Tuesday, July 29, 2014

So... Who's Getting the Axe?

Mayor Taveras's Office:

The competitive grant, made under Carnegie's Opportunity by Design Challenge, will support schools modeled after its 10 Design Principles for student success. The schools will be located in existing Providence Public School District buildings, which are still to be determined, and will replace seats at existing schools. The new schools will be open to all PPSD students through the school choice process, and will serve a student population representative of the District as a whole.

This was easier when we needed to add seats to meet growing enrollment. So who might be closed because of this?

Mount Pleasant, Hope and Central are too big to turn into two small schools. On the other hand the Juanita Sanchez Complex was designed to house two small schools, as was Alvarez, at least at one point in the design process. They're both newish, not that deeply entrenched institutions as well.

Are they going to phase the new schools in year by year, or all 4 years at once? If there is one thing we've learned about starting new schools, it is that doing it one year at a time helps a lot. A lengthy phase-in/phase-out is expensive and difficult, however.

Particularly if you're doing it all at once, you either have to keep the existing student body in the building -- in which case you're not really starting a new school, but doing a turnaround/transformation/whatever -- or do a massive reshuffle of students in the district, which would be so disruptive it is difficult to imagine it happening.

I Don't Think David Coleman is Happy With How the Common Core Came Out

Stephanie Simon:

Coleman didn’t want to spend a lot of time defending the development of the standards, which he said the idea of which had been around for many years, since long before the Obama administration. But he did note that they were developed collaboratively. “I read through hundreds of pages of state feedback month after month. The notion that states were not involved is sadly not the state of my life during those years,” he said.

Peter Greene:

The burdens of poweriness

Williams wants to know how Coleman came to take all this on. She lists his achievements and colleges and that he's a Rhodes Scholar, to which he interjects "yes, I am" and she asks did he just wake up thinking "we need to get all the states to use the same standards." (So, in this narrative, the phone does not ring with someone calling him to ask him to come help with this standards thing that the states are already doing.)

Coleman, instead of answering that, meditates on power.

As people grow in supposed importance and power in the world, he says, they get self-destructive in how they use their time. "People think if they're important they don't have time to write their own speeches or spend extended time alone." Says Coleman, "Any good I have done has come out" of balancing time to allow him to be alone, thinking.

He went into business designing tests, but that wasn't satisfactory because the standards underpinning the tests were crappy. So he spent time alone, thinking. "One idea that I've been cultivating" was the idea of students doing fewer things, but really well.

Anyway, that's how he works. "It's almost embarrassing to admit how much time I need to spend alone... as part of trying to o anything good." And now I am imagining what Coleman's Fortress of Solitude looks like.

So Coleman is not just busy being a Great Man-- he is actually better at it than lots of other great men.

And that co-operation and collaboration thing? That's for ordinary mortals. Coleman just hatches great ideas out of his own head.

Setting the record straight

That's what Williams tries desperately to get Coleman to do. She steers from his process into the semi-question "So that's where the idea of the standards came from?"

Coleman tosses in "listening" as a technique (though he never says to whom) and then, again, tells us first the standard of greatness that he is going to surpass. There's something annoying about "the sanctity of the entrepreneur" he says. "The world was dark and then I came and there was light," is what those sanctimonious types say. But what Coleman understands that they do not is that entrepreneurship is about telling the truth. This is to introduce himself obliquely as David Coleman, Super-Truth-Teller.

Committees, he observes, suck. At the end, you put everybody's stuff in, and you get a big mess. The standards movement was failing because it was death by committee resulting in a huge vague swamp of standards. We are left to close the circle on that implication.

What is left unsaid (or unquoted (I didn't try to sit through the whole interview) is that the Common Core still read very much like a disjointed committee document. Actually more disjointed and inconsistent than other standards. The reading standards are almost certainly the most redundant body of standards ever conceived. The front matter doesn't describe the enumerated standards as written. There's no consistent style throughout on basic organizational features.

Here's my current theory: Coleman, for whatever reason, was handed the keys to the car and did the first pass on designing the standards based on his own brilliance and came up with something that at least had some conceptual consistency. Then as more people were brought into the process, different teams filled out different sections, outsiders offered feedback, Coleman did a lousy job of managing that process. He hated that part, and frankly doesn't really have much interest in the minutia of standards design (pro tip: it is all minutia). In the end, due to haste and the scale of the project, his great work ended up being more of a design by committee hash than much of what it replaced.

And he knows it.

McKinsey Calculates Common Core Dropout Rates

McKinsey and Company:

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Moment That Has Passed

Jeff Bryant:

As I wrote on the blog site OpenLeft back in 2010, the Netroots Nation event seemed “generally in denial about issues of race and class that are at the heart of” problems in public schools. Instead, all the conversation was about “reform.” And teachers’ unions fought for attention on the agenda by addressing the worsening conditions for the nation’s public school teachers as a “labor issue.”

“Lots of lip service was paid to ‘saving teachers’ jobs,’” I recalled. But “not much of anything on the agenda addressed the destructive education policies of the Obama administration.”

News that Michelle Rhee, the public school chancellor in Washington, D.C. that year, had fired another 241 teachers was completely overlooked in any of the panels and speeches. Instead, as I reported, “As the news broke, an attendee I was having coffee with was absolutely gleeful. ‘There are too many bad teachers,’ she explained to me while coolly scrolling through the headlines on her Blackberry, ‘And they’re never made accountable for anything.’” Those around nodded in agreement.

Certainly no one of any prominence at the meeting pointed out the blatant unfairness of the Obama administration’s push to evaluate teachers on the basis of students’ scores on standardized tests. And during the conference’s education caucus, when National Education Association vice president Lilly Eskelsen warned of the rapidly expanding charter school industry that was spreading corporate influence and privatization of public schools, attendees defended “wonderful charter schools.”

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Eric Hanushek and I are Apparently on the Same Side of One Issue

Dylan Matthews:

Another factor is people withdrawing from the labor force to pursue more education. Stanford's Eric Hanushek, evaluating the non-labor force effects of the experiments, found that "for youth the reduction in labor supply brought about by the negative income tax is almost perfectly offset by increased school attendance."

That's not the only positive education finding. One study looking at the New Jersey experiment found that a negative income tax of mid-range generosity increased odds of completing high school by 25 to 30 percent; a similar analysis of the Seattle-Denver experiments put the number at 11 percent. While the evidence on academic performance was more limited, there was some evidence that children in NIT households did better at standardized tests in lower grades.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Maybe I Can Get on the Design Team

Elisabeth Harrison:

Providence has received a $3 million dollar grant from the Carnegie Foundation to develop a pair of small high schools over the next three years.

And then my wife's head exploded.

Looking Forward to Returning to the Land of the Free

Smell the Inequality!

RIDE's new survey visualization thing also has a resources category, which is interesting. For example, below is a screenshot of the results of the "does the bathroom have soap?" question:

What's the Deal with Bullying in RI Charters?

RIDE has a new data-visualization thingy for survey data, particularly on bullying. It is a little clunky and I don't think the embed code actually works (perhaps you will see it below, probably not), but nonetheless interesting. Bullying (as reported at least) seems to shift from being an urban problem in elementary school to a suburban one in high school. Our best regarded charters rank surprisingly high (that is, more bullying).

The 2013-2014 data is due next month. Apparently RIDE needs 8 months to publish survey data.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

SOMEDAY Tutoring Software will Just Work

Justin Reich:

The logic of blended learning is something of a Rube Goldberg contraption: if you want rich project-based learning, then you should spend a bunch of your time, money, procurement energy, political will, and professional development resources on intelligent tutoring software. The software will make you more efficient in the classroom so that you finally free up the time that you needed for project-based learning (or math talk, or rich challenges, or peer learning, or whatever). It's kind of a strange logic. You want more meaningful student-teacher interactions? OK, step 1, sit your kids in front of a randomized worksheet problem generator.

It would be great if the online part was a no-brainer, but we seem to be hardly getting closer to that point.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Flee! Flee!

David Weigel:

In a very short time, opposition to Common Core has evolved from a fringe Republican position that blue-staters laugh at to a position that clearly wins out in blue New York. When independents break against something by a 14-point margin, politicians generally look awkwardly for the escape hatches.

The question crosstabs show that the only group still strongly in favor of the CC (at 60%) is African Americans. This was a key marketing strategy for CC proponents but was always a little strange, since African American opinion doesn't exactly drive American educational policy.

Common Core advocates might have found it useful in the past six months to have an actual organization dedicated specifically to promoting the Common Core, with a file cabinet of substantive but readable analyses of the Common Core's benefits compared to other standards. Apparently those things did not seem necessary a few years ago.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The College Remediation Process is a Misinformation Generating Mess

Carol Burris:

So, how do community colleges decide who needs remediation and in which course? Although taking the SAT or ACT is rarely required for two-year colleges, very competitive SAT scores are often needed to get out of remediation testing. To escape the remediation placement test at Long Island’s Nassau Community College, for example, students need a 550 in math, 550 in reading and a 540 in writing. That is a total score of 1640. To put that score in perspective, only 34 percent of all college bound seniors score that high. The College Board says that if students have a composite score of 1550, they are college ready. The inappropriately high cut scores at Nassau virtually guarantee that nearly all incoming students will be obligated to take at least one placement test.

Then there are the placement tests themselves. There are two that dominate the market—ACCUPLACER, a product of the College Board and COMPASS, produced by the ACT. They are short, computer adaptive tests that apparently are not very accurate.

According to studies cited by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University, ACCUPLACER severely misplaces 33 percent of all students, and COMPASS severely misplaces 27 percent, either by putting students into courses that are too hard, or in courses that are too easy. Two studies found that student GPAs were a far more accurate predictor—reducing severe placement errors by about half. Another study of remediation found that nearly 25 percent (math) and over 33 percent (English) of remedial course placements in one urban system were “severe under-placements” due to the COMPASS test. In short, lots of kids get placed into remediation who really do not need it.

How helpful are traditional remedial courses? Again, the Community College Research Center sheds light. Studies of the effects of remediation yield results that are mixed or negative. Many students enrolled in these remedial courses never complete the courses, and those who do, do not necessarily benefit.

What happens to weaker students who simply skip remediation? The research center found that students who ignored remedial placement had a slightly lower success rate than those who did not need remediation. But students who were referred for remediation but skipped it, had a “substantially higher” rate of success than those who took remedial courses. In other words, remediation is no remedy.

It is telling that college remediation rate statistics have become the remaining go-to number for reformers. It is a garbage statistic, and it is all they have left.