"A young Houston couple is planning to give away $4 billion—but only to projects that prove they are worth it. Can they redefine the world of philanthropy?" The New Science Behind Philanthropy (WSJ via @mikepetrilli)
"A young Houston couple is planning to give away $4 billion—but only to projects that prove they are worth it. Can they redefine the world of philanthropy?" The New Science Behind Philanthropy (WSJ via @mikepetrilli)
The Columbus Dispatch editorial, Another Blow to City Schools complains that the city's schools “scrubbed” 2.8 million attendance records since 2006. They allegedly marked some students with low scores as withdrawn so they wouldn’t be counted against the district.
Columbus schools are also facing criminal investigations for grade changing. Obviously, I have no idea whether Columbus schools are guilty and, if they are, whether they did something qualitatively different than accumulating millions of speeding tickets.
Statistical gamesmanship predated data-driven "reform," and those policies are not an excuse for cheating. They just create a "perfect storm" where the damage done by education's longstanding "culture of compliance," is combined with inherently destructive and punitive accountability schemes, and where all are made worse by the resulting malfeasance. I also know that I must be particularly careful with my words when addressing this tragedy.
"Juking the stats" is not limited to schools. It has long been said that the prime qualification for a policeman, for instance, is a course in creative writing. As it was cryptically explained in The Wire, our legal system could not function without the ability to "turn felonies into misdemeanors."
I suspect that the cumulative damage of manipulating the nation's withdrawals and grades, as well as other tricks for jacking up attendance rates, will dwarf the consequences of outright cheating scandals. But, the Ohio case prompts die-hard supporters of test-driven accountability, such as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Andrew Rotherham, to grasp at more straws. They seem to claim that because test-driven accountability has opened multiple doors to a wide variety of scandals that, somehow, their favored policies aren't to blame.
Read between the lines and there are lots of interesting tidbits in June Kronholz's Education Next piece (Still Teaching for America) for both TFA fans and skeptics.
The piece takes a look at the much-discussed school reform organization as it goes through a key transition of leadership and size.
Two new co-CEOs have taken over from founder Wendy Kopp, and the annual budget that in 2012 was $320 million is expected to go up to half a billion dollars within the next three years.
Kronholz boils the organization's successful growth (if not large-scale impact on educational outcomes) on things like regional innovations (Houston's content coaches, Jacksonville's localized summer institute, South Dakota's rural principal leadership incubator), and its willingness to create and scrap ideas that don't pan out.
As has become increasingly common in recent years, TFA's new leaders are focusing as much on what alumni do as what they accomplish in the classroom:
"Kramer also paints a vision of TFA as an instigator of change, producing alumni that TFA expects—just expects—will become the sort of shake-up-the-beast leaders who will “do something radically different” for the schools."
However, TFA won't share its specific leadership goals. And the organization is hampered by the need for more local and regional EDs, says Kronholz. Four of the regions were empty earlier this year, and plans to expand to two new (unnamed) cities) were scrapped for lack of management talent. How interesting that an organization with such a surplus of applications for initial teaching spots is having trouble finding enough qualified candidates to staff its own expansion.
Image via Education Next.
Steve Jobs’s Widow Sets Philanthropy Goals NYT: Laurene Powell Jobs has tiptoed into the public sphere, pushing her agenda in education as well as global conservation, nutrition and immigration policy.
Money contines to pours, unevenly, into LA Unified school board race KPCC: As election day looms for this year's remaining undecided seat for the L.A. Unified's board, outside groups continue to pour money into the race -- all of it for her opponent, political newcomer Antonio Sanchez.
Would Arne Duncan Consider Calling for Pause in Common Core Stakes?Education Week: So I asked Education Department press secretary Daren Briscoe about whether Arne Duncan would echo these calls for pausing stakes tied to common core, and take relevant action at the federal level.
Do new exams produce better teachers? States act while educators debate Hechinger: It took less than a minute for Mario Martinez to finish the first six questions of the algebra exam that his professor, Ivan Cheng, had just handed to him.
Tennessee to Offer Teacher-Transfer BonusesTeacher Beat: Using its share of federal School Improvement Grant funds, the state will give $7,000 signing bonuses to teachers from nonpriority schools who transfer, and agree to stay for two years, in the priority schools. It will also give $5,000 retention bonuses to high-performing teachers already working in such schools.
From a recent Saturday Night Live
Education Song Rejects via @aei
Arthur Levine’s Education Week Commentary The Plight of Teacher' Unions offers a disheartened, broad brush account of America’s social, political, and economic institutions.
He then presents a narrow, and impoverished, vision of public education -- and in particular, teachers unions.
Levine apparently expects everyone to accept the fate that many policymakers are planning to impose on us. He seems to argue that our focus on teaching will be replaced by a focus on outcomes, but he does not seem upset at the prospect of teaching being tossed on the ash pile of history. Most of all, Levine is factually incorrect when he writes that all of our institutions are trapped in the industrial era.
Los Angeles Schools Re-Think Suspension WSJ: This week, the Los Angeles Unified School District—the second-largest in the nation—decided to end the practice of suspending or expelling students for "willful defiance," starting this fall. District officials said the practice disproportionately affects minority students' education and leads to more disciplinary problems for students down the line.
Chicago Teachers Union Files Civil-Rights Lawsuit on Closings Sun-Times: Attorneys backed by the Chicago Teachers Union filed two federal class action lawsuits Wednesday charging that the closing of 53 public schools in September will violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Illinois Civil Rights Act.
Former Education Official Faces Federal Investigation WSJ: Federal investigators are probing whether a former top Education Department official violated the law by allegedly sharing information inappropriately about new regulations with an advocacy group he founded. Newly released court documents show that federal prosecutors believe the Education Department's former deputy undersecretary, Robert Shireman, might have violated executive-branch ethics laws.
Diplomas Elusive for Many Students With Learning Disabilities EdWeek: A state-by-state analysis of the most recent data on graduation rates for students with learning disabilities shows that while more of those students have been leaving high school with a standard diploma, many states are struggling to reach the national graduation rate average of 68 percent for students in that disability category.
Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor Urges Immigrant Parents to Help Children with School SchoolBook: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Wednesday told thousands of parents of English language learners to always ask for help when needed and to learn alongside their children. “They cannot do it without your help,” she said at the 10th Annual ELL Parent Conference.
Apparently there's a vague but threatening epidemic of younger kids cheating. As always, I blame NCLB. From the WSJ: Why More Young Kids Cheat at School
OK, it was a director of medical education, not a public school teacher evaluator, who made that affirmation. New Yorker's Every Disease on Earth,by Rivka Galchen, profiles Dr. Joseph Lieber and his ability to teach doctors in training. Dr. Lieber brushes off the lower salary and less respect devoted to those who educate doctors, "Oh, people are always giving teachers a hard time. Look at the way they write about public school teachers in the Post."
The bottom line for Dr. Lieber is "You have to love what you do."
According to the article's conclusion, Lieber is a great diagnostician, but his distinctive quality as a teacher is being "always nice."-JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.
From the latest Scholastic Administrator Magazine (by me):
For all those reasons, it’s very good and somewhat surprising news that there are now a handful of broad-based efforts and initiatives focused on teacher preparation in 2013 that might actually stand a chance of improving the quality and effectiveness of teachers...
There are predictable disagreements about how hard to make any new preservice exam—and whether to encourage or even require specific elements, or to rely entirely on outcomes such as longevity, evaluation, and effectiveness.
And the question remains: Will the higher education community—as well as state policymakers and the powerful national associations—block or water down the current momentum as they have in the past?
But for the first time in a long time there is activity—and with it, at least, the possibility of substantial progress.Read all about it here. Agree or disagree?
From PBS NewsHour: "In India, an educational group called Pratham aims to change the perception of school as a solemn enterprise and to offer instead a love of learning to the youngest -- and poorest -- students."
Head Start Centers Feeling 'Sequester' Pain EdWeek: "These are, by far, the most serious cuts I've experienced," said Ms. Molloy, who has been involved for 40 years with Head Start, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The reduction in the number of children served through the program for low-income children will have a direct effect on schools, she believes."The emphasis on increased academic readiness for kindergarten is huge," Ms. Molloy said.
Sequestration Forces Cuts to National Social Studies Tests PoliticsK12: The executive committee of the National Assessment Governing Board, on the recommendation of the National Center for Education Statistics—which administers the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP—voted recently to indefinitely postpone the 4th and 12th grade tests in the three subjects for 2014. The exams will continue for 8th graders.
New Jersey Task force may look at full-day kindergarten in all districts Star-Ledger: A proposal to explore the idea of bringing full-day kindergarten to schools statewide advanced in a state Assembly committee Monday. While most of New Jersey’s elementary school districts offer full-day kindergarten, at least 114 districts still offer half-day only, according to the state Department of Education. The Assembly Education Committee approved a bill that would create a task force to explore full-day options.
Latino High School Grads Enter College At Record Rate NPR: Seven in 10 Latino high school graduates in the class of 2012 went to college, according to a recent report by the Pew Hispanic Center. That's a record-high college enrollment rate for Latinos, and it's the first time Latinos have surpassed white and black students, even as they lag behind Asian-Americans. The Latino high school dropout rate has fallen by half over the past decade — from 28 percent in 2000 to 14 percent in 2011.
Lawmakers Vote to Boost STEM Education in Immigration Bill PoliticsK12: Good news for STEM fans: There's even more federal resources for science, mathematics, engineering and technology in the big, comprehensive, bipartisan immigration bill making its way through the U.S. Senate. The Senate Judiciary committee, which is holding a markup of the bill today, voted unanimously to take money collected on fees for labor certifications under the bill and direct the money towards STEM education at the U.S. Department of Education.
Discipline concerns flare in Denver schools EdNewsColorado: The aim of the discipline policy, revised in recent years, is to reduce in-school or out-of-school suspensions and expulsions so that students can continue to be in a learning environment. It also aims to erase the longstanding disparity between white students and students of color in terms of consequences for student misbehavior.
How Could a Sweet Third-Grader Just Cheat on That School Exam? WSJ: The line between right and wrong in the classroom is often hazy for young children, and shaping the moral compass of children whose brains are still developing can be one of the trickiest jobs a parent faces. Many parents overreact or misread the motivations of small children, say researchers and educators, when it is actually more important to explore the underlying cause.
I'm glad to see Michael Petrilli doing a guest stint over at Bridging Differences and I'm especially glad he dedicates some of his first column inches to defending the importance of knowledge in schools, even for very young children.
Unfortunately, he also commits an all-too-common error, conflating increasing absolute levels of academic achievement with closing achievement gaps between subgroups of students.
It is probably true, as Petrilli says, that it is important to expose even very young students to a broad, knowledge-rich curriculum. Knowledge deficits, including vocabulary deficits, play a major role in suppressing the achievement of many of the least fortunate students.
It is also quite possibly the case that schools serving the least-privileged students are especially likely to lower their standards for students (e.g., by using hand-wavy explanations about what is "developmentally appropriate") or otherwise cut subjects like science and history out of the curriculum.
So far so good. Read on to see where I think Petrilli goes wrong.
This is a guest post from MSU professor Sarah Reckhow:
A new article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review presents a quantitative framework to help philanthropists assess their advocacy grants. The authors all work with Redstone Strategy Group, a consulting agency that “helps philanthropies, non-profits, and governments solve the world’s most urgent social problems.”
Policy advocacy is a growing area of foundation giving, particularly in education. So it is not surprising that funders who view themselves as strategic or venture philanthropists would be eager to find ways to assess a “return on investment” for advocacy.
Unfortunately, this framework is based on a simplistic view of the policy process and it appears to overvalue short-term returns on investments.
The framework draws on a list of things that advocates, PR firms, political operatives, and philanthropists think work; it is not based on current evidence from political science or policy research.
Utilizing this framework could encourage philanthropists to continue making wasteful investments in short-lived advocacy campaigns.
Over the weekend, I check magazines and other long-form sites and sometimes there are good things that come through:
Our schools and the truth about testing ow.ly/kULvD Deborah Gist
From Jay Mathews: A powerful term in U.S. high schools: DBQ: You may not know what a DBQ is. For most of my li... bit.ly/160GZTE
Study: Math Skills at Age 7 Predict How Much Money You'll Make - Lindsay Abrams - The Atlantic ow.ly/kW4SC
Obama administration seeks return of state education funds Hattiesburg American: Those funds served in lieu of the collection of local property taxes and subsidized schools, roads and first-responder services around the country — despite the fact that the local governments receiving the payments have long questioned the equity of taking the federal timber payments in lieu of property taxes.
“We Need To Be Wildly Successful” Says Arne Duncan In Detroit CBS Local: U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan spent the day in Detroit, visiting a DPS school and an EAA school with Governor Rick Snyder. Duncan says the organization, invested in turning around failing schools, is doing good work.
Backlash of new education standards is rooted in suspicion of federal government STLtoday:
It does not reflect or recommend department policy, said Daren Briscoe, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education. The draft goes on to state the devices are “intrusive or impractical for use in school settings.”
Nation's Top Educator Visits Mission District Classrooms Kitsap Sun: “In some places, there's over-testing,” Daren Briscoe, press secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, told Mission Local. “But we can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” Briscoe added, referring to Duncan's view that certain elements of ...
Raise Your Hand Texas Wields Power on Charter Schools NYT: Raise Your Hand Texas has become a seasoned lobbying force on education issues, and its No. 1 legislative priority is fighting private-school vouchers.
Seeking Teachers’ Support, Mayoral Candidates Pledge Education Reform NYT:At a forum on Saturday, several candidates said they would scrap signature policies of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, including his A-through-F grading system for schools.
NYC Leadership Academy Takes National Stage EdWeek: The NYC Leadership Academy is a nonprofit that works to develop effective student-focused school leadership, particularly for high-needs schools. Today, one in six of New York City's principals is an academy graduate.
LAUSD fighting for zero-tolerance on teacher cheating Los Angeles Times: The school district says a decision by a state panel — determining there was test-score cheating but the teacher shouldn't be fired — sends the wrong message.
David Letterman, 10 TFA newbies, and Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher." via TQATE's Quick Hits. Gotta give TFA credit for snagging yet another chunk of free media.
A few months ago contributor Sarah Reckhow wrote a post about philanthropy-funded education advocacy efforts that asked a good question: "How does the Gates Foundation plan to evaluate its large portfolio of “advocacy” grants?"
Of course, this isn't just an issue for Gates or other reform-minded funders. Teachers unions (AFT, NEA) and nonprofits on the other side (Broader/Bolder Alliance, Shanker Institute, and the new Ravitch thing) are actively engaged in advocacy as well, and have to figure out if their spending is making a difference, too.
To get at some of the challenges advocacy evaluation involves, Reckhow recommended a 201 article in the Stanford Social Innoviation Review (The Elusive Craft of Evaluating Advocacy).
I promised myself I'd read it but -- big surprise -- never did. Then yesterday Fordham's Mike Petrilli sent over a link to a Spring 2013 SSIR article (Assessing Advocacy).
Malloy's Plans for Schools Face Budget Shortfall WSJ: Last year's legislative package set up several initiatives including a network to aid underperforming schools, statewide teacher evaluations and more spending on new state charter schools.Partnership aims for hybrid traditional-charter school in Southeast WPost: Chancellor Kaya Henderson is seeking to merge a long-struggling Southeast Washington elementary school with a high-performing charter school, creating what she describes as a first-of-its-kind partnership between the two types of schools.
Student-Achievement Goals at Issue in Senate NCLB Renewal Effort Politics K12: In including a requirement that states set student-achievement goals in the bill, Harkin is hoping that he can help build on the momentum of the waivers, which are now in place in 34 states and the District of Columbia, a Senate Democratic aide said. But Republicans see the overall direction of the still-in-progress bill as carving out too much of a role for the federal government.
Latinos Sharply Narrow Education Gap NYT: Last year, new Hispanic high school graduates became more likely than their white counterparts to go directly to college, according to a study.
A new documentary tracks the rise of the environmental movement, focusing on the Love Canal disaster and Greenpeace's "save the whales" campaign.
Two of my favorite education writers right now write a lot about education but you may not know their names because they don't usually have bylines. Karin Klein of the LA Times (right) and Kate Grossman (@kategrossman1) of the Chicago Sun-Times (left) are editorial page writers whose work often comes out in the form of unsigned editorial page positions.
What do I like so much about their work? They take nuanced, sometimes unexpected positions on the issues. There's not much extremism in their views (and they don't spend much time addressing extreme elements and positions that get so much coverage elsewhere). They write in plain English for a general audience that may or may not care about education in a day to day way. They're not trying to grab attention.
This is the smart middle ground that is so hard to find online these days -- even in traditional news coverage of education events. It's reasonable, reasoned writing that neither conveys nor quotes extreme views, focuses on immediate events rather than speculation, and is basically pragmatic. The focus is simple: What's the current situation, best as we know it, what are the viable options, and realistic outcomes?
In the past, there would be more of this kind of education writing in the news section and wire services also. (Used to be that AP education coverage was so frequent and so "down the middle" that it was sometimes hard to read. But it served as a useful reality check when political opponents and pundits were saying the sky was falling or that they'd discovered the next big thing.)
But the AP education team has been turned over and decimated for the past few years. Reuters' education coverage has been fascinating to follow but has seemed hyperbolic rather than steady since the arrival of Stephanie Simon. The Washington Post's coverage skews local rather than national. The Huffington Post's Joy Resmovits still does great work but is clearly under pressure to attract attention as much as to provide steady, reliable coverage. PBS's John Merrow seems more and more of a commentator than a moderating voice of late.
I don't always agree with Klein or Grossman. And being in the middle isn't glamorous or appealing when the next-door blogger can put out ten posts and generate scads of attention during the time it takes to write a careful editorial. But I, for one, am very glad they're out there right now. That steady, thoughtful voice, without any obvious self-interest or desire to advance a particular cause or outcome, is refreshing. Maybe there are others?
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.