and you'll see it on your timeline.  

Next up: All the good stuff on Facebook (it's true!) and Medium.

Image via Flickr.

Media: Scripps Honors This American Life's "Harper High" Series

Harper"This American Life receives $10,000 and the Jack R. Howard Award for In-Depth Radio Coverage for Harper High School," notes KyForward.com.

"The series by Ben Calhoun, Ira Glass, Alex Kotlowitz, Linda Lutton, Robyn Semien and Julie Snyder documented daily life in one of America’s most dangerous schools.

"Their work garnered the attention of President and Mrs. Barack Obama and prompted creation of an anti-youth-violence initiative for Chicago schools."

AM News: Common Core Field Testing Looms


As Common Core Tests Approach, So Does A Sea Change In Schools NPR: A new experiment in education begins Tuesday. Early assessments based on the Common Core State Standards will be rolled out and tested in the coming months. Some 3 million students will participate.

Chiefs Press NEA, AFT Leaders on Common-Core Policy Teacher Beat: State chiefs have some tough questions for the the teachers' unions and their recent shifts in position on the common core.

On Race to the Top funds, D.C. stumbles Washington Post: Of the 12 jurisdictions that won the earliest grants under the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program, the District of Columbia has come under extra scrutiny by federal officials concerned about its ability to manage the money.

U.S. Department of Education criticizes Md.'s Race to the Top progress Baltimore Sun: Maryland has faced several challenges in fulfilling its $250 million promise to overhaul the way it educates students and evaluates educators, the U.S. Department of Education reported Wednesday.

Arne Duncan on Who's Winning the Race to the Top PK12: Mostly, states are struggling to implement new evaluation systems linked to student growth on test scores. But the problems go beyond just designing and putting new evaluations into practice. New evaluation systems in Florida and Delaware, for example, resulted in very few meaningful differences in teacher ratings. In essence, nearly everyone in those states turned out to be an effective teacher.

Common Core Creates Opportunities For Publishers WQAMU: New education standards called Common Core are being adopted in 45 states and Washington, D.C. That has created an opportunity for trade publishers.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: Common Core Field Testing Looms" »

Afternoon Video: Brookings Debunks "Too Much Homework" Fad


"The average American student does not face an extraordinary homework burden, the assignment load has not increased meaningfully over the past 20 years, and parents are generally satisfied with the amount and quality of schoolwork assigned to their children," says Brookings. [Of course, your individual experience (or something you read somewhere) probably suggests otherwise.  I'd go with that.]

Baltimore: A New School Where "The Wire" Was Filmed

20140313HENDERSON-slide-PLMW-superJumboThere's an amazing-looking new $43M school that's been built and opened in a blighted neighborhood in Baltimore, part of a massive urban renewal project funded in part by Johns Hopkins University and the Casey Foundation (and in partnership with Morgan State), according to the NYT (Reading, Writing and Renewal). It's a contract school, not a charter, but there's been displacement of previous residents in the area and controversy over the admissions lottery priority system. Image courtesy NYT. Other stories here, here, and here.

Quotes: "An Institutional Haze Unrelated To The Public Good"

Quotes2Too many charters operate in the spirit of public good, and too many traditional public schools operate in an institutional haze unrelated to the public good. -- Commenter Thom Markham in Sam Chaltain post (In New York, A Tale of Two Cities)





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.