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AM News: Jobs Announces New $50M HS Redesign Project

Laurene Powell Jobs Commits $50 Million to Create New High Schools NYT: With an advertising campaign that looks as if it came from Apple’s marketing department, the initiative [XQ: The Super School Project] is meant to create high schools with new approaches to education. Over the next several months, the teams will submit plans that could include efforts like altering school schedules, curriculums and technologies. By fall next year, Ms. Powell Jobs said, a team of judges will pick five to 10 of the best ideas to finance.

Common Core test scores show achievement gap, even in high-performing schools KPCC: At Wonderland Avenue Elementary, this week's test score release prompted celebration: 94 percent of the 330 students who took the test met or exceeded the grade-level standards in English language arts and 82 percent did so in math.  The school’s Latino students, about 4 percent of the student population, scored lower on the standardized tests when compared to white and Asian children.

School Canceled for 4th Day as Seattle Teachers Strike AP: Seattle Public Schools is canceling classes for a fourth day Monday as a strike by teachers enters its second week. The strike, over issues that include pay raises and teacher evaluations, has delayed the start of the school year for about 53,000 students. The sides resumed negotiations Saturday and continued to talk Sunday. Seattle Times.

Obama Seeks to Make Applying for Federal Financial Aid Easier PK12: The president is unveiling changes aiming to give students information about how much aid they qualify for earlier and encourage more low-income students to go after federal grants and loans. See also Reuters, PBS NewsHour.

Gaps in Earnings Stand Out in Release of College Data NYT: At some expensive colleges, the salaries of students 10 years after enrollment are bleak, and there is an earnings gender gap at every top university. See also NPRBuzzFeedAP.

School choice complicates Promise Neighborhood’s efforts to help kids Washington Post: Less than a third of the 1,600 students who live there attend neighborhood schools; the rest are enrolled in 184 others, scattered across a city that has embraced school choice more than almost any other.

Charter School Head Says Newark Schools Are Better Since Facebook Gift WNYC: "Your odds have doubled of being in a good school if you're an African American kid in Newark," said Ryan Hill, director of Kipp New Jersey, which operates five charter schools in the city. 

Authorities identify special needs student found dead on bus AP: Authorities have identified a special needs student who was found dead on a school bus as a special needs student who regularly rode the bus to his home in Whittier....

Another clue that school's in session: the traffic WBEZ Chicago: For many in the Chicago region, the start of a new school year marks the beginning of another season: nine months of traffic headaches. People block the alley, park illegally. People park in places that block the buses. 

Matthew Levey's Charter School Quest NYT: Late last month, on a warm, luminous morning, Matthew Levey, a 48-year-old former McKinsey consultant, stood on Willoughby Street in Downtown Brooklyn and shook hands with his new charges: 65 kindergartners, a sea of neon sneakers, starched dresses and cotton golf shirts. It was the first day — ever — for the International Charter School of New York. And Mr. Levey, who had spent the last 36 months planning, developing and hiring for his new elementary school, was in high spirits. 

Roundup: Where #BlackLivesMatter Meets Education (Reform)

Curious about where BLM and education overlap? Here's a helpful roundup of school-related BLM articles to check out, courtesy of Catherine Bellinger, D.C. Director at DFER:

Ryan Hill of KIPP TEAM on Ferguson: http://blog.kippnj.org/grand-juries
Any other great examples, reform-oriented or otherwise?  Pass them on.

Quotes: Neighborhood Schools "Almost An Orwellian Term"

Quotes2‘Neighborhood school’ is almost an Orwellian term. It sounds great—and can be great in a perfect world. But its history is a history of using neighborhood boundaries to segregate. 

- Former Obama campaign staff and RePublic Schools founder Ravi Gupta  quoted in Conor Williams oped (Liberals Push to Correct Inequality - To A Point)

Charts: New Report Calls For Renewed Integration Effort (Can It Happen?)


In a new report, the Century Foundation calls for new efforts to integrate district,  charter, and early childhood programs. Meantime, NYC's education chief says efforts to diversity schools there won't happen quickly, and New America's Conor Williams notes how strongly many liberal parents in DC seem to object to policy changes that affect their desires for their own children. Then again, selective schools just gave up some of their privilege in NOLA, so there's always hope. 

Morning Video: TN's Free Community College Model

From PBS: "Tennessee is expecting record enrollment at its community colleges this year, under a new program that guarantees two years of tuition for free for students who meet some simple requirements. But can schools keep the students enrolled? Special correspondent Yasmeen Qureshi reports on an educational experiment that’s being watched around the country." 

Or, listen to this recent segment featuring White House education guru and HGSE grad Roberto Rodriguez (who also spoke at this year's convocation).

AM News: More About Those CA Common Core Test Results (& Comparisons)

Less Than Half of CA Students Made the Grade on New Common Core–Aligned Test Slate: A total of 12 million students in 29 states took some version of these new Common Core–based assessments developed by Smarter Balanced and PARCC this year. See also EdSource Today, LA School Report, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

2016 Candidates Slam Common Core, But Education Standards Take Root Reuters: Despite years of effort, Common Core's critics have largely failed to repeal the standards, which aim to emphasize critical thinking over rote memorization.

New online credential program aims to turn out 10,000 new teachers in the next five years Hechinger Report: Although TEACH-NOW’s model offers traits similar to traditional preparation programs, like a student teaching experience, the model also differs. Students take online classes with 15 or fewer students and work through a sequence of individual online modules, instead of taking several different classes at the same time. Classroom observations, projects and school-based experiences, like tutoring, are integrated throughout the curriculum, and all aspiring teachers must complete a 12-week module of student teaching at the end of the certification program.

These 16 States Are Implementing Plans To Make Sure Good Teachers End Up In Poor Communities HuffPost: A state plan approved Thursday by the Department of Education seeks to reverse these disparities in Missouri. Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota, New York, Nevada, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wisconsin also had educator equity plans approved. More will be implemented in other states on a rolling basis. See also Washington Post

Arne Duncan visits Harper College, praises scholarship program Chicago Tribune:  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised officials at Harper College in Palatine on Wednesday, saying the northwest suburban college's new scholarship program is reflective of a White House initiative to make community colleges nationwide tuition-free.

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

Continue reading "AM News: More About Those CA Common Core Test Results (& Comparisons)" »

Pictures: First Days Of School (Through The Decades)

Here's a fun piece from the NYT about first days of school over the decades. Another fun approach would have been to have rounded up "first day" images from around the country (though these days they're not all on the same day).

Quotes: Expanding Choice Not The Same As Fixing A District

Quotes2I thought that with [hundreds of millions] of dollars...that they knew how to reform a district, and how to help urban schools, not just charter schools... I thought they really knew how to take...the whole district and make all of those schools perform better for kids, and they really didn't know how to do that.

- Author Dale Russakoff about the reform effort in Newark, via WNYC (The Deal That Brought Mark Zuckerberg's $100 Million Gift to Newark's Schools)


AM News: CA Publishes Common Core Test Results, Seattle Strike Continues

Less Than Half of Students Achieve Proficiency on Calif. Common-Core Exams State EdWatch: California students performed better on the English/language arts section of the Smarter Balanced exam than in math, according to scores released by the department Sept. 9. See also KPCCLA Times, Bakersfield Californian

Obama Promotes College Affordability Plan on Michigan Trip NYT: At an event near Detroit, Mr. Obama announced the creation of a national advisory board to push the idea that community college should be free for many students across the country. “Education has always been the secret sauce, the secret to America’s success,” Mr. Obama said to a small but enthusiastic crowd of students at Macomb Community College in Warren, Mich. “Every American willing to work hard should have a shot at higher education.” See also The Wall Street Journal and The Huffington Post.

Rep. John Kline is still optimistic on No Child Left Behind rewrite this year Washington Post: House Education Committee chair wants bipartisan deal that Obama will feel “a lot of pressure” to sign.

No classes Thursday as Seattle strike continues  AP: There will be no classes again Thursday for tens of thousands of public school students in Seattle as teachers will remain on strike. District spokeswoman Stacy Howard said both sides would be back at the negotiating table Thursday morning. See also NPR, HuffPost, EdWeek, Seattle Times.

One of Teach For America's Top Executives Is Stepping Down TeacherBeat: The organization had been run by co-chief executive officers, but now one of them is stepping down. More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso)

Continue reading "AM News: CA Publishes Common Core Test Results, Seattle Strike Continues" »

ICYMI: "What Is Common Core?"


It's a couple of years old but according to a recent poll from California not all that outdated.

Quotes: NYC Mayor Touts Benefits Of Rigorous Common Core Pre-K

Quotes2The difference between a child who has had full day pre-K with the Common Core curriculum and one who hasn’t, that child in the first instance has such a leg up and a love of learning they go into the rest of their education with.

- NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio in the Washington Post's Answer Sheet  (The surprising things New York’s mayor said about Common Core and 4-year-olds)

Quotes: Communities Try To Balance Choice/Charters Against Jobs/Stability

Quotes2People are often of two minds. They're putting their kids in charters but that means the district schools need to right-size by cutting jobs, and that affects their cousin. Everyone in Newark is affected by both trends.

- Dale Russakoff in Newark Star-Ledger (Author Dale Russakoff discusses new book on Newark School Reform)


Thompson: A Modest Proposal for Improving Principal Quality

image from ecx.images-amazon.comOne of the bonuses of Kristina Rizga's excellent Mission High is that it shows what it would take to improve principal quality in high-poverty schools.  Since principal leadership is so important, systems should require school leaders to have teaching experience with students similar to those who attend the school, as well as having served as a teachers union official.

I'm kidding about the requirement that a principal must have union leadership experience; it should not be required, even though Mission High helps reveal why such a qualification should be highly valued.

Had Eric Guthertz, the principal of Mission High, not had the ability to work collaboratively with the district, Rizga would have needed a different book title. In large part because of Guthertz's leadership and savvy, the subtitle is One School, the Experts Who Tried to Fail It, and the Students and Teachers Who Made It Triumph.

As was so often the case under Arne Duncan's prescriptive School Improvement Grant (SIG) and his Race to the Top, Guthertz almost lost his job. Under the SIG,  states had to agree to using test scores for teacher evaluations, ease restrictions on charters, and choose between firing the principal, ½ the teachers, closing the school, or replacing the school with a charter.

District helped by defining him as a replacement principal. When the school faced the loss of $1 million and seven teachers because it landed one point below the targeted API metric, the district appealed the API and got them over the hump.

As was so often not the case across so many SIG schools, Guthertz did not fold and pressure his teachers to do bubble-in malpractice. Rizga writes: 

Despite these external pressures to prioritize test scores in math and English, Guthertz refuses to tell educators at Mission to "teach to the test" at the expense of giving up rich curriculum or hands-on projects, field trips, and music and art classes …

Continue reading "Thompson: A Modest Proposal for Improving Principal Quality" »

Think Tanks: Former TN Commissioner Kevin Huffman Writing A Book


"Kevin Huffman will write a book about the challenge of building a first-rate public school system in the face of modern political dysfunction," according to this announcement from the New America Foundation (2016 class of New America fellows). 

Huffman headed the Tennessee school system from 2011-2015, and announced his resignation last November.

Yes, he was once married to Michelle Rhee. No, he's not married to Rebeca Nieves-Huffman. 
You can find him at @k_huff1. Image via New America.

Numbers: $1.5 Trillion US Education Industry "Ready For Investment"




US education is a $1.5 trillion industry and growing at 5 percent annually, according to this recent McKinsey report (Why US education is ready for investment).  However, "education is everywhere seen as a public good, entrusted to government and nonprofit institutions, and most spending is on personnel."

image from tse2.mm.bing.net

"For-profit companies have historically achieved scale by stepping in to provide education where society has left gaps—by acting as school operators in K–12 and higher education or by providing ancillary services such as tutoring, day care, and test preparation. Private companies have also found niches in corporate training and textbook publishing, though the latter is a heavily consolidated industry."

AM News: Seattle Teachers Strike For First Time In 30 Years

Seattle Teachers Strike On First Day Of School AP: Members of the Seattle Education Association, which represents about 5,000 teachers and support staff, said they will picket at all 97 schools Wednesday. See also NPR, NYT, Seattle Public Radio.

What makes a public school public? Washington state court finds charter schools unconstitutional Washington Post: Opponents of charter schools have long argued that the schools are private because they don’t have to answer to the public and in some states aren’t subject to key rules that apply to government agencies, such as open meetings and public records laws. 

2 WA charters say they will stay open this year despite Supreme Court ruling Seattle Times: Charter schools are organizing parents to lobby the Legislature for a long-term fix to the state Supreme Court’s ruling last Friday that such schools are unconstitutional.

Poll: California voters still unsure about Common Core EdSource Today: About one-fourth say they have not heard about the new standards. See also Hechinger Report.

Rand Paul Links Jeb Bush to Former President George W. Bush's Edu-Record PK12: The Kentucky senator wants to paint rival GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush and the former Florida governor's brother with the same brush on education policy.

New York City Mayor Goes All-In On Free Preschool NPR: NPR's Robert Siegel talks with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio about the early days of his effort to provide free, high-quality preschool to all of the city's 4-year-olds. See also Washington Post.

Parents May Spend Less This Year on Back-to-School Supplies, Despite Growing Need NYT: In the last decade, the average amount families spent on school items grew 42 percent, according to the retail federation’s projections this summer. It estimated that families with children in grades K-12 would spend an average of $630 this year, about 6 percent less than in 2014.

One of nation’s largest school districts ditches high school final exams Washington Post: Maryland’s Montgomery County will replace the two-hour tests with shorter assessments taken during the quarters.

Traffic on first day of school is smooth in Fairfax despite new start times Washington Post: Shift in bell times gives students more sleep but push more buses onto roads during rush hour.

Five big questions facing New York City schools as a new year begins ChalkbeatNY: This is school year number two for the mayor, who will be trying to pull off a number of complicated education initiatives at once.

How an unconventional principal turned around a struggling urban school Hechinger Report: Since then, the first-time principal and her team have made significant strides in student achievement, teacher satisfaction, technology upgrades and parent involvement. Today, due to improved test scores and a positive school culture, the school is one of only four of 33 that is on track to emerge from intervention status in Rhode Island.

A Door-to-Door Push to Get Parents Involved at Struggling Schools NYT: With the second full school year of his administration beginning on Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio is already under pressure to show improvement at these schools, which are among 62 low-performing schools targeted by the state for possible takeover. One of the keys to transforming them, his administration believes, is to get parents to show up more by turning schools into one-stop community centers offering services like medical and dental clinics, adult courses and counseling.

National union leader calls for settlement for Scranton teachers Scranton Times-Tribune: Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.6-million member national union, told the board that education is the “great equalizer,” and teachers only want to make a difference in the lives of their students. 

Maps: Preschool For All - With Lots Of Differences Among States

"Policymakers in Minnesota, like many across the country, have been impressed by studies that show early education can improve a child’s life and save taxpayers money over the long term. But while there’s a growing consensus on the value of preschool, states disagree on where the programs should be based, who should run them, or how the government should support them." via Stateline. Click the link if the map doesn't embed/display properly.

Quotes: Newark Book "Critical Of All The Players"

Quotes2I see it as critical of all the players in education, so I don't think reform movement is singled out. There's a real divide in the debate over education, one side versus the other. And the children are caught in the middle. 
- Author Dale Russakoff rebutting NYT review by Alex Kotlowitz (Author Dale Russakoff discusses new book on Newark School Reform)

Roundup: Best & Worst Reviews Of Newark Book Out Today

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comPerhaps the best two pieces I’ve come across are from the Newark Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran including an opinion piece on where things stand that notes district progress along with charter school improvements and reformers' misguided focus on the parts of the story Russakoff leaves out (Newark students are better off, despite the political noise) and also a Q & A with Russakoff in which the author rebuts a deeply flawed NYT review, proposes a forensic audit of Newark's $23,000-per student spending, but calls the Zuckerberg-funded reform efforts a “wash” over all (Author Dale Russakoff discusses new book). These are both well worth reading, for what Moran writes and for Russakoff's responses.

There have also been four big mainstream reviews of the book: Chicago Tribune (Diane Rado);  The Seventy Four (Conor Williams); NYT (Alex Kotlowitz;  NYT (Jonathan Knee). Of these earlier reviews, I found the second NYT review (by Knee) to be the most interesting, taking a business-oriented view of what happened that's no less critical of the process and the outcomes than anyone else. 


Roundup: Best & Worst Reviews Of Newark Book Coming Out Today

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comPerhaps the best two pieces I’ve come across are from the Newark Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran including an opinion piece on where things stand that notes district progress along with charter school improvements and reformers' misguided focus on the parts of the story Russakoff leaves out (Newark students are better off, despite the political noise) and also a Q & A with Russakoff in which the author rebuts a deeply flawed NYT review, proposes a forensic audit of Newark's $23,000-per student spending, but calls the Zuckerberg-funded reform efforts a “wash” over all (Author Dale Russakoff discusses new book). 

These are both well worth reading, for what Moran writes and for Russakoff's responses.

There have also been four big mainstream reviews of the book: Chicago Tribune (Diane Rado);  The Seventy Four (Conor Williams); NYT (Alex Kotlowitz;  NYT (Jonathan Knee). 

Of these earlier reviews, I found the second NYT review (by Knee) to be the most interesting, taking a business-oriented view of what happened that's no less critical of the process and the outcomes than anyone else. 

Last but not least, here's NYT columnist Joe Nocera's piece on the book (Zuckerberg’s Expensive Lesson), which notes among other things that "almost half" of the Zuckerberg effort went to Newark teachers in the form of back pay, salaries for teachers who weren't assigned to a classroom, and bonuses. "Apparently, Zuckerberg has learned his lesson. What will it take for the rest of us to learn?" 

Just this morning, WNYC's Sarah Gonzales gave us an update on how some of the characters in the book are doing (How Booker, Christie Spent the $100 Million Facebook Donation), including a breakout of spending (most of which went to teachers and principals, not consultants).


Morning Video: Back To School (According To John Oliver)

From Sunday night: "John Oliver gives students a crash course in everything they will learn — or not learn — in school this year." (Already seen it? Read a bunch of responses/hot takes from Slate, Jezebel, etc. here.)  #bts15 Or, watch a PBS NewsHour segment on the factors contributing to lower SAT scores.


AM News: Washington State Supreme Court Rules Charters Unconstitutional

State Supreme Court: Charter schools are unconstitutional Seattle Times: The ruling — believed to be one of the first of its kind in the country — overturns the law voters narrowly approved in 2012 allowing publicly funded, but privately operated, schools.

10 Years In, Tulsa's Pre-K Investment Is Paying Off NPR: These findings are important because Tulsa's program is considered a model for high-quality preschool programs nationwide, and the city has received extensive funding from the state to make it so. Phillips says her research now shows precisely how children have benefited over time.

Don't panic, officials say as California braces for lower test results LA Times: Even before new state test scores are released this week, one thing is already clear: Results will be lower than in years past. Probably much lower. See also EdSource Today.

Rep. John Kline Won't Seek Re-Election; Adds Pressure on ESEA Rewrite PK12: His forthcoming departure puts added pressure on lawmakers in both chambers to come to an agreement on their respective ESEA overhauls before the end of the year.

Organized labor wants Joe Biden to run Politico: Even the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, who is such a Clinton supporter that she serves on the board of the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA, declined comment on the possibility of a Biden campaign. 

States Agree On The Need For Preschool, But Disagree On The Definition HuffPost: Policymakers in Minnesota, like many across the country, have been impressed by studies that show early education can improve a child’s life and save taxpayers money over the long term. But while there’s a growing consensus on the value of preschool, states disagree on where the programs should be based, who should run them, or how the government should support them.

Chicago officials to reopen high school after fiery protests AP: Chicago officials announced plans Thursday to open a new arts-focused school in a neighborhood school once slated for closure, but protesters who have disrupted budget meetings vowed to continue a hunger strike over perceived racial disparities and other issues in the city's education system.... See also Washington Post.

After John Deasy, LAUSD faces a tough choice: Play it safe or take another risk? LA Times: When the school board chose John Deasy as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2011, it knew what it was getting: an outsized personality with a national reputation as an advocate for school reform.

A Sharing Economy Where Teachers Win NYT: On TeachersPayTeachers, some educators have been able to convert hours of class preparation into thousands of dollars, and 12 have become millionaires.

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

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Site News: Gone Fishing - Happy Labor Day Weekend

I'm off for Labor Day weekend -- hope you are, too. If you absolutely need to reach me, try @alexanderrusso or text me at 312-286-9242. Be safe. See you next week.

Quotes: Your Ideas About College Are Antiquated

Quotes2The world of college education is different now than it was a generation ago, when many of the people driving policy decisions on education went to college, and the theoretical ideas about why college should pay off do not comport well with the reality.

-- John Cassidy in the New Yorker (What's the real value of higher education?)



Thompson: Is Teacher Quality The Problem, Or Is Focus Making Things Worse?

The Washington Post's Lyndsey Layton, in New Analysis Argues That Better Teachers Are Flocking to Better Schools, reports that A Tale of Two School Systems, by Families for Excellent Schools, shows that teachers who scored low in the New York City’s evaluation system are concentrated in struggling schools that serve poor and minority students. Teachers with higher ratings are most likely to be found in schools where students test well and tend to be white and Asian. 

Who would have thunk it?

Seriously, we all know a problem has long existed.  And, as Layton notes of the reform group's discovery, "It is perhaps unsurprising that teachers at low-performing schools have low job performance ratings, since 40 percent of teacher evaluations in New York in 2013-2014 were based on student test scores."

The only shocker would be if value-added evaluations didn't accelerate the exodus of talent from high-challenge schools where it is harder to raise test scores.

Reformers have argued that the way to recruit teachers to the most challenging schools is to micromanage them, undermine their ability to teach in an engaging and respectful manner to poor children, and to evaluate them with a high-stakes algorithm that is biased against teachers in high-poverty schools.

Sure enough,  Khan Shoieb, a spokesman for Families for Excellent Schools, pretends that the "teacher quality score means something," and implies that it doesn't punish teachers for merely choosing the much harder mission in schools with critical masses of children from generational poverty who have endured extreme trauma. But, Shoieb also says:

The best teachers are concentrated in the best areas and we all know why that is,” he said. “These are the easiest schools to teach in, where they don’t have to deal with the toxic stress of poverty, they don’t have to deal with kids who are hungry. Instead, they get the kids who are easier to teach.

In other words, while Shoieb is not likely to acknowledge it, he agrees with American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten common sense appraisal of the awful situation that New York reformers probably are making worse. 

Continue reading "Thompson: Is Teacher Quality The Problem, Or Is Focus Making Things Worse?" »

TBT: Back To School Feelings (Parents vs. Kids) #BTS12


via Reddit/BuzzFeed (Best "back-to-school" photo I've seen yet!)

Morning Video: Back To School "Debacle" For Rookie Boston Superintendent

"More than 8,000 students were stuck on a waiting list, with no idea whether they’ll go to class just weeks before the first day of school," according to WGBH (Boston's Back To School Debacle). "As of today, all students from 1st to 12th grade have a school but parents aren’t happy with their assignments or the last-minute process."


AM News: Joe Biden, SAT Scores, DFER Changeup, Opt-Out Consequences

Biden Talks Education; Miami Audience Listens For Clues To Presidential Bid NPR: Vice President Joe Biden is mulling a run for the White House. He made an education speech in Miami on Wednesday, but made no mention of politics or his deliberations. See also NYT.

More Students Are Taking The SAT, Even As Scores Fail To Improve HuffPost: The data reveals that a record number of students from the class of 2015 took SAT and AP exams, and these students were more diverse than in years past. See also Washington Post, LA Times.

The new face of Democrats who support education reform: LA Times: Shavar Jeffries, an attorney who lost his bid to be mayor of Newark, N.J., is the new president of Democrats for Education Reform.Jeffries is taking the place of Joe Williams, a former New York Daily News reporter who led DFER until recently. Williams is now working at the Walton Foundation, a major education philanthropy organization that is known for sponsoring the growth of specific charter school chains, sources say.

Dyett Hunger Strikers Share Concerns with Arne Duncan in D.C. Sun Times: Duncan dropped in the meeting, joined by senior adviser Ruthanne Buck and Khalilah Harris, the deputy director at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, which is housed in the Education Department.

Testing Opt-Outs Cost Disqualify New York Schools From Blue Ribbon EdWeek:  State officials inform 11 schools that they don't qualify for the national Blue Ribbon program because their test-participation rates fell short of the required 95 percent. See also Minneapolis Star Tribune.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Joe Biden, SAT Scores, DFER Changeup, Opt-Out Consequences" »

Update: Darling-Hammond Leaving Stanford To Launch New Policy Research Organization (Doesn't Seem Interested In Being Next Education Secretary)

There’s some big news coming out of California today in the form of the official launch of the new policy and research center headed by Linda Darling-Hammond.

Called the Learning Policy Institute, the new organization is Darling-Hammond’s effort to create a better kind of think tank/policy research center, one that puts student learning at the center and bridges research and policy worlds.

Its creation would also seem to put a damper on the hopes or fears of those who have written her in as a next Democratic Education Secretary.

The organization will both conduct its own policy research and partner with others’ work. Some of the policy priorities that the institute [@LPI_Learning] plans to investigate include deeper learning, educator quality, college and career, school organization and design, early childhood.

Based near Stanford, the Institute will also have an office in DC that’s going to be headed by former Alliance For Education staffer Charmaine Mercer. By the end of the year, the expectation is that a staff of 30 will have been hired, with plans to grow as large as 50. See more details from the announcement here.

Initial funders include the Sandler Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, Ford, and Hewlett, and Stuart.

Former SRI staff Patrick Shields is going to be the ED. Board members include David Lyon of the California Public Policy Institute and David Rattray of UNITE-LA. Wynn Hausser is heading the communications/outreach effort. He and Darling-Hammond first met working with Public Advocates.

Two senior fellows in residence have been announced: Jeannie Oakes, formerly of Ford, and David Kirp from Berkeley. Darling-Hammond is retiring from Stanford as part of the new launch, though she is going to teach part time.

In a blog post announcing the new endeavor, Darling-Hammond called the present time "A New Moment in Education."

There's no shortage of research shops, policy outfits, and think tanks doing all sorts of things at all different levels of quality, rigor, and independence. I'll be eager to see whether LPI can both grab policymakers' attention and promote high-quality research. It's not an easy thing to do one or the other, and no small feat to do them both at the same time.

Related posts: UPenn Ranks Think Tanks; Have Funders Overtaken Think Tanks?; Think Tank Watch: [Why] Are Washington Think Tanks So Powerful?; Research-Less Think Tanks Can't Compete; Linda Darling-Hammond's Ninja Warrior Son.

School Life: Satirical Look At Resource Inequality Among Schools/Districts

image from i.onionstatic.com

“Pretty soon, kids my age who live in wealthier districts will start testing better than me in every subject, so I might as well try to make the most of this parity while I have it,” said Williams. (via The Onion 5-Year-Old At Underfunded Kindergarten Enjoying Last Few Weeks Before Achievement Gap Kicks In)

Quotes: Healing/Rebuilding Vs. Fixing/Restarting In New Orleans

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 12.29.16 PM
"In the past ten years, much has been said, rightly, about the resilience and the spirit of those who chose to rebuild the neighborhoods they had lost. It is time to appreciate as well the courage of those who, faced with the same disaster, decided to make a fresh start."

- Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker (What Social Scientists Learned from Katrina)


Morning Video: Education, Housing, Integration -- Really?

 "Supporters of desegregation won the Yonkers battle—but the high cost of victory lost them the war," writes former NYT writer Lisa Belkin, whose book about a Yonkers NY housing fight is the subject of a new David Simon HBO miniseries, Show Me A Hero that's been written up by EdWeek's Mark Walsh. "Few in this country had the will to risk another divisive, ugly municipal bruising anytime soon."

This isn't the first time Simon has addressed school-related issues. The Wire included a whole season focused on a group of middle school boys. (No surprise given his writing partner's career as both a cop and a geography teacher). More recently (by which I mean 2010-211), the NOLA-based Treme series included a few biting references to post-Katrina school reform. (Remember "Four years at Radcliff is all you know..."?)

Meantime, someone should go to Yonkers and follow up on how the integration plan and kids are doing, right?

Related posts: New HBO Series Takes On Charters & Choice [2010]; From Cop To Writer To Geography TeacherDoes TFA Displace Veterans -- & Do TFAer Really Stay?.

AM News: Obama's Mixed Record On School Integration Efforts

Obama's Mixed Record on School Integration American Prospect: While a handful of small programs have taken steps toward promoting diversity, desegregation has remained absent from Obama's signature education initiatives. 

Congressman Decides To Teach Little Kids About Suicide Bombers HuffPost: Things took a dark turn, however, when Salmon opted to use current events to illustrate how vetoes work, KPHO reports. The congressman brought up the current nuclear negotiations with Iran. He then transitioned into a talk about nuclear weapons, which in turn led him to ask the classroom full of young kids if they are aware of child suicide bombers.

Jeb Bush Touts K-12 Scholarships, Readies College-Affordability Plan PK12: The GOP presidential hopeful and former Florida governor also talked about immigration at a town hall meeting Tuesday with high school students in Miami.

Teachers colleges struggle to blend technology into teacher training Hechinger Report: They’re trying to teach today’s student-teachers how to use the wide range of technologies – from old-school software and tools such as PowerPoint, videos and laptops to those ubiquitous tablets and smartphones – as classroom tools, not just as social devices for communicating with friends or playing games.

L.A. Unified selects firm to search for new superintendent LA Times: The search for a new Los Angeles school district chief moved into the open Tuesday, but it's not clear how long the effort will remain public.

Nearly a year after NYC principals float diversity plans, city has yet to sign off Chalkbeat: A few principals presented a solution: If the city let them reserve a portion of their seats for high-needs students, such as those from low-income families or who live in public housing, the schools could preserve — or in some cases, create — diverse student bodies. Chancellor Carmen Fariña and other top officials heard them out, then asked the principals to submit detailed proposals.

Asians Are Nearly Twice As Likely To Get A Higher Price From Princeton Review ProPublica: Few, if any, realize that the prices for The Princeton Review's online SAT tutoring packages vary substantially depending on where customers live. If they type some ZIP codes into the company's website, they are offered The Princeton Review's Premier course for as little as $6,600. For other ZIP codes, the same course costs as much as $8,400.

Missouri Teenagers Protest a Transgender Student’s Use of the Girls’ Bathroom NYT: More than 100 students at Hillsboro High School staged a walkout after a transgender student was allowed to use the girls’ facilities.

New analysis argues that better teachers are flocking to better schools Washington Post: Families for Excellent Schools analyzed data from New York City's public schools and found that the lowest-rated teachers work in the schools that have high minority populations and serve students from poor families.

School Threats Led to Gun Seizures, Arrest NBC News: Fresno, California, police Chief Jerry Dyer gives details on an alleged plot by an area 15-year-old student, which led to the closing of two schools, and the arrest of the student.

How the CORE districts are designing new measures of school quality EdSource Today: The CORE Districts began in 2010 as a collaboration across school districts exploring ways to improve teaching and learning. In 2013, several school districts in the CORE consortium received a federal waiver from some provisions of the No Child Left Behind law and are working together to develop a new School Quality Improvement Index to provide more and better information about schools and the

For classmates of Jamyla Bolden, teddy bears and books help ease heartbreak St. Louis Public Radio: Johnson was there to hand out teddy bears donated by Build-A-Bear and books from the American Federation of Teachers. The effort was organized by his church’s Center for Social Empowerment and Justice, which was launched to support local business and schools in the Ferguson area.

Quotes: Blame Pinellas County On Local Control?

Quotes2There are real perils to prioritizing local control over ensuring that all schools and districts are actually educating all children. Look no further than Pinellas County, Florida, where a recent story detailed the systematic neglect and denial of opportunity to poor students of color by the local board of education.

-- Former StudentsFirst VP Eric Lerum in Education Post (The Odd Couples of Education)

Thompson: Fact Checking the New Orleans Reformers' Spin

When I first read the Education Research Alliance (ERA) report on the effectiveness of the competition-driven New Orleans model of reform, it was clear that true believers in "relinquishment" and market-driven reform would be disappointed by its findings. However, they have still spun the mixed results from the NOLA corporate reform model as a great success.

I have left the fact checking of the ERA's methodology and data to the experts. I've mostly limited myself to fact checking the reformers' spin - the soundbites they use to put the NOLA record in the best possible light, and to use its model to break unions and extend test-driven reform across the nation.

I admit to being surprised that analyses such as those of the NEPC, Andrea Gabor, The International Business Times, In These Times, Julian Vasquez Heilig, Mercedes Schneider, Gary Rubenstein, and others have found so many problems with the ERA research. I still remain most shocked by the soundbite of the respected researcher Douglas Harris who has contributed to headlines asserting that the reforms "worked."

At first, I assumed Harris was just being diplomatic when he said that the "typical elementary- or middle-school student's scores rose by 8 to 15 percentage points," and that "We are not aware of any other districts that have made such large improvements in such a short time." 

In fact, I'm not aware of many districts that haven't made dramatic increases in bubble-in test scores over a short time, and then saw those illusory gains disappear.

It is hard to believe that any scholar would be so quick to trust bubble-in data after reading Is the No Child Left Behind Act Working? by Bruce Fuller, Kathryn Gesicki, Erin Kang, Joseph Wright. Fuller et. al assemble a much greater batch of test score growth claims by entire states, not just a district with an unflinching focus on bubble-in accountability.

How could scholars forget the New Jersey Miracle, where 4th grade reading scores increased 7.9 points per year for nearly as long as NOLA produced gains? NOLA can't hold a candle to Arkansas's miracle where 4th grade reading scores increased by 19 points between 2001 and 2002, and where there was nearly a 75% increase in those scores in four years.  In fact, Fuller et. al calculate an average of the average of gains in fourteen states and find  2.6 and 2.7 points per year for the decade preceding NCLB! 

Continue reading "Thompson: Fact Checking the New Orleans Reformers' Spin" »

Books: A Week Until "The Prize"

51UTBTUV8bL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)The deluge of New Orleans coverage may be peaking, but there's another deluge to come in the form of publicity surrounding Jonathan Franz..  Dale Russakoff's new book about Newark, The Prize.

To help get yourself ready (or perhaps as a form of inoculation, you might take a look at four big reviews of the book, which comes out officially in a week: Chicago Tribune (Diane Rado);  The Seventy Four (Conor Williams); NYT (Alex KotlowitzNYT2 (Jonathan Knee). Yes, that's right, there are two reviews of the book in the NYT. 

As you may recall, there was an excerpt from the book in The New Yorker last year (A Test for School Reform in Newark). Chris Cerf penned an oped response in December (Dispelling Five ‘Falsehoods’ About Newark’s School System).

I'm doing some reporting and thinking about the book, and will have something out in the next few days. If you see any other reviews, let me know. 

Morning Video: The Fight To Reboot A Chicago High School

Curious about the controversy over the closing of Dyett HS in Chicago (and the hunger strike against its demise)? Not sure just how controversial it can be to phase out even a low-performing, declining-enrolllment school? Watch the above WTTW Chicago Public Television segment (transcript here).
Or, check out a new podcast audio segment from Us & Them about the Math Wars of the 1970s.

AM News: Growing Number Of States Using ACT/SAT Tests

States turn to college-prep tests for federal reporting SI&A Cabinet Report: New Hampshire has joined a growing number of states opting to use college-prep entrance exams rather than standardized testing to assess high school juniors’ academic progress and meet federal accountability requirements. Maine, Wisconsin and Kentucky are among the states currently using either the SAT or ACT to assess students in 11thgrade. Nearly half of states cover the costs of the tests for all students – even those who would normally pay a fee of $50 or more to take the college-readiness exams.

Rep. John Kline anticipates new education law Pioneer Press: Rep. John Kline says the chances are "far better than 50-50" that Congress will hammer out a bipartisan bill this fall to replace the No Child Left Behind law.

Report: Chronic school absenteeism is contributing to academic gaps Washington Post: Absenteeism rates among kindergartners are nearly as high as those among high school freshmen, according to the report. An estimated 1 in 10 kindergartners misses at least 18 days of school, or nearly a month of class, per year. Many of those absences are excused: Young children often miss school not because they’re skipping class but because they or their parents are suffering from mental or physical health problems. See also KPCC LA.

NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña Praises Charter on Visit WSJ: The visits by Chancellor Carmen Fariña and New York City Charter School Center CEO James Merriman followed a sometimes contentious year in education circles. It included political battles over the number of charters allowed in New York, city denials of some charter schools’ space requests, and continuing debates over whether the taxpayer-funded, independently operated schools teach their fair share of the most challenging students.See also ChalkbeatWNYC

Children Don’t Have Constitutional Right to Switch Schools, Appeals Court Rules WSJ: The parents, who are white, sued for violations of due process and equal protection, claiming they had a constitutional right to move their kids. A lower court last year dismissed the parents’ complaint.See also Associated Press. 

Teachers' Unconscious Biases Contribute To Gender Disparity NPR: Girls often outperform boys in science and math at an early age but are less likely to choose tough courses in high school. An Israeli experiment demonstrates how biases of teachers affect students.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Growing Number Of States Using ACT/SAT Tests" »

Thompson: Kristina Rizga Describes a Real Violation of Teacher Ethics

As test-driven reformers face defeat at the hands of a grassroots Opt Out movement, they return to their tried and true tactic of challenging the integrity of their opponents. New York Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia exemplifies this scorched earth tactic by asserting that teachers who support test boycotts are unethical. But, as Mother Jones's Kristina Rizga explains in Sorry, I'm Not Taking This Test, testing has inflicted the most damage on the poor children of color who, theoretically, were supposed to be helped by it.

Besides, isn't it unethical for educators to pressure students and patrons to do something that they believe is wrong? 

Rizga describes a student, Kiana Hernandez, who on her own volition chose to follow in the path of Mahatma Gandhi and refuse to take the standardized test. In a seeming violation of ethics "one teacher told her: 'Please take [the test]. My paycheck depends on it.'"

Just as bad, an obviously decent and conscientious teacher advised her, "You should wait until you are done with high school before you try to change the world." 

At this point, I must stop and say forcefully that the criticism I make of these teachers' words is rhetorical.  Good, ethical people can utter some terrible statements when under duress. As horrible as those teachers' words were, I don't blame them. They were spoken in fear. And, they were a predictable result of reward- and punishment-driven reform. They merely reconfirm the truism, "Feed the teachers or they will eat the students." 

There is one overwhelmingly important issue today. Now that it is obvious that punitive and competition-driven reform (once known quaintly as "choice") has failed to improve the educations of poor children of color, why must stakes be attached to tests? If charters and reformers are about competition to help education outcomes - not to defeat neighborhood schools, why do they still need high-stakes test scores to be used as the ammunition that fuels this battle?

Continue reading "Thompson: Kristina Rizga Describes a Real Violation of Teacher Ethics" »

Quotes: A Glass Half-Empty View Of Common Core Progress

Quotes2The whole idea of Common Core was to bring students and schools under a common definition of what success is... And Common Core is not going to have that. One of its fundamental arguments has been knocked out from under it.  - Brookings' Tom Loveless in AP (As Common Core results trickle in, initial goals unfulfilled)


Charts: Extra Money "Meaningfully" Improves Student Outcomes


"Our findings provide compelling evidence that money does matter, and that additional school resources can meaningfully improve long-run outcomes for students." (Education Next: Boosting Educational Attainment and Adult Earnings)

Morning Video: PBS NewsHour Returns To New Orleans (Plus "Teaching Teachers")


John Tulenko and the team (now with EdWeek) report on how much NOLA schools seem to have improved, and nagging concerns about problems with expulsions and special ed services. Or, listen to this hour-long American Public Radio documentary on teaching teachers

AM News: Obama, Bush Tout New Orleans School Accomplishments

Presidents Obama, Bush Praise New Orleans' Schools Education Week: U.S. presidents past and present are visiting New Orleans this week, marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and discussing the radical reshaping of public education in the city. See also NYT: George W. Bush, Visiting New Orleans, Praises School Progress Since Katrina 

Nearly Half of States Opted to Hit Accountability Snooze Button PK12: For those states, results from tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards won't have an effect on school ratings, at least for the school year that just ended.

As Common Core results trickle in, initial goals unfulfilled AP: Full or preliminary scores have been released for Connecticut, Idaho, Missouri, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia. Scores in four other states that developed their own exams tied to the standards have been released.

Indianapolis Pact Couples New Teacher Roles and Big Pay Boosts Teacher Beat: Effective teachers signing onto a newly created initiative to mentor other teachers and reach more students could see thousands of dollars in additional pay.

A timeline of Texas' 30 years of school finance legal fights AP: A lawsuit challenging how Texas pays for its public schools will soon reach the state Supreme Court - the sixth time since 1984. Here's a look at major milestones in 30-plus years of legal battles:...

Tools for Tailored Learning May Expose Students’ Personal Details NYT: Many technological tools used by schools are designed to customize learning, but concern is developing over the collection and use of data on individual students.

Teacher Was Late To School 111 Times Because Of Breakfast AP: "I have a bad habit of eating breakfast in the morning and I lost track of time," 15-year veteran teacher Arnold Anderson told The Associated Press.

Art Show Captures the Wrenching Effects of Closing a School NYT: “reForm” is set in a model classroom from a Philadelphia school, with a blackboard, cubbies, books — and oral testimony about the school’s closure.

Maryland schools superintendent announces resignation Washington Post: Lillian Lowery, hired in 2012, will become president and CEO of an Ohio education nonprofit.

Little Saigon school to provide instruction in English and Vietnamese LA Times: A public school in Little Saigon is set to become the first in California to provide instruction in both English and Vietnamese.

Quotes: "If You Care About Kids, I Am With You."

Quotes2I don’t care if you are in Teach For America, were in Teach for America, like or don’t like Teach for America.  I don’t care if you’re a pin-covered-lanyard-wearing unionista or if you delete every union email on sight.  I don’t care if you teach in a charter or did or will teach in a charter, or if you send your kids to private school or public school. I don’t care if you’re traditionally licensed or alternatively licensed or unlicensed, and I don’t care if you are a normal person or someone who teaches Kindergarten. If you care about kids I am with you

- Tom Rademacher (No Enemies - Mr Rad's Neighborhood)

Maps: In Many States, Homeschool Advocates Succeed In Resisting Regulation

343According to ProPublica, "only two states require background checks for parents who choose to homeschool, and just 10 require parents to have a high school degree. Fewer than half require any kind of evaluation or testing of homeschooled children." (Homeschooling Regulations by State) Image used with permission.

Morning Video: Katrina Anniversary Gets Three-Part Education Documentary

Check out this segment from The Seventy Four, featuring New Orleans kids' escape from Katrina and eventual return. Click here for 2 other segments. Are there any other attempts to tell the story on video?

AM News: Alt Cert Extension, ACT Scores, ACLU Vs. Nevada

White House Seeks HQT Extension for Teachers in Training EdWeek: Critics consider this a major loophole in the law, although the U.S. Department of Education said earlier this year that there were not many such teachers (about 35,000 in all). This would impact an otherwise steady source of new teachers and the millions of students they serve, most of whom are in high-need schools and in high-need subjects, including math and science," the administration said.

Massachusetts Students Tie For Top Score On ACT Boston Learning Lab: The average score for public and private school graduates in Massachusetts and Connecticut was 24.4 out of 36, the highest in the nation and more than three points higher than the national average. See also Washington Post.

ACLU of Nevada Sues to Block State's New School Choice Law State EdWatch: The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada says it's filing a lawsuit challenging the state's new school voucher-like program also known as education savings accounts. See also APLas Vegas Review Journal.

One in Four D.C. Public Schools Has a New Principal This Year Washington Post: Last summer, D.C. public schools announced 21 new principals for the school system’s 111 schools. By comparison, Montgomery County had 23 new principals in a system with 203 schools.

Getting ready for the Common Core-based test results KPCC LA: California education officials tentatively plan to release test results for the state, schools and districts based on the new Common Core learning standards on Sept. 9.

Hunger Strike Over Future Of Chicago School Enters Its 11th Day NPR: Parents, teachers and activists are fighting to defend a high school the school board voted to close several years ago. They say officials are ignoring their input over what kind of school to reopen.

Charter School Scored Own State Exams Chalkbeat: The New York City charter school that made the largest gains on state English tests also made an unprecedented decision to grade its own students’ exams.

Former Columbus Administrator to Serve 14 Days in Jail in Data-Scrubbing Case District Dossier: Michael Dodds is the fourth school administrator to be found guilty as part of a scheme to change student data to inflate district performance.

New Jersey teacher who was late for work 111 times keeps job Seattle Times: The arbitrator found that the district failed to provide Anderson with due process by providing him with a formal notice of inefficiency or by giving him 90 days to correct his failings before terminating his employment.

How Schools Are Handling An 'Overparenting' Crisis NPR: Two new books, The Gift of Failure and How To Raise An Adult, argue that too many children are being given too much.

One-Third Of Schools Are Using This App You've Never Heard Of NPR: Clever, a three-year-old startup, is used by 20 million students and teachers to manage all their other apps.

New Invention Targets School Germs NBC News: An East Texas man has designed special silver-based germ-killing strips, which can be attached to door handles and other high traffic areas and surfaces. KETK's Cara Prichard reports.

Deal between IPS and its union means big pay raises for teachers ChalkbeatIN: Every Indianapolis Public Schools teacher will make at least $40,000 — a 12 percent jump for those at the bottom of the scale — if the teachers and school board both vote to approve a contract to which the district and its union have tentatively agreed.

Charts: As Of 2010, DC Got More Foundation Funding Than Anyone Else (Per Pupil)

Eee"The [$31M] total represented an extra $705 per student — far more than any other school district in the country," notes this Washington Post story (D.C. schools attracted record amounts of philanthropy). Other districts with substantial private funding include(d) Nwark, Oakland, Seattle, & Boston. Image used with permission. Latest figures included are for 2010, and are presented on a per-pupil basis. 

Thompson: Greg Toppo Sees the Game's Future and It Works

image from images.macmillan.comI've always been confused by the seemingly absurd dichotomy. Brilliant computer geeks and digital geniuses create such potentially liberating technologies. But, they also became a driving force in corporate school reform and its efforts to turn schools back to the early 20th century.

Gosh, as Greg Toppo explains in The Game Believes in You, computer games were pioneered by a small group of mostly unconnected, visionaries, In the earliest days of the 1960s computer breakthroughs, some inventors were even influenced by LSD. So, why did such creative people commit to turning schools into a sped up Model T assembly line?

It would be too much to ask of Toppo, or any other single writer, to definitively answer this question but his excellent book helps us understand why so many architects of 21st century technological miracles helped impose test, sort, reward, and punish, bubble-in malpractice on our schools.

Toppo chose to study computer gaming after his still dynamic young daughter became disenchanted with reading, and after he tired of reporting on school reform wars.  The fundamental problem predates corporate school reform; for instance, 1/3rd of high school graduates never go on to read another book for the rest of their lives. And, as teacher and reading expert Kelly Gallagher says, the problem is both under- and over-teaching of reading. But, full-blown "readicide" has been made far worse by the test prep which was caused by output-driven, competition-driven reform. 

Toppo writes:

At exactly the same time that schools have taken the questionable path of implementing more high-stakes standardized tests keyed to the abilities of some imaginary bell-curved students, games have gone the opposite route, embedding sophisticated assessment into gameplay ... becoming complex learning tools that promise to deflate the tired 'teach to the test' narrative that weighs down so many great teachers and schools. 

The Game Believes in You does a great job explaining the cognitive science behind computer games (and in doing so he may foreshadow an explanation why corporate school reformers became so obsessed with competition that they helped impose nonstop worksheet-driven, basic skills instruction on so many schools.)

Continue reading "Thompson: Greg Toppo Sees the Game's Future and It Works" »

Quotes: Delay & High Stakes Are The Problems, Not Testing Itself

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comBy using data insightfully, we can understand where students are at any point in time. This is done through realistic and sensible formative assessment measures of growth, and we are able to personalize learning in ways not possible in high stakes testing environments where results are delayed by months.

-- Philip D. Lanoue is the superintendent of the 13,000-student Clarke County School District in Georgia - via Washington Post (High-stakes testing is the ‘fool’s gold’ of accountability)



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.