Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ed Schmidt, Fanning Howey, PVD, Full Disclosure

I would note that in this HuffPo post on school closures in Detroit and Providence, Ed Schmidt doesn't mention that his company was paid by the PPSD to do an assessment of facilities last year.

The Huffington Post could very quickly become a complete cesspool of self-serving corporate bullshit. It was always sort of a cesspool, but it could get a lot worse.

RSS: I'm Getting the Feeling the Game is Over and Everybody Lost

I'm looking at this new local news site which seems to offer 335 ways to bookmark or share its news, apparently not including RSS, Atom or any other open spec. Auto-discovery doesn't work in Google Reader either. How did we end up here? The future is starting to suck.

On Brady's Resignation

For three years, Tom Brady was a strong, reassuring hand on the tiller of the Providence School District. Of course, I felt the ship was going in exactly the wrong direction, so I wasn't too happy about that. Nonetheless, it isn't a particularly good feeling to see the captain climbing into a lifeboat as you're heading into the kind of rough seas and hidden shoals the PPSD is currently.

As much as I'm generally sympathetic to my friend Jill's suggestion that "this moment represents a real occasion to choose the next leaders of our district with meaningful input from and participation of young people, parents, educators, and community members," what I really hope is that Taveras already has a plan, knows who he's going to hire, and gets it done as quickly as possible.

The PPSD's range of options is now severely constrained by RIDE and US ED. PPSD's internal capacity is probably at an all-time low, and riven with outside advisors with ideological agendas and no long-term interest in its survival. Probably the most important thing is to find someone who either is completely in sync with Deb Gist or is willing to publicly challenge her.

But basically, Angel Taveras just took title on the PPSD, sitting on blocks with a big puddle of transmission fluid underneath it and a big "AS IS" sign in the window. It's his baby now, and he'd either knows how to fix it or is going to start stripping it and selling off the parts.

Intriguing Use of CouchDB in Zambia

Cory Zue:

We've got computers at clinics that are maintaining patient records. That data needs to sync to cell phones and to a central server, but around 35% of them don't have power, so we're installing solar panels. So one limitation is that that the system has to work on low resources.

None of these clinics have Internet out of the box, so most of the time our only Internet connection is through a GSM modem that connects over the local cell network. It's very hard to move data in that environment, and you can't do anything that relies on an always-on Internet connection with a web app that is always accessing data remotely.

CouchDB was a really good option for us because we could install a Couch database at each clinic site, and then that way all the clinic operations would be local. There would be no Internet use in terms of going out and getting the patient records, or entering data at the clinic site. Couch has a replication engine that lets you synchronize databases — both pull replication and push replication — so we have a star network of databases with one central server in the middle and all of these satellite clinic servers that are connecting through that cell network whenever they're able to get on, and sending the data back and forth. That way we're able to get data in and out of these really remote, rural areas without having to write our own synchronization protocols and network stack.

This might be the way to build a relatively lightweight school census system for a country in the developing world.

Note that I've been trying really hard to not shoot my mouth off about trendy new databases I don't actually understand.

Presumption of Cheating?

One thing worth noting is that Deborah Gist went from being stonewalled by Michelle Rhee on the DCPS cheating scandal that is now blowing up to closing or otherwise supporting dismantling schools in Providence that had shown dramatic increases in NECAP reading scores. Feinstein High School: up over 40 points in 2 years -- closed. Hope Arts: Up over 50 points in 2 years -- program dismantled even when the changes were proven to be in direct violation of RIDE regulations by a student group.

And there was just an amazing, fundamental incuriosity about the whole process. To my knowledge, not one single person from RIDE ever visited Feinstein to inquire about their score increases, in any way.

Was this because they were just presumed to be cheating?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This is Not What "Disruptive Innovation" Looks Like


Despite sharp drops in state aid, New York City’s Department of Education plans to increase its technology spending, including $542 million next year alone that will primarily pay for wiring and other behind-the-wall upgrades to city schools.

If Clayton Christensen was dead, I might say he was spinning in his grave. However, he's alive and selling lots of books off his own bastardization of his own ideas, so... whatever.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Elisabeth Harrison:

... Superintendent Tom Brady has scheduled a press conference today amidst speculation that he plans to resign.


This Year's RI "Peristently Low-Achieving"

Finally, two and a half months later than they were announced last year:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The state Department of Education announced five schools Tuesday that will be targeted for intensive intervention under federal rules because they are among the "persistently lowest-achieving" schools in the state.

Four are Providence public schools: Alvarez High School, Hope Information Technology School, Mount Pleasant High School and Mary E. Fogarty Elementary School.

The fifth school is located in Providence but is a state-run school serving 75 students from several communities, the Rhode Island School for the Deaf.

One big mystery here is how much these decisions are made in consultation with the PPSD. It seems pretty unlikely that they're just done mathematically -- the system seems to allow choice within a larger pool of "low achieving" schools. Of particular note is the fact that there is no overlap with the planned closures and reorganizations done for financial reasons.

Alvarez and Fogarty are both within a mile of my house. I have to wonder how many other neighborhoods in the country will have what... seven? low-performing schools named in the first two years. Certainly this has to be the highest as a proportion of the whole state.

If ever a school needed a turnaround, it is Alvarez. That school should have never been created in the first place (that building was specifically designed for Feinstein). The kick in the eye is just that a number of teachers and students from Feinstein ended up there, so they get turned upside down twice in a row.

Mount Pleasant needs some kind of love, as it has been severely neglected the past decade. Hope IT is a weird choice, especially since I was thinking they were just going to completely re-merge Hope into one school again. The internal politics of turning around half of Hope will be very strange.

And, of course, the big, big, big question is... are the teachers in all these schools going to be terminated at the end of the year?

Stop Lying to My Face, Obama


WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Monday that students should take fewer standardized tests and school performance should be measured in other ways than just exam results. Too much testing makes education boring for kids, he said.

"Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools," the president told students and parents at a town hall hosted by the Univision Spanish-language television network at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C.

I am so far beyond sick of this game.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tab Sweep

A few things worthy of your time:

  • When standardized test scores soared in D.C., were the gains real? -- Real investigative reporting from Jack Gillum and Marisol Bello. If this had come out two years ago -- in particular if Deb Gist's office had successfully investigated it -- Race to the Top and the whole ed reform landscape would probably be dramatically different. Unfortunately, there was no Joseph Wilson in this affair.
  • Measuring poverty in education policy research -- Bruce Baker illustrates that the gap in achievement between students receiving free lunch and those qualifying for reduced lunch can be almost as great as the difference between reduced lunch and those receiving no aid, despite the fact that free and reduced are commonly lumped together in educational statistics. Another example of how we don't even try to use the data we've got effectively, and why schools which appear to have similar populations may face significantly different challenges.
  • I am Educator, Hear Me Roar! An Interview with John Kuhn -- Anthony Cody gets some great lines out of this Texas superintendent:

    I pointed out to her that I had given myself a 10% pay cut and would be cutting positions soon, and I asked if anyone at Pearson (the firm that makes the test) would be taking a pay cut. I told her she was "saving the test but not the teachers."
    ...if the test-and-label philosophy really worked, then you would think there would be far worse teaching going on outside the core classes, but there isn't generally. Why? Because good teachers are motivated by passion and a moral sense of mission, not by the threats of absent bureaucrats.
    ...We are going to burn up this engine by making education a place where only hyper-competitive type-A individuals can feel comfortable, while all of those wonderfully kind and dedicated, supportive people who were born to teach abandon the classroom in search of a kinder profession where their skill sets are valued.
    We know that poverty, illness, crime, and addiction in the home all have a direct impact on the educability of our students--when legislators fail, schools fail. But we only blame the second domino to fall--it seems very cynical to me.
    ...historically we did education right, and now American education is writhing in hideous deformity on the experimenters' table while other countries do it right. And it's a vicious cycle: the more they mess things up, the more eagerly they then come at us with more clumsy surgeries to "fix" us.

    The narrative I cling to is also simple, but it doesn't make anyone rich. It would also make for a remarkably boring book. In my ballad, kids are still the victims, but bureaucracy is the enemy. Legislators too afraid to accept responsibility for the persistence of poverty, crime, poor health care, and methamphetamine addiction are the villains, eager only to place blame and not willing or able to actually fix things. And the passionate, beleaguered teachers picking up the pieces in their classrooms day after day are the heroes. My story plays out over years, with a million tiny acts of heroism, each one too small on its own to matter much--but when all of them are put together, how they speak powerfully of a life well-spent! These are the teachers I am sticking up for. And my story doesn't have a Hollywood ending. 100% of my kids don't go to a four-year college. Some of them become house framers or work for our local oilfield companies. But they grow up and raise families and go to church and serve on the school board. They are successes in every sense of the word. And there are others who aren't. Some of my students have gone to prison. Some struggle with addiction. My ballad isn't tidy.

    But, the nice thing is, I don't have to leave out inconvenient details when I sing my ballad. The assumption that the school reform movement doesn't permit negative outcomes requires you to believe that they fix kids when the hard, unmentionable truth is that they cull them. And I take the culled ones and do the best I can with them. And I'm good with this arrangement because you can't spin the story when you stand before God. God sees through the omissions and knows that the reformer above runs a magnet school and that I take all comers. He can convince the politicians and his readers if he wants to. I'm good with that. I'll soldier on.

  • Why did they fire the Providence Teachers? -- The Socialist Worker's take on the current situation.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Mrs. Peoples' Pond

This reminiscence inspired by Doyle.

My second grade year was spent in Mrs. Peoples' third grade class at William Smith Elementary School in Huntingdon, PA.

I had a big crush on Mrs. Peoples. She was young and pretty and did things like make a life-size drawing of the Fonz for the classroom door. I was amazed when she showed us that she did it by blowing up the image on some novelty handkerchief she'd found using one of those massive old opaque projectors.

That's all science, I guess, but in terms of the actual science curriculum, what was most memorable was the pond we created in Mrs. Peoples' classroom. Her husband came in and built a wooden frame with a liner, and then the class went out to a real pond and got real dirt and plants and fish, put it in his pickup, and re-constructed a pond in the classroom.

It was a major undertaking, and a little smelly, but certainly memorable. From a curricular point of view, I also remember very clearly that we went from talking about the "food chain" that year to the more complex model of the "food web," so this was more than just messy fun.

One thing this memory underscores for me is how fundamentally unknowable the true substance and history of teaching and learning this decentralized American system of education is. I know what I experienced, but how many other second or third graders had the same in 1976? 1%? 10%? 40%? Do people still build classroom ponds in 2011? Is it even legal?

Or is that just what you get when your teacher is the daughter of the inventor of the Slinky?

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Two Americas

John McDaid:

And to round out the trifecta of wacky, Portsmouth Police Chief Lance Hebert has an item, "Request Council Direction on how to Proceed re: Signage - Skateboarding at Island Park Playground/Police Dept." If you've read the coverage in Patch, you'll know that a new sign banning skating appeared in the Island Park playground, and my guess is that the Chief is going to ask the Council for an ordinance to back it up.

Meanwhile, this video captures pretty well the scope and scale of the public skateparks spreading outward from the Northwest:

The only thing America hates and fears more than its young people is its public spaces. And young people in public spaces. And liability insurance. And the liabilities incurred by young people in public spaces. Yet somehow these massive, beautiful public skateparks are being built and for the most part nobody even seems to care if you wear a helmet. I cannot explain this anomaly.

Although I guess this quote in Juice #68 from Shaggy, one of the guys building these things, sums it up pretty well:

This superficial, artifuckingficial world that we live in is ours for the taking. These people aren't strong enough to hold us back. They're trying to control and structure every inch of this universe and it isn't happening! It's our job as skateboarders to take it back.

Nobody Could Have Predicted

Elisabeth Harrison:

Central Falls High School Principal Sonn Sam has left the school, citing family and personal reasons. In a written statement, district officials thanked Sam for his help with their effort to turn around the school, which has been named one of the lowest performing in the state.

I know nothing about Sam, but the whole idea of bringing in someone from The Met, one of the most radically progressive public schools in the country, to turn around a traditional comprehensive high school -- where "turnaround" means "jack up test scores, fast" -- never made much sense.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mall Grade-In: Brilliant

Seattle Education 2010:

Frank McCulley and 106 of his colleagues converged on the Deptford Mall food court, took a seat and for two hours did in public something usually done in private. They graded papers, wrote lesson plans, and created instructional materials. McCulley, a physics teacher at Delsea Regional High School, cooked up the idea with chemistry teacher Tina Dare.

Working for a solid two hours, no one got all the work done.

“Tina and I were talking about how the public has this notion that teachers work short hours,” McCulley said. “They have no idea of the time we put in grading papers or prepping for class outside the normal school day.”

A 2008 NJEA poll of members revealed that more than 20 percent of teachers spend more than 20 hours beyond the contracted day on schoolwork. Seventy-five percent report that they work at least six to 10 hours beyond the contracted day in a typical week.

I read this while my wife graded papers.

Can I Quote You On That, Mayor Fung?

Cranston Mayor Allen Fung on what will happen if the Cranston mayoral academy opens:

The money from the Providence system will be funneled into Cranston.

If the full plan for Cranston mayoral academies outlined in RI's RttT plan was implemented in FY 2010, it would have resulted in almost $12 million from the PPSD budget being "funneled into Cranston."

Also, I hadn't realized that your city could be involved in a "mayoral academy" without the public support of your mayor, or any public discussion of the issue, but apparently that's the case.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The (Lack of) Correlation Between Observation and Test Data

Bill Turque:

Teachers with high “value-added” scores--meaning that their students met or exceeded predicted growth targets on the DC CAS--didn’t necessarily do well on the Teaching and Learning Framework (TLF), the nine-part test of classroom skill that is at the heart of IMPACT. “At this early stage in the use of value-added analysis nationally the hope is that there is a strong correlation between a teachers’ score on an instructional rubric and his or her value-added score,” Curtis wrote. “This would validate the instructional rubric by showing that doing well in instruction produces better student outcomes.”

But that isn’t quite the case. A DCPS analysis showed only a “modest correlation” between the two ratings (3.4).

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that technocrats would think they'd be able to come up with an observation system that highly correlates to test scores, but every teacher knows that whatever edict comes down from the central office is as likely to hinder learning in your classroom as help it.

Indeed, one premise of this whole effort is that eventually we'll be able to use value-added analysis to test the efficacy of all kinds of things, like curricula. Which of course means that we assume that sometimes teachers will be ordered to do things that are ineffective and lower their scores.

I know that's obvious, but apparently it needs to be pointed out.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I Want to Hear About the *Official* Disgruntlement Events

Mr. Teachbad:

... I went out for drinks with a pretty random assortment of 9 other teachers from my school recently. I was a hanger-on…this was not an official disgruntlement event. Of the nine, six were absolutely sure they were leaving and two more were actively looking. That’s not a hallmark of satisfaction and continuity.

Andy Rotherham's Reverse Achievement Gap


...these schools — which, in some states, have opened reverse achievement gaps with low-income minority students outpacing state average...

Dude, around here just beating the state average in reading and writing won't even keep your school open.

Gulen Schools: Can't Keep This Quiet Forever

Philadelphia Inquirer:

Ruth Hocker, former president of the parents' group at the Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania Charter School in State College, began asking questions when popular, certified American teachers were replaced by uncertified Turkish men who often spoke limited English and were paid higher salaries. Most were placed in math and science classes.

"They would tell us they couldn't find qualified American teachers," Hocker said.

That made no sense in Pennsylvania State University's hometown, she said: "They graduate here every year."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Consensus Building, Eli Broad Style

Syracuse School Board President Richard Strong on his district's hiring of Sharon Contreras, current PPSD Chief Academic Officer, as Superintendent:

“One of the things that the community has been looking for is someone who is a consensus builder,” Strong said Wednesday. “Top-down management is what we’ve had in the past, and it didn’t do what we needed it to do. Her apparent style matches our district more closely than the other [candidates].”

Good luck with that! Also, I don't even want to know who the other candidates were. It is probably almost impossible to find a credible looking superintendent who isn't either a Broad Academy graduate or wishes he or she was.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Making Friends at the Skatepark

As you might expect, an interesting mix of people turn up at an urban public skatepark on early spring mornings while school is in session. On Thursday I met a voluble skater who explained to me that:

  • He was out of practice because he hadn't skated for three weeks.
  • He was really high.
  • He'd just gotten out of some kind of institution (his three week layoff) because he'd gotten in a fight with his brother and ended up brandishing kitchen knives while his brother called 911.
  • He once kickflipped down an eight step staircase.
  • He was manic depressive but back on medication.
  • He needed a ride.
  • He is a Christian and wondered if I knew God.

Nice kid (for the record, I'd say he was 18). I gave him a ride. If he'd been my student I probably wouldn't have known any of the above.


Chris Espinosa:

Apple has a Span of Service clause where if you rejoin the company after having left, you get your old employee number back, and if your absence has been less than 6 months, your accrued seniority and the benefits that are based on it are adjusted by the time you were gone, rather than being reset to your new hire date.

The Purpose of an Evaluation

Taken at face value (a dubious assumption), this WaPo look at one teacher's IMPACT observation suggests that the process is more subtle and focused on details of instruction and learning than I would have thought. This is potentially a good thing.

On the other hand, this cuts against the larger "we're just getting rid of bad teachers" messaging. You know, the person standing in the doorway turning their lights on and off in a vain attempt to get the kid's attention. The porn-surfer. The clock-watcher. The people who should not be teachers.

I always felt like teachers like the one portrayed in the article -- who understand and relate to their students, who are past the basics of classroom management, who are committed to teaching over the long haul, but are pedagogically not very sophisticated -- are the key test for urban school administration and professional development. In the long run, you have to be able to reach those people, they have to be your foundation, or you are screwed.

The idea that you're going to fix your school system by laying these people off first, is, like Russo says, "particularly goofy." As is the idea that giving these folks financial incentives will improve their instruction. Or for that matter, that you'd be better off training a whole sequence of brainy kids instead of one dedicated teacher.

Huntington Base Ball Co. Field Trip

O.G. Kevin Faria and I rolled up to the world headquarters of the Huntington Base Ball Co. in Norwell, MA, where William Peebles has been creating high-end 19th and early 20th century base ball equipment since 2009.

William comes at the work as an artist and collector; Kevin and I brought our background in research and play from the vintage base ball perspective.

The most obvious difference in points of view is that, as far as William knows, nobody has ever actually played a competitive game with any of his products, whereas the Grays have been playing 1884 National League style base ball longer than anyone else, including the real 19th century players, whose equipment, rules and techniques continued to change rapidly.

Also, on the whole, the vintage base ball community tends to emphasize textual research (at best), primarily relying on rules, catalogs, newspaper accounts, etc. William is steeped in the collector market and, in addition to having a solid textual foundation, has an exhaustive knowledge of seemingly every early base ball artifact traded or displayed in recent memory, including lots of first-hand observation.

Finally, William's work is priced for collectors, not players, so on the whole his products aren't going to be used by most vintage players on a day to day basis. They're too expensive. If you are confused by this I'll just refer you to some graphs on income inequality in the US. There are certainly people who can pay $650 for a cool handmade baseball tsotchke without batting an eye.

Balls were the primary motivation for the trip. No mass-produced ball priced for regular play can compare to William's hand-crafted, thoroughly-researched models. On the other hand, at $50 or more a pop, this is strictly a special occasion ball. The quality of William's covers lives up to both the price and the right occasion. What we don't know is how they play. The core is basically a modern ball with a cushioned-cork center. The construction is actually closer to the 1884 than the reproductions that 19th century base ball teams, including the Grays. The only problem is that the core should be all rubber instead of cork in the center.

1884 balls were essentially as hard as modern balls when new, and in particular everyone I know who has actually held a ball from the period for comparison vouches for this. The real question is how quickly the ball should soften. They used one ball per game in 1884, and the ball changed quickly enough that batting first was considered a tactical advantage -- a crack at a new ball was better than last-at-bats. William did have a ball that he uses to play catch and without even being hit by a bat it felt slightly mellower.

So, basically we need to just try playing a game with a Huntington ball and see how it goes. If it seems to hard, plan b will be for us to try winding a ball by hand, with a proper rubber core and seeing how it plays.

The most interesting thing we learned while discussing what exact ball design would be best for a Grays game is that while the Spalding catalog and box art through the 1880's continued to show very tiny stitching used in the 1870's, the surviving Spalding balls from the period had much sloppier, broadly spaced stitching. The quality went down in favor of quantity. The good news for us is that it cuts the price for us since the later balls were easier to make. Also, William will offer volume discounts off the list price for teams looking to buy a half-dozen or a dozen.

It is a lot to pay for a ball that lasts one game, but I don't think I'll be the only vintage base ball player who would love to have a near perfectly historically accurate game-played ball as a souvenir of my years in this crazy pastime.

William also makes a variety of reproductions of very early gloves as used from the 1870's through the 1890's. It is a strange period for gloves. Base ball had a very ambivalent, if not hostile, view toward the adoption of gloves, so none of these mostly fingerless gloves has a particularly revered status to live up to William's reverent creations. But basically, if you have a particular interest in any or all of these gloves, I don't think you'll find fault in these reproduction's execution.

For what it is worth, I didn't think there would be any significant difference in performance between William's fingerless gloves and cheaper alternatives.

What we were really interested in was the "1890's Tipped Finger Catcher's Glove." With at most minimal changes it could be used with few qualms back to 1884. These gloves are painstakingly constructed through a combination of hand and machine sewing. They're gorgeous, and certainly struck Kevin and I (unfortunately none of our catchers could make it) as quite functional. At $650 a pop, well... we may never find out for sure. William is open to creating a functional version with less hand stitching that would be... somewhat less. If you did pay $650 for a pair of these, you'd feel like you got your money's worth.

Bats... William had some prototypes by Bill Rayburn of the Rayburn Bat Company that he hopes to have for sale soon. My reaction was "I WANT." Actually "I WANT AND WILL NOT LET ANYONE ELSE TOUCH." I'm not going to try to articulate exactly what triggered that reaction, beyond a very high level of craftsmanship and finish that seemed completely in tune with the actual period bats I've been able to handle. These will range from around 50% more to double what the typical bats used for vintage play cost, but they don't seem like they'll break easily, so for a team to invest in one or two of these beauties does not seem unreasonable.

For all of William's attention to detail, there was one glaring weakness to me -- he lays out his packaging with nice graphics and typography appropriate to the period and then just prints it with a modern printer. So I turned him onto Dan Wood, and hopefully he'll soon have proper letterpress boxes, and everything will be perfect.

I'd like to thank William for taking the time to show us his stuff, and I hope we'll be able to follow up with some reviews of how the balls and bats perform in a game later this season!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In Rhode Island, This Doesn't Get You "Dinged," It Gets You Closed

Linda Nathan:

The moment that students enter the school they hear me say, “High School is not a timed test.” This confronts a national trend of what is important in school (test results) and only what can be counted (test scores). At BAA what matters is finishing your course work and finishing well. What matters goes beyond a score on a bubble sheet. We hold our students to a clearly articulated set of benchmarks, and we ensure enough support along the way. Some students need more time and more support. Even though we are “dinged” by the state for not graduating students in a four-year time period, we insist that some students need more than four years.

What Charters Really Think About Hybrid Learning

Michael Goldstein:

Even if the handful of well known “hybrid” charter schools — which get a decent amount of philanthropy — they staff will tell you (off the record) that their own data/observations seems to show that the online tutoring is pretty rocky. It seems cool to technophile observers, but it often functions more as a way to keep kids occupied (teacher costs down) than to really drive learning.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Todd Farley: Traitor to the Ed Reform Rentier Class... and God Bless Him for It

Todd Farley:

I had the goat.

That's what I remember about my travels to Detroit last year, while working as a test developer for an educational publishing company. I made two separate trips to Motown, spending seven total days in the Detroit Public Schools to get teacher approval on the K-12 assessments my company "developed" for them. While I have only vague recollections of the work those teachers and I did -- lots of indiscriminate arguing about whether some reading passage was too hard or too easy for their test and whether the correct answer to some question was B or C (or maybe D?) -- I do have a very clear memory of dinner one night.

It was at Roast, Iron Chef Michael Symon's signature restaurant, a swank and pricey eatery famous for its menu of meats. The night my colleagues and I visited, the daily special was goat, the whole animal skewered on a spit and roasting over an open flame. I happily gorged myself on a plateful of meat hacked off the roasting carcass, crispy skin included. It was all delectable, and while most of my colleagues opted not to dine on goat that evening, they nonetheless reveled in wine or cocktails and big, delicious steaks. For sure, it was a great night to work in standardized testing. ...

The company I worked for, you see, is owned by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt just completed a 15-month contract with the Detroit Public Schools worth $39,859,925.00. That's right, almost forty million dollars, or more than 12 percent of DPS's entire budget shortfall, for HMH's "managed instruction" in reading and math. While I don't know exactly what forty million dollars of "managed instruction" looks like (who does?), I know some of those millions were used to pay for the tests I helped slap together (mostly recycling passages and questions from our item bank that had been used many times before) and to sponsor my travels to Detroit.

Did You Know Providence Has (Had?) an Administrator's Union?

Linda Borg for the ProJo:

PROVIDENCE — It looks like the School Board wants to sever its relationship with a union that represents 105 Providence school administrators, according to an officer with the union. ...

The School Board can choose not to deal with the union because the association no longer has a contract with the district (it expired in June) and because the union does not enjoy collective-bargaining rights. ...

The administrators’ union has an unusual history. In 1976, the School Board fired all of the central office administrators, Kane said. The administrators formed a union, affiliated with AFL-CIO, and successfully petitioned the General Assembly for the right to bargain collectively. A year later, the Providence Teachers Union appealed and the legislature repealed the right to bargain collectively.

Presumably this will also be accompanied by some kind of moves to bring in administrators with some kind of "alternative certifications."

Who is Accountable?

Kathleen Porter-Magee:

We learned pretty quickly, however, that mandating Saxon was a mistake. Not because it wasn’t a good program, but rather because, by focusing our energies on convincing teachers and principals to use a particular curriculum, we were, on some level, taking ownership over student achievement results from teachers and principals and shouldering it ourselves. After all, if teachers were merely implementing required programs—programs they didn’t feel they had the authority to deviate from—then how could they be held accountable if student achievement results didn’t naturally follow?

Indeed. Whose accountable for an across the board drop in PPSD high school scores following the introduction of a new curriculum?

Of course, Porter-Magee veers too far in the other direction:

In short, it soon became clear that if you bring together a group of smart, dedicated teachers and principals who are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure kids can learn, they are going to succeed.

Where do they find these idiots?

The problem is that you need, just for starters, good teachers, and a good, coherent curriculum that fits the community. There are lots of good curricula from many angles and approaches, but all are not equally good.

Common Core GED

NY Times:

The American Council on Education and Pearson, a major education and testing company, are starting a partnership to design and deliver a computer-based G.E.D. test, aligned with the Common Core State Standards. The new business, which will continue to use the G.E.D. Testing Service name, will not offer the new G.E.D. until 2014, but will begin to roll out computer-based versions of the existing test this spring in California, Florida, Georgia and Texas.

Hm... one thing they can take advantage of here is that the grade-level Common Core standards are imperfectly aligned with the graduation standards. That is, the graduation standards are less rigorous than the grade 11-12 standards, at least in ELA.

Maybe Pearson is rushing this to market to steal a march in the race to define what the Common Core really is. Who knows?

I don't spend a lot of time thinking about what the requirements for a GED ought to be, but I think a more practical set of standards (i.e., less focused on academic textual analysis) would be more appropriate.


Cannonball from California is a place. on Vimeo.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Eight School Shuffle

Linda Borg for the ProJo:

Under the recommendation from Taveras and Brady, Flynn Elementary, Windmill Street Elementary, Messer Elementary and Messer Annex would close by June 30. Student and staff from the two Messer schools would move to nearby Bridgham Middle School, which would become an elementary school.

It will be interesting to see by what mechanism this move and consolidation is achieved. Right now, everyone working at the Messer schools is fired and their positions cease to exist. For that matter everyone at Bridgham is fired too, and their positions are gone. Note that it doesn't seem to be the case that Messer is moving to Bridgham. Three schools are being closed in this equation and a new one opened. So by what mechanism, if any, will the Messer staff be moved to the new school? It seems to me they'll be applying with no more right to the position than any schmo off the street.

Just for reference, two years ago, the Messer teachers would have gone to the consolidation meeting where they'd have first pick of all open jobs in the district. Times have changed.

I could go on at length about all the little switches here -- will the 6th grade teachers whose positions at Fortes were eliminated get the new positions created at Lima? As of two years ago those two staffs weren't on very friendly terms, but times may have changed. Stay tuned.



PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Four elementary schools have been recommended for closing as the city tries to close its budget gap.

Schools Supt. Tom Brady and Mayor Angel Taveras are announcing the closings at a press conference at City Hall Monday afternoon.

The schools that will close are Flynn Elementary School, Windmill Street Elementary School, Asa Messer Elementary School and the Asa Messer Annex. Bridgham Middle School will become an elementary school.

I don't know anything about any of these schools.

Mustn't Have Been at the Broad Academy the Week They Taught "Advanced Employee Intimidation"

Jennifer Jordan for the ProJo:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The state Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint against Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist for "creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation" among some of her employees during the turmoil in Central Falls last year, and is holding a hearing at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Board's Cranston headquarters.

According to the complaint, Gist violated state labor laws when she sent an e-mail on Feb. 19, 2010 to members of the professional employees union at the Rhode Island Department of Education after she heard that some employees were planning to attend a rally the following week in support of the teachers at Central Falls High School. The teachers were scheduled to be terminated Feb. 23.

In her e-mail, the commissioner stated that she would "not hesitate to take action against any employee ... who purposefully works to thwart RIDE policy."

Gist's e-mail "interfered with, restrained and coerced members ... in exercising their rights," the complaint states, "... thus creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation."

At least she didn't do it via Facebook.

Who Needs Finland When You Have Massachusetts

I've always figured Mike Smith was a bad guy based on the unsavory company he keeps -- venture philanthropists, the Obama administration -- but his post on Larry Cuban's blog is right on point:

The central idea here is that Massachusetts represents a proof point that suggests that other states do not need a radical makeover to become internationally competitive. They need to build a learning capacity, hold the course, and steadily improve. This is not easy. It is not sexy. It is not a magic bullet, so it will not attract those who want to simply write legislation or those who come as a superintendent or Secretary of Education for two years and then leave while claiming serious change. It is hard, serious, important work.

Rhode Island is a New England state with the educational performance of the deep South. We need to keep asking why our policy is running in the direction of Oklahoma and Alabama instead of Massachusetts.

And yes, this is a defensive message (compared to, say, trying to generate a compelling vision of the ultimate 21st century progressive networked unschool). It is ok to be on the defensive when the enemy's tanks are within sight of your capital.

Gaze Into Your Future, Providence

Michael Winerip on Detroit:

So now, two years later, how are the so-called reforms coming along?

Not great.

Since Mr. Bobb arrived, the $200 million deficit has risen to $327 million. While he has made substantial cuts to save money — including $16 million by firing hundreds of administrators — any gains have been overshadowed by the exodus of the 8,000 students a year. For each student who departs, $7,300 in state money gets subtracted from the Detroit budget — an annual loss of $58.4 million.

Nor have charters been the answer. Charter school students score about the same on state tests as Detroit district students, even though charters have fewer special education students (8 percent versus 17 percent in the district) and fewer poor children (65 percent get subsidized lunches versus 82 percent at district schools). It’s hard to know whether children are better off under these “reforms” or they’re just being moved around more. ...

... Carstens (Elementary) students perform well on state tests, repeatedly meeting the federal standard for adequate yearly progress. ...

Despite all this, teachers worry that Carstens’s appearance on Mr. Bobb’s closing list — even though it was brief — means the end is near. Anticipating the worst, several parents have taken their children out of Carstens, enrolling them elsewhere, including at charters and suburban schools.

Carstens’s enrollment is half of what it was a few years ago. Every hallway has empty classrooms, giving the school a desolate feeling.

Mr. Bobb has set off a vicious cycle undermining even good schools. The more schools he closes to save money, the more parents grow discouraged and pull their children out. The fewer the children, the less the state aid, so Mr. Bobb closes more schools.

Carstens has also been harmed by poor personnel decisions made by the district. Last year, 1,200 teachers took the retirement buyout, and Mr. Bobb laid off 2,000 others in the spring. Then in the fall, he realized he needed to hire the 2,000 back, and chaos ensued.

The downward spiral begins.

Friday, March 11, 2011

If Only billg had become a Foodie, too...

Michael Ruhlman:

Dr. Myhrvold, the chief technology officer for Microsoft until 1999, spent millions of dollars (more than one, less than 10, he says) to create (“Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking”). Nothing seems to have been spared on the quality of the photo reproduction, on heavy stock with solid binding.

It would have saved American education a lot of heartache.

Don't Be Shy, People

Dana Goldstein:

As a few very dear readers already know, I am working on a book proposal about the politics of teaching in the United States. (Ohmygosh I can't believe I just said that out's pretty exciting stuff, but also a big, scary project!) 

To that end, I'll be spending the coming week in Rhode Island reporting on the Providence teacher crisis and education reform in the state more generally. If you're a Providence or Central Falls teacher willing to do an interview with me, please drop me a line at dana /at/ I would be very grateful to hear your stories and get your take on the events swirling around you. 

Content, Standards, and Value-Added

In sorting through the ongoing discussion of "content" and curriculum vs. the Common Core standards, it is important to think back about what the Common Core standards are for. The reform agenda of the Gates Foundation, other business-model reformers, and the federal government as expressed in Race to the Top, is based on a belief in the ultimate efficacy of value-added analysis in education. The theory of change here is that once we've got accurate measurement of how not only teachers, but every other variable, including curriculum design, influences student growth, we'll have an efficient market for educational improvement and a path to glory. But first we need better value-added data.

  • To get better value added data, we need a new test which will be given to all students and will specifically produce data amenable to value added analysis.
  • To make this test, we need a standards document which specifies what students should be able to know and do at each level, and will produce usable data for value added analysis.

What you want from value-added analysis is to be able to say, "this fourth grade child started the year in English at grade level 3.5 and ended at level 5.1." And then you want to be able to extend that analysis to the class, school, district, state, etc. The problem with this is that it only makes sense when you can define learning as a linear progression.

The design of the Common Core ELA standards is such that you should be able to produce interesting, finely grained data. For example, you should be able to say, "On an informational text of complexity 3.5, Johnnie scores a '4' on standard #4. However, on a complexity 4.5 text, he scores a '2' on the same task if the text complexity is raised to 4.3. On a science text of complexity 4.5, he scores a '3' on standard #4, but in a history text of the same complexity, he gets a '4.' Thus..." Obviously there will be a lot of graphs involved in real life.

But that only makes sense if the learning path is linear, with each step dependent on the previous. That is, you can't read at a fourth grade level without at least conceptually passing through reading at the third grade level at some point. Math doesn't fit in as neatly, but it is on the whole the most linear of all core subjects (anyone who has tried to design a progressive high school knows this).

On the other hand, learning about 20th century American literature does not depend on knowing 19th century literature. If you walk into a post-Civil War US History class having skipped pre-Civil War US History, you can still pass without learning the pre-Civil War history. But what's the value-add then? For a year's worth of content, the maximum value-add is 1 year. The best 19th century literature class isn't the one that rushes into the middle of the 20th century.

This is not to say that you can't measure the quality of learning and/or instruction in a content-based classs. It just doesn't provide the kind of data that is wanted or needed here. There isn't a wide enough spread, and the comparisons are less consistent, and the whole thing makes less sense.

So that's why content is permanently a second class citizen in the world of Common Core and Race to the Top, despite whatever other assurances, side comments or manifestos are produced.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

In Theory, This is a Terrible Time to be in the Teacher Recruiting Business

Gotham Schools:

NEW YORK, NY – City Comptroller John C. Liu stated the following in response to inquiries about his rejection of a $20 million teacher recruitment contract for the Department of Education (DOE):

“Twenty million dollars to recruit teachers as the DOE insists on laying off thousands of teachers seems curious at best,” said Comptroller Liu.

The five-year contract, with the “New Teacher Project,” was submitted in early February. The DOE was seeking the contract to “recruit, select, train and provide job search support to non-traditional candidates to become public school teachers.”

The contract submission comes at a time when agencies are being asked to cut services, including the DOE’s plan to lay off 4,600 teachers.

The Less You Know About a School, the Easier it is to Close It

Frank Murphy:

I was puzzled by Mr. Weiner’s statement that Meade School students are not making more than a year’s worth of growth. I said, “When I look at the state’s PVAS information on the Department of Education’s on-line data system, the students in grades six, seven, and eight are making more than a year’s worth of growth.”

Mr. Weiner responded, “You have sixth, seventh and eighth grades? I thought Meade was still adding on grades.”

My concerns regarding the accuracy of Mr. Weiner’s data collection methods were heightened by this remark. This statement caused me to seriously question the credibility of the information that Mr. Weiner was presenting on the progress of Meade School.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Standards, Objectives, Curriculum, etc.

First a quick technical note to my friends at the Shanker Institute: your Click to expand/hide the full statement » button on the Call for Common Content page is not only too easy to miss, especially since there doesn't seem to be a pdf download of the whole document, but the expanded part is invisible to Google.

Anyhow, now that we know the rest of the document is there, here's and interesting passage:

Currently, there are efforts under way to develop assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards. But, as the past 30 years of the standards movement has shown, without attention to curriculum, standards are not specific enough to guide the development of valid measures of student progress. Simple logic suggests that it is impossible to assess student learning accurately when there has been no decision about what it is students are expected to learn. In order to create a rational system, we must begin with standards, then adopt curriculum and curriculum materials, and then develop assessments — in that order.

First off, I see no evidence whatsoever that Finland follows this system. They have a curriculum which includes for each course "objectives," "core contents" and at the basic level, performance standards. If they started with "standards," they aren't evident any more. For that matter, I don't think there is a meaninful distinction between "objectives" and "standards." Further, there are no national assessments in Finland. It would be most accurate to say that Finland's national system is just a curriculum. No standards. No assessments.

The problem is we've got these standards now, which presumably we can build a curriculum on top of. This may work in math. In fact, the Common Core "standards" in this case may be nearly as complete as a "curriculum" as it is being used here. I suspect it is very close.

On the other hand, the ELA standards are completely inappropriate for constructing a Finland-style curriculum on top. Your additional "objectives" and "core contents" would at least double the scope of the standards, and the redundancy and disorganization of the Common Core ELA would make the task a nightmare. At least, a nightmare if you actually tried to follow the logic of the Common Core ELA, rather than just fit it into whatever you wanted to do in the first place.

Anyhow, I count this as the beginning of a long, passive aggressive takedown of Common Core ELA. The only problem is that you can see here what happens if you don't have Gates behind you. You're just a bunch of jackasses with a website trying to tell people what to do.

Maximum Flexibility?


PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- School Superintendent Thomas Brady and Mayor Angel Taveras have postponed again the submission of a list of schools recommended for closure in 2011-12. The list -- originally to have been announced on Monday -- will be made public instead this coming Monday, March 14.

Christina O'Reilly, School Department spokeswoman, said in a news release:

"... the administration is still in ongoing conversations with leadership at the Providence Teachers Union to discuss how teachers displaced by the closure will be terminated and how those unaffected will have their letters of dismissal rescinded. These are challenging decisions that cannot be made lightly or without adequate consideration."

This move to get "maximum flexibility" really just leaves them with a small plate of unpalatable options. Getting rid of bad teachers sounds pretty good. Closing schools and simply firing outright whomever is unlucky enough to be working there won't poll so well. Focusing 100% of the pain on the neediest students, neighborhoods, and those who have served them isn't going to be pretty. But that's what they're locking into.

Yes It Can Be Done


Memphis residents voted Tuesday to transfer the administration of the city’s schools to the county, supporting earlier moves by city officials and effectively putting an end to the city school system.

You know what would have been fun? $4 billion in incentives to support this kind of move.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Old Man Cred

Neutaconkanut Skatepark was drier than I thought it was going to be this morning, pretty much all skate-able except for the bowl, which a guy named Nate and I ended up shoveling and sweeping about four inches of ice and snow out of. Gotta establish your cred any way you can.

Fight or Flight?

I can't muster much interest on commenting on PVD school politics because our fight or flight response is pinned to the "flight" side. I don't want to try to convince anyone of anything. I just want to leave and never look back.

Seriously, Has Anyone Read the Common Core ELA Standards?

Randy Bennett:

The first implication is that concentrating instruction on the features measured by automated essay scoring is likely to improve a student’s score as well as certain lower-level writing competencies. But such concentration is unlikely to improve student writing with respect to higher-order competencies such as the quality of ideas, argumentation, audience awareness, and rhetorical style, which no extant auto-mated scoring approach directly measures.

Which is why those things are either excluded from the standards entirely, or only peripherally important.

He provides an example of a potentially problematic essay prompt:

Many students have jobs after school.They may work in a store, make deliveries, or do manual labor. Explain why you feel that working after school is a good or a bad idea. Make sure to give reasons and examples to support your position.You will have 25 minutes to write your response.

You don't need to ask a "how do you feel" question to assess the Common Core ELA standards, and arguably you shouldn't (i.e., this is not required for college or career). All arguments can and, within the logic of CC, should be based on textual analysis, which is a much more constrained domain.

Monday, March 07, 2011

This Really Broke Me Down

60 Minutes:

They managed to actually find some articulate, sympathetic (and white) subjects, the kids particularly. I'm so sick of the rare feature on poverty focusing on people who, it is eventually pointed out, are drug addicts or have made some obviously stupid decision when there are so many people suffering through no fault of their own.

Messaging Tips from Parents Across America

I like this messaging on charters and choice:

"In New Orleans we no longer have the right to a neighborhood school, and that's being called choice."

Also, it is incredibly important to always use this kind of language, "the scandal-ridden, Broad-trained Seattle superintendent Marie Goodloe Johnson." Every failed Broad Academy graduate needs to be specifically identified as such in every case. The Broad fifth columnists must be exposed and the brand destroyed.

If the Labor Market Ever Improves

Ed in the Apple:

When the dust settles the decision-makers will be wondering: where are all the teachers?

So You Want to Write a Curriculum?

The Albert Shanker Institute, A Call for Common Content:

...our nation must finally answer questions it has avoided for generations: What is it, precisely, that we expect all educated citizens to have learned? What explicit knowledge, skills, and understanding of content will help define the day-to-day work of teaching and learning?

Anyone is free to say there should be a national curriculum, sit down and write it, and say "OK, this is it!" Sounds like a fun project.

However, I'm completely baffled by what, well, anyone thinks the Common Core standards are for. Because you can come up with your own set of "knowledge, skills, and understandings of content" if you want, but guess what -- they're still going to be outside the assessment framework.

Is what you're saying that you're going to fail my daughter after she entirely meets the Common Core standards and passes the four assessments every year which correspond to it, if she also fails to meet the additional curriculum objectives that have been laid on top?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Kent County Y Mini-Ramp (Un)-Officially Open for Business

Snow's melted, ramp's swept and dried off, ready for shredding. Had a good session this morning, new board felt great.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Neutaconkanut Skatepark Backstory

Jim Murphy interviewing Sam Batterson in Juice #58:

What are you working on now?

We're working on Providence Skatepark. Here's the story. They had a skatepark on the plans. My girlfriend's friend drew up the trees on the plan for the city. I made the calls and skated down to town hall and picked up the plans. The bid was closing the next morning, so I opened up the plans, and it's a bunch of quarter pipes sitting on a large asphalt slab. I was like, “Oh man. We're finally getting a skatepark in Providence and this is what we're getting?” I fretted about it for two weeks. Then I called the city. They called me back and agreed to meet with me. I drew up a sample park and made a presentation for the sample cost, and the bid was $85,000 with prevailing wage. It had a little bowl on one end and a quarter pipe on the other end. It was a good little park for really cheap. They told me they were really impressed with my work. We met with the council people and they all agreed. I was in. Then after a few meetings, they said, “You drew up this plan in one day. Why don't you take a week and draw up the best park you can imagine?” It all worked out.

And you kept the price low?

Yeah, it was like $18 per square foot.

Does it have any pool coping?

Yeah, it's got about 76 feet of pool coping. I know there are stories of the urban skateparks, but this park is really urban. Everything you see on the street is in that park. We've got curbs, benches, Jersey barriers, fire hydrants and manhole covers. You can skate it around and never have to push. It's constant flow every inch.

Do you have handrails?

Yeah, we've got handrails, too.

[laughs] Oh, perfect. I just love handrails. It's really hard to find handrails, so I guess you have to build them somewhere.

Okay, Murf. Look. I'm not building it for you. I'm building it for everyone in the city. Kids that want to grind pool coping can go to that park. If someone wants to skate a 4-foot handrail, they can do it legally in this park.

Why only 4 feet?

There's a limit by law in Providence. That's the limit without supervision.

Is that because of insurance?

Yep. I think it can be changed. There's an argument that something 4 feet tall isn't necessarily safe either.

There was about six inches of ice on the flat bottom Tuesday. Maybe skateable next week if the weather holds?

PandaBoard Notes

I wasn't able to get the PandaBoard to upgrade to Ubuntu Natty through a distribution upgrade -- the second time it completed the upgrade after about 16 hours and then hung on reboot -- but someone on #pandaboard helpfully pointed me to the Natty alpha images (note to self, I should have noted where they were). So I'm running Natty on it and, a small temporary dependency bug in our zope.html package notwithstanding, was able to apt-get install schooltool from the Natty Universe repositories. So "Yay!" for that victory.

Poor performance running off the SD card is a known issue (yes, you might not want to run a server off the storage medium primarily used for photos in cameras), so I'm upping my investment a bit by ordering a solid state USB external hard drive for $70 bucks. So I'll have to expand my final case design a bit, and the cost is now around $300. On the other hand, it is a lot more plausible for real-world use with laptop-grade mass storage.

Also, with the current setup it is drawing between 3-5 watts. Pretty cool!

Another Thing That's Not Going to Happen

Elizabeth Harrison:

It’s now the class of 2014, not the class of 2012 that will face a minimum score requirement on state tests. But state officials have officially abandoned a controversial tiered diploma system to recognize high achieving students

By 2014, we'll be too close to implementing the PARCC tests, although they will be behind, way over-budget, and nobody will have enough computers to administer them, to make one or two graduating classes responsible for their NECAP math scores. Particularly when you consider that PARCC math will probably be easier to pass. Or, if it isn't then RI will need to be completely tooling up to be aligned to PARCC, not NECAP. Unless they end up being pretty much the same, in which case we're really wasting a ton of money.

Wendy Kopp's Growing Conflict of Interest

Teach for America advocates working within the system to help foster change.

Hope Moffett, the school teacher who spoke publicly against the School District's plan to convert Audenreid High School into a charter school is a Teach For America Alumni and was part of the national corps before she started at Audenreid three years ago.

Kopp said she had heard about Moffett's having been relegated to a "teacher Jail," but added that she didn't know enough to speak on her situation in particular.

But she did address the idea of speaking up against the system.

"In some cases I think that's what we need and in other cases I think maybe the best way to serve kids is to focus on our kids and in general we ask our core members to focus on ensuring their students fulfill their true potential that year and sometimes fighting the system can prove to be a distraction from that core goal," Kopp said.

"In part we've seen that you actually need to teach success in order to know what is possible and what it takes to meet the needs of kids," she added. "I'm not trying to cast a judgment one way or another. I do think at the same time we're calling upon our teachers to make their voices heard because they are the people who know what it takes."

This is a perfect illustration of how TFA and the Broad Academy are the new status quo. Kopp has to choose between her own activist alum and the Philly school district, and since she's got a (non-profit) business relationship with Philadelphia, she has to mush-mouth it. With this kind of backbone, KIPP would have just been another discarded pilot program in the Houston schools.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

PandaBoard Arrives: Move Along, Nothing to See Here

So my PandaBoard finally arrived yesterday. Got it up an running on Ubuntu almost disappointingly easy. There's not much to show at this point: it's a computer! Like pretty much every other computer purchase I've made in the past decade, once you turn it on it is pretty much exactly like all the others. It did freeze up in the middle of an attempted upgrade to Natty Alpha 2, so I'm now starting over with a fresh image on the SD card.

It is small, and you can check to see how hot it is by putting your finger right on the CPU (not recommended).

You're Going to Be Terminated in the Next Three Years, If...

In addition to the tier 2 "Persistently Lowest Performing" schools I mentioned a couple days ago, here are the "tier 3" schools in Providence:

  • The MET (RIDE, not PPSD)
  • Alvarez High School
  • Asa Messer Elementary
  • Carl G. Lauro Elementary
  • E-Cubed Academy
  • Edmund W. Flynn Elementary
  • George J. West Elementary
  • Gilbert Stuart Middle
  • Harry Kizirian Elementary
  • Hope Arts
  • Hope IT
  • Mary E. Fogarty Elementary
  • Oliver Hazard Perry Middle
  • Pleasant View School
  • Robert L Bailey IV Elementary
  • Samuel Bridgham Middle
  • Sergeant Cornel Young, Jr. Elementary
  • Textron Chamber of Commerce Academy (charter)
  • Veazie Street School
  • William D'Abate Elementary

You might as well add the new Providence Career and Technical Academy to the list because they're well on their way too.

If this years terminations hold up, there's every reason to think that many or all of the above schools will either have their faculties fired or the schools closed in coming years, depending of course of how the federal regulations, etc. shake out.

The Miracle "C"

Miami Herald:

Central, Carvalho said, is the perfect place for Obama to kick off his nationwide tour.

“This school epitomizes the turnaround process,” Carvalho said. “This is a school where miracles have taken place.” ...

Within two years, student scores skyrocketed. Central boosted its grade to a record-high C.

I'm OK with the definition of a successful turnaround being getting from "F" to "C," although I'm not sure I'd call it a miracle.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

RI: the Reform Basket Case

Jennifer Jordan for the ProJo:

Rhode Island threw open its doors to charter-school operators last year, lifting a statewide cap and securing two federal grants to aid their ambitious expansion.

But few applicants have stepped through the threshold.

Massachusetts, which also took steps to encourage charter school growth, has been swamped with scores of applications. In mid-February, education officials approved 17 new alternative public schools to open this fall and next.

But despite Rhode Island’s welcome mat, just three organizations have sent letters of interest or applications to the Rhode Island Department of Education to open charter schools in 2012-2013.

This is attributable to mixed messages on at least three levels:

  • The election of charter-skeptic Gov. Lincoln Chafee in November.
  • The collapse of the Rhode Island Mayoral Academies/Democracy Prep relationship in December, calling into question just how welcoming RI reform advocates actually are to outsiders.
  • Deb Gist's attempt last May to abruptly and arbitrarily shut down the Highlander Charter School.

We may manage to destroy our school districts and stunt our charter school development at the same time. That's quite a trick.

Where Would Anyone Have Gotten That Idea?


(School Board President Kathleen Crain) said she also wanted to dispel rumors that the mayor and the board sent out the termination letters because they want to replace higher-paid teachers with less-senior teachers.

One way to do that would be to withdraw from their relationships with TFA and the New Teacher Project.

Nothing to Worry About East Siders!

The US Department of Education is investigating a complaint that the Boston school system’s plan to close or merge more than a dozen schools to save money discriminates against black and Latino students and their parents.

The complaint was brought Jan. 25 by the Black Educators’ Alliance of Massachusetts and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law of the Boston Bar Association, alleging a significant disparity in the races of students who would be affected by the school district’s plan. The School Committee approved the plan in December as a way to help plug a $63 million budget gap.

I'm sure that won't happen here.

Fiber to the Home: Providence, Vilnius

Providence (Verizon Fios):