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Quotes: FairTest Declares Spring 2015 Victory

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thompson: Robert Putnam and Ending the Education Civil War

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, guess what Petrilli did?

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

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

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

Quotes: Connecticut's Magnet Schools Erode Segregation

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

Morning Video: Baltimore School Of The Arts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thompson: Why That John Oliver Testing Segment Hit a Nerve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quotes: Class Segregation Replacing Racial Segregation

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

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

Morning Video: President Obama Laments Parents Choosing Private Schools

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

AM News: EdTech Startup CEO Among Amtrak Crash Victims

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

munguia-feature-teachers-2

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

People: EdTech Startup Exec Feared Injured In Philly Amtrak Crash

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

Morning Video: Duncan Talks Youth Employment, Public Boarding Schools

 

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

AM News: California Schools Already Getting Common Core Test Scores

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "AM News: California Schools Already Getting Common Core Test Scores" »

Cartoons: The First Rule Of Miming

Update: Shutting Down "District 299: The Unofficial Scoop On Chicago Public Schools"

As some of you may have already noticed, I shut down District 299, my Chicago-focused education blog, as of the end of April. 

I created the blog way back in the day (2005) when when I realized that Chicago educators didn't care much about national news and national educators didn't care much about Chicago. At the time, I was running a weekly email newsletter rounding up local and national news.

I thought -- and still think -- that Chicago's education scene is fascinating and important. You can see the first two years of the blog here. However, that was long ago. I've been away from Chicago for almost nine years now -- that's superintendents Huberman, Brizard, and Byrd-Bennett -- and have a bunch of new projects going on (including my newest launch over at the Washington Monthly, The Grade). 

District 299 has been hosted over the years by Chicago's Catalyst Magazine and by the Chicago Tribune's "Chicago Now" hive of local blogs.Thanks to them for sponsoring the blog so that I could keep it full of news and gossip, and specifically to Linda Lenz at Catalyst and Bill Adee and Jimmy Greenfield at the Chicago Tribune. According to Jimmy, there are 6,800 blog posts on the Tribune version of the site. 

And of course thanks to all of you who read the site, commented, and even shared tidbits with me along the way. For a long time, District 299 was a particularly satisfying experience for me because the relationship between me and the readers (longtime CPS veterans and insiders, many of them) was so close. 

Thanks, everyone! I'll be mothballing the site and shutting down the @district299 twitter feed in the next few weeks. What a great time.

Thompson: Did Fordham Accidentally Offer Support for Socio-Economic Integration, Not School Closures?**

It would be easy to read the Foreward to School Closures and Student Achievement, by Fordham’s Aaron Churchill and Mike Petrilli, and prejudge the paper as a similar piece of “astroturf” spin. But, the actual study of Ohio school closures, by Deven Carlson and Stéphane Lavertu, is solid. Their work will be a particularly valuable contribution to education research when it is not misused in support of scorched earth edu-politics where school closures are often used as an anti-union, anti-teacher battering ram.

It is possible to connect the evidentiary dots the way that Fordham does. A careful reading of the study gives as much evidence in opposition to closures as a school improvement strategy as it does in support of Churchill's and Petrilli's soundbites. 

Carlson and Lavertu note, "most of the few existing studies that rigorously examine the impact of school closure have found short-term negative effects (presumably from student mobility) and no discernable long-term effects on student achievement." So, if their study and future research does not conclude that closures produce more benefits than harm, it argues against the Fordham position.

Carlson's and Lavertu's findings "suggest that school-closure policies can yield academic benefits for displaced students so long as there are higher-quality schools nearby that students can attend." Of course, that is a huge "IF." The district schools that were closed were 92% low-income and 73% black. The non-closing schools in the districts studied were 85% low-income and 59% black. Even in this sample, 40% of students were placed in schools that were not higher-performing.

The study also analyzes the closing of charter schools. They were 74% low-income and 73% black.  Non-closing charters were 72% low-income and 54% black. That would be a topic for another post.

Moreover, those statistics are consistent with other research showing the benefits of socio-economic integration in schools and in housing. So, in light of the reappraisal of the Moving to Opportunity program and Robert Putnam's Our Kids, the increases in student performance might not be the result of competition that increases segregation. The gains may be due to a reduction of segregation.

Although you wouldn't know it by reading Churchill's and Petrilli's Foreward, a strength of the study is that it gives two possible baselines to be used in calculating the effects of school closes. The Forward showcases the first, I'd say less meaningful baseline. The disruption and demoralization which accompanies the closing of a school means that the student performance of its last year is not likely to be a fair metric. So, Carlson and Lavertu also generate a second, more "conservative" baseline which is based on student performance during the two years preceding the closure years.

If you only read the Fordham Foreward, you will conclude that three years after district-run schools are closed, its students will gain .073 STD in reading and .041 STD in math. They translate those gains into 49 extra days of learning in reading and 21 extra days of learning in math. But, using the conservative baseline (which seems a lot more reliable to me) reduces third-year estimates .060 or 40 days of learning in reading and to 0.041 or 21 days of learning in math.

If the days of learning estimates are valid (and since the Fordham Foreward gives no reason to doubt them), a casual reader might be more likely to conclude that closures are good policy. I do not have the expertise to determine whether the formula for translating standard deviation into days of learning is accurate or not, so I look forward to other critiques of those metrics.  But, footnote #10 explains, "We warn the reader not to read too much into this metric. ..."

Before School Closures and Student Achievement could be read as evidence for more school closures, these possible benefits must be compared to the costs for students of those policies. Carlson and Lavertu mention this issue and report "there is a significant negative effect when one focuses on the superior, growth-based measure of school quality. ... The quality of the schools that take in displaced students declines by 0.10 and 0.18 standard deviations--for district and charter schools, respectively--before and after absorbing students and staff from closing schools."

It will take additional research to calculate, apples to apples, how the gains of some students compare with the losses of others, but one thing is clear. Even though Carlson and Lavertu study the effects on a large student sample, the numbers of students in the receiving schools - schools that saw a decline - are much greater. So, the data of this study raises the question of whether the harm done to all students is greater than the gains for others.

The authors chose to study a region where student population was dropping, so school closures were inevitable. This raises two issues. First, given the region's economic decline, there is little  reason to believe the Fordham spin that, "Ohio's experience with urban school closures was primarily market driven." Perhaps, as Fordham speculates, "families voted with their feet," but more likely their neighborhoods, like the weaker schools, "withered and eventually died." So, is Fordham arguing for the quicker killing off of low-performing schools or of low-income communities?

Second, we should not the question of the value of research like Carlson and Lavertu when read as an attempt to objectively analyze school closures, as opposed to the spin of competition-driven reformers for their preconceived position. This might sound naïve, but what would happen if reformers read such research for insights into how to best improve all schools, and not as a part of their campaign to defeat unions and traditional public schools?

On the other hand, maybe we should be as brazen as Fordham and other reformers in spinning any and all research as support for our agendas. Then, we could have at least three headlines for Carlson's and Lavertu's work:

1. Fordham's School Closures Work!

2. My reading that School Closures gain produce gains of .060 and .041 standard deviations while producing drops of .10 std* 

3. Or, Maybe we should have tried socio-economic integration instead of market-driven reform.

* Dang if I know what that really means! -JT(@drjohnthompson)

**Editor's note: This post was originally published yesterday, taken down and corrected for spelling and other reasons, and is republished now. Please address any questions to contributor John Thompson @drjohnthompson.

AM News: Common Core Action In NH & CA - Plus New Preschool Data

N.H. Gov. Hassan First to Veto a Common-Core Repeal Bill State EdWatch: The Granite State governor's action is the first time a bill requiring a state to ditch the Common Core State Standards has been vetoed by a governor.

Broad coalition, poll show CA support for Common Core EdSource Today: In other states, schools are reporting massive opt-outs of testing, while only a few California schools have had half or more of their students skip the assessments. Still, some groups are protesting the Common Core, holding forums and handing out opt-out forms outside of schools.

Online Common Core Testing Lays Bare Tech Divide in Schools AP: Overall, 63 percent of public schools don't have access to broadband speeds needed for digital learning. The problem is particularly acute in rural and low-income districts: Only 14 percent in those areas meet high-speed internet targets.

Students teaching students in new world of Common Core math KPCC LA: Four years into teaching Common Core-based math in elementary schools, Downey Unified is betting that its collaborative approach will serve its students well as they join millions now taking new standardized tests measuring what they've learned.  Students explain how they arrive at answers, help their classmates figure out problems, and engage in lively conversations with their teachers and each other.

Gates Foundation pours millions more into Common Core The Answer Sheet: In the last seven months, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has poured more than $10 million into implementation and parent support for the Core, according to grant details on the foundation website (see below).

Preschool By State: Who's Spending And What's It Buying? NPR: A new, national report on state-funded pre-K sends a few mixed messages: Enrollment and funding are up ... but in many places still remarkably low. See also Washington Post, HuffPost.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan talks dollars, and roars like a lion Washington Post: The nation is moving too slowly in terms of providing quality preschool to its youngest learners, especially low-income children who desperately need a strong educational foundation, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Monday morning at a bilingual preschool in Langley Park, Md.

Teacher Candidates Sweat and Scramble Over New Certification Tests WNYC: All together, the four new assessments are more difficult than the previous set of tests that had close to 100 percent pass rates. They are also more expensive: students spend a minimum of more than $600 for the full round of tests, compared to less than $300 in previous years.  

Some Schools Embrace Demands for Education Data  NYT: Though critics worry about an increasing focus on metrics, some districts have begun recording and analyzing every scrap of information in an effort to improve.

Quotes: What Elizabeth Originally Wanted To Be When She Grew Up

Quotes2All I ever wanted to do was be a teacher. It must have been miserable to be one of my dolls, because I used to line them up and teach school. -- MA Senator Elizabeth Warren in the New Yorker (Elizabeth Warren’s Virtual Candidacy)

Pictures: "Game Of Loans.... Interest Is Coming" Goes Viral

In case you missed it, Wayne State University put this "Game Of Loans.... Interest Is Coming" image up on Facebook last week and it went viral pretty quickly. Hard to believe someone hadn't connected the show and the student loan phenomenon before (perhaps they had?). Insert statistics about loans and default rates at Wayne State here. Hat tip Robert Pondiscio. 

Morning Video: Home Visits Help Bring Dropouts Back Into School

Watch Lawrence, MA's re-engagment coordinator connect with youth who've dropped out at school, which, according to EdWeek has let to a dramatic lowering of dropout rates and a strong increase in graduation figures. What's not clear from the piece is how widespread the practice is, how well it works in other places, and what kinds of alternative/recovery programs are being offered to returning students. In some places, it's been reported that the quality is quite bad. 

AM News: Little Common Core Pushback In KY (& CA, & ....)

In an Early Adopter, Common Core Faces Little Pushback WSJ: Kentucky is in its fourth year of testing linked to Common Core State Standards, at a time when most other states are counting the tests for the first time. While students here were slow to show improvement, scores on standardized tests have begun to pick up. Pushback from teachers unions, which has been fierce in a number of states, has been minimal here.

Anti-Common-Core Bills Diversify as Democrats' Skepticism Grows, Report Says State EdWatch: "To move from vague proclamations of support to full implementation requires highly specific decisions to be made about who to target, how much money to invest, and which stakeholders to engage," the researchers wrote in their Brookings Institution paper.

Enrollment in state pre-K inches up but disparities remain AP: Enrollment in state pre-kindergarten programs inched up slightly last year, but there's been little change in the overall percentage of children participating in the programs, according to a national study on early education released Monday....

Amid gridlock in D.C., influence industry expands rapidly in the states GovBlog: Lobbyists aren’t having much luck on a gridlocked Capitol Hill — so more and more, they’re opening their wallets in state capitols around the country. Not keeping pace with the surge, say watchdog groups: the disclosure laws that are supposed to keep the influence industry in check.

ACT to expand computer-based testing  PBS NewsHour: The ACT announced Friday that computer-based testing will be available next year in the 18 states and additional districts that require students, typically juniors, to take the ACT during the school day. About 1 million students could be affected.

This Movie Theater PSA Is Inspiring Kids To Become Teachers HuffPost:  A public service announcement encouraging young people to become teachers has been playing in hundreds of movie theaters around the country in recognition of national teacher appreciation week May 4 to May 9.

More news below (and throughout at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: Little Common Core Pushback In KY (& CA, & ....)" »

Thompson: To Improve Baltimore's Schools, Learn from The Wire

The violence in Baltimore, Ferguson, Missouri, and other urban areas is inextricably connected with the deindustrialization of America. The rapid decline of our manufacturing base, and our ineffective response to the decline of working peoples' wages has also undermined confidence and, thus, our ability to solve serious social problems.

Ironically, Baltimore not only exemplifies the failure of our society to successfully tackle social problems, but it is also home of some of the world's best social science, such as the Johns Hopkins Everyone Graduates Center, and it is the inspiration of David Simon's and Ed Burns' The Wire.

The Wire is the contemporary equivalent of the wisdom of Joseph Heller's Catch 22. It is not only the definitive dramatic depiction of the failure of the data-driven War on Drugs, the devastation unleashed by the destruction of blue collar jobs, and the shortcomings of the both War on Poverty and gentrification in revitalizing inner cities, but it shows how school reform was doomed by those same dynamics. So, a silver lining in the Baltimore tragedy is that it gives us a chance to reconsider Simon's genius (as well as that of Johns Hopkins' Robert Balfanz.)

As long as America's economic pie was growing dramatically in a fairly equitable manner, we had the confidence to invest in the War on Poverty, as we also reinterpreted the Bill of Rights to expand our nation's promise to all. As the rich got richer, the poor poorer, and the middle class shrinks, however, fear grows and too many citizens become impatient with constitutional democracy. We have become open to corporate values that subordinate individual rights to the short-term bottom line.

For instance, as Simon explained in an interview with Bill Keller of The Marshall Project, the right of probable cause was destroyed in Baltimore's drug war. For too many police, it becamewhatever you thought you could safely lie about when you got into district court.”

This sounds familiar in two ways for teachers who have endured corporate school reform. Our fundamental right of due process was attacked. Moreover, anti-tenure crusaders felt free to make up any charge that they believed they could get away with.

Continue reading "Thompson: To Improve Baltimore's Schools, Learn from The Wire" »

Social Media: Let's Be Nuzzel Friends!

Screenshot 2015-05-08 11.07.17You've heard me praise the social media aggregation site Nuzzel before.  

Now I'm going to actively try and recruit you to join me and many others you know over there, so we can see each other's aggregated social media feeds.  

Sounds fun, right?

What Nuzzel does, essentially, is let you know when a certain number -- 10-, 2o -- of your social media friends has tweeted about something.  

It's like a personalized list of what's trending, which saves a ton of time scrolling through individual updates and watching twitter. 

Now, what Nuzzel Friends does is allows you to see your friends' trending stories, too.  

So if you're wondering what's big in Larry Ferlazzo's world right now, you click on his Nuzzel feed and it's all there. Or CoopMike, or Gordon Wright (who introduced me to the app a few months ago).

The reason that's helpful is that it makes sure that you're not just reading the 5 items that one or another swarm of Twitter friends is talking about.  "Regular" Nuzzel can get pretty predictable unless you're super-careful to create a broad and diverse Twitter follow list. 

As you can see from this screengrab, there are already lots of folks you probably already know using Nuzzel. Just a few weeks ago, it was just a few.  What are you waiting for? Get on board, and then let me know how you like it.

Related posts: With Tailored Alerts, Nuzzel Lets You Know What's Hot On Social Media.

Quotes: WashPost Editorial Page Urges More Charters For Baltimore

Quotes2Bad schools are only one element of urban dysfunction. But they are both a consequence and a cause of inequality, and improving them is essential to keeping another generation from being trapped by poverty. -- Washington Post editorial page (The schools Baltimore needs)

Morning Video: Colbert "Flash Funds" A South Carolina District's DonorsChoose Requests

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Watch Stephen Colbert announce that he and a few friends are going to "flash fund" a South Carolina school system's DonorsChoose request. He also angles for a monument at his old elementary school. "Enjoy the learning, South Carolina!" Via NBC News. Click here if the video doesn't load properly.

AM News: Colbert ❤ South Carolina Schools, Plus New York Evaluation Summit

Stephen Colbert Auctioned Off His 'Colbert Report' Set to Help Public Schools ABC News: "Using the proceeds of the sale of my old set on the 'Colbert Report' that we auctioned off, and the generous matching funds from the Morgridge Family Foundation and ScanSource, DonorsChoose is going to flash-fund all 1,000 projects in South Carolina schools," he said. "Enjoy your learning, South Carolina!" See also NBC News: Stephen Colbert to Fund Grants for South Carolina Teachers.

Albany Summit Airs Grievances Over Teacher Evaluation Law WNYC: Principals, teachers and school board members told Board of Regents members that they objected to the tight deadline in the law, and many were not pleased with a greater reliance on standardized tests, a component supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Superintendents who testified expressed deep unease with the law passed as part of the budget negotiations in Albany. See also Chalkbeat.

In Surprise Move, Teacher Ed. Accreditation Group Ousts President TeacherBeat: James G. Cibulka will be replaced by a former state superintendent until a new president can be found.

Former CPS CEO Brizard: SUPES owner 'instrumental' in bringing Byrd-Bennett to district Sun-Times:The man whose company is at the center of a federal investigation of Chicago Public Schools was “instrumental” in bringing Barbara Byrd-Bennett into a high-ranking job at CPS and in her promotion as CEO there, according to former CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard.

Los Angeles is Next in Battle Over All-Girls Science, Tech Schools NBC News: Proponents of schools like GALA say girls aren't given the tools they need to succeed in science and other classes, leading to a lack of confidence and experience that winds up pushing them away from careers in fields like computer engineering. But critics argue single-gender schools pander to stereotypes about learning that are based on weak research, and have no place in taxpayer-funded public districts.

Colorado Lawmakers Cut Testing Requirements by Focusing on Older Students State EdWatch: Lawmakers passed House Bill 1323 by wide margins on May 6 and sent it to Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper for his signature.

4 Takeaways From Jonathan Kozol On Race, Poverty And Corporate Reform In Education Boston Learning Lab: In a wide-ranging conversation about race, poverty and corporate reform in public education, the writer, educator and activist Jonathan Kozol spoke on Wednesday evening about what he sees as public education’s most pressing challenges.

Janitors spreading value of early education among immigrants KPCC LA: Few of her co-workers with young children have them in any kind of preschool, she said. Some think their children are too young to be in school, others don’t trust strangers to look after their toddlers, and most are unaware that they qualify for Head Start or free state preschool, she said.

ACT to Expand Computer-Based Testing AP: The ACT was to announce Friday that computer-based testing of the ACT would be available next year in the 18 states and additional districts that require students — typically juniors — to take the ACT during the school day. About 1 million students could be affected.

Quotes: Common Core = Private School/Voucher Increases?

MQuotes2ore parents are fleeing to private schools with the hope of escaping the standards - whether they can afford to self-pay or they will come to support school vouchers in greater numbers. - Allison Hertog in HuffPost (Parent Opt-Out Movement: Engine of Common Core Unraveling?)

Morning Video: Three White Guys (Including Gates & Buffett) Talk Education (Again)

 

From CNBC Monday, here's seven minutes from Gates, Buffett, and Charlie Munger talking about education. 

AM News: Obama Officials Huddle At Baltimore's Douglass HS

U.S. Cabinet secretaries visit Douglass High School Baltimore Sun: U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and Education Secretary Arne Duncan spent Wednesday afternoon at Frederick Douglass High School, where they discussed financial literacy and heard students' concerns about the lack of jobs and opportunities in Baltimore. See also Washington Post.

An Inside Look at the Hillary Clinton Inner Circle Bloomberg: Two other policy advisers, Maya Harris and Ann O'Leary, weren't included on the list, which the campaign aide said is because they were not yet working on the campaign on a full-time basis.

CTU files labor complaint against school board Chicago Tribune: The district, which says it is wrestling with a $1.1 billion deficit weighted with pension payments, wants to save millions of dollars by having teachers pay more into their pension fund. The CTU said the result would be a 7 percent cut in take-home pay for members. See also Sun-Times: Karen Lewis says 'no trust' between CTU and Board of Ed

Teachers union contract fails to guarantee a single additional teacher in LAUSD LA Daily News: The Los Angeles Unified School District is not contractually obligated to hire a single teacher to help ease crowded classrooms under the terms of its tentative agreement with United Teachers Los Angeles, this news organization has discovered. The guaranteed hiring of additional teachers, a key demand during months of strike preparations, remains in the union's characterization of the agreement.

Las Vegas: Betting On New Teachers But Coming Up Short NPR: The city wishes it had a lot more teachers like Adams. It needs almost 3,000 more teachers, to be exact. Las Vegas and Clark County consistently top the lists of American cities most in need of new teachers. And the most pressing needs — 75 percent of vacancies — are in schools that are lower-performing and have a high percentage of children living in poverty.

NewSchools New New Thing EdSurge: On May 6, more than a thousand educators, entrepreneurs and edtech enthusiasts came together for the 16th annual New Schools Venture Fund Summit. Gone were the high-profile speakers such as Mark Zuckerberg and Randi Weingarten...

Ed tech company folds after receiving millions in Race to the Top funds Washington Post: An education technology company has folded after receiving millions of dollars in federal Race to the Top funds to provide online assessments and other services to school districts.Charlotte-based Thinkgate LLC shut down last week, according to state education officials in Ohio and Massachusetts, two states that used Race to the Top money to contract with the company.

New Standardized Tests Bring Technical Challenges, Concern AP: Call this the year of the test. Or, at least the year of standardized test mania. Standardized test season in K-12 classrooms has been dominated in some states by widespread technical problems or by parents allowing their children to opt out. But testing officials say the rollout this spring of new standardized tests taken by computer in many U.S. public schools has been without major problems in much of the country. See also EdSource: CA State board awards disputed test contract to ETS.

For transgender teens and teachers, acceptance could be two words away Washington Post: For some transgender high school students in the Virginia suburbs, a school board decision Thursday could mean an end to death threats and the beginning of freedom to live openly as who they truly are.

Study: Gay, Bisexual Kids Bullied More, Even at Early Age AP:  Overall, many of the nearly 4,300 students surveyed said they were bullied, especially at younger ages. But the 630 gay and bisexual children suffered it more.

Care About Educational Equity? Then You Should Care About Mobile EdSurge: Of the 10 largest school districts in the country, which serve over 2.5 million students in poverty, only Chicago Public Schools’ website renders properly in a mobile browser. (I’m not counting Houston Independent School District, which has a mobile-friendly landing page, but clicking on any button leads to pages that are not mobile-friendly.)

Books: The Rise of AVID ("America's Largest College Readiness Program")

image from media.wiley.comIn case you'd missed it (as I had), longtime Washington Post education writer Jay Mathews' latest book is out.

As you probably know, Mathews wrote the book that became Stand And Deliver, and also wrote Work Hard, Be Nice, a book about the KIPP network of charter schools. He writes the Post's Class Struggle blog.

Published by Jossey-Bass/Wiley, the book (Question Everything: The Rise of AVID as America's Largest College Readiness Program) focuses on a program that everyone's probably heard about but doesn't know very well.

AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. In his new book, Mathews describes how AVID "levels the playing field, helping underserved students come out ahead."

Even more notable, the book describes how AVID has grown in 30 years into an organization serving 400,000 middle- and high-school students in 47 states and 16 countries.

I can't think of another program that's so widespread but so little in the news (though last year's Teach of the Year was AVID).

Mathews admits that he's not an impartial observer here. "It is a very pro-AVID book, but I point out some flaws. Its tutoring programs are its best feature, the key to the whole system, but they are hard to get up to full speed right away and I saw some ragged ones."

Related posts:  Obama Introduces (AVID) Teacher Of Year (2014); Teaching Students Guided Note-Taking (Bruno 2012).

Events: NewSchools 2015 Summit Live Twitter Feed

Seems like a slow day, so maybe you'd be best off spending the rest of it watching #NSVFSummit updates scroll by. It's mostly folks chronicling the event, rather than reacting pro or con, and it may or may not be NSVF's best summit ever. But it's good to know what folks are doing and saying, whether you agree or not. Let me know if something unusual happens!

Update: New Blog Takes "A Closer Look At Education News"

Screenshot 2015-05-06 14.55.02
I am excited to announce the launch of my latest blog, The Grade, over at the Washington Monthly. 

No actual grades will be given -- though praise and criticism will be offered quite regularly.  Think of it as NPR's "On The Media" for education news, or as a public editor or ombudsman for national K-12 news coverage. 

The focus, as you will quickly see, is creating an ongoing discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of the education news coverage that informs the public and policymakers about what's going on in schools.

There's a ton of education news being pumped out every day, but what's particularly good (or bad) about the coverage that's being provided -- and what if anything can be done to make it even better?

My main publishing partner is the Washington Monthly, which has a long-standing interest in education and quality journalism. They're the folks that put out the alternative guide  to colleges, among other things. I'll also be publishing some columns in the Columbia Journalism Review.

My starting funders for this new venture are the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teachers union in the country, and Education Post, an education nonprofit funded by folks like Eli Broad, Mike Bloomberg, and the Walton Family Foundation.  

Most days it might not seem like these two would agree on much, but they have stepped up to support this effort out of a desire for smart, accurate education coverage (and agreed to give me room to write and say what seems most important to me).

Curious about what it's going to look like? Here and elsewhere, I've been trying my hand at some of the kinds of posts that you'll see at The Grade in the coming days and weeks, including Common Problems with Common Core Reporting (in the Columbia Journalism Review) and How The Atlantic's CUNY Story Went (So) Wrong (in Medium). 

You can also check out all the past Media Watch posts here

If you like this kind of stuff, that's what you're going to find lots of over there.

Click the link to check out the first couple of posts.  Subscribe to all future posts on the site with Feedly or some other RSS reader using  this link. And, in the days and weeks ahead, don't forget to send me stories you think are great or problematic.

Not to worry, I'll still be blogging here every day and sharing out links on Twitter, too. 

Morning Video: Taking A Look At The Latest Charter School Waiting Lists

It's both Charter Schools and Teacher Appreciation week at the same time, and yet the sky seems not to have fallen (yet). So maybe that means something good. 

However, the charter schools folks are pushing the waiting list numbers thing hard again, and that has me nervous.  The latest Charter Alliance report looks at waiting lists in 10 districts and has generated some news coverage including the NY Daily News (NYC has longest wait for charter schools in the country); EdWeek (Urban Charter School Wait Lists Swell Nationally, Report Says); WSJ (Waiting for Charter Schools).

Charter school waiting list numbers tend to look misleadingly high, sort of like lots of other numbers in education: charter school graduate percentages, college acceptance rates, pre-Common Core state proficiency rates. All these numbers -- like rents in Brooklyn -- are too damn high to be believed (though the rents are for real).

That's not to say that there aren't thousands of parents who want to get into some charters, and that there won't be more of them applying soon thanks to universal enrollment agreements that are slowly but surely spreading among urban districts. What we need is some sort of standardized definition and practice for waitlist numbers among different charters and districts, as was done a decade or so ago about graduation and dropout statistics. 

There's also the issue of some charter schools not backfilling classes when kids exit during the school year or even between years. It'd be interesting to match up the backfill numbers with the waiting list numbers and see what you came up with.

Until then I would urge everyone to look at the numbers being provided with caution. The demand is real, and the parents are sincere, but the specific numbers...I'm just not very confident in them.

Still curious? According to the report, "More information is available at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ data dashboard. Data sources for the number of student names on wait lists for each district are available in the Technical Note." Tell us what you find.

Related posts: Charter Schools Claim Million-Name Nat'l Wait-List (2013); Charter Advocates Denounce Reuters Reporting* (2013); Charter school demand in Mass. disputed (Boston Globe 2013); Well-Connected Parents Slip Past Lottery (2011).

AM News: Testing, Opt-Outs, & What Happens Next

More Perspectives on Testing Opt-Outs From New York and Beyond State EdWatch: The campaign has made the biggest waves so far in New York state, but more broadly, it has also intensified discussions about the role of testing in schools.  Here are some tidbits, themes, and quotes that didn't make it into the print version of the story now posted online.

With New Standardized Tests, Educators Worry About Scores AP: Testing officials say the rollout this spring of new standardized tests taken by computer in U.S. public schools has been without major problems in much of the country. The next step? Seeing how students did — and how parents and educators respond. 

Why civil rights groups say parents who opt out of tests are hurting kids Washington Post: A dozen civil rights groups issued a statement Tuesday criticizing the growing movement of parents who refuse to allow their children to take standardized tests, saying the anti-test push “would sabotage important data and rob us of the right to know how our students are faring.

The Soccer Mom Revolt Against Common Core WSJ: Unlike the Common Core standards and tests, No Child Left Behind didn't tell schools what to do and what not to do. States were still in charge.

Most states lacked expertise to improve worst schools Washington Post: The Obama administration handed out more than $3 billion to the states and the District of Columbia to help them turn around their worst-performing schools as part of the federal stimulus spending that took place after the 2008 recession. 

Seattle teachers call 1-day walkout over state budget Seattle Times: Seattle teachers voted Monday to strike on May 19 in an appeal for more funding from the Legislature, joining colleagues in about two dozen other school districts. See also Seattle Public Radio.

Early learner expert tied to Hollywood takes on Common Core SI&A Cabinet Report: Already under fire for its ties to the Obama administration and for unsettling teacher unions – the Common Core has a new adversary, actor Matt Damon’s mom. A new white paper out this month from the Boston-based non-profit takes issue with a requirement in the Common Core State Standards that kindergarteners should be reading before moving on to the first grade.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Testing, Opt-Outs, & What Happens Next" »

Charts: Nearly 20,000 High Schools Now Offering AP

image from www.marketplace.org

The number of schools offering AP has nearly doubled since the mid-1990s when my old boss Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and others were touting it as a great way to raise expectations and accelerate learning for low-income and minority kids. Here's a chart showing the growth via a story that ran on APM Marketplace yesterday. For other stories in the series: How one high school is closing the AP gapSpending $100 million to break down AP class barriers.

The courses and tests are obviously no silver bullet, and it's unclear to me what happens to AP in the Common Core era. But they are a good reminder that more kids than we think can learn to challenging levels, and that school systems often don't serve kids equally without being nudged or forced to do so. Image used with permission.

Related posts: Advanced Placement offerings vary widely in D.C. high schools (Washington Post)

Morning Listen: Former Balto Supe Andres Alonso Reflects On Recent Unrest

There were lots of people -- too many -- using last week's unrest in Baltimore as an excuse to advance an agenda or generate attention - but former superintendent Andres Alonso is in a pretty unique spot to talk about what's going on there when it comes to the education system and its intersection with equity and justice -- though he's careful not to talk trash about those who are still there working in the system.

So here's a new Harvard EdCast to check out, featuring Alonso. You can also read this recent Seattle Times interview focusing on Alonso's efforts to overhaul discipline in Baltimore (School leader who overhauled discipline in long-troubled Baltimore looks back). Alonso was head for 6 years, during which dropout rates went down cooperation with teachers went up.

I'm getting mixed responses on whether things have gotten better or worse since he left two years ago, and whether that made any difference in how students and others reacted on Monday.

Related posts: Alonso's Smooth Approach To School Reform (2010); Alonso calls report done by school consultant 'objective' (Baltimore Sun 2012); Inside The Baltimore Test Score Rally (2009). See also: BaltSun Education Reporter Gets Close To Cover #FreddyGrey Protests"Smarter" Charters Are Diverse, Teacher-Led.

AM News: Common Core Testing Resumes, & Scoring Begins

Ga. Schools Chief: Testing Snafu With Unknown Impact Is 'Unacceptable' State EdWatch: Problems with common-core-aligned exams mirror those in Montana and Nevada, but the Associated Press reports that the glitches are not as severe as in other states.

Louisiana Common Core tests resume with few boycotts, state says NOLA.com: During five days in March, more than 4,300 students boycotted the first set of Common Core exams, part of a political uprising against the math and English benchmarks. That's about 1 percent of the total number of students in the testing grades.

Challenges, optimism in learning Common Core in Spanish KPCC LA: Imagine if you don’t spend your day learning in the English language. How do dual immersion students grasp the Common Core concepts? It turns out that once educators had time to think about how Common Core could be taught in the classroom, they saw dual immersion learning as aligning surprisingly well with concepts like problem-solving, critical thinking and collaboration.

How Common Core tests are scored Cleveland.com:  If your third grader took the PARCC math exams this spring, there's a good chance that one of their answers was scored [on] a laptop here at this Westerville office.

Inside the School Silicon Valley Thinks Will Save Education Wired: And so, if you are truly fed up with the school status quo and have $20,875 to spare (it’s pricey, sure, but cheaper than the other private schools you’ve seen), you might decide to take a chance and sign your 7-year-old up for this little experiment in education called AltSchool. Except it’s not really so little anymore. And it’s about to get a lot bigger. See als NPRTechChrunchNYT

The changing role of Advanced Placement classes Marketplace: If annual growth rates hold true, during the next two weeks, more than two million high school students across the country are expected to take AP exams. A passing score could mean earning college credit while still in high school. Research shows that students who take rigorous courses in high school are more likely to get into, and succeed, in college.

Most Americans Think Public School Teachers Are Underappreciated And Underpaid HuffPost: The survey results suggest most Americans think teachers deserve a week dedicated to appreciating them, if only because this group does not get enough respect the other 51 weeks of the year.  

Gates' Teacher-Prep Grants Will Fund Cooperatives to Scale, Share Practices TeacherBeat: The most notable feature of this approach is is that it's a change from one-off grants to individual providers and institutions, the strategy the foundation has used up to this point for teacher preparation. 

Higher Ed Lobby Quietly Joins For-Profit Schools to Roll Back Tighter Rules ProPublica: Traditional colleges and universities have become unlikely allies of the beleaguered for-profit industry as each group tries to fend off the government’s push for more accountability. See also FirstLook story on PACs and think tanks Corinthian gave money to before going bankrupt.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Common Core Testing Resumes, & Scoring Begins" »

Thompson: Reformers to Teachers - Please Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

Teachers have to think ahead. What questions do I ask, in what order? How do I pace instruction for seniors with 5th grade skills so they can master college readiness concepts? What classroom disruption should I ignore? What will happen if/when I make an issue of different sorts of misbehavior? 

I've long had great success in teaching students to plan their work and work their plans. I've failed consistently, however, in understanding why reformers never look before they leap. They seem to just dictate without anticipating the predictable results of their mandates.

Now, the anti-Opt Out soundbite is that teachers should relax, don't worry about what is in store for us in the near future. High stakes Common Core testing has barely begun to release its fury and, according to reformers, we should give it a chance because we might dodge a worst case scenario.   

The Hechinger Report Lillian Mongeau, Emmanuel Felton, and Sarah Butrymowiez, in Stakes for "High-Stakes" Tests Are Actually Pretty Low, report that few students are currently subject to high-stakes Common Core tests, and most teachers are not yet subject to the sanctions that have already been codified into law.  Their graphic shows that only 11 states are already using test scores for teacher evaluations. However, their interactive graphic shows that all but eight have plans to do so. 

Mongeau et. al report that the Council of Chief State School Officers' Chris Minnich hopes that teachers "can continue to be part of an ongoing conversation about the best way to use measures of student learning in evaluations." But, that gets the issue backwards. Why wasn't there a real discussion about whether it was good or bad policy to include test score growth estimates to sanction individual teachers? Why were teachers ignored when non-educators decided how we should be evaluated?

Continue reading "Thompson: Reformers to Teachers - Please Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" »

Testing: Addition Of MA and RI Creates Big Week For PARCC EOY Testing

Screen shot 2015-04-29 at 5.34.57 PMSpeaking of standardized testing: With addition of MA and RI, all 11 @PARCCPlace states enter EOY testing window this week.  

I don't know if things have been especially lively in those states, in terms of glitches or opt-outs, or if the state and district agencies have done a particular good or bad job preparing for this round, but we shall see.

I've asked Smarter Balanced for a similar schedule but have yet to receive or see any such thing.

Maps: Upward Mobility Varies Among Similar-Seeming Cities & Suburbs

Screenshot 2015-05-04 09.55.48The NYT takes a look a new research showing that poor kids do better or worse depending on where they come from. The most challenging places tend to be bit cities like Atlanta; Chicago; Los Angeles; Milwaukee; Orlando, West Palm Beach and Tampa in Florida. But there it's not all big cities, and smaller cities like Austin, Texas are rough for poor kids.  And the better places include both large cities like San Francisco, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas but also smaller ones like Providence and major suburban counties, such as Fairfax, Va.; Bergen, N.J.; Bucks, Pa.; Macomb, Mich.; Worcester, Mass.; and Contra Costa, Calif. They're more expensive to live in, housing-wise, and public rent subsidies tend not to accommodate variations in housing costs, but they have better elementary school test scores and greater diversity. Check it all out here: An Atlas of Upward Mobility Shows Paths Out of Poverty. Image via NYT. Note that NYC doesn't do as well regarding upward mobility once immigrant families are removed from the equation.

Comedy: HBO's John Oliver Swings (& Misses) Against Standardized Testing

It's no easy job being smart and funny at the same time, and especially so when the topic is something as boring and controversial as standardized testing.  But last night's John Oliver segment didn't seem to succeed at either task, and came off somewhat blinkered with its focus on the concerns of (mostly) white teachers and (mostly) white parents and students. Watch for yourself and let me know what you think:

As you'll see, there are some funny bits and great snippets -- Obama bashing standardized tests in a pandering campaign speech before the NEA, a dirty remark regarding the Common Core logo, a funny quip about teachers' inspirational class posters in the new age, a bit about value-added formulas coming from livestock prediction models (is that true?), the instructions on what to do if a kid throws up on a test (is THAT true?), the comparison of Pearson to Time Warner Cable, the pop culture references (Fight Club, etc.).

There are tons of problems with standardized tests, and lots of things that could be done to improve them.
But Oliver seems to be trying way too hard and might not have the goods. Making fun of school testing pep rally videos seems like something you might see on America's Funniest Home Videos (if that's still on). The repeated focus on Florida seems problematic. The Talking Pineapple test question is old. The adult who did poorly on the test I don't care about him. The French kid with the cigarette? I have nothing to say. The girl crying because she tests poorly and can't take advanced art seems hard to believe (someone find her!). Going back to the dancing test mascot not twice but three times seems desperate (or maybe just not my cup of tea).
 
More importantly, going back to a world without standardized tests, and subgroups, and attempts to link teachers to student progress, is hard for me to imagine, and my sympathies lie much more with the kids who aren't being taught by teachers who think they can learn or school systems that don't give them the resources they deserve to succeed.  I don't think testing dramatically worsens those problems, even if it doesn't fix them.  The Common Core testing rollout has been glitchy but nothing like, say, the initial rollout of Obamacare.  And as I noted last week recent events in Ferguson, Baltimore, and elsewhere have been a big reminder to us all that fixating for or against testing, charters, or technology increasingly seems like fiddling on the margins. 
 
None of this is to say that I hope Oliver and his crew don't continue to watch and mock things going on in education.  The Daily Show and the Colbert Report were generally great in terms of keeping an eye on hits and misses in schools and improvement efforts.  It seems unlikely that Colbert is going to be able to interview education researchers in his new gig.  So we need Oliver et al to keep the attention.  I'm just hoping that they'll be funnier and smarter about it next time around. Or maybe I just need to be in a better mood.
 

AM News: Districts Welcome Expanded Obama Support Program

Big-City Districts Buoyed by Obama's Extension of 'My Brother's Keeper' District Dossier: Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City School, said the proposed new foundation will help sustain the council's efforts on equity and access in its districts after Mr. Obama leaves the White House.

Parents hate it when schools get shut down. But a new study suggests it helps kids learn. Vox: In Ohio's eighth-largest school district, students whose schools were closed and who ended up at different schools learned more than students in low-quality schools that didn't close, researchers Deven Carlson and Stéphane Lavertu found.

Teacher Testifies So Dzhokhar Tsarnaev 'Knows That Someone Cares About Him' HuffPost: It was the second time that Becki Norris spoke up for Tsarnaev, 21, on Wednesday. Earlier that day, the current Community Charter School of Cambridge principal testified in Tsarnaev's trial that when he was her seventh- and eighth-grade student, he was "a really hard-working, smart kid" with a seemingly bright future in front of him. 

State, teacher unions file briefs in tenure ruling appeal AP: In briefs filed in the state's Second District Court of Appeal, attorneys for the state, the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers contend there was no "legal or factual justification" in striking down state laws on tenure and job protection.

Teacher-Retention Rates Higher Than Previously Thought TeacherBeat: Only 17 percent of teachers tracked in a federal longitudinal study left the profession, far fewer than the often-cited 50 percent.

Some Baltimore youth have fears of police reinforced in their schools Washington Post: Darius Craig was disgusted Monday night watching other Baltimore teens on television as they burned cars, looted shops and hurled rocks at police. But the high school senior understood why his peers were so angry.

Beyond The Headlines, There's Much More To West Baltimore NPR: At one intersection this week, violence was thoroughly documented. But the cameras missed the treasured public library that for years has educated and entertained the neighborhood's kids.

Weingarten regrets supporting Cuomo's running mate Capital New York: American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingartenregrets campaigning for Governor Andrew Cuomo's running mate in last year's elections, she told Capital during a union convention on Saturday. 

More school merger plans in the works, Fariña says ChalkbeatNY: In areas of the city with high rates of domestic violence, teachers will get special training next year, an effort that grew out of City Hall’s new “Children’s Cabinet.” 

Outside interest groups battle over school vouchers: After years of lobbying, millions of dollars from in-state and out-of-state advocacy groups and the support of the governor and other legislative leaders, school vouchers are still banned in Tennessee.

From The White House, A Celebration Of Great Teaching NPR: President Obama welcomes the National Teacher of the Year and tells how a great educator shaped his own life.

Emma Bloomberg on the Future of the Robin Hood Foundation Gotham Magazine: As Robin Hood holds its annual gala on May 12, we took the opportunity to ask Bloomberg for an insider’s look at the group Fortune called “one of the most innovative and influential philanthropic organizations of our time.”

From Hurricane Katrina to Howard University, a young woman's odyssey Washington Post: One of Halley's teachers told her about a program for high school juniors to work for a semester as congressional pages in Washington. ... Once in Washington, Halley toured Howard University and set a new goal.

Charts: District Schools Outperform Charters In Chicago, Notes Foundation Officer

Last week during #EWA15, MSDF's Joe Siedlecki noted that CPS elementary schools outperform charters in terms of the percentage of kids in high-rated schools, and praised Chicago charters for participating in the unified accountability system that makes such comparisons possible. 

Media: Publishing On Instagram

Given how much kids and teachers like Instagram (and the coming death of Twitter), I'm wondering whether anyone out there is publishing school-related content on the image-based social media platform.  The New York Times recently described an outlet called The Shade Room (Instagram’s TMZ) that was using the platform as its main base, rather than adding accounts and sharing information intermittently. It's not as crazy as it sounds.  The Times and other outlets may soon start publishing stories directly to Facebook.  But I'm not on Instagram enough to know if anyone's on there doing anything that could be called publishing related to education or school news. 

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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.