Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In Question 10, Does a Joint Count?

Now you can see how working class Charles Murray thinks you are.

I got a 51.

Yates the Adventurer

Mary Ann Reilly:

More than 4 million people viewed The Common Core Curriculum Maps and now they are offered (at a fee) in their second iteration. At the middle school level, 6 units of study per grade level have been developed and offered as models--exemplars if you will.  I recently composed a blog post that highlighted examples of instruction I proposed in response to "The Song of Wandering Aengus" by William Butler Yeats which is listed as a middle school exemplar text via the CCSS.  After I finished the post, I was curious as to what Lynne Munson and her Core Curriculum mapping team had developed in response to the Yeats.  What I found was disappointing.  I rarely would say something was misread, but in this case I do think that the authors of the grade 7, unit 4 map that highlights "The Song of Wandering Aengus" failed to actually comprehend the poem.

It helps if you take a quick look at my blog post before moving on as I am contrasting what I designed with this Common Core exemplar map.  You will find a copy of the poem there as well.

For me the Yeats's poem is steeped in Irish mythology and one of the challenges young readers might face is understanding the mythology upon which the poem is based, what a quest is, and how magic and the imagination (in)form a quest.   In contrast, the authors of the Grade 7, Unit 4 Common Core Curriculum Map understand this poem as a survival story akin to Call of the Wild and Hatchet. The Grade 7, Unit 4 is titled, "Survival in the Wild."

Obviously that's just a semi-random example, but my semi-random sampling of similar examples from various sources is also... underwhelming and a little disturbing. Or at best good assignments which go substantially beyond what is required by the standards. This is, I believe, a result of the design of the standards, as a small set of textual analysis tasks which supporters hope add up in some unspoken way to real understanding.

Monday, January 30, 2012

STEM Grads Still Under Full Employment

David Sirota:

So that gets us back to the key question of whether the term “education” is effectively being redefined? In all of the elite media’s stories about offshoring and the STEM “education crisis,” does the term “education” no longer mean “learning a set of skills”? Does it in practice now mean American workers learning not new technological crafts, but learning to quietly accept the wage, labor and human rights standards of China — the standards we thankfully improved after our own crushing Industrial Age a century ago? In short, does “education” now mean “teaching American workers to be subservient”?

The answer, almost certainly, is yes, because that’s the only way that the media and political establishment’s entire “education crisis” meme makes any logical sense.

The fact is, while our cash-starved schools would obviously benefit from more resources, and while better schools clearly couldn’t hurt our society, there’s no empirical, data-based reason to believe that improving our schools would reverse the trend of America losing high-tech jobs to slave-labor nations like China. Without a change in tax and tariff-free trade policies that economically incentivize companies like Apple to keep moving production to cheap labor havens overseas, the only “education” that will bring those jobs back is the kind that indoctrinates high-tech American workers to compete with Chinese workers by accepting the horrific labor conditions those Chinese workers experience. Based on the New York Times’ own reporting on Apple, that means an education system in America that teaches our workers to simply accept being paid $17 a day, to work six days a week in 12-hour shifts and to live in crowded dormitories so that they can be stampeded into the factory at any hour of the day. It means, in short, an education system that tells Eric Saragoza to shut up and accept the employer’s draconian demands.

Beryl Benderly:

In reality, however, data from the past two decades indicate that "the unemployment rate for college graduates when the enconomy is at full-employment is approximately 2.2%, or half what it is currently," Hira writes. "Typically, the national unemployment rate is slightly more than twice the unemployment rate for college graduates, whether the country is in recession or in recovery." During the 2 years before the Great Recession began in 2008, "when the economy was doing well, the national unemployment rates were 4.6%, whereas the rates for college graduates were 2.0%." This indicates an unemployment rate during full employment of "approximately 2.2%" for college graduates, and therefore that a "jobs recession" for degree holders currently exists, Hira concludes. At present, "there are too many skilled workers chasing too few jobs."

State of the (Gaming) Union

David Wong:

I remember a time when I had absolutely no worries about the future of gaming. It was a period of about four hours in 2007 when me and my friends spent a whole night playing Wii Sports Bowling.

It's one of the most stupidly perfect games I'd ever played -- I've still logged more hours on it than Red Dead Redemption and Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 combined.

The way it translated your movements to the game, swinging your arm with the imaginary ball rather than pushing some boring old button, was somehow more satisfying than the real thing (now that I think of it, I hate real bowling). This, I decided, was exactly what games had been trying to achieve for decades.

But more than four years later, nothing on the Wii has equaled it. The tech was perfect for bowling and that's all it was perfect for. OK, it's also nice for shooting gallery type games, but about the 10th time I was told to shake my controller to get a leech off my screen, I had a revelation: "Waaaaait a second! This is bullshit." ...

I had my Xbox Live account locked (unable to make any purchases of games or videos) for 72 hours for suspicious activity. What was the activity? I bought three episodes of Battlestar: Galactica at two in the morning, then came back at 5 a.m. to buy more. What, is that the behavior of anyone other than an upstanding citizen? ...

So what the hell are you supposed to do when you're trying to convince those customers to drop $400 on a game machine with all of the accessories (extra controllers, peripherals, online subscriptions) plus $60 for each game? The answer is game makers have no fucking idea.

A Message for Team Rahm (and Friends)

Seth Lavin:

Please, please show some humility. Get over yourselves. You didn’t invent reform. You didn’t invent impatience. You didn’t invent being angry at CPS for failing Chicago. You’re right that Chicago wants reform. You’re right that Chicago is impatient and you’re right that Chicago is angry because it’s being failed by its most important institution. But that’s been true for decades. And at least two big, noisy, self-righteous CPS leaderships have swept through since then saying the same stuff you’re saying now and changing nothing (at least in people’s minds). No one trusts you and for good reason. Maybe that’s Paul Vallas’ fault and Arne Duncan’s fault and not your fault but it’s certainly your problem. You should expect cynicism, skepticism, anger and mistrust. You should know that no one believes your impatience alone is going to get us anywhere. Drop the arrogance. Drop the self-righteousness. Show us the proof first always and tell us constantly that you want to move carefully, build things to last and that you intend to stick around until we see the proof.

It may be your first rodeo but it isn’t Chicago’s.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Now that I’ve got a six-year-old who is growing up in this nuthouse, I’ve come to take it all more personally."

Doug Henwood:

Throughout our history, this has been a brutal society, but at least it had a certain dynamism in both commerce and in culture. I don’t see much of that today. The last gasp of economic dynamism was that dot.com boom, which was often thoroughly delusional, but did have some energy to it, and did leave us some byproducts, like many miles of fiber optic cable. It also paradoxically presumed to address some concerns historically associated with the left—a flattening of hierarchies, the provision of meaningful work, the erasure of borders, and even peace, love, and understanding. Of course it did all that firmly within a capitalist paradigm, but it did have an embryonic aspect about it, if only in fantasy. No longer. Our most recent bubble built a lot of subdivisions in exurban Las Vegas, with no payoff either in the productive or phantasmic realms. There might be some payoff were the homeless and underhoused allowed to move into the empty dwellings, but that’s not the way the USA works—though the Occupy movement seems to be nudging things in that direction. ...

The reason that it doesn’t feel to many people like the recession never ended is that it’s been the weakest recovery since modern GDP numbers begin in 1929 and modern labor market numbers in 1939. As of the most recent quarter, the third of 2011, GDP, that most fetishized of all indicators, has only regained its pre-recession high; based on historical averages, it “should” be about 10% above. Total wage and salary income is about 2% below its pre-recession high; normally, it’d be up 13%. Ah, but profits! Corporate profits are up over 80% from their recession low; normally they’d be up about 50%. Profits are up nearly ten times as much as wages—the average in a recovery would be less than three times. Corporations are flush with cash—they’re spending some of it abroad and distributing some of it to their shareholders and executives. What they’re not doing is investing or hiring here.

Another Problem Shared by Education

Dave Winer:

There was a time when you went to a tech conference and many if not most of the speakers knew how computers work. Some of them even knew how to program, and some of them were actually programming on a daily basis. I know it sounds outlandish, but think about it this way. How many medical conferences have no doctors on stage? How many architecture conferences have no architects? Yet it's considered normal to for tech conferences to have no technology.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Probably Quite Relevant to the Ed Reform Discussion, Too

Darcy Burner:

Why do lobbyists have so much influence? Lots of people give campaign contributions; what is it that lobbyists are doing differently? Right now, most of the policy work in Congress is done by staff whose average age is 26, and who are typically covering 4-6 major policy areas each. If they’re lucky, they might really understand one of those policy areas. So when a lobbyist walks in and says, “Ok, here’s what you need to know about this bill your boss has to vote on tomorrow, here’s how your boss should vote, and here are your talking points,” and that’s the only information they’re given, of course the lobbyist will usually succeed. It wasn’t always this way: there used to be internal think tanks in the House where members would pool their resources to hire deep experts in some topic area. There were, for example, experts on nuclear nonproliferation and arms control. So if a member of Congress wanted to know how big a threat Iran’s nuclear program is, or the impact of some piece of legislation with sanctions, there were deep experts they could consult who were part of their team. Gingrich banned shared funding of staff and canned those expert staffers in order to consolidate power, and as a consequence members have to rely on lobbyists, leadership, or outside organizations like the Heritage Foundation for the information they need. That’s totally fixable – and it could conceivably be fixed in the first week of a new Congress.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Decline of American Manufacturing was the Plan All Along

Harold Meyerson:

At bottom, the decline of American manufacturing has deep systemic roots. The combined forces of technology and globalization have reduced the number of industrial workers in most advanced economies, but nowhere has the decline been so precipitous and profound as in the United States. What made us different is that these two trends coincided with the rise of the most extreme form of shareholder capitalism—elevating the concerns of investors, the primacy of profits and share value, over those of the workers and communities to which the earlier, pre-1980 form of stakeholder capitalism also paid heed.

It’s no coincidence that Germany, the only advanced economy to expand and upgrade its manufacturing sector in the age of globalization, is also the primary practitioner of stakeholder capitalism. Corporate boards are composed of equal numbers of labor and management representatives, while an entire sector of banking is devoted to funding small and midsized manufacturing ventures, freeing them from the pressure of capital markets. The resulting quantity and quality of German manufacturing have produced an economy that’s the envy of the world. “Germany is socialistic, it’s green,” says U.S. Steel CEO John Surma, “and it’s kicking our ass by any capitalistic measure.”

The United States is not likely to become significantly more socialistic or green anytime soon. But through trade policies and industrial policies that promote domestic manufacturing, we can begin to realign the practices of American business with the urgent needs of the nation and its people.

Coming of Age in a Dead Zone

Louis Ferleger:

There are 216 defined metropolitan (metro) and micropolitan (micro) areas — with populations ranging from 10,000 to 4 million — that have had unemployment rates at least two percentage points higher than the national average for either 20, 10 or 5 years (see tables 1, 2, 3 at the end of this article). These are America’s dead zones. Here employment growth is stagnant or non-existent and high levels of joblessness dominate. Some areas were once prosperous while others have recently experienced economic distress. In these communities paid work is hard to find for those who have not given up looking, and widespread involuntary idleness is the norm. ...

While different methods of gathering government data make it harder to assess the unemployment picture in New England, long-term dead zones exist in former manufacturing and mill towns such as Lawrence and Fall River, Mass., Waterbury, New Britain and New Haven, Conn., and Providence and Central Falls, R.I. These cities have characteristics similar to dead zones. In more and more American cities the lack of opportunities and poor job prospects point to the existence of more areas that have not been, but should be, recognized as emerging dead zones.

So while I didn't find Providence or Pittsburgh on the dead zones list, I was surprised to find my little home town of Huntingdon, PA on there as a 20 year dead zone. Not so much because I was surprised that it has had persistently high unemployment, but that it was big enough to be counted at all. And really, the past 20 years have almost certainly been easier on Huntingdon than the previous 20.

This may give you some perspective on my outlook on the world...

Is It Possible RI Might Not Lose Its Shirt On This Thing?


Once again I was able to beg an early copy of a game. This time I scored Kingdoms of Amalur. I’ve been playing it now for a few days and I am in love. I’m probably not supposed to talk about the game yet but I figured it would be much easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission as the old saying goes.
In the end I just want to make sure this game doesn’t slip past your radar. I think it would be easy to look at it and think it’s a pretty standard RPG. In reality Amalur is a unique experience full of great ideas. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

We've got $75 million in guaranteed loans riding on it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

When Will We Get the Craigslist or Pinboard of Search Engines?

Dave Winer:

So Google started out on the right path, but eventually they went wild and desperate, and did all the things with their product that users probably thought they would never do. So now I'm shopping for a search engine to invest in. DuckDuckGo could be that, except for this one problem. Imho, it's inexorably on the same path that Google was on. That means they're going to spend years of our time pretending that they are still on our side, until one day it'll be blatantly obvious that we just wasted years waiting for them to give take us somewhere we'd want to go . They are using us as pawns, as big techco's always do.

There is an antidote to VC-driven mission creep that "big techco's" are susceptible to. It is essentially the craigslist model, where you have a small privately held company that is perfectly happy to not maximize profits or expand its reach or really change at all as it grows.

Pinboard just does bookmarks and Maciej seems to have planned it well enough that he can smoothly scale it up with steadily growing profits and no need for big outside investors. It is a profitable small business that seems to suit his needs just fine.

So the question is, when will the understanding of search and the availability of storage and processing power make a similar search engine inevitable? Perhaps soon:

Sebastian Thrun, who taught the massive on-line AI class with Peter Norvig at Stanford, has left Stanford to join a startup to offer more online courses. Their first course will teach complete novices how to build their own search engine, in seven weeks.

Google's drive into social may be motivated by a fear of being disrupted in the basic search market. Regardless of what is really going on, Google's actions are making real competition for search likely for the first time in decades.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

There Seems to be Some Confusion Over Who Will Be Attending the Grace School Academy

Mayor Taveras's cover letter: "306 students serving Providence and North Providence."
Mayor Charles Lombardi's cover letter: "local school districts, including Providence and North Providence,"
Cover sheet: "Multiple districts, including but not limited to Providence and North Providence."
John M. Kelly, cover letter: "students from local school districts, including Providence and North Providence"
John Galvin, Meeting Street Board of Directors, cover letter: "students from grades K-8 who live in Pawtucket and Providence."
Executive summary: "students from multiple school districts, including but not limited to Providence and North Providence."
"These students will attend school with approximately 54 students with severe and profound disabilities that come to Meeting Street from across Rhode Island as well as from nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut."
Statement of Need: Only covers Providence and North Providence.
Governance: Nothing about representation from other communities (RIGL 16-77.4-1.a: "such mayoral academies shall have a board of trustees or directors which is comprised of representatives from each included city or town").
"In terms of Board composition, the Board will be chaired by either the Mayor of Providence or the Mayor of North Providence. The Mayor of Providence will also appoint one designee to the Board and will be encouraged to make this designee his or her school superintendent. Five (5) Board members will be appointed by Meeting Street’s Board of Trustees. Grace School Academy Founders, a group of parents that have helped to create our inclusive model, will recommend three (3) parents to serve on the Grace School Academy Board of Directors, as well."
Student Enrollment and Demand: "The Grace School Academy will seek to attract a diverse student body from the communities of Providence and North Providence."
"All students who enter the lottery will have an equal chance of being selected and The Grace School Academy will abide by lottery rules and regulations and enrollment procedures. At the same time, we request that siblings of students, children of Founders, and children of staff have admission preference."
School Community:
"Given that Meeting Street’s school already draws from the surrounding community; we are confident that we will be able to increase the number of children from the South Providence neighborhood who enroll."
"Finally, Meeting Street has a long history of working in North Providence. Over the past decade, children of all ages and abilities have been served by Meeting Street in home, school, and community based settings."
Budget Narrative: "a minimum of 85% of students will reside in Providence"

Can (and Should) Public School Teachers Teach Private School Students (In RI)?

The biggest issue regarding The Grace School Academy application should be the question of whether or not public school teachers can or should teach in classrooms of mixed public and private school students. To quote the application:

At full maturation, each classroom will have approximately 20 students; 17 from The Grace School Academy who will enroll through the lottery. These students will be joined by approximately three (3) Meeting Street School students.

One would hope that this is just illegal, but I'm not going to bother figuring that out. It appears that in the budget figures for the school that the cost of classroom teachers is shared between the public and private school budgets, but I'm not really sure how it works, and it isn't clearly explained at all, which is pretty weird considering I've never heard of anyone trying such a thing anywhere before. Seems worthy of some elaboration.

And even if in this case it is legal and actually makes sense, I would still want to see some very clear standards for what is and is not permissible for this kind of situation, because if lots of private schools decide they want their own embedded/integrated charters for some reason, things could get out of hand quickly. This could turn into a kind of de facto voucher program.

Rhode Island Should Be One School District

Elisabeth Harrison:

“In the year 2000, Woonsocket had a $75 million school budget. Now it’s down to $59 million,” said Donoyan, adding that the decrease comes as expenses for everything from heating oil to personel continue to rise. “The costs across the board have escalated just to keep the bare minimum. The things we can control, we do our best to control, but there are uncontrollable costs.”

I don't want to completely forget to praise Brian Chidester for ending last week's anti-AF rally on Martin Luther King Jr. Day by calling for unifying Rhode Island in to one district for the purpose of equity and desegregation.

It is not a magic bullet, but it is the "one demand" that would do the most good for moving education forward in Rhode Island. Now is a good time, since multiple districts seem to be entering fiscal death spirals.

It would even make charter school expansion a lot easier with fewer negative side effects!

The Perpetual Return of the CD-ROM

John McDaid:

At a press event at the Guggenheim Museum in NY, Apple yesterday introduced a new, free application for creating electronic books called iBooks Author, and while it has some notable limitations, it promises the kind of step-function increase in user empowerment not seen since the days of Hypercard. Seriously, it gave me flashbacks to 1987. And I don't say that lightly.

The iBooks Author software is essentially a page-oriented multimedia creation tool; that is, you can imagine PowerPoint on steroids, or for those familiar with high-end production, Quark or inDesign. But in addition to allowing you to easily create pages with rich media assets, it takes you to the next step, automatically packaging everything up in an electronic publication format distributable on the iPad.

If you time traveled back to 1986 and showed me an iPad, I would have been really excited, particularly with its size (and, oh, THE INTERNET). If you came back two years later and said "Look, now you can publish and distribute a multimedia book on this device!" I probably would have said "Wait, you mean you couldn't before?"

iBooks Author is a big deal -- for example, my sister desperately needs to be able to write a textbook illustrating her methods of teaching digital media to artists -- but it is yet another case where Apple is doing the obvious thing and the rest of the industry is just flailing around. Or, not even that, just lying still.

Also, I don't really understand why this isn't just an extension to Pages.

Where the Web Went Off the Rails

Now that people are getting worried again about the architecture web and its future -- as Google+, Apple and Facebook seem to be devouring everything -- it is worth noting where things went wrong. I'd point to two things:

  • No static IP addresses for home broadband. The internet was designed with static IP addresses in mind. Your computer should have an IP address just like your phone has a phone number. If we all had static IP addresses at home (and IPv6, which we should have had a long time ago) then we'd also all have home servers hosting or at least backing up all our photos, videos, etc. It would be a large market. It would be much easier to roll out a decentralized social network, etc. Instead, we're just dependent on Google, etc. This isn't actually Google's idea, it is more the way the telecoms want it. It just happens to benefit the big hosting companies.
  • Windows' horrible insecurity. Not so much anymore, but at the time the 'net was growing, Windows was not ready at all for it, and that fed into the idea that static IP addresses for home users not only aren't necessary, but dangerous.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Grace School Mayoral Academy -- First Reaction

OK, so, the application for the Grace School Mayoral Academy popped up on RIDE's site some time in the past few weeks. This is a Providence/North Providence school, run by the private Meeting Street school in South Providence. Meeting Street always seemed nice enough, as they say on their website:

We’re known for helping children with multiple and severe challenges, however, we also work with children who have minor delays.

In terms of the actual school, this is much more palatable than the Achievement First proposal, of more appropriate scale (esp. not in combination with AF), and generally few would have batted an eye at it as a regular charter school 15, 10 or even five years ago, especially when the district was exceeding its capacity to add schools.

Of course, having this proposal come from a mayor who is directly responsible for closing a bunch of PPSD schools puts the whole thing in a dim light.

We should probably think hard about the precedent of a charter school essentially within a private school, including mixed classrooms. Has anyone anywhere actually tried that anywhere or is this really "innovation?"

One thing I'm happy about is that it isn't a RIMA school, the charter holder will be a non-profit controlled by Meeting Street, which is less offensive than having a bunch of suburban jackass politicians and out of state wonks running a school in Providence.

Like the AFMA application, this one violates the legal requirement to provide an equal number of enrollments to each sending community. Basically North Providence (and Providence City Council) need to get a clear ruling on this issue. In particular, there is a much stronger motivation for a North Providence parent to sue over the issue -- because this is actually a significant opportunity to North Providence parents with special needs students.

By the straightforward application of the law, there would be 17 guaranteed spots per grade for N. Providence, making it much more likely that N. Providence students could get in. In one big pool, they'll be swamped by Providence parents in the lottery, both because of size and location (although at least the school is right off 95). But anyway, people sue to get resources for their special needs students all the time, so if this issue isn't resolved now I'd expect this from someone in North Providence within a couple years, which could dramatically change the cost and enrollment structure of both PVD mayoral academies.

Also, I guess it is legal to accept an application submitted December 23, 2011 for a charter school opening this fall, but the "deadline" was in March.

Projected size in year 8 is 306 students K-8. If 250 students come from Providence -- likely under the proposed lottery -- it would cost $3,500,000 a year (if it was at full scale this year).

Test Prep is Partially Effective

Kathleen Porter-Magee:

Similarly, Pondiscio derides both “dumb test prep” and “reciting lesson aim and standard.” There is no question that test prep is virtually useless. In fact, the fact that test prep is used so widely, but that reading scores have remained essentially flat for more than a decade, should help demonstrate just how ineffective it is. Why it is still the go-to method for preparing students for state tests is beyond me.

But state test scores aren't flat, they almost always go up at a steady rate, everywhere. Test prep is partially effective, to varying degrees, in the short run, for the specific test in question.

The iBooks Author License is a Halfassed Mess

Dan Wineman:

Interestingly, as the author of the document and presumed signatory to the iBooks Author EULA, you’re the only person to whom that restriction applies. If you gave your iBook to a friend, Apple would have no control over what your friend did with it. And you could sell your friend’s iBooks too, because you aren’t the one who used iBooks Author to generate them.

That was my reading too.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

From Last Wednesday Night's Session

Tailslide at Skaters Edge photo: Scott Criv

Nora Vasconcellos, photo by Scott Criv. I was waiting my turn off camera to the right.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What is Hispaniola?

Jennifer and I don't spend a lot of time discussing "surprising things high school students don't know these days," which is sort of a whole genre unto itself. But she did bring up something this week -- her freshman seemed completely unfamiliar with "Hispaniola," that is, that it is the name of an island. Not in the "OK class, on what island did Columbus set foot establish a settlement in 1492? Bueller? Bueller?" sense. Just that when it came up in whatever context they were discussing, it was like they'd never heard the term.

This seemed particularly telling since it is a curriculum issue that cuts across the usual ideological divide. If you're content-oriented and/or a traditionalist/conservative, of course you'd expect kids to know the name of the island that Columbus landed on, be able to label the major islands in the Caribbean, etc. This would be core knowledge for any middle schooler if not elementary student.

On the other hand, any coherent progressive (politically and/or pedagogically) curriculum would be very concerned with connecting immigrant students -- many of whom are the children or grandchildren of immigrants from Hispaniola, if not immigrants themselves -- to their own family history and heritage. And while it is not a major point, you'd think the name of the island containing the Dominican Republic and Haiti would at least come up enough that the kids would recognize it.

The progressive/traditionalist dichotomy is out of date in American urban education -- not because we've learned how to get along -- but because things have gone in a third direction.

In a Perfect World, This Would Be the Focal Point of the Achievement First Mayoral Academy Debate

Jim Horn:

Now we have a federal charter school policy that actually calls for high poverty quotas of 60 percent minimum of poor children to win the federal grants to fund “successful” charter expansion. This is exactly the opposite of what needs to be done, if charter schools are going to continue at all. They should, in fact, have a cap of 40 percent of low-income children, so that the social capital that James Coleman and hundreds of other scholars have shown to be so important over the years can help to equalize the punishing effects of poverty, particularly when poverty is concentrated. Why is this segregating incentive to contain poor children in the guidance for winning federal grants for schools?

I'm becoming even more conscious of how much more favorable RI charter school law still is than other states, but we could do a better job of taking advantage of it.

Shared Links

I finally got around to adding a widget at right that shows the last five things added to my Pinboard bookmarks. They all can be viewed here. The RSS feed is here.

The Real Widget Effect

Pasi Sahlberg:

Second, some observers have concluded that the secret of Finnish educational success is its well-trained teachers. Yes, it is true that teachers and leaders have higher academic education in Finland than in many other countries. But that alone is not the way to whole-system change. What is significant in the Finnish approach is that it has focused on improving the professional knowledge and skills of teachers and leaders as a collective group, not only as individuals, which is the common practice in many current reform programs elsewhere. Finnish teachers learn to work together with other teachers. Finnish education system development has systematically focused on improving schools as social organizations. This includes leadership development that is, according to external reviewers, aimed at enhancing shared and distributed models of leadership. In brief, Finnish educational change is driven by building social capital within the system in concert with individual professional growth.

Why do school reformers think teachers are interchangeable parts (of varying quality)?

Facts on the Ground II

Karran Harper Royal:

I’ve been in so many meetings day and night with various community groups fighting off Recovery School District Superintendent John White and charter school vultures.

Several local communities have applied for and have been denied charters for their community schools. This process began shortly after Hurricane Katrina, when several of us attempted to be part of the reforms coming to our city with the state takeover of our the majority of our schools. For years, myself included, we were kept busy serving on steering committees to help our schools. Initially, we were promised that these schools would be community-driven schools and we did not have to charter them.

Former RSD superintendent Paul Vallas promised me and my community this over and over when we pressed him to comply with what was written in the Walton Family Foundation grant he received for supporting our community’s schools. We were told that if we wanted that type of power in the school we had to apply for a charter for the school. The Recovery School District received 6 million dollars from the Walton Family Foundation to help us plan and drive what happens at our schools. The RSD squandered the money on their consultants and many of us are still shut out of the process.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Skating with Nora

One thing about skating the late Wednesday at Skaters' Edge in the winter is that the intensity and quality of skating goes up dramatically as the weather gets worse. So it wasn't that surprising that when I arrived last night to skate the bowl there was an array of flashes set up for a photo shoot and probably the top female skater in the Northeast, Nora Vasconcellos, trying to make some tricks. I wasn't sure what the protocol was for this kind of situation but gradually mixed in my pleasure runs with her semi-business ones. Nora is part of a new generation of girl skaters which I imagine has been nurtured in the new public (and private, Nora mostly skates vert at Rye Airfield), which have a lower (social) barrier to entry than backyard ramps and secret spots.

Here's a nice piece on Nora from Blue Tile Obsession.

Rotherham on Choosing Teachers

Andy Rotherham's article on the importance of parents playing an active role in choosing their children's teachers within a school is a perfect example of the macro/micro dissonance which plagues ed reform. If you really care about equity, you can't allow this. If you really care about the precision of teacher evaluation, particularly value-added calculations, you can't have systematic selection bias.

Of course, the obvious explanation is that Andy Rotherham does not care about either of those issues.

As I've said before, increasing market efficiency for teacher quality will only ensure those teachers will go to the highest bidders. The more you demonstrate the importance of teacher quality, the more those that can pay more for it will do so. Can these people really not think more than one step ahead?

Nothing 13 Years of High Value Added Teachers Won't Solve

USA Today:

In 2008, the mean annual income of blacks with a four-year degree was more than $13,000 less than that of whites with the same level of education.

Just to keep things in perspective.

The Facts on the Ground

Jackie Bennett:

How does the DOE decide which high schools to close? For the third straight year, and all claims to a nuanced review of quality aside, the schools the DOE chooses to shut are simply those that dare to teach the students with the city’s highest needs. There’s nothing terribly nuanced about it at all. (For previous years, see here and here).

Which Schools Close? Redux, chart 1

It starts with this chart (and then gets worse).

Even though DOE claims that the Progress Report grades are demographically neutral, DOE did not fail a single high school with lowest concentrations of high-need students (that top 1/3 in dark green).1 And, though the D’s and F’s are spread across the bottom 2/3 (in blue and red), it was overwhelmingly the D’s and F’s with the highest needs that made the “pre-engagement” list — the short list from which DOE would ultimately choose the final closures. 65% of the highest-need D’s and F’s were put on the short list, but only 15% of the schools in the middle where the students on average had fewer challenges to overcome.

And it gets worse.

Because to be on the short list only means that you might or might not close. Once they create the short list, the DOE claims it “reviews the school data, consults with the superintendents and other experienced educators who have worked closely with the school, and gathers community feedback.”

Which Schools Close? Redux, chart 2

That’s what they say, and it is certainly true that they make a good show of it, running from school to school and having all sorts of sympathetic meetings. But in the end? Take a look at which ones land on the final list.

In the end, this is how it works. The schools that serve the neediest populations are closed. I still don't really understand if that's the goal, a side-effect, or if reformers even notice. But it is what is horrifying about the whole process.

PPSD Registration

I should note that last Friday we registered Vivian as an incoming kindergartner in the PPSD. They've started the process early this year, which is probably a good thing. Days are assigned by first letter of the last name. I wasn't sure how many people would be aware of the early start, but the office was certainly busy. Nonetheless, please don't spread the word because the less competition for the selection lottery the better. Thanks.

It is crazy how many "neighborhood" (within 1 mile) elementary schools we have here. Six? I don't even know where some of them are. I bring this up to aggravate my friends on the West End.

So we have one longshot lottery PPSD school, one longshot lottery neighborhood charter, a "might as well apply" longshot charter, and a fallback neighborhood school which would be fine for at least the next two years. Whether or not I think this is a good system depends on whether or not we win the lottery.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Burden of Mentoring

Dana Goldstein tweets:

my policy suggestion is to pay good teachers much more to mentor peers, not for high scores

The "problem" with this suggestion is that I don't think you actually need to pay teachers more to mentor peers. That is, you obviously have to give them time during the day, and pay them reasonably for additional out of school obligations, but overall mentoring, having student teachers, etc. is a reward in itself. I'm not saying it is easy, but then again, neither is teaching kids.

If you want to give them a perk, they'd probably be excited use the college's library and gym for free for the semester.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Corned Beef & Cabbage

I cured some corned beef (from Charcuterie) as a St. Patrick's Day warmup. Late in the game I decided to make the braised cabbage from Aquavit. It is the most ridiculously sumptuous cabbage ever. Throw in some microwave mashed potatoes, and it was pretty low stress and one of the best meals I've cooked.

Monday, January 16, 2012

ProJo Peddling Half-Truths

ProJo Editorial:

The schools would be run by Achievement First, a nonprofit that operates 20 public charter schools in New York and Connecticut. Those schools’ students consistently outperform city and statewide averages.

Politifact, via the ProJo:

Taveras said that Achievement First schools in Connecticut and New York "consistently outperform city and statewide averages." That’s true for math but it’s not true for other subjects. It’s true for city averages but not for statewide averages.

In other words, the mayor overstated the case for the charter school operator. We rule the claim Half True.

It is a pleasant surprise to see Politifact checking school reform claims.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Got the Truck Up On Blocks

My work PC is about 11 years old. Or at least the case is. I've been incrementally upgrading bits as they broke or became bottlenecks, but trying not to just gut the whole thing has kept me lagging a generation or two behind, even when I got new stuff. In the past few months, web browsing had become intolerably slow, so it was time for a complete overhaul.

I would have preferred to just buy a compact, silent, low power box equivalent to a Mac Mini, but I must have multiple monitor support, which isn't considered a basic feature. So I ended up taking on what seemed like an archaic process and rebuilding this thing from parts.

So I was able to get a fanless power supply and video card, quiet new case fans, and a giant (quiet) cooler for the i5 CPU. I also ended up mounting /usr on a solid state hard drive I'd bought for ARM server experiments, with everything else on a conventional drive.

In the end, the performance is actually a lot better than I expected, and it is almost silent. So I guess I'm glad I did it the hard way.

Bump that Troublemaker Upstairs (Slightly)

M. Catharine Evans and Ann Kane:

During that time the OSSE, headed by Deborah Gist, recommended that test scores at particular schools, like the highly touted Noyes Education Center, be investigated due to huge gains in proficiency rates.  Noyes math scores alone increased from 22% for the fourth-grade class in 2007 to 84% in 2008.

Gist eventually asked McGraw-Hill to conduct an erasure analysis in 2008.  McGraw-Hill flagged the most extreme cases of wrong-to-right erasures.  Out of 96 schools flagged, eight campuses were the recipients of more than $1.5 million in bonuses from Rhee for high test scores.  None of the schools flagged were investigated in 2008.

D.C. public school officials resisted Gist's efforts to validate the scores.  Documents obtained by USA Today showed that the chancellor's office, headed by Rhee and Henderson, was reluctant to investigate.  Rhee's data and accountability officer employed stall tactics as well, ostensibly so DCPS could "be confident in the data provided" because of "the disruption and alarm an investigation would likely create."

Gist wrote to area schools requesting that they conduct their own examination of test anomalies.  She eventually resigned in April 2009.  Her successor, Kelli Briggs, who served a short term, dropped Gist's recommendations.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Guest Post on The Line

Me at The Line:

The limiting factor for most students (under the Common Core) will be comprehension of complex texts. The curriculum and assessments will emphasize increasing text complexity. Value-added scores determining even high school teachers’ evaluations will primarily be determined by reading level as determined by text complexity. English teachers need to think about the implications of this for their discipline as a whole.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Depressingly Familiar II

Gotham Schools:

An informational session last night at the soon-to-be-shuttered Peninsula Preparatory Academy charter school turned into an emotional sounding board for frustrated parents.

“We find the decision wholly illogical, immoral, perhaps illegal and outright wrong,” said Chantilly Joachin, president of the school’s parent organization.

At the heart of their exasperation was the notion that the city was moving to close such a school in an area where few high quality options exist. Ninety-five percent of students who attend Peninsula Prep on the Rockaways are zoned for district schools that rank lower on city’s student performance index. The city plans to close one of those schools, P.S. 215, further limiting school options.

Yes, Deb Gist was ahead of the curve when she tried this on Highlander last year.

And truly, it is a measure of what a bubble these people are living in when they think that this sort of thing doesn't have a serious downside to the charter community. People really don't want to choose schools for their children that are likely to close before their children graduate.

Depressingly Familiar

Leo Casey:

Consider what is happening to just a few of the PLA ("persistently low achieving") schools. Note that we use here the performance data that, the DoE insists, informs their decisions on the future of schools.

Maxwell Career and Technical H.S. in East New York. Over the last two years, the principal and staff have taken a school which had a ‘D’ on its 2008-09 School Progress Report and was slated for closure by the NYC Department of Education and led it to grades of ‘B’ on its 2009-10 and ‘A’ on its 2010-11 School Progress Reports. The DoE’s now wants to remove that principal and half of the staff that produced that real turn-around, all without the slightest bit of help from Tweed.

Fordham Leadership Academy for Business and Technology. For three years, the DoE left in place the principal of this school who was found by his own superintendent to have engaged in sexual harassment, and was the subject of continued sexual harassment complaints from female staff and parents. The school was finally given a new principal and a chance to turn itself around this past September, but now the DoE wants to remove that principal and half of the staff.

Unity Center for Urban Technologies. DoE Deputy Chancellors consider this school to be a paragon of a school turn around. Unity received an ‘A’ on both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 School Progress Reports, but now the DoE wants to remove the principal and half of the staff it has touted so widely. Talk about the Tweed ‘kiss of death.’

If a Club/Pizza Shop Can Do It, Why Not a School?


We had our hearing with the planning department today, and they voted unanimously to allow our lot merger! This is great news. It's the first, most difficult victory in the ridiculously long process of letting us cut a door in the wall between the club and the pizza restaurant: it means that soon, DNA Lounge and DNA Pizza will have the same street address according to the city, and will be technically a single building.

I think it went so smoothly because we spent so much time and effort (and money) up front, making sure that we pre-loaded our application packet with answers to any question they might think to ask, including a sound report to head off anyone who might claim that we're too loud, and letters of support from several of our close neighbors.

I'd like to thank our neighbors, and especially Jim Meko (of the SOMA Leadership Council and formerly the Entertainment Commission) for their support and testimony! I doubt this would have gone as smoothly without them.

I just couldn't help noticing how different this approach is to RIMA/Achievement First's "do and write as little as possible" strategy for getting a school opened.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Getting Over Google

Dave Winer:

Now I'm pretty sure that Google thinks their magic, whatever that might be, will keep people using Google no matter how much crap they shovel onto the search page. Maybe that was true up to a point, but Google is now over the line. A search engine that did two things would get me to at least seriously try it (and nothing has been able to do that for me since Google rolled out in 1998). Here are the two things. #

1. A super-clean bare-bones interface. #

2. A bonded promise that it will stay that way forever. #

The bonded part is important. I don't think anyone should switch or even think of switching unless the move was irreversible. It has to be that way forever. We could agree to some small amount of advertising on the search results, in the right margin, and clearly labeled. But beyond that, nothing but search results and whitespace. #

I've also been using Google since '98, and the only thing about this analysis I don't understand is why Winer is worried about an irreversible move. It is easy to switch search engines! The problem is at this point it is probably very expensive to start them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Orange Crush in the Morning, Through Cigarette Haze

The KIPP Principal as Hipster

Ben Speicher:

If you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning you know I have a thing for chefs and for David Chang in particular. Besides being a bad-ass chef, Chang created the best new magazine in years when he started Lucky Peach this summer. It’s been an unexpected hit because as David Carr of the Times explains, it breaks all the rules of what we expect from magazines these days,
“It breaks many of the conventions not only of food journalism, but of magazine journalism in general as well. The glamorous star on the cover? It’s a chicken being lowered into a pot with its wrinkly backside depicted squirting out graphic eggs. The so-called front of the book — which in most magazines is filled with infographics and breezy snippets — is filled with a trippy, 9,000-word, rambling eat-a-logue through Japan by Mr. Meehan and Mr. Chang.”
But what makes it work is what Anthony Bourdain, of the TV show No Reservations and a writer for Lucky Peach says, “The guiding ethic was that the important movers in the project cared less about the business success than making something that is good and interesting.” And making something good and interesting means infusing every page with passion, curiosity, and personality. Lucky Peach could only have come from the David Chang, in the same way that No Reservations – one of the best shows on TV in any category and the best “travel show” – could only be created by Bourdain. Chang spends all of this time and energy starting a magazine from scratch and then makes the whole first issue about ramen – not the supermarket instant kind that everyone eats when they’re 19, but the Japanese specialty that few Americans ever experience. Nothing in the magazine is at all “practical”, even to someone who is a minor foodie like myself. For goodness sakes, there is a whole section comparing the ramen specialties of different regions of Japan and another with comic book illustrations featuring top ramen chefs, but I read every single page.

Why? For the same reason I love No Reservations, The Tony Kornheiser Radio Show, the band TV on the Radio, and David Fincher movies – there is a point of view. Not everyone is going to like Fincher’s Zodiac – a procedural where they never catch the bad guy and not everyone is interested in hearing Kornheiser rant about not being able to set up his new TV, but that’s sort of the point. When something, be it a magazine, band, or a movie, is designed to be popular with everyone, it’s going to be hard to be more than mediocre. See Time magazine, Rick Steves, and Nickleback for examples.

And I think this applies to schools too, especially in regards to hiring. When we’re recruiting teachers, I’m very open about the fact that working at KPEA is not for everyone. We have a style, a way of doing things, a point of view for how we teach and how we work together as adults. This style borrows from other KIPP schools, is informed by my travels as a Fisher Fellow, and has now been augmented by the personalities and experiences of our 16 amazing staff members. The end result is a culture that works for our school, but that is not going to be a good fit for everyone. And that’s ok!

The school may have a system -- and it may well be a good one -- but it isn't an idiosyncratic, rule-breaking, setting your own standards for success kind of system. It isn't about saying "We don't care about how other people define success." It is what they used to call in caps, The Organized System. As in "The Problems of Youth in the Organized System."

The Baffler (IS BACK!?!, wow, that's bigger news than the rest of this crap). The Baffler spent much of the 90's pointing out that a huge amount of cultural effort since the 60's had gone into rebranding business as transgressive and countercultural, in large part to negate the "organization man" critique. So this KIPP-ster hipster stuff is just another manifestation of that.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Your Moment of Zen

Scratch a School Reformer and What Do You Get?

Kathleen Porter-Magee:

For instance, the parents of one New Hampshire high school student were outraged when their child was assigned Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America in the school’s finance class. They complained about the book’s pro-Marxist, anti-Christian references and asked that it be removed from the curriculum. (The boy’s parents complained that “Jesus is referred to as a wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist,” and the education bill’s main sponsor, Rep. J. R. Hoell, cited this incident in its defense, arguing that the “admittedly Marxist” book “insulted Christians and promoted illegal drug use as well as being critical of American family life.”)

The school district defended the book, arguing that its “instructional value outweighs its shortcomings.” But at what cost?

This is a dicey issue, to be sure. Taken to its extreme, such objections could lead to the banning of classic works of literature or the indoctrination of particular points of view in fairly homogeneous communities. But perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss these developments as one big creationist conspiracy. Do parents not have a right to ask that assignments not insult their beliefs and teachings? Perhaps a little more flexibility and sensitivity to the values of the kids we serve is in order?

Indeed, what is the cost of defending the free exchange of ideas in public high schools? Perhaps it is a higher price than Porter-Magee would pay. Probably a good thing she's not a principal.

You don't need to wonder what kind of extremes this could go to. If people are attacking a contemporary political nonfiction text by an award-winning journalist that has clear applicability to a practical course being taught to probably upper-level high school students, that's pretty much as bad as it gets. People getting uptight about the frank depiction of sex or race in literature is subtle in comparison.

This is particularly aggravating because Porter-Magee is a strong proponent of the Common Core standards, which are focused on argument and preparation for college and career. How you're going to do that without having students read anything about contemporary controversial subjects, I don't know.

Michael Goldstein:

We need many experiments in helping people to change their parent behavior, entirely on a voluntary basis (and perhaps never delivered by gov’t — too coercive — but by nonprofits, forprofits, churches, etc).

Exactly how is delivery of a voluntary program by the goverment more coercive than by private groups — particularly churches? Especially if funding is public.

This is a Tea Party argument.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

The Professional Artist


Some very talented people don't want to spend their lives running the small business known as ME, which is what you have to do to try to actually succeed, and art often flourishes under constraints (space, money, and, yes, even lack of supreme talent). Support your local community theater!

An Excellent Point, Actually

East Side Public Education Coalition:

We support choices and welcome innovation in our school district. We are not opposed to charter schools. However, we are not convinced that this is the right choice, and note that because the deadline for prospective charter schools to apply to RIDE is March 1, 2012, it is likely that additional charter applications, such as that of the Meeting Street School, will be submitted that offer both options to Providence students as well as potential threats to the district’s finances. We therefore suggest that the Board of Regents at the very least delay making a decision about the Achievement First application until we have a fuller picture of the charter options for the 2013 school year.

I have no idea what other applications might be in the pipeline, but I bet Meeting Street can actually put together a complete and legal application!

Give it a Minute to Get Rolling

Saturday, January 07, 2012

I've Never Figured Out How Proclaiming Your Own Ignorance and Insensitivity Works as a Rhetorical Strategy, But It Does!

Renee Moore:

Supposedly, NCLB's one highly positive attribute is that, as Rep. Miller put it, "It turned the lights on in our schools." He and others credit NCLB with uncovering what was supposedly a deeply hidden secret: That some groups of children in our country, particularly, Black, Hispanic, and special needs children, were generally getting far lower quality of education than their peers. That is the truth, but here's the slant: It was not a secret. In fact, these inequalities are the results of long-standing, deliberate, systemic practices in American education. What's more, parents and teachers, particularly minority parents, students, and teachers, had been complaining loudly and bitterly about those problems for a long, long, time. Perhaps it was policymakers who needed the evidence from NCLB, as Rep. Miller claims, to be "convinced that all children can learn and succeed."

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Ozzie Ausband:

I am meeting up with TA and we are hitting a Men’s AA meeting and then going skating together.

I managed a quick session this warm morning before too many kids showed up at the park.

The Disciplinary Literacy High School

One of the weird things about the Common Core Standards Initiative all along has been that it has simultaneously been presented as revolutionary and non-controversial. Both a logical extension and condensation of a couple of decades of standards writing led by Achieve, Fordham, etc., and something new.

I think they've actually pulled this off at the high school level. The Common Core High School would be centered around disciplinary literacy in a way that I don't think anybody has tried, and perhaps has never even really been described. If so, I haven't seen it. But here are the sets of Common Core standards relevant to high schools, slightly rephrased:

  • Math;
  • literacy (reading and writing generic informational texts);
  • disciplinary literacy in English (reading and writing about literature);
  • disciplinary literacy in Science;
  • disciplinary literacy in History/Social Studies

The school as a whole and individual teachers will all be accountable for those. There may also be other national, state or local standards in these and other disciplines, but there will always also be the core.

Let me put it this way -- under this regime shouldn't the most important goal of a Science department should be preparing their students to read college science texts and write well about science texts? If you really designed a school around this system it would probably be different than any school that has ever existed, and nobody has any idea what the kids would look like at the end.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Speaking Out About Achievement First High Schools

Bari L. Katz, former (founding) Director of Student Life at Achievement First Crown Heights High School:

In addition to being developmentally inappropriate for the age of our students, the school system was oppressive in other ways. I would receive phone calls from parents and families on a daily basis because they felt disrespected by AF leadership. Many parents felt the rules in the school were over the top and not beneficial to the “college preparatory mission” of the school. Many parents were called up to the school on a regular basis to have meetings with school administrators to address student discipline issues, often times even for minor infractions. Usually, students were not allowed to attend academic classes until these parent meetings happened (students in this situation would sit alone in a classroom or in the main office all day and independently do work assigned by their teachers even though they often couldn’t complete the work because they hadn’t received the lesson for the day. Perhaps because their shoes were 98% black instead of 100% black. For instance). Parents reported feeling devalued, disrespected, and frustrated by AF’s condescending approach to family involvement.

This leads me to my second concern about Achievement First’s proposed expansion. AF works in low-income communities of color in urban areas in New Haven, CT and Brooklyn, NY. From my experience, the mentality by many at the head of the organization and by association many of the school leaders as well, is one of disregard for the indigenous community they are entering. Rather than becoming a part of the neighborhoods in which they operate, AF most often runs schools that end up isolating the community in the surrounding area. Instead of valuing the parent and family contributions of their student body, many AF schools underestimate the power and capability of the families they are supposed to be serving. I always got the feeling that “we” were there to “fix a problem.” “We” were there to “save these kids.” The message to our students was often, “if you don’t do things ‘our’ way, you will never be successful in the ‘real world.’” As an organization working to serve urban populations, this kind of cultural insensitivity and sense of superiority are deeply harmful to the students, the families and the communities in which AF operates schools.

This is not about me. And I don’t want it to be about my experience. I left AF after my kids finished their ninth grade year for many reasons. I still speak to my kids and their families on a regular basis. When I left, half of the founding team left as well. By the start of the school’s second year, the 10th grade class (my kids) was down to a group of approximately 45-50. This year, the third year of the school, the founding class is down to around 35-40 students. This is the same trend in the AF high school in New Haven, which has graduated less than 30 kids the last two years (which they call a 100% graduation rate). I wanted to make sure that the voices of the families I’ve worked with for the last several years from AF Brooklyn High School were represented in this statement. They all asked me to keep their names confidential as they did not want their kids, some of whom still attend AF Brooklyn High School, to be penalized in any way for their speaking out.

In Case You Were Wondering

Nirvana is like an alternative program for at-risk kids that gets great results and press but then has no mechanism to keep out a bunch of middle class applicants which inevitably drag the school away from its original mission, leading its staff to leave and its founding principal to marry a heroin addicted harpy and commit suicide.

Pearl Jam is like a successful suburban district high school with a pleasant hippy/progressive edge.

KIPP is not like a rock band at all.

In reference to.

Two Things to Watch in 2012

Keep an eye on:

  • Race to the Top blackmail fatigue: Threats by the feds or a state to take away a state/district's RttT money make news almost daily now. The question is how many times can you pull on this slender lever before it snaps. People are slowly realizing that RttT doesn't actually leave much money at all for what parents and teachers (and kids!) actually want, most of the spending goes to (out of state) consultants, and on the whole it may be a money loser for individual districts if not whole states.

    As districts and states increasingly choke on rushed, ill-conceived reforms, only to be met with threats from above, how quickly will the feeling that this is a big political charade spread?

  • United Opt-Out: The sharp point of the counter-reform spear is civil disobedience: parents and students opting out of testing. Passive resistance. This will grow in 2012. How fast?

What is it with No Excuses Principals and their Crappy Metaphors?


The twentieth anniversaries of Pearl Jam’s creation and Nirvana’s Nevermind have a lot to tell us about school leadership. Seriously.

These two bands (Substitute Tupac and Jay Z if you want the hip-hop analogue) illustrate two possible paths for schools and for their leaders.

I may have to start encouraging these guys to use business metaphors.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Back to Central Falls

Joe Nocera:

As it turns out, Meg O’Leary and Sarah Friedman, the co-founders of The Learning Community, had gotten there a whole lot earlier. Before starting The Learning Community in 2004, they spent three years working with the Providence school system on a pilot program designed to come up with ways to “transform teaching practices and improve outcomes,” says Friedman. During a time of upheaval in the school system, a small corps of great teachers were the real anchors in the schools. In setting up The Learning Community, O’Leary and Friedman wanted to apply the best practices they had learned during the Providence project — and, eventually, to use their knowledge to help public school districts in Rhode Island.

My comment:

For those wondering about The Learning Community's basic model, it is a fairly progressive, constructivist school. At least as much as you can manage under the post-NCLB regime. It isn't a "no excuses" CMO-led charter.

As Nocera points out, O’Leary and Friedman's work is based on their experiences working as part of reform initiatives within the Providence Public Schools (when Gallow was an Assistant Superintendent there). Reforms that were halted and dismantled by subsequent "reformers" in Providence. The only reason we're talking about the "innovation" of migrating practices from The Learning Community to district schools is because "reformers" drove them out of district schools in the first place.

I suppose the proof of the pudding would be if a PPSD turnaround school could submit The Learning Community's model as their plan and get it approved by the PPSD and RIDE. I doubt it.

Also, given the serious headwinds Central Falls faces -- bankruptcy, continuing erosion of funding, no real reason for existing as a municipality other than being so screwed up nobody wants to merge with them -- it is kind of baffling that neutral observers like Nocera would continue to go along with promoting them as a model of reform. It is unlikely to end well. For reformers, the best outcome is that the district is small enough to collapse completely and be replaced by higher-performing charters, but in the meantime, these charter/district collaboration stories don't help much with that storyline.