There's a big national push to get US kids to learn how to code computer programs going on, as you may have noticed (see Google News roundup here).
You know, there are lots of programming jobs out there, and we need more American kids to program the drones and teachbots of the future.
What do you think? Excited? Fearful? A little of both? Me, too.
I don't know of any other big city school district making this kind of announcement.
Image via Flickr HackNY
The annual Spencer Education Journalism Fellowship luncheon took place a couple of weeks ago and those alumni in attendance made up a veritable who's who of education reporting. They included Liz Bowie (Balt Sun), Greg Toppo (USA Today), Dana Goldstein (Slate, Nation), Sarah Garland (Hechinger), Trey Kay (NPR). Those not able to make it -- Sarah Carr, Peg Tyre, Elizabeth Green, among others -- are an equally impressive lot. (That's the 2010 crew pictured right.)
Latest Spencer news: Greg Toppo just got a book contract for his learning games book and is joining the Spencer advisory board. Dana Goldstein just turned in her completed manuscript. Sarah Garland has a very cute baby. Current Spencers Jamaal Abdul-Alim, Lauren Smith Camera, and Annie Murphy Paul were all there, too.
All this to say that the Spencer Fellowship is up again for 2014-2015 and if you think you have the stuff to make it through Evidence and Inference and Sam Freedman's book writing workshop you should apply. Seriously.Your idea is great. You're totally qualified. The competition isn't too tough. (Plus which, the Nieman deadline is already passed.)
See the latest press release below. Don't forget.
"Grit" - the tendency of a person to persevere through the difficult process of attaining a long-term goal - has become popular among educators recently who view it as one of those "non-cognitive" skills that, if properly instilled, can help students succeed in school and in life.
Over the last few weeks Peter Meyer has written a couple of very good essays summarizing why the educational significance of "grit" is probably overstated. You should read them both, but the bottom line is that while grit is certainly good to have, persistence is helpful largely because it facilitates the development and utilization of conventional cognitive abilities.
In other words, educators excited about developing students' grit tend to underestimate how important it will be for those students to acquire large amounts of factual knowledge.
Here's another recent Chris Hayes segment about the President's inequality speech and what education can and can't accomplish on its own.
Teachers unions face moment of truth Politico: Support for labor unions in general has fallen steadily, dipping below 50 percent for the first time in 2012 before rebounding slightly this year, Gallup polls find.
AFT Makes $1 Million Ad Buy Against Testing, 'Privatization' Politics K12: The National Education Association is also involved but its spending is smaller, Politico reports. That might be because membership losses at the NEA have cut back the amount it can spend on messaging and communications, as I've reported.
AFT, Partners Push National Day of Action to Oppose 'Privatization' of Schooling TeacherBeat: The national union has reportedly spent more than $1 million on advertising buys to promote the campaign.
Fletcher Facing 8 in Bid for LA Teacher Union Presidency LA School Report: The size of the field, which includes one current UTLA officer, Secondary Vice President Greg Solkovits, and one who also ran for president in 2011, Leonard Segal, suggests an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with Fletcher’s policies, leadership style or both.
Lots more state and local news below.
I wrote an essay for EdSource last month arguing that California - or any state adopting the Next Generation Science Standards (GSS) - would be wise to add specific factual knowledge to the new standards during the implementation process.
The NGSS are disappointingly lacking in scientific content, which they de-emphasize in favor of more general scientific thinking skills and "practices".
One point that's worth elaborating on is that it's not entirely clear what good science assessments look like when science standards are very vague on the details of what factual knowledge students should acquire in school.
There's an unfortunate tendency among many science educators to assume that specific knowledge isn't all that important, and that we should really be aiming to assess "higher-order" scientific thinking skills anyway.
In practice, however, that's easier said than done.
Check those sites for updates, or go to GothamSchools or AISR or HuffPost Education or Atlantic Education for a morning news roundup. Or Politics K12, or Politico's Morning Read.
Have a great day, and see you back here Monday!
From last night's MSNBC, All In host Chris Hayes breaks new ground by having Michelle Rhee on the show and declaims lack of philanthropic support and political attention towards reducing child poverty (vs. reforming schools). Rhee tries to get a word in (what's that neon logo glowing behind her?)
Over at the Atlantic's education page, check out my top education stories of the year and let me know if you agree or disagree. There's something for everyone. Or, try and guess my 9 and see how many you get right. I'm going with #ed2013 but that's probably already been used or won't take off. Image via the Atlantic.
The average American school has about the same bandwidth as the average American home, even though obviously there are 200 times as many people at school as there are at home. -- President Barack Obama in a recent speech
The disputed 911 tapes from last year's Sandy Hook Elementary shooting were released yesterday after a year-long effort from AP (Newtown Dispatcher Urged Callers to Take Cover) Read about the dispute over covering the audio tape (Newtown's 9-1-1 Calls Released, If Anyone Really Wants to Hear Them Atlantic Wire, For News Media, a Mostly Cautious Approach to Newtown Tapes NYT).
Or read about the efforts of the Newtown parents (Moms Demand Action Releases Devastating Ad Timed To Anniversary Of Newtown Shooting HuffPost) or about the latest school schooting (Suspect in custody after Fla. school shooting AP). There have apparently been 26 school shootings since Sandy Hook.
Two States Approved for ESEA Teacher Evaluation Extension Waiver PoliticsK12: Two states—Nevada and Mississippi—will get extra time to implement the teacher-evaluation portion of their waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act, the U.S. Department of Education announced today. [12 of 34 eligible states applied]
Common Core delay wins approval NOLA.com: The committee vote, likely to be ratified by BESE on Wednesday, followed months of anxiety from educators who feared losing their jobs and their schools' good letter grades, and some criticism that the changes have come too fast.
K-12 Policy Warfare in Indiana Persists With Leak of New Group's Agenda State EdWatch: Indiana superintendent Glenda Ritz says the document shows state officials are planning to remove her as chairwoman of the state school board.
U.S. private school students not much better than public school student in math Hechinger Report: Where private school students shine is in reading, outperforming their public school peers by 22 points. Private school students, if they formed a separate nation, would rank at #10 behind Ireland in this subject. However, if we broke out the private school students for each nation, their scores would be higher too and American private school kids would no longer be among the top 10 readers. Indeed, US private school students would be no better than average.
New STEM push from ALEC Politico: The group has found tremendous interest in science, technology, engineering and math education from ALEC members, potential for public-private partnerships, and bipartisan lawmaking on STEM issues, ALEC Education Director Lindsay Russell told Morning Education.
Gates, Zuckerberg chip in to fund broadband in schools Washington Post: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft founder Bill Gates are among several philanthropists who have pledged $9 million to a nonprofit organization that is trying to bring the Internet to public school classrooms around the country.
More state and local news below.
So as you may have seen, MSNBC's Chris Hayes did a segment on PISA13 last night.
One of the guest panelists was Sabrina Stevens, along with AFT head Randi Weingarten and NJ reformer Derrell Bradford.
Predictably, Hayes and Weingarten focused on the effects of poverty on student achievement and the flaws of the current reform movement.
Onscreen and in the intro by Hayes, Bradford was ID'd by his organization's name and his work with Gov. Chris Christie and the state charter board. He mostly played amicable defense -- he's a quasi-regular on the show.
Stevens was ID'd merely as an education activist (see screenshot). She got a word in here and there, and nervously chewed the inside of her mouth the rest of the time.
What nobody said -- not host Chris Hayes, or Weingarten, or Stevens herself, was that she was until recently an AFT communications staffer, and had worked for the Denver teachers union before coming to the AFT. So basically there were two AFT folks on the panel (plus a pro-labor host).
That's fine, I guess - it's not my show. But viewers also weren't told -- by Hayes or anyone else -- that Stevens recently left AFT to launch a new progressive ed advocacy organization that's describing itself as "a marketing department for progressive education - a campaign that never stops."
It is bad enough that test-driven reformers have turned schools into venues for high-stakes competition. New York City seemed to have sunk to the lowest of the low with its market-driven A-F School Report Card, which made bubble-in testing a life or death matter for schools. NYC reformers were not content with giving small schools and charters advantages in their Social Darwinist struggle against regular high schools. As the Annenburg Foundation's Over the Counter, Under the Radar explained, they overtly damaged schools that were slated for closure by disproportionately assigning high-needs students in those targeted schools, making it inevitable that they would fail their students.
New York Magazine's Robert Kolter, in The Opt Outers shows that under-the-gun NYC administrators have been pushed to a new nadir of common decency. Kolter tells the story of Pharez, a third-grader at a school that primarily serves English Language Learners. It “had surrendered its schedule solely to test prep; teachers spent the entire day teaching almost nothing but material related to the ELA and math exams.” The stress of the non-stop test prep cost Pharez sleep and his appetite. His father said the 8-year-old “was complaining about pains in his back and his head. If it was happening to a college student, I might accept this. But for a child, it was not acceptable, not at all. And so I opted him out.”
The school made the process difficult for the father. He was pressured by the principal, the principal’s secretary, the PTA president, and the assistant principal. Pharez had a right to prepare a portfolio in lieu of testing, but they repeatedly ignored requests for help in preparing the portfolio. On the last day of school, they said Pharez had failed. Kolter recounts more examples of the "inhumane" results of test-driven reform.Still, it is hard to comprehend that any educators, regardless of their motives, would be so cruel to a child. -JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.
Parent involvement at L.A. schools getting new look LA Times: In Cudahy, parents collected more than 600 signatures demanding a new principal. In Culver City, they fought attempts to unionize classroom aides and formed a group that elected a school board majority. In Los Angeles, parents are organizing for more effective school disciplinary practices.
Speculating on De Blasio’s Choice for Schools Chief NYT: Several educators frequently mentioned as candidates for New York City schools chancellor once worked under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, but then criticized his policies.
Washington, New York Set Passing Bars on New Teacher Test Teacher Beat: Washington state set a lower cutoff point for most teachers than did New York on a new teacher-licensing test.
ALEC Ed. Agenda for 2014: Course Choice, Student Data 'Backpack Act' State EdWatch: The free-market-oriented organization is considering draft bills dealing with school choice and a state records database with academic information on individual students.
N.Y. Teacher Evaluation Staffer Heads to U.S. Department of Education PoliticsK12: Amy McIntosh, who has been working on teacher and leader effectiveness as a senior fellow in the New York Department of Education's Regents Research Fund, will be joining the U.S. Department of Education's office of planning, evaluation, and policy development in mid-January as a principal deputy assistant secretary. That's according to an internal email sent today by John King, New York's commissioner of education.
Illinois Legislature Approves Retiree Benefit Cuts in Troubled Pension System NYT: The hard-fought deal, which includes higher state contributions to the system, could be a template for agreements elsewhere.
Brooklyn Teachers Decry Emphasis on Testing WNYC: Greenfield and others spoke to parents and fellow teachers in the P.S. 321 auditorium at a forum under the umbrella of Teachers Talk Testing, a newly-formed group seeking to reduce the emphasis on testing in three ways: ending grade promotion tied to test scores; ending middle school and high school admissions tied exclusively to test scores; and revising the way test scores factor into school progress reports.
Abbott Setting Sights on Education Policy Debate Texas Tribune: Attorney General Greg Abbott will spend most of the next month talking about education, signaling that he won’t cede any ground on the issue to state Sen. Wendy Davis, who is making her support of public schools a calling card in the governor’s race.
David Catania, D.C. Council member, to form exploratory committee for mayoral run Washington Post: His intentions were confirmed by former council member Sharon Ambrose, who said she will lead the committee. Catania (I-At Large) declined to comment Tuesday night.
School counselors increasingly are missing link in getting kids to college Hechinger: The challenges facing Ryder soon become clear. When she asks about her students’ goals, one hand goes up. Then a low voice in the back of the room wisecracks, “Be a drug dealer.” A while later, when the students are told to sit at computers and go through a questionnaire to help determine what courses of studies and careers would be good fits for them, several struggle with the words on the screen, English still foreign to them.
American test scores stagnate as other countries improve NBS News: After about half a million students took the PISA exams, US performance remained flat. America has a child poverty rate nearly double that of some countries that outperform the United States, which is thought to be a factor. Experts say the test results will likely intensify the debate over education reform.
In this hourlong radio documentary, American Radio Works explores the potential power -- and peril -- of individualized education technology efforts. Can it match a watchful tutor? Listen above, and/or click here to read and/or see some visual extras: One Child at a Time: Custom Learning in the Digital Age.
Looking over New York Magazine's recent article on protests against testing (The Movement Against Testing in Schools), by Robert Kolker, I can find at least a half-dozen glaring journalistic mistakes.
However, there are also at least two big strengths in the piece -- areas that Kolker sheds new light on that I wish weren't overshadowed by the omissions and misdescriptions that mar the piece (in my opinion).
Take a look below, see what you think, and let me know what I got wrong or missed.
The "best" teachers are usually portrayed as epic heroes in movies. Even in classic "practical" teaching guides like The First Days of School or Teach Like a Champion it is often implied that effective teaching requires an unattainable level of technical virtuosity.
As a result, there are many hard truths about teaching that are rarely stated. Those with experience usually understand these realities - that it might be worth throwing away student work to save yourself an evening of grading, for example, or that group work is often a waste of class time - but new teachers may either find themselves surprised by them or consider themselves failures for admitting them.
That's where Roxanna Elden's See Me After Class, recently released in a second edition, comes in.
Elden has no qualms about admitting that it might make sense to "go absolutely nuts" at your worst class or that low-skilled kids will repeatedly "break your heart" over the course of the year. Crucially, she frames these facts as disappointments (at worst) rather than failures.
This, in turn, makes the book encouraging rather than discouraging because one of the most frustrating experiences for new teachers - or maybe for any teacher - is thinking that other teachers aren't experiencing the same disappointments that you are.
It’s fascinating to watch a lot of armchair quarterbacking [about Duncan’s competitive grant and waiver programs]... People never want to critique money that goes to prop up the status quo. -- TN state commissioner Kevin Huffman in Stephanie Simon's recent Politico piece
"In the past, public school standards varied state to state. With backing from the federal government, some governors and superintendents collaborated on a national "Common Core." But they define only the "what" -- what kids should know, not how they should be taught." (Defining What Public School Students Should Know) Rebroadcast from 08/2013
PISA Test Results For U.S. Students Are 'Sobering' NPR: International standardized test scores have been released. The test is given to students around the world every three years. It measures their knowledge of reading, mathematics and science literacy. U.S. students usually turn in mediocre performances, and this year's scores were no different.
U.S. 15-Year-Olds Slip in Rankings on International Exams WSJ: U.S. 15-year-olds made no progress on recent international achievement exams and fell further in the rankings, reviving a debate about America's ability to compete in a global economy.
U.S. Test Scores Remain Stagnant While Other Countries See Rapid Rise HuffPost: Poland, Germany and Ireland showed tremendous growth, and Vietnam, which administered the exam for the first time in 2012, wound up among the top-performing countries, eclipsing the U.S. in math and science. Results like these herald Sputnik moment-type fears, leading some officials to believe the U.S. is losing its competitive edge.
US students still only average on tests USA Today: American high school students still post only average scores on a key skills test administered to kids in 65 countries across the industrialized world.
Fla. students score below international peers in math, science AP: Fla. students score below international peers in math, science in global test.
American Schools vs. the World: Expensive, Unequal, Bad at Math The Atlantic: More than half a million 15-year-olds around the world took the Programme for International Student Assessment in 2012. The test, which is administered every three years and focuses largely on math, but includes minor sections in science and reading, is often used as a snapshot of the global state of education. The results, published today, show the U.S. trailing behind educational powerhouses like Korea and Finland.
American 15-Year-Olds Lag, Mainly in Math, on International Standardized Tests NYT: Students in the United States scored in the middle of the developed world in reading and science, but lower in math, according to results released on Tuesday.
U.S. students score below average in world reading, math and science tests PBS: According to the latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey, American students scored slightly below average on the reading, math and science tests taken last year by 500,000 15-year-olds around the globe.
U.S. students lag around average on international science, math and reading test Washington Post: Scores in math, reading and science posted by 15-year-olds in the United States were flat while their counterparts elsewhere — particularly in Shanghai, Singapore and other Asian provinces or countries — soared ahead, according to results of a well-regarded international exam released Tuesday.
Non-PISA news (there's not much) below the fold.
Last night on 60 Minutes, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced drone delivery in the not too distant future, which set the Internet on fire (so to speak) and reminded me to remind you that drones are coming to schools, too (or at least I think they will and am fasci-horrified by the possibilities).
Other tidbits from the 60M segment? Bezos knows that he's just as likely to be disrupted as previous industries were, and is fighting hard not to let happen to him what happened to Blockbuster, etc. Also: Cloud computing is Amazon's fastest-growing revenue source. Like Google, they're not really making money off what you think they're making money off of.
In 2009, Arne was the new sheriff in town, with big boxes of ammunition and a shiny new gun. Now, it’s later in the movie and he’s all out of bullets and he’s trying to scare states by shaking a stick at them. - Rick Hess in Stephanie Simon's recent Politico piece
The New York Times' Clyde Haberman explains the hard-earned wisdom of Medgar Evers College President Rudy Crew in Back in New York with the Same Passion, but to Less Fire and Smoke.
The former NYC School Chancellor is determined to "get it right on the front end" by "creating a pipeline" to higher education. Crew is networking with the persons who really matter in kids' lives - parents, local leaders, teachers, principals and pastors.
Crew bemoans the recent preoccupation with test scores, saying “we have been chasing numbers when we ought to be chasing confidence.” He wants the entire community to help instill "a desire for learning and — no small matter — a confidence that they can learn."
Crew recalls a conversation with John F. Kennedy Jr. when he was head of the Robin Hood Foundation. He explained to Kennedy, “John, I would take these kids, these nonreaders, and give them an experience that is so fundamentally different from any they ever had. I’d take them to camps. They’d go fishing. They would learn how to be out on boats and canoes.”
After my neighborhood became the epicenter of crack and gangs in Oklahoma City, I was an environmental educator and that is why I became an inner city teacher. I have no doubt that Crew nails the attitude that we adults must help nurture, “So ‘I can’t swim’ becomes ‘Lookit, I can swim.’ The ‘I don’t touch fish’ becomes ‘Lookit how many fish I caught.’" Follow Crew's advise on nononcognitive experience, and test scores "will take care of themselves." -JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.