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Thompson: Rick Hess's (& My) Lessons from Race to the Top

Some academics persist in a strange ritual - gauging greatness by the effects that government office holders have on the political process, as opposed to the results of their policies for flesh and blood human beings. Andrew Jackson and Teddy "the Big Stick" Roosevelt have been categorized as "great" because they were so effective in stealing Indians' land and leaping into imperialism. Ronald "the Great Communicator" Reagan gets high marks for the transformative nature of his politics, as the Central American death squads he supported and the destruction of blue collar jobs are forgotten.

Now, some proclaim Arne Duncan as a great transformer because he completely changed the nature of education policy. Those who celebrate Duncan's political victories, like William Howell and Joanne Weiss, remain curiously silent about the possible benefits and the costs of his school improvement experiments.

Fortunately, conservative Rick Hess's contribution to the discussion in Education Next, Lofty Promises but Little Change for America's Schools, offers a real world critique of Duncan's gambles. Hess recounts the results that matter, concluding "the breakthrough wins touted so avidly by Race to the Top enthusiasts in 2010 and 2011 now look much more like pyrrhic victories—shot through with design flaws, tainted by federal compulsion, and compromised by half-hearted follow-through." 

Continue reading "Thompson: Rick Hess's (& My) Lessons from Race to the Top " »

Update: Goldstein Compares Current Teacher Fears To 1980s' Welfare Fears

As some of you may recall, I was surprised to find out that Dana Goldstein used the powerful idea of a "moral panic" to describe concerns over ineffective teachers in her book.  

In the following days, Goldstein explained to me via Twitter that moral panic was indeed what's been happening, and that "this anxiety has consistently overlooked the profession's structure, child poverty, & other factors that matter."

In the fascinating excerpt she shares (above), Goldstein writes that "the ineffective tenured teachers has emerged as a feared character, a vampiric type who sucks tax dollars into her bloated pension and health care plans, without much regard for the children under her care." 

Hmm. My experience, for what it's worth, is that "teacher bashing" or the so-called "war on teachers" has been the authentic experience of some teachers, and has been the part of some Republican lawmakers' efforts (as in Wisconsin). 

But it hasn't been my experience that teachers have been singled out by reform advocates -- most of them Democrats -- in the way that welfare queens were the targeted by Republican lawmakers (a comparison Goldstein raises in the excerpt above). 

Instead, the idea of teacher bashing and the war on teachers has been part of the case made by advocates for teachers to fight against efforts to change the way schools and teaching work that they did not think were reasonable (or likely to be effective).

Claiming that reformers are conducting a war on teachers has worked really well at putting reformers on the defensive -- as have accusations against reformers for being elite, racist, etc. And for all I know this may be how moral panics of the past have emerged: an idea expressed by one segment of society is amplified by its intended victims as a means of self-defense.

But it's not the same as what comes to mind when I think of moral panic, which is to describe a broader, society-wide fear of a certain category of person based on profession, race, or appearance. I'm curious what scholars who have developed the idea of a moral panic would say about Goldstein's use of the term here, or how 2015-ish concerns about ineffective teachers map against 1980's concerns about welfare queens.

**Also: The paperback version of Goldstein's book, The Teacher Wars, comes out next month!**

Related posts: At AFT Conference, Goldstein Compares Reform Efforts To "Moral Panic"Goldstein Puts TFA Under The MicroscopeGoldstein & Carey Debate Test Proliferation.

AM News: Nearly 40 Percent Of Black Kids Growing Up In Poverty, Says New Report

The U.S. Is Letting Poor Kids Fall Further and Further Behind in Reading Slate: Break this figure into subgroups and the picture looks even grimmer, with 39 percent of black kids and 33 percent of Hispanic kids in poverty.

See also Bloomberg News: Brain Scans Reveal How Poverty Hurts Children's Brains, AP More U.S. Children Are Living In Poverty Than During The Great Recession, HuffPost The Heartbreaking Physical Toll Of High Achievement Among Disadvantaged Teens.

Teachers May Be Staying In The Classroom Longer Than Expected, Says Study HuffPost: A recent federal study found that a much smaller percentage of beginning teachers leave the field in their first five years on the job than the widely quoted figure of 50 percent. It’s 17 percent, according to the new research.

The declining D.C. school system hired political strategists. It seems to have worked. Washington Post: Last year, consultants trained principals of traditional schools to knock on doors in a direct appeal to families, an effort that continues this summer. Now they are refining their pitch with messages based on the new market research, which included the parent survey, focus groups and polling data, a package that cost the school system $95,000.

The K-12 Record of New GOP Candidate Gov. Kasich PK12: Gov. John Kasich doesn't have the kind of high-profile and polarizing history with public schools that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker can claim. But he has an extensive record. See also ThinkProgress.

How The Big New Education Law Could Cut Testing Time NPR: Marla Kilfoyle is a teacher on Long Island, New York, a center of the opt-out movement, and the general manager of the Badass Teachers Association, a national group that opposes standardized testing. Hundreds of its members will be on Capitol Hill this week lobbying Senators and the Department of Education to halt standardized testing, among other ideas aiming to empower teachers.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Nearly 40 Percent Of Black Kids Growing Up In Poverty, Says New Report" »

Charts: How Much Did That Free Excellent Neighborhood School Cost You?

Screen shot 2015-07-21 at 3.10.01 PM

This Matt Yglesias article and accompanying chart are going around today. In the piece, the Vox honcho makes the case -- too simplistically, according to some like Chalkbeat's Maura Walz -- that the housings costs of homes near high-performing public schools (top right quadrant) make them inaccessible to many middle- and low-income families, and that there are strong disincentives to letting more people live in those areas or dis-connecting school assignment and housing. Chart by Ginger Moored via Vox.

Quotes: Unions, Conservatives Making Belated Alliance Over Local Control

Quotes2The unions and the Republicans have spent so many years thinking of each other as enemies that they have been slow to recognize their alliance, and some of them have flinched uncomfortably from it. But the logic of the alliance has made itself increasingly evident. 

- NY Mag's Jonathtan Chait (The Principle That United GOP, Teachers Unions)

Morning Video: In LinkedIn Debut, Duncan Promos Lehigh High School Teachers

Check it out. Here's the accompanying text. With Duncan's debut, that makes ... two folks I know about using LinkedIn. The other is Deschryver.  Are there others?

AM News: At 22 Percent, Child Poverty Rate Still Higher Than Before Recession

More children are in poverty today than before the Great Recession PBS NewsHour: Today, 22 percent of children live in poverty, up from 18 percent in 2008. Minnesota led the United States in children’s overall well-being, followed by New Hampshire and Massachusetts. It’s the first time in nearly a decade that a state outside of New England has ranked first nationwide.

ESEA Rewrite: What to Expect From House-Senate Conference PK12: Representatives from both parties and both chambers will attempt to find common ground between their dueling reauthorization bills, which contain some stark policy differences. See also Washington Post.

ESEA Rewrite and Waiver Issue: When Should ELLs Count for Accountability? PK12: The House and Senate bills to write the Elementary and Secondary Education Act go in different directions when it comes to testing English-language learners.

Pat Toomey background check amendment: Why the No Child Left Behind rewrite won't include it. Slate: Among the more unfortunate casualties was Sen. Al Franken’s Student Non-Discrimination Act, which proposed extending federal protections against bullying to LGBT students. Other amendments were adopted in extremely watered-down form.

Judge Rules Against Miss. Districts in K-12 Money Lawsuit as Ballot Duel Looms State EdWatch: A lawsuit and two opposing ballot initiatives over school spending in Mississippi promise to create a complicated picture for K-12 spending in the state.

Chicago Public Schools Propose Selling $1.16 Billion In Bonds Reuters via HuffPost: Proceeds would be used to improve school facilities, refund outstanding bonds, and pay banks to terminate swaps used to hedge interest-rate risk on variable-rate debt, according to documents posted on the CPS website.

'Breaking Bad' Actor Runs for Albuquerque Seat AP: Actor Steven Michael Quezada (keh-ZAH'-dah) is jumping in a heated race for county commissioner in Albuquerque. Quezada is a member of the Albuquerque school board.

The Test That Can Look Into A Child's (Reading) Future NPR: Researchers say they've come up with a 30-minute test that can predict a child's language skill and diagnose learning disabilities.

NYC Parents, Teachers and Students Give Their Schools High Marks WNYC: Consistent with last year's survey results, 95 percent of parents who responded to the survey were at least "somewhat satisfied" with their child's education and with the school's response to their questions.  [But no class size question?!] See also:  ChalkbeatSchoolBook.

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

Continue reading "AM News: At 22 Percent, Child Poverty Rate Still Higher Than Before Recession" »

Update: Baltimore Students Get Ta-Nehesi Coates Talk

The New York Times reported that, on Wednesday, Atlantic magazine writer Ta-Nehesi Coates spoke with some Baltimore high school students.

Turns out it was Renaissance Academy in the Booker T. Washington HS building.

Check it out on Twitter, or click this link to watch Coates speak at the book launch event just afterwards (among other things about the privilege of having two parents when he was growing up).

Morning Video: Packnett & Mckesson Win TFA Social Justice Activism Award

Here's the promo video for Brittany Packnett and Deray McKesson, two TFA alumni who have been extremely involved in social justice activism since last year's Ferguson protests. They received TFA's Peter Jennings award for their leadership at a TFA event last week. Video provided by TFA. They were also on WNYC and NPR's On The Media last week.

All of a sudden, the reform movement doesn't seem so left behind on social justice issues as it did a year or two ago (though it still has a long way to go).

Related posts: McKesson Invited To Clinton Campaign EventConservatives Critique/Elevate AFT Alum/Activist.

AM News: Labor Dispute Over AFT's "Early" Clinton Endorsement

Unions seethe over early Clinton endorsement Politico: Labor leaders said there was a clear understanding that no national unions would make an endorsement before July 30. But the American Federation of Teachers jumped the gun. See also NY Post, WSJ.

Democratic 2016 Candidates Like Senate ESEA Bill, GOP Not So Much PK12: GOP lawmakers running for president don't think the bipsartisan Senate bill to renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act goes far enough in restoring power to parents. See also LA Times, Atlantic Education.

President Obama Takes On the Prison Crisis New York Times: He talked about community investment, especially in early-childhood education and in lower-income minority communities, as the best way to stop crime before it starts. And he spoke of the importance of removing barriers to employment, housing and ...

Memphis students to meet Michelle Obama as part of higher education initiative WREG: 
The summit is part of Michelle Obama's Reach Higher initiative, which aims to inspire students continue theireducation after high school. 

Oakland educators say their success in school discipline relies on shared goals Seattle Times: Since 2012, the Oakland Unified School District has decreased suspensions by 47 percent — a dramatic drop that has drawn attention from those who wonder whether Seattle Public Schools can do the same. On Friday, four leaders of Oakland’s efforts came to Seattle to explain what they’ve done, and why.

Kansas’s Teacher Exodus EWA:  Frustrated and stymied by massive budget cuts that have trimmed salaries and classroom funding, Kansas teachers are “fleeing across the border” to neighboring states that offer better benefits and a friendlier climate for public education, NPR’s Sam Zeff reported. But it’s hardly an outlier.  And it doesn’t take much to find stories of teacher shortages in Arizona and Indiana, among many others.

USA tops International Math Olympiad for first time in 21 years Washington Post: If winning a youth math competition seems less important than vanquishing the Soviets back in 1980, consider this: the last time America won the IMO was 1994. Back then, Bill Clinton was president and Ace of Base was top of the pop charts. See also NPR.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Labor Dispute Over AFT's "Early" Clinton Endorsement" »

Thompson: Why Did the TNTP Fail to Turn Around a High-Profile Tulsa School?

The Tulsa World’s Andrea Eger, in McClure Elementary School’s “Faculty Restart” Flopped, Educators Say, writes, “Last summer’s ‘faculty restart’ at one of the city’s toughest inner-city schools wasn’t the extraordinary new beginning it was hailed as. Educators and parents say it was a disaster.”

At the beginning of the school year, after replacing 3/4th of the school’s faculty, McClure School Principal Katy Jimenez said, “I have never experienced a vibe and energy like we have right now.” Jimenez said, “The team has come together in an amazing way. My returning teachers gave up their summer to build a team they wanted to be a part of. Their investment is very deep. We are exhausted but so excited.”

The principal borrowed a line from the corporate reform spin-meisters known as the TNTP and praised a second-grade teacher, Paige Schreckengast, as “an irreplaceable.” Ms. Schreckengast was featured the story’s photograph.

The Tulsa Public Schools had partnered with TNTP to help recruit teachers. It should be no surprise to educators familiar with its blood-in-the-eye assaults on veteran teachers that the hiring process was called “very strenuous, focused” and resulted in a staff where 88% had less than three years of experience.

Eger reports that even in this high-profile restart, “two vacancies went unfilled for much of the year because of a lack of applicants.” I’m not surprised by that, however, because many or most of the best teachers have heard the jargon before and many refuse to participate in such restarts because they know that the ideology-driven playbook is likely to fail. Neither am I surprised that “seven teachers bugged out mid-year; and then another seven left at the end of 2014-15.”

The irreplaceable also left.

Now, Tulsa says that the district officials learned from mistakes made in McClure’s faculty restart. The principal, Jimenez, says that she will no longer accept Teach for America candidates. According to Eger, Jimenez is balancing her remaining optimism with “a brutal, unrelenting reality.” The principal says:

I’m not hopeful for any more support this year. I say that because I’ve been in TPS for 13 years, … I don’t think people know what to do for a site like us. If you ask them at the district level, they think they’re giving us plenty of extra help. I don’t have enough students to qualify for an assistant principal, but I have one. I receive two discretionary (teacher) allocations. I have Reading Partners, a full-time therapist from Family and Children’s Services — but it’s still not enough for the day-to-day needs.

-JT (@drjohnthompson)



Quotes: Your Individual Racism Isn't Really The Problem

Quotes2In [Coates'] estimation, racism is neither an individual act of hatred nor some natural outside force; racism is a series of systems operating exactly as they were planned.

- In the New Yorker (Ta-Nehisi Coates and a Generation Waking Up)

Numbers: Uptick In Violent Deaths & Threatened Teacher Reports At School

"According to new federal crime statistics, there were 32 violent deaths at elementary and secondary schools in the U.S. from July 2010 to June 2011 – the smallest number in almost two decades," notes SI&A Cabinet report (Crime stats show troubling trend at nation’s schools). "But the following year ending in June 2012 – the most recent year for which data is available – a total of 45 deaths were recorded."

The report also notes that "the percentage of teachers who said they had been threatened with attack – or actually attacked – by a student  has been slowly increasing since 2003 when less than 4 percent reported being physically attacked and about 6 percent reported being threatened."

I'm sure we'll see other numbers and interpretations of this information over the next few days.


Morning Video: Charlie Rose Interviews Ta-Nehesi Coates


Here's the full interview from earlier this week, in which Coates talks about growing up and going to school in West Baltimore, and eventually getting to Howard University. I haven't seen or read him talk about in-school experiences (or teachers) who helped or hindered him along the way, but maybe it's out there. Thanks LF for pointing this out to me. 

Or, listen to this Philadelphia piece How a Philly school in a free-fire zone went from lockdown to hopes up. via AnnenbergInst.

AM News: What Next For NCLB Rewrite?

Senate Votes Overwhelmingly For Bipartisan No Child Left Behind Rewrite HuffPost: However, the bill’s next steps are unclear, since even its supporters concede President Barack Obama is unlikely to sign it in its current form. See also NYT, HuffPost.

Revising the No Child Left Behind Act: Issue by Issue PK12: Here's a look at the Senate and House bills to rewrite the NCLB law, and how they compare to each other, current law, and the Obama administration's waivers. See also AP, Washington Post, PBS NewsHour.

Senate tweaks formula for Title 1 funds to educate children from poor families Washington Post: Burr rewrote the amendment so that the formula changes would not take effect until Congress funds Title 1 at $17 billion annually. It is unclear when that would happen; the program is currently funded at $14.5 billion, an amount that has been steady since 2012. In addition, the change in formula would affect only dollars spent by Congress in excess of the $17 billion benchmark.

Testing Revolt In Washington State Brings Feds Into Uncharted Waters NPR: As Congress debates the future of No Child Left Behind, one state falls short of federal testing requirements.

Crime stats show troubling trend at nation’s schools SI&A Cabinet Report: A general decline in serious crime on K-12 school campuses nationwide appears to be reversing, perhaps reflecting an upswing in violence in some of the nation’s largest cities.

Some schools are still testing students for drug use APM Marketplace: Many schools are still testing students for drug use, despite the end of federal funding and mixed evidence on whether it's worth the expense. Some are expanding their testing.Research shows that while drug testing is associated with a very modest decline in marijuana use, surveys sometimes find an increase in the use of other drugs. How? For one thing, drug tests aren’t always accurate. Case in point, Goldberg says, the athletes Marion Jones and Lance Armstrong. 

Lawsuit says SoCal schools among those breaking law in teacher evaluations KPCC: A lawsuit filed Thursday in Contra Costa County alleges that 13 school districts are violating state law because they aren't using student achievement data when evaluating instructors. The suit was filed by four parents and two teachers. It's backed by Students Matter, a nonprofit founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch. See also EdSource Today.

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

Continue reading "AM News: What Next For NCLB Rewrite?" »

Thompson: The Good, Bad, & Ugly of Chicago Grad Rate Improvements

The Atlantic's Kate Grossman, in What Schools Will Do to Keep Students on Track, asks the right questions, draws on some of the world's best social science research, reports on all sides of the key questions, and gives insights into whether Chicago's increase in graduation rates will be sustainable.

Even if I hadn't personally witnessed the benefits of my school's Freshman Team, I would still perk up and listen when a Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) scholar endorses efforts to help students transition into high school, saying “I’ve been arguing against silver bullets my whole career—but this is one.”

Even better, the CCSR has found more evidence of "a direct link between improved freshmen pass rates and dramatically improved graduation rates." Best of all, it studied "20 schools that had early success improving their on-track rates [and] did not find widespread gaming by principals eager to make their schools look good."

If data is used for diagnostic purposes, and real interventions by caring mentors are offered each step of the way in helping students to overcome failure, perhaps the single best approach to school improvement is helping students progress through school. Teachers should be able to "turn to the school’s 'care team,' which finds ways to get kids more intensive help." The team should help students "make up assignments they blew off or didn’t understand," and as long as extensions on deadline aren't "endless," everyone can benefit.

But, what happens when promoting power metrics and graduation rates are incorporated into formal or informal accountability systems?

Continue reading "Thompson: The Good, Bad, & Ugly of Chicago Grad Rate Improvements" »

Movies: New Montclair Documentary Avoids Simplistic Hero/Villain Approach

Got away
If and when you get the chance, be sure to check out a new documentary, "The One That Got Away," which explores the challenges facing low-income families, schools that serve them, and social services systems -- in a more balanced and thoughtful way than many other films of this kind.
There's no trailer yet, not even a website or social media, but the flyer for the documentary, screened earlier this year at the Montclair Film Fest (where it's based) and last night at Scholastic in Manhattan (thanks, Tyler!), promises a pretty dramatic story: "Once president of his middle school; now behind bars. The One That Got Away tells the true story of Tourrie Moses, a once-highly promising New Jersey student from a troubled background who is now in prison for murder, and a profoundly devoted team of teachers who tried to help him thrive." 
And indeed the film tells an intense, vivid tale. The interviews with Tourrie's mother, who's struggled with heroin addiction, and his strict but loving father, who says he spent roughly 20 years in and out of prison, are particularly challenging to watch. 

But the most interesting and helpful aspect to the film is how it describes a situation in which there are no black-and-white heroes or villains, and no bright or artificial line between parents, school, and social services agencies tasked with supporting families and children in tough circumstances.  

It's not the school, or the teacher, or the kid, or society. It's all of them. 
As depicted in the film, the educators at Glenfield Middle School are incredibly concerned and dedicated but are using an ad hoc warning system of supports and interventions. Ditto for the high school educators who try and fail to get Moses through a delicate transition from middle school despite his social services case having been formally closed. The parents are both flawed but by no means unloving or entirely absent. Tourrie (known to his family as Ray Ray) is intensely charismatic and eager to learn but unable to hold onto his connections to his teachers and his father over the reliable if limited lure of the streets.
In capturing these overlapping roles and dynamics, the film raises both structural societal issues (racism, inequality) and issues of personal and individual effort. But neither society nor the individual is given responsibility for the outcome in this film. It's shared. 
(And, blessedly, there's nothing in the film about Common Core, standardized testing, teacher evaluation, charter schools, the Gates Foundation, or any of the other obsessions of the current era. )
There are some issues I had with the documentary, including some heavy-handed interviewing (especially in a scene about drug addiction), and a front porch group interview with former classmates that's not as useful or enlightening as intended.
And, while the educators and social services agency staffers who are interviewed express deep regret and renewed vigilance against a repeat of systemic failures, it's not entirely clear to me that they've given up their ad hoc approach (based on personal relationships) and replaced it with a more reliable warning and intervention system. 
This film will raise awareness of the problems facing schools serving kids like Tourrie but I'm not as confident as I'd like to be that a similar tragedy couldn't be happening again right now.

AM News: Senate Nears Finish To NCLB Rewrite

Senate Votes to End Debate on ESEA Rewrite; Final Vote Expected Thursday PK12: Senators also rejected a high-profile amendment from Democrats to beef up accountability measures in the underlying bill overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. See also AP.

Civil Rights Groups, Teachers' Union Spar Over Accountability PK12: The National Education Association sent a letter Tuesday to senators urging them to oppose a Democratic amendment that would beef up accountability in the Senate's ESEA rewrite.

Emanuel taps Claypool to take over at CPS, sources say Tribune: Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to soon appoint longtime City Hall troubleshooter Forrest Claypool to head up the embattled Chicago Public Schools, two sources told the Chicago Tribune late Wednesday.

Why are Latinos teachers such a minority in Chicago? WBEZ:  That slow increase of Hispanic teachers comes at a time when Hispanic students make up the largest ethnic group in CPS, at 46 percent.

'Mr. Spider' Says Goodbye: An Art Teacher's Final Day At School NPR: For nearly a quarter century, Mathias Schergen taught in one of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods. Now, he's moving on.

Gov. Cuomo continues to bring in money from donors with education ties ChalkbeatNY: he contribution is part of $2.4 million in donations Cuomo’s campaign reported receiving over the last six months — a slice of which again came from a cadre of money managers, executives, philanthropists, and lawyers who support charter schools, tougher accountability rules, or weaker job protections for teachers.

What was the Mark Twain quote that landed a teacher in jail? LA School Report: It apparently started when a technology coordinator who was in his Hobart Elementary School classroom on March 19 thought that what he said may have been a bit too much for his fifth graders, according to a chronology of events in the letter. She told the principal, Jonathan Paek. When he confronted Esquith, the teacher said the quote should be taken in the literary context that it was made.

Teachers back in school to master Common Core standards EdSource Today: Interviews with officials in six large California school districts and a major charter school system have found that several hundred of their teachers have signed up for – and in many cases by now already completed – summertime professional development programs provided at their schools to help them transition to the new standards.

Court Hands Major Victory to PARCC, Pearson in Challenge by Vendor EdWeek: Because the AIR lacks legal standing, the judge ruled, the other substantive complaints it made about the contract award—specifically, that it was biased in favor of Pearson—were effectively thrown out, too.

Safety: At Least 28 Students Seriously Injured By School Police Since 2010

image from www.motherjones.com

"Over the past five years at least 28 students have been seriously injured, and in one case shot to death, by so-called school resource officers—sworn, uniformed police assigned to provide security on K-12 campuses," reports Mother Jones' Jaeah Lee (Chokeholds, Brain Injuries, Beatings: When School Cops Go Bad)


Quotes: Endorsements (& Campaign Speeches) May Not Matter

Quotes2In 2008, Clinton and Barack Obama both kept their positions on education reform as vague as possible throughout, to the point where neither the reformers or their opponents had any idea which camp would prevail until Obama named his Education Secretary.

- NY Mag's Jonathan Chait (Will Hillary Clinton Continue Education Reform?)

Morning Video: AT AFT Conference, Goldstein Compares Reform Efforts To "Moral Panic"


Not everyone will go so far as writer Dana Goldstein does here, comparing the current school reform era to a "moral panic," in a talk given at the AFT's TEACH15, but it's still a useful and interesting talk from earlier this week. You can also watch segments featuring Jose Vilson, Wes Moore, David Kirp, and WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza.

AM News: Pushback Against Early AFT Clinton Endorsement


The American Federation of Teachers Endorsed Hillary Clinton—and Not Everyone’s Happy About It Slate: The timing of the endorsement has attracted as much attention as its content. The obvious answer is that the Clinton camp choreographed the AFT endorsement as a safeguard against the unexpected threat posed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

See also: Clinton gets key union endorsement as Sanders enjoys a groundswell of support (Phil. Enquirer); Teachers union irks rank and file with Clinton endorsement (Watchdog); Will Hillary Clinton Continue Education Reform? (NYMag); Teachers’ union endorses Hillary Clinton over weekend. Backlash begins (AJ-C).

What Do Democratic Presidential Candidates Think of the Senate ESEA Bill? PK12: Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., take note: Hillary Clinton had nice things to say about your bill to revamp the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.


Senate Rejects Amendments on Portability, Opt-Outs, LGBT Protections PK12: As debate continues on the bill to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, senators turned down proposals on three contentious issues. See also Washington Post: Senate votes down federal protections for K-12 LGBT students.

In the Senate, another defeat for school vouchers Washington Post: The amendment, written by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), was defeated on a 45-to-51 vote. No Democrat supported the measure and several Republicans, including Roy Blunt of Missouri, Jerry Moran of Kansas and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, joined Democrats in their opposition. Senate rules required 60 votes for passage.


Why are there fewer black teachers in Chicago? WBEZ: Just 15 years go, 40 percent teachers in CPS schools were black. Today, it’s 23 percent. Many black students are segregated into majority black schools -- like National Teachers Academy in the South Loop, where Porter teaches. Meanwhile, most of the students in Chicago’s public schools are Hispanic and African American. Black enrollment has gone down, but black students still make up 39 percent of the district.

Black Children in U.S. Are Much More Likely to Live in Poverty, Study Finds NYT: About 38.3 percent lived in poverty in 2013, nearly four times the rate for white children, according to a report by the Pew Research Center.


Former N.Y. K-12 Official Ken Wagner Picked to Be Rhode Island Chief EdWeek: As a deputy commissioner in New York state, Wagner played a key role in overseeing how the state shifted to the Common Core State Standards and aligned assessments.

After Testing Problems, Nevada Set to Hire New Assessment Vendor EdWeek: The state of Nevada, plagued by online testing woes earlier this year, is poised to award its next contract to oversee a suite of state assessments in a $51 million deal.

New York City Schools Ask Students to ‘Bring Your Own Device’ WNYC:  The Department of Education now encourages schools to leverage students’ devices — such as smartphones, laptops and tablets — as instructional tools by asking students to “Bring Your Own Devices,” a program referred to as “BYOD.” It’s part of a national trend of bringing student devices into classrooms.

Two major school districts eliminating some final exams Washington Post: The Montgomery County school board backed a plan to end final exams in middle-school- level courses Tuesday and is looking closely at a proposal to scrap high school finals, a shift that comes as officials in Loudoun County pursue a major change in how it will assess its students.

Few School Districts Have Anti-Bullying Policies Protecting LGBT Students HuffPost: Of the 70 percent of school districts that do have anti-bullying policies, fewer than half explicitly outline protections for students who get bullied because of their sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation. Only about 14 percent of districts have protections based on gender identity or expression.

Beyond bake sales: New National PTA president wants to make organization more inclusive Seattle Times:  Poulsbo resident Laura Bay was installed as president of the National PTA earlier this month. She says early learning, health and safety, and family engagement are top priorities for her two-year tenure.

Quotes: AFT Head Pledges To Reconnect With Members

Quotes2Ultimately, what we've learned is you have to have a real, ongoing re-commitment with your members... You have to walk the walk. You have to engage with them... The change here is to have an enduring relationship.

- AFT head Randi Weingarten in HuffPost (Teachers' Union Girds For Supreme Court Setback, Pledges To Grow Membership)

Books: Ta-Nehesi Coates' New Book On Race (& Schooling) In America

image from images.indiebound.comThere's a new book about race in America out today that's getting a lot of deserved attention. It's already at #3 on Amazon. No, it's not the Harper Lee book in which Atticus Finch is a racist. It's Ta-Nehesi Coates' Between The World And Me.

As anyone who's seen or read Coates in the past can imagine, there's lots in the book that educators, advocates, parents, and the general public might benefit from understanding -- both about school specifically but also about poverty, and class, and most of all being a black person in modern-day America.

I won't do the thinking or the writing any great justice here, but it's a good starting point and there are lots of links to Coates' writing, recent appearances on Charlie Rose and Fresh Air (where Coates sort of scolds Terry Gross) and to reviews and reflections from others. 

A few educators and advocates are writing about the book, and I'm sure more will in coming days.


Much of what Coates is writing about is about society at large -- its treatment of black Americans, its structural issues -- rather than education.

On Charlie Rose last night, Coates pushed back at the notion of personal responsibility or any individual behavior as a meaningful measure of black American's lives bounded by structural racism. (I wonder what he would have to say about the popular notions of "grit" being taught in schools these days.) 

On the show, he also talked about how reactive white people generally are to black people talking about their emotions. "I think there’s great fear of how black people talk about their anger."

But there are key parts of Coates' story that reflect on his experiences going to school.

In an extended excerpt in The Atlantic, Coates describes how careful and specific he felt he had to be as a teenager growing up in West Baltimore about going to and from school:

"When I was your age, fully one-third of my brain was concerned with whom I was walking to school with, our precise number, the manner of our walk, the number of times I smiled, whom or what I smiled at, who offered a pound and who did not—all of which is to say that I practiced the culture of the streets, a culture concerned chiefly with securing the body.

He's talked about what sounds like a relentlessly terrifying growing up experience during his school years in the past, such as on Bill Moyers in 2014: "Here I was, right outside my elementary school, [and] somebody’s pulling out a gun. And it was very clear that that was different." 

In his new book, he still sounds outraged about the disconnect between Black History Month and his real life:

"Every February my classmates and I were herded into assemblies for a ritual review of the civil-rights movement. Our teachers urged us toward the example of freedom marchers, Freedom Riders, and Freedom Summers, and it seemed that the month could not pass without a series of films dedicated to the glories of being beaten on camera. Why are they showing this to us? Why were only our heroes nonviolent?"

And he's clear that the experience of being a young black man is something that white Americans need to understand. On Monday's Fresh Air, Coates mildly scolded Terry Gross for laughing when he tells her that he got upset in middle school when a teacher yelled at him in front of his classmates. 

For him, there was no "safety net of schools, government-backed home loans, and ancestral wealth." In 2014 he wrote, "I mostly thought of school as a place one goes so as not to be eventually killed, drugged, or jailed."


He's written about education more directly in the past, including The Miseducation Of Maceo Paul Coates (2010), When School Reform And Democracy Meet (2014). 

Way back in 2010, he slammed NYC reformers (specifically Bloomberg's appointment for schools head Cathie Black: "It's long been said that the new reformers deeply underestimate the complexity of the challenge facing educators."

In 2012, he also pointed out the disconnect between handing out teachers' individual performance ratings and telling the public to be cautious - an issue that comes up in education journalism as well: "There's also something unsavory releasing admittedly flawed data, and then lecturing the public on its need to exercise caution."

He criticized the plan to revamp Newark schools for failing to convince parents -- which sounds somewhat naive to me -- but also expressed misgivings about teachers having tenure. 


So far as I've seen, the reviews have been extremely strong. The New Republic loved it. Ditto for the Washington Post, and Slate. There's a big long profile in NY Magazine. "It is hard, perhaps impossible, not to be enraptured by @tanehisicoates' righteous and loveless indignation," notes the Washington Post review.

The praise is not universal: NYT book reviewer Michiko Kakutani praises the book but calls Coates out for overgeneralizing & ignoring progress. It's also criticized in the New York Observer. BuzzFeed's Shani Hilton criticized it for focusing narrowly on black male experiences.


Educators and advocates on my Twitter feed haven't been commenting on the book very much -- yet -- though Sara Goldrick-Rab is pushing for Coates to be a new New York Times columnist (he's going to live in Paris for a year instead), and Michael Magee is excited to read the book. KIPP NJ's Andrew Martin is watching closely, as is Pearson's Shilpi Niyogi. Justin Cohen calls the book "a model for how we should talk to the next generation of American children about race

This new book seems to be one that teachers of a certain kind will be giving to students in future years, imagines this Slate reviewer:


AM News: Wisconsin Governor Walker Joins Presidential Race

Gov. Walker Enters Presidential Race Claiming He 'Improved Education' in Wisc. EdWeek: As far as education is concerned, Walker is perhaps most prominent for his successful push to strip collective bargaining rights for teachers and other public employees in 2011.

Study Paints Sobering Picture of Unequal Access to Teacher Quality TeacherBeat: Any way you slice it, disadvantaged students get shortchanged on teacher quality, the study finds.

Major teachers union ready to work with charter schools Washington Examiner: Teachers unions want public schools to be the centers of communities, and they are ready to work with charter schools to achieve that goal, according to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. 

Nevada's Clark County Hopes to Lure Retired Educators Back to Teaching District Dossier: The nation's fifth-largest school district, which started the year searching for about 2,600 teachers, is turning to retirees to fill critical positions in elementary schools.

Few parents opt elementary children out of new state tests The Bellingham Herald: Complaints about the new statewide tests based on the national Common Core curriculum have been heard loudly on social media. But few Washington parents acted on those complaints and opted their children out of the new tests, according to data...

Many Kids Feel 'Unimportant' When Parents Are Distracted By Smartphones, Survey Says HuffPost: The survey results showed that 54 percent of kids think their parents check their devices too often and 32 percent of them "feel unimportant" when their parents are distracted by their phones.

How Textbooks Can Teach Different Versions Of History NPR: About 5 million public school students in Texas this year will get new and controversial textbooks that critics say water down history.

A New Look at Apprenticeships as a Path to the Middle Class NYT: After facing a steep falloff during the recession, apprentice programs are making a comeback, and have caught the notice of students, parents and even some presidential candidates.

Lisa Ruda leaves her D.C. schools post, and also leaves a revitalized system Washington Post: When Lisa Ruda arrived in Washington to help Michelle A. Rhee begin a transformation of D.C. Public Schools, Ruda had less than eight weeks to clear her first major hurdle — preparing the city’s schools for opening day.

Charts: Expressions Of Concern Over Education Diminishing (Somewhat) Among Mayors

Screenshot 2015-07-13 15.27.02

Education ranks #5 in terms of importance to big-city mayors, according to this new analysis passed along from the Washington Post -- down from #4 last year. However, big-city mayors were "much more likely to discuss demographics, economic development, housing and education" than mid-sized mayors or small-city mayors. 

ICYMI: One New Orleans Kid Tries To Graduate

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ICYMI: Danielle Dreilinger's five-part series on education in New Orleans for the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Check them out -- let me know what you think. DJD is on vacation but you can find Twitter reactions at , #nolaed/#LaEd

Thompson: Will President Obama's Trip to the Choctaw Nation (& a Federal Prison) Help Move the Administration Toward Comprehensive Solutions?

The President who I still love will visit the Choctaw Nation this week and look into the Promise Zone initiative he launched last year. My first hope for the trip was that President Barack Obama would swing over to the far corner of “Little Dixie,” and visit Frogville. 

But, President Obama has a better plan. The Daily Oklahoman’s Chris Casteel, in President Obama Heading to Oklahoma Next Week, reports that the President will visit the federal prison in El Reno, where inmate Jason Hernandez was housed until Obama commuted his life sentence on drug charges. 

Until recently, President Obama has been especially reticent about hot-button issues such as race and the legacies of generational poverty and discrimination. The 2014 off-year election defeat and tragedies culminating in the Charleston massacre have liberated our President, however, and he has been speaking and singing the truths that previously he held back.  It sounds like we can anticipate another honest conversation with an atypical journalist, this time with HBO’s VICE. 

According to VICE Media, the visit will “give viewers a firsthand look into the president's thinking on criminal justice reform ‘from the policy level down to one-on-one conversations with the men and women living this reality.’” 

Maybe President Obama will return to the Indian Nation and drop in on our family's homestead so we can discuss school reform and its cousin, the War on Drugs, and how these ill-conceived reward and punish policies backfired because they were dismissive of the realities that flesh-and-blood people live in. We could gaze upon the graves of whites, blacks, and Choctaws in the family cemetery, and muse about our long history of living together in peace and conflict, as well as both unity and divisiveness in victory and defeat at the hands of political and economic oppression.

As I explained recently, school reform and the War on Drugs were both deeply rooted in the Reaganism and the lowered horizons of the 1980s. Both were quick, simple, and seemingly cheap solutions to the complex social problems that the War on Poverty did not eradicate.

Continue reading "Thompson: Will President Obama's Trip to the Choctaw Nation (& a Federal Prison) Help Move the Administration Toward Comprehensive Solutions?" »

Morning Video: Do Politicians (& The General Public) Care About Education?

Here's an eight-minute version of an Aspen Institute event hosted by The 74's Campbell Brown in which three journalists (Capehart, Dickerson, and Bruni) talk about whether the public (and political journalists?) care about education, and in what context? Take a look. I've asked for the full video and will let you know what response I get. 

Am News: Senate Returns To #ESEA, AFT Endorses Clinton On Eve Of Economic Speech

Senate ESEA Debate: What to Expect This Week PK12: Pressure rises, with nearly 150 amendments filed so far on the bill to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, though it's unclear how many will make it to the floor.

GOP senator: Let states fix No Child Left Behind The Hill: "Continue the law’s important measurements of academic progress of students but restore to states, school districts, classroom teachers and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about improving student achievement,” he said.

AFT Endorses Hillary Clinton in Democratic Race for White House PK12: The American Federation of Teachers kicks off primary season by throwing its muscle behind the former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. See also HuffPostWashington PostPoliticoWSJNYT.

Hillary Clinton Will Call for Economic Policy Changes to Lift Middle-Class Wages NYT: A major teachers’ union voted on Saturday to give Hillary Rodham Clinton an early endorsement for president, a boost to her pro-labor credentials as she prepares to outline in more detail an economic vision focused on lifting middle-class incomes and tries to fend off a stronger-than-expected challenge from the left.

Report: Most NYC Charter Schools Replace Students who Leave WNYC: The I.B.O. looked at attrition patterns at 53 privately managed charter schools between 2008 and 2014. Most of them backfilled between 70 and 100 percent of their empty seats. But Raymond Domanico, the education research director, found six of them only filled a third or less of their available seats, which can be relevant when looking at their test scores. See also ChalkbeatNY.

Study calculates low-income, minority students get the worst teachers in Washington State Hechinger Report: No matter which of these three measures of teacher quality they used, guess what? They got the same result. Disadvantaged students across the state’s elementary, middle and high schools ended up with the worst teachers — the ones who not only produced the smallest test score gains, but also had the fewest years of experience and the lowest licensure exam scores.

Malala Turns 18, And Opens A School For Syrian Refugee Girls NPR: The Pakistani education activist, who was shot in the head in 2012 by a Taliban gunman, marked her birthday with refugees in Lebanon. She warned that the world is "failing ... Syria's children." See also PBS NewsHour.

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

Continue reading "Am News: Senate Returns To #ESEA, AFT Endorses Clinton On Eve Of Economic Speech" »

Maps: These Are The States That Demand The Least Of Their Students

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As Congress considers relieving states from the push to set high, common standards for kids that NCLB never had, NCES comes out with a timely report and HuffPost's Joy Resmovits fills us in: States Still Differ Dramatically In Their Academic Expectations, Study Finds. Peachy orange states set lower standards, forest green states set higher ones. Image used with permission.

Thompson: What Explains the Remaining Support For NCLB Testing?

The Washington Post's Lyndsey Layton, in Even As Congress Moves to Strip His Power, Arne Duncan Holds His Ground, begins her portrait of the last days of Arne Duncan with an anecdote documenting the sincerity with which he approached his job as US Secretary of Education. She also writes, "In a town where many like to talk, Duncan is regarded as a good listener. 'Arne is a great sounding board for the president,' said Valerie Jarrett, the president’s close friend and adviser."

It's too bad that Duncan listened so well to the Billionaires' Boys Club and ignored the professional judgments of teachers and education researchers. Now, even the Third Way, which seeks education policies consistent with corporate reform has to admit, “The question is not whether we’re going to put handcuffs on Arne Duncan,” said Lanae Erickson Hatalsky of Third Way, a centrist think tank. “The question is how many handcuffs.”

One top education expert, Jack Jennings, concludes in regard to Duncan's policies, “The record will show these policies brought about minimum improvement, ... They also did considerable harm.”

And that is the essence of Duncan's competition-driven reform and its test, sort, and punish approach to education. Some students may benefit but only at the cost of inflicting harm on other children. 

Its ironic that the market-driven movement - that still pretends it is a civil rights movement - is going out with such an ignominious whimper. Output-driven reform not only damaged poor children of color by treating them as test scores, it has undermined liberals and Democrats who seek a larger agenda of equity and justice. So, a crucial short term battle is the civil war between progressives, with teachers determined to prevent Hillary Clinton (or anyone else) from repeating Arne Duncan's agenda.

Continue reading "Thompson: What Explains the Remaining Support For NCLB Testing?" »

Maps: Now You Can Compare Des Moines' Grad Rate To Detroit's (If You Dare)

GrrateI was hesitant to share last week's Hechinger Report map showing graduation rates from almost every school district given all the things we'd learned about grad rate reporting from the recent NPR Grads series.

A new piece from Chicago's Kate Grossman documents attendance rigging, mislabeled dropouts, and grading policy changes that are goosing the numbers in Chicago to some extent - though the overall improvement seems genuine.

But in the intervening days have been reassured somewhat that the data are good enough to compare districts in some sort of meaningful way.

Click the link, but be careful!

Morning Video: Dual Credit STEM Courses In Chicago High Schools

Chicago Public Television: "At five CPS neighborhood high schools [including Lakeview High], students are earning college credit through a number of dual-credit courses [including STEM]" CPS' Early College Stem High Schools. Or, watch Rick Hess and Bob Wise discuss what comes next for NCLB on the PBS NewsHour.

AM News: Senate Debates NCLB, New York Drops Pearson

Some states would lose big money with proposed education funding changes Washington Post: Congress’s debate about rewriting the nation’s main education law has featured high-profile disagreements over testing, vouchers and school accountability, but there is another issue that has just as much potential to derail the legislation: Money. See also Hechinger Report.

Senate Rebuffs ESEA Amendment to Let States Opt Out of Federal Accountability EdWeek: Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., slammed the A PLUS amendment, knowing that if adopted it would have sunk his chances of getting the ESEA reauthorization across the finish line. See also AP

What should replace No Child Left Behind? PBS NewsHour:  Hari Sreenivasan talks to Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute and former Gov. Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Students' Reading And Math Skills Are Still All Over The Map NPR: A federal report out today reinforces that states have huge differences in their definition of "proficiency." See also Boston Learning Lab.

N.Y. Has 'No Current Plans' to Give PARCC EdWeek: The Arkansas state board voted to use the ACT Aspire test instead, concluding a public spat over which common-core exam the state would use next year. See also WNYCNYTChalkbeatBuzzFeedWSJ.

Smarter Balanced Opt-Out Rates Top 25 Percent for Washington State 11th Graders EdWeek: Officially, 27.4 percent of eligible students were "confirmed refusals" for taking the Smarter Balanced English/language arts exam, and 28.1 percent of them were confirmed refusals for the math exam.

Duncan's Children to Attend Private School in Chicago EdWeek: Duncan's children will attend the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where he himself attended and where his wife will return to work. See also Washington Post, Politico.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Senate Debates NCLB, New York Drops Pearson" »

Campaign 2016: Not So Fast (Or Far) On The Reform Rollback Bandwagon

Tnr hrc conor williams
The divide within the Democratic party is endlessly fascinating and especially notable this week during which we see civil rights groups and teachers unions divide over the rewrite of NCLB.

In National Journal (Senate Democrats Scramble to Avoid a Split on Education Bill),Fawn Johnson notes that unions and civil-rights groups "may end up on opposite sides." If things end up that way, it could "severely weaken [Democratic members'] bargaining leverage in a conference committee with the House." Reading the NEA quotes in the piece, it would seem that the teachers union is feeling pretty strong right now.

Meanwhile, the Democratic divide looks to affect the Presidential campaign as well.  Last month in TNR (Hillary Clinton's Education Policy), Conor Williams notes what many others have said before: "there’s evidence that a Clinton Administration would mean a substantial departure from [Obama administration] reforms." Candidate Clinton has sought to straddle these differences, but as Williams notes there is more money and more momentum behind the reform critics and their backers. 
However, it's worth remembering that for a time in 2008 some progressives thought that Obama was their man thanks in large part to his much-touted but ultimately meaningless support for Chicago's local school councils. (A bit of history that's often forgotten but I happened to write about.) It's hard to imagine candidate Clinton or her team locking into education policy positions unless it absolutely has to -- or necessarily keeping promises made once the election is passed.
All this to say: Notwithstanding the outcome of the ESEA rewrite effort and the liberal surge of 2014-205 and all the rest, reform critics and teachers unions are in a mixed situation right now -- newly resurgent and powerful within education circles but somewhat embattled in the larger political world. They are too smart to say it publicly, but they don't have unfettered leverage over Democratic candidates and elected officials despite the current zeitgeist in EducationLand.  

Update: Nuzzel Gathers Contrasting Views On Hot Twitter Topics

One of the great things about Nuzzel -- you should be using it by now -- is that it lets you see not only what the folks you follow are tweeting about, and what the folks they follow are tweeting about, but also the different ways that folks are tweeting things out:
Sirota nuzzel 2

Take for example this item from Larry Ferlazzo's feed about a David Sirota story on the reauthorization of ESEA that's going on this week:

At bottom (tweets are listed in reverse chronological order) you've got Bruce Baker RTing Sirota's original tweet: "Senate quietly passes stealth bill to let Wall St rake in federal money meant for impoverished school kids"

Towards the top, you've got Ulrich Boser's RT of Andy Rotherham: "Of all the crap Title I money gets spent on, people are now outraged that some might get spent on saving money?"

Quotes: Duncan Policies = "Minimum Improvement... Considerable Harm"

Quotes2The record will show these policies brought about minimum improvement. They also did considerable harm. -- Jack Jennings in Washington Post profile of Arne Duncan (Even as Congress moves to strip his power, Arne Duncan holds his ground)

Morning Video: Ta-Nehisi Coates' New Book, Plus Emanuel In Aspen

In this Atlantic video short, Ta-Nehisi Coates reads a short passage from his new book, Between the World and Me. Read an extended excerpt, "A Letter to My Son," here.

Or, watch Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and UofC's Tim Knowles talk education at the Aspen Ideas Festival (in which he claims no great admiration for school reform).

AM News: House Passes, Senate Debates - Plus OR Common Core Results

Senate Rejects School Voucher Amendment During ESEA Debate PK12: Democrats cleared their first school choice policy hurdle, defeating a voucher amendment on the second day of debate on an Elementary and Secondary Education Act overhaul bill. See also National JournalAPNYT, WP, Marketplace.

House Passes ESEA Rewrite 218-213; Senate Debate Continues PK12: The House vote came as the Senate is debating its own rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the two versions would have to be reconciled.

States Still Differ Dramatically In Their Academic Expectations, Study Finds HuffPost:  What does it mean to be passing math class? The answer to this question varies from state to state, according to a new report released by the research arm of the Education Department... For example, it’s possible for a fourth-grader to be passing reading in New Jersey, but as soon as he or she moves across the Hudson River to New York, to be suddenly considered failing -- despite not knowing any less. 

Common Core: Oregon students smash expectations in reading, writing Oregonian: Oregon students performed far better than expected on the rigorous Common Core tests they took for the first time this spring, especially in reading and writing, preliminary results show. But high school juniors bombed in math.

Amid Cries of Overtesting, a Crazy Quilt of State Responses EdWeek: The Council of Chief State School Officers says that 39 states are examining how to reduce overtesting or cut redundant tests in some fashion, as part of their efforts to "reduce unnecessary burden" from testing. Yet many states, rather than placing hard caps on testing time or cutting specific exams through legislation, are choosing to hand responsibility for reducing testing to new state commissions or to work directly with local schools.

Even as Congress moves to strip his power, Arne Duncan holds his ground Washington Post: Christina Waters’s cellphone rang, and she looked down to see that the number was blocked. Waters belongs to a circle of strivers that Duncan has quietly cultivated, students across the country who are clearing hurdles that would discourage many others. He calls regularly to offer support and advice.

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

Continue reading "AM News: House Passes, Senate Debates - Plus OR Common Core Results" »

Update: Despite Progress, Many LGBT Educators Still Feel "Stuck In A Time Capsule"

As you may recall, Screenshot 2015-07-08 13.54.29I got a lot of resistance last week when I posted about how behind the times schools and K-12 education organizations seemed to be to me on the LGBT front (On Equality, Education Has A Long Way To Go).

No, not Rick Hess-level pushback, but a lot of silent, awkward, and WTF vibes.

It's not hard to understand why. Many educators and education activists consider themselves progressive, and were elated about the Supreme Court gay marriage decision.

Talking about the plight of LGBT kids in schools was one thing - but why was I asking where all the LGBT education leaders/role models were to be found? 

In particular, my asking around about education leaders who were already serving as LGBT role models was responded to as if I was threatening to out people (which I would never do) or as if I was bringing up something that was a non-issue (like race?).

One PR professional responded to my question whether there were any senior staffers serving as LGBT role models with a straight-out "Why?" EdWeek's Evie Blad noted that listing LGBT edleaders seemed to her "a little problematic... Better way might be acknowledging that data dsn't exist." 

Fair enough. I get the concern.  But since then, I've gotten a lot of support for raising the issue -- and learned a ton about educators who are also LGBT. 

First off, it seems clear that LGBT educators are still struggling with how to come out to their colleagues and students without endangering themselves professionally. Look at some recent headlines: Oregon's Teacher of the Year spoke openly about being gay — and then he was firedJamestown NY appoints WNY’s first gay school superintendentThe Plight of Being a Gay TeacherI’m a Gay, African-American [Male] Teacher, and Proud of ItHow this LGBTQ teacher turned his deepest shame into his strongest assetAn LGBT Educator Who’s Not Too Proud to Keep Fighting. If there are more/better accounts of what it's like to be an LGBT educator, please let me know.

The Broad Center's Becca Bracy Knight tweeted that "almost all LGBT district superintendents who I've met feel they cannot be open about who they are - it's a real problem."

According to that first article, a big part of the problem is that we all apparently think that LGBT people are protected at work but -- surprise! -- they're not. That's why there are so few LGBT teachers, principals, administrators, and leaders who are out to their students and colleagues.

Or, as one recent writer put it, "in my 18 years in education, I have witnessed many of our LGBT teachers hide deep in the closet.... You would think we were stuck in a time capsule."

And not everyone is as out as you may think they are. Though it's hard to believe, a week ago Friday marked the first time Diane Ravitch publicly announced she was gay, according to Jewish Week. A handful of education folks whose LGBT status might seem to be public knowledge (widely assumed within the education community) declined to be identified as such when I reached out to them or their organizations.
That doesn't mean everyone's still closeted. My growing but small list of openly LGBT educator/education role models includes AFT's Randi Weingarten, former Chicago head Ron Huberman, NYU's Diane Ravitch, Portland's Carole Smith, US Rep. Mark Takano, NEA head Lily Eskelsen García's son. Please let me know more/others who would like to be listed. Do any readers of this blog identify as LGBT?

The USDE might be leading the way on the LGBT front, not only putting up its lovely #LoveWins avatar (first brought to my attention via PoliticsK-12 in Arne Duncan Celebrates Supreme Court Ruling) but also with its host of senior officials who are proudly serving as LGBT role models: Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin, who is married and has children with his husband (and grandchildren),  Senior Adviser Steven Hicks is married. Senior Adviser Ruthanne Buck is in a long-term relationship and has two children with her partner. Other out senior officials at ED include Deputy Under Secretary Jeff Appel and Assistant Secretary for Management Andrew Jackson, who are both in long-term relationships.

I, too, yearn for a world in which someone's orientation/self-identification isn't an issue that requires talking about. But until we get there the more folks who are out and public about it -- and the more we talk about it -- the better. Silence = the status quo. There's obviously a long way to go. I'm excited about getting there. 

Education folks to tweet with about LGBT education issues: @EvieBlad @GLSENResearch @jesslif @GLSEN @JennBinis @DrDebTemkin @KJennings @twrightmu.

People: TFA's Behind-The-Scenes Hostage Rescue Effort

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Even if you already knew that slain journalist Jim Foley had been a TFA alum you might have been surprised to read about TFA (and KIPP) involvement behind the scenes in the efforts to secure his release in this week's New Yorker story The Families Who Negotiated with ISIS. Among those mentioned are Wendy Kopp, Amy Rosen (Newark KIPP), and April Goble (Chicago KIPP), who is identified as Foley's former girlfriend:

"Bradley kept adding people to the team, paying their travel expenses, and often a salary as well. He installed two young researchers in cubicles in the Watergate office. He recruited a former Syrian diplomat, now known as Noor Azar, who had gone into exile after the revolution. Meanwhile, April Goble, Foley’s ex-girlfriend, worked with eleven volunteers from Teach for America, looking for inroads into the Syrian regime."

There may have been hints of this effort on social media, such as this 2013 tweet I sent out (but had forgotten): "Friends of kidnapped freelance photographer James Foley TFA '96 are organizing to secure his release from Syria." The link goes to the Free Jame Foley FB page. 

The confusing and alienating behavior of the US government in support of the hostage families and their friends has been a big topic in the news recently, and the Obama administration recently announced changes in its policies that would give families more information and free them from threats of prosecution for arranging for their loved ones' release (including through payment of ransoms).

Related posts: NYT's annual memorial "The Lives They Lived" includes profile of TFA alum James Foley

Morning Video: Pixar's Hit Feature "Inside Out" Includes Familiar Teacher Dig


The closing scenes of Inside Out features a middle school teacher who is counting down to summer vacation.  I'm not the only one who's noticed: Pixar makes teachers the butt of the joke. But as you'll see in comments, not everyone things that it's worth taking offense. 

Or, watch this BuzzFeed video What Is Privilege?, or Rush Limbaugh ranting about Humans Of New York's depiction of a gay student and Hillary Clinton's supportive remarks.

AM News: Accountability Divide Behind ESEA Reauthorization Push

Day One of Senate ESEA Debate: Rift Over Accountability Grows PK12: Below the surface of pleasantries and backslapping, a policy split continues to grow over whether to beef up accountability provisions in the bill to overhaul the education law. See also HuffPost, AP, NPR, Washington Examiner, Washington Post.

Conservatives likely to lose education reform battle in Congress Washington Examiner: But the amendments aren't likely to make it into law, and the underlying House bill will likely be pushed to the left by House and Senate leaders eager to move the bill out of Congress and onto the president's desk for signature.

PARCC test pros and cons debated at Massachusetts Board of Education hearing Mass Live: More than 100 people, most of them educators, attended the public hearing at Springfield Technical Community College. Some shared overall concerns about excessive testing and others argued the PARCC test is needed to ensure children are prepared for the future. See also Modesto Bee.

Texas Textbooks And Teaching The Civil War And America's History Of Racial Segregation WAMU: This fall five million public school students in Texas will use textbooks that critics say misrepresent the Civil War and the nation's history of racial segregation. The battle over how the Civil War is taught in public schools. See also Slate

Ken Wagner, top state ed deputy, a finalist for Rhode Island ed chief job Chalkbeat: Wagner has effectively helmed the department alongside acting Commissioner Elizabeth Berlin over the first half of 2015 after John King’s departure last year. Wagner would be the latest in a string of state education officials to leave over the last year, which has been marked by tumult over education policies and the end of the state’s Race to the Top funding, as well as the choice of new Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who started Monday.

Rahm Emanuel on Budget Cuts and Teacher Layoffs The Atlantic: At an interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Thursday, Emanuel was defiant. “Everybody’s going to hate what they’ve got to do,” he said. But the budget arrangement is “what we call a grand bargain, or a fair deal.” Emanuel made it clear that he harbors no love for the education-reform movement. For example, he said, the common debate that pits public schools versus charters is “nuts.” “I am not an education reformer,” he said. “My job as mayor is to make sure you have quality.”

Marco Rubio’s Education Plans Echo Some Obama Ideas NYT: Many of the ideas on higher education outlined by Senator Marco Rubio in an economic speech on Tuesday sounded similar to policies that President Obama has called for during his time in office.

On Talking Race to Young Teens, Teachers Say It's Been a Tough Year WNYC: One morning in May, Stephanie Caruso had a question for her seventh graders at West Side Collaborative Middle School. She wanted to know if they’d ever been stopped by police when leaving the Upper West side campus for lunch.

Thompson: Remembering The Full Horror of "Death at an Early Age"

Screenshot 2015-07-07 11.33.30
Thanks to Alexander and NPR's Claudio Sanchez for reminding us of the 50th anniversary of the firing of Jonathan Kozol for "curriculum deviation."

Everyone should (re)read this book. 

Rather than immediately using it to discuss the ways that education and racism has and has not changed in the last half century, we should first focus on the horror of Death at an Early Age.

Kozol was a substitute teacher in a class of 8th grade girls who were designated as "problem students" because they either had "very low intelligence" or were "emotionally disturbed."  In a 133-word sentence, Kozol recalls his reading of Langston Hughes's "The Landlord."

No transistor radios reappeared or were turned on during that next hour and, although some children interrupted me a lot to quiz me about Langston Hughes, where he was born, whether he was rich, whether he was married, and about poetry, and about writers, and writing in general, and a number of other things that struck their fancy, and although it was not a calm or orderly or, above all, disciplined class by traditional definition and there were probably very few minutes in which you would be able to hear a pin drop or hear my reading uninterrupted by the voices of one or another of the girls, at least I did have their attention and they seemed, if anything, to care only too much about the content of that Negro poet's book.

In subsequent years, most of the students forgot the poet's name, but they remembered the names of his poems and "They remember he was Negro."

Kozol was fired, his students' parents protested, and the career of a masterful education writer began. The details of the dismissal, however, are also noteworthy.

Continue reading "Thompson: Remembering The Full Horror of "Death at an Early Age"" »

Quotes: What It's Like Being A 12 Year-Old Child Of Color In NYC

Quotes2We've been through so much. Slavery. And once slavery ended, segregation. And once segregation ended, we’re still going through this today. What was all the hard work for? Why do we have to go through this again? -- NYC student interviewed in WNYC's latest story Being 12: Debating Race and Police

Charts: Teaching Candidates Come From Less Wealthy Families

Who studies education

This chart from a recent Atlantic story about rich kids studying English seems to be a good reminder that those students who enter teaching as undergraduates tend to come from families with less income than those who study, say, English. I'm not sure if this has changed much in the last 10 years. Anyone know more?

AM News: All Eyes On Possible ESEA Reauthorization

White House: ESEA Rewrite Needs to Focus on Struggling Schools and Students PK12: The Obama administration worries the House and Senate bills to rewrite ESEA don't do go far enough on accountability. see also National Journal.

House Could Vote on Parent's Right to Opt Out of Tests Under ESEA PK12: The opt-out movement hasn't really been a key issue as Congress wrestles with reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, but that could change this week. See also Washington Post.

NEA 2015 Convention Wrap-Up: Mixed Messaging Teacher Beat: Final details of this year's convention include the union's legislative war chest, mixed messaging on race, and other matters. See also EIA.

Are Test Scores Proving Fears About Common-Core High School Math Correct? State EdWatch: In three states that released preliminary common-core test scores in July, high school students failed to meet predictions for math proficiency. Did experts warn us this was coming? See also: Idaho Smarter Balanced Test Scores Largely Beat State's Projections

Lawsuit: L.A. Schools Failing Needy Students, Flouting California Funding Law State EdWatch: A California lawsuit filed last week claims that the Los Angeles Unified School District is failing to abide by the state's Local Control Funding Formula.

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

Continue reading "AM News: All Eyes On Possible ESEA Reauthorization" »

Holidays: Happy 4th of July Weekend

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com

Happy Fourth of July Weekend to everyone! I'm away Friday through Monday but will be back Tuesday morning with all the great news, commentary, and analysis that you need. 

Best Blogs: Lots Of Familiar Names -- Plus One Totally New One

MagooshBelated thanks to the folks at Magoosh for including me in their 5 Education Blogs We Love:

"Russo does an excellent job of scouring education news all over the world-wide web and bringing it together in one place. We like it because it’s packed with information and updated constantly. No stale news on this site."

I like hearing that!
Others on the list include familiar names like Jay Mathews, Valerie Strauss, & Mind Shift, and one I'd never heard of before, The Perfect Score Project.
What I'm really looking for right now, however, is a 5 Instagram Accounts For Education.



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.