Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

DIY Crossover

Nice video of Pontus Alv skating a humble but well-known DIY skate spot in Sweden jammed between some railroad tracks and an industrial area. Shot from a remote-controlled helicopter for Maker crossover points.

Pontus Alv Aerial Test from Ricard Rinaldo on Vimeo.

School Reform and the Tidal Wave of Surplus Capital

James Livingston:

Growth has happened precisely because net private investment has been declining since 1919 and because consumer expenditures have, meanwhile, been increasing. In theory, the Great Depression was a financial meltdown first caused, and then cured, by central bankers. In fact, the underlying cause of this disaster wasn’t a short-term credit contraction engineered by bankers. The underlying cause of the Great Depression was a fundamental shift of income shares away from wages and consumption to corporate profits, which produced a tidal wave of surplus capital that couldn’t be profitably invested in goods production -- and wasn’t invested in goods production.

In terms of classical, neoclassical, and supply side theory, this shift should have produced more investment and more jobs, but it didn’t. Paying attention to historical evidence allows us to debunk the myth of private investment and explain why the redistribution of income has become the condition of renewed, balanced growth. Doing so lets us see that public-sector incentives to private investment -- say, tax cuts on capital gains or corporate profits -- are not only unnecessary to drive economic growth; they also create tidal waves of surplus capital with no place to go except speculative bubbles that cause crises on the scale of the Great Depression and the recent catastrophe.

To simply cast contemporary US school reform as a speculative bubble gets convoluted, since the investors mostly aren't looking for financial return. However, I have no doubt that the phenomenon is a direct result of the "tidal wave of surplus capital" looking for someplace to be spent.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I Find a Skateboard Video Before Bed Helps Clear the Mind

This isn't "Righteousness," It is a Plainly Observable Fact

Kevin Carey:

At times, her righteousness can be breathtaking. “This is where I differ certainly from all the reformers,” she said. “I want for America’s kids what I had for my kids. I think that, if Barack Obama wanted for America what he has for his kids, we’d have a very different education policy.” I asked her if she was really saying that President Obama doesn’t want American children to have the same kind of quality education his daughters receive at the well-known Sidwell Friends School. Ravitch reiterated the point.

Of Course, this is Exactly the Kind of Thing that has been Systematically Eliminated from District Schools Over the Past Decade

Michael Goldstein:

Linda loved to get Lorraine Monroe to guest-teach. Lorraine was a famous “No Excuses” principal in the New York City public schools. One thing she stressed was….foreign travel.

To further expand the experiences of Academy students, Dr. Monroe stresses cultural diversity. To build on this, she has taken several students on trips abroad to places as far away as Israel, South Africa, Europe and Canada. Day trips to New York’s own cultural sites, including theaters, museums and ballet halls, are also a regular part of the curriculum. “As a child, I didn’t get a cultural fix on this city. I was never exposed to art,” Dr. Monroe says and adds: “You’ve got to give kids that kind of sense that the world is theirs.”

And will never be "what we can learn from successful charters."

Friday, November 25, 2011

So... Pinboard

Taking some advice from Les Orchard (one good side about Google Reader subtracting features has been seeing what the old RSS geek crowd is up to) and simplifying it, I've realized what I've got now is not so much a reading problem as a sharing problem. So I set up a Pinboard account that'll I'll use for sharing items.

In short: web version here, RSS feed here.

I'll add a few elaborations going forward, but basically that's where things will be.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tonight's Skate Soundtrack

  1. Our Weekend Starts On Wednesday / Hey Mercedes
  2. 2 Sisters / Prisonshake
  3. Immigrant Song / Led Zeppelin
  4. Just Got Paid / Rapeman
  5. Depth Charge Ethel / Grinderman
  6. Make Some Noise / Beastie Boys
  7. Touch Me I'm Sick / Mudhoney
  8. For Respect / Don Caballero
  9. Nude With Boots / Melvins
  10. Love / Gore
  11. Crawl / OFF
  12. Kick Out The Jams / MC5
  13. Loose / The Stooges
  14. Aha Begena / Getatchew Mekuria & The Ex & Guests
  15. Natural's Not In It / Gang Of Four
  16. Corona / Minutemen
  17. Depression / Black Flag
  18. Waiting Room / Fugazi
  19. Hurricane J / The Hold Steady
  20. Raisans / Dinosaur Jr
  21. Sleepy Silver Door / Dead Meadow
  22. Unresolved Kharma / Don Caballero
  23. U.S. Teens Are Spoiled Bums / Half Japanese 

Bow Down to your New God, v.2

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Bow Down to your New God

Monday, November 21, 2011

Things We Learned This Weekend

That orange pepper spray is going to be available at closeout prices soon. People get much less upset when they see the clear stuff on YouTube.

Quick Response on #Occupy and School Reform

We're launching SchoolTool 2.0 tomorrow, so I don't have time for the long post, but it would also help to clear my mind on the issue before the "workday" starts. So, briefly...

Both Dana and Alexander spend some time subdividing the 1%, pointing out than many are in fields other than banking (e.g., tech) and/or are Democrats. This is entirely beside the point. The slogan is "We are the 99%," not "We are the Democrats" or "We are not bankers." Democrats are not valuable friends of public education anymore.

Contemporary school reform is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the 1%. If the 30 richest people in the country and their money were raptured tomorrow, it would have a devastating effect on the school reform enterprise.

Everyone working in school reform is not in the 1%, but they are probably funded by the 1%, or working for public money that is being actively leveraged (a word reformers like to use in this context) by the 1%. Everyone who works at Bank of America isn't rich, but it doesn't mean you can't criticize Bank of America. Same for KIPP.

Alexander writes:

...reform opponents need to make sure not to discredit themselves by trying to turn Democratic-funded philanthropies and well-intended nonprofit CMOs into Wall Street or heartless corporations...

I think the inverse is even more true: reformers have to make sure to not discredit themselves through tacit or explicit opposition to the Occupy movement, because we may indeed be in the beginning of a profound crisis of legitimacy in American institutions, and education is very much a part of that process (e.g., UC Davis last weekend).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Setting the Standard for Reporting on School Turnarounds

Cosmo Garvin at the Sacto News and Review digs into the data:

The only way to tell if the missing students had made a difference would be to isolate their test scores, and track just the scores of students who stayed at the school—and took the tests—both years.

SN&R obtained the individual student scores on the CST for all students in the district for the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years. The district did not give SN&R student names, but instead generated a unique ID number for every student who took the CST tests in those years.

That gave SN&R the chance to compare test scores just before and just after the implementation of the priority schools. And it allowed us to separate out the students who actually took the test, at the same schools, both years, and to track their progress.

Looked at this way, SN&R found that average English scores for Hiram Johnson students were flat from one year to the next. In math, the scores actually dropped a bit.

Brilliant. Nice Alice Mercer quotes too!

More like this please.

"Bill Gates gets poor marks for ignoring education"

That's the somewhat improbable title of a piece last week from The Guardian:

The new "big idea" in Gates's offering to the G20 is that schools should be thought of as "social enterprises". The private sector, so the argument runs, offers not just cheaper and better education, but a healthy profit for investors to boot. This replays a theme that Gates and "a billionaire boys' club" of Wall Street investors, philanthropists and education entrepreneurs brought to education debates in the US with debatable results.

There are two stand-out features associated with this. The first is a cavalier approach to evidence. Privatisation is not a hands-down winner in the research examining the quality of state schools versus private schools in developing countries. Secondly, like other philanthropists, Gates has tended to demonise "failing schools and teachers" while attaching limited attention to the more pervasive causes of educational under-achievement – child poverty, housing, parental education and rising inequality.

Whatever the merits of Gates's take on America's schools, applying his market-based strategy in the poorest countries is a prescription for social inequality. Education systems in these countries suffer from chronic under-financing and poor quality teaching. But if the system is broken the challenge is to fix the system, not to use it as a pretext for indulging in "market-based" education experiments that undermine the ability for good public policy to succeed. That is why more progressive philanthropic foundations – such as the Ratan Tata Trust and the ICICI Foundation for Inclusive Growth – are working to improve state schools, rather than to create a parallel private school system.

Early Baseball Marketing

Richard Hershberger on the SABR 19cBB list:

To expand on this, the growth of baseball clubs from 1851 to 1854 went at a snail's pace. 1855 was the breakout year. The number of clubs ballooned and newspaper coverage--while modest by later standards--became for regular and more extensive. This was not coincidental. The previous December, three clubs (i.e. most of them) met and agreed upon a common set of rules. These rules were published the following spring in The Spirit of the Times. This was the first time a newspaper published any baseball rules. Over the course of the summer a virtuous cycle was established: baseball players could get their names in the paper, which encouraged more people to take up the game, while newspapers could get baseball players (and their friends and families) to buy the paper by printing the players names. This positive feedback loop led to more and more ball clubs, and more and more newspapers covering baseball.

It also established a marketing strategy that would carry the New York game across the country. A recurring pattern in many cities was that the local newspapers gave little or no coverage to local ball clubs playing the local version. (Much of what we know about these clubs comes from the New York weeklies.) Then some enterprising young ballplayer would emigrate from New York to some far flung provincial village such as St. Louis. He would bring with him the New York marketing tool kit: establish a relationship with a local newspaper editor; have the rules printed in the paper; publicize the formation of a club (or, better yet, two clubs); send game accounts (match games between the two clubs, if possible; otherwise intra-club games) to the paper. Pretty soon young men are forming new clubs in droves, and the old local version of baseball is quickly abandoned in favor of the "more scientific" "regulation" game.

How We Ended Up With "Mayoral Academies," and Other Messes

Frederick Hess:

By turning school reform into a moral crusade, in which one either is, to quote our last President, "with us or against us," would-be reformers wind up planting their flag atop all kinds of half-baked or ill-conceived proposals. They also make it ridiculously hard for even their allies to help, because they are quick to dismiss criticism as evidence of disloyalty. Would-be reformers insist that overshooting the mark with half-baked proposals is actually a strategy, because that's how they'll cow the unions and change the culture of schooling. Indeed, they think concerns about program design are quaint evidence of naivete.

I'll just say this: If reformers think it's a winning strategy to push awkwardly constructed, ill-designed programs that are going to create entirely foreseeable problems, then I'd encourage them to check out the history of NCLB, in which well-intentioned advocates have managed to alienate sympathetic voters and tarnish sensible ideas. The problem is that the impassioned good intentions of today's reformers brook no delay and countenance no nuance. That may be a not-bad strategy for building an effective non-profit or for-profit firm, but it's a flawed strategy for overhauling policies governing the sprawling, complex ecosystem that is American education.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thank God the Common Core Has Made It Safe For Children to Play Again

Two recent examples of How children’s ‘play’ is being sneakily redefined would be this post on the pre-K Common Core in NYC and Bill Turque's piece on the use of Tools of the Mind in DCPS.

Despite the Common Core's love of text-based arguments, you never have and never will see text-based evidence backing up the assertion that the Common Core (in ELA, at least) emphasizes or even encourages collaborative play, a full range of critical thinking, problem solving, etc., particularly in comparison to other high quality standards used in the US and around the world. That evidence simply does not exist in the text of the standards themselves.

Turque's piece is a buzzword salad even by education standards. It is a bunch of stuff that sounds good in itself, but doesn't necessarily to hang together. I suppose that's just saying it all depends on implementation, which is pretty much the only thing that matters in education reform anyhow. But when I quickly get to examples like this:

An example of one activity in which children practice inhibitory control, which is one aspect of self-regulation, is the Graphics Practice. Children practice drawing different kinds of marks to music and must stop and start on cue.

It is all too easy to picture what the bad implementations of integrating "play" are going to look like.

Later... I guess the weird thing about Turque's piece is the extent to which it emphasizes things like the Common Core, standard curriculum, phonics, the "hard, non-sexy work" (it is, in fact, the fun and interesting part of the job) that have relatively little to do with what I'd regard as "the classroom as Vygotsky saw it." I don't have a critique of Tools of the Mind per se, just the larger public relations campaign around "play."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I Guess We Can Move Back to Willimantic Now

I want to know how that perpetually broke-ass Eastern Connecticut mill town built a new skatepark in the middle of... whatever we're in the middle of now.

They Can Close Our Schools But They Cannot Educate Our Children

Chris Hedges:

Welcome to the revolution. Our elites have exposed their hand. They have nothing to offer. They can destroy but they cannot build. They can repress but they cannot lead. They can steal but they cannot share. They can talk but they cannot speak. They are as dead and useless to us as the water-soaked books, tents, sleeping bags, suitcases, food boxes and clothes that were tossed by sanitation workers Tuesday morning into garbage trucks in New York City. They have no ideas, no plans and no vision for the future.


Overheard in NYC:

The cops have occupied Zuccotti Park. We’re just trying to figure out what their demands are.

The Inevitable Progression of the New Paternalism

Michael Goldstein:

Let’s pause for a second. Imagine if our school were held accountable not for test scores, or for college success, but for labor market outcomes. Median salary. At least in Boston, the obvious move would be to try to figure out how to get your alums gov’t jobs. Cops and firefighters in particular, who typically earn 6-figure salaries in Boston. Various clerks at City Hall seem to do well, too, and teachers average $85,000.

Obviously this doesn’t scale very well across a whole sector. There are a finite number of these jobs. But as an individual school, one could try it.

One thing I wonder about is whether when, for example, these guys decided that they'd make college graduation the one and only goal of education, whether they realized it was complete bullshit that would fall apart pretty much as soon as they'd been running schools long enough to have many kids graduate from college? Or are they really so clueless to be genuinely surprised by this?

Also, Occupy Wall Street and We Are the 99% have probably accelerated the process a bit.

Monday, November 14, 2011

This is No Way to Run a Manufactured Crisis

Elisabeth Harrison reminds us:

Providence school officials will have to pick a new model for turning around several low performing schools singled out this year by state officials. The district already has four schools using the “transformation model.” State officials say just two more schools can use that model under federal education department rules.

The actual rule, which Elisabeth dug out for me (thanks!), is this:

An LEA with nine or more Tier I and Tier II schools, including both schools that are being served with FY 2009 SIG funds and schools that are eligible to receive FY 2010 SIG funds, may not implement the transformation model in more than 50 percent of those schools.

Yes, if you have eight, they can all be transformation. From where they pulled the number nine, I can only guess. Anyway, this to prevent districts from taking the easy way out, I guess. Let's review recent history in the PPSD regarding these interventions.

Persistently Low-Performing Tier 1, Round 1:

  • Feinstein High School -- closed, NOT counted as closure for intervention purposes;
  • Charlotte Woods Elementary -- merged with Sergeant Cornel Young Jr. Elementary, accepted by RIDE for restart in March 2011, which fell through when Mayor Taveras took over, switched to transformation.
  • Cooley High School -- merged with PAIS high, approved for restart, switched to transformation;
  • Lillian Feinstein Elementary -- slated for closure, granted reprieve, approved for restart, switched to transformation;
  • Roger Williams Middle -- approved for restart, switched to transformation.

Peristently Low Performing, Tier 1, Round 2:

  • Alvarez High -- added March 2011, pending...
  • Hope IT -- added March 2011, removed October 2011 by RIDE;
  • Fogarty Elementary -- added March 2011, removed October 2011 by RIDE;
  • Mount Pleasant High -- added March 2011, pending...
  • Carl Lauro Elemenatary -- added October 2011 (was tier 3), pending...
  • Gilbert Stuart Middle -- added October 2011 (was tier 2), pending...
  • Pleasant View Elementary -- added October 2011 (was tier 3), pending...

And let's not forget:

  • Perry Middle -- tier 3, closed June 2010 (not counted as an intervention);
  • Flynn Elementary -- tier 3, closed June 2011 (not counted as an intervention);
  • Windmill St. Elementary -- tier 3, closed June 2011 (not counted as an intervention);
  • Bridgham Middle -- tier 2, closed June 2011 (not counted as an intervention);
  • Fortes (tier 3) and Lima Elementary (not low performing) completely reconfigured, August 2011.

So, despite all of the above, we get the "you're not trying hard enough" punishment.

And let's not forget, Mayor Taveras also agreed to a no layoff clause that limits the moves they can make personnel wise. Also in RI "traditional" charters don't have the labor provisions that CMO's want and mayoral academies aren't applicable to the SIG process (e.g., you'd have to talk Johnston into going in 50/50 on turning around Mount Pleasant or something equally implausible), so that limits your restart options. Providence won't get any credit toward the SIG requirements for starting a new charter or mayoral academy.

This is no way to run a manufactured crisis.

What You Get if You Apply "No Excuses" to All Schools

Philadelphia Student Union:

Students all over Philadelphia are being pushed out of schools and right into the school to prison pipeline. This is happening because of the lack of resources inside schools and the use of harsh discipline practices that force students into the criminal justice system.

A Couple Quick OWS Thoughts

The real impact of OWS on the education reform debate will be to simply make people question their compliance in a system which only functions to close their neighborhood schools, and for parents and students to be more willing to resist. In particular, the spring testing season will be telling. It wouldn't take too much passive resistance to standardized testing (10%?) to throw the whole agenda into disarray. And telling your kids to simply not take the test (where there aren't official opt-out procedures) isn't as hard as sleeping in a wet park, getting shot in the head with a teargas cannister, etc. It is kind of a no brainer, really.

Also, Bruce Sterling's The Caryatids is probably more clear to most readers post-OWS.

Add this to your Talking Points

John Thompson:

And the study also found, “At the CMO level, we do not find impacts to be associated with use of a uniform curriculum, extended instructional hours, frequent formative student assessment, or performance-based compensation.” To me, this report suggests that, instead of continuing to use charters as laboratories we should scale up their best practices and -- most important -- reconsider some of the less effective charter-inspired policies that are being exported to neighborhood schools.

This is an important substantive point, and one that rings true with my experience. It is also a good "gotcha" tactic because reformers do not want to get bogged down on talking about disciplinary policies in a traditional school context.

The longer you look at "no excuses" charters, the more important discipline looks, and it is just not transferable to regular public schools. And for that matter, the implementation of the policies in charters is often borderline (if not outright) scandalous.

Collective Bargaining Affirmed in RI

Linda Borg for the ProJo:

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. -- A Superior Court judge has ruled that a disagreement between the Portsmouth School Committee and the town's teachers' union must be hashed out at the State Labor Relations Board.

At stake is who has authority over teacher hiring: school committees or teacher contracts with seniority protections.

State Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist has told school districts that seniority is no longer the sole criterion for hiring teachers. The Portsmouth School Committee argued that it does not have to negotiate this issue with the 200-member union.

On one hand this is a loss for Commissioner Gist, but on the other hand, it shows she successfully bluffed the whole state with an obviously weak legal argument, so probably a win overall for her.

I'd call it even more or less between the PTU and City of Providence. It certainly validates the City's approach of making what I consider to be major concessions (others disagree) in order to get the personnel changes enshrined in the new contract rather than hanging by the thin reed of Gist's memo.

The clear loser here should be vocal group of people who argued for a harder line by the city on the negotiations. If talks were still ongoing, the city's bargaining position would have just fallen out from underneath it, and things would be even more chaotic and uncertain than they are now -- especially since we'd now have to wait for a ruling from the Labor Relations Board.

Downes on OWS


The OWS people are the social equivalent of somebody running through the halls clanging on a lid and yelling that the building is on fire. He doesn't want everyone else to start clanging lids, he wants them to get out of the building. It's not a question of how much people 'support' him, he's sounding the alarm. When he says 'we are in danger' he means not simply the 'we' who are clanging on lids, but everybody in the building.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

This is the Kind of Thing People Say About "Disruptive Innovations"

Teemu Leinonen (via Stephen):

I am afraid that the Aakash design team did not have anyone thinking about the pedagogy. The main aim has been to deliver a cheap tablet. Maybe that is what is needed, but from research (or innovation) point of view, I do not find it very interesting. Aakash is just a cheap tablet.

Not that "disruptive innovations" are inherently better than "sustaining" ones. People like their new iPhones!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Ramsin Canon (via Sharon Higgins):

(b) A New Source of Patronage. For the neoliberal city machines modeled after Mayor Richard M. Daley’s Machine Lite, traditional patronage was undesirable and in some cases impossible due to legal strictures. Putting that patronage at a step remove was all the rage: you didn’t have to force the Parks Department to hire your precinct captains, you just privatized Park cleaning service, gave the contract to your buddy, and he handled the rest. Charterification is precisely this. This phenomenon is invisible to Beltway and think tank Panglosses with little understanding or experience with actual big city politics besides what they’ve seen on The Wire. Teachers unions prevent this type of patronage both by enforcing standards and also by protecting teachers through contractual due process. You can’t fire a teacher because she’s campaigning openly against the Mayor’s policies. The head of one of the most influential Charter chains in Chicago, Juan Rangel, was a co-chair of Mayor Emanuel’s campaign. How likely do you think his at-will employees are to become active in their community in any way disproved of by their boss? Voila. Patronage.

I'd add that philanthropy is becoming so big that it is practically a kind of privatized patronage.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Maine Restores Same-Day Voter Registration

My mother-in-law, Anne Geller, leading the charge in Farmington. More...

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

What, then, is to be done?


The funny thing is, no one's really hiding the secret of how to make awesome online communities. Give people something cool to do and a way to talk to each other, moderate a little bit, and your job is done. Games like Eve Online or WoW have developed entire economies on top of what's basically a message board. MetaFilter, Reddit, LiveJournal and SA all started with a couple of buttons and a textfield and have produced some fascinating subcultures. And maybe the purest (!) example is 4chan, a Lord of the Flies community that invents all the stuff you end up sharing elsewhere: image macros, copypasta, rage comics, the lolrus. The data model for 4chan is three fields long - image, timestamp, text.

Now tell me one bit of original culture that's ever come out of Facebook.

Right now the social networking sites occupy a similar position to CompuServe, Prodigy, or AOL in the mid 90's. At that time each company was trying to figure out how to become a mass-market gateway to the Internet. Looking back now, their early attempts look ridiculous and doomed to failure, for we have seen the Web, and we have tasted of the blogroll and the lolcat and found that they were good.

But at the time no one knew what it would feel like to have a big global network. We were all waiting for the Information Superhighway to arrive in our TV set, and meanwhile these big sites were trying to design an online experience from the ground up. Thank God we left ourselves the freedom to blunder into the series of fortuitous decisions that gave us the Web.

My hope is that whatever replaces Facebook and Google+ will look equally inevitable, and that our kids will think we were complete rubes for ever having thrown a sheep or clicked a +1 button. It's just a matter of waiting things out, and leaving ourselves enough freedom to find some interesting, organic, and human ways to bring our social lives online.

The Revolution Requires More Than Enlightened Consumerism

Doug Henwood:

Getting banks under control is a matter of politics, not individual portfolio allocation decisions. Sure, you may get friendlier service and lower fees from a credit union—but you’re not really doing anything politically transformative by moving the money. Move your money and it’s still money.

Occupy the Void

John McDaid:

The contrast embodied in Lower Manhattan is almost too simple to name: the emergent life of Zuccotti, the emptiness of the Memorial. An older, modernist age would have perhaps tagged them Eros and Thanatos, the forces of life and death. And it is no accident that our existing cultural mechanisms produced the latter: years of legislative gridlock, legal wrangling, political infighting, egos, money, and city politics buffeted the Memorial, until finally the looming threat of the tenth-year anniversary cracked the rusted nut of politics-as-usual. And you can see how barely they made it; just to the side of the Memorial plaza, chain-link fencing still holds supplies and construction equipment for the Museum, yet to be opened, beneath the plaza level.

Monday, November 07, 2011

This is Why We Call It "Corporate School Reform"

Chris Hedges:

We seemed to have lost, at least until the advent of the Occupy Wall Street movement, not only all personal responsibility but all capacity for personal judgment. Corporate culture absolves all of responsibility. This is part of its appeal. It relieves all from moral choice. There is an unequivocal acceptance of ruling principles such as unregulated capitalism and globalization as a kind of natural law. The steady march of corporate capitalism requires a passive acceptance of new laws and demolished regulations, of bailouts in the trillions of dollars and the systematic looting of public funds, of lies and deceit. The corporate culture, epitomized by Goldman Sachs, has seeped into our classrooms, our newsrooms, our entertainment systems and our consciousness. This corporate culture has stripped us of the right to express ourselves outside of the narrowly accepted confines of the established political order. It has turned us into compliant consumers. We are forced to surrender our voice. These corporate machines, like fraternities and sororities, also haze new recruits in company rituals, force them to adopt an unrelenting cheerfulness, a childish optimism and obsequiousness to authority. These corporate rituals, bolstered by retreats and training seminars, by grueling days that sometimes end with initiates curled up under their desks to sleep, ensure that only the most morally supine remain. The strong and independent are weeded out early so only the unquestioning advance upward. Corporate culture serves a faceless system. It is, as Hannah Arendt writes, “the rule of nobody and for this very reason perhaps the least human and most cruel form of rulership.” ...

It is always the respectable classes, the polished Ivy League graduates, the prep school boys and girls who grew up in Greenwich, Conn., or Short Hills, N.J., who are the most susceptible to evil. To be intelligent, as many are at least in a narrow, analytical way, is morally neutral. These respectable citizens are inculcated in their elitist enclaves with “values” and “norms,” including pious acts of charity used to justify their privilege, and a belief in the innate goodness of American power. They are trained to pay deference to systems of authority. They are taught to believe in their own goodness, unable to see or comprehend—and are perhaps indifferent to—the cruelty inflicted on others by the exclusive systems they serve. And as norms mutate and change, as the world is steadily transformed by corporate forces into one of a small cabal of predators and a vast herd of human prey, these elites seamlessly replace one set of “values” with another. These elites obey the rules. They make the system work. And they are rewarded for this. In return, they do not question.

Those who resist—the doubters, outcasts, renegades, skeptics and rebels—rarely come from the elite. They ask different questions. They seek something else—a life of meaning. They have grasped Immanuel Kant’s dictum, “If justice perishes, human life on Earth has lost its meaning.” And in their search they come to the conclusion that, as Socrates said, it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong. This conclusion is rational, yet cannot be rationally defended. It makes a leap into the moral, which is beyond rational thought. It refuses to place a monetary value on human life. It acknowledges human life, indeed all life, as sacred. And this is why, as Arendt points out, the only morally reliable people when the chips are down are not those who say “this is wrong,” or “this should not be done,” but those who say “I can’t."

Someone Needs to Write an Agent Based Simulation of Teacher Salary Schedules, Retention and Overall Cost

Matt Di Carlo goes a little deeper than most on the question of how we'd actually change salary schedules mid-stream to the flatter, front-heavy system contemporary reformers mostly advocate. Yes, higher pay for new teachers would be good, but also teachers really don't like being on top-step. That is, they like the money, but they don't like being stuck with no chance for a raise other than when the whole scale is changed for a new contract. Performance pay doesn't really fix that either, because the best teachers should in theory hit the top performance bonus fairly quickly. Adding promotion to leadership roles as teachers is expensive too, even if you don't give people financial raises for that, because you're taking those teachers out of the classroom.

My point here is not so much that the above strategies wouldn't work, but that if you really game them through, they'd result in paying more teachers more money, you might not improve retention very much (adding two years on average instead of 10, say), and find yourself paying more for the same number of inexperienced, less effective teachers.

Especially if the underlying motivation here is to get more ambitious, go-go, high achievers in the teacher pool. They are the people least likely to appreciate hitting the ceiling five years into their career.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Someone Should Start a Guerilla Marketing Campaign Outside "No Excuses" Charters


In particular, these days workers with a college degree but no further degrees are less likely to get workplace health coverage than workers with only a high school degree were in 1979.

Spray paint that on the sidewalk outside your local KIPP.

I Didn't Say Education is the SOLE Solution for Economic Development; I Said it is THE Solution for Poverty!

RiShawn Biddle (via Dana Goldstein):

First, (education reporters) argue that school reformers proclaim that education is the sole solution for economic development in poor communities — even though no one ever says this. Then they argue that education can’t possibly be either the long-term or short-term solution for poverty — and find some flimsy data or examples to back it up.

There's a Reason Most Classroom Teachers Don't Do a Lot of Blogging

Nancy Flanagan:

About a month after I started at the nonprofit, one of my managers commented on the difference in work load and environment I must be experiencing--all the late nights and weekends, the quick-turnaround demand for meetings, calls, event planning and policy analysis. "You don't get to go home at 3 o'clock when you work here, or take summers off," he remarked. "The work is non-stop. Quite a change for you."

The truth of it? Responsibilities and accountability at the non-profit were much lighter, urgency greatly diminished. Perks (an hour lunch, unlimited bathroom breaks, flexibility to schedule a dentist appointment, secretarial support) felt downright luxurious. I had trouble adjusting to long periods of discretionary time, alone in my cubicle. Yes, there was always work to do. But there was enough time to think, to read, to prepare, to edit, to reflect--and to talk to colleagues.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Role of Literary Nonfiction

I'm very much ok with expanding the role of quality literary nonfiction in the K-12 curriculum, but lets also be realistic about the (lack of) urgency on this issue. There is not a crisis of people who are proficient readers of literary fiction but not of literary nonfiction. The modifier "literary" in this case means "pleasant and interesting to read." There may be a problem with complex texts, literary or not. And there may especially be a problem with complex non-literary nonfiction (e.g., a 800 page biology text). But it isn't like we have a nation of Moby Dick readers who can't make it through In the Heart of the Sea.

Pay No Attention to the Standards

I have to wonder whether or not it is an intentional strategy to keep public discussion of the Common Core ELA standards off the standards themselves. First we had everyone discussing whether or not there would be a required reading list when there never is in a standards document. Now it is all "percentage of fiction vs. non-fiction." That also is not determined by the standards.

In particular, if we have an over-emphasis on fiction, I've seen no evidence that this is directly attributable to current ELA standards, particularly at the secondary level. If kids aren't reading enough non-fiction in history class, the idea that this is directly attributable to the current ELA standards, and will be fixed by the new ones, is a joke.

And the main reason that writing assessments over-emphasize nebulous personal essay topics is not because the testing companies are run by hippies. It is because you can't assess a student's writing if they don't know the answer to the question posed by the prompt. This is not a philosophical problem, it is a practical limit in standardized testing.

Just Substitute "Linda Darling-Hammond" for "Christine Romer"


The point is that I know technocrats, and these people aren’t — they’re faith healers who are making stuff up to suit their prejudices.

You can say something similar, although a bit less pointed, about the Obama administration. The line from people there, including the president, has been that it was too technocratic. But the real technocrats — people like Christy Romer and, well, me — were saying right from the beginning that the stimulus was too small, etc.; people like Geithner who opposed stronger action were basing their position on gut feelings about confidence, not number-crunching.


Tuesday, November 01, 2011

A Success for "Conventional" Math Reform in RI

If you've previously looked at RI's math scores, particularly compared to other New England states, it is pretty clear that we've been chronically underperforming for some reason (less so in ELA). I don't know why. As far as I know, the main action on the math front in recent years has been switching to the NECAP and associated Grade Level Expectations, and then getting serious about implementation, including working with the Dana Center on that. Regardless, there was clearly room to improve.

Lo and behold, we got a nice bump in both 4th and 8th grade math on the new NAEP. Not so much in Reading. Since essentially none of Gist's RttT agenda has been implemented (no substantial charter expansion in grade 4 & 8, teacher evaluation changes, etc), and the gains were specifically in math, it is reasonable to conclude that plain old improvements in curriculum and instruction should get most of the credit (and maybe demographic changes, I've not looked that deeply). In particular, one of Gist's top priorities is undoing what seems to have worked -- NECAP.

It IS an Important Point


Dean Baker raises an important point here: it’s really awfully late in the game to be saying that the important inequality issue is college graduates versus non-graduates. It’s not clear that this was ever true, and it certainly hasn’t been true for a while.

Sharing via Google Reader...

So apparently I can't "Share" posts from Google Reader directly anymore. Presumably there is some mechanism in the Googleverse for me to generate a curated RSS feed of stuff I'm reading. Or I'll have to switch. It isn't like I have an obscure need here...

In the meantime, I'm afraid the "In My Head" feed will be on hiatus.