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Quotes: AFT Head Pledges To Reconnect With Members

Quotes2Ultimately, what we've learned is you have to have a real, ongoing re-commitment with your members... You have to walk the walk. You have to engage with them... The change here is to have an enduring relationship.

- AFT head Randi Weingarten in HuffPost (Teachers' Union Girds For Supreme Court Setback, Pledges To Grow Membership)

Books: Ta-Nehesi Coates' New Book On Race (& Schooling) In America

image from images.indiebound.comThere's a new book about race in America out today that's getting a lot of deserved attention. It's already at #3 on Amazon. No, it's not the Harper Lee book in which Atticus Finch is a racist. It's Ta-Nehesi Coates' Between The World And Me.

As anyone who's seen or read Coates in the past can imagine, there's lots in the book that educators, advocates, parents, and the general public might benefit from understanding -- both about school specifically but also about poverty, and class, and most of all being a black person in modern-day America.

I won't do the thinking or the writing any great justice here, but it's a good starting point and there are lots of links to Coates' writing, recent appearances on Charlie Rose and Fresh Air (where Coates sort of scolds Terry Gross) and to reviews and reflections from others. 

A few educators and advocates are writing about the book, and I'm sure more will in coming days.

GROWING UP IN WEST BALTIMORE

Much of what Coates is writing about is about society at large -- its treatment of black Americans, its structural issues -- rather than education.

On Charlie Rose last night, Coates pushed back at the notion of personal responsibility or any individual behavior as a meaningful measure of black American's lives bounded by structural racism. (I wonder what he would have to say about the popular notions of "grit" being taught in schools these days.) 

On the show, he also talked about how reactive white people generally are to black people talking about their emotions. "I think there’s great fear of how black people talk about their anger."

But there are key parts of Coates' story that reflect on his experiences going to school.

In an extended excerpt in The Atlantic, Coates describes how careful and specific he felt he had to be as a teenager growing up in West Baltimore about going to and from school:

"When I was your age, fully one-third of my brain was concerned with whom I was walking to school with, our precise number, the manner of our walk, the number of times I smiled, whom or what I smiled at, who offered a pound and who did not—all of which is to say that I practiced the culture of the streets, a culture concerned chiefly with securing the body.

He's talked about what sounds like a relentlessly terrifying growing up experience during his school years in the past, such as on Bill Moyers in 2014: "Here I was, right outside my elementary school, [and] somebody’s pulling out a gun. And it was very clear that that was different." 

In his new book, he still sounds outraged about the disconnect between Black History Month and his real life:

"Every February my classmates and I were herded into assemblies for a ritual review of the civil-rights movement. Our teachers urged us toward the example of freedom marchers, Freedom Riders, and Freedom Summers, and it seemed that the month could not pass without a series of films dedicated to the glories of being beaten on camera. Why are they showing this to us? Why were only our heroes nonviolent?"

And he's clear that the experience of being a young black man is something that white Americans need to understand. On Monday's Fresh Air, Coates mildly scolded Terry Gross for laughing when he tells her that he got upset in middle school when a teacher yelled at him in front of his classmates. 

For him, there was no "safety net of schools, government-backed home loans, and ancestral wealth." In 2014 he wrote, "I mostly thought of school as a place one goes so as not to be eventually killed, drugged, or jailed."

PAST WRITINGS ON EDUCATION

He's written about education more directly in the past, including The Miseducation Of Maceo Paul Coates (2010), When School Reform And Democracy Meet (2014). 

Way back in 2010, he slammed NYC reformers (specifically Bloomberg's appointment for schools head Cathie Black: "It's long been said that the new reformers deeply underestimate the complexity of the challenge facing educators."

In 2012, he also pointed out the disconnect between handing out teachers' individual performance ratings and telling the public to be cautious - an issue that comes up in education journalism as well: "There's also something unsavory releasing admittedly flawed data, and then lecturing the public on its need to exercise caution."

He criticized the plan to revamp Newark schools for failing to convince parents -- which sounds somewhat naive to me -- but also expressed misgivings about teachers having tenure. 

POSITIVE REVIEWS 

So far as I've seen, the reviews have been extremely strong. The New Republic loved it. Ditto for the Washington Post, and Slate. There's a big long profile in NY Magazine. "It is hard, perhaps impossible, not to be enraptured by @tanehisicoates' righteous and loveless indignation," notes the Washington Post review.

The praise is not universal: NYT book reviewer Michiko Kakutani praises the book but calls Coates out for overgeneralizing & ignoring progress. It's also criticized in the New York Observer. BuzzFeed's Shani Hilton criticized it for focusing narrowly on black male experiences.

EDUCATORS' REACTIONS

Educators and advocates on my Twitter feed haven't been commenting on the book very much -- yet -- though Sara Goldrick-Rab is pushing for Coates to be a new New York Times columnist (he's going to live in Paris for a year instead), and Michael Magee is excited to read the book. KIPP NJ's Andrew Martin is watching closely, as is Pearson's Shilpi Niyogi. Justin Cohen calls the book "a model for how we should talk to the next generation of American children about race

This new book seems to be one that teachers of a certain kind will be giving to students in future years, imagines this Slate reviewer:

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AM News: Wisconsin Governor Walker Joins Presidential Race

Gov. Walker Enters Presidential Race Claiming He 'Improved Education' in Wisc. EdWeek: As far as education is concerned, Walker is perhaps most prominent for his successful push to strip collective bargaining rights for teachers and other public employees in 2011.

Study Paints Sobering Picture of Unequal Access to Teacher Quality TeacherBeat: Any way you slice it, disadvantaged students get shortchanged on teacher quality, the study finds.

Major teachers union ready to work with charter schools Washington Examiner: Teachers unions want public schools to be the centers of communities, and they are ready to work with charter schools to achieve that goal, according to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. 

Nevada's Clark County Hopes to Lure Retired Educators Back to Teaching District Dossier: The nation's fifth-largest school district, which started the year searching for about 2,600 teachers, is turning to retirees to fill critical positions in elementary schools.

Few parents opt elementary children out of new state tests The Bellingham Herald: Complaints about the new statewide tests based on the national Common Core curriculum have been heard loudly on social media. But few Washington parents acted on those complaints and opted their children out of the new tests, according to data...

Many Kids Feel 'Unimportant' When Parents Are Distracted By Smartphones, Survey Says HuffPost: The survey results showed that 54 percent of kids think their parents check their devices too often and 32 percent of them "feel unimportant" when their parents are distracted by their phones.

How Textbooks Can Teach Different Versions Of History NPR: About 5 million public school students in Texas this year will get new and controversial textbooks that critics say water down history.

A New Look at Apprenticeships as a Path to the Middle Class NYT: After facing a steep falloff during the recession, apprentice programs are making a comeback, and have caught the notice of students, parents and even some presidential candidates.

Lisa Ruda leaves her D.C. schools post, and also leaves a revitalized system Washington Post: When Lisa Ruda arrived in Washington to help Michelle A. Rhee begin a transformation of D.C. Public Schools, Ruda had less than eight weeks to clear her first major hurdle — preparing the city’s schools for opening day.

Charts: Expressions Of Concern Over Education Diminishing (Somewhat) Among Mayors

Screenshot 2015-07-13 15.27.02

Education ranks #5 in terms of importance to big-city mayors, according to this new analysis passed along from the Washington Post -- down from #4 last year. However, big-city mayors were "much more likely to discuss demographics, economic development, housing and education" than mid-sized mayors or small-city mayors. 

ICYMI: One New Orleans Kid Tries To Graduate

Screenshot 2015-07-13 14.13.09
ICYMI: Danielle Dreilinger's five-part series on education in New Orleans for the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Check them out -- let me know what you think. DJD is on vacation but you can find Twitter reactions at , #nolaed/#LaEd

Thompson: Will President Obama's Trip to the Choctaw Nation (& a Federal Prison) Help Move the Administration Toward Comprehensive Solutions?

The President who I still love will visit the Choctaw Nation this week and look into the Promise Zone initiative he launched last year. My first hope for the trip was that President Barack Obama would swing over to the far corner of “Little Dixie,” and visit Frogville. 

But, President Obama has a better plan. The Daily Oklahoman’s Chris Casteel, in President Obama Heading to Oklahoma Next Week, reports that the President will visit the federal prison in El Reno, where inmate Jason Hernandez was housed until Obama commuted his life sentence on drug charges. 

Until recently, President Obama has been especially reticent about hot-button issues such as race and the legacies of generational poverty and discrimination. The 2014 off-year election defeat and tragedies culminating in the Charleston massacre have liberated our President, however, and he has been speaking and singing the truths that previously he held back.  It sounds like we can anticipate another honest conversation with an atypical journalist, this time with HBO’s VICE. 

According to VICE Media, the visit will “give viewers a firsthand look into the president's thinking on criminal justice reform ‘from the policy level down to one-on-one conversations with the men and women living this reality.’” 

Maybe President Obama will return to the Indian Nation and drop in on our family's homestead so we can discuss school reform and its cousin, the War on Drugs, and how these ill-conceived reward and punish policies backfired because they were dismissive of the realities that flesh-and-blood people live in. We could gaze upon the graves of whites, blacks, and Choctaws in the family cemetery, and muse about our long history of living together in peace and conflict, as well as both unity and divisiveness in victory and defeat at the hands of political and economic oppression.

As I explained recently, school reform and the War on Drugs were both deeply rooted in the Reaganism and the lowered horizons of the 1980s. Both were quick, simple, and seemingly cheap solutions to the complex social problems that the War on Poverty did not eradicate.

Continue reading "Thompson: Will President Obama's Trip to the Choctaw Nation (& a Federal Prison) Help Move the Administration Toward Comprehensive Solutions?" »

Morning Video: Do Politicians (& The General Public) Care About Education?

Here's an eight-minute version of an Aspen Institute event hosted by The 74's Campbell Brown in which three journalists (Capehart, Dickerson, and Bruni) talk about whether the public (and political journalists?) care about education, and in what context? Take a look. I've asked for the full video and will let you know what response I get. 

Am News: Senate Returns To #ESEA, AFT Endorses Clinton On Eve Of Economic Speech

Senate ESEA Debate: What to Expect This Week PK12: Pressure rises, with nearly 150 amendments filed so far on the bill to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, though it's unclear how many will make it to the floor.

GOP senator: Let states fix No Child Left Behind The Hill: "Continue the law’s important measurements of academic progress of students but restore to states, school districts, classroom teachers and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about improving student achievement,” he said.

AFT Endorses Hillary Clinton in Democratic Race for White House PK12: The American Federation of Teachers kicks off primary season by throwing its muscle behind the former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. See also HuffPostWashington PostPoliticoWSJNYT.

Hillary Clinton Will Call for Economic Policy Changes to Lift Middle-Class Wages NYT: A major teachers’ union voted on Saturday to give Hillary Rodham Clinton an early endorsement for president, a boost to her pro-labor credentials as she prepares to outline in more detail an economic vision focused on lifting middle-class incomes and tries to fend off a stronger-than-expected challenge from the left.

Report: Most NYC Charter Schools Replace Students who Leave WNYC: The I.B.O. looked at attrition patterns at 53 privately managed charter schools between 2008 and 2014. Most of them backfilled between 70 and 100 percent of their empty seats. But Raymond Domanico, the education research director, found six of them only filled a third or less of their available seats, which can be relevant when looking at their test scores. See also ChalkbeatNY.

Study calculates low-income, minority students get the worst teachers in Washington State Hechinger Report: No matter which of these three measures of teacher quality they used, guess what? They got the same result. Disadvantaged students across the state’s elementary, middle and high schools ended up with the worst teachers — the ones who not only produced the smallest test score gains, but also had the fewest years of experience and the lowest licensure exam scores.

Malala Turns 18, And Opens A School For Syrian Refugee Girls NPR: The Pakistani education activist, who was shot in the head in 2012 by a Taliban gunman, marked her birthday with refugees in Lebanon. She warned that the world is "failing ... Syria's children." See also PBS NewsHour.

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

Continue reading "Am News: Senate Returns To #ESEA, AFT Endorses Clinton On Eve Of Economic Speech" »

Maps: These Are The States That Demand The Least Of Their Students

Screenshot 2015-07-10 13.13.56

As Congress considers relieving states from the push to set high, common standards for kids that NCLB never had, NCES comes out with a timely report and HuffPost's Joy Resmovits fills us in: States Still Differ Dramatically In Their Academic Expectations, Study Finds. Peachy orange states set lower standards, forest green states set higher ones. Image used with permission.

Thompson: What Explains the Remaining Support For NCLB Testing?

The Washington Post's Lyndsey Layton, in Even As Congress Moves to Strip His Power, Arne Duncan Holds His Ground, begins her portrait of the last days of Arne Duncan with an anecdote documenting the sincerity with which he approached his job as US Secretary of Education. She also writes, "In a town where many like to talk, Duncan is regarded as a good listener. 'Arne is a great sounding board for the president,' said Valerie Jarrett, the president’s close friend and adviser."

It's too bad that Duncan listened so well to the Billionaires' Boys Club and ignored the professional judgments of teachers and education researchers. Now, even the Third Way, which seeks education policies consistent with corporate reform has to admit, “The question is not whether we’re going to put handcuffs on Arne Duncan,” said Lanae Erickson Hatalsky of Third Way, a centrist think tank. “The question is how many handcuffs.”

One top education expert, Jack Jennings, concludes in regard to Duncan's policies, “The record will show these policies brought about minimum improvement, ... They also did considerable harm.”

And that is the essence of Duncan's competition-driven reform and its test, sort, and punish approach to education. Some students may benefit but only at the cost of inflicting harm on other children. 

Its ironic that the market-driven movement - that still pretends it is a civil rights movement - is going out with such an ignominious whimper. Output-driven reform not only damaged poor children of color by treating them as test scores, it has undermined liberals and Democrats who seek a larger agenda of equity and justice. So, a crucial short term battle is the civil war between progressives, with teachers determined to prevent Hillary Clinton (or anyone else) from repeating Arne Duncan's agenda.

Continue reading "Thompson: What Explains the Remaining Support For NCLB Testing?" »

Maps: Now You Can Compare Des Moines' Grad Rate To Detroit's (If You Dare)

GrrateI was hesitant to share last week's Hechinger Report map showing graduation rates from almost every school district given all the things we'd learned about grad rate reporting from the recent NPR Grads series.

A new piece from Chicago's Kate Grossman documents attendance rigging, mislabeled dropouts, and grading policy changes that are goosing the numbers in Chicago to some extent - though the overall improvement seems genuine.

But in the intervening days have been reassured somewhat that the data are good enough to compare districts in some sort of meaningful way.

Click the link, but be careful!

Morning Video: Dual Credit STEM Courses In Chicago High Schools

Chicago Public Television: "At five CPS neighborhood high schools [including Lakeview High], students are earning college credit through a number of dual-credit courses [including STEM]" CPS' Early College Stem High Schools. Or, watch Rick Hess and Bob Wise discuss what comes next for NCLB on the PBS NewsHour.

AM News: Senate Debates NCLB, New York Drops Pearson

Some states would lose big money with proposed education funding changes Washington Post: Congress’s debate about rewriting the nation’s main education law has featured high-profile disagreements over testing, vouchers and school accountability, but there is another issue that has just as much potential to derail the legislation: Money. See also Hechinger Report.

Senate Rebuffs ESEA Amendment to Let States Opt Out of Federal Accountability EdWeek: Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., slammed the A PLUS amendment, knowing that if adopted it would have sunk his chances of getting the ESEA reauthorization across the finish line. See also AP

What should replace No Child Left Behind? PBS NewsHour:  Hari Sreenivasan talks to Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute and former Gov. Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Students' Reading And Math Skills Are Still All Over The Map NPR: A federal report out today reinforces that states have huge differences in their definition of "proficiency." See also Boston Learning Lab.

N.Y. Has 'No Current Plans' to Give PARCC EdWeek: The Arkansas state board voted to use the ACT Aspire test instead, concluding a public spat over which common-core exam the state would use next year. See also WNYCNYTChalkbeatBuzzFeedWSJ.

Smarter Balanced Opt-Out Rates Top 25 Percent for Washington State 11th Graders EdWeek: Officially, 27.4 percent of eligible students were "confirmed refusals" for taking the Smarter Balanced English/language arts exam, and 28.1 percent of them were confirmed refusals for the math exam.

Duncan's Children to Attend Private School in Chicago EdWeek: Duncan's children will attend the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where he himself attended and where his wife will return to work. See also Washington Post, Politico.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Senate Debates NCLB, New York Drops Pearson" »

Campaign 2016: Not So Fast (Or Far) On The Reform Rollback Bandwagon

Tnr hrc conor williams
The divide within the Democratic party is endlessly fascinating and especially notable this week during which we see civil rights groups and teachers unions divide over the rewrite of NCLB.

In National Journal (Senate Democrats Scramble to Avoid a Split on Education Bill),Fawn Johnson notes that unions and civil-rights groups "may end up on opposite sides." If things end up that way, it could "severely weaken [Democratic members'] bargaining leverage in a conference committee with the House." Reading the NEA quotes in the piece, it would seem that the teachers union is feeling pretty strong right now.

Meanwhile, the Democratic divide looks to affect the Presidential campaign as well.  Last month in TNR (Hillary Clinton's Education Policy), Conor Williams notes what many others have said before: "there’s evidence that a Clinton Administration would mean a substantial departure from [Obama administration] reforms." Candidate Clinton has sought to straddle these differences, but as Williams notes there is more money and more momentum behind the reform critics and their backers. 
 
However, it's worth remembering that for a time in 2008 some progressives thought that Obama was their man thanks in large part to his much-touted but ultimately meaningless support for Chicago's local school councils. (A bit of history that's often forgotten but I happened to write about.) It's hard to imagine candidate Clinton or her team locking into education policy positions unless it absolutely has to -- or necessarily keeping promises made once the election is passed.
 
All this to say: Notwithstanding the outcome of the ESEA rewrite effort and the liberal surge of 2014-205 and all the rest, reform critics and teachers unions are in a mixed situation right now -- newly resurgent and powerful within education circles but somewhat embattled in the larger political world. They are too smart to say it publicly, but they don't have unfettered leverage over Democratic candidates and elected officials despite the current zeitgeist in EducationLand.  

Update: Nuzzel Gathers Contrasting Views On Hot Twitter Topics

One of the great things about Nuzzel -- you should be using it by now -- is that it lets you see not only what the folks you follow are tweeting about, and what the folks they follow are tweeting about, but also the different ways that folks are tweeting things out:
Sirota nuzzel 2


Take for example this item from Larry Ferlazzo's feed about a David Sirota story on the reauthorization of ESEA that's going on this week:

At bottom (tweets are listed in reverse chronological order) you've got Bruce Baker RTing Sirota's original tweet: "Senate quietly passes stealth bill to let Wall St rake in federal money meant for impoverished school kids"

Towards the top, you've got Ulrich Boser's RT of Andy Rotherham: "Of all the crap Title I money gets spent on, people are now outraged that some might get spent on saving money?"

Quotes: Duncan Policies = "Minimum Improvement... Considerable Harm"

Quotes2The record will show these policies brought about minimum improvement. They also did considerable harm. -- Jack Jennings in Washington Post profile of Arne Duncan (Even as Congress moves to strip his power, Arne Duncan holds his ground)

Morning Video: Ta-Nehisi Coates' New Book, Plus Emanuel In Aspen

In this Atlantic video short, Ta-Nehisi Coates reads a short passage from his new book, Between the World and Me. Read an extended excerpt, "A Letter to My Son," here.

Or, watch Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and UofC's Tim Knowles talk education at the Aspen Ideas Festival (in which he claims no great admiration for school reform).

AM News: House Passes, Senate Debates - Plus OR Common Core Results

Senate Rejects School Voucher Amendment During ESEA Debate PK12: Democrats cleared their first school choice policy hurdle, defeating a voucher amendment on the second day of debate on an Elementary and Secondary Education Act overhaul bill. See also National JournalAPNYT, WP, Marketplace.

House Passes ESEA Rewrite 218-213; Senate Debate Continues PK12: The House vote came as the Senate is debating its own rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the two versions would have to be reconciled.

States Still Differ Dramatically In Their Academic Expectations, Study Finds HuffPost:  What does it mean to be passing math class? The answer to this question varies from state to state, according to a new report released by the research arm of the Education Department... For example, it’s possible for a fourth-grader to be passing reading in New Jersey, but as soon as he or she moves across the Hudson River to New York, to be suddenly considered failing -- despite not knowing any less. 

Common Core: Oregon students smash expectations in reading, writing Oregonian: Oregon students performed far better than expected on the rigorous Common Core tests they took for the first time this spring, especially in reading and writing, preliminary results show. But high school juniors bombed in math.

Amid Cries of Overtesting, a Crazy Quilt of State Responses EdWeek: The Council of Chief State School Officers says that 39 states are examining how to reduce overtesting or cut redundant tests in some fashion, as part of their efforts to "reduce unnecessary burden" from testing. Yet many states, rather than placing hard caps on testing time or cutting specific exams through legislation, are choosing to hand responsibility for reducing testing to new state commissions or to work directly with local schools.

Even as Congress moves to strip his power, Arne Duncan holds his ground Washington Post: Christina Waters’s cellphone rang, and she looked down to see that the number was blocked. Waters belongs to a circle of strivers that Duncan has quietly cultivated, students across the country who are clearing hurdles that would discourage many others. He calls regularly to offer support and advice.

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

Continue reading "AM News: House Passes, Senate Debates - Plus OR Common Core Results" »

Update: Despite Progress, Many LGBT Educators Still Feel "Stuck In A Time Capsule"

As you may recall, Screenshot 2015-07-08 13.54.29I got a lot of resistance last week when I posted about how behind the times schools and K-12 education organizations seemed to be to me on the LGBT front (On Equality, Education Has A Long Way To Go).

No, not Rick Hess-level pushback, but a lot of silent, awkward, and WTF vibes.

It's not hard to understand why. Many educators and education activists consider themselves progressive, and were elated about the Supreme Court gay marriage decision.

Talking about the plight of LGBT kids in schools was one thing - but why was I asking where all the LGBT education leaders/role models were to be found? 

In particular, my asking around about education leaders who were already serving as LGBT role models was responded to as if I was threatening to out people (which I would never do) or as if I was bringing up something that was a non-issue (like race?).

One PR professional responded to my question whether there were any senior staffers serving as LGBT role models with a straight-out "Why?" EdWeek's Evie Blad noted that listing LGBT edleaders seemed to her "a little problematic... Better way might be acknowledging that data dsn't exist." 

Fair enough. I get the concern.  But since then, I've gotten a lot of support for raising the issue -- and learned a ton about educators who are also LGBT. 

First off, it seems clear that LGBT educators are still struggling with how to come out to their colleagues and students without endangering themselves professionally. Look at some recent headlines: Oregon's Teacher of the Year spoke openly about being gay — and then he was firedJamestown NY appoints WNY’s first gay school superintendentThe Plight of Being a Gay TeacherI’m a Gay, African-American [Male] Teacher, and Proud of ItHow this LGBTQ teacher turned his deepest shame into his strongest assetAn LGBT Educator Who’s Not Too Proud to Keep Fighting. If there are more/better accounts of what it's like to be an LGBT educator, please let me know.

The Broad Center's Becca Bracy Knight tweeted that "almost all LGBT district superintendents who I've met feel they cannot be open about who they are - it's a real problem."

According to that first article, a big part of the problem is that we all apparently think that LGBT people are protected at work but -- surprise! -- they're not. That's why there are so few LGBT teachers, principals, administrators, and leaders who are out to their students and colleagues.

Or, as one recent writer put it, "in my 18 years in education, I have witnessed many of our LGBT teachers hide deep in the closet.... You would think we were stuck in a time capsule."

And not everyone is as out as you may think they are. Though it's hard to believe, a week ago Friday marked the first time Diane Ravitch publicly announced she was gay, according to Jewish Week. A handful of education folks whose LGBT status might seem to be public knowledge (widely assumed within the education community) declined to be identified as such when I reached out to them or their organizations.
 
That doesn't mean everyone's still closeted. My growing but small list of openly LGBT educator/education role models includes AFT's Randi Weingarten, former Chicago head Ron Huberman, NYU's Diane Ravitch, Portland's Carole Smith, US Rep. Mark Takano, NEA head Lily Eskelsen García's son. Please let me know more/others who would like to be listed. Do any readers of this blog identify as LGBT?

The USDE might be leading the way on the LGBT front, not only putting up its lovely #LoveWins avatar (first brought to my attention via PoliticsK-12 in Arne Duncan Celebrates Supreme Court Ruling) but also with its host of senior officials who are proudly serving as LGBT role models: Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin, who is married and has children with his husband (and grandchildren),  Senior Adviser Steven Hicks is married. Senior Adviser Ruthanne Buck is in a long-term relationship and has two children with her partner. Other out senior officials at ED include Deputy Under Secretary Jeff Appel and Assistant Secretary for Management Andrew Jackson, who are both in long-term relationships.

I, too, yearn for a world in which someone's orientation/self-identification isn't an issue that requires talking about. But until we get there the more folks who are out and public about it -- and the more we talk about it -- the better. Silence = the status quo. There's obviously a long way to go. I'm excited about getting there. 

Education folks to tweet with about LGBT education issues: @EvieBlad @GLSENResearch @jesslif @GLSEN @JennBinis @DrDebTemkin @KJennings @twrightmu.

People: TFA's Behind-The-Scenes Hostage Rescue Effort

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Even if you already knew that slain journalist Jim Foley had been a TFA alum you might have been surprised to read about TFA (and KIPP) involvement behind the scenes in the efforts to secure his release in this week's New Yorker story The Families Who Negotiated with ISIS. Among those mentioned are Wendy Kopp, Amy Rosen (Newark KIPP), and April Goble (Chicago KIPP), who is identified as Foley's former girlfriend:

"Bradley kept adding people to the team, paying their travel expenses, and often a salary as well. He installed two young researchers in cubicles in the Watergate office. He recruited a former Syrian diplomat, now known as Noor Azar, who had gone into exile after the revolution. Meanwhile, April Goble, Foley’s ex-girlfriend, worked with eleven volunteers from Teach for America, looking for inroads into the Syrian regime."

There may have been hints of this effort on social media, such as this 2013 tweet I sent out (but had forgotten): "Friends of kidnapped freelance photographer James Foley TFA '96 are organizing to secure his release from Syria." The link goes to the Free Jame Foley FB page. 

The confusing and alienating behavior of the US government in support of the hostage families and their friends has been a big topic in the news recently, and the Obama administration recently announced changes in its policies that would give families more information and free them from threats of prosecution for arranging for their loved ones' release (including through payment of ransoms).

Related posts: NYT's annual memorial "The Lives They Lived" includes profile of TFA alum James Foley

Morning Video: Pixar's Hit Feature "Inside Out" Includes Familiar Teacher Dig

 

The closing scenes of Inside Out features a middle school teacher who is counting down to summer vacation.  I'm not the only one who's noticed: Pixar makes teachers the butt of the joke. But as you'll see in comments, not everyone things that it's worth taking offense. 

Or, watch this BuzzFeed video What Is Privilege?, or Rush Limbaugh ranting about Humans Of New York's depiction of a gay student and Hillary Clinton's supportive remarks.

AM News: Accountability Divide Behind ESEA Reauthorization Push

Day One of Senate ESEA Debate: Rift Over Accountability Grows PK12: Below the surface of pleasantries and backslapping, a policy split continues to grow over whether to beef up accountability provisions in the bill to overhaul the education law. See also HuffPost, AP, NPR, Washington Examiner, Washington Post.

Conservatives likely to lose education reform battle in Congress Washington Examiner: But the amendments aren't likely to make it into law, and the underlying House bill will likely be pushed to the left by House and Senate leaders eager to move the bill out of Congress and onto the president's desk for signature.

PARCC test pros and cons debated at Massachusetts Board of Education hearing Mass Live: More than 100 people, most of them educators, attended the public hearing at Springfield Technical Community College. Some shared overall concerns about excessive testing and others argued the PARCC test is needed to ensure children are prepared for the future. See also Modesto Bee.

Texas Textbooks And Teaching The Civil War And America's History Of Racial Segregation WAMU: This fall five million public school students in Texas will use textbooks that critics say misrepresent the Civil War and the nation's history of racial segregation. The battle over how the Civil War is taught in public schools. See also Slate

Ken Wagner, top state ed deputy, a finalist for Rhode Island ed chief job Chalkbeat: Wagner has effectively helmed the department alongside acting Commissioner Elizabeth Berlin over the first half of 2015 after John King’s departure last year. Wagner would be the latest in a string of state education officials to leave over the last year, which has been marked by tumult over education policies and the end of the state’s Race to the Top funding, as well as the choice of new Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who started Monday.

Rahm Emanuel on Budget Cuts and Teacher Layoffs The Atlantic: At an interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Thursday, Emanuel was defiant. “Everybody’s going to hate what they’ve got to do,” he said. But the budget arrangement is “what we call a grand bargain, or a fair deal.” Emanuel made it clear that he harbors no love for the education-reform movement. For example, he said, the common debate that pits public schools versus charters is “nuts.” “I am not an education reformer,” he said. “My job as mayor is to make sure you have quality.”

Marco Rubio’s Education Plans Echo Some Obama Ideas NYT: Many of the ideas on higher education outlined by Senator Marco Rubio in an economic speech on Tuesday sounded similar to policies that President Obama has called for during his time in office.

On Talking Race to Young Teens, Teachers Say It's Been a Tough Year WNYC: One morning in May, Stephanie Caruso had a question for her seventh graders at West Side Collaborative Middle School. She wanted to know if they’d ever been stopped by police when leaving the Upper West side campus for lunch.

Thompson: Remembering The Full Horror of "Death at an Early Age"

Screenshot 2015-07-07 11.33.30
Thanks to Alexander and NPR's Claudio Sanchez for reminding us of the 50th anniversary of the firing of Jonathan Kozol for "curriculum deviation."

Everyone should (re)read this book. 

Rather than immediately using it to discuss the ways that education and racism has and has not changed in the last half century, we should first focus on the horror of Death at an Early Age.

Kozol was a substitute teacher in a class of 8th grade girls who were designated as "problem students" because they either had "very low intelligence" or were "emotionally disturbed."  In a 133-word sentence, Kozol recalls his reading of Langston Hughes's "The Landlord."

No transistor radios reappeared or were turned on during that next hour and, although some children interrupted me a lot to quiz me about Langston Hughes, where he was born, whether he was rich, whether he was married, and about poetry, and about writers, and writing in general, and a number of other things that struck their fancy, and although it was not a calm or orderly or, above all, disciplined class by traditional definition and there were probably very few minutes in which you would be able to hear a pin drop or hear my reading uninterrupted by the voices of one or another of the girls, at least I did have their attention and they seemed, if anything, to care only too much about the content of that Negro poet's book.

In subsequent years, most of the students forgot the poet's name, but they remembered the names of his poems and "They remember he was Negro."

Kozol was fired, his students' parents protested, and the career of a masterful education writer began. The details of the dismissal, however, are also noteworthy.

Continue reading "Thompson: Remembering The Full Horror of "Death at an Early Age"" »

Quotes: What It's Like Being A 12 Year-Old Child Of Color In NYC

Quotes2We've been through so much. Slavery. And once slavery ended, segregation. And once segregation ended, we’re still going through this today. What was all the hard work for? Why do we have to go through this again? -- NYC student interviewed in WNYC's latest story Being 12: Debating Race and Police

Charts: Teaching Candidates Come From Less Wealthy Families

Who studies education

This chart from a recent Atlantic story about rich kids studying English seems to be a good reminder that those students who enter teaching as undergraduates tend to come from families with less income than those who study, say, English. I'm not sure if this has changed much in the last 10 years. Anyone know more?

AM News: All Eyes On Possible ESEA Reauthorization

White House: ESEA Rewrite Needs to Focus on Struggling Schools and Students PK12: The Obama administration worries the House and Senate bills to rewrite ESEA don't do go far enough on accountability. see also National Journal.

House Could Vote on Parent's Right to Opt Out of Tests Under ESEA PK12: The opt-out movement hasn't really been a key issue as Congress wrestles with reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, but that could change this week. See also Washington Post.

NEA 2015 Convention Wrap-Up: Mixed Messaging Teacher Beat: Final details of this year's convention include the union's legislative war chest, mixed messaging on race, and other matters. See also EIA.

Are Test Scores Proving Fears About Common-Core High School Math Correct? State EdWatch: In three states that released preliminary common-core test scores in July, high school students failed to meet predictions for math proficiency. Did experts warn us this was coming? See also: Idaho Smarter Balanced Test Scores Largely Beat State's Projections

Lawsuit: L.A. Schools Failing Needy Students, Flouting California Funding Law State EdWatch: A California lawsuit filed last week claims that the Los Angeles Unified School District is failing to abide by the state's Local Control Funding Formula.

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

Continue reading "AM News: All Eyes On Possible ESEA Reauthorization" »

Holidays: Happy 4th of July Weekend

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com

Happy Fourth of July Weekend to everyone! I'm away Friday through Monday but will be back Tuesday morning with all the great news, commentary, and analysis that you need. 

Best Blogs: Lots Of Familiar Names -- Plus One Totally New One

MagooshBelated thanks to the folks at Magoosh for including me in their 5 Education Blogs We Love:

"Russo does an excellent job of scouring education news all over the world-wide web and bringing it together in one place. We like it because it’s packed with information and updated constantly. No stale news on this site."

I like hearing that!
 
Others on the list include familiar names like Jay Mathews, Valerie Strauss, & Mind Shift, and one I'd never heard of before, The Perfect Score Project.
 
What I'm really looking for right now, however, is a 5 Instagram Accounts For Education.

#TBT: A Bold Experiment To Fix Our Schools [Vouchers, 1999]

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Check out this 1999 Matt Miller story about vouchers: A Bold Experiment to Fix City Schools. The idea may be dead in name, but another version called ESAs just got approved in Nevada and is allowed in four other states.

Morning Video: Oh, No! A Blue-Haired Teacher Does "Whole-Brained" Teaching

Here's the latest from the PBS NewsHour on "whole-brain" teaching. It involves a teacher in a blue wig (both in front of the students and later doing an interview). Those of us who remember brain-based learning may be cautious about this. Link here just in case (or for the transcript). Let the video keep running and you'll also see a segment about a Seattle high school trying to go "all IB" like some Chicago schools have attempted. 

AM News: Bush Fdn. Donor Lists, Clinton Email Traffic, Plus Idaho Test Results

Jeb Bush's education foundation releases donor list a day after his tax returns Washington Post: The new donation records show that a large number of contributions came from for-profit education companies and that at least three donors also paid Bush for speeches.

Clinton Emails Show Image Management WSJ: She also planned dinner with Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, and Hilary Rosen, a Democratic political consultant. In another email, she asks for a phone number for Terry Murray, whom she describes as “President of the Mass State Senate and was a big supporter of mine during the primaries.”

Idaho students fare well on new testing program Spokesman: Idaho students scored higher taking new standardized tests compared with the national benchmarks used to measure English language arts and math proficiency. The Idaho state Department of Education released the preliminary scores Wednesday. Scores were supposed to be released June 5, but a delay with the vendor pushed back the release date.

LA Unified board votes in Zimmer as new president LA School Report: LA Unified board member Steve Zimmer was unanimously elected today to become the new board president, giving the board its strongest pro-teacher president in more than a decade. Zimmer, vice president for the last two years, succeeds Richard Vladovic, who served as president since 2013. See also KPCC: Lawsuit says LAUSD short-changing neediest students, LA Times.

Mayor: Chicago school cuts include layoffs, less maintenance AP: Chicago school and city officials detailed $200 million in cuts - including layoffs, scaled-back maintenance and reduced transportation - to the nation's third-largest school district Wednesday, one day after the district paid a $634 million pension bill officials said it couldn't afford.... See also  WBEZ Chicago, NYTHuffPost.

Ronald Thorpe, National Board President and Education Advocate, Dies at 63 Education Week: In a statement, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten called Thorpe a "fierce advocate" for having teachers lead the work in the profession. "When he became president of the NBPTS, he pushed us all to the highest standards of ...

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

Continue reading "AM News: Bush Fdn. Donor Lists, Clinton Email Traffic, Plus Idaho Test Results" »

Quotes: That Giant Sorting Sound

Quotes2You can’t tell me that only kids in high-wealth, white neighborhoods have the ‘college DNA’ — that’s ridiculous... There’s something about how we’re structured that is sorting opportunity.

- Illinois state schools chief Tony Smith in this WBEZ Chicago story Poverty's enduring hold on school success.

Thompson: We Need a Marshall Plan for Schools and Prisons

I grew up in the post-World War II era known as "Pax Americana." We all knew that our ambitious New Deal/Fair Deal era policies, ranging from G.I. Bill to the rebuilding of Europe with the help of the Marshall Plan, were not perfect. But, we knew in our bones that tomorrow would be better than today. Government and social science would both play a role in the campaigns to expand the promise of America to all.

The Marshall Project's Eli Hager, in What Prisons Can Learn from Schools, pulls two incredibly complicated social problems together in a concise and masterful synthesis. Hager's insights are deserving of a detailed analysis. This post will merely take a first step towards an explanation of why Democrats and liberals, especially, must heed his wisdom.

School and prison reform are both deeply rooted in the Reaganism and the lowered horizons of the 1980s. The defeat of the "guns and butter" approach to the Vietnam War demonstrated the limits of our power. The Energy Crisis of 1973, along with a decade and a half of falling or stagnant wages, was somehow blamed on liberalism. The U.S. entered the emerging global marketplace without the confidence that had marked our previous decades, meaning that we were more preoccupied with surviving competition than building community. 

Americans lowered our horizons. As Hager explains, we were loath to tackle the legacies to the "overwhelming unfairnesses of history."  So, we broke off schools and prisons into separate "silos," and sought less expensive solutions for their challenges. We rejected the social science approach to tackling complex and interconnected social problems that were rooted in poverty. Our quest for cheaper and easier solutions would soon coincide with the rise of Big Data as a substitute for peer reviewed research in service to a Great Society.

Continue reading "Thompson: We Need a Marshall Plan for Schools and Prisons" »

Morning Video: Jonathan Kozol Reads From His 50 Year-Old Book

Jonathan Kozol was a 20-something substitute teacher when he dared read a Langston Hughes poem to his poor Boston students -- and got fired for it. Watch the short video above and then go read the story about it here via NPR. Note that Kozol himself is heard, not seen onscreen. 

AM News: Big Union Case Looms, PARCC Down To 11 States, Chicago Drama

Justices Take up Dispute Over Union Fees AP:  Supreme Court to consider power of public sector unions to collect fees from non-members. See also NYT, EdSource Today.

Ohio dumps the PARCC Common Core tests after woeful first year Cleveland Plain Dealer: PARCC spokesman David Connerty-Marin said Ohio's decision is a "disappointment."But he said the Common Core standards and improved tests are "a huge advance and a big victory for students across the country." The 11 PARCC states now include Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, District of Columbia. [Arkansas is in the middle of a battle between the governor, legislature and state school board over PARCC's future there.]

At eleventh hour, CPS makes huge pension payment WBEZ Chicago:  The head of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund says Chicago Public Schools deposited its full $634 million pension payment Tuesday evening.  “The need for long-term solutions is not erased with this payment,” CTPF’s executive director Charles Burbridge said in a statement. See also Sun-TimesAPDistrict Dossier.

De Blasio blasts Cuomo for making mayoral control a ‘political football’ ChalkbeatNY: “An issue that was not politicized in the extreme in the past has now been turned into a political football,” de Blasio said in his office, in remarks reported by Capital New York and WNYC. “How on Earth does the city of New York get only one-year extension of mayoral control of education?”

Hillary Clinton to huddle privately with top labor leaders  Politico: Clinton, Sanders, and O'Malley have also all trekked down to Washington, D.C. in recent weeks to court the American Federation of Teachers, helmed by longtime Clinton ally Randi Weingarten. The union has yet to make an official endorsement in the race.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Big Union Case Looms, PARCC Down To 11 States, Chicago Drama" »

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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.