After a period of feckless wrangling, I obtained from RIDE hard copies of the five "Charter School Application Reviewer Rubrics." I considered scanning them but frankly, they're pretty dull. You can pretty easily go through the rubric without noticing that, for example, the statistics cited in the application are wildly inaccurate, or that there are no bylaws, as is required by law. It's more worthless than scandalous.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
For the High-Performing Charter Schools project, award grants to recruit high-performing charter schools and promote expansion of existing high-performing charter schools in years 2-4 instead of years 1-2. In year 1, Rhode Island has worked to recruit out-of-state and in-state providers, but proposes to conduct the competitive application process and award grants starting in year 2. Charter management organizations (CMOs) have indicated that the original timeframe did not provide the CMOs sufficient time to create their plans and submit grant applications. In addition, award four grants of $250,000 each instead of two grants of $500,000 each. This adjustment in approach reflects a revised cost estimate and the State’s belief that offering a greater number of grants will ultimately raise student achievement in the State by allowing for a larger number of seats in high-performing charter schools.
The Department approves this request with the requirement that the State submits to the Department by September 9, 2011 an assurance that: (a) the State will make at least one charter school grant for either recruitment of a high-performing charter school or expansion of an existing high-performing charter school by school year 2012-13, and (b) that at least one new high-performing charter school will open no later than school year 2013-14. As discussed with the State by phone, for the purposes of this grant, expansion of an existing high-performing charter school will be defined as opening a new campus or serving a significant number of new students. This means that, for example, expanding to new grades without adding new students would not be considered expansion.
By my layman's reading, this says it is ok for the regents to vote "no" on AFMA this year.
Even if it means they come back with a stronger proposal next year that is approved, a well-planned and executed mayoral academy would be much better (for the kids!) than the half-assed deal they've tried to push this year.
Later... It does kind of blow your mind when you read a high-level official communique like this outlining rules for the disposition of millions of dollars, and you see just how vague it all is. Does a) mean you have to recruit a school to be opened in 2012-2013 or planned in 2012-2013 for opening in 2013-2014? If the former, why do you need a waiver? What was the plan?
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
During a three-decade career as a writer, editor and corporate executive, I traveled to more than 100 countries, met heads of state, and picked up wisdom that I thought was worth sharing. When I left publishing, I was senior vice president/group editorial director at Hachette Filipacchi Media (the bulk of which was recently sold to Hearst Magazines). Now, I was determined to make an impact directly with kids in the classroom, and I set out for the South Bronx.
Little did I know I was entering a system where all teachers are considered bad until proven otherwise. Also, from what I saw, each school's principal has so much leeway that it's easy for good management and honest evaluation to be crushed under the weight of Crazy Boss Syndrome. And, in my experience, the much-vaunted "data" and other measurements of student progress and teacher efficacy are far more arbitrary and manipulated than taxpayers and parents have been led to believe.
If Mayor Bloomberg's team is determined to get rid of "bad teachers," they've succeeded on at least one count: They've gotten rid of this bad teacher. Join me on my short and unhappy experience in the New York City public schools.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
A while back someone tried to pick a fight with me about how elitist it was cooking over fire, which had me scratching my head since perhaps 80% or more of the world’s population likely cooks over fire. I always figured I was the elitist one with my silly little gas oven in my apartment.
If Damon knows enough about education policy to speak at a rally, then he knows enough to take a meeting with Arne Duncan and debate it. Getting a chance to make your case to policy makers is what political activists are supposed to want. That's the goal. If Damon feels he doesn't know enough about the issue to survive a meeting with Duncan with his convictions intact, then he has no business speaking at a rally.
First, just making the case to Duncan isn't going to do any good, any more than having an opportunity to bend Paul Ryan's ear on taxes would. It isn't like Damon was speaking on behalf of an unknown new disease or emerging environmental problem; Duncan knows the arguments.
But more than that, we all know Duncan's approach would probably be to pretend to agree with Damon. He's very happy to act as if he is against the unpopular aspects and implications of his own policies.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
If we are going to have a Cranston/Providence mayoral academy, where the school is clearly designed to fit Providence's demographic, Providence's need for school improvement is unarguably greater, and Providence's political support for the project much broader and deeper than Cranston's, explain to me why the board will be chaired by the Mayor of Cranston?
This may seem like a quixotic point to make now, but believe me, it will seem important a few years from now if this goes ahead.
I attended the anti-Mayoral Academy rally yesterday evening in front of Cranston East High School. You'd have to call it an "anti-" rally because it wouldn't have happened yesterday otherwise, but the overall vibe was that of pride in and celebration of the Cranston Public Schools (and amusingly, anti-ProJo signs). Probably the absolutely perfect weather and charming Cranston kids frolicking on the lawn with Vivian and Julia helped too to set my mood.
The organizers did a good job of keeping this a rally by and for Cranston, especially since so much of support for the academies comes from people who won't be directly affected at all, but are just charter supporters brought in from other towns (or states). And nobody who was there could attribute the 400+ attendance to just turnout from public employees unions.
It is one thing to create a small, specialized charter school that presents an option to Cranston parents and students. They don't mind that at all, in fact one was approved by the Regents earlier this year without a peep of disapproval. It is another thing to propose a moving a block of students out of a poor urban system battered by the worst impulses in American education for decades. Nobody is unambiguously proud of the PPSD right now, even if we oppose large scale charter expansion on principle and for pragmatic reasons. But to move nearly 10% of the students out of a successful suburban district -- exactly the kind of district people move to for the quality schools -- makes no sense and will be stiffly opposed, and indeed never accepted even if imposed.
The ball is in the Regents' court. They've got ample reason to reject.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Achievement First Brownsville Charter School Family Handbook 2010 - 2011:
- All Absences – “Excused” and “Unexcused” – are still considered absences: Any day your child does not attend school is considered an absence. For example, missing school due to a serious illness (with a doctor’s note) or a death in the family is still considered being absent at AF Brownsville. While we appreciate a call or note from a parent or doctor explaining the absence, the student is still considered (and marked) absent from school.
- Suspensions are considered absences: If a student is absent from school due to suspension, these days will be treated the same as an absence.
- Nine Absences in a Year: If a student is absent nine times in a year, the student is considered a truant and is at risk of not being promoted to the next grade. The parent/guardian will be called to the school to meet with the Dean of Students and Principal. The Principal reserves the right to retain any student who misses more than nine days of school. In addition, a report may be filed with the appropriate child services agency.
...if a parent is more than an hour late picking up his or her child, the school reserves the right to take the child to the local police precinct for safe supervision.
ACCEPTANCE TO A 4-YEAR COLLEGE: Students must earn acceptance to a four year college in order to graduate from Amistad Academy – Elm City High School.
Bryant Jones, Charter School Specialist, RIDE (via email):
Sorry for the delay (in releasing RIDE's review of the AFMA application). Our lawyers have been reviewing the rubrics, and we do have to redact some information that might link our reviewers to their comments. We should be able to get you copies of the rubrics by the end of the week.
I mean, I'm accustomed to weird laws being applied in these kind of cases, but it is still... weird.
New York, Chicago, DC and Providence are all cities with "mayoral control" of their public school district. There is some variation in exactly how that is mediated. For example, is there some kind of mayor-appointed school board? Can its members be removed at any time? Do they have to be confirmed by city council? Do they negotiate and sign contracts?
Providence has had mayoral control for a long time, although it is still somewhat weaker than in New York, where the board members serve at the pleasure of the mayor.
To try to explain this weird "mayoral academy" construct we've now got in Rhode Island -- which is completely different than "mayoral control" of a district, I'll lay out a New York-based parallel to the Achievement First Mayoral Academies proposal in a way which may make more sense to outsiders who know more about the New York metropolitan area than they do about Rhode Island suburbs.
So... if Achievement First Mayoral Academies was transposed to NYC:
- The mayor of Yonkers would have submitted to the NY Dept. of Education a proposal to create a 80,000 seat (scaling up in proportion to the rough difference in scale between PVD and NYC) "Executive District," called the Most Excellent Executive District (MEED), that would by law have a student population divided equally between the two cities.
- No representative of the New York City school district or city government, or NYC community organization would have been involved in drafting the MEED proposal.
- While the Yonkers mayor would submit the proposal, the charter holder would in fact be New York Executive Districts (NYED), a non-profit chaired by the mayor of White Plains, whose board also includes the mayor of Yonkers, a few public figures from across New York state, and a couple school reform advocates from outside New York state entirely. NYED's board includes no representatives of NYC government or NYC constituency groups.
- The proposal itself was written by the putative contractor that would manage the executive district, Most Excellent Academies (MEA) from Boston, MA, which manages several urban charters in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The proposal, while strong in many areas, is primarily pasted in from their Mass.-based charters and does not address several of the unique legal requirements of executive district governance, including proposed by-laws, as required by NY statute and Dept. of Ed. regulation.
- While the lack of bylaws requires some quesswork about the governance structure of MEED, basically the chair of the district's governing board is either the Mayor of Yonkers or NYC, as chosen by NYED, with the balance of 8 board members being chosen by NYED from all residents of Yonkers and NYC.
- Let's pause and review the Mayor of NYC's power in his two districts now:
- New York City Department of Education: board serves at the pleasure of NYC mayor.
- Most Excellent Executive District: NYC mayor may serve as one member among nine at the pleasure of NYED, founded by and whose board is chaired by the Mayor of White Plains.
- NY Dept. of Ed. staff declines to require NYED or MEA to complete MEED's application in the initial review phase and pass on the proposal for public comment.
- Prior to the public meetings regarding the application, MEED backers make presentations to the Yonkers school board and an educational advisory panel, but undertake no significant public outreach in either Yonkers or NYC. The proposal is virtually unknown in NYC before the first public meeting. The Mayor of NYC is not briefed on the proposal before, during or after the public comment period, and takes no position on it.
- Significant opposition to MEED is demonstrated at two public meetings in Yonkers. Most public officials in Yonkers, other than the mayor, are strongly against the proposal. One meeting is added in NYC and is mostly attended by residents of Yonkers and a group of Most Excellent parents bussed down from Boston.
- The New York Board of Regents discusses but declines to vote on the proposal through the summer months. The NY Governor declines to take a definitive position, but is clearly skeptical.
- NYED stages a press conference where the mayors of New Rochelle and Mount Vernon express their enthusiasm for creating Executive Districts in the future.
- Question interlude: What do you think Mayor Bloomberg would think of all this?
- If you said, "He'd finally come out in favor of it, with no strings attached," you'd be right. And he'd get his own appointed board to pass a nonbinding resolution in favor of it as well.
The preceding is, of a fiction, but it is a direct translation of what's gone down in Providence this year. It is completely nuts.
Monday, August 22, 2011
Actually, I Just Heard a Story Today About Blackstone Valley Prep Theatening to Do This to a BVP Parent in Lincoln
But that’s not the big story I heard. This story, if true, is truly sickening. What I heard is that the charter school was explaining the schools expectations to parents who were not very educated themselves and didn’t really have their act together. They lived several miles from the school (another problem with choice) and the charter told the parent that if the student was late for school more than some number of times, the charter would call Child Protective Services and report the family. Of course this means that there could be the risk that the kids are taken into foster care.
This sort of thing is difficult to confirm, of course.
The school board in Providence will hear a presentation at its meeting this evening from Achievement First, the charter management group hoping to open a series of charter schools for students in Providence and Cranston.
Acting Providence School Board Chair Nina Pande says the group has been asked to give on opinion on whether it supports the application, which currently awaits approval from the State Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education.
If the school board really thinks that Dan McKee, Allan Fung, Joe Wilson and the rest of their cronies know more about educating the kids of Providence than Mayor Taveras and themselves, who am I do argue otherwise?
Kiersten Marek (for the sake of getting the word out I'm just going to quote the whole thing):
We are facing a bit of a “do or die” situation here in Cranston. On September 1, The Board of Regents will vote on a plan submitted by our Mayor to start a new district of schools that will be run by an out-of-state corporation called Achievement First.
Why am I concerned? Why have I partnered with other parents in Cranston to start a rally on Wednesday to oppose this plan? Well, lots of reasons. But the most important is because I believe that public education needs to be public, and this process of siphoning off funds to start large numbers of charter schools is going to hurt our public schools.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not wholesale opposed to charter schools. I considered sending our older daughter to one when we began the process of her public schooling, but chose to put my faith in the Cranston public school system instead. I am grateful for my soundness of mind when I made that decision with my husband seven years ago. Our older daughter has prospered and grown exceptionally well. The Cranston public schools had a lot to do with that.
But the situation with Achievement First is different. This is a proposal to start a whole new district of charter schools, and to eventually draw about 1800 children off of the Cranston and Providence schools. Here is what I see in the future for our local elementary school, which is a Title One school. These are the schools that the charters are likely to draw more children off of — the schools with high percentages of students living in low income households. So the first year, maybe 6 or 7 children go to the charter school from my local school. That means my principal is down about $100,000 when she goes to do her budget. The next year the total number drawn off our of elementary school is about 15. Now she is down over $200,000. As the grades increase in the charter school, more children go there. In year four, she is down about half a million. The school has had to lay off desperately needed staff and reduce programs even further. This is after we have already lost our gifted program, our music programs, and some of our athletic programs in the higher grades.
Some may call my predictions simplistic, but I call them realistic. This is what will most likely happen. Eventually, I fear that a school like the ours will be closed for lack of funding. Now we have a need for another new school because we have lost another neighborhood school. Now the charter district has a reason to expand.
This I believe is wrong. If people have issues with our schools’ unions and how much money our teachers make, let’s work on those issues. I would say we already are, as the teachers have signed a new contract in which they will get no raises. We can work on it more. If there are things that Achievement First and other charters are good at, we can integrate these things into our own schools. We do not need to waste money and time and energy setting up entirely new schools.
So if you have the time and the energy, I ask that you join me and lots of other concerned parents this coming Wednesday, August 24th, at Cranston East High School at 6 pm. We started a Facebook page to gather people together around this issue and to develop our own positive identity as a school district, and the group grew to about 175 members in 48 hours, and is continuing to grow. Please visit our Facebook page here. You can also RSVP to the event on Wednesday by visiting the event page here.
The fact is that the overwhelming majority of schools do not randomly assign students to teachers. This policy caused little concern in the past because teachers were not evaluated on the basis of the value they added to their students' knowledge and skills. But as Jesse Rothstein wrote: "Non-random assignment of students to teachers can bias value added estimates of teachers' causal effects" ("Student Sorting and Bias in Value Added Estimation: Selection on Observables and Unobservables").
States can't have it both ways. If they are going to adopt the value-added model as the centerpiece of their teacher evaluation systems, then it behooves them to use random assignment of students. By failing to do so, they seriously call into question the inferences made about the effectiveness of individual teachers. Confidence is indispensable when the stakes are so high.
(KC Supe) Covington went on to say that his staff had identified the “best” teachers in the district and would be giving them additional students. This was less than a week before school was scheduled to begin. The day after this announcement, teachers in the early grades received their class lists. Some first grade teachers were assigned 37 students per class, and some kindergarten teachers had 25-30 – compared to other teachers in the same schools, who had twenty students per class. Interestingly, some of these larger classes were staffed with brand new Teach for America recruits.
Then on August 19, Covington hosted a breakfast for eight elementary classroom teachers from about six schools out of 23, in grades 3-5th, whom he identified as “the best in the district.” He did not explain how he determined that they were the best. He told them that if they were willing to take 6 to 8 additional students, he would give each of them them $10,000. This would mean they would have class sizes in the mid to upper thirties.
For the first year ever, principals were not allowed to assign teachers or kids to classes within their own buildings. Covington’s staff did all of that. They decided who would teach what grade level and which kids would be assigned to each teacher. Before, this has ALWAYS been handled by each principal for his/her school.
ALBANY - Gov. Cuomo signed legislation this week cracking down on barbershops that sell the sugary alcoholic drinks known as "nutcrackers."
Sunday, August 21, 2011
These are our demands:
We want control of our bodies.
Decisions will now be ours.
You carry out your noble actions,
We will carry our noble scars.
No one here is asking,
No one here is asking,
But there is a question of trust.
You will do what looks good to you on paper;
We will do what we must.
Return, return, return.
Carry my body. (x8)
You will do what looks good to you on paper;
We will do what we must, must, must.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Wed 5pm Parent Rally in Cranston
Parent Rally in front of Cranston High School East
Wednesday 8/24 @ 6 pm
Cranston parent groups are planning a rally in front of Cranston High School East on Wednesday 8/24 @ 5 pm
Fung, Gist, RIDE, RI CAN and Achievement First continue to attack Cranston Public Schools. The Cranston Community will not be silenced any longer!
Please help turn families out. Spread the word to Cranston families and interested parents! Text, email and call people you know in Cranston and RI parents to attend this important rally to stand up for our schools and our children.
Briefly... Mayor Taveras has finally come out in support of AFMA. This is good since it makes him more accountable. The pathetic thing is that Providence would be far better off if this school didn't have to be a mayoral academy at all, and a mayor really looking out for his own city would have rejected this year's proposal out of hand until a new proposal could be drafted taking into account Providence's interests.
In other news, it looks like DfER's "all your funding formula increase are belong to us" is going to be the party line. Since Cranston and Providence will be getting more money from the state, most or all of that increase can go into the mayoral academies. See, it's not a cut! Just a smaller increase.
I'm not expecting an outright win here, but this has been far more difficult and damaging to the reformy agenda than anyone expected. Rhode Island is quickly becoming the only state in the country where when people hear the word "charter schools" they think of posturing jackass suburban mayors.
Also, if AFMA is passed to the next step in the process, it'll be interesting to see if anyone has a lawsuit ready to challenge what looks to me like a clearly legally insufficient application.
The report concluded the U.S. could increase GDP growth per capita by enhancing its students' math skills. According to the report, over an 80-year period, gains from increasing the percentage of proficient students to Canadian or Korean levels could yield $75 trillion:Increasing the percentage of proficient students to the levels attained in Canada and Korea would increase the annual U.S. growth rate by 0.9 percentage points and 1.3 percentage points, respectively. Since long-term average annual growth rates hover between 2 and 3 percentage points, that increment would lift growth rates by between 30 and 50 percent.
Aside from the issue I quoted from Dean Baker yesterday, annual growth rates don't just "hover" around 2 to 3 percent, they are effectively capped there by policy. You might remember this from the Bush administration. Probably not. Anyway, in many cases the additional growth the study predicts would simply result in the Fed raising interest rates to "cool down" the economy. Otherwise, you start having to pay people more to work. Which would be bad.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
The point, of course, is that all such arguments amount to committing the fallacy of composition. Or, if you prefer, they’re saying that we can solve the jobs problem through Lake Wobegon economics, creating an environment in which every state, every age group, and every occupation offers wages that are below average.
The essence of macroeconomics is understanding why such things are a fallacy, why what happens if one group does something is not at all what happens when everyone does it. And it’s a sad commentary on the state of economics when tenured professors at famous schools don’t get that distinction.
I've been thinking that a lot of the economics-based school reform strategies are making the same error, without knowing what it was called.
For example, closing and otherwise disruptively reconstituting an individual "persistently low performing" school makes sense, but at what point do schools in general come to be seen as unstable, transitory entities instead of community institutions. What's the impact of that?
Or the idea that a perfectly efficient and transparent market for teacher labor would not systematically disadvantage the poorest communities.
I could go on...
Keynes' point is that changes that could increase any individual's chance of employment (e.g. improved education or accepting lower wages) would not necessarily lead to lower unemployment in general. In other words, if all workers could instantly get a college education then the main result would be that we would have more unemployed college grads.
This story would seem to be supported by two basic facts about the downturn. First, huge numbers of people who had the skills and desire to work before the collapse of the housing bubble, now do not have jobs. It seems difficult to explain the sudden loss of millions of jobs as a supply side phenomenon. The other basic fact is that unemployment has risen across the board in every major skills grouping and geographical location. This is very hard to explain as a supply side story.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
I believe that Rhode Island's public education system is good, but it can be better. Charter schools are just one piece of improving public education in our state. For that reason, where and how we establish charter schools must be a strategic process.
The Governor's comment is particularly on point considering this from the same day:
PROVIDENCE — Four mayors Tuesday urged Governor Chafee to support more mayoral schools in Rhode Island — public charter schools that involve mayors and other city officials in the education of students.
“We need to think about doing things differently,” said Cumberland Mayor Daniel J. McKee, who helped open the state’s first mayoral school in Cumberland in 2009.
At a State House rally, Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian and North Providence Mayor Charles A. Lombardi said they are considering similar schools in their communities.
So... let's say Providence gets a Cranston/Providence mayoral academy next year -- based on no input or participation from Providence officials. Then next year a Warwick/Providence mayoral academy -- with no input or participation from Providence. Then maybe a North Providence/Providence mayoral academy. Each of these planning on taking another 5% of our students and corresponding budget. All of this explicitly politically driven; but by the needs of suburban mayors, with Providence having no say?
And it is pretty easy to imagine each of these suburbs losing interest in these schools designed for high-poverty urban communities, particularly when new mayors come in. Picture a scenario where a new Providence mayor is faced with not only taking over the PPSD, but being required to chair the board of three separate, competing charter districts. Does that make sense to you?
What we're talking about here is a centrally planned -- by RIDE, the US ED, and RIMA -- 10-plus year regional reorganization centering on Providence. Posing as a disjointed series of individual initiatives, with the whole plan never discussed, if there is one. Frankly, there probably isn't one, which is even worse.
The fact of the matter is that the Achievement First proposal would be much stronger if it, like Blackstone Valley Prep, included four cities or towns. If Warwick wants in, they should be in on this proposal, and RIMA should find another city to participate. Get all four actively on board. Then you'll at least have a proposal for a school that's not designed to either collapse or be in a constant state of political agitation.
Yes, that would take longer, but you know what, whose stupid idea was getting mayors involved in the first place. Not mine. Don't blame me. It isn't a charter friendly law, it is a giant waste of time to the RI school reform movement. It is idiocy. Every time they hold a press conference with a bunch of posturing mayors, they're diverting their own attention from actually improving schools. Which is ok with me since I don't agree with their educational philosophy anyhow, but it offends my sense of efficiency and beaurocratic aesthetics.
“The mayors and administrators aren’t going away on this issue,” (Mayor Mckee) said.
Maybe, but the CMO's will. Democracy Prep already has.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
To enable market-oriented economies to operate as they should and can, we need to return to the right balance between markets and provision of public goods. That means moving away from both the Anglo-Saxon model of laissez-faire and voodoo economics and the continental European model of deficit-driven welfare states. Both are broken.
The right balance today requires creating jobs partly through additional fiscal stimulus aimed at productive infrastructure investment. It also requires more progressive taxation; more short-term fiscal stimulus with medium- and long-term fiscal discipline; lender-of-last-resort support by monetary authorities to prevent ruinous runs on banks; reduction of the debt burden for insolvent households and other distressed economic agents; and stricter supervision and regulation of a financial system run amok; breaking up too-big-to-fail banks and oligopolistic trusts.
Over time, advanced economies will need to invest in human capital, skills and social safety nets to increase productivity and enable workers to compete, be flexible and thrive in a globalized economy. The alternative is – like in the 1930s - unending stagnation, depression, currency and trade wars, capital controls, financial crisis, sovereign insolvencies, and massive social and political instability.
Monday, August 15, 2011
At 9:55 p.m., Ptl. Jared Stanzione was on patrol on Hamilton Street when he noticed a young man stumbling and then collapsing on the street. Stanzione went to check on the young man and noticed blood on his back and several puncture wounds consistent with stabbing on his left side.
Around 10:00 there were four or five police cars across the street with a Hispanic male spread out over the hood of one of them. Nothing too out of the ordinary, but one of the cops raised his voice enough to be heard above the excellent skateboarding documentary I was watching, which is actually pretty unusual.
So I looked out, couldn't really determine if one of my neighbors was the person being searched, but noticed that our new neighbors whom I haven't had much of a chance to talk to were outside. Since things seemed to be calming down, I went over for a chat.
So, we were standing and talking at the entrance of their house, about thirty feet from the closest cops, when this kid came down the street with no shirt on, scratches and blood down his shirt. As he passed us, we could see a lot of blood soaking the back of his pants. He just laid down on the sidewalk near the cops, and they came over, checked him out and called for an ambulance.
Question: What do you say to the (young, white) couple who just bought the house across the street after a 16 year old Hispanic kid walks down the street bleeding from multiple stab wounds and lays down on the sidewalk right in front of the three of you?
Since Baltimore schools CEO Andrés Alonso took the helm four years ago, only about one-quarter of the system's principals have remained in their posts, a high turnover rate that has rankled education advocates who say they are concerned that leadership vacuums hamper progress.
With just 21/2 weeks until students return to the classroom, nine schools remain without permanent leadership assignments. Late Tuesday, Alonso appointed the 15th new principal in two weeks as the system races to fill a total of 42 vacancies that had opened this past school year alone — about half of those retirements or resignations.
Right now it can be extremely difficult for a veteran teacher to leave an urban district for another teaching job, regardless of his or her qualifications or accomplishments in our most challenging schools. Who knows how many would get the hell out if they could. Jennifer is talking about using a private school headhunter next year; something that would have been inconceivable for us only a couple years ago. What will happen if the economy ever recovers, and we get near full employment again? This entire reform edifice would collapse.
Administrators, from what I can tell, still have a lot more mobility and can actually move in and out of urban districts if they want to. Who would want to be an administrator in Providence today?
I'd love it if the Sun's story had some info about where the resigning principals were going.
We can also test this hypothesis by looking up Whitney Tilson’s record of campaign contributions. She’s given to Mark Begich, Ronnie Musgrove, Kay Hagan, Kirsten Gillibrand, George Miller, Michael Bennet, James Cluburn, Mark Warner, Mary Landrieu, Joe Biden, the New York State Democratic Party, Paul Kanjorsky, Chuck Schumer, Democrats for Education Reform, Alan Khazei, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Jim Himes, Gary Peters, Krystal Ball, Jared Polis, Elwyn Tinkleberg, Tom Allen, Tom Udall, the Democratic National Committee, Reshma Saujani, and Russ Feingold. This looks to me like a person who’s sincerely interesting in improving the lot of poor people. A man who perhaps takes a special interest in K-12 education relative to other issues, but who is putting money on the line to help elect candidates who regularly vote for higher taxes on the rich in order to finance more generous social services.
That looks to me like a person giving money to new and prospective legistators which support his positions on education, senators on education-related committees, Democrats in close races, particularly against real nutjobs, and other intermediate organizations also doing the same.
It is bad enough that the rich can buy so much influence in our system, do we have to thank and congratulate them for it too?
PROVIDENCE — A Superior Court judge has reinforced a state Supreme Court decision that says public-employee unions can’t go to bat for retired workers if the former workers have a dispute with a municipality. ...
The union filed a grievance in 2006 on behalf of retired teachers, saying the school board had no right to create two health-care premium rates –– one for working teachers and another for retirees. As a result of the change, premium rates for retirees increased by about 55 percent, compared with 10 percent for active employees.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
I attended a 2-day Common Core training sponsored by the NC Dept of Ed. In the English Language Arts (ELA) workshop, we were told that one of the GREAT things about the common core was that we no longer should teach entire novels. Snippets and targeted short passages from novels were all we needed to teach ELA concepts. There was an audible, collective gasp from the people in the room. But I was the only one who raised my hand and questioned this pronouncement. And the trainers continued to tout the wonders of using shorter texts.
This is only one example of the Common Core sucking the enjoyment out of reading. How will students engage with short passages?
We were also told that now that we have Common Core writing standards, we can throw writing programs out the window because the writing standards are so specific. No more Lucy Calkins. No more writers' workshop. WHAT? Again, I protested and was shot down.
I realize that i haven't even addressed the accountability issues because we have no assessments that match the Common Core. We have no money for textbooks and yet the Common Core trainers told us that we need to start looking at textbooks that support the Common Core. Surely new assessments and mandatory textbook upgrades are in our very near future.
The trainers did say that the Common Core assessments would involve much more than bubbling. Even at the lowest levels (K-2) the assessments will be "short or long" answer - essay-style. Can you even imagine a 5-year old ESL student taking a test like this? Can you imagine the time involved in this type of standardized testing? I am not by any means saying that we should eliminate all testing. i assess my kids every day - often the assessments are observation and notes. And yes, those assessments are NOT standardized. But they drive my instruction and the support student learning.
Not that this is "Aha! the true meaning of Common Core exposed," but the range of interpretations of what it all means is going to be vast, at least until the tests are out, and I'd love to know the range of what teachers are being told.
In particular, reading long, complex books is clearly something that the supporting CC materials want to encourage, but the standards themselves don't so much, and the tests of course may not at all.
If you read the business and even the political press, you've doubtless encountered the claim that the economy is a mess because the threat to reregulate in the wake of a global-economy-wrecking financial crisis is creating "uncertainty." That is touted as the reason why corporations are sitting on their hands and not doing much in the way of hiring and investing.
This is propaganda that needs to be laughed out of the room.
Just like these sculpted lads (on the cover of Men's Health), corporate America takes extreme measures to look great for the end-of-quarter shoot. But the problem in the business world is that public companies are “dieting down” all the time, starving their businesses of needed investment and engaging in short-term expediencies.
Even worse, the belief that it is reasonable to try to meet an unhealthy standard has infected the business psyche. Body dysmorphia, a distortedly unflattering perception of the body, occurs when people are dissatisfied and pre- occupied with their appearance. Examples include teen-age boys who use growth hormone to achieve a muscular look, along with growing numbers of men and women afflicted with eating disorders.
Like individuals who identify with an unattainable standard of perfection, Big Business increasingly suffers from corporate dysmorphia. Corporations deeply and sincerelyembrace practices that, like the use of steroids, pump up their performance at the expense of their well-being.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
One odd thing I noticed about the recent National Center for Educational Statistics report on the varying rigor of different state standards and assessments is that their model estimates that based on NAEP scores New Hampshire and Vermont have somewhat more rigorous assessments than Rhode Island -- despite the fact that all three use the NECAP. They aren't huge differences, but enough that the +/- 2 standard error ranges don't overlap, and putting RI as much as 10 places behind the top NECAP state in ranking.
To be honest, I'm not curious enough about this to try to figure out where to check to see if all three use the same cut scores, but I thought it was worth mentioning if someone else around here knew. That is, it isn't clear to me whether this is showing a bias in their model or an actual difference in how the states apply NECAP scores.
It would be nice if someone tried to do this kind of analysis for high school as well. It is harder though because there is no NAEP past 8th grade.
State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist had this to say in a written response yesterday:
“Though I have not yet reviewed the contract in detail, I am pleased to hear that, under this contract, the Providence schools will base teacher hiring, placement, and retention on teacher qualifications and student need, which is clearly in the best interest of our students.”
I'm pretty sure Commissioner Gist is not actually in favor of basing hiring, placement and retention on "teacher qualifications," and nobody, including Commissioner Gist, has put forth a plan for doing so based on "student need."
Sunday, August 07, 2011
Dear Arne and Bill,
I really don't understand you two, the U.S. Secretary of Education and the world's second richest man and noted philanthropist. How can you possibly say that public education can be reformed without eliminating poverty?
There is, of course, plenty of room for improvement in "reforming" America's schools, from a variety of perspectives. You're just have to be realistic about how much you'll get out of it without at least reducing poverty and its direct effects.
I'd say, you could successfully reform public education -- the schools -- without actually closing the achievement gap by more than, say, a third. Since "the research" says that in-school factors account for about 1/3rd of the gap, that should be the optimistic, back of the envelope prediction.
Saturday, August 06, 2011
82% failing schools implosion is the biggest jolt to cult members since doom failed to appear on Saturday, May 21st. We don't want to sound like we told you so or anything, but we told you so - more than once.And, let's not forget about this one.
A more helpful link is to this post by Charles Barone. And yes! I'm convinced, but of what?
Barone explains that yes in one paragraph NCLB clearly calls for 100% proficiency by 2014, but a careful reading of subsequent paragraphs reveals this provision to be as full of loopholes and exceptions as the rest of the law. It was written this way to provide glib political talking points but the seemingly tough policies could be evaded as necessary in the future as necessary.
Barone is clearly and patiently explaining to you that 100% by 2014 is political bullshit, and he knows that because he was the one who wrote it that way. So there you go, straight from the bull's ass.
But there has to be some disincentive to writing intentionally misleading public legislation, and that disincentive is people repeating your bullshit long after it is useful to you, but when it becomes useful to them. If you don't like it, write straightforward laws that promote good public policy in the real world, instead of this shit.
You’re studying schools systems around the world, so you know that accountability and competition are part of all the successful examples to some degree. You are also quite aware that none of them—NONE—have become successful because of a strategy that sees the goal of the educational endeavor as the production of standarized test scores and statistics regarding graduation, college enrollment, etc.
This reductive view is makes this reform agenda inherently “corporate” and “market driven.” There has to be a bottom line, so the entire goal of education, the entire philosophy is being bent to fit a bottom line mentality.
Note as well however that in 2011 in the USA, many people, including the President, pay a lot of money to escape the “market driven reform” economy entirely. That is, they pay to send their children to schools which are not required to view their children as potential units of instructional output.
We all understand that for our own children—and most teachers come to understand the same for their students—that what we truly value goes far beyond a few test scores. Other successful countries know this. But we cannot have an efficient market without numbers, so we will build a system around those numbers.
Friday, August 05, 2011
1. What were the main reasons that brought you to DC?
As a former (and hopefully future) public school teacher and current public school parent, I am disillusioned with most of the education policies that are part of NCLB and RTTT. These policies encourage and incentivize poor practice and they narrow curricula. These policies have failed to improve the quality of education, to meaningfully reform systems in need of reform. Dysfunction and inconsistent practice in schools and systems targeted by these policies has been replaced by dysfunctional and ideological rigidity and consistency of poor practice (or what I like to call a McDonald’s-alization of public education)—that’s not progress, it’s just another version of bad.
Bingo. For most of us, that's really what it is all about. That's really what it feels like has changed. Ten years ago, carving out a space in a public school in Providence for the kind of education we value was difficult, but now it is virtually impossible. It is simply not allowed. That is what got me to DC.
Everyone in the larger CNN piece makes this point quite consistently.
Parents and teachers may wonder whether the show-down over mass termination notices and several school closures was nothing more than a bargaining chip, as the administration sought contract concessions from teachers.
My guess -- and it is purely a guess -- is that firing the teachers instead of laying them off seemed like a "neat idea" to some folks in City Hall and the School Department a la Ollie North:
I thought using the Ayatollah's money to support the Nicaraguan resistance was a neat idea.
Because in the end, it is just a small technical detail -- fired without cause vs. laid off -- especially if neither has ever happened to you or anyone close to you.
As it turned out the the anger and political damage caused far outweighed whatever benefits they thought they were receiving, and the Mayor had to use this contract to at least blunt the outrage of the teachers.
Not that it is a great contract, but the whole process could have gone completely pear shaped.
To be honest, I don't know what was up with all the closures, one way or the other.
In grades 3, 4, 5, and 6, after all of the upheavals and firings and punitive teacher evaluation schemes, and after replacing 50% of the teaching staff in the regular public schools, paying huge fees and salaries to self-described experts, and shipping over one-third of the student population to essentially unregulated charter schools, what do Rhee, Fenty, Henderson, and Gray have to show for it?
The federal agency that funded community health centers, then called the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), sent an official to tell Geiger that he cannot use health center funds for groceries called “prescriptions.” Geiger met with the federal official and said: “The last time I looked in my textbooks, the specific therapy for malnutrition was food.” End of OEO complaint in 1965.
I think we'll hear both sides making this point out loud more often going forward:
At a time in U.S. history when the role and size of government are being heatedly debated and, for now, has tilted toward reducing government-sponsored social safety nets and cutting back expenditures in the name of controlling national debt and deficit reduction, the reform ideology of “no excuses” has the virtue of being less expensive. In the short-term, at least.
Thursday, August 04, 2011
But are the ‘bad guys’ all on one side? In Newark, New Jersey, a well-meaning ‘reform’ is being scuttled by a union contract (also signed by a school board) that prevents schools from replacing ineffective teachers. The Wall Street Journal describes in detail how failing schools simply shuffled ineffective teachers — ’you take my five, and I will take your five’ — because the contract guarantees jobs to tenured teachers. That outrage adds more fuel to the fire for those who see unions as the source of education’s problems.
First, is this a "well meaning 'reform?'" I like the scare quotes, but this "reform" was undertaken strictly as a requirement of receiving $5 million last year from the federal government. This kind of reconstitution in general doesn't have a great track record (look at Chicago), and in particular, I'm aware of no research base for the requirement to remove 50% of existing staff. This is a punitive measure imposed by the federal government as a condition for receiving much needed funding.
Second, in addition to whatever is in the contract, these teachers can't be fired by state law, so they have to be given jobs somewhere in the district.
Third, this gets into the classic "stupid or lying" conundrum regarding the U.S. Dept. of Education. Of course the teachers just have to be shuffled around. Were they too stupid to see that's what would happen? Or are they playing dumb because it is just a lever to push for changes in tenure laws?
Fourth, we do not know if the teachers in question were "ineffective" or not! How many teachers in a high school teach tested subjects that contributed directly to these schools being named low performing? Almost certainly less than half. I'm not going to dig in to New Jersey's formulas for determining the "persistently lowest performing," but in Rhode Island, 80% of your school can be awesome but math alone will shut you down without a second glance. In Rhode Island the ratings influenced by data going back years. What if these teachers just arrived? What if there are complex local explanations to these moves -- were the good teachers actually going to one school for some reason? We simply don't know. We know these were teachers at a school found to be ineffective according to some data analysis, that's all.
Fifth, to top it all off, doing this the "right way," not guaranteeing jobs based on seniority to people displaced according to the federal government's arbitrary cut-off, will apparently cost Newark $10 million to $15 million a year, apparently meaning that Newark is losing five to ten million a year on these arbitrary "reforms" that probably won't work at all.
My views are such that, though I was invited to speak (at SOS) this weekend, I declined. Having spent 30 years at this I come to the conclusion that until and unless teachers treat students with greater intellectual respect, nothing will change. Until and unless school is defiend as talent development and not a march through The Valued Past, we will fail. School is boring for many if not most. When was the last time you folks shadowed students for a day? It is a grim experience. It is endlessly easy to blame Others, those Outsider bada guys. But from where I sit, the problem isa Pogo problem: I have met the enemy; it is us.
Let me speak a blunt truth: few teachers truly understand their job at a deep level. Every workshop we do, we ask teachers to write their own Mission statement; few can do it. They are so drawn to cover content instead of using content to engage minds that even the best schools are nowhere near as good as they should be. The students who succeed are those who trust adults and delay gratification.
What Wiggins seems to be insulated from is the extent to which these decisions have been taken away from teachers -- or educators at all -- in the past few years in our urban districts, and the ferocity with which teachers and schools and he might actually approve of have been attacked. Again, not by other teachers.
If the "real reformers" at SOS win, we get to have the debates Wiggins is talking about.
Also, if I was a PPSD teacher sitting in a professional development session and after everything that happened the past three years someone asked me to write my own mission statement, I'd write down "Go. Fuck. Yourself." and throw it in the garbage. I'm sure Wiggins would reach the conclusion I don't understand my job.
But policy matters–or the advocates of high-stakes testing hopes it changes behavior–and to pretend it can only provide benefits is inconsistent with the whole theory of action of high-stakes accountability. Essentially, if you think you can change behavior, you can change it in all sorts of ways. Whether it’s beneficial on the whole is an empirical question, unless you want faith-based accountability policy.
So the relevant question for me is, under what circumstances does cheating become a salient behavior in a high-stakes regime? I’m going to go all Popperian on you and make some testable claims.
- There is a measurable variation in cheating no matter what the pressure behind a test is — that is, if we can measure cheating to be able to make some distinctions, there will be differences in cheating rates both in low-stakes environments and high-stakes environments.
- There will be more cheating in high-stakes environments than in low-stakes environments — that does not mean that there aren’t going to be high-cheating settings in low-stakes environment that are worse than some settings in high-stakes environments.
- One of the key factors in rates of cheating will be perceived opportunity, or the salience of cheating as a visible option.
- Another key factor will be the perception that cheating is a more reliable way of attaining goals (including avoiding shame/punishment) than effort.
- Of the two, salience will be more important in determining level of cheating.
This general idea has been dancing in my head a long time, and I'm glad Dorn managed to pin it down for me.
This also relates to the "but people don't have to do test prep to prepare for tests, and if they are smart they won't" argument. If there is a system of incentives that leads, say, 75% of schools to do bad test prep instead of high quality instruction, you need to fix the incentives, or simply get rid of them. Incentives don't have inherent virtue, that's kind of the point. They're only valuable to the extent that they actually, empirically result in the desired outcome.
In 2000, we spent 3.7% of GDP on the military. The Pentagon didn’t have to hold bake sales. We’re now spending 5.4%. Merely going back to 2000 would save 1.7% of GDP, or $255 billion. If over the next decade we spent 3.7% of GDP instead of 5.4%, we’d save $3.6 trillion. That’s close to what many of the deficit hawks are aiming for. Let the Bush tax cuts expire and bump up the top rate a few points and everyone could have free child care and free college tuition!
The PARCC Content Frameworks for Literacy/ELA for 9-12 (all I looked at) are not much more than a transcription and reformatting of the Common Core ELA/Literacy standards. Which makes sense, because, despite what people tend to read into them, the CC standards are very narrow and specific.
PARCC agrees with my analysis that the "standards" are equivalent to "tasks," thus in each grade level band there are 9 specific analytic tasks to be rehearsed with a variety of texts, demonstrated through a variety of informational and argumentative writing. And that's pretty much it. That's pretty much the whole high school ELA curriculum.
This framework will help people to understand what CC ELA is all about.
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
The three main lines of critical pre-Save Our Schools spin were:
- These people don't really have a clear agenda (Merrow).
- These people have an idealized plan for something that has never existed in the real world (Mead).
- These people have a hidden agenda (Quick and Ed).
With Linda Darling-Hammond leading off the main program, I'd say the overall policy thrust of the event was what Jal Mehta recently called the "international path:"
One possibility would be to follow the international leaders by making teaching a more selective and higher status profession, which would put the quality control upfront, and thus decrease the need for such extensive external testing and accountability. In terms of existing teachers, we'd seek to decrease the acrimony between teachers and their representatives and policymakers, and follow Ontario's lead in finding ways to combine internal expertise with external expertise and support to generate improved practice. We would also seek greater equalization of funding. This would require a radical shift in at least three ways: a) we'd move from taking teachers from the bottom 40 percent of the distribution to the top third; b) we'd move away from our world-leading emphasis on testing and external accountability in favor of support and capacity building; c) teachers unions would need to take on a professionalized role in addition to a strictly bread and butter one.
The idealistic vision of a school system unlike one that has ever existed belongs to the accountability hawks. This was a rally for, in broad terms, the kind of education system dozens of successful countries around the world have.
More bluntly, this was an anti-testing and punitive accountability rally. The theme was constant from Darling-Hammond's "Let them eat tests," to John Kuhn's vow to "march headlong into the teeth of your horrific blame machine" to Matt Damon's affirmation, "...none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have brought me so much professional success — none of these qualities that make me who I am ... can be tested."
As Diane Ravitch commented on Merrow's site:
To make improvement, you must first stop doing the wrong things, so it is necessary to name those wrong things: test-based accountability (aka high-stakes testing), rewards and punishments for test scores, privatization, and de-professionalization.
Especially when reformers in government find it easy to claim to have ample "common ground" when you start presenting your alternatives. Here RIDE has been simultaneously writing grants to pilot the exact type of programs they're hurriedly closing, citing examples of successes elsewhere that are inferior to similar local efforts that are being dismantled. They're in favor of almost everything (except tenure and a few other work rules). They just pursue those goals with a wide range of vigor.
But if you want detailed proposals, all the major speakers have many books you can read, or even better, look at the schools where they worked. These aren't just dreamers, they're doers.
I knew this wasn't going to be an impressively large rally. It really was grassroots. As Deborah Meier mentioned, a few people decided that there just had to be some kind of demonstration this summer in DC, so they just picked a date and went for it. It was a step in the right direction. A lot of teachers will see at least the Matt Damon videos over the next six months and know that the demonstration took place. The unions might decide to really get involved next year -- but nobody paying any attention to the AFT and NEA would think them willing or able to lead something like this.
It was primarily a networking event, and on that level I think it was more successful than most people will realize. Jennifer and I went with Jeff and Roxanna Elkner, and mostly chatted with Doyle during the demo and march. All of us ended up spontaneously meeting people from back home who we didn't know were coming or didn't know at all. Without really trying. I suspect that was a very common and potentially powerful experience.
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
It seems pretty good, all things considered.
From what I've heard, it is the administrators -- principals -- who are really getting screwed after their union was decertified. Right now this is mildly amusing, but it may make it impossible to attract principal talent or retain what we've got.
‘College for All’ is a phrase that is thrown around a lot in the media and in policy debates – sometimes by people who support it, other times by those who deride it. But there are two important things to remember in this discussion: 1) College for All doesn’t mean Harvard for all – it can include vocational and technical training and 2-year as well as 4-year degrees...
I'm well aware of this strange distinction, but it is worth pointing out its strangeness again. Virtually everyone agrees on the value of "vocational and technical training and 2-year as well as 4-year degrees." Support for policies that encourage this should be near universal. On the other hand, "college for all" taken for its plain meaning is controversial, dubious on a number of levels. So how did we end up with this terminology? Why?
"College for All" seems about as savvy as calling food stamps "Steak for Everyone."
Edison committed serious resources, talent, and energy to the effort and as authorizer of the two schools we did our best to understand what Edison was doing and to gauge whether or not the blended learning effort was working for kids. Frankly, this was hard for us to do because the only data we had to validate the effectiveness of the program were state test scores and data shared with us by Edison. The state test scores showed mixed results while the Edison data showed student achievement trending upwards in both schools. After two years of serious commitment, Edison largely moved on from the E2 effort in Dayton. We came away disenchanted from the experience because we couldn’t find solid evidence of student learning gains. We also came away appreciative of just how hard and expensive it is to integrate digital learning experiences and opportunities into the academic program of high-need urban schools, and how difficult it is to create viable accountability models for such programs.
Smells like an attempt to create a sustaining innovation. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
You generally don't have evaluations of disruptive innovations since they spread somewhat unexpectedly, but if you really wanted an evaluation of disruptive innovation on its own terms, you'd be looking for an outcome like, "It wasn't as good, but it was good enough, spread like a weed and was really cheap!"
The New Teacher Project, which oversees the fellows program, is working with four school districts — Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls and Woonsocket. It is now in 25 school districts around the country.
During the first two years, a total of 42 fellows completed the year-long program and earned their Rhode Island teaching certificates. Twenty-five are in the pipeline this summer, according to Allison Strumolo, assistant director of the Summer Institute.
Only three fellows have found jobs so far, but Strumolo is confident vacancies will arise next month.
If the fellows can’t find jobs in the four urban districts, they can apply for openings in the “urban ring,” which includes districts such as North Providence, East Providence and West Warwick
High school history and social studies is probably an especially low-demand discipline, but according to my wife, exactly zero jobs in Rhode Island of that type were posted on SchoolSpring (which everyone seems to use) this year. I'm sure there are more openings for math, special ed, etc., but still, the market on the whole is probably the most oversaturated it has been... ever.
In the resilient schools, poverty still plays a big role, but one that the school has managed to curb. The study identified 18 schools in the district as being resilient because both their poverty and reading levels were above the median. Eighteen schools is not a very big sample, but the patterns among these schools are interesting nonetheless: the resilient schools had higher per-pupil spending and lower student-to-teacher ratios than other schools. It’s unsurprising that spending plays a role: Florida currently ranks last in per-pupil expenditure among all 50 states.
Monday, August 01, 2011
Overshadowed by the threat of teacher layoffs, New York City public school principals faced a suite of challenges as the 2010-11 school year drew to a close: Budget dickering and back-room negotiations meant colossal delays in school budgets and deep uncertainty about faculty layoffs, hiring and teacher evaluations linked to tenure. Funds that prudent principals had saved for the proverbial "rainy day" were tapped by the Department of Education, leaving school coffers bare. Changes this year at the top in DOE's Tweed Courthouse headquarters meant that some schools were still waiting for chancellor-signed diplomas less than 24 hours before graduation. And concerns that Regents scored might be "scrubbed"—re-scored to push students over the magical 65 passing score—meant that tens of thousands of exams had to be reviewed and then were hand-scanned at schools and faxed to Albany for distant scoring, a process that consumed hours and increased potential errors in coding, transmission and communication—and that roundly contradicted the state's long-standing policy barring the scanning of Regents exams to protect their integrity.
Some great reporting.