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Journalism: Another Erroneous "Deck" Distracts From Underlying Story

 Enough Is Enough   Education Investor Denounces Meddling Journalists   BuzzFeed NewsKudos to BuzzFeed's Molly Hensley-Clancy for digging out an angry letter from Chicago School Board appointee Deborah Quazzo and getting a follow-up interview with her about the dispute over Quazzo's investments in education companies while serving as a Board member.  

However, demerits to the deck-writing folks at BuzzFeed, who distracted many readers with copy that said Quazzo was no longer on the Board.  

See image at left.

This is the second time in recent weeks that a headline and/or "deck" copy (the sentence or two after the headline) has proven to be problematic for an education-related story.

The Atlantic's community colleges story, as you may recall, included a headline and deck that needed correction. See that story here.

Reporters sometimes suggest headlines and decks, but they're often written by others who aren't necessarily familiar with the story subject.

It's all cleared up here now, so we can go back to focusing on the embattled Chicago board member (and the looming mayoral race).

AM News: Chicago School Board Appointee Defends GSV Education Investments

"Enough Is Enough": Education Investor Denounces Meddling Journalists BuzzFeed: In an email yesterday, a prominent education technology investor encouraged industry supporters to fight back against a Chicago Sun-Times investigation that was critical of her role as a member of the Chicago school board. See also EdSurge.

Jeb Bush Talks Immigration, Education, Releases Emails As He Eyes 2016 Bid Huffington Post: In a visit to Florida's state capital on Tuesday, Republican Jeb Bush focused on the politically explosive topics of immigration and education reform, while emails were released from his time as governor there in an effort to burnish his credentials as he eyes a 2016 presidential bid. See also Palm Beach Post, PK12.

In Iowa, Chris Christie said he now has 'grave concerns' about Common Core Des Moines Register: Today, reporters and political operatives are talking about how Christie has in the past supported Common Core. Time magazine politics reporter Zeke Miller on Monday night tweeted a link to a video of Christie saying in 2013 that "we are doing Common Core in New Jersey and we're going to continue."

Five States Encounter Problems With PARCC Tests EdSurge: Connection issues, malfunctioning video players, error codes--these are just a few of the problems encountered on TestNav, PARCC’s student testing platform, as Arkansas, Illinois, Ohio, New Mexico and Maryland conducted “infrastructure trials” in preparation for testing season in March.

Fewer than half of teachers now covered by unions USA Today: For the first time since the rise of teachers unions in the 1980s, the percentage of USA teachers represented by unions in public and private schools has fallen below 50%, suggesting that the demographics of the teaching profession and the shift away from traditional schools are taking a toll on union membership.

High-School Equivalency Degree Loses Its Dominant Position WSJ: The new GED, which is more expensive in many states and harder to pass for test takers, has provided an opening for competing products. Already, 10 states have chosen an alternative to the GED, seven additional states offer two or three tests, and state officials in Washington and New Mexico are considering new options. See also Hechinger Report.

Pro-charter school group estimates 14 percent enrollment gain nationwide Washington Post: The National Alliance of Public Charter Schools estimates in a new report that 2.9 million children now attend U.S. charter schools, up 14 percent from last school year.More than 500 new charter schools opened in the 2014-2015 school year and 200 charters were closed for reasons ranging from poor academic performance to financial problems, according to the organization.

Antipoverty Advocates Say NYC Mayor Should Have Included Free Breakfast in Budget WSJ: Mr. de Blasio has said he supported a proposal to require city schools to serve breakfast inside the classroom—instead of just the cafeteria—a shift supporters say would increase participation rates in the city’s free breakfast program. But the program has yet to get off the ground under Mr. de Blasio. More than a year into the mayor’s first term, advocates say their frustrations are growing.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Chicago School Board Appointee Defends GSV Education Investments" »

Research: Self-Reported US Figures Overestimate Classroom Teaching Time

Teaching time  A new study finds that American teachers don t actually work much longer hours than their international peers.

"Year after year, the organization has found that American high school teachers spend about 73 percent more time on classroom instruction than colleagues in countries such as Finland and Israel," notes Alexandria Neason in Slate (Teaching time). "In fact, Abrams concludes, they spend only a modest amount of extra time teaching." How come nobody every noticed this before?  The previous numbers were too good to check, I guess. 

Charts: Reconsidering NCLB's Bad Rap

  Screenshot 2015-02-10 12.50.00 Screenshot 2015-02-10 12.50.10These pretty charts from Third Way (Did No Child Left Behind Work) will change no one's mind, if we've learned anything about minds being changed, but I will share them anyway (with permission), and recommend you read their writeup of the reality behind NCLB's bad rap.

Thompson: The Unsurprising Limits of School Choice in New Orleans & Elsewhere

Douglas Harris and Matthew Larson, in What Schools Do Families Want (and Why?) begin their paper, the first in a series of studies on the New Orleans experiment in choice, by explaining that it could be “the rare policy that increases both average student outcomes and the equity of outcomes at the same time, a win-win situation. Alternatively, choice may do more harm than good.”

Pre-Katrina, before the experiment in market-driven school improvement, the majority of students already attended schools other than their neighborhood schools. As Harris and Larson note, the widespread availability of choice should raise questions about its power to drive school improvement. Even so, some commentators have expressed shock at their study’s prime conclusion, the lowest income families “weigh academic outcomes somewhat less than higher-income families.” Harris and Larsen find:    

While very-low-income families also have greater access to schools with high average test scores, they are less likely to choose schools with high test scores. This is partly because their incomes and practical considerations prevent them from doing so. Being close to home, having siblings in the same school, and including extended school days are all more important to very-low-income families than other families. Also, compared with other New Orleans families in the public school system, very-low-income families have weaker preferences for SPS (School Performance Score) and stronger preferences in high school for band and football. 

I doubt that many teachers were surprised by the study’s findings. Other than true believers in competition-driven improvement of anything and everything, I wonder if how policy-makers with an awareness of poverty's constraints could have anticipated other conclusions.

Continue reading "Thompson: The Unsurprising Limits of School Choice in New Orleans & Elsewhere" »

Campaign 2016: Bush Stretched FLA Hispanic Student Accomplishments, Reports PBS

Fact check  Is Jeb Bush right about Hispanic students’ achievement in Florida The PBS NewsHour (online) notes that Jeb Bush's comments at the Detroit Economic Club last week included a claim that Florida Hispanic students were “two grade levels ahead of the average” that was "a stretch:  

"In 2009 and 2013, Hispanic fourth-graders in Florida did have the higher average reading scores than Hispanics in any other state. Yet, in 2011, Hispanic students in Kentucky and Maryland scored higher. In math, Hispanic fourth-graders in at least three other states scored as high or higher than their peers in Florida in 2009, 2011 and 2013.By the eighth grade, however, Florida’s Hispanic students are far from the very front of the pack."

The post also notes that it's not entirely clear that the increased scores that do exist are attributable to Bush reforms.  Check it all out here: Is Jeb Bush right about Hispanic students’ achievement in Florida?.

Morning Video: Language Immersion Programs

 

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

Learn more about native language programs from this NBC News segment (above or click here ). Or, watch and learn about dual immersion programs from the NY local NBC affiliate (via WNYC) here.

AM News: Broad Foundation Suspends Signature Award Program

Broad Foundation suspends $1-million prize for urban school districts LA Times: The action underscores the changing education landscape as well the evolving thinking and impatience of the 81-year-old philanthropist. See also NYT: Billionaire Suspends Prize Given to Schools.

GOP Lawmakers Talk Plans for NCLB Rewrite at School Choice Jamboree PK12: As it stands, the draft reauthorization introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., in January includes a Title I portability provision that would allow parents to use federal dollars only for the public school of their choice, including public charter schools.

Rich School, Poor School NPR: With 169 years of experience between them in college advising or admissions, Finks, the school’s dean of college counseling, and his four associate deans and two support staff calmly dispense wisdom, manage expectations and offer practical training in such things as mock interviews for college aspirants.

Arne Duncan presses his case for innovation grants at D.C. school Washington Post: As Congress sets about rewriting the No Child Left Behind law, key Republican leaders have been clear that they want to give states much more latitude to spend federal education dollars as they see fit. To that end, leaders in both houses of Congress are seeking to do away with dozens of dedicated federal funding streams — including a signature Obama administration program called the Investing in Innovation. See also PK12.

Lawsuit seeks instruction intervention at 5 CA high schools EdSource Today: After winning a court order to improve academic conditions at one Los Angeles high school last fall, lawyers in a class action suit asked Thursday for an additional court order to compel the state to improve instruction time at five other California high schools in the 2015-16 school year.

Low vaccination rates at schools put students at risk USA Today: Hundreds of thousands of students attend schools — ranging from small, private academies in New York City to large public elementary schools outside Boston to Native American reservation schools in Idaho — where vaccination rates have dropped precipitously low, sometimes under 50%. California, Vermont, Rhode Island, Arizona, Minnesota, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia also were included in the analysis.

No profit left behind Politico: A POLITICO investigation has found that Pearson stands to make tens of millions in taxpayer dollars and cuts in student tuition from deals arranged without competitive bids in states from Florida to Texas.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Broad Foundation Suspends Signature Award Program " »

Quotes: "Fix The System Rather Than Applying A Patch"

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com[TFA] was always going to have a half-life...It did wonderful things and attracted superb people to teaching and prepared a generation of leaders for the country... Eventually, we’re going to get to the point of trying to fix the system rather than applying a patch. -- Woodrow Wilson Institute's Arthur Levine in the NYT (Fewer Top Graduates Want to Join Teach for America) via GT

Corrections: NYT Front-Pager Mis-Identifies Ed Trust President

Nyt tfa correctionGender is just a construct and the error has long since been corrected online, but last week's front-page story about TFA (Fewer Top Graduates Want to Join Teach for America) apparently included a mis-identification of the Education Trust's Kati Haycock as male. Anything else wrong or missing from the piece? Let us know. NYT corrections are always so deliciously awkward.

 

 

AM News: Testing Critics Flood Congressional Inboxes, Annoy Staffers

Anti-Testing Advocates Flood Congressional Staff Inboxes PK12: Did it work? Actually, it seemed to have made at least one aide pretty cranky. If you think a flood of 800-plus emails are enough to stop a government-supplied Blackberry in its tracks, you're right. "This is bullying," the aide said. "We're trying to be really thoughtful on a range of issues, including assessments, in a really short time frame. We're doing the absolute best we can. And this makes it even harder."

Uncovering Security Flaws in Digital Education Products for Schoolchildren NYT: The law has long treated educational information as a category worthy of special protections, like credit or medical records, but the reality is often different.

Democrats Seek to Hit Jeb Bush With Comparisons to Romney AP: Not yet a formal candidate, Jeb Bush taking hits from Democrats who compare him to Mitt Romney

How Elementary School Teachers’ Biases Can Discourage Girls From Math and Science NYT: Early educational experiences have a quantifiable effect on the courses students choose later, a study shows.

Starr’s record a mixed bag: Data show improvement, but there were missteps Washington Post: The listening tour came first, extending through Joshua P. Starr’s early months as the newly hired superintendent of Maryland’s largest school system. He crisscrossed Montgomery County in 2011, hosting town halls, dropping in on schools, hearing about budget strains and curriculum worries and performance gaps.

Malia Obama, Rap Tastemaker, Might Attend College in New York City Jezebel: Malia Obama, known 90s rap enthusiast and Joey Badass fan, is looking at universities this week—and cool New Yorkers who work very hard at being cool and calm are losing their shit because she's undergraduate shopping in the Big Apple.

Mom charged with threatening to blow up daughter's school AP: Authorities say a mother got so angry when told that her daughter had failed a New York state exam that she threatened to bomb the school....

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

Continue reading "AM News: Testing Critics Flood Congressional Inboxes, Annoy Staffers" »

Thompson: OK's Grassroots Revolt Against Testing Continues to Grow

Last week brought more evidence that the voices of students, parents, and teachers are being heard, in many or most places, and we are all fed up with bubble-in accountability. The Daily Oklahoman’s Tim Willert, in Oklahoma City School Leaders Hope Tour Will Give Elected Officials a New Perspective, reported that Superintendent Rob Neu, an eloquent opponent of test, sort, and punish, took newly-elected State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and other governmental leaders on a tour of schools. They visited my old high school, Centennial, hearing from some great student leaders and one of my best former colleagues.

The statement that gained the most attention was that of an elementary student who criticized high-stakes exams.  He said, “We’re just 10 years old, and we’re getting stressed out in the fourth grade.”

The Oklahoma PTA, which has also criticized stakes attached to standardized tests, encouraged parents to Opt Out of field tests. Moreover, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association responded to this parental pushback by issuing a reference guide on opting out. The Tulsa World’s Nour Habib, in OSSBA Issues Guidance to Opt-Out Requests by Parents, reports that veteran Superintendent Lloyd Snow said that the PTA’s call to parents to opt-out is “pretty telling.” He noted, “It’s a pretty strong message to policy makers that parents don’t like this environment.”

The week’s third big story is a “stinging new report” from the Southern Regional Education Board about opposition to value-added evaluations. The SREB conducted focus groups in 58 Oklahoma school districts and found a “lack of buy-in and trust in the system.” It found “a remarkable portion of teachers and principals interviewed in focus groups” question the validity of Oklahoma’s standardized test data. There was even more distrust of the metrics for teachers of non-tested classes. Tulsa, which is focused on its Gates Foundation teacher quality grant, didn't participate in the process.

The Tulsa World's Andrea Eger, in Commission Hears Report Critical of Oklahoma's Handling of Teacher Evaluations,  reported that State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister “shares some of those concerns and questions.”

Continue reading "Thompson: OK's Grassroots Revolt Against Testing Continues to Grow" »

Timeline: Ten Years Helping Districts Revamp Their Spending

Erstimeline

Mostly behind the scenes, ERS (Education Resource Strategies) has spent the past 10 years helping districts understand and revamp their spending priorities (usually focused on student-based budgeting).  Click here for the interactive timeline of ERS activities. Click here to see if your district has worked with them. Tell us here on on Twitter what your experience has been(@erstrategies). Image used with permission.

Morning Video: What You Missed At Yesterday's Edu-Philanthropy Event

Here's the video from yesterday's AEI event on education philanthropy, plus a link to the draft papers being prepared for an updated version of AEI's 2005 volume, "With the Best of Intentions.": 

 

I'll write separately about the chapter I contributed, but some other conference highlights for me included meeting lots of folks face to face (including AFT's Kombiz, HEP's Caroline Chauncey), seeing people for the first time in a long while (Arnie Fege, Mike Usdan), and learning all sorts of things from fellow chapter writers and panelists (like Jim Blew's dad was a teacher union official, and that there are still only a handful of political scientists working on education issues). You can also check out the Twitter-stream at #NewEdPhil.  

Update: "Humans Of New York" Comes To The White House

1978692_878725818868186_7369816145895943787_n (1)

I guessed this was coming  and am so glad it happened. That's President Obama with the Bronx middle school student and principal who have been part of this amazing viral good-news story about strangers giving over $1 million to a poor school to help pay for class trips to Harvard.

AM News: Schools, Parents Track Measles Outbreaks & Vaccination Levels

Five children at Chicago-area day care diagnosed with measles WBEZ: Public health officials say students, staff and faculty at the facility have been notified and anyone who hasn't been vaccinated for measles has been instructed to stay away from unvaccinated individuals for the next three weeks.

See also Texas Tribune: See Vaccine Exemptions by School District, AP: A Look at Some Vaccine-Related Legislation in Several States, HuffPost: These States Don't Require Vaccinations For Home-School Students, FiveThirtyEight: Much Of The World Is Better At Giving Their Kids Measles Vaccines Than The U.S., The Atlantic: Schools May Solve The Anti-Vaccine Parenting Deadlock.

House Democrats discuss updates to ‘No Child Left Behind’ law PBS NewsHour: They crowded into a small Capitol Hill hearing room Thursday for their own forum on changing the law in protest of Republicans’ handling of the issue. Votes on a GOP bill are anticipated soon. See also PK12: House Democrats Hold Their Own Session on Rewriting the NCLB Law.

U.S. Department of Education Remakes School Improvement Grant Program PK12: Under the regs, states that want to cook up their own turnaround interventions for low-performing schools using federal SIG dollars and submit them to the U.S. Secretary of Education for approval will need at least one rigorous study to back up their approach. 

Fewer Top Graduates Want to Join Teach for America NYT: The group has warned school districts and charter school chains that the size of its corps of teachers this fall could be down by as much as a quarter.

The Education of Jeb Bush National Journal: GOP presidential hopeful has question for post-industrial America: "Can we shed a skin and renew ourselves?"

LAUSD school board candidates face off in debate KPCC: In a debate Thursday night featuring candidates for the Los Angeles Unified's school board District 5 seat, differences emerged on issues such as charter schools, testing and the problem-plagued student data system known as MiSiS. See also LA School Report: AFT president Weingarten visits town to give LA teachers a boost.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Schools, Parents Track Measles Outbreaks & Vaccination Levels" »

Events: Today's Education Philanthropy Event At AEI

In case you hadn't figured it out by now, I've been at AEI all day today talking about the "new" education philanthropy. That's me in the middle, flanked by Goldstein, Kelly, Blew, and Hess. #newedphil is the hashtag.  Video and draft papers to come.

Throwback Thursday (#TBT): Anya Kamenetz, Circa 2006

Screenshot 2015-02-04 12.29.16
One of the nice things about having been writing about education so long is that I now get to participate in #TBT (Throwback Thursday), through which the Internet celebrates (or laments) the past. This week's entry is a 2006 blog post about Anya Kamenetz, now NPR's lead education blogger and author of the exquisitely well-timed new book, The Test.Titled Another Great(?) Education Writer I've Never Heard Of, the post dates back to Blogspot days (before EdWeek, before Scholastic).

Morning Video: Early Childhood College Applications (While AEI Livestream Is Down)

 

The AEI Education event #NewEdPhil livestream is down, and you can find the House Dems' NCLB forum on your own. Here's yesterday's NYT early college awareness video, plus more here.

AM News: House Democrats Holding Solo NCLB Reauthorization Hearing

Not a lot of comity on the House education panel, members split on how to rewrite law Washington Post: Scott and other committee Democrats announced they are holding their own hearing on Thursday, calling it a “forum,” with witnesses. It is unclear if they are going to file dueling legislation, Levin said.

Education secretary visits Maryland for town hall meeting WBAL Baltimore:Secretary Arne Duncan said the meeting, in part, was organized to give parents, teachers and administrators a chance to share their concerns about the current education law, No Child Left Behind.

California Seeks NCLB Waiver From Feds Over Use of Test Scores PK12: State officials are essentially arguing that because the Smarter Balanced exam is new, AYP can't be calculated by comparing Smarter Balanced exams to student scores on prior tests.

'No Illusions' For Starr As He Prepares To Leave Montgomery County Schools WAMU: The Maryland county's superintendent is leaving his job under public uncertainty about what conflicts led to the decision. See also Washington Post: Schools chief’s exit leaves many in Montgomery with questions.

Bush offers impassioned defense of his education record The Hill: Jeb Bush deviated from his prepared remarks at the Detroit Economic Club on Wednesday to give an impassioned defense of his education reform record.

Ed. Commissioner Gist Set to Leave R.I. to Lead Tulsa Schools State EdWatch: Deborah Gist has been Rhode Island's chief state school officer since 2009, and has overseen several significant changes to K-12 policy during her tenure.

Classroom coaches critical as teachers shift to Common Core EdSource Today: To break down the isolation that many teachers experience in their classrooms, California schools are using instructional coaches as a key tool to help teachers adapt their instruction to implement the Common Core standards in math and English language arts.

Opt-out advocates get attention from city’s most powerful couple ChalkbeatNY: De Blasio and his schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña have stopped short of encouraging parents to opt their students out of the tests, and Fariña told state lawmakers on Tuesday that she supports the tests and their role as a challenge for students.

Karen Lewis: New CTU contract will cost city, but members willing to strike for itChicago Sun-Times: With less than a month before the mayoral election, Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewismade two things clear Monday: The new teachers contract being negotiated is going to cost money, and her 30,000 members who went on strike in 2012 for ...

2 Students Hurt in Shooting Outside Maryland High School ABC News: Shooting outside Maryland high school basketball game wounds 2, sends people running for cover.

Update: Clinton Comes Out As Pro-Vaccination, & CA Might End "Personal Belief" Exemption

It wasn't entirely clear what Hillary Clinton's views on vaccination were -- until now. "The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork," she says (via Twitter). And, according to NPR, California is considering joining 30 other states that don't allow parents to list personal beliefs as a way to bypass vaccination requirements.

Charts: Big Cities Will Get Much Less Money Under Alexander Bill, Says CAP

Screenshot 2015-02-04 14.29.26Enough with these high-minded policy debates over annual testing and teacher evaluations and vaccinations (!). Let's talk about the Senate bill's formula "portability" provisions determining which states and districts get more or less funding than under current law. According to CAP, the Alexander bill would be a big loser for large districts and high-poverty states. Click the link to get all the details. No response yet (that I know of) from the Alexander office. Image used with permission.

Magazines: Go, Team Scholastic!

Www.abmassociation.com images Neals 2014NealAwards Entries A5   COMMENT.EDU This Week in Education   Entry.pdfAs you should already  know, this site is sponsored by Scholastic Administrator, one of several education magazines published by Scholastic.  
 
What you may not be aware of, however, is that I also write a column and do newsmaker interviews for Scholastic Administrator (and sometimes am lucky enough to get to hang out in the company's lovely SoHo offices). 
 
The editorial staff  includes Wayne D'Orio, Chris Borris, and Frank Tagariello -- all of whom help make my columns and interviews look and read as well as possible.

Today's news is that Administrator and Instructor (one of the other magazines) are finalists for this year's NEAL Awards in several categories (best single issue, best subject-related package, best commentary (that's me), best theme issue, best instructional content (Instructor's Spring 2014 STEM package).

The awards are hosted by American Business Media and focus on business-to-business publications.
 
Administrator was a finalist for best commentary last year (pictured), among other categories.
 
 
 

Morning Video: Heart-Warming Story Of Unemployed Photographer & Bronx Middle School

Here's Ellen Degeneres interviewing the man behind "Humans of New York" and the student and principal who have become unintentional superstars. Target is jumping on the bandwagon, too.

AM News: So Long, MoCo Superintendent Josh Starr - Plus School Vaccination Politics

With Board Support In Question, MoCo Schools Superintendent Resigns WAMU: Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr is resigning, leaving his post four months before his contract was up. See also Washington Post: Joshua Starr’s three-year tenure as superintendent on par with big-city national average 

Vaccines Should Be As Nonnegotiable As Seat Belts, Experts Say Huffington Post:The vaccination issue has emerged as an early litmus test in the 2016 presidential race. Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) made waves on Monday when he told a reporter that "parents need to have some measure of choice" in the matter of vaccines. 

Teacher-Evaluation Mandate Unlikely in ESEA Rewrite PK12: Republicans want to steer clear of anything that smacks of federal control. Democrats, who have historically represented the concerns of teachers' unions, are wary of the increasing impact of student test scores on evaluations and how those evaluations are used in new compensation systems.

Charter group says Kayser policies 'by no means race-neutral' LA School Report: Three other incumbents — Tamar Galatzan, George McKenna andRichard Vladovic — has been denounced by a wide range of Kayser supporters.

New York City Schools Chancellor Objects to Cuomo’s Plan for Grading Teachers NYT: Chancellor Carmen Fariña told state legislators that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wanted to base too much of a teacher’s score on the state’s student test results. See also WNYC: NYC Chancellor Challenges Cuomo's Education Proposals

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

Continue reading "AM News: So Long, MoCo Superintendent Josh Starr - Plus School Vaccination Politics" »

Unions: Making Sense Of That Strange NEA Strategy/Polling Memo

Kudos to New America's Conor Williams for digging up (or cultivating sources who sent him) the results of a $170,000 NEA-funded strategy memo which he details in The Daily Beast (Union to Teachers: Say ‘Right ZIP Code,’ Not ‘Rich’).

This is the second interesting document that's been surfaced by a non-national education reporter in recent days. The other was the letter from the USDE to the Illinois state board of education about districts not complying with annual assessment requirements which Crain's Chicago reporter Greg Hinz shared last week. (National education reporters, strike out on your own. Don't let yourselves be turned into White House correspondents or spoon-fed by smooth-talking advocates playing on your over-worked, underpaid sympathies.)

However, Williams may be guilty of milking the significance of the document he's found ("Persuading the People on Public Schools”) for somewhat more than it's worth.  

The NEA memo he describes includes poll-driven recommendations to use simpler language (ZIP codes vs. inequality).  But it's not clear that there's anything particularly nefarious or unusual about that.  Williams also revisits his previous post about the overheated coverage of a similar TFA memo dug up and reported on a few months ago, which somewhat undercuts his argument that it's no big deal that the NEA does communications and strategy work. And his conclusions -- that the NEA will both use softer language and that "the NEA is planning to be as confrontational as possible in the coming years" -- don't really go together, if I understand them correctly.

How does the NEA intend to use softer language and rally the base at the same time? Perhaps it's more about simpler language, or clearer language, than any stepping away from the issues.  (Someone who's read the memo through would be able to tell us that.) Though the NEA does have to be careful in how it rallies its base, given that there are so many aspects of the current system -- attendance zones, seniority transfers, and local school boards -- that result in inequitable services and outcomes for kids.  And, of course, the obvious differences between the priorities of college-educated, mostly-white teachers working with a student population that is increasingly poor and now majority-minority.

"What does it mean when a major education organization would rather not discuss inequality, equity, research, or effectiveness in 2015?" asks Williams. "It means that the organization wants to muddy public education debates and resist changes to the status quo." About that we might agree. 

Thompson: Teachers Despise Differentiated Instruction -- But It's Invaluable For Others

Perhaps the greatest innovation in the annals of school administration are the words, “differentiated instruction.”  When teachers complain about the difficulty of teaching students with college-level skills in classes where most students read on a 5th or 6th grade level, administrators have an easy answer – write a memo mandating “differentiated instruction.”

But, in his Education Week Commentary Differentiation Doesn’t Work, James Delisle writes about education substance, and he correctly argues, “Differentiation is a failure, a farce, and the ultimate educational joke played on countless educators and students.” The only people who advocate for it are theorists with no experience in the classroom. In reality, differentiation “is harder to implement in a heterogeneous classroom than it is to juggle with one arm tied behind your back.”  

Even so, differentiated instruction is a godsend to bureaucrats. In high-challenges secondary schools where chronic disorder and frequent violence make it hard to teach for mastery and manage classrooms at the same time, differentiated instruction also comes to the rescue. Rather than accept any responsibility for out-of-control school cultures, the central office merely reissues the memo stating that the use of best instructional practices, engaging instruction, and the personalization of whole class instruction will make disruptions disappear. Even better, when behavior doesn’t improve, it is the teachers who are then to blame.

When students, teachers, and parents rebel against soul-killing, teach-to-the-test, the research-based solution is renaming those mindless worksheets as the “best practice” of “differentiated instruction.”

Continue reading "Thompson: Teachers Despise Differentiated Instruction -- But It's Invaluable For Others" »

Charts: "Sky's The Limit" For Spend-Happy Elected School Boards

"A Crain's analysis of the 20 biggest U.S. school systems with elected and appointed boards found that half of those with elected boards carry even more debt than Chicago does, compared with revenue, while all but one of the largest systems with appointed boards have borrowed relatively less." (Elected or appointed? Pick your poison).

 

Quotes: Peanut Allergy Bans Vs. Measles Vaccination

"If my kid can't bring peanut butter to school, yours shouldn't be able to bring preventable diseases." Kim Jordan (via Kottke)

Morning Video: Republican Divide Over Common Core (Mirrors Democratic One)

Here's an 11-minute Fox News segment featuring Texs Governor Greg Abbott and former EdSec Bill Bennett on the Republican divide over Common Core, the Presidential politics shaping candidates' positions, etc. Transcript here.

AM News: Snow Days Go Online, Anti-Vaxx Politics, & Common Core Standoff In Chicago

For Some Schools, Learning Doesn't Stop On Snow Days NPR: Even when the weather turns nasty, students in Delphi, Ind., have been expected to log on to classes from home. Results are mixed so far; participation rates seem to drop the longer school is out. See also Fox: Chicago schools to re-open after 19-inch snow

No, Obama didn't 'pander to anti-vaxxers' in 2008.Daily Beast: A viewing of the video from that appearance shows that interpretation is incorrect. He dismissed the anti-vaccination viewpoint, spoke out forthrightly and squarely in favor of childhood immunization and did not endorse the autism link. 

Standoff escalates over Chicago's snub of federal testing rules Crain's Chicago: With $1.2 billion in funding at stake, no one who knows is saying anything about who will back down in the showdown between Chicago Public Schools and the U.S. Department of Education.

Broad Foundation Puts Hold on Its Prize for Urban Education District Dossier: The foundation said that it will reassess the prize given how urban education has changed in the last 13 years, but it was also disappointed with the "sluggish" performance in urban schools.

U.S. Teacher-Prep Rules Face Heavy Criticism in Public Comments Ed Week: Only a handful of commenters were outright supportive of the rules. On the other hand, many Washington-based higher education associations and lobbying groups, such as the American Council on Education, an umbrella lobbying group for higher education, were also expected to submit critical comments right before the period closed Feb. 2. Whether the Education Department will be swayed by the volume of negative comments to rewrite or withdraw the rules remains an open question.

Charter group drawing more fire for 'racist' flyer on Kayser LA School Report: A campaign flyer implying that LA Unified board member Bennett Kayser is racist is drawing more fire, as two more would-be beneficiaries renounced its message, and an LA Times editorial accused the sponsoring organization of engaging in “slimy tactics on behalf of children.”

Starr did not request another four years by deadline, school board member says Washington Post: Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr did not ask for the renewal of his contract as leader of Maryland’s largest school system by the Sunday deadline, a school board member said Monday.

Findings reinforce use of targeted tutoring to benefit disadvantaged Chicago students UofChicago News: Urban Education Lab and Crime Lab study shows Match program reduces math course failures by more than 50 percent.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Snow Days Go Online, Anti-Vaxx Politics, & Common Core Standoff In Chicago" »

Afternoon Video: Morgan Spurlock Goes To Finland (& Comes Back)

In case you missed this from a couple of years ago, as I did, you might want to check out this snippet from Spurlock's "Inside Man" series and then find the full episode (on Netflix).  The documentary filmmaker goes to Finland, and loves everything he sees but crashes and burns during his guest teaching session, then comes back to the US and does somewhat better in a much more structured charter school setting. Hmm. Video link here.

Update: Blogging Is Dead. Long Live Blogging (Again)

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comIt might be worth noting in passing the announcement last week that Andrew Sullivan, one of the first bloggers to come to prominence in the then-new field, has announced he's retiring from the pursuit.

Not so much because we don't already know that blogging as it was originally conceived of is dead - that's been true since roughly 2009, when social media came along.  I remember telling folks at an EWA event around that time that starting a blog was generally a bad idea. See related posts below.

The real reason to take note of Sullivan's decision is that he pioneered or elevated some key aspects of the online world we occupy now, including several that I wish there more of: intellectual honesty (admitting to error, changing of mind), linking out to others' work or giving credit for someone else's having found something interesting (which many folks are still reluctant to do), and the mixing of serious and silly. He was also white, male, and a product of traditional journalism.

Leave it to EIA's Mike Antonucci to give us a good education-related bit of commentary (Dead Blogs), in which he reminds us all that blogging is just a delivery system not some sort of magic unicorn that's come and gone:

"I don’t want to sound like Andy Rooney – especially since some of you don’t remember him – but “blogging” is just a name for a technological improvement to what people have done for centuries."

Might be time to get on Twitter, Mike, but otherwise you've got it right. 

Roundup of commentary on the Sullivan announcement: CJR: 7 ways Andrew Sullivan changed blogging;  Mashable: Requiem for blogging; Washington Post: No, blogging isn’t dead; BuzzFeed: My Life In The Blogosphere; Daily Beast: Andrew’s Burnt Out? Blogs Are, Too.

Related posts from this site: Blogs Are Dead (Long Live Blogging!)Six Rules Of Blogging (Defined Broadly).

Charts: TFA State Budget Line Items Look Big - Until You Compare Them

Though this Dallas Observer piece on TFA reads pretty reasonable to me compared to many others I've come across recently (Teach for America Finds Growing Support in Texas), the chart of state budget line items for TFA is pretty eye-catching and simplistic:
Teach for America Finds Growing Support in TexasIt'd be helpful to have some context here. How much do these states spend on other alternative programs, for example? (The Illinois "Grow Your Own" program spent $20M over 10 years and generated 100 certified teachers.) How much do these states spend on teacher recruitment overall? (My guess is that it's tens of millions in many cases.) Image used with permission.

Journalism: San Diego Union-Tribune Corrects Washington Post Poverty Story

Definition of ‘poverty’ becomes issue in story   UTSanDiego.comThe San Diego Union-Tribune has run a correction on its version of that January 17 Washington Post poverty story, according to the paper's public editor (Definition of ‘poverty’ becomes issue):
Although The Washington Post reporter wrote that the lunch program is “a rough proxy for poverty,” the sentence gives the impression that those signed up for the program are living in “poverty.” And that’s not precisely correct.... While many are certainly “low-income,” “needy,” poor,” those receiving the free and reduced-price lunches don’t have to fit the federal definition for “poverty.”
 
According to Washington Post reporter Lyndsey Layton, "Yes, it is possible that some of these kids come from families that are technically above the poverty line. But here’s the thing — when it comes to the public education system, the federal government considers these kids ‘poor.’... The government is feeding them breakfast and lunch because it has determined that their families lack the means to provide for them.”
As noted, the NYT version of the story that children who receive free or reduced-price meals don't necessarily live in poverty. The program eligibility criteria have also changed to allow schools greater latitude. The U-T ran a correction Jan. 28 on the headline.
 

Quotes: Obama Jumps On Anti- Anti-Vaxx Bandwagon

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comYou should get your kids vaccinated. It's good for them and the challenge you have is if you have a certain group of kids who don't get vaccinated, and if it grows large enough that a percentage of the population doesn't get vaccinated and they're the folks who can't get vaccinated, small infants, for example, or people with certain vulnerabilities that can't vaccinated, they suddenly become much more vulnerable. - President Obama 

Or: "If my kid can't bring peanut butter to school, yours shouldn't be able to bring preventable diseases." (via Kottke)

AM News: Snowstorm, Obama Budget, Uncertain Fate For Starr

Obama Budget Seeks Boosts for Early Ed., High Schools, Technology PK12: The request, being formally unveiled Monday, includes big hikes for teacher quality, preschool development grants, civil rights enforcement, education technology, plus a new competitive-grant program aimed at helping districts make better use of their federal and local K-12 dollars. [Obama also tells parents to vaccinate their kids.]

Storm Heads Toward Northeast After Blanketing Midwest AP: Slow-moving moves toward Northeast after it blankets the Midwest in heavy snow. See also: No Monday CPS Classes as City Digs Out NBC Chicago.

Jeb Bush's education bond with Obama poses 2016 challenge for him Tampa Bay Times: Bush and Obama have been unlikely partners on education, sharing similar goals, praising each other publicly and appearing together at a high school in Miami as Obama was gearing up for re-election.

AFT Mounts Strong Opposition to Federal Teacher-Prep Proposal TeacherBeat: The AFT really, really doesn't like the feds' proposals on teacher preparation, and it wants everyone to know about it.

Did Billions of Dollars in School Turnaround Aid Help? PK12: The U.S. Department of Education has pumped more than $5 billion into a supercharged version of the School Improvement Grant program that gave grants of up $2 million to the lowest-performing schools in the country to try out dramatic turnaround strategies (like turning themselves into charters, or getting rid of half their staff).

Montgomery discussions continue on future of school superintendent Washington Post: Montgomery County’s school board president said Sunday evening that the board will continue its discussions Monday with Superintendent Joshua P. Starr about his future in the district and hopes to say more about the matter Tuesday.

 

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

Continue reading "AM News: Snowstorm, Obama Budget, Uncertain Fate For Starr" »

Quotes: Choice Is Awful - Except Compared To Having None

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comI'm splitting hairs. They're all fine ... compared to what were the choices my whole life: mediocre public schools.

- New Orleans parent Carrie Fisher in EdWeek (Parents Confront Obstacles as School Choice Expands)

TV: Neighborhood Segregation The Central Issue In New HBO Show

image from media.salon.comThe new David Simon show coming later this year will give us all a chance to think about residential segregation and the neighborhood school.

According to a recent Grantland article, the miniseries -- called "Show Me A Hero" -- surrounds the reaction in Yonkers NY to a 1985 court decision that the city had "'illegally and intentionally’ fostered segregation in its schools and neighborhoods by concentrating all of its public housing in one section of the city.” 

The series is based on a Lisa Belkin book by the same name (book cover to left). The former NYT writer has since moved to HuffPost and Yahoo. You can read an excerpt here. Something in Salon here. IMDB for the show is here.

What's this have to do with education?  Well, residential segregation combined with neighborhood-based schooling is the main reason we have such inequitable & segregated schools and school systems (and charter networks, too). While everyone likes to talk about the joys of the neighborhood system, it's turned out to be class- and race-based in some pretty awful ways. See Nikole Hannah-Jones' work in ProPublica and The Atlantic if you don't think it's a current issue.   

So this show will give us at least a glancing chance of revisiting the issues of race, class, and the neighborhood school. 

Related posts: In Education, It's *Liberals* Who Oppose ChoiceWatch School Segregation Grow Over 20 YearsRethinking The Neighborhood School IdealDecline In Black-White Segregation (Sorta)The (Partial) Re-Segregation Of American Schools

Numbers: Missing Context From Reports On Free Lunch & Food Stamp Spikes

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comThere are a lot of numbers out there, and some of them may not mean what you're being told they mean.

Take for example last week's headlines about the majority of US kids now being poor.  Well, it turns out that those claims were based on both free and reduced-price lunch, which goes up to 180 percent of poverty. NPR's education team explores the issue here.

Even more recently, there have been a slew of reports about Food Stamp numbers, noting a dramatic rise of kids who live in families dependent on Food Stamps (now officially called SNAP benefits, but whatever) For example, this Guardian story: Number of US children living on food stamps nearly doubles since 2007. Or this Reuters story:  One in five U.S. children now rely on food stamps. Or this AP story posted on ABC News:  Census: 1 in 5 Children on Food Stamps. Or the chart I posted yesterday: Children On Food Stamps. What got left out, however -- again flagged by Petrilli -- is that the criteria for Food Stamps was loosened in 2009 so at least some of the increase is due to changed eligibility standards.  

Not all is lost, however. Some outlets -- like Newsday -- explained that the increase might not be purely due to increased poverty. And I'm asking the USDA and others to help explain what percentage of the SNAP increase is due to eligibility changes. But clearly we all need to check our preconceptions and watch out for facts that are "too good to check" because they fit a pre-existing narrative.

Related posts: Teacher In Hot Water For "Food Stamp" CommentPoverty Rises Despite Stimulus Spending.

AM News: New Report Undercuts Claim That NYC District Schools Retain SPED Kids Better

More Special-Needs Students Remain at Charter Schools, Report Finds NYT: New York City’s Independent Budget Office found that 53 percent of charter school kindergartners with disabilities were still in the same schools four years later, compared with 49 percent in traditional schools.  See also WNYC:  Report: Special Needs Students Stay Longer at New York City Charter Schools, ChalkbeatNY: IBO: Charters do better than district schools at retaining students with disabilities.

Teachers Union Fires First Shot in Battle Over Charter School Cap WNYC: Union leaders say charter schools shouldn't be rewarded by Albany lawmakers until they accept more of the most difficult to teach students. See also ChalkbeatNY: UFT moves quickly to build coalition with a clear target: Cuomo.

 Draft of Obama Administration's Student-Data-Privacy Bill Raises Questions EdWeek: The apparently rechristened "Student Digital Privacy and Innovation Act" seemingly aims to create a uniform national playing field by pre-empting the patchwork of state laws currently in place--a key concern of industry groups.

Teachers union, think tank [CAP] propose compromise on testing of US students Washington Post: “After a decade of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, we know that an environment with high-stakes, annual tests forces schools to focus on compliance, not on kids,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement. 

More Than 1,000 in Arizona Are Watched for Measles NYT: State health officials are tracking hundreds of people, including at least 195 children, who might have been exposed in an outbreak that began at Disneyland.

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

Continue reading "AM News: New Report Undercuts Claim That NYC District Schools Retain SPED Kids Better" »

Quotes: Anti-Vaxxers Vs. Homeschoolers, Part 2015

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comI think some parents see [not vaccinating] as a personal choice, like homeschooling. But when you choose not to vaccinate, you're putting other children at risk. - Parent quoted in Washington Post (via Next Draft)

Charts: Children On Food Stamps Doubled Since 2007, Says Census Bureau

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"The Census bureau finds about 16 million – or one in five – US children lived in families that received food stamps in 2014" Census image via The Guardian

USDE: Illinois Could Lose $1.2B In Funding Over Chicago Refusal

Image 1Here's the letter from the USDE to Illinois about Chicago's refusal to administer the Common Core assessment this spring, dug up just yesterday by Crain's Chicago's Greg Hinz.

According to Hinz, "Politically, the problem is that, given national wrangling over school standards, Duncan cannot be seen as being easy on Chicago, said one source close to the center of the flap. That doesn't mean Illinois would lose all of the money, but a sizable hit is likely." 

I'm not sure that's how it's going to happen but it' certainly interesting to see what the USDE is saying and how ISBE is playing things.

There was a Board meeting for CPS yesterday but I haven't seen any indication that the district is backing off its decision not to give the tests.

There's a mayoral election in a few weeks, which is likely heading for a runoff, according to the latest polls.  Yes, a runoff for Rahm. Chicago schools are in an estimated $1 billion hole, budget-wise -- not counting pension obligations. 

Full letter below, via Crain's. 

Continue reading "USDE: Illinois Could Lose $1.2B In Funding Over Chicago Refusal" »

AM News: Spending On K-12 Education Dropped - Again

Nation’s per-pupil K-12 funding fell for second consecutive year in 2012 Washington Post: After more than a decade of increases in per-pupil funding for K-12 public schools, the nation’s per-pupil spending dropped in 2012 for the second year in a row, according to data released Thursday by the National Center for Education Statistics. See also HuffPost: Here Are The States That Spend The Most On Public School Students.

Number of US children living on food stamps nearly doubles since 2007 The Guardian: Census bureau finds about 16 million – or one in five – US children lived in families that received food stamps in 2014.

Obama's Budget Would Undo Broad, Automatic Cuts Made In 2013 NPR: The across-the-board spending cuts made in 2013, known as the sequester, reduced defense and domestic budgets by hundreds of millions each. Republicans are expected to fiercely defend that plan. See also Politico's: How Democrats killed Obamas college savings plan.

MoCo Schools Superintendent Could Be Let Go This Year WAMU: The county board of education is unlikely to renew Starr's contract, which is up in June, according to the Washington Post. See also Washington Post: Montgomery schools chief may face uphill battle on board.

Gov. Cuomo’s big fix for evaluations bucks national trend ChalkbeatNY: In Washington, D.C., state test scores dropped from 50 to 35 percent of evaluations two years ago. In Wisconsin, teachers have been given broad discretion in choosing how student performance was factored into their evaluations.

Teachers ask high court to hear union dues case EdSource Today: Attorneys for teachers who are challenging the right of the California Teachers Association to force them to pay union dues petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to hear their case this year. There’s a good chance that it will

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

Continue reading "AM News: Spending On K-12 Education Dropped - Again" »

Journalism: Washington Post Doubles Down In National Coverage

Some of you have noticed Emma Brown's byline on national education stories coming out of the Washington Post recently, and indeed the former DC Public Schools reporter is joining Lyndsey Layton covering the big beat starting this month. The move was in fact announced on the Washington Post site way back January 9 (Staff News: Education Coverage).

As you may already know, Brown covered the DC Public Schools from 2011 until recently when she went on maternity leave. Her old beat will be covered by Michael Alison Chandler, who's been filling in since the summer. Layton has been covering the national beat since 2011.

Brown joining Layton will be good news to those who want more education coverage from the Post (and don't want it handled by blogger Valerie Strauss) and less appealing to those who have had issues with Layton's coverage (of poverty statistics, foundation influence, etc.) and were hoping she was moving on to something else. On the whole, it seems like a positive move to me.

The Post announcement also tells us that a new blog is coming (has arrived?), though alas from my point of view it's going to focus on higher education. It is called Grade Point.

Related posts: Student Poverty Deepening & Spreading Nationally;  About That Front-Page Washington Post Story; Strauss Mangles Duncan Staff Moves; What The Post Gets Wrong About Gates & Common CoreControversial Washington Post Blogger Tells AllFact-Checking Cami Anderson (X2).

Campaign 2015: LA School Board Candidate Won't Attend United Way Debates

Screenshot 2015-01-28 12.48.02
Pay no attention to the mis-captioned candidate pictures (the names for Rodriguez and Thomas were switched but have now been fixed) or or the hipster spelling of "yamaka" (I blame Hillel) or even the sloppy screenshot job of the original version of the captions (courtesy: me).

The real news is that incumbent LAUSD District 5 member (and charter target) Bennett Kayser announced that he was pulling out of two United Way-sponsored debates against challengers Thomas and Rodriguez. Why?  No one knows exactly. But it may well be that United Way LA “isn't exactly neutral” as it has been in the past, says LA Weekly's Hillel Aron. Yep, that's right.  United Way.

In LA and a few other places, United Way organizations aren't just gathering donations and providing services.  They're joining or leading coalitions, conducting parent information initiatives, and -- unavoidably -- taking sides.  

As one Kayser supporter put it (in the LA Weekly article), “Anybody who thinks the United Way [LA] has run even-handed candidate forums should look into buying land in Florida." 

Related posts:  "Education Mayors" Headline West Coast SummitLetter Opposing Publication Of Value-Added ScoresSchool Board Candidates Debate DeasyLos Angeles School Board Candidate Forum

 

Quotes: Parents Should "Protect Your Children" From Common Core Exams

Quotes2Moms and dads, you have the inherent right and responsibility to protect your children. You can choose to refuse the top-down Common Core racket of costly standardized tests of dubious academic value, reliability, and validity. - National Review's Michelle Malkin (Choose to Refuse on PARCC/SBAC Testing)

AM News: More Districts Taking Curriculum Purchase Decisions From States

States Are Losing Power Over Classroom Materials, and Districts Are Gaining It State EdWatch: The number of states that exert direct control over districts' choice of instructional materials through state funding has dipped from roughly 25 to 18 in recent years.

White House Won't Seek To End 529 College Tax Break NPR: All 50 states and the District of Columbia sponsor 529 plans. Critics had called the proposal to limit them a tax hike on the middle class. See also WSJNYT.

Senate Ed. Panel Unlikely to Require Teacher Evaluations in NCLB Overhaul PK12: The lack of teacher-evaluation language in the reauthorization will likely stop in its tracks the Obama administration's efforts to push states to adopt evaluation systems based in part on student test scores and performance-based compensation systems, both of which were at the heart of U.S. Department of Education's NCLB waivers.

As numbers of homeless kids rise, resources fall short Marketplace: The number of students experiencing homelessness in the U.S. has increased 85 percent since before the recession, according to Department of Education data. But the resources available to help them have remained flat.

States Move to Make Citizenship Exams a Classroom Aid NYT: Arizona became the first state to require its high school students to pass the test that is given to immigrants who want to become United States citizens.

Football As A Tool In The Hands Of A Master Craftsman NPR: Our 50 Great Teachers series profiles a football coach who's made academics ... and a sense of family ... part of his winning strategy.

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

Continue reading "AM News: More Districts Taking Curriculum Purchase Decisions From States" »

ICYMI: Illinois School Bans Devices Teens Use To Chronicle Lives

Bo0NeUZIEAEmkUeIn what may be the first such instance in the nation, LaVerne Middle School in Evanston, IL has banned students from bringing so-called "selfie sticks" to school with them.

The devices are usually three to five feet long, with a handle at one end and a clip or other attachment to hold a cameraphone or GoPro (video camera).

"They're like half-size fishing rods," said Laverne AP Joe Schmesterhaus.

Their basic function is to help users take better "sellfies," extending the length between the camera lens and the person taking the picture. Some telescope for greater ease and portability. 

The issue began as a mere distraction this fall when some students started using the sticks to take pictures or video of themselves going to and from school, walking to class, and having lunch, then uploading the images to Instagram, Snapchat, or other social media platforms.  

It got much worse following the Winter Break, when many more students received or purchased the selfie sticks as gifts, and began jostling and rough-housing with them in the halls and in class. Some of the younger teachers also began bringing them to class.

The last straw, according to school board member Mary Lee Smiley, was a lunchtime melee the Tuesday after MLK Day Weekend when several students fought using the sticks as weapons, while others documented the event on their own devices.

"Schools always look bad when they ban things," said Smiley. "With any luck this is just a short-term solution until we figure out something more constructive." 

Related posts:  School Drones"Trigger Lock" Legislation Gaining PopularityObama's SuperSecret Special Ed Diversion Program"Classroom Intervention" Premiers This Fall Indiana School District Agrees To House Gitmo Detainees.

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