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Thompson: Ta-Nehisi Coates & School Reform

image from ecx.images-amazon.comToni Morrison rightly compares Ta-Nehisi Coates to James Baldwin. I hope teachers and education policy makers will read Coates Between the World and Me, and consider its obvious implications for school improvement. I do not want to drag his beautiful book, a touching letter to his son, into our vicious school reform wars. Instead, I will review some of the key parts of Coates’s wisdom that can inform our practice and education policy, and mostly leave our education civil war to another day.

I would think that teachers would be thrilled to have a politically conscious student like Coates. Surely most of us would welcome the creative insubordination of a high school student who would quote Nas and challenge us with the idea “schools where I learned they should be burned, it is poison.”  After all, teachers and education policy-makers should all wrestle with Coates’s indictment of schools for “drugging us with false morality.”

At times, however, class discussions involving Coates could easily become uncomfortable. He “was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests.” Moreover, “if the streets shackled my right leg, the schools shackled my left. Fail to comprehend the streets and you gave up on your body now. But fail to comprehend the schools and you gave up your body later.” If that doesn’t hit too close to home, Coates adds that he resented school more than the streets.

Schools are supposed to be a “means of escape from death and penal warehousing.” But, too often, educators don’t understand what it takes for poor children of color to avail themselves of that escape hatch. For instance, he recalls that “each day, fully one-third of my brain was concerned with who I was walking to school with, our precise number, the manner of our walk, the number of times I smiled, who or what I smiled at, who offered a pound and who did not.”

Coates knew he was being robbed of that third of his consciousness, and that education should enrich his entire mind.  But, he felt that school “had no time for the childhoods of black boys and girls.” Coates found himself “unfit for the schools, and in good measure wanting to be unfit for them.”

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Quotes: Fixing "Someone Else's Schools"

Quotes2If people like their local schools, regardless of what they think about schools nationally, they’re not going to be very likely to vote based on that issue...They’re not going to vote for someone just because that candidate is going to fix a problem with someone else’s schools.

-- Urban Institute senior fellow Matt Chingos in the LA Times (The problem with making education a campaign issue)

Morning Video: Suprise! Discrimination Against LGBTQ Workers Still Legal

HBO's John Oliver picked up where others left off, pointing out how unprotected workers (ie, teachers, principals, parents, administrators) are against discrimination based on sexual preference in 31 states.

AM News: Schools Struggle To Help Latinos To Close ACT Gap

Latinos struggle to close gap with whites in California ACT scores LAT: Across the country, the class of 2015 stagnated, with 40% of the 1.9 million test takers showing what the organization calls "strong readiness," according to results released Wednesday. In California, 30% of the class of 2015 took the test. California students overall outperformed their peers nationally. While 28% of students across the country met all four ACT targets, intended to represent college success, 37% of California's test takers did so.

California study finds teachers aren't connecting students to what colleges expect KPCC LA: The good news, Venezia said, is that educators say the Common Core has injected more optimism and professionalism into the classroom.

Parents' Teacher Tenure Challenge Heads Back to Court WNYC: Judge Philip Minardo appeared to listen with skepticism. Referring to the legislature's changes, which took effect in April, he asked the defendants, "Did they really do something or are they just massaging this?"

Study Tracks Vast Racial Gap In School Discipline In 13 Southern States NPR: The researchers examined more than 3,000 school districts in those states. In 132 of those districts, they found, the suspension and expulsion rates of blacks were off the charts, with suspension rates far greater than their representation in the student body. See also Slate, PBS NewsHour.

Teacher ranks shrink, skew white and less experienced in report Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:  Over a five-year period that included the near-elimination of collective bargaining in Wisconsin’s public schools, the teacher workforce in metro Milwaukee is smaller, less experienced and still largely white, according to a new report.

Why Some in Education Believe Truancy Deserves Much More Attention Washington Post: "Education has long been seen as the means to prosperity, but that only happens if students attend school regularly,” says a report that CAP, a left-leaning think tank that is associated with the Obama administration, released Tuesday.

Newark Schools See Red Ink WSJ: Cerf disclosed the budget gap in his first appearance before the Newark Schools Advisory Board. His predecessor, Cami Anderson, stopped attending the group’s monthly meetings about a year and a half ago. Facing critics demanding her ouster, she said the often raucous board meetings had devolved into personal attacks.

Survey: Majority of Americans like the way school lunches have changed Seattle Times: A W.K. Kellogg Foundation survey found that most Americans support the three-year-old nutrition standards, while 67 percent said the nutritional quality of food served in school cafeterias is excellent or good.

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

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Thompson: Tulsa Cuts Testing Time Fifty-Four Percent!

The Tulsa Public Schools has reduced the time that teachers and students must spend on testing by 54%, or by more than 72 hours. The Tulsa World’s Nour Habib, in Tulsa Public Schools Says District-Mandated Testing Time to be Reduced by 54%, reports that, “The decision to reduce district-mandated tests is based on recommendations from a task force of teachers that was put together last year to study the issue of overtesting in the district. Teacher representatives from all grades were selected based on recommendations by principals and from the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association.”

Habib also quotes Shawna Mott-Wright, vice president of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association who says, “We are just ecstatic, over the moon. … We really appreciate all of the work that the testing task force did, and we super appreciate and are very grateful for Dr. [Deborah] Gist listening.”

The reduction of testing is doubly important because it follows the testing cutbacks initiated by the state. The Oklahoma Department of Education was limited by law from making major reductions, but State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has been clear in explaining why we must "push the reset button" on testing.  

Fundamentally, the reconsideration of testing was prompted by a grassroots Opt Out movement of parents, as well as the superintendents of the state’s major school systems. The Tulsa task force was formed after two elementary school teachers made national headlines for refusing to administer “high-stakes student surveys and tests.” Sadly, those two heroes, Nikki Jones and Karen Hendren, are no longer with the TPS. Even more disappointing is the way that Jones tried to remain with the system but every time she would hear that the principal would like to hire her, but that “they had to ‘represent the district.’”

So, the cutback will not in itself stop the cycle of test, sort, reward, and punish. Tulsa doesn’t seem to have much to show from its multimillion dollar Gates Foundation “teacher quality” grant, and as long as it takes the foundation’s money, it will be pressured to continue to impose bubble-in accountability. And, Tulsa has seen 20% of its teachers "exit" in the last 14 months.

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Quotes: David Simon On Whites & Integration

Quotes2White people, by and large, are not very good at sharing physical space or power or many other kinds of social dynamics with significant numbers of people of color. It’s been documented time and time again.

- David Simon in ProPublica (Show Me a Hero)

Morning Video: Hunger Strike To Save Neighborhood School

 

Via HuffPost. Or, watch an MSNBC segment on The Seventy Four, which has been criticized by the HuffPost for being a softball interview (which it was).

AM News: High Opt-Out NY Won't Receive USDE Punishment

Department of Education Won't Punish N.Y. for High Opt-Outs, Report Says PK12: Federal law requires each school to test at least 95 percent of its students or else the district or state could face sanctions. See also NYT.

Two Polls Span Two Poles On Testing NPR: Does the public support or oppose federal standardized tests? Depends how you ask. See also LA Times: When Parents Are Asked Multiple-Choice Questions More white Americans dislike standardized testing than blacks and Latinos, according to a new poll. Also EdWeek.

Analysis Finds Higher Expulsion Rates for Black Students NYT: While black students represented just under a quarter of public school students in the 13 Southern states studied, they made up nearly half of all suspensions and expulsions.

Did Obama come through for New Orleans schools after Katrina? Hechinger Report: Overall, though, test scores, per pupil spending, and state rankings have all surpassed pre-Katrina levels. The Obama administration has doled out billions of dollars in federal funding to rebuild and repair Gulf coast schools... We rate Obama’s efforts in education as a Promise Kept.

Eight States Add Citizenship Test as Graduation Requirement EdWeek: Advocates have plans to push more state legislatures to pass laws requiring high schoolers to pass a citizenship test in order to graduate in coming years.

Tim Cook on Apple's Initiative to Change Lives in the Classroom ABC: Robin Roberts sat down with Apple CEO to discuss how the company is changing the way children learn in the classroom.

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

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Site News: Gone Fishing (In Boston) - Back Tuesday

Screen shot 2013-08-26 at 12.16.21 PMNo offense, but there's nothing much I like about Boston except that my mom and sister both live there, and it's my mom's birthday on Friday.

So that's where I am, and not here sharing the day's best news and commentary with you like I usually do.

But not to worry -- all things go as planned I'll be back on Tuesday, bright and early. 

Meantime, check out RealClear Education, Politico's Morning Education roundup, or Larry Ferlazzo's blog and tweets for lots of good stuff to keep you going.

Charts: Strong Public Support For Annual Testing - But Not Common Core

image from blogs.edweek.orgAccording to EdWeek, Education Next's latest poll Shows Strong Support for Annual Testing but "slipping public support for Common Core State Standards."

Quotes: How "Common Core" Got Poisoned

Quotes2The term ‘Common Core’ is so darned poisonous, I don’t even know what it means.

- Jeb Bush quoted in this Washington Post editorial (The right and left poison Common Core with inflammatory rhetoric)

 

Here's the first of a weeklong series "Rethinking College" that the PBS NewsHour is running, this one focusing on why first generation and low-income students tend to drop out even when tuition has been taken care of. Transcript is here.

AM News: Sanders Agrees To Meet With McKesson & Other Activists

Bernie Sanders Will Meet DeRay Mckesson & Other Black Lives Matter Activists Bustle: Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson tweeted at Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Monday, telling him that his racial justice platform had "promise" and asking whether he would be available to discuss it in more detail. In a brief reply just two hours later, Sanders agreed to meet with Mckesson and other civil rights activists. 

Machinists Union Members Outraged Over Hillary Clinton Endorsement In These Times: The IAM's justification of their endorsement this early in the presidential race mirrors the remarks made by AFT president Randi Weingarten shortly after her union's endorsement. “If you want to shape something, you get in before the primaries,” she said.

Opt-Out Movement Draws 'Little Public Sympathy' in New Poll District Dossier: A new poll from Education Next also revealed slipping public support for the Common Core State Standards, charter schools, and teacher tenure, but backers of those policies continue to outnumber opponents.

States Gaining a Say on School Accountability EdWeek: Whether a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act makes it over the finish line this year, the federally driven accountability system at the heart of the law seems destined to go the way of the Blockbuster video. 

L.A. Unified looks for smoother tech operations this school year LA Times: Getting students into the right classroom on the first day of school is a modest goal. But it's a huge improvement over last year, when thousands of students in the Los Angeles Unified School District were left without class assignments and teachers couldn't even take roll. Officials this week are trying to right two major technology debacles: a malfunctioning records system and a now-abandoned plan to provide iPads to all students. As schools opened Tuesday, officials are hopeful that they've turned the corner on their technology fiascoes. See also KPCC LA.

Five digital games finding a place in the classroom Miami Herald: The game's widespread popularity and success with K-12 students is described in “The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter,” a recent book on digital games by USA Today national education reporter Greg Toppo.

Study Finds Education Does Not Close Racial Wealth Gap NPR: New research by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows education does not help black and Hispanic college graduates protect their wealth the same way it does for their white and Asian counterparts.

Letters: The Teacher Shortage NYT: Readers discuss why teachers have left the profession and fewer want to enter it.

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

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Quotes: Black Children Going To School For 12 Years

Quotes2Violence is Black children going to school for 12 years and receiving 6 years worth of education.

-- Julian Bond, former NAACP head who just passed away.

Thompson: A NOLA Middle Ground

John Merrow, in Deciphering Schooling in New Orleans, Post-Katrina, writes that he hasn’t seen enough people take the middle ground when discussing the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans's school reform. He also remembers the city's schools as so bad, pre-Katrini, that one had to "steal electricity from other buildings and utility poles because its own wiring was inadequate—probably rotted through.  And the schools, many of them, were violent and dangerous places."
 
I mostly see middle ground in reports on the New Orleans competition-driven reforms, with NPR Marketplace's series on the debate being the latest example. In fact, most of the panelists in the Education Research Alliance conference, where Douglas Harris released research on the test-driven, choice-driven outcomes, were squarely in the middle ground of the discussions. Harris's conclusions were seen as too rosy by many (or most?) of those moderate experts.
 
But, advocates for the New Orleans model of reform had to be upset by these findings and discussions. Harris, and others who are impressed by much of the New Orleans's outcomes, have hardly found evidence in support of other school systems trying to replicate its market-driven, outcomes-driven approach. 
 
I wish we could focus on what actually worked in New Orleans and what didn't work, what methods could be improved and what should be rejected, and discuss lessons for systemic improvements of schools and systems. Such a conversation must wait, however, until we educators who oppose corporate reform beat back the well-funded campaign to impose test, sort, reward, and punish across urban America. As long as teacher-bashing organizations like The 74 seek to break our unions and destroy the due process rights of educators, we must concentrate on exposing the falsehoods intertwined in the reformers' spin about the supposed glories of New Orlean's charters.
 
Teachers have other things to do rather than criticize reforms that help students. For instance, we welcome the extra counselors who helped raise graduation rates across the nation, and that are the likely reason why New Orleans's graduation rates and college-going rates increased. Educators oppose the hastily implemented silver bullets that have backfired, damaged public schools, undermined our profession and, above all, hurt a lot of students.

Continue reading "Thompson: A NOLA Middle Ground" »

Walcott & Bradford: Folks Who Resemble Each Other & Are Both In Education

11892058_10153387018910218_8606453158210258242_n (1)Folks that look somewhat alike (usually a civilian and a celebrity) aren't that hard to find or think up.

Folks who look alike and are both in education, that's fun.

For example, that's NY-CAN's Derrell Bradford on the left and Dennis Walcott on the right. 

Some other #edudopplegangers out there? Joel Klein and Louisiana schools consultant Bill Attea, according to Peter Cook. Conor Williams and Glee teacher Matthew Morrison, according to Williams' colleagues.

Not sure who your lookalike might be? Just ask! We might have some ideas.

Extra points if the pair come from opposite sides of the education spectrum. 

Or, if you don't care about whether it's in education or not, there's a doppleganger-finding app/website out there now.

Used with permission. #Edu-Dopplegangers15

Related posts: Education Dopplegangers (2010)

Charts: Preliminary Test Results From 4 States Better Than Expected

"All four of these states [Missouri, West Virginia, Oregon and Washington] did better than that field test on the English exam and all but West Virginia and Missouri’s eighth graders improved on the math exam... The drops in their scores from old state exams were much smaller than the 30-plus percentage points declines in New York and Kentucky." (The surprising initial results from a new Common Core exam).  Used with permission.

Morning Video: Florida Re-Segregation Story Gets PBS & NPR Treatment

"Last year 95 percent of the black children failed standardized reading and math tests, and 52 percent of teachers asked for a job transfer" in this not particularly poor district with kids who weren't particularly behind in terms of school readiness (PBS NewsHour Florida schools get failing grade due to re-segregation, investigation finds). See also NPR: Staggering Figures Behind Some Troubled Schools.

Or, if you feel like something different, check out this NBC News segment on the rise of the Chromebook and other lower-cost computing devices in schools and homes (Low-Cost Computing Promises Connectivity for All)

AM News: WA State's Inequitable Funding, NY State's Opt-Out Quandry

Washington state gets failing grade on school funding AP: Washington state is being fined $100,000 a day by the state Supreme Court because justices say lawmakers have failed to adequately pay to educate the state's 1 million school children.... See also PBS NewsHour.

Test-Refusal Movement’s Success Hampers Analysis of New York State Exam Results NYT: With 20 percent opting out this year, some statisticians say it is hard to determine whether students improved over all from last year. See also Politico NY.

LAUSD raises more allegations against Rafe Esquith after teacher files lawsuit KPCC LA: The Los Angeles Unified School District this week raised additional allegations against renowned teacher Rafe Esquith, stating it is investigating whether the educator inappropriately touched children, among other new issues. Esquith's attorney said the latest allegations are false.

Racial Wealth Gap Persists Despite Degree, Study Says NYT: New research shakes the long-held belief that higher education clears a path to financial equality for blacks and Hispanics, and contends that the problem is deeply rooted and persistent.

When A Budget Motel Is 'Home,' There's Little Room For Childhood NPR: In San Bernardino County, nearly one-tenth of public school students are homeless. For many, that means living in rundown motels — and coping with troubling conditions long before they get to class.

Cops in schools: Way to rebuild community trust in law enforcement? CS Monitor: After growing steadily for decades, the trend accelerated in the wake of school shootings such as the one at Columbine High in Colorado. Today, more than 19,000 police officers are now employed full time in American schools.

New Orleans Schools, 10 Years After Katrina: Beacon Or Warning? NPR: The system has shown the largest, fastest improvement of any district in the nation, and yet it still ranks second from the bottom in the state.

Former Sen. Tom Harkin Endorses Hillary Clinton, Says She's a "Champion" For Kids PK12: The op-ed comes as Democratic presidential nominee contender Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., continues to draw tens of thousands of supporters to speeches across the country and is rising in the polls.

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

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Charts: Just 17 Pct. Of White Kids Attend Majority-Minority School

Enrollment at Majority-Minority Schools

"Even while school-age children as a whole have become more diverse, most white students still attend largely white schools." Pew Center ("5 facts about America’s students) via BRIGHT

Update: Re-Segregation & Recovery In Pinellas County, Florida

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com
Earlier this week over at The Grade, I shared out an amazing set of graphics showing the dramatic impact of one Florida County's abandonment of integration efforts.

All by itself, the slides told a powerful, clear story about the resegregation of some racially isolated schools and the academic consequences that followed. My favorite -- the red lines showing a cluster of schools becoming more racially isolated over time -- is above.

Now there's a beautifully-rendered 5,200-word feature story to go along with the graphics, all from the Tampa Bay Times, including both the sad challenges that these schools and students have experienced and recent attempts to make things better.

Related posts: Steal This School Segregation Story

Morning Video: Summer Sitcom Features (Another) Reluctant Teacher

The August show, featuring Craig Robinson (from The Office) features wacky characters but maybe not the most uplifting of themes. Check out the promo above. Or if you want a more optimistic version of the same kind of story -- now streaming on Netflix, etc. -- watch the promo for "Teacher of The Year." Trailer and review are both here

AM News: Court Fines Washington State $100K/Day Over Inequitable Funding

Washington State Faces $100,000-a-Day Fine Until Schools Plan Is Reached NYT: The state’s highest court “encouraged” Gov. Jay Inslee to call the Legislature into a special session to find a way to close the gap in spending between rich and poor schools. See also  Seattle TimesState EdWatch, AP.

A look back in time at Washington's education lawsuit AP: The Washington Supreme Court has been involved in state education spending for many years. The 2012 McCleary decision started the newest round of discussion, but the debate in Washington goes back nearly 30 years. Here are highlights.... 

New York Schools With Many Opting Out of Tests May Be Penalized NYT: The state and federal education departments had warned that districts with high refusal rates risked losing funds. But it is far from certain such action will be taken.

Team From New York Education Dept. to Study Troubled East Ramapo Schools NYT:  The three-member group, which will offer recommendations to the school board and the state, will be led by Dennis M. Walcott, a former New York City schools chancellor. See also WNYC.

Test scores highlight the challenge ahead for city’s ‘Renewal’ turnaround program ChalkbeatNY: The average English pass rate for the 63 Renewal schools where students took the grades 3-8 state exams this year was 7.5 percent, compared to the city’s 30 percent average. In math, the Renewal pass rate was about 7 percent, compared to 35 percent for the city. 

Mass. Schools Get $14 Million To Extend Learning Time Boston Learning Lab: Schools in 11 Massachusetts school districts will receive $14 million in state grants to extend the time of the school day this year. In 2006, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to develop a specific grant program for extended days.

Causes, potential consequences of testing opt-out movement AP: New York is facing a growing rebellion against Common Core-aligned standardized tests. About 20 percent of the state's third- through eighth-graders refused to take the tests this spring, up from 5 percent a year earlier. As state education officials consider the possibility of sanctions against districts with large numbers of students opting out, they also promise a plan to boost participation.

More student diversity, less integration as school restarts KPCC LA: The percentage of white students is expected to continue to decline at least through 2024 with increasing enrollments of Hispanics, Asians/Pacific Islanders, and students of two or more races.  But then consider this: despite 60 years of Supreme Court mandated desegregation in schools as established in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education, a lack of classroom integration remains pervasive.

Detroit Union Head Ousted After Internal Trial District Dossier: DFT President Steve Conn was booted from his position Aug. 12 after the union found him guilty of failing to follow procedures for meetings, among other infractions.

Thompson: Why Teachers (& Bees) Are Disappearing

The explanation of why bees are disappearing is complex. The question why teachers are leaving the profession is not. 

Teaching is a tough job, especially in the inner city. But, especially in high-challenge classrooms, it would be hard to find a more wonderful career. If teaching in urban schools is the calling for you, only a fiasco as bad as the contemporary school reform movement could drive the joy out the job.

The latest discussion about the disappearance of teachers was prompted by the New York Times Motoko Rich. Rich, in Teacher Shortages Spur a Nationwide Hiring Scramble (Credentials Optional), explains that California has to fill 21,500 teaching slots, and the state is issuing fewer than 15,000 new teaching credentials a year. She also reported on efforts in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Louisville, Ky.; Nashville; Oklahoma City; and Providence, R.I. to staff their classrooms. NPR's Diane Rehm adds that enrollment in teacher preparation programs across the U.S. fell by around 30% between 2010 and 2014.

I can't imagine what teachers in Charlotte-Mecklenburg feel when recalling their district's past integration efforts, and the loss of the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of a real civil rights movement - where school desegregation promised kids and adults such rewarding and life-changing opportunities. Seeing their system move from a pioneer in social justice to being a showcase for "reform" must have been devastating.

But, I can comment on Oklahoma City where recruiters have traveled to Puerto Rico and Spain to fill classrooms. When I entered the inner city neighborhood school classroom in 1993, my John Marshall High School had more great teachers than I could have imagined. I had never encountered such teaching excellence. The faculty had stuck out the violence of 1970's bussing and the 1980's crack and gangs epidemic. But, soon, the reform mantra would be that these awesome educators' "low expectations" and their "excuses" were to blame for the low performance of high-challenge students.  So, teachers were told to all "get on the same page" in teaching the same tested material at the same rate, or get out of the inner city.  

Our school went through bouts of dysfunction when violence and disruptive behavior spun out of control, and we had funerals for far too many students, but we also produced an astounding amount of academic, artistic, musical, and athletic excellence.  It was test-driven, competition-driven reform, not the failures of our school's educators and students, that eventually transformed us into the lowest-performing high school in the state.   

It was not just NCLB and Arne Duncan's accountability-driven reforms that sucked the oxygen out of our school improvement efforts and drove out our best teachers. Top-down reform robbed us of our professional autonomy. Eventually, those of us who stood and fought for our kids' right to engaging instruction found ourselves losing battle after battle and most tearfully left for easier schools where they had more freedom to teach in a holistic manner. 

Continue reading "Thompson: Why Teachers (& Bees) Are Disappearing " »

Maps: Few States Protect LGBTQ Students

Lgbtq education protections

"Only 13 states have laws that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in K-12 schools, while Wisconsin protects students from discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity. So in a great majority of states, LGBTQ students have no explicit legal protections."

Books: New Franzen Novel Features Loan-Burdened Protagonist

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Good news, all of you concerned with crushing student loan debt (your own or the issue): According to this review in The Atlantic, Jonathan Franzen's new novel, Purity, features a main character who's faced with large loans and no obvious way to pay them off:

"Her mother broke off contact with her family before Pip was born, and Pip hasn’t been able to persuade her to reveal the truth about her past or the identity of Pip’s father. She’s burdened with $130,000 in student loans, lives in a squatter house in Oakland, and works for a company that fleeces energy consumers with misleading environmental rhetoric. Like her Dickensian original, she has the idea that if she were to discover her own backstory, something wonderful might happen—maybe even the zeroing-out of those student loans."

Author Franzen isn't particularly interested in education, but he and his work have come up several times here over the years. His 2010 book, Freedom, raised some issues related to Education, Parenting. There was the amazing speech he delivered at Kenyon in 2011 (Of Songbirds And Public Education) -- which prompted me to write perhaps the most sincere and least prickly thing I've ever published (Education Will Break Your Heart).

AM News: NY Reports Increased Test Scores, Surge Of Opt-Outs

About 20 percent of NY students refused to take spring tests AP: About 20 percent of New York's third- through eighth-graders refused to take the statewide English and math tests given in the spring, the state's education chief said, acknowledging the opt-outs affected assessment data released Wednesday, which otherwise showed a slight uptick in overall student achievement... See also WSJChalkbeatEdWeek, NYT, WNYC.

News Corp. Planning to Sell Off Money-Losing Education Unit NYT: Amplify, the education division of Rupert Murdoch’s company, is in an “advanced stage of negotiations” with a potential buyer. See also BuzzFeed.

Labor Leadership Is Pushing Hillary Clinton, But the Grassroots Wants Bernie In These Times: “If you want to shape something, you get in before the primaries,” AFT President Randi Weingartensaid in defense of the endorsement. Weingarten, a longtime Clinton ally, is currently sitting on the board of pro-Clinton Super PAC Priorities USA Action.

Brown signs bills letting nannies' kids go to local schools AP: The Democratic governor signed without comment SB 200 by Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara, which permits the children of live-in workers such as nannies and maids to attend school in the districts where their parents work at least three days per week. An additional new law requires that schools have a set policy for investigating students' residency before hiring a private investigator to look into residency. It also prohibits students from being photographed or recorded by investigators and mandates an appeals process. See also District Dossier.

Charters transform New Orleans schools, and teachers Marketplace APM: One dominant symbol back then was a flag that read, "Class of 2014," the far off year these kids were expected to launch into college. To accomplish this with so many students so behind in their studies required teachers who could handle some very long school days. Bethaney, now 19, remembers teachers being at her charter deep into the evening. See also Part 2.

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

Continue reading "AM News: NY Reports Increased Test Scores, Surge Of Opt-Outs " »

Quotes: New Teachers "All So Rough"

Quotes2They come in and they are working so hard, but it's all so rough. There's no way you can prepare anybody for it, you just have to live it... They found a way to get rid of the union... They got rid of such a huge part of the black middle class, those female teachers, head of households, well-educated people. 

 -- Holley Bendtsen, a 10th grade teacher at Landry-Walker high school, quoted on Marketplace APM (Charters transform New Orleans schools, and teachers)

Movies: School-Based Comedy Raises Issues Spanning Charter-District Divide

There is much to like about the low-budget mockumentary called "Teacher of The Year (TOTY)" now available for streaming on Netflix and other VOD services. 

First and foremost, TOTY isn't really about education politics or specific approaches to improving schools. This is nothing like Waiting For Superman, Standardized, Bad Teacher, Won't Back Down, Race to Nowhere, and all the others you may have seen or heard about recently. 

Yes, it's set at a charter school, at which there is -- atypically - both union representation of the teachers and some form of tenure that allows veterans to speak their minds. But the charter status of the school and the union representation are mostly plot vehicles, not central aspects of the story. There's no Common Core, or standardized testing. Heaven. 

The plot centers around two main dramas. First is the decision that the aforementioned Teacher of the Year must make about what to do with his future. Like some real-life state teachers of the year (see here and here), he is frustrated with his work environment and is being tempted to do something else that's much more lucrative and perhaps less stressful. The second plot element is an accusation leveled against one of the other teachers by a student, which could result in the teacher being fired despite his long-standing reputation for being committed to the school and to his students.

But mostly @TOTYmovie is a comedy -- a conglomeration of all the schools you've ever been in before, full of eccentric characters and a mix of high and low humor. There's the handsomely bland  vest-wearing protagonist, Mitch Carter, who breaks up fights, shares his lunch with a hungry student and helps him understand what Shakespeare is all about. There's the perfectly awful Principal Ronald Douche, played by Keegan Michael Key (of Key & Peele), who wants to be superintendent but might not listen to his teachers enough. There's a robotics teacher who thinks that HE should have been Teacher of the Year (and might be right). There are two deliciously horrible guidance counselors (played by the comic Sklar brothers). The assistant principal is a hapless disciplinarian handing out detention slips to bemused students. 

The comparisons to TV comedies The Office or Parks & Recreation are understandable. (The Cleveland Plain Dealer called it a "sweet, gonzo comedy.")

The filmmakers -- Lainie Strouse (the producer) and writer/director Jason Strouse (who's also the principal of an orthodox Jewish school in LA) -- say that their goal was to make something like Spinal Tap or Best In Show -- set in a high school. Another comparison that they like is Ferris Bueller's Day Off (from the point of view of teachers).  Excited about the film's success at 18 festivals over the past year and now online on Netflix and Amazon, the gist of what they had to say during a phone interview last week is that they wanted to make a film about the what it's like teaching in a real school, to tell the story in a silly but realistic way, and to focus on the teachers' perspective rather than the kids'. 

They won't say what school the film was shot at, though part of the deal was giving students jobs as PAs and walk-ons. They told me shooting was done in just 11 days spread out over six months -- and that much of the film was captured in the last few days. The shooting schedule was so fragmented that some of the actors didn't even know that they were in the same film together. 

As for their concerns about education, the filmmakers' only "issues" are that teachers don't make much as other college graduates and sometimes leave for more lucrative careers, and that school and district bureaucracies are a cumbersome bother. The rules and norms of schools breed frustration and tamp down innovation, they feel -- which is why so many people they know used to be teachers but aren't any more (and why highly-qualified non-teachers can't easily become second-career teachers).

Maybe that's the real appeal of TOTY, which is that it's neither glorifying nor tearing teachers down, and raising issues that span charter and district environments alike rather than divide them. 

Related posts: New Documentary Avoids Simplistic Hero/Villain Approach"TeacherCenter" Isn't Even Key & Peele's Best Education Segment#MiddletownFilm Chronicles "Midpoint" Students, Blended Learning.

Don't Let Citizen Stewart Win #StraightOutta ("Where You From?")

EdPost's Chris Stewart leads the way with this contribution to the viral marketing campaign for the "Straight Out of Compton" biopic that comes out Friday.

Sure, he's got that sharp Twitter avatar -- maybe he even planned it.

But that doesn't mean he's going to win.

To join in, all you have to do is upload a picture and tell us "where you from?" 

It could be something about your school (Straightoutta Central High. #Straightoutta District 732) , or your hometown, or where you work now. Mine's a long-ago picture of the nine Russo brothers #straightoutta Chicago. 

Or have some fun at someone else's expense (#straightoutta Brooklyn Heights, Lab School come to mind). 

Then tag me @alexanderrusso and I'll pass it along.

Morning Video: Why Schools Like Ferguson Resegregated So Completely

From last night's PBS NewsHour: "Since 1988, American schools have grown more segregated. Jeffrey Brown talks to New York Times Magazine writer Nikole Hannah-Jones -- who recently wrote about school segregation in Ferguson, Missouri -- and Sheryll Cashin of Georgetown University Law Center."

AM News: Principals Critique Walker, Media Critiques Clinton Debt Relief Plan

Scott Walker's War on Big Government Isn't Helping Schools, Principals Say PK12: A group of 35 principals from the southern Wisconsin area wrote to Gov. Scott Walker arguing that in the current policy and political climate, districts simply don't have enough power. See also HuffPost, Washington Post.

Hillary Clinton’s student debt video misses the biggest problem with paying for college Vox: The people featured — who have unusually high levels of debt, sky-high interest rates, or both — are outliers, and they're not necessarily the people Clinton's plan would do the most to help. The video includes four young adults who mention specific numbers in connection with their own student debt. Their stories are scary. But, thankfully, they're not typical.

Bernie Sanders's Nurses' Union Endorsement Comes Despite Labor Concerns National Journal: "I think most people don't think Bernie is going to be president." AFT president Randi Weingarten, who sits on the board of the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA Action, tweeted last month.  See also The Blaze, Bloomberg Politics.

Authorities accuse 5 GAO employees of school lunch fraud AP: Five employees of the U.S. Government Accountability Office have been indicted on charges of fraudulently securing reduced-price school lunches for their children in a Maryland county.

Some Districts Battle Shortage of Teachers as School Begins AP: Many schools — particularly in places with growing populations and difficult working conditions — are having an especially tough time getting enough teachers to fill all their jobs. Remote areas, and high-poverty districts like Detroit with uncertain budgets and difficult working conditions, also have trouble.

Lazy days of summer? Not for these students gunning for a make-or-break exam WNYC: In New York City, like in other parts of the US, some students spend their break digging into algebra equations, hoping to ace a test that will get them into a top public high school. But some question whether a single test unfairly leaves some students out.

City’s incoming Teach for America class hits five-year low ChalkbeatNY: All told, the city will have about 5,500 new hires this fall, 100 of which will come from TFA, according to education department spokesman Jason Fink.

For second year in a row, test scores soar at low-income Arlington school Washington Post: Some grades at Carlin Springs Elementary saw double-digit increases in their state test passage rates for the second year in a row, following a deliberate effort to prepare disadvantaged students for the exams and to closely track student performance on practice tests throughout the year. The repeat success suggests that the school’s efforts might be paying off, boosting scores among groups of students whose success has proved elusive on standardized tests.

Numbers: Nine of 15 Worst States For Kids Have Growing Numbers Of Kids

TwestrerFor all the attention going to teacher shortages right now, perhaps we should be paying more to student growth (and well-being):

"Of the 15 states that experienced the largest percentage increases in their youth populations, nine rank in the bottom 15 and just one is in its top 15," notes The Atlantic's Ron Brownstein (States Such as Texas and Arizona Have the Highest Youth-Population Growth Yet the Worst Outcomes for Kids). \

"Overall, nearly 37 million young people—representing 45 percent of Americans under 20—now live in the 15 states at the bottom of the Casey foundation list."

That's right.

Update: Contribute To "The Grade" or "This Week..." This Fall?

Screenshot 2015-08-11 14.28.33Education nerd? Journalism geek? Come help with This Week In Education and/or The Grade this fall. 

TWIE is my long-running blog about national education trends, politics, advocacy, and funding. The Grade is my relatively new blog taking a close look at how mainstream news reports on what's going on in schools. 

Past contributors have done all sorts of things including interviewing education leaders, editing the morning news, doing field reports (from events, conferences, schools), writing thoughtful essays, and helping out with the podcast (which may yet return -- just you wait).  Several have gone on to fame and fortune. (Well, fame at least.)

All you need is some time, some interest, and a willingness to be thoughtful and reflective in what you write. Grad students, newly-minted grads, teachers or parents or freelancers with time to burn the midnight oil are all welcome. 

Send your information (including a couple things you've written) and a description of what you'd like to do to thisweekineducation@gmail.com. Don't send links, however -- put it all in the body of the email and let me scroll. Bylines, experience, and (a small amount of) pay are all available. 

Thompson: 2nd "This American Life" Report on School Integration Just As Great

In the second This American Life report on segregation, The Problem We All Live With - Part Two, Chana Joffe-Walt reports that the Hartford, CT school system sought to convince white families it’s in their self-interest to go to integrated schools. Joffe-Walt concludes that “the results have been impressive. It used to be that 11% of Hartford students were in integrated schools. Now it’s nearly half.”

As is the norm with This American Life, the report is nuanced in explaining how tricky the issue is, and every twist of the plot was enlightening. Hartford demonstrates great marketing skills and savvy and persuades enough white parents to participate. It is unclear whether it will be able to continue to increase white participation rates enough to meet the policy’s metrics and thus survive. (This weird numbers game is worthy of Catch 22, but Hartford is not alone; Sarah Garland [whose work was cited by This American Life] documented a similarly bizarre situation that hindered a successful desegregation effort in Louisville, Ky.)

Also, at a key point in Joffe-Walt's report, where we are reminded that not all poor children are being admitted to integrated magnet schools, we are implicitly reminded of the need to do a much better job of improving the toughest schools that serve entire neighborhoods with intense concentrations of generational poverty and where so many children endure extreme trauma. And, that makes the lost opportunities of 2009, when Arne Duncan took over as US Secretary of Education, feel even more like a betrayal. Duncan’s test, sort, reward, and punish policies provided two types of opportunity costs. They shifted attention away from research-based, holistic methods for improving instruction in troubled schools and they were a lost opportunity for encouraging voluntary integration efforts.

At the end of The Problem We All Live With - Part Two, it was explained how the election of President Barack Obama could have assisted in promoting desegregation, and his Race to the Top could have been a vehicle for promoting voluntary integration. Civil rights attorney John Brittain said that when he realized that such efforts were left out of the RttT, it was “like a punch in the gut.”

Then, Joffe-Walt and Hannah-Jones had an opportunity to ask Arne Duncan the questions that so many of us have longed to ask.

Continue reading "Thompson: 2nd "This American Life" Report on School Integration Just As Great" »

People: Linda Darling-Hammond's Son Makes "American Ninja" Finals

Yep, that's Sean Darling-Hammond, son of Stanford education professor (and Clinton EdSec short lister) Linda, who, according to his proud mom, made it through the competition last night and is on to the final round. He's a lawyer, not an educator, but according to his bio and twitter handle and the motto on his competition shirt he has been involved in several do-gooder activities along the way. h/t Andy Smarick.

AM News: 17 States' Back To School Sales, Plus Educators In Ferguson

Getting a break on back-to-school purchases Marketplace: At least 17 states hold sales-tax holidays for back-to-school-related purchases throughout the month of August, including Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. They range from one or two days to more than one week in length and would save the typical family in a state with a tax rate of 7 percent about $44. Some states have tax holidays for other items, such as hurricane and emergency supplies, energy-efficient appliances and firearms.

Anger Outruns the Facts in Ferguson Daily Beast: Hermz didn’t have a direct answer, but prominent activist Deray McKesson did: end mandatory minimum sentences, reform drug laws, put body cameras on all police, task independent bodies with investigating shootings by police.

Not Putting on the Ritz: Indiana Schools Chief Drops Out of Governor's Race State EdWatch: Ritz announced she was pulling out of the race in order to focus on a bid for a second term as state superintendent. Indiana's gubernatorial election is next year.

Two teachers explain why they want to take down their union Washington Post: Both of them say that they decided to become plaintiffs because they don’t want to support a politically powerful union with which they frequently disagree. Current law allows them to opt out of paying for the union’s political activities — about 30 percent to 40 percent of annual dues. But they must continue to pay “agency fees,” which support the union’s collective bargaining activities.

Bernie Sanders scores nurses union endorsement CNN:  members of the AFL-CIO have held off endorsing in the Democratic primary. Clinton scored the first major union endorsement in July when the American Federation of Teachers endorsed the Democratic frontrunner.

Democrats Sound Similar Alarm On College Affordability NPR: Hillary Clinton unveiled her plan to make college more affordable on Monday. How does it compare with the proposals of her Democratic opponents? see also Miami Herald.

Jeb Bush 2016: His role in Michael Bloomberg charity gets attention Politico: Bush seemed caught off balance at the Thursday night Republican primary debate when he was asked about the Planned Parenthood connection. He said he was drawn to the Bloomberg foundation because of its role in education, and that board members didn’t see or vote on line items in the budget.

Teacher Shortages Across The U.S. WAMU: Across the country many schools are struggling to find qualified instructors in areas like science and math. California has more than 20,000 slots to fill this academic year. What’s behind a nationwide teacher shortage, and how states are trying to address it.

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

Continue reading "AM News: 17 States' Back To School Sales, Plus Educators In Ferguson" »

Media: EdWeek Acquires Nonprofit Supplying PBS NewsHour Segments - Who Will Replace Merrow On Air?

Screenshot 2015-08-10 22.55.36
There are lots of exciting angles to the news that Editorial Projects in Education (the nonprofit outfit that runs EdWeek) is acquiring Learning Matters (which is John Merrow's long-running nonprofit education media organization), but the most immediate and fun aspect that I can think of about the deal is speculation over who will replace Merrow as one of the on-air correspondents (who introduces segments, asks questions, nods in response to answers, etc.).

As you may have noticed, Learning Matters -- whose segments often appear on the PBS NewsHour -- has had two correspondents sharing duties over the past few years: Merrow and John ("JT") Tulenko. According to EdWeek, Tulenko will stay on as a correspondent and will like the rest of the Learning Matters team remain in New York City. The second, as-yet-unnamed correspondent will work out of Washington DC (well, Bethesda), which is where EdWeek is located. That's where the fun part comes.

Neither Kathleen Kennedy Manzo nor Virginia "Ginny" Edwards would tell me who the new correspondent might be -- I don't think they quite know themselves -- but here are some guesses at who might be in the running:

It's possible that they'll pick someone already on the EdWeek payroll, especially given that some of the current staffers have broadcast experience and obviously know education fairly well. Ben Herold did some radio when he was in Philadelphia. Arianna Prothero came out of public radio in Miami. It's also possible that there's someone at the NewsHour who's interested enough to move over to EdWeek (since nobody calls it EPE). 

My guess is that they'll look for someone who knows education at least a bit, has some broadcast experience (radio or TV), who's already in DC. That could include someone from the NPR national team, or -- my guess -- WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza (whom I've met socially as well as heard on air). Maybe they'll try and lure WNYC's Yasmeen Kahn down to try out for the job. There's a great young public TV correspondent from Chicago's WTTW, Brandis Friedman, who might be interested and ready or might like where she is. Former KPCC LA education reporter Vanessa Romo just accepted a Spencer Fellowship but that only lasts until May, really, so maybe she's a candidate, too?

Let me know if you have any other, better ideas -- or if my ideas are all wrong.

Other tidbits that I can tell you with greater certainty include that Edwards says she has raised $4.5 million to support the new operation over the next three years, led by a commitment from the Wallace Foundation, and that EdWeek is building a new studio in the Bethesda office to do more video for online and broadcast.  

There's no money changing hands between EdWeek and Merrow, and just one board member from Learning Matters is coming over to EdWeek, which is apparently why it's an acquisition rather than a sale or merger.

Edwards also tells me that there's an MOU with the NewsHour spelling out the collaboration between the two organizations, which have for many years operated on little more than a handshake between Merrow and his counterparts at the NewsHour. Learning Matters without the NewsHour isn't nearly as appealing as the two of them together, so that makes sense to nail that down as part of the deal. 

The idea of merging the two organizations has been around for years, according to Edwards, but talks started in earnest last Spring when Merrow told insiders (including me) that he was going to retire soon but hoped to find a way for Learning Matters to continue. Edwards had been on Merrow's board for a time. Learning Matters has been a content partner to EdWeek. "There is only one organization with the expertise, talent, and reputation to continue this work, and that’s EdWeek," says Merrow in a press release.

EdWeek has experimented with video content over the years, and won an award from EWA for a feature focused on Native American education, but has never done all that much with it -- and has never had access to a broadcast outlet like the NewsHour.  

The NewsHour has experimented with online coverage of education in between broadcast segments, and has an education page but no dedicated staffer covering the beat to my knowledge. For what seems like forever, the vast majority of its field segments (those including coverage of schools and live events outside the studio) have been provided by Learning Matters. 

Given all the other options that the NewsHour could have explored -- including handling education internally or farming it out to any number of other production companies who would have jumped at the chance -- and the challenges of the last few years in journalism over all, EdWeek can be forgiven the swagger in its release:  

"At a time when many news organizations have struggled to sustain their audiences and even their businesses, the nonprofit Education Week is a success story," brags EdWeek. "The legacy news operation has not only survived the media disruption, but leveraged it, catalyzing its authoritative coverage with even more engaging and diversified forms of journalism."

I've put out calls to Merrow and to the NewsHour and will let you know what if any additional information I get back from them.

Related posts: Last Night’s PBS NewsHour May Have (Wildly) Overstated the Dropout Rate for New TeachersSome High-Poverty Districts Exceed Federal Opt-Out Limit.

Maps: Too Many States Have Early School Start Times

image from big.assets.huffingtonpost.com

States in red (like LA, MS, AL) have the earlier start times, while states in paler colors (like Alaska, Iowa, ND) start later. Via Huffington Post. Click here for the full story.

Charts: What Black & White New Orleanians Really Think About Education

CMDwdi6WoAEP9XcThere's a big gap between how good white and black NOLA residents think things are for kids in the decade since Katrina, but the overall trend is positive for education (see bottom left) and overall kid well-being. Via NPR (New Orleanians See Remarkable Progress A Decade After Hurricane Katrina).

Morning Video: Will Economic Inequality Influence Campaign 2016?

 

How much of an issue will economic inequality be? Check out this Atlantic panel led by Ron Brownstein and featuring panelists like Demos head Heather McGhee and Michael Gerson Michael (who apparently coined the GWB line about the "soft bigotry of low expectations").

AM News: Clinton Student Debt Proposal, Teacher Shortage Debate

Hillary Clinton Wants To Help Student Debtors By Taxing The Rich HuffPost: The Democratic presidential candidate wants state and federal governments to increase their funding for students at certain public colleges while also allowing existing borrowers to refinance their high-rate loans and enroll in plans that limit payments to 10 percent of their income. The plan, which would cost $350 billion over 10 years, needs congressional approval and support from states to be viable. See also AP,  NYT, Politico, WSJ.

Did Jeb Bush really pass the first school voucher program in the nation? Business Insider: Presidential debates are often arenas of bombastic proclamations. Bush, however, was not over-selling his accomplishment. In 1999, under his gubernatorial oversight, Florida became the first state in the nation with a statewide voucher program.

Indiana Schools Chief Glenda Ritz Ending Bid for Governor AP: Ritz, a Democrat, has clashed repeatedly with Republican Gov. Mike Pence over education policy since they both won election in 2012. She announced a bid for governor in early June. In a statement Friday, she said she had since decided "now is not the right time for me to run for governor."

Teacher Shortages Spur a Nationwide Hiring Scramble (Credentials Optional) NYT: Just a few years after the recession caused widespread layoffs for teachers, school districts now find themselves with numerous job vacancies and few qualified candidates to choose from. See also: Demand for bilingual teachers especially high in Washington Seattle Times.

A Year After Ferguson, Schools Still Grapple With Equity and Racial Bias District Dossier: After the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and a national conversation about race, policing, and racial bias, some educators sharpened their focus on social justice issues in schools.

Major charter school expansion in the works for L.A. Unified students LA Times: A prominent local education foundation is discussing a major expansion of charter schools in Los Angeles aimed at boosting academic achievement for students at the lowest performing campuses.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Clinton Student Debt Proposal, Teacher Shortage Debate" »

Thompson: This American Life, School Integration, & The Ultimate School Reform Excuse

Former ProPublica writer Nikole Hannah-Jones, in School Segregation, the Continuing Tragedy of Ferguson, recalls of the inescapable truth that educators once acknowledged, and that we now need to remember. Children who attend the most segregated schools, Hannah-Jones reminds us, “are more likely to be poor. They are more likely to go to jail. They are less likely to graduate from high school, to go to college, and to finish if they go. They are more likely to live in segregated neighborhoods as adults.” Moreover, “their children are more likely to also attend segregated schools, repeating the cycle.”

Contributing to a continuing series by ProPublica and the New York Times on segregation, Hannah-Jones reports that “over the past 15 years …. the number of so-called apartheid schools — schools whose white population is 1 percent or less — has shot up. The achievement gap, greatly narrowed during the height of school desegregation, has widened.”

The national market-driven, test-driven school reform movement has downplayed the damage done by segregation. It’s choice-driven policies have actually increased the separation of students by race and class. And, This American Life’s The Problem We All Live With, featuring Hannah-Jones, begins with a mention of the research which explains why NCLB-type reforms have failed to improve schools serving neighborhoods with a critical mass of families from generational poverty. In doing so, it properly articulates the question that must be tackled before school improvement and other policies can promote racial justice and economic equality.

Accountability-driven reformers proclaimed their movement as the civil rights campaign of the 21st century, but they haven’t found a viable path towards school improvement. Competition-driven reformers derided traditional educators, who embrace socio-economic integration, early education, and full-service community schools, for allegedly making “excuses” and shifting attention away from the supposed real issue – bad teaching. But, This American Life has it right; reformers using competition-driven policies to improve instruction within the four walls of the classroom are distracting attention from the true problem.

Continue reading "Thompson: This American Life, School Integration, & The Ultimate School Reform Excuse" »

Morning Video: Schools' Indifferent Response To Sleep Research

 "Overall, only 17.7 percent of these public schools started school at 8:30 a.m. or later." In case you had any questions about whose interests schools are designed around.

Quotes: "Despondent" About Professional Development

Quotes2I'm pretty despondent about the whole sector.. Regardless of the type of study, it just doesn't look like we have any purchase on what works.

-- Heather C. Hill, a professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in EdWeek (Is PD Behind Teacher Improvement? Maybe Not, Analysis Cautions)

Charts: How Many Education Questions Were GOP Candidates Asked?

According to this FiveThirtyEight chart, there were just 3 education questions asked during last night's debate -- and none on race.

AM News: GOP Common Core Debate, Connecticut's Universal SAT Decision

Common Core is Premier Education Issue in GOP Presidential Debate PK12: Jeb Bush has taken a lot of flak from his GOP opponents for supporting the common-core standards, a position he's steadfastly backed, even as his conservative contemporaries have waged battle against them. See also HuffPost, Vox.

Teachers to Christie: Apologize to us over ‘punch in the face’ quip MSNBC: Nearly 32,000 people have signed a petition spearheaded by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) asking the governor to say he’s sorry. They argue that Christie “seems to think that leadership means threatening violence and creating a culture of intimidation.”

Connecticut to Require All 11th Graders to Take the SAT NYT: With approval from the United States Department of Education, Connecticut said it would make the SAT a requirement, administered without cost to students, beginning in the 2015-16 school year.  See also WSJ, CT Mirror. Make way for the test-score punditry: NY state scores coming next week ChalkbeatNY: “I will simply say, it’s one of the things we judge ourselves by,” de Blasio said Thursday, referring to the scores. “It’s not the only thing.”

Who Is 'Good Enough' In A Common Core World? NPR: 5 million students took new, Common Core-aligned tests this Spring through the PARCC consortium. Now begins the rush to set cut scores — to sort students by performance.

Connecticut to Require All 11th Graders to Take the SAT NYT: The new rule will eliminate a statewide exam given last year, and comes amid complaints that public high school students have to take too many tests.

Students Need Not Meet Common-Core Test's Cut Score to Graduate in Wash. St. State EdWatch: To be considered ready for credit-bearing college work, students should score at levels 3 or 4, but the state school board set a different minimum score to earn a diploma.

At one Baltimore school, students are easing racial tensions by learning from each other WNYC: One year after a burst of violent attacks, Digital Harbor High launched a program to bring Latino and African-American students together.

Ferguson Class Of 2014 HuffPost: The students who graduated with Michael Brown had only hope and promise ahead of them. And a year after Brown's tragic death, somehow they still still do. Here are their stories.

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

Continue reading "AM News: GOP Common Core Debate, Connecticut's Universal SAT Decision" »

Thompson: To Improve Poor Schools, Ban Disney Movies

The key anecdote in Nick Chiles's Full Court Press for Mississippi Third Graders in Summer School Has Disappointing Results, also provides a great metaphor for why test-driven, accountability-driven reform continues to fail. Chiles, writing for the Hechinger Report, describes the Mississippi 3rd grade retention law, and how one school tried to use a four-week summer school remediation program to get struggling students back on track.

Frankie Blackmon, the director of federal programs, was conducting a site visit on the eve of the High Stakes Test that would determine whether remediated students could be promoted to the 4th grade. While checking whether students were being properly primed for the big test, she saw children watching a Disney movie. Blackmon “stopped cold,” and asked, “what’s going on here?”

The value of an end-of-the-session fun day should have been obvious, but it also turned out that the school had a good explanation. The video was embedded in their lesson plan. More importantly, it makes sense to relieve the anxiety of students as they approached such a test. Even so, “Blackmon [later] explained, her brow furrowed, ‘But this was the last day. We don’t have any time to waste. Every minute should be instructional in some way. There’s not going to be a movie shown on the test.’”

And that illustrates a key problem with test-driven reform. Its advocates were in too much of a hurry to study the complexity of interconnected education problems, to understand why their band aids, such as summer school remediation are inherently inadequate, and to think through comprehensive solutions.

As one teacher added, “Nothing is impossible, but being realistic about it, it’s almost at the point where there’s no help for them in just four weeks.” Improving the reading skills of 3rd graders is extremely important, but the teacher said, “They didn’t get it in kindergarten, in first, second or third grade. You can’t give to them in four weeks what they haven’t gotten in four years.”

Continue reading "Thompson: To Improve Poor Schools, Ban Disney Movies" »

TV: HBO's Oliver Shaping Up To Replace "Daily Show" On Education (Plus 5 Videos Strauss Left Off Her List)

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There are LOTS of people who are going to miss Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, including educators who appreciated his poking fun at school reform efforts and folks like me who appreciated his regular attention to education issues of all kinds. (Some folks took their fandom too far; remember that Illinois teacher who was Suspended For Showing 'Daily Show' Clips In Class?)

Ready for some nostalgia? Check out HuffPost's 2012 mashup of great education-related episodes above.

Or go over to The Answer Sheet, where Valerie Strauss has a new roundup of Five of Jon Stewart’s greatest hits on teachers, school reform and stupidity

Her top picks are the segments in which Stewart noted that teachers were going to jail when Wall Streeters weren't, declaimed corporal punishment provisions in Kansas,  castigated critics of universal preschool, taking on Michelle Rhee (who?), and trying to interview our robot EdSec, Arne Duncan. 

It's a strange list. But anyway, the most useful part is her description of Stewart as "never the hard-line critic of corporate school reform that many would have liked him to be."

It's a good point. He wasn't nearly as fiery as some wanted him to be. However, he was a reliably --problematically, according to Slate -- liberal voice. Take for example a 2011 segment I described as Lavish Lifestyles Of Wisconsin Teachers.

In fact, Stewart's biggest impact on education might have come from a series of interviews with Diane Ravitch, which gave a new prominence and currency to her and her allies' ideas -- even though Stewart didn't always roll over and go along with Ravitch (as you can see from my recaps of the segments):

Ravitch's Return To "The Daily Show": Ravitch starts out talking about schools turning into testing factories.  Stewart seems to be of the mind that at least some testing is necessary and reminds Ravitch that NCLB came from somewhere/ was a response to something.  He also gently questions the notion that poverty is the cause or explanation of.  They find common ground on the problem of "blaming the avarice of teachers."  Says Stewart: "Those people [critics] have no idea."  Ravitch says that she doesn't think America is "over-run with bad teachers," about which Stewart agrees:  "There's bad everything." 

Ravitch's Pre-Halloween "Daily Show" Appearance: She ducks the "what about the unions?" question entirely (not defending them, it's worth noting) -- and Stewart lets her. She posits the notion that charter schools or choice reduce the sense of public obligation but ignores the reality that more affluent parents (including Ravitch herself) have "shopped" for better schools for their children for decades. She was holding the noisy green key-keeper in her hand to keep from blocking her face using that hand, right? 

Here's a sweet picture of the two of them together:

Still, it's important to note that Stewart wasn't just about poking holes in reform efforts, and his education segments go way back. Some notable segments from the vault:

EdSec Spellings On The Daily Show: That face she makes when asked about smiting the teachers unions is good, as is the wink she gives when offering her "I don't recall" answer. 

Elementary School Kid Refuses To Pledge: Both the Daily Show and the Colbert Report riffed off the news that an elementary school boy was refusing to recite the pledge of allegiance in school.  Just cuz I'm lazy, here's the Daily Show version (the segment starts about 90 seconds in):

Obama Pushes "Socialist" Ornaments On Kids: The Obama administration has done it again -- trying to manipulate vulnerable schoolchildren into forsaking all that is good and right about America.  Last time, it was the Obama "back to school" speech. This time, it's Christmas ornaments sent from the White House to schoolchildren.  (See also: Daily Show Mocks "School Lunch Rebellion", and Obama Girls Not Integrating Sidwell)

Stewart Suggests 50-50 Pre-K Split To De Blasio: That was Daily Show host Jon Stewart's suggestion about how to fund the proposed pre-school expansion. 

Campaign Strategists Ruin 8th Grade Elections: "The Daily Show team decided to make one middle school race a high-stakes game, by bringing in some big-time political consultants."  via TIME Campaigning, on a Smaller Scale  [Pt 2, Pt 3].

There were also countless segments in which Stewart highlighted good things going on in schools: "Brooklyn Castle" On "The Daily Show"Malala Yousafzai Left Jon Stewart Speechless. Just last month, Stewart interviewed Ta-Nehisi Coates (which I somehow missed). Occasionally he got some things wrong (like spending on Baltimore schools).

Stewart's successor, Trevor Noah, seems unlikely to have much ongoing interest in education beyond the occasional joke. But there's Jon Oliver's HBO show, which already has shown itself to be as fiery or more so than Stewart ever was. ProPublica's education reporter Marian Wang just announced she's headed over there, which could mean that Oliver is loading up to do more education-related segments.

Quotes: "Political Seepage" In The Classroom

Quotes2The practice that we found most troubling, from the study, is what we referred to in the book as political seepage: teachers who make sarcastic comments, who use partisan humor. It's these offhanded comments that are sort of biting and mean-spirited about the political climate that I think is problematic. Because it creates a climate not of fairness, but it creates a kind of insider/outsider feeling. - Paul McAvoy via NPR (The Role Of Politics In The Classroom)

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.