About this blog Subscribe to this blog

Books: The Deseg Case That Wasn't Brown [It Was Yellow]

image from www.journalism.columbia.eduBrown v. Board of Education wasn't the first school desegregation case, and the case didn't involve African-American children, according to a book being written by a Adrienne Berard (pictured).  

Titled "When Yellow Was Brown," the book "chronicles an important and undeservedly obscure school desegregation case that preceded Brown v. Board of Education -- and that involved several Chinese immigrant children as its plaintiffs," according to a note from Sam Freedman at Columbia about news that the author has won a Lukas award for a book-in-progress.  

"Berard tells the story “in a deeply affecting narrative that is both epic and intimate, through meticulous, original research and truthful real life portraits. She sheds new light on issues that continue to torment and resonate in our public and private lives,” according to the press release announcing the award. 

See full press release below.

Continue reading "Books: The Deseg Case That Wasn't Brown [It Was Yellow]" »

Charts: Juking The Stats In Chicago (Again)

Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 12.20.05 PMChicago Magazine's latest story about the precipitous drop in homicide stats during 2013 is alarming for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the realization that it's pretty easy to juke crime statistics without generating much attention (and if it's easy to reclassify murders as natural deaths then you can only imagine what's going on or at least possible when it comes to school stats).  

The other reason, of course, is that the effort to reduce crime in Chicago came in large part from student deaths like Hadiya Pendleton, and there are some students involved in The Truth About Chicago’s Crime Rates, including a Harold Washington College student named Michelle Manalansan.

Read the story and let us know what you think.  Then go back and read the related story:  Even the Data Have a Bias. Cross-posted from D299.

Media: Colbert To Broadcast Move Probably Bad News For Education

ColbertThere's been lots of reaction to the news that Colbert is going to leave Comedy Central and replace Letterman on broadcast television, but what does it mean for attention to education on TV? 

For years now, Colbert has been riffing off of education issues, bringing education-related guests on the show, and generally making us all feel like we're involved in something interesting and important. Just this week, he did a fun bit on the Common Core.

A search of "Colbert" on this site generates 571 hits. Memorable interviews include Roland Fryer, Arne Duncan, Davis Guggenheim, and Wendy Kopp.

No one knows for sure, but the most likely impact of Colbert's move to broadcast TV -- and out of character -- is a lot less of that. Book authors are already bemoaning the dearth of interviews that they will likely face with Colbert's move. 

There will be much less time for wonky bits, and lots more celebrities and network shows that have to be promoted -- though, arguably, any references to education will be amplified by the comparatively large audience that Late Night gets.

Previous posts about Colbert here.


Morning Video: PBS NewsHour Visits P-Tech High


From last night's broadcast: "Why six years of high school might pay off in the workforce Hari Sreenivasan tells the story of Pathways in Technology Early College High School"

AM News: Now, Anyone Can Try Out Common Core Field Tests


Students are test-driving new Common Core exams. You can too Hechinger Report: You can try out sample tests that the test makers released to the public online and see for yourself if they boost your critical thinking skills. Here is a link to practice tests from PARCC, and from Smarter Balanced. Both groups also released individual sample problems previously.

A Plea to Move Forward From NY's Education Chief WNYC: "I hope that all of us — administrators, educators, parents and unions — can lay down our swords, soften the rhetoric, put aside the politics, and come together for the sake of our children," he said. See also ChalkbeatNY.

Arne Duncan urges New Yorkers to stick with Cuomo on teacher evals ChalkbeatNY: "I challenge you to support your governor as he challenges the status quo and tries to raise standards, raise expectations, and evaluate and support your teachers and principals,” Duncan said near the end of a brief speech at the National Action Network conference in New York City Wednesday night.

George W. Bush Defends No Child Left Behind AP: Former President George W. Bush has closed a three-day civil rights summit in Texas by saying education is the key for opportunity for poor and minority children and that he fears what he calls the 'soft bigotry' of low expectations is returning 50 years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act.

Tennessee Considers Parent Trigger Legislation Budget & Tax News: For several years, Tennessee parents and bipartisan legislators have worked to pass a Parent Trigger law to let families require reforms within.

9 killed when FedEx truck strikes bus carrying LA-areastudents Los Angeles Times:  LAUSD officials said students from Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Koreatown and ... Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. ... that all of our students recover,” L.A. Unified school board member Monica Garcia said.

CPS 'accounting adjustment' will increase funding to schools slightly; watchdog warns it's 'financially irresponsible' WBEZ Chicago: Despite looming pension payments, and as the district still reels from budget cuts and layoffs, Chicago Public Schools says it has found a way to slightly increase the amount schools get for each student next year.

Afternoon Video: Return to Montefiore Alternative School

Last week's premier episode of the VICE-produced documentary series "Last Chance High" was so rough it was hard to watch -- so be warned.  Here's this week's show.

Throwback Thursday (#TBT): My First Job

001 (22)
Throwback Thursday is a Facebook tradition in which people share pictures of themselves from the past -- usually as kids, teens, or young adults.  But nobody really wants to see that stuff from colleagues and counterparts, so I've come up with an adapted version that's a little bit more suitable for a work setting:  Throwback Thursday: First Job.

In Throwback Thursday: My First Job, people share images of themselves at their first job -- teacher, counselor, whatever.  In my case, my first two important jobs were (a) 7th and 10th grade English teacher at what is now Harvard-Westlake School in LA and (b) legislative aide (education, labor, immigration, health, women's issues) for newly-elected US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

A school yearbook picture of me doing the first job (circa 1989) is above.  An equally hard-to-believe-I-ever-looked-that-young picture of me working for Feinstein (circa 1995) is below the fold.  Take a look, enjoy them both, and then it's your turn. I don't want to find them on my own, but if I have to I will.

Continue reading "Throwback Thursday (#TBT): My First Job" »

Thompson: NYC Can Happen Here

ConformHow did we get here from there? How can an American democracy produce such a disgusting educational culture? How did schools in New York City sink so low?

OK,  it is sick enough that Eva Moskowitz's Success Academies fire students up to “SLAM the Exam” by rewarding them with basketballs and Converse sneakers for test-prep instruction. But, some people have always conformed to anything to get ahead.

As Chalkbeat New York's Patrick Walls reports, in With State Exams Underway Schools Turn from Test Prep to Test Pep, Chancellor Carmen Farina urged principals not to go overboard on test preparation. She said:

The best preparation for the test is a rich, thoughtful, engaging curriculum that awakens curiosity in students, inspires them to ask questions, helps them explore complex problems, and encourages them to imagine possibilities. We understand that the best classrooms are lively places where students are immersed in conversation, debating ideas, and developing perspectives and viewpoints.

Walls reports that some principals have heeded Farina's call and use humor or, even, yoga to reduce anxiety. But, "other schools prefer to psych students up rather than cool them down," and "some schools have spent weeks administering practice exams and reviewing test-taking strategies."

Though ostensibly liberated from a culture test prep, why do these principals continue with the most disgraceful legacies of “teaching to the test?” Why do they continue to indoctrinate children as if they are pets into a system of rewards and punishment?

Continue reading "Thompson: NYC Can Happen Here" »

Update: Spencer Fellowships Go To Lutton, Resmovits, & Kalita (Who?)

Christian gozales flickrAfter a bit of a delay to determine whether any of the awardees wanted to pursue alternative options, the newest Spencer Education Journalism Fellowships have been awarded to two familiar names -- Chicago Public Radio's Linda Lutton and HuffPost's Joy Resmovits -- and one unfamiliar one - S. Mitra Kalita (of Quartz & the WSJ).

What are they going to write about?  "Lutton plans to use her Spencer year creating a one-hour radio documentary examining the intersection of poverty and education through the lens of a high-poverty Chicago elementary school...Kalita will spend her Spencer Fellowship year reporting a book on school choice through the lens of one New York City neighborhood....  [Resmovits] will use the Spencer Fellowship to assess the state of education for American students with disabilities."

Read the full press announcement below. Image via Flickr.

Continue reading "Update: Spencer Fellowships Go To Lutton, Resmovits, & Kalita (Who?)" »

Morning Video: First Lady's Alma Mater Featured In New Documentary


This trailer describes both the history of the school itself and the stunning inadequacy of supply of seats given the talent and the demand.  Via CPS Obsessed.

AM News: Stressed Teachers; "So Long" From Sacramento


American Teachers Feel Really Stressed, And It's Probably Affecting Students HuffPost: Gallup’s State Of America’s Schools Report, released Wednesday, says nearly 70 percent of K – 12 teachers surveyed in a 2012 poll do not feel engaged in their work. The study said they are likely to spread their negative attitudes to co-workers and devote minimal discretionary effort to their jobs. See also Hechinger Report.

Sacramento Bails on NCLB Flexibility PK12: In a memo to staff today, interim Superintendent Sara Noguchi said, "It has become clear that [the district's] participation in the waiver from No Child Left Behind has impeded progress towards working more collaboratively to move our schools and classrooms forward." She referred to the waiver as a distraction. See also EdSource Today.

Testing help center 'inundated' with teacher calls KPCC LA: Last week, the help desk received an average of 637 calls each day from teachers asking for help with the new test, she said. Most were for basic problems setting up the tests.

'Value Added' Data Need Careful Analysis, Consideration, Statisticians' Group Says TeacherBeat: The American Statistical Association offers its take on the ever-controversial use of value-added methods in teacher evaluation.

Science teacher's suspension spurs petition drive LA Times: A popular Los Angeles high school science teacher has been suspended after students turned in projects that appeared dangerous to administrators, spurring a campaign calling for his return to the classroom. Cortines School's Greg Schiller was removed by L.A. Unified after two students' projects were deemed to resemble weapons.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Stressed Teachers; "So Long" From Sacramento" »

Afternoon Video: Stephen Colbert Attacks Then Endorses Common Core

At first, Colbert is outraged at the idea of common standards and anything being promoted by the Obama administration, but then he begins to change his mind. TeachingNow Via @benjaminriley.

#EdGif Of The Day: How Do You Fix A School System Whose Middle Class Is Disappearing?


Some cities like DC and Chicago and NYC are way more appealing than they used to be and gentrifying like mad despite the Great Recession, but that doesn't mean the middle class is coming back. Here's a GIF showing the disappearance of the middle class (in grey) since 1970 in Chicago, which has resulted in a highly segregated, extremely unequal city (and a public school system that is overwhelmingly poor and minority). Read some coverage here and here. The spreading green shape represents the affluent.

Evaluation: A Revolt Against The "Randomistas"?

Flickr Meghan Carnavalet In These TimesAre you an unapologetic "randomista" -- an advocate of randomized controlled trials as a way to mesure the impact of social interventions -- or do you dare to consider some of the drawbacks behind what's commonly called the "gold standard" for evaluations in edreform circles? This recent Slate article by Joshua Keating might help you decide: Randomized controlled trials: Do they work for economic development?.

RCTs are increasingly popular with the public and policymakers -- with TED Talks and New Yorker profiles -- but also expensive and difficult to implement, strip away key contextual information, and lack generalizability. They're also over-adored by politicians and journalists. "Media and policymakers tend to overstate the conclusions of randomized controlled trials," according to Keating.

The piece focuses on evaluation of international development but also contains an interesting story about randomized trials in education improvement efforts in education. Specifically, it tells the story of an attempt to figure out whether more textbooks or other interventions worked best in improving education outcomes. It turned out they didn't.  Better teaching strategies and health care did. Other examples cited in the piece include one that found school uniforms helped prevent teen pregnancy more than sex ed. Very Malcolm Gladwell.

I don't personally believe that research can prove things in social sciences, in part because of evaluation limitations (and time delays, etc.) but also because of the tendence of people to disbelieve research findings that don't comport with their beliefs.  If something's proven but the proof isn't accepted widely, then -- for a time at least -- the issue remains unsettled in the public debate.  That's why my research category on this site is titled (Who Cares What) Research says.  I feel a bit anti-intellectual in writing that, but I only mean to be pragmatic.

Image via Flickr.


Morning Video: White House Pushes Tech Solutions


Here's a clip from Politico's edtech event yesterday, featuring Kumar Garg from the OSTP. Full video here. Story link here.


AM News: LA Settles $60M Seniority Layoffs Lawsuit


L.A. Unified settles lawsuit over layoffs LA Times: Los Angeles school district officials announced a lawsuit settlement Tuesday that will provide $60 million in pay increases, services and staff at about three dozen schools, many hit hard by teacher layoffs. But the pact fails to deal with whether instructors should continue to be dismissed based on seniority. See also EdSource TodayLA Daily News.

Charter-School Fight Flares Up in Illinois WSJ: Hundreds of protesters filled the rotunda of the Illinois State Capitol on Tuesday denouncing nearly a dozen bills that would curb the growth of charter schools—the latest scuffle over expansion of the independently run public schools. See also WBEZ Chicago.

In Testimony, Arne Duncan Continues to Distance Himself From Common Core PK12: "I'm just a big proponent of high standards. Whether they're common or not is secondary," he told members of the House appropriations subcommittee that works on health, education, and other related issues.

Coalition launches to support New York’s Common Core rollout ChalkbeatNY: In a press release, the group said its goal is to combat “special interests’ attempt to delay the introduction of a new set of standards created and adopted by New York State teachers, parents, principals and state leaders in 2011.” 

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

Continue reading "AM News: LA Settles $60M Seniority Layoffs Lawsuit" »

Afternoon Video: Teacher Criticized, Then Defended For Classroom Takedown


An LAUSD teacher was initially criticized but is now being defended for his classroom takedown of a student, caught on cellphone camera last week. via LA Times.

Thompson: How Common Core Is Being Defeated In Oklahoma

The Common_Core_Standards_Pushback_0ab1cNPR report Common Core Turns Business Leaders Against Oklahoma GOP, by Claudio Sanchez, must be understood within the context of business conservatives and Christian Conservatives having turned the state into a bastion of Republicanism.

Just a few months ago, it was inconceivable that Oklahoma would repudiate Common Core, but now the Republican Governor and Republican State Superintendent, Chief for Change Janet Baressi, are getting clobbered by what Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman calls the “unfunded nightmare” that is Common Core.

Sanchez stresses the anger and political fear felt by conservative business Republicans in reaction to the grassroots assault on Common Core. He quotes Chamber of Commerce leader Mike Neal who derides the conservative Restore Oklahoma Public Education and others as “fringe groups.”

Neal rejects as fear-mongering the claims that Common Core is a federal scheme, that “private groups will mine and profit from test results,” and that it will undermine local control. But, isn’t there more truth in those statements than Neal’s claim that it won’t take local control away "at all?”

Neal’s opponent is Jenni White, a former teacher, a published epidemiologist, and a Christian with two adopted children from Zambia, as well as her biological children. In my conversations with Ms. White and other conservative opponents of Common Core at the State Capitol, I did not hide my support for President Obama (while opposing his education policy).  I would never judge Ms. White as a fringe element and I don’t believe she judged me either.

Continue reading "Thompson: How Common Core Is Being Defeated In Oklahoma" »

Quotes: Reform Critic Disdains "Unhealthy Vilification" Of Reform

Quotes2When we're competing, we're not collaborating. That's what I find most disturbing. We're fighting battles in court when we should be working together to figure out what works for our children. - Pedro Noguera, an education professor at New York University in the WSJ via Pondiscio.

Teachers: Union Membership - The "Other" Kind Of Opting Out

Nun_teacher Michael 1952 flickrIt's not just parents who can try to opt out of aspects of the education system that they don't approve of.  Teachers can do it, too.  

Specifically, they can opt out of being a member of the teacher's union, depending on the state.  And if more than 5 percent of teachers opt out of being part of the union, there are NCLB sanctions (no, just kidding).

Usually, teachers who decline to join the union still have to pay dues, but some of them apparently aren't down with that, either.

As noted in Politico recently, "Several California teachers have brought a separate case aimed at overturning a requirement that they pay the union partial dues to cover the cost of collective bargaining, even if they choose not to become union members.

"The plaintiffs, represented by the Center for Individual Rights, say the union often takes political stances they disagree with while negotiating a contract. They argue that it violates their First Amendment rights to force them to support those positions with their dues. The case is pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals."

As with parents opting out of standardized testing, the numbers of teachers opting out of unions or attempting to avoid having to pay dues are hard to pin down and likely very small.

Image via Flickr.

Morning Video: Obama Announces Grants For Real-World School Experiences


From the NYT. Story here.

AM News: Teachers Compromise In CA -- Seek More Clout In NY


New bill to streamline teacher dismissal process may succeed where others failed KPCC LA: The bill proposes that one administrative law judge hear egregious misconduct cases,  instead of a three-person panel.  It also calls for litigants to have no access to the Superior Court for suspension appeals.

New Head of StateTeachers Union Seeks Greater Political Clout WNYC: Magee told delegates over the weekend that she would be more vocal than her predecessor: “It is time for NYSUT to exert itself as a powerful political force once again."

Obama Announces Grants to Schools to Integrate Work Experiences NYT: President Obama traveled to a high school in the Washington suburbs on Monday to announce the winners of $107 million in grants intended to update curriculums to better integrate work experiences and real-world learning opportunities. See also KPCC LA, ChalkbeatNY.

Duncan urges top students to teach at GW panel Washington Post: The event Monday was part of a recruitment program — TEACH — that is planned to extend to 21 college campuses to encourage high-achieving students to pursue professions in education. TEACH pairs the Education Department with national education organizations, teacher associations and corporations such as Microsoft and State Farm in working to recruit future educators.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Teachers Compromise In CA -- Seek More Clout In NY" »

Afternoon Video: New Series Looks Inside Alternative High School


Be warned, this new documentary series from VICE about a "last chance" alternative school in Chicago is VERY rough to watch, even if you've watched a bunch of these. 

Charts: How About "New Jersey Is The New Finland"?

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comOver at Mother Jones, Kevin Drum suggests that we might be better off comparing our schools to New Jersey or even Massachusetts (Is it Time to Replace the Cult of Finland With the Cult of New Jersey?) and considers some tough cultural questions about why observers point to Finland instead of Shanghai (no, it's not about the sample).

Quotes: Rhee Takes On Testing "Opt-Outers"

Quotes2Tests serve many purposes: They chart progress. They identify strengths and weaknesses. They help professionals reach competency in their careers. All these measures are critical to improving public schools. -- Michelle Rhee in the Washington Post.

Morning Video: "All Ivy League" Kid Makes Letterman Appearance

"Top Ten Ways To Make Your College Application Stand Out" as presented by Kwasi Enin, who has been accepted into all 8 Ivy League schools.

AM News: CA Teacher Dismissal Deal; NY Ousts Union Head

News2Deal announced on teacher dismissal bill that governor would support EdSource Today:  Most of the big changes in Assembly Bill 215 would apply only to charges of egregious misconduct – acts that would include sexual abuse, child abuse and some drug crimes. 

State teachers union president defeated with UFT support Chalkbeat: The state teachers union got a new president and issued a long-threatened attack on the State Education Department during a dramatic meeting in New York City this weekend. It was the first time in the union’s 42-year history that a sitting president was ousted.

NY teachers unions spent $4.8M on lobbying in 2013 NY Post via Chalkbeat: The city’s United Federation of Teachers spent $2.6 million and the New York State United Teachers spent $2.2 million to push their agenda in Albany and at City Hall. Key issues last year included the Common Core curriculum and teacher evaluations. In all, clients spent a rec­ord $191 million to lobby, up from $180 million in 2012.

Why Education Startups Rarely Go Public BuzzFeed: Take, for instance, the ed-tech startup Chalkable. Founded by Michael Levy and Zoly Honig, Chalkable’s aim was to displace Blackboard. Honig told BuzzFeed that he and Levy felt Blackboard’s system was weak and that they could do a better job with the technology. They designed what is essentially an app store for learning tools, allowing teachers to easily search and integrate top programs.

Common Core Turns Business Leaders Against Oklahoma GOP NPR: Mike Neal gets annoyed when he talks about politicians in his state. Just three years ago, when the Common Core State Standards for education were implemented, no one had a problem with them, says Neal, president of the Tulsa, Okla., Regional Chamber of Commerce. 

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

Continue reading "AM News: CA Teacher Dismissal Deal; NY Ousts Union Head" »

Afternoon Video: Detroit Career Tech School Teaches Flying

"Devote three minutes to watching this, and see if it doesn't affect your view of the innovation and commitment underway in places or systems usually written off as struggling or troubled," writes The Atlantic's James Fallows about Davis Aerospace (A High School That Teaches Students to Fly).

Reform: Andy Smarick Is The New Mike Petrilli?

In case you missed it, image from www.edexcellence.netFordham's Pamela Tatz published a BuzzFeed "Which Reformer Are You?" quiz the other day. The tagline:  "Saving the education system, one irrelevant question at a time."

These quizzes are wildly popular on Facebook, etc. -- and self-effacing humor (something reformers don't always convey) goes a long way.  Figures that Fordham would get in on it -- they're smart (and love attention).

If you haven't taken it already you should give it a try. (Doesn't really mean you're a reformer if you do.) Nearly 700 folks have already done so and shared the results on Twitter or Facebook.  But be forewarned: you'll probably end up being Andy Smarick.  The other options were Rick Hess, Michelle Rhee, David Coleman, Arne Duncan, or Diane Ravitch (which took some unusual answering). "A lot of folks did seem to get Andy Smarick," said Tatz via email.

Here's the Fordham page about the quiz. And click below to see the snarky writeups for each of the profiles (Smarick, Hess, Rhee, Coleman, Duncan, and Ravitch), which sound like they were written by .... Petrilli.

Continue reading "Reform: Andy Smarick Is The New Mike Petrilli?" »

Thompson: Bill Moyers Interviews Diane Ravitch

MoyersWhat do you get when you combine Bill Moyers and Diane Ravitch? WISDOM!

Both are among the all-time greats of their professions. During the Iraq War, I sometimes tried to duck Moyers' reports because he spoke more truth than I wanted to handle.  Similarly, as Ravitch assembles her case that test-driven accountability had morphed into "corporate reform," I'm often afraid of her message. But, Ravitch and Moyers do their homework before speaking the truths that I sometimes don't want to confront.   

Moyers began his PBS Public Schools for Sale by reviewing the $3-1/2 million dollar campaign against populist Mayor Bill de Blasio. He cited the New York Times' report that de Blasio was "even dialing up billionaires to ask for a truce." Moyers' said that what is at stake is the future of public education.

Ravitch warned that within a decade public education could be dead in cities like Detroit, New Orleans, Washington D.C., Kansas City, and Indianapolis. I've long worried about the same thing happening in my Oklahoma City. As choice in a time of cutthroat competition grows, it is easy to see how traditional public schools in those cities could become nothing more than "dumping grounds for the children that charters don't want."  Those are hard words, but can anyone on any side of our reform wars deny that the danger Ravitch describes is very real? 

Ravitch then articulated the single best principle for helping poor children of color, "Aim for equity and you get excellence."

Continue reading "Thompson: Bill Moyers Interviews Diane Ravitch" »

Quotes: A Parent Complains About Low-Level Busy Work

Quotes2Dear my child's teacher: Don't you dare download a "study guide packet" filled with low-level comprehension questions from a failing school district and hand it to my kid as busy work because you aren't well planned (or worse, because you don't know what's important for 5th grade readers to be working on). It's not OK for my kid or any kid. - Cleveland parent (via Facebook)

EdTech: Startups On Track To Raise $2B Despite Challenges

HiresWhat's super-hard to pull off but really attractive to venture capitalists? Edtech, apparently. 

Creating and sustaining a successful startup is not nearly as easy as it may look, as described recently in EdWeek, focusing on Edthena & Autism Expressed. 

And yet, edtech startups raised over $500M in just the first quarter of 20014, according to TechCrunch, which mentions AltSchool, Schoology,as well as TeachersPayTeachers.

Image courtesy TechChrunch.

AM News: What Next For DC Public Schools?


D.C. mayoral primary has Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson’s future up in the air Washington Post: “No disaster has happened — not here, at least,” Henderson said in an interview Wednesday shortly after calling her staff together to reassure them that she remains committed to her job and that the election does not change anything — at least not immediately. “We’re still building a world-class education system for children in D.C., and so we’re going to keep doing that.”

Can Free College Save American Cities? Politico: Nearly a decade—and some $50 million—later, the effects of the Kalamazoo Promise experiment in using education as a redevelopment engine are now coming into view. And though stubborn challenges remain, so too is a different Kalamazoo. Eight similar scholarship plans were announced within a year of the Kalamazoo Promise, and today, the tally of plans inspired by the experiment in Southwest Michigan has topped 30 nationwide

Common Core emerges as potent election issue for fed-up parents Fox News: U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who faces a primary challenge from four candidates, wasn't even aware of the Common Core when asked about it at a Republican Party meeting last year. Yet he recently sponsored a Senate resolution that strongly criticized it and called on the Administration to back down.

Report: Foundation funding widens the gap between California's 'rich' and 'poor' schools KPCC LA: Some Northern California public school foundations are raising additional funds of about $2,000 per student. Researchers say that figure is a significant addition to the roughly $8,000 per student the state gives public schools each year. California's current level of per pupil spending is the second lowest in the country.

Research on Children and Math: Underestimated and Unchallenged NYT: New research suggests that kindergarteners are capable of learning more advanced math concepts than are offered in most classrooms.

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

Continue reading "AM News: What Next For DC Public Schools?" »

Quotes: There Will Be Glitches

Quotes2Will there be glitches? Absolutely, in fact one reason for administering a field test is to figure out where the bugs are, so we have time to work them out before the actual tests next year. -- CCSSO's Chris Minnich in HuffPost (A Big Step Toward a Worthy Goal)

Pretty Charts: Principals Don't Spend Much Time On Instruction

image from www.edweek.orgTotal instructional time: less than 13 percent, according to this Education Week story.  


Events: Yale Education Summit Features Fuller & Duncan-Andrade

ScreenHunter_01 Mar. 25 16.50Another week, another conference. Next up for me is the Yale SOM Education Leadership Conference held in New Haven today and tomorrow.

Notable panelists include Matt Candler, Founder and CEO, 4.0 Schools, Jim Balfanz, President, City Year, Jonathan Gyurko, Co-Founder, Leeds Global Partners, Dave Low, Vice President - High Schools & School Reform, New Haven Federation of Teachers, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, President & CEO, Community Coalition (LA), Ken Wong, Professor of Education, Brown University, Patrick Larkin, Assistant Superintendent, Burlington Public Schools (MA). Keynote speakers at the 8th version of this event are Dr. Howard Fuller and Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade.

There will also be an edtech lab (3D printers for everyone!?) and a bunch of event sponsors, and a lot of recruitment and hiring going on behind the scenes.  As always, feel free to come up and say hi if you see me there. Or follow along on Twitter (@YaleELC).

Previous posts: Live From The Yale SOM Education Conference (2009); Yale Conference Takeaways (2010); Notes From Yale SOM 2011;  Big Shift In Focus For Yale Education Event (2012), Tweets From Yale 2013How Organizers See The Parent Trigger.


Maps: Indiana Stands Alone (For Common Core Reversal)

Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 9.55.49 AMThe black-colored state is Indiana, which just formally withdrew from Common Core (though it's developing standards and assessments that will mirror them). Via EdWeek . Click below for the full version of the map and explanations.

Continue reading "Maps: Indiana Stands Alone (For Common Core Reversal)" »

AM News: NY's Fariña Digs At "Opt-Out" Parents; DC's Henderson In Limbo


Fariña: Let’s respect those who opt out—and those who are “ready for the challenge” Chalkbeat: Chancellor Carmen Fariña took a subtle shot at the growing number of parents who are opting their children out of this month’s state tests, noting that other parents are sending their students to school because they think they’re “ready for the challenge.”

D.C. Voters Toss Mayor Gray in Primary, Raising Questions About Schools District Dossier: Bowser, throughout the primary campaign, was steadfastly noncommittal about whether she would keep Henderson at the helm if she wins the election. And Catania, who chairs the council's education committee, has frequently criticized Henderson over a number of issues.

Achievement gap persists, even among high-performing students, report says EdSource Today:  Despite the strong start, the EdTrust report found that the high-achievers from low-income families, as well as those who were black and Latino, graduated with lower GPAs, posted lower scores on the SAT and ACT, and had lower passage rates on rigorous Advanced Placement exams than high-achieving white students or students from more advantaged backgrounds. High-achieving students of color were also less likely to enroll in selective colleges than their white peers, the report said.

Enrollment Declines At University Of Phoenix — Again BuzzFeed: Declining enrollment at the University of Phoenix and missed revenue targets sent shares of for-profit education company Apollo Education Group tumbling more than 6% in after-hours trading following its second quarter earnings report Tuesday.

Peabody Awards Shine Light on Struggling High Schools WNYC: The 2014 Peabody Awards honored three reports about schools facing poverty, crime and serious educational challenges (Harper High School, 180 Days, and Best Kept Secret). 

 More news below and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso.

Continue reading "AM News: NY's Fariña Digs At "Opt-Out" Parents; DC's Henderson In Limbo" »

Media: Documentaries About Chicago & DC High Schools Win Peabodies

image from www.peabodyawards.comThis year's Peabody Awards include This American Life's Harper High School (featuring Chicago Public Radio's Linda Lutton and Alex Kotlowitz, among others) and PBS's 180 Days: A Year Inside an American High School -- both of which you've read and heard about on this page. 

Congrats to all for the much-deserved recognition. However, the celebration is necessarily bittersweet, given the difficult lives that are being chronicled. (Or, as Lutton put it on her Facebook page, "I would trade every prize in the world for them to live in a different reality.")

Update: Not Quitting Blogging, Not Doing TFA

Thanks for all the responses to my early April Fool's joke, which seemed to have been enjoyed widely.

Flickr daniel blume

Longtime readers will recognize that fake news is nothing new from me (usually tagged "Made-Up News" and presented tongue in cheek). In 2006, I claimed to have found a copy of the reorganization plan being developed for the Chicago Board of Education. In 2o1o, I had Stephen Colbert starting a for-profit chain of K-12 schools to go along with his just-announced Stephen Colbert University. I also announced the creation of a spinoff version of A&E's cable reality show, Intervention, called "Classroom Intervention." In 2011, I made up/predicted the left/right joining of forces against"Obamaschool" (including a joint appearance between Diane Ravitch and Sarah Palin that has yet to happen). I've also had Duncan contracting swine flu, and Spitzer call girl Ashley Dupre as a homeschooled TFA alum.

As always, the motivation is to amuse and provoke insight and skepticism, not to embarrass anyone.  Image via Flickr.

Bruno: The Homework Dilemma From A Teacher's Point of View

image from paulbruno1.typepad.comWe seem to have arrived at another peak in the HAC [Homework Angst Cycle], with much hand-wringing about whether kids these days are over-burdened or under-challenged by homework.

The progress of the HAC seems to be more-or-less unrelated to actual changes in quantities of homework assigned. And analyses of homework burdens often seem limited by an over-reliance on the perspectives of students and parents.

Students and parents are, of course, affected by homework. The individuals most immediately responsible for assigning homework, however, are teachers. 

And from a teacher's point of view, the "homework dilemma" is relatively straightforward and is rooted mostly in two decisions we are required to make: how much homework to assign and the extent to which it should impact students' grades.

To help illustrate the teacher's dilemma, I put together a simple chart and explain it below.

Continue reading "Bruno: The Homework Dilemma From A Teacher's Point of View" »

Charts: Outside Fundraising Undercuts School Equity In SF (& Elsewhere)

image from edsource.org

Reform critics like to highlight outside fundraising as a charter-only issue, but  this chart and article from EdSource Today shows that private fundraising is a major equity issue among district schools in SF (and by all accounts in other cities as well). 

Thompson: 25,000 Rally for Education in Oklahoma

Rally I was one of 25,000 to 30,000 teachers, students, and parents rallying at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

No, this is not an April Fool's joke!

After education spending was cut more than any other state, while the full load of test-driven reforms were imposed, we are pushing back. Despite attacks by the Daily Oklahoman and some legislators on teachers for "abandon(ing) their posts ... for no good reason," the rally showed that public education supporters aren't going to take it anymore.

Signs protesting nonstop testing and budget cuts were everywhere. The Tulsa World's Kim Archer, in Rally for School Funding Draws 25,000 Teachers, Parents, Students, reports that two students, Erika Vinson and Asher Nees, "both spoke eloquently about how teachers have changed their lives."

Vinson compared teachers to gardeners who "have more flowers to look after with fewer resources in drought-like conditions." She explained the stress that high-stakes testing puts students, especially 3rd graders.  She proclaimed, "I am, not —absolutely not — the end-of-instruction tests."

Jeffrey Corbett, president of the Oklahoma Parent Teacher Association, echoed the opposition to the testing mania. He said, "It is time for the era of standardized testing as the dominant force in education to end."

John Tuttle, president-elect of the National School Boards Association, even used the P-word, opposing efforts to "privatize" public schools, "I believe that public education is a civil right and the cornerstone of our democracy." 

Continue reading "Thompson: 25,000 Rally for Education in Oklahoma" »

Morning Videos: States Tackle Universal Preschool & Teacher Job Protections


Two PBS NewsHour segments -- first preschool, then (below) teacher tenure in CA and elsewhere.

Continue reading "Morning Videos: States Tackle Universal Preschool & Teacher Job Protections" »

AM News: US Students Good (But Not Great) At Problem-Solving


American Students Test Well in Problem Solving, but Trail Foreign Counterparts NYT: Fifteen-year-olds in the United States scored above the average of those in the developed world on exams assessing problem-solving skills, but they trailed several countries in Asia and Europe as well as Canada, according to international standardized tests results released on Tuesday. See also Seattle Times, PBS NewsHour.

States looking to expand preschool confront debate over results PBS NewsHour: Around the country, 30 governors are proposing the expansion of preschool programs in their states. But what makes a pre-K program sufficiently educational? And how will the U.S. pay for these programs? Special correspondent John Tulenko of Learning Matters examines the debate over the value and the cost.

Teacher tenure rules are in state of flux across the nation PBS NewsHour: More than a dozen states have changed their tenure laws in the last few years. The Education Commission of the States found that as of 2011, 18 state legislatures had modified their tenure laws and that trend continues.

Bill Aims to Boost Growth of High-Quality Charter Schools; Cross-Aisle Support Seen PK12:  States and districts would be encouraged to help grow high-quality charter schools—and ensure that they enroll and retain English-language learners and students in special education—under a rare, bipartisan bill introduced Tuesday by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the panel.

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

Continue reading "AM News: US Students Good (But Not Great) At Problem-Solving" »

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image from demos.org

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


Thompson: LA School Report Misstates On Vergara Lawsuit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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.