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Thompson: What Do We Mean When We Talk of Graduation Rates?

Graduation rates used to be incredibly easy to fabricate (almost as easy as attendance rates and even easier than jacking up proficiency rates) but I don't doubt they have become more reliable. I used to assume that the annual increase in graduation rates, and the equally ubiquitous decline in dropout rates, were half real and half bogus. Although graduation rates may be somewhat more reliable today, it is hard to see how they could ever function as a valid "output" accountability measure. (It also feels like "deja vu all over again" when reading Jay Mathews series on "passing kids on" in Washington D.C.) 

That being said, when John Hopkins' Robert Balfanz proclaims a big improvement in any metric, I reign in much of my skepticism.

We must acknowledge that increases in graduation rates may not mean that students are learning more about classroom subject matter. But, there is something more important at stake. More high school graduates mean that larger numbers of teens are learning something more important than the standards of instruction. They are learning to succeed. Conversely, they avoid the real world penalties attached to dropping out.

The Civic Enterprise and the Everyone Graduates Center, along with America's Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education released Building a Grad Nation 2014-2015 Update. It presents news that is probably somewhat too good to be true, and it certainly reads like a document that is a compromise highlighting the priorities of numerous advocates. But, the annual report makes a lot of sense and it points the way towards fruitful collaborations.

First, Building a Grad Nation is a reminder of the importance of perhaps the most overlooked issue in school improvement. When schools' Promoting Power (or the ability of students to advance into higher grades) goes up, students benefit. Of course, we must ask what we mean by promoting power. Real Promoting Power must be more than social promotion. It must be more than "credit recovery" tricks to make accountability stats look better.

Continue reading "Thompson: What Do We Mean When We Talk of Graduation Rates?" »

Morning Video: Can Chicago Reach Labor Deal Like LA Just Did?

Can Chicago teachers and the district come to agreement over a new contract like UTLA and LAUSD recently did? PBS affiliate WTTW interviews union president Karen Lewis. Or watch this HuffPost Live segement on desegregation efforts in Connecticut, one of the few states in the nation where there's been some improvement. 

AM News: Shorter, Combined PARCC Tests For Next Year

Board shortens Common Core-aligned tests known as PARCC Washington Post: The Common Core-aligned tests that made their debut in 11 states and the District this spring will be approximately 90 minutes shorter next year, a change that comes after parents, teachers and school administrators expressed frustration with the amount of time devoted to the new exams. See also AP (States move to reduce time spent on Common Core-based exam), EdWeek (PARCC Shortens Its Common-Core Test)

Kids Cheer, Officials Jeer As Computer Glitches Delay Testing In Virginia WAMU: School officials from across Virginia are scrambling to catch up after three days of computer problems that delayed standardized testing. See also Washington Post: Va. testing interrupted three times because of issues with Pearson system.

Republican Focus Group Shows Jeb Bush's Support for Common Core No Big Deal PK12: The focus group was asked if they thought the common core was important, and if they were bothered by Bush's position regarding the standards.

Poorest Students Often Miss Out on Gifted Classes Education Week: But with more than half of public school students now coming from low-income families and deepening concentrations of poverty in many communities, standard screening and pullout programs may not be enough to find and support the most vulnerable talented students. In response, more educators and researchers who work with gifted students are calling for another look at who is considered gifted and how schools can locate and support those students. See also HuffPost: African-Americans Who Attended Desegregated Schools Have Better Language Skills Years Later 

Ouch! Hedge funders stung by Obama, Clinton barbs CNBC: The American Federation of Teachers' president, Randi Weingarten, cited the kindergarten comparison in speeches this month, for example, and a group called the Hedge Clippers have targeted New York-area billionaires like Paul Singer, Bill Ackman and ...

Education Gaps Pose Looming Crisis for U.S. Economy National Journal: The fastest-growing segment of the workforce is also the least educated. That's a problem as employers struggle to fill high-skill jobs.

CPS Confirms Data Breach Impacting 4,000 Students NBC Chicago: The names and personal information of thousands of Chicago Public Schools students was inadvertently provided to five potential vendors earlier this year, district officials confirmed Tuesday.  

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

Continue reading "AM News: Shorter, Combined PARCC Tests For Next Year" »

Quotes: Common Core Tests Restore Some Strengths of 1990s Tests, Says Linda Darling-Hammond

Quotes2Before NCLB, Vermont, Indiana and Kentucky had students write in different genres and assessed their work. Connecticut and New York had multiday science activities... With Smarter Balanced, the performance tasks will only take about 180 minutes over one or two class periods. But they will be meaty tasks figuring out complex problems and asking students why they made a decision. This will begin to approach what some states were doing in the 1990s.

- Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond in USNews (Are New Common Core Tests Better Than Old Multiple-Choice Exams?)

Educators & Advocates Need Authentic Conversations About Race, Too

Some Fieldston parents and NY Magazine readers may be concerned about the progressive private school's racial awareness program described in this week's magazine (Can Racism Be Stopped in the Third Grade?), but not everyone's quite so bothered by the effort.  

As described in the magazine feature by Lisa Miller, the school asked elementary school kids to identify themselves by race and then separated them -- temporarily -- as part of a program to deepen the students' understanding of racism and differences. "It would foster interracial empathy by encouraging children to recognize differences without disrespect while teaching kids strategies, and the language, for navigating racial conflict."

The program is mandatory, and operates during the school day, and start with kids as young as eight. "In 45-minute sessions, children would talk about what it was like to be a member of that race; they would discuss what they had in common with each other and how they were different, how other people perceived them, rightly or wrongly, based on appearance. Disinhibited by the company of racially different peers, the children would, the school hoped, feel free to raise questions and make observations that in mixed company might be considered impolite."

Designed by Fieldston's Mariama Richards, the "affinity-group" program was meant to foster authentic conversation but it felt to some parents like a step backwards -- like segregation, like overkill. It wasn't a comfortable discussion in ethics class."This same parent who sends her children to Lower because she values diversity tends not to dwell on the fact that she has few close friends of color; that her neighborhood is almost entirely white; that her nanny or housecleaner or doorman has brown skin."

Racial and demographic diversity has long been a goal for progressive private schools, but mixing kids together is just a start. Efforts like these have been popping up in different places around the country.  (My progressive private alma mater, Chicago's Francis Parker, just hired a director of diversity who seems like she's going to push the envelope for ostensibly liberal parents.) Fort Greene's Community Roots, a diverse progressive charter school, asked mixed groups of parents to engage in group activities outside of school in order to promote understanding and deepen classroom diversity.

See also this CNN segment featuring concerned parents:

 
ctn pkg carroll race experiments classrooms_00005030
 
"One of New York City's most elite and progressive elementary schools is conducting an experiment on race by separating students. CNN's Jason Carroll reports."

The reaction so far to the article has been generally supportive of the effort at Fieldston:

Education writer Dana Goldstein, now at The Marshall Project, noted on Twitter that the piece "perfectly captures moment in which young(ish) progressive educators confront parents who hold old notions of "colorblindness." Once unusual, racial awareness programs (the invisible white backpack, etc.) are more commonly part of college than they used to be. "My demographic wouldn't be shocked if our kids were separated by race and asked to discuss it in "safe space," noted Goldstein. "We've been there."

Over at Vox, Jenée Desmond-Harris's post (Why a New York City school's idea to (temporarily) separate kids by race is smart) lists the many advantages of the Fieldston program, especially teaching the lessons that "ignoring race and racism doesn't make these things go away, and that white people have a racial identity, too."

Not everyone is a big fan of the approach being taken, however.  Responding to the earlier NYT piece written by Kyle Spencer, New America's Connor Williams wrote a post titled The Limits of Talking About Privilege to Teenagers

NYT editor Amy Virshup thought that the NY Magazine story might not offer much that readers hadn't already learned. "But @KyleYSpencer story on same topic ran in Feb., w/pix of real kids, not models. What's new?"

The issue of overkill -- not so much on the issue but perhaps the controversy at this particular school -- is also the focus of a recent blog post I wrote over at The Grade:  Another Story About Fieldston’s Controversial Racial Awareness Program.  

One thing I'd add is that it's not just kids who need more and better racial awareness programs but also educators and advocates.  Teachers -- predominantly white and middle class -- need space and time to talk about and understand not only their students' backgrounds but also their own.  And advocates -- reformers and critics alike, also predominantly white and college-educated -- would do well with more of the same.

Making sure that conference panels and speakers and attendees are more diverse is one step, as is engaging more diverse groups of stakeholders (not just mobilizing them). Panels about racial awareness or race-focused issues are good, too.  But what about taking it one step further and doing a version of what Fieldston is doing and let adults engaged in education talk together in affinity groups and have some authentic conversations, too?  I could see PIE, or TFA, or maybe the Shanker Institute or Century Foundation doing something like this. Or maybe it's already happening and I just haven't heard about it.

Morning Video: Angry Minnesotan

Watch Minnesota Gov. Dayton sending legislation back to the statehouse for more education funding, above, via MinnPost, or click here to meet a parent who's become an anti-Common Core activist, via NBC News. I'll post the Moskowitz/Ripley talk from yesterday as soon as I see it.

AM News: VA Testing Interruptions, LA Board Member Changes

Va. testing interrupted three times because of issues with Pearson system Washington Post: Pearson said the company was the target of a cyberattack on May 13 that caused problems with the testing system. On May 14, a computer server became overloaded, leading to further disruptions. As a result of both incidents, 374 students across the state will have to retake exams.

L.A. school board seat is a pivotal win for charter school movement LA Times: Rodriguez's victory suggests that charter supporters are an emerging political force in future board elections, analysts say, not only in Los Angeles but in districts nationwide.

See also LA Daily News: Costly LAUSD board campaign ends with no net gain for teachers union, charter school advocates, KPCC LA: New LAUSD board to take on persistent problems, LA School Report: Changes in faces but not balance.

See also: Watchdog.org: Union-backed candidates win big in Philadelphia primary election.

Minnesota Heads to Special Session Over Education Aid, Joining Washington St. State EdWatch: The Minnesota legislature is heading to a special session over education funding, after Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a spending bill that he said was inadequate. See also MinnPost: Despite Dayton's angry rhetoric, advocates see a potential roadmap out of the early-ed impasse.

Eva Moskowitz calls out schools chancellor for not visiting Success schools ChalkbeatNY: “It’s interesting to me that the chancellor of the city of New York, who I know quite well, Carmen Fariña, has literally been in our building about a dozen times and has never come to our floor,” Moskowitz said. See also: Amid debate to raise cap, a charter school authorizer rejects all applicants.

‘Opt Out’ Becomes Anti-Test Rallying Cry in New York State NYT: A small, if vocal, movement urging parents to have their children sit out standardized exams took off this year, maturing from scattered displays of disobedience into a widespread rebuke. See also NBC News: Anti-Common Core Activist Talks Homework

Spending on School Security Rises WSJ: According to the survey of about 1,400 public schools around the country, 75% reported using one or more security cameras, up from 61% in 2009-2010. Similarly, 82% of schools said that electronic notification systems, which alert parents about a school emergency, were in place, up from 63% four years earlier. Meanwhile, 65% of schools reported at least one violent incident during the 2013-2014 year, down from 74%. See also AP: Survey Finds US Schools Ramping up Safety Measures.

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

Continue reading "AM News: VA Testing Interruptions, LA Board Member Changes" »

Thompson: Stand for Children Reports that Testing is Oklahoma Teachers' Top Concern

Oklahoma's underfunded schools had plenty of problems before funding was cut 23%, the most of any state. This year we'll face more cuts and Oklahoma teachers, already ranked 49th nationally in salaries, will probably face another year without a raise.  It is no surprise that the state has a shortage of 1000 teachers, and 40% of new teachers leave the profession or Oklahoma within five years.

Neither should it be a surprise that the Tulsa World's Nora Habib, in Report Says Oklahoma Teachers' Greatest Concern Is Testing, reports that Oklahoma teachers are frustrated  by "overcrowded classrooms, changing reforms, decreased classroom autonomy and a lack of representation in policy discussions."

But, guess what Stand for Children learned in a "Listening Tour" and from focus groups with 81 teachers from across the state? Stand learned that "testing was the issue of greatest concern for teachers." Teachers also believe "reforms written from a 'one size fits all' approach ... ultimately doom any practical implementation."

The section on the concern that gained the most attention began with representative teachers' statements such as, "So much time has been consumed with testing, over testing, to the point kids have lost all motivation for the test that really matters.” It closes with the protest, “The whole focus is on testing and not learning... there’s no passion for learning.”

Stand's most watched conclusion involved the TLE evaluation system (which was adopted in an effort to win a Race to the Top federal grant.) Teachers recognize the problems with all practical policy solutions for evaluating teachers. Stand concludes that the benefits of peer evaluations seemed to outweigh their concerns because they "instigated more interaction and collaboration among teachers." 

The report also concludes, “Teachers believe tying teacher evaluations to student test scores should be delayed until student assessments can be aligned to newly written standards that would better reflect a teacher’s role in student growth.”

Continue reading "Thompson: Stand for Children Reports that Testing is Oklahoma Teachers' Top Concern" »

Chart: State Teachers Of Year Prioritize Out-Of-School Factors

Screen shot 2015-05-20 at 10.24.03 AM

Two of the top three issues raised by teachers surveyed about obstacles to learning are non-school/classroom factors, according to this Scholastic chart.  The other is early learning. 

Live Event: Don't Miss Today's NY Ideas Panels On Race & "Invisible Children"

 

Maybe like me you missed this morning's #NYIdeas half hour chat with Eva Moskowitz and Amanda Ripley (was it any good?). Maybe (like me) you didn't make it to last night's invite-only roundtable dinner at the High Line Hotel including guests like Partnership for Education Justice's Campbell Brown, TC's Susan Fuhrman, Walton's Bruno Manno, Harvard's Martin West.

But all is not lost.  There are other education-related segments to come during today's event hosted by AtlanticLIVE and the Aspen Institute. And, assuming the video embed code works right, you can watch it all above (or click the link if not).

For example, there's Ta-Nehesi Coates and Michele Norris talking about race at 1:55 and a segment on "Seeing New York’s Invisible Children" at 2:40 featuring Andrea Elliott, Author and Investigative Reporter, The New York Times Faith Hester, Humanities Teacher, and Dr. Susan S. McKinney Secondary School of the Arts.

The Atlantic is big into live events these days, including next month's Education Summit in DC June 15.  It is going to feature folks like Peg Tyre, Author of The Good School, and Kaya Henderson, Chancellor of DC Public Schools, 

This year's event is being sponsored in part by the Walton Family Foundation, and has also been sponsored by the AFT and others.  Over at The Grade, I wrote about the challenges for media outlets doing events that are sponsored by advocates on one side or the other: When Media Organizations Take Outside Funding for Events - But Not News Coverage. The Atlantic Magazine doesn't receive outside funding for its education coverage, far as I've been able to determine, and Inside Philanthropy's David Callahan notes that it would be cumbersome and perhaps unnecessary for the magazine to disclose event funding with its non-funded education writing. 

Meantime, I'm told that the Ripley/Moskowitz segment is going to be posted within 24 hours, so look for it tomorrow AM.

AM News: Seattle Teachers Strike, Reform Victory/Defeat In Los Angeles

Thousands Of Seattle Teachers Strike Over Pay, Class Size Reuters: Thousands of Seattle teachers walked out of class on Tuesday to demand higher pay and smaller class sizes, marking the largest one-day strike in a series of rolling protests by educators in Washington state over public school funding.

Two challengers, one incumbent, finish first in L.A. Board of Education races  LA Times: In all, outside groups have poured in $5.1 million, compared with under $1 million spent by campaigns controlled by the candidates, according to reports filed through Monday. The contest drawing the most attention and the most dollars was the Kayser/Rodriguez race [which Rodriguez appears to have won]. Kayser was backed by the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, which spent more than $1 million to keep him in office. Rodriguez co-founded an organization that operates charter schools, and bedinefited from strong support by a group representing charters.

Starr, former Montgomery County superintendent, takes association job Washington Post: Montgomery County’s former schools superintendent has taken a job as chief executive officer for an Arlington-based professional association for educators.Joshua P. Starr, who resigned in February amid reports that he did not have the support he needed to win another four-year contract in Maryland’s largest school system, will take over June 8 at PDK International. See also District Dossier: Former Superintendent Joshua Starr to Lead Phi Delta Kappa International

Montgomery school board to appoint interim superintendent, pause search Washington Post: The Montgomery County school board has suspended its national search for a new superintendent and plans to meet Wednesday to appoint an interim schools chief for next school year, just days after a leading candidate suddenly pulled out of the running. See also WAMU: For Now, Montgomery County Schools Chief Is Expected To Be A One-Year Job

Thousands of Scorers Take On the Common-Core Tests EdWeek: Twelve million students are taking either the PARCC or the Smarter Balanced assessments in 29 states and the District of Columbia this school year. Forty-two thousan people will be scoring 109 million student responses to questions on the two exams, which were designed by two groups of states... Pearson, which is training scorers for PARCC states, as well as administering and scoring the test, permitted a rare visit to one of its 13 regional scoring centers, in a nondescript brick office building outside Columbus.

Poverty, family stress are thwarting student success, top teachers say Washington Post: The greatest barriers to school success for K-12 students have little to do with anything that goes on in the classroom, according to the nation’s top teachers: It is family stress, followed by poverty, and learning and psychological problems. The survey, to be released Wednesday by the Council of Chief State School Officers and Scholastic Inc., polled the 56 Teachers of the Year, a small but elite group of educators considered among the country’s best, on a range of issues affecting public education.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Seattle Teachers Strike, Reform Victory/Defeat In Los Angeles" »

Quotes: FairTest Declares Spring 2015 Victory

Quotes2The end of the 2014-2015 school year is drawing near, but the movement to roll back standardized exam overkill has not slowed for a moment... The pressure from grassroots testing reformers is forcing policymakers to debate proposals to reduce testing overuse, eliminate some high-stakes consequences and stop penalizing students who opt out.  

-- FairTest's Bob Schaeffer in his weekly email.

Morning Video: Head Start At 50 Years (Plus Alternative Options)

 

"Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson announced the creation of Head Start, the early education program designed to support the needs of low-income children and get them ready for elementary school. The NewsHour’s April Brown explores the legacy and efficacy of the iconic program." via PBS NewsHour. Or, watch this story about a girl being dragged behind a school bus (she's recovering), or Stephen Colbert's Wake Forest hilarious/insightful commencement speech.

AM News: NYC's Three-Year Mayoral Control Extension, LA's High Money/Low Turnout Election

NY Assembly Votes to Extend NYC's Local Control of Schools WNYC: The mayor of New York City has controlled city schools since 2002, but the law governing the policy expires this year. De Blasio, a Democrat, has called for permanent mayoral control, an idea all but abandoned in Albany, where the Assembly now joins Cuomo in endorsing a three-year extension.

Low voter turnout could give teachers union-backed candidates edge in LAUSD election LA Daily News: Fewer than 13 percent of voters are expected to cast ballots on an election day that includes a closely watched City Council seat runoff. The low turnout could mean the 35,000-member union's votes, phone calls and precinct walking could hold more value than the nearly $3. See also KPCC LA: How PACs are impacting school board elections in LA, LA School Report: Low turnout — maybe a record — expected for 3 LAUSD board races.

Camden's Takeover by Outsiders Rankles the Grass Roots AP: The schools, the police department and even the libraries have been taken over by the state or county governments in rescue attempts, meaning key municipal agencies and functions are not directly accountable directly to voters and potentially setting the city up for a future without experienced leaders. Among other plans, a major push is on to bring in new types of schools, including some run by charter-school operators. Sean Brown, now a Rutgers public-policy graduate student, was an appointed member of the school board in 2012. Now, Brown is running a petition drive to try to have an elected school board return.

Sen. Rand Paul, Presidential Candidate, Not Opposed to National Testing PoliticsK12: That education made it into the 10-minute Meet the Press interview at all is a big deal, and bodes well for education as an issue in the 2016 election cycle.

For some parents, search for better schools could lead to jail Seattle Times: On the rise are cases in which families living in districts with failing schools have been accused of “stealing an education” and have been fined for lying about where they live on official district documents. Others have been criminally charged and, in some cases, jailed.

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

Continue reading "AM News: NYC's Three-Year Mayoral Control Extension, LA's High Money/Low Turnout Election" »

Thompson: Robert Putnam and Ending the Education Civil War

The conservative Fordham Institute's A Conversation with Robert Putnam foreshadows the way that our education civil war could end. Fresh from his conversation with President Barack Obama, Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute, and E.J. Dionne, Robert Putnam last week discussed his new book, Our Kids, which could be read, in part, as a call for deescalating a full range of political fratricides. 

Surprisingly, Putnam had only recently learned of the bitter battle of output-driven, market-driven school reformers versus teachers and our unions.  Putnam wants to tackle the "Opportunity Gap," but apparently he was unaware of the baggage attached to those words. We teachers who oppose corporate school reform seek a campaign to close the Opportunity Gap.  Data-driven reformers dismiss such a goal as an "Excuse."

I doubt that either Putnam or President Obama fully realize that the goal of equal opportunity has been derided by reformers as "Low Expectations," meaning that those who embrace it supposedly aren't committed to meeting measurable outputs, or test score growth targets. Under the President's School Improvement Grant, a teacher can be dismissed for merely expressing support for Putnam's goal and recommendations, thus being labeled a "culture killer" who doesn't focus solely on "outcomes" i.e. test scores.

Fordham's Mike Petrilli kept a straight face when telling Putnam that he would provide research by CREDO and others that would document the better outcomes produced by charters over the last seven years. Putnam graciously agreed to look at Petrilli's information but he said that his reading of the evidence says that sorting is the problem, and choice is not the answer.

Moreover, Putnam replied that none of the poor kids profiled in Our Kids would have been better off if they just had better information about school options. Putnam concludes that socio-economic segregation, not schools, is the cause of our growing Opportunity Gap.  

In contrast to Petrilli, a liberal or neo-liberal reformer like Arne Duncan would likely have stayed on message, ignored reality, and tried to deny that charters "cream" or accept only as many of the most challenging students as they can handle. After all, a liberal reformer couldn't admit to leaving the poorest kids behind or stop pretending that test-driven accountability is not unfair to teachers and students in the schools where it is harder to meet growth targets.

But, guess what Petrilli did?

Continue reading "Thompson: Robert Putnam and Ending the Education Civil War" »

Maps: Just 11 States Have Little Or No Student Poverty/Teacher Qualification Gap

image from big.assets.huffingtonpost.comThis Huffington Post map shows states [in red and orange and yellow] where schools with higher student poverty students have lower rates of teacher certification -- despite all the loopholes in NCLB and state licensure arrangements. I count only 11 states [in blue] where there's little or no difference. Used with permission.

Quotes: Connecticut's Magnet Schools Erode Segregation

Quotes2It's pathetic that only one little state [Connecticut] is showing any leadership [by creating 84 magnet schools]...It shouldn't be so radical to think it might be better to have more diverse schools.
 
- UCLA's Gary Orfield in HuffPost Edu (Connecticut Makes Rare Progress As America Moves Backwards)

Morning Video: Baltimore School Of The Arts

From PBS NewsHour: "At the Baltimore School for the Arts, students are admitted solely on their artistic potential; notable alumni of the pre-professional high school includes Jada Pinkett Smith and designer Christian Siriano." Click here if video doesn't render properly.

AM News: LA's $5.5 Million Charter Showdown School Board Race

Spending in race for three LAUSD board seats reaches nearly $4.6 million LA Times: Total spending in the battle for three spots on the Los Angeles Board of Education has increased sharply since the March primary, reaching nearly $4.6 million, as interest groups vie to influence the nation's second-largest school system. See also LA Daily News: Attack ads plentiful as more than $5.5 million spent on LAUSD board races, LA Weekly: Whoever Wins this LAUSD Board Seat Could Determine the Fate of Charter Schools

Big Tax Revenues Goose California Education Budget from Gov. Brown State EdWatch: State tax revenues have turned out to be $6.7 billion higher than the estimates Brown used last January when Brown presented his original proposed budget for fiscal 2016. See also KPCC: Education groups generally like Brown’s revised budget plan, EdSource: Education highlights from Gov. Brown’s revised budget

Cuomo Promotes Tax Credits for Families of Students at Private Schools NYT: Visiting churches and a yeshiva, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made it clear he considered the bill a top priority of the legislative session, despite opposition from some fellow Democrats.

Leading candidate for Montgomery schools chief withdraws his name Washington Post: Montgomery County’s leading candidate for superintendent of schools withdrew from consideration Sunday, three days after school board members touted him as their preferred pick for the district’s top job.

Bullying rate among U.S. teens has dropped but remains a problem Washington Post: About one out of every five students in U.S. middle schools and high schools reported that they had been bullied in 2013, the lowest rate since the federal government began collecting data on bullying in 2005. 

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

Continue reading "AM News: LA's $5.5 Million Charter Showdown School Board Race" »

Twitter Friday: News & Commentary Here, On Facebook, & Via Twitter

It's Friday and I'm in Boston visiting family (took the bus, thank you very much), so I'll be updating the site lightly -- via Twitter (which also posts to Facebook).

See it all below, or on Twitter or Facebook. Have a great weekend!

Thompson: Why That John Oliver Testing Segment Hit a Nerve

My wife kept pestering me to watch John Oliver's 18-minute, hilarious indictment of standardized testing on HBO, but I had a long "to-do" list. Skimming the replies by Alexander Russo, Peter Cunningham and others, I thought they were challenging the substance of Oliver's routine. The Education Post, as usual, countered with some out-of-context numbers, disingenuously pretending that low-stakes test score increases in 1999 were attributable to the NCLB Act of 2001. Then, Cunningham concluded with the standard attack on "self-serving union leaders, and the complacent middle class." 

When I finally found time to watch the video, it became clear that Oliver had done his homework but that that wasn't what drove reformers up a wall. I had previously joked that reformers should have to watch videos of students reduced to tears and explaining how the testing mania had cost them a chance for a meaningful education. Oliver showed videos of the "human consequences" of test, sort, and punish. And, its not pretty. 

The real reason why Oliver hit a nerve, I believe, is that his opening videos were so sickening. Russo, the curmudgeon, sees school testing pep rally videos as "like something you might see on America's Funniest Home Videos." But, to many or most parents and educators, I bet they are viewed as documentation of the repugnant practices that "reform" has inflicted on children. 

Oliver hit a nerve by displaying the repulsive unintended consequences of high stakes testing. Under-the-gun (and I believe otherwise decent and caring educators) are shown mis-educating children, training them to be easily manipulated, outer-directed persons.  He shows children being indoctrinated into compliance. He shows children being socialized into a herd mentality. 

Its hard to say which is more awful - the way that stressed out children vomit on their test booklets or schools trying to root inner-directedness out of children. On the other hand, even reformers should celebrate the way that students and families are fighting back, demanding schools that respect children as individuals. Even opponents of the Opt Out movement should respect the way it embodies the creative insubordination that public schools should nourish.  

Before watching Oliver's indictment of high stakes testing, I assumed that it had merely provoked the standard corporate reform spin machine to spit out its off-the-shelf, pro-testing message. But, I believe this anti-Oliver campaign is more personal than that. How can reformers hear a child tearfully say that she feels like she has been punched in the stomach without accepting blame - or finding others to blame?

Continue reading "Thompson: Why That John Oliver Testing Segment Hit a Nerve" »

Update: Two More Education-Related Folks In Amtrak Crash (Unharmed)

There were at least three education-related people on Amtrak 188 earlier this week, including one of the victims, edtech startup CEO Rachel Jacobs, and occasional education reporter Seyward Darby. USA Today and other outlets profiled Jacobs. Darby was interviewed by the NYT about the experience of being in the crash. Andrew Brenner, who's identified as an education PR guy on his Twitter feed, was also on that train and was interviewed on MSNBC's Now With Alex.  Anyone else? Let us know. I'm at @alexanderrusso.

Quotes: Class Segregation Replacing Racial Segregation

Quotes2I mean, there’s some communities where I don’t know -- not only do I not know poor people, I don’t even know people who have trouble paying the bills at the end of the month. I just don’t know those people.  

-- President Obama at recent event via Vox (Liberals are reducing one of the most fascinating speeches of Obama’s career to a Fox News joke)

Morning Video: President Obama Laments Parents Choosing Private Schools

"What’s happened in our economy is that those who are doing better and better... are withdrawing from sort of the commons," Obama said. "Kids start going to private schools; kids start working out at private clubs instead of the public parks. An anti-government ideology then disinvests from those common goods and those things that draw us together. And that, in part, contributes to the fact that there’s less opportunity for our kids, all of our kids." Via RealClear Politics. Click the link if the video doesn't load properly.

AM News: EdTech Startup CEO Among Amtrak Crash Victims

Tech start-up CEO Rachel Jacobs among Amtrak crash victims USA Today: Rachel Jacobs, the CEO of a tech education start-up in Philadelphia, was confirmed dead Wednesday evening after an Amtrak train derailment the previous day killed at least seven passengers and injured another 200.

Feds deny Seattle school district’s request for its own No Child waiver Seattle Times: The U.S. Department of Education says it doesn't want to let one district operate "outside of the state's accountability system."

Calif. Unions Appeal 'Deeply Flawed' Vergara Ruling TeacherBeat: A judge's ruling last summer to overturn teacher-protection statutes was thinly argued and misread state constitutional law, they contend.

Why More of America's Students Are Finishing High School Atlantic Education: One reason for the academic improvements cited in the report is the closure of 800 schools since 2002 that featured chronically low graduation rates, campuses sometimes known as “dropout factories.” 

Louisiana Lawmakers Strike Preliminary Deal Over Common Core State EdWatch: The deal could signal an approaching peace, or at least a cease-fire, in the long-running war over the common core and the PARCC test in Louisiana.

Closing Costs: Parents Push For Role In Choosing New Charter School Operator WWNO Louisiana: The school year is winding down, and for three New Orleans charters, the last day will bring dramatic changes. Two of those schools are closing for good. The third – kindergarten through 8th grade school Andrew H. Wilson Charter – is getting a new operator.

Were Chicago's public schools ever good? WBEZ Chicago:  Ultimately, we decided to look at when CPS did a good job preparing students for successful careers; that is: When did the district best prepare people to be productive, taxpaying citizens? Career readiness is a consistent expectation, and it’s possible to compare one era to another. See also AP: Moody's Downgrades Chicago Schools, Park District Ratings

 27 resources on education, from a reporter who’s covered it PBS NewsHour:  When my wife and I moved recently, the process forced me to dig through piles of stuff and discard what I didn’t care enough about to pack and then unpack. In the process I came across some really good stuff, and that triggered this list of books, organizations, films, and websites that I value.

Afternoon Video: Our Value Is Not Expressed By Our Education Attainment

"I think it's easy for people like you and me, who wear suits and ties and work in offices, to cast aspersions on those with 10th grade educations." That's Ivy League-educated Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA33) in response to testimony calling into question the economic impact of lower-educated workers.

Charts: Half The Teacher Who "Leave" Are Just Changing Schools

munguia-feature-teachers-2

Check out FiveThirtyEight's latest education post (Are There Too Few Teachers, Or Too Few Good Ones?), which reiterates the latest data showing that not only are the percentages of teachers leaving (in red) much lower than previously thought but that many of them (in blue) are just changing schools. Image used with permission.

People: EdTech Startup Exec Feared Injured In Philly Amtrak Crash

There are lots of education types who travel up and down the Boston-DC corridor on Amtrak, and Rachel Jacobs of AppreNet is being reported as missing after the Philadelphia Amtrak crash last night. She's described as a 39 year old Swarthmore grad & mother of a young child. You can follow updates via Twitter here.

Morning Video: Duncan Talks Youth Employment, Public Boarding Schools

 

Here's Duncan speaking yesterday at the Youth Violence Prevention Summit: "One idea that I threw out … is this idea of public boarding schools. That’s a little bit of a different idea, a controversial idea. But the question is—do we have some children where there’s not a mom, there’s not a dad, there’s not a grandma, there’s just nobody at home? There’s just certain kids we should have 24/7 to really create a safe environment and give them a chance to be successful.” CPSAN via Breitbart. Click the link if the video doesn't play correctly. Still looking for video of him roaring like a lion if you see it let me know. 

AM News: California Schools Already Getting Common Core Test Scores

School districts start receiving early results on Smarter Balanced testsEdSource: District and school officials can begin looking at the scores and use them to make decisions about instruction, class placements and parent discussions, said Keric Ashley, deputy superintendent of the District, School, and Innovation branch of the California Department of Education. The first preliminary student scores for early test takers went out May 4.

Washington State Asks Not To Be Penalized For Lower Test Scores Reuters: The request comes as school officials face vocal public resistance to the test as they transition to Smarter Balanced exams, which are aligned to the Common Core multi-state education standards in English and math. Last year, Washington lost its exemption from some requirements under the No Child law because its state legislature declined to link student test scores to teacher evaluations.

Roughly 1 in 7 Portland Public Schools juniors skip Common Core tests OregonLive.com: Sixth grade students work through a Common Core State Standards Test at Morgan Elementary School South in Stockport, Ohio. 

A Key Researcher Says 'Grit' Isn't Ready For High-Stakes Measures NPR: Angela Duckworth worries that when it comes to measuring students' resilience, education policy may be getting ahead of science. See also Washington Post: Should teachers be evaluated on how ‘gritty’ their students are?

More in School, but Not Learning NYT: Globally, more children than ever are attending school, but some experts say high-quality education has proved elusive. The solution will be expensive.

Is the classroom a stressful place? Thousands of teachers say yes Washington Post: This story has been updated.A new survey of more than 30,000 U.S. teachers finds that most of them report high levels of stress and low levels of autonomy, but it also shows that they are not ready to bail on the classroom.

Prom Dress-Code Change Sparks Outcry at Connecticut High School AP: On May 8, administrators at Shelton High School in Shelton, Connecticut, announced a ban on dresses showing too much skin, saying they’ve already identified half a dozen dress “don’ts.”  But students say what that specifically meant was never laid out prior to the May 8 announcement. 

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

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