More importantly, we had some epic ping pong battles in those days. Alan and me versus Bob and Glenn. Usually 6th period. I think Bob and Glenn had a prep. Common planning? Please. We’d slug it out, lots of 21-19 games. Alan and I would run Glenn side to side and drop shot him just so he’d have to rush down to teach 7th period all sweaty.
Friday, March 30, 2012
News flash- right wing hacks tend to act like right wing hacks. We’re talking about a conservative bloc whose wives openly work for tea party groups, we’re talking about hacks that speak privately to the tea party hacks. We’re talking about people who lie on their disclosure forms for decades to cover up the money their wives are receiving from wingnut welfare organizations.
Every one of these men was a member of the Federalist Society. Every single one of them was groomed for exactly what they are doing right now. This is their time to shine, to do what they have been groomed to do. When you train soldiers to fight, and drill their mission into them every day, and drill the rightness and correctness of their mission into them every day, and assure them they are fighting for truth, justice, and the American way, only a fool would be surprised that they are eager to go into combat.
Scalia's tone reminds me of Cheney:
Mr. O'Neill was speechless, hardly believing that Mr. Cheney -- whom he and Mr. Greenspan had known since Dick was a kid -- would say such a thing. Mr. Cheney moved to fill the void. "We won the midterms. This is our due." Mr. O'Neill left Mr. Cheney's office in a state of mild shock.
I'm afraid a lot more people are in for a "mild shock" from this court.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
But none of these things (banning private school, etc.) is going to happen any time soon, and I for one have gotten annoyed at this particular "thought experiment," which seems desperate and misleading. It's desperate because its fanciful nature suggests that reformers are out of ideas; even their magic bullets are made up, now (though to be fair, I'm suspicious about the existence of "Finland," too). It's misleading because it fails to acknowledge that, by focusing almost exclusively on the poorest neighborhoods and the lowest-performing teachers and schools, reformers have contributed to the lack of engagement among middle-class and wealthy families whose interests are going to be needed to make education better at scale.
I find it particularly annoying since Wake County-style desegregation should produce similar results and is genuinely plausible. Unless, I guess, you think including the very wealthy in public schools would provide the decisive difference (which is a vain fantasy).
The form of business management that is espoused in the neoliberal positivist agenda is one in which all context, history, personality, community and local situation is ripped-out of the economic evaluation process. This is a process whereby good companies and bad companies are measured and boiled-down to numerical metrics only. The spreadsheet is the only thing that matters, and the numbers that are produced therewith, are the only data that is reported to the market. Without any other form of contextualising data, the well-being of a company, of its investors, it’s stakeholders, it’s workforce and it’s customers, are all placed on the sacrificial altar of the stock price. Driving this stock price forward is the primary, indeed the only concern of the management caste who run these companies. Making money is the only measure of success, and the management caste who normalise and drive this forward are the only ones who experience the rewards and benefits accrued in these deals. This is a form of economics that smashes collective action, denies partnerships through trade-unionism, and decouples companies from the shared benefits that might potentially be on offer, but which are realised only in more long-term or more dispersed forms of accountability. Instead, in the neoliberal model, the rewards only go to the managers. The management castes sense of entitlement therefore far outstrips the rewards that ordinary citizens and employees can expect. Investment in general public services, such as health, education and transport, becomes anathema to the supposed good running of business and the economy. And the decay that is wrought on communities in the process of seeking to make money alone is blamed on the disadvantaged communities themselves. As if being poor was a moral fault of the individual, and not expressly the product of an unbalanced and inequitable system.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
FAIRFIELD, NJ, March 28, 2012 – Critical Links, a pioneer in delivering Information & Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure solutions for School 2.0 —the next generation of schools, announced today that it is introducing its Education Appliance on the Microsoft Hyper-V/Windows 2008 R2 platform. This is generally available from March 1st 2012 and is a result of the collaboration with the Microsoft ‘Shape the Future’ program.
SchoolTool is a key component of the Critical Links Education Appliance. We're happy to have Microsoft help distribute our free software to schools around the world!
While reading Matt DiCarlo's review of Ohio's new school rating system, I thought I'd note that in RIDE's NCLB waiver request the appendix includes what seems to be a not-very anonymized pdf table (schools and districts have numbers instead of names) of school scores under the new system. It would be pretty tough to figure them out from scratch. You can parse and extract tabular data from pdf's (unless they're images) so if you wanted to do a real analysis of the new scoring system, that would probably be the best approach.
The only thing I have to say about it at this point is that their little systems to convert scores into point values based on a handful of cut scores drives me up the wall. Nobody picking stocks or baseball players would do that (e.g., instead of just looking at batting average directly, assign 1 point if you're under .250, 2 points for over .275, 3 points if you're over .300, etc.). My guess is the motivation for this is making the system look simpler and avoiding the "Look at the crazy long equation used to come up with this meaningless score" issue. Better to just intentionally make it a crude instrument. Either that or the whole thing is just rigged in some subtle way.
That's not really necessary anyway though, since they have a lot of discretion in the end -- they're not bound to the numbers anyhow.
Or maybe it is just to make sure the overall spread of end results looks wider and more significant.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
The Huntingdon County Drop In Center is facing budget cuts that director Larry Strait says will result in an increase in public expenses in the long run.
The Drop In Center has been in operation since 1994, serving area residents with mental disabilities as a community center that provides nutritional and educational needs, as well as opportunities for socialization. Tom Weyandt, center member and volunteer, estimated that the center serves between 40 and 50 people a day.
The cuts that threaten the center’s operation are a result of the 27 percent decrease in funds the state proposed to make in the mental health section of the MH/MR budget.
Before the paywall kicks in.
"Transforming the lowest performing schools has been the most challenging area for us," Commissioner Gist noted. "In a state like Rhode Island, where the number of low-performing schools is concentrated with districts with political challenges, reform becomes difficult."
This is a willful misdiagnosis of Rhode Island's problems. There is no political crisis in Providence, at least from the school reformer's point of view. We've had two strongly pro-reform mayors in a row with entirely mayor-appointed boards. The union has at best staged a controlled retreat. The only real political battles have been to determine who is the most aggressive reformer.
The Central Falls schools have been funded and controlled by the state for years and the city government is now controlled by a strongly pro-reform state-appointed receiver. Those are political conditions favorable to reform (of the type that Gist favors, ofc).
The real problem is that low-performing schools are concentrated (not coincidentally) in districts with high rates of poverty, insufficient local tax bases, and inadequate funding.
Monday, March 26, 2012
Like the hot stuff, cold-brewing involves mixing pulverized beans with water, but the latter process requires about twice as much ground coffee. Those grounds infuse filtered water for 12 to 24 hours, creating iced-coffee concentrate. That liquid is cut with water to taste, at a ratio of about one to one. Yet even after all this dilution, a cup of cold-brewed joe can include 62 cents worth of ground coffee. A hot cup might include 35 cents’ worth of beans.
I didn't know about the dilution step.
The Providence Public School District Board in Rhode Island will vote on Monday, March 26, on a proposal to hire the educational consulting firm run by former controversial Palm Beach County School District Chief Learning Officer Jeffrey Hernandez to turn around several failing schools.
The board is considering hiring Miami Lakes-based National Academic Educational Partners, Inc, which is run by Hernandez along with the Massachusetts-based Cambium Learning Group Inc. to be in charge of at least two and possibly three schools that are considered in “intervene” status by the state because of poor student performance, said Providence Public Schools Spokeswoman Christina O’Reilly.
First off, if Jeffrey Hernandez still has a career, it should provide hope to anyone with an unflattering online presence.
I'm afraid "the man who became the most despised person in the Palm Beach County school system" may be a red herring here though, with Cambium Learning Group Inc. doing more of the heavy lifting, including probably a significant online component. Not that I know anything about them other than what I read on their website in five minutes.
I have a little trouble getting too worked up about this because I couldn't tell you who they should hire, or do. Dumping piles of money on out of state consultants was always what School Improvement Grants and Race to the Top was really about for Rhode Island.
In particular, I've been mystified by occasional comments I've read on SIG and RttT nationally which express some faith that these things are going to get easier to implement over the next few years. What's really happening is that we lacked enough capacity for the first round of turnarounds, and the gap is only going to grow as next year's lowest performing 5% is added to the stack. Year after year. We'll all be well into the seventh circle of charlatans in no time. It is going to get much worse.
Roy: "Changing us vs. them rhetoric in education will come through personal relationships amongst stakeholders." Yes! #yaleelc #edreform
Basically, it only seems like we have a problem with divisive rhetoric when you get far enough away from the problem that you only see it through rhetoric. Up close the problem is the visceral reality wrought by bad policy. Schools closing, teachers being fired, educational choice, opportunity and achievement diminishing. The same mistakes repeated over and over again. The rhetoric is no worse than ever, although plunging fire is coming from our own lines now. Its the same rhetoric as before. And when pressed, reformers are perfectly willing to walk away from their own lines and co-opt up yours. Arne Duncan is apparently as much against teaching to the test as I am!
Put very simply – Achievement First Charter schools DO NOT SERVE STUDENT POPULATIONS COMPARABLE TO DISTRICT POPULATIONS.
I have explained previously how this is relevant to broader policy discussions. Specifically, it is relevant to the claim that these schools can serve as a model for expansion yielding similar outcomes for all children in New Haven, Bridgeport or Hartford. In very simple terms, there are not enough non-low income, non-disabled and non-ELL kids around in these settings to broadly replicate the outcomes that these schools may be achieving. Again, this public policy perspective contrasts with the parental choice perspective. While from a public policy perspective we are concerned that these outcomes may be merely a function of selective demography, from a personal/parental choice perspective within any one of these cities, the concern is only for the outcomes, and achieving those outcomes by having a desirable peer group is as desirable as achieving those outcomes by providing higher quality service.
I don't want to get too deep into this, but if the Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of test score fluctuations included the most recent test scores (as "2011"), you'd definitely expect the number of classrooms in the PPSD flagged for unusual fluctuations to go up significantly due to the mass reorganization of elementary and middle schools.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Had the car this morning so I was able to squeeze in a quick cloudy weekday solo session at Neutaconkanut. Zachary S. Martin, Luthier showed up with his dog, and we pretty quickly figured out that we're both Central PA natives living in Elmwood with pretty similar approaches (and abilities, although he's better) to skating. So hopefully that meeting will lead to some good sessions this summer.
Meanwhile (nearly) on the West Coast, the always inspiring Bob Lake and the Solitary Arts crew were hitting up a whole series of parks...
Friday, March 23, 2012
PROVIDENCE — Business leaders, legislators, academics, researchers, students and social entrepreneurs from across the country gathered March 16 and 17 for a two-day conference at Brown University to advance social enterprise as a new paradigm for economic development.
In a speech Saturday, Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., said he was drafting the first proposed national legislation to directly support social enterprise — an emerging movement that innovates new business models to help solve social and environmental ills.
I can't really see myself as part of the "social enterprise" tribe, even though that's pretty much what I do.
Mike Daisey definitely crossed a line from acceptable storytelling into unacceptable misstatements of fact, but Ira Glass was correct in saying that “This American Life” has to take much of the blame for it. As Laura points out, that show has an ambiguous status, and I had not known until now that its producers consider their work as journalism. That’s not quite an adequate label, frankly. But it’s clear that once they decided to fact-check Daisey’s work for their radio show, and he actively misled them about the fact that some details were fictionalized, the Rubicon had been crossed.
To be clear, I have no problem with an artist or writer taking liberties with a somewhat true story in order to make a dramatic point or a social argument. That describes almost everything Dickens ever wrote, and everything else from Frank Norris and Theodore Dreiser to “All the President’s Men,” “Silkwood” and “The Hurt Locker.” The larger problem is that our society lacks basic standards of literacy that would allow people to understand the distinction between fiction and journalism, and the varying pathways to truth (and definitions thereof) that each can offer.
We’re obsessed with the question of whether things are “real,” which betrays our doubts about whether anything we encounter in the media should be considered real. So the appearance of authenticity becomes a valuable commodity, and people seek it out when they don’t deserve it. Every other Hollywood movie professes to be “based on a true story,” which often is just an excuse for shoddy storytelling. What’s doubly or trebly unfortunate about this case is that most of what Mike Daisey says about working conditions in Chinese factories is apparently true. He doesn’t deserve comparison with someone like James Frey, who essentially tried to sell a novel as autobiography.
The line here is very broad and hazy, and in the end I'd say Mike Daisey definitely crossed it. But the key to understanding what happened here is an understanding of genre. What he did would be ok for a personal monologue, but not as a political argument or journalism, or expert commentary. It would be ok for a docu-drama, or historical movie, but not in dinner party conversation. Poem, yes. Photograph in art show, yes. Photograph in news magazine, no.
Genre is one of the most powerful tools in the discipline of English, yet it is absent -- uniquely absent -- from the Common Core standards. Why?
"You're not paying them enough Mr Chiappetta. These teachers are great." Feedback during parent conferences...
You know what might help with that problem? A union.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been keeping track of a trend among friends around my age (late thirties to mid-forties). Eight of us (so far) share something in common besides our conservatism: a deep frustration over how our parents have become impossible to take on the subject of politics. Without fail, it turns out that our folks have all been sitting at home watching Fox News Channel all day – especially Glenn Beck’s program.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
A Huntingdon Borough man who was reportedly distraught is currently undergoing an evaluation at J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital after he allegedly fired several shots into the ground Monday night at approximately 10:35 p.m. The incident took place in the area of the 900 block of Washington Street.
OTOH, Elmwood Man Fires Shots is not likely to make the front page of the ProJo.
One mother said she saw a sharp contrast between P.S. 8, the Brooklyn Heights school her son attends, and the Brownsville elementary school where she is a teacher. P.S. 8 teachers emphasize critical thinking and creativity, she said, but the school where she works does not.
“Our curriculum, as dictated by our principal, is all year long focused on test prep,” said the teacher, who declined to give her name or the school where she worked. “Since February 20, which is the day after we got back from break, every single day my students sit through two ours of testing.”
Polakow-Suransky said a curriculum that focused on drilling and test prep was unlikely to pay off in higher test scores. “It’s failed wherever it’s been tried,” he said.
The teacher interrupted him to say that hasn’t been her school’s experience, at least according to the metrics that Polakow-Suransky himself has engineered. “I should add that my school gets an A every year,” she said.
The irrational and self-defeating nature of "drilling and test prep" seems to be an increasingly important talking point, and I think it is bogus in the short to medium term. In the long run, clearly, it doesn't work or we'd have many more successful urban high schools than we do. In the meantime, lots of elementary and middle schools have boosted their scores quickly through test prep.
The arguments to strengthen the common core and also expand voucher programs are contradictory, unless someone is arguing that schools receiving vouchers have to sign on to curricular standards.
Monday, March 19, 2012
BRIDGEWATER — After two years as president of Bridgewater College, George Cornelius has decided it is time to move on.
Cornelius will leave in May, at the end of the academic year, after deciding not to seek to extend his contract.
Cornelius's nephew declines to comment.
I pull into the driveway after a long trip, and witness a miracle.
Pip, the gray wren who shows up every spring, is rebuilding her nest in the corner of our carport again. I thought for sure that she had kicked the can last year, when she suddenly disappeared, leaving a baby bird behind. Yet here she is again! She has pushed the baby bird's bones out of the nest and lined her house with fresh twigs. (We have witnessed a lot of life and death in our carport through the years.)
At the sight of her silhouette in my headlights, I put my head on the steering wheel and cry.
Maybe it’s because I’m overtired.
Maybe it’s because I’m just glad to be home.
Or maybe it’s because the first story I ever wrote was about a bird and a nest.
It was third grade, and I wrote the story to read out loud at the annual third grade talent show. It was called “A Helping Wing,” and it told of a little robin who broke her wing and needed help building her nest. A troupe of local mockingbirds and cardinals, sparrows and owls brought pieces of their own nests to add to hers, and they all lived happily ever after.
After the talent show, the mother of another student came up to me and said that my story made her cry... in a good way.
And that was when I knew I wanted to be a writer.
Now I’m crying into the steering wheel because it’s been harder than I thought to stay the course, harder than I thought to remember why I’m doing all of this in the first place.
But Pip has just reminded me:
I’m here to write about how a little gray wren builds her nest in our carport every year and to wonder what this might say about God.
It’s that simple.
It's that hard.
It's that wonderful.
But a lot of churches have green rooms these days.
And I’m not sure how I feel about that.
GothamSchools has posted some slides from the NYC Dept. of Education with some examples of Common Core aligned prompts:
What puzzles me here is the difference between the prompt above and the text of the standard for writing arguments (which I presume this is supposed to assess):
- a. Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
- b. Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly and thoroughly, supplying the most relevant evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level, concerns, values, and possible biases.
There are a few more, but that's the most relevant part. Why are the two so different, and in particular, why is the NYC assessment so concerned with the student's point of view, which is not required at all by the standards themselves, as has been repeatedly explained to us by David "people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think" Coleman?
I'm not saying this prompt is eeevil, but I could certainly write one for your state that was easier and aligned more closely with the actual standards. If your state buys my solution, you'll look better than New York.
Saxton native Sandra Fluke said no matter what slurs or defamatory statements have been made against her as an advocate for women’s reproductive rights, it’s important to her first of all to tell the stories of how current policies impact women’s health.
Saxton is about 30 miles down Route 26 from my home town, at the other end of Raystown Lake.
Takes a little backbone to be a Central PA liberal, and Saxton is probably even less cosmopolitan than Huntingdon.
A great example of how this plays out involves today's efforts to boost teacher quality. We hear a lot about what leaders can't do when it comes to staffing, incentive pay, dismissals, and the rest. Yet, while much of this is valid, it's also the case that these leaders can do a lot more than sometimes thought. For example, when John Deasy, now superintendent of Los Angeles, was superintendent of Prince George's County, Maryland, he transferred hundreds of teachers to new schools and initiated a pay-for-performance system despite the traditional belief that these moves were prohibited by the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). When asked how this was possible, Deasy would smile. "Nothing prohibited any of this," he said. "Why does it not happen? [Because] most people see the contract as a steel box. It's not. It's a steel floor with no boundaries around it. You've just got to push and push and push."
So right now the RI Board of Regents is considering a proposal that would create public charter school A, which would be responsible for educating the students registered to and enrolled in private school B (at school B's expense). At first I assumed that this was a stealthy bid to establish Deborah Gist's great victory in cage-busting leadership, because while she's been an excellent foot-soldier for reform, she hasn't broken the mold in any significant way. Looking more deeply into it, I think it is probably just a workaround that hasn't been completely thought out.
But who knows? This doesn't seem like it should be legal, but maybe nobody bothered to write down "Public school teachers cannot be the teacher of record for private school students," or whatever, because nobody thought it could be an issue. I don't really care enough to find out, because in the long run, these things can be fought out later just as well as now. If there is a real legal issue with the structure of this school, it can be resolved after the school opens just as well. If not, then, whatever.
Friday, March 16, 2012
By ADAM WATSON
Daily News Staff Writer
Several Trough Creek Valley residents with children attending the Trough Creek Valley Elementary School expressed a number of concerns Thursday night to the Southern Huntingdon County School Board. The board is proposing to close the 51-year-old school due to low enrollment and other factors.
Now I can read about rural school closings too!
As you know from my last blog post on the Common Core, I quite like the common core standards. The interdisciplinary approach gives teachers multiple opportunities to address content in a variety of ways, deepening critical thinking skills. For example, one of the sessions I attended, “Reading Social Studies: The Character Connection” (Louisa Kramer-Vida, Ed.D, C.W. Post University) focused on teaching social studies like we would teach ELA, with “characters.” By teaching social studies with a “story,” students can make the connections to their studies as they would with a novel in ELA. To me, this is what the Common Core seeks. As I reflected on what I am writing for my own school’s unified curriculum, the goal is to connect our students to the people and places around them. Instead of creating characters, we want to connect our students to their own community, developing their sense of space from the small to the very large. For older students, connecting them in the same way is equally important.
The Common Core standards could not be more explicit that reading in social studies is not supposed to be like reading in ELA. That's why there is an entire, separate set of reading standards for social studies. Nor could the standards and their author's commentary be more emphatic about their goal not being "making connections." The Common Core ELA standards are about close reading and analysis of texts (and not in the literary theory sense).
Dawn presented a unit to the staff that she had developed when we were teaching together at Merrick. The lesson was on cells; she had her students compare the cell and its contents to a community. As I sat there and watched the faculty react to that unit, it dawned on me (no pun intended): “Wow. This is exactly the kind of thing we want to see to connect all disciplines to the mission of our school.” During the reflection time period, one teacher asked about the possibility of tying math lessons to this theme.
Common Core is all about this type of higher level thinking. Going even deeper, as an environmental science school, making this kind of comparison tied our mission to other disciplines in a meaningful manner.
No, it really isn't about that kind of thinking at all! There are no standards anything like that!
I guess the charitable interpretation of this kind of thing is that the existing standards and tests in New York must be more limiting than I can appreciate, so maybe in comparison Common Core is a breath of fresh air.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
“We’ve spent $300 million in this country on teacher-effectiveness research, and what turns out to be the best predictor?” asks Timothy Knowles, who runs the Urban Education Institute and headed up Rahm’s transition team on education. Knowles offers me a pleasantly contemptuous “Hmmm” and answers, “It’s students.” Their evaluations of teacher quality are surprisingly accurate when correlated with other measurements. Standardized tests, he says, “have been gamed so mercilessly by many states that they’re of limited use.” Responding to the report cards was voluntary this year. Rahm has ordered that compliance be mandatory for Chicago schools in 2012–13, which means that every school in the city will for the first time be thoroughly evaluated.
Without even noticing that Jonathan Alter wrote this peice for The Atlantic, that paragraph jumped out at me as a perfect example of our skewed, insincere school reform discourse. To fisk:
"We’ve spent $300 million in this country on teacher-effectiveness research." Perhaps this refers to Gates' MET project. Or the feds' TIF? Either way it is probably either too high or too low. Too high if you're counting money spent on research itself, too low if you're talking about various ongoing schemes to improve teacher effectiveness that are both very expensive and are whose results are being researched.
But rhetorically, why throw in that big handwavy number at all? Just a couple years ago when MET was being launched, we were being told teacher effectiveness was a vast undiscovered country. This was bullshit then, and it is bullshit now when Knowles tries to impress you with a nine-figure budget, trying to signal to the reader that now the problem is well understood, and here's the simple, common-sensical answer.
The reader, and Alter, are likely to think that what follows is the consensus of a large body of rigorous research; in reality it is probably just an inaccurate gloss on the preliminary results of a single initiative.
- "what turns out to be the best predictor?” asks Timothy Knowles, who runs the Urban Education Institute and headed up Rahm’s transition team on education. Knowles offers me a pleasantly contemptuous “Hmmm” and answers, “It’s students.” Their evaluations of teacher quality are surprisingly accurate when correlated with other measurements. Standardized tests, he says, “have been gamed so mercilessly by many states that they’re of limited use.”" First off, this overstates the evidence I can find on the efficacy of student surveys. On a deeper level, this claim is nonsense because there is no platonic ideal of effectiveness that we can use to confirm the accuracy of any given measure. We can see if the measures correlate with themselves over time, and with other measures, and in the studies Knowles is almost certainly referring to, the ultimate measures are test scores, which Knowles quickly pivots to discredit because they've been "gamed."
But the MET preliminary report actually defends the validity of standardized tests anyhow. And if tests have been gamed, why wouldn't student surveys be?
Finally, it isn't like these guys are interested in the opinion of students (or parents or teachers) in general. Just when it serves their larger purposes, which apparently it does now.
Now, Knowles doesn't work for J.C. Brizard in the CPS, but still, just three paragraphs later we get this:
Shortly after arriving, Brizard informed his principals, who every year had rated 99 percent of Chicago teachers “superior or outstanding,” that they must change performance standards faster. “We’re getting better. We moved from less than 1 percent to 1 percent ‘unsatisfactory,’” he told them wryly. He recommends that teachers read or watch the video of Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion, the bible for reformers who stress great teaching. Brizard understands that many charter schools fail, and that traditional schools cannot all adopt the crushing teacher workloads of the charters that succeed.
Wait, what happened to the awesome accuracy of student surveys? What happened to $300 million in research? Why are we reading a book that's just a collection of practices from a selection of successful schools? We've had those for years without spending $300 million (and without fixing American education). And how does a "crushing teacher workload" fit into this? Can't we just hire more teachers?
It just doesn't seem to matter what people are actually saying, it all just comes out as "yadda yadda reform" anyhow.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Science is a big thing if you can travel a Winter Journey in her cause and not regret it. I am not sure she is bigger still if you can have dealings with scientists and continue to follow in her path.
That's an Antarctic winter journey, btw.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
So what role do MITx, Udacity, and Udemy play? Two that I can see: first, they will provide exactly what they say they provide, open access to courses for autodidacts, with support for each course ranging from nothing beyond a video to complex algorithmic assessment and suggestions. For liberal arts, such as Margaret Soltan’s Poetry course, this provides an entry for people wanting to dive into a subject. For technically-related subjects, such as Udacity’s likely slate, this will provide concrete skills for thousands of people each year. In other words, don’t knock it for those who find value in specific areas.
Second, the massively-online courses are more likely to erode the marketability of online/for-profit “higher education” than to harm your local community college or tuition-dependent small non-profit college. I cannot imagine that someone who would otherwise go to Southern Nazarene University or Wisconsin Lutheran College would be heading over to Udacity or MITx as the alternative. Someone interested in Argosy, the University of Phoenix, or Full Sail heading over instead to Udacity? You bet. Yet Carey is making his argument based on the theoretical interchangeability of a degree from Aurora University or Chowan College with MITx. I don’t buy that.
What will disrupt the “enduring college business model” (which isn’t that enduring in any case)? For community colleges and low-status public colleges and universities, it’s declining public funding. Go ask students and faculty in California if you doubt me.
Monday, March 12, 2012
I am writing to urge the Board of Regents to withhold the Grace School Mayoral Academy's (GSMA) preliminary charter pending at least two actions by the Regents and RIDE.
First, RIDE should draft and the Regents approve a set of clear legal guidelines for mixed public charter and private schools, such as GSMA, in particular concerning the education of non-public school students by public school teachers.
Second, RIDE should draft and the Regents approve a clear set of regulations, based explicitly on the text and intent of Rhode Island law, governing the unique governance and enrollment requirements of mayoral academies.
The most extraordinary feature of the proposed GSMA is its inclusion of non-GSMA, private Meeting Street (MS) school students in every classroom. The proposal provides some detail on the relationship by which GSMA will pay MS for rent and management services, but it is mute on the converse: MS's payment for students who will attend all classes at GSMA, but are apparently not enrolled as students in GSMA. In fact, in the estimated budget for a single 4th grade classroom, 72% of income and expenses are associated with students not enrolled in GSMA. Presumably there will be some sort of contractual agreement, but the application omits details of this apparently unprecedented arrangement.
I am not qualified to speak to the legality of this proposed (or implied) arrangement. I can, however, point out that if this school is approved, it sets a precedent for a whole range of previously unconsidered public charter/private school configurations.
Can a Boys and Girls Club start a charter school where in addition to the public lottery seats there will be a reserved set of private scholarship seats chosen by application?
Can Moses Brown start a charter school to provide an inclusive environment for its special education students? Or as a remedial environment for its students? Or to give its students some exposure to low-income and minority students?
Can The Wheeler School stretch its financial aid budget by offering ten subsidized “charter school” seats per year?
Can I start a charter school where I auction off 10 private admissions a year with the proceeds benefiting the school?
Can a residential private school serving a transient population (students with addiction or health issues, for example) mitigate the costs of educating its students by starting an on-site charter to be attended by its residents as well as local students?
Can any private school with extra seats add a small charter to pay the bills?
What will the rules be for charter schools within parochial schools?
I would also note that the apparent reason for GSMA mixing public and private students within its classrooms is to allow MS to collect the full special education costs from sending districts or families. A charter school cannot do this directly.
This is the fourth mayoral academy proposal that the Regents have considered in recent years, and it is painfully obvious that RIDE's regulations, application and review procedures are inadequate to describe and enforce the letter and intent of Rhode Island's unique law.
For example, RIDE seems to be juggling two distinct interpretations of the language regarding mayoral academy enrollment: on one hand that each sending town is offered an equal number of enrollments (as at Blackstone Valley Prep), on the other that each student should be offered an equal number of enrollments, meaning all students should have an equal chance to be selected from a single lottery pool (except when they are siblings, children of staff, economically disadvantaged, etc.). The GSMA application manages to directly contradict both extant interpretations by asserting twice that “a minimum of 85% of students will reside in Providence.”
Further, the application states that the academy's board of trustees “is comprised of representatives from each included city or town.” This is contradicted in two different ways by the GSMA's proposed board.
First, the proposed board has “five representatives from Meeting Street’s Board of Trustees .” This is clearly in conflict the intent of Rhode Island law, and would give MS effective control over the board of a government-funded non-profit for which they serve as the primary contractor, customer, landlord AND financial agent.
Second, the application repeatedly asserts that the school will not be limited to students from Providence and North Providence, but makes no reference to the legal requirement for those students' communities to be represented on the school's board.
These problems illustrate the inadequacy of RIDE's application and review process. Prospective mayoral academies are simply offered too little guidance on this unique law, and as a result, the public and the Regents have repeatedly been forced to evaluate incomplete, inconsistent or self-contradictory applications. RIDE and the Regents need to offer some clarity on these issues, or they will eventually be settled much more expensively and disruptively in court.
What makes Kony 2012 especially frustrating, however, is that the film traffics in a sentimental and infantilizing version of Africa that is so prevalent we don’t even notice it. The idea behind a name such as “Invisible Children” is on par with the sentiments of the first colonists who claimed to have discovered the New World and Africa: We didn’t know about it, therefore it didn’t exist. The children of Uganda were never invisible to their families and communities, who long before the first flood of NGO’s to the region, worked for years to protect them. To claim they were invisible because a group of college students traveling through Uganda happened to stumble upon a war they were too ignorant to have known of before going to the region is, to put it mildly, patronizing. By the time the organizers arrived in Uganda and created Invisible Children, northern villages such as Gulu were crowded with NGOs and aid workers and the largest humanitarian concern, by far, was the housing conditions of the more than one million people living in camps for the internally displaced.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Six Rhode Island high schools will participate in a pilot test to gauge how their students stack up against other students across the country and the world.
They are among approximately 100 U.S. high schools that will participate in a pilot PISA test -- Program for International Student Assessment -- that students in 65 countries take every three years.
It is really a toss-up though.
- From Sachs to Kristof to Invisible Children to TED, the fastest growth industry in the US is the White Savior Industrial Complex.
- The white savior supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening.
- The banality of evil transmutes into the banality of sentimentality. The world is nothing but a problem to be solved by enthusiasm.
- This world exists simply to satisfy the needs -- including, importantly, the sentimental needs -- of white people and Oprah.
- The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege.
- Feverish worry over that awful African warlord. But close to 1.5 million Iraqis died from an American war of choice. Worry about that.
- I deeply respect American sentimentality, the way one respects a wounded hippo. You must keep your eye on it, for you know it is deadly.
we gotta figure out how to get something like (Kony 2012) going viral for our issue
In Cranston, for example, school officials are much more likely to expel African-American students than white or Hispanic students. African-Americans accounted for half of all expulsions in Cranston in 2009, a year when they represented just 4 percent of students enrolled in the district’s public schools.
Pawtucket school officials appear to slap a disproportionate number of Hispanic students with in-school suspensions. Hispanic students made up 2/3 of all in-school suspensions in Pawtucket, but they represented only ¼ of the district’s student population. African-Americans accounted for 33% of in-school suspensions and 29% of the student body. White students, the single largest group in Pawtucket Public Schools, had no in-school suspensions at all.
In Woonsocket, African-American and Hispanic students were both slightly over-represented in the in-school suspension category. However, the more glaring problem echoes a trend seen in many parts of the state. Namely, that black and Hispanic students are severely underrepresented in gifted programs. According to the federal data, there were no non-white students in Woonsocket’s gifted programs in 2009. There were also no Hispanic students taking calculus even though Hispanics represent roughly ¼ of Woonsocket’s enrolled school population.
If we weren't focusing all our energy on test scores, firing teachers and closing schools.
Friday, March 09, 2012
I can't get too excited about discussion over whether liberals should home school or send their kids to private schools (or public, or charters), etc. I occasionally get myself knotted up in the options and the annoying chance-based nature of urban public education in Providence, but then I remind myself that if things don't work out, we can always move over the line to Cranston for a free public education and everything would be pretty much fine without any lottery-based madness.
Regarding private schools, there's already a powerful disincentive -- they're really expensive! I mean, if people are already looking at option A, which is free, and option B, which could end up costing north of $500,000 to educate two children through high school, and their decision is "I'm not going to even try option A," well, who am I to try to talk them out of it?
Thursday, March 08, 2012
As it turns out, RIDE didn't post a note about the Grace School Mayoral Academy (GSMA) public hearings on the charter school applications page (as they'd done in the past), and nobody except the Valley Breeze mentioned it (according to Google).
The application is extraordinary in one respect: it proposes to create a public charter school within an existing private school -- the Meeting Street School. Or perhaps more properly a group of private schools which includes an existing K-8 Grace School (whose relationship to the GSMA is never broached at all in the proposal), a pre-school, high school, outpatient programs, and probably others. All these schools are "known for helping children with multiple and severe challenges," although the existing Grace School (at least) integrates a diverse group of student in an inclusive model.
So the basic idea of GSMA is that each class will be made up of 17 public charter school students and three Meeting Street students with special needs. Meeting Street acts more or less as a CMO, managing the school, providing the building, choosing 5/11th of the board which oversees it, getting paid by the mayoral academy. The weird thing is that Meeting Street also provides funding to the school to educate its students. Exactly how that will work is not explained. Presumably Meeting Street will have service contracts with the mayoral academy. But it seems that 15% of the students in GSMA classrooms will not be GSMA students.
What's the point of this? Why not just have a charter school that has an admissions preference for disabled students? I couldn't puzzle this out until I looked more closely at the budget. It turns out that in the breakdown of classroom income and expenses there are three categories: charter students, Meeting Street students, and MS IEP. This, not surprisingly, is not directly explained, but as it breaks down, only 27% of the income and expenses for each classroom of 20 students is related to the 17 charter school students. The rest is associated with the three Meeting Street students. This is entirely plausible since these students require extensive services. For example, the entire instructional support costs for the charter school students in one classroom is estimated to be $67,325, while the "Therapists, Psychologists, Evaluators, Personal Attendants and Social Workers" line for MS students is over $100,000. Again, that doesn't seem surprising and inappropriate in itself. I assume that particularly the IEP column refers to expenses paid by sending school districts who outsource intensive special education services to Meeting Street. Probably there are other sources, families that can pay out of pocket, insurance, philanthropy, etc.
Regardless, this now makes a little sense. If GSMA accepts a child with "multiple and severe challenges," my understanding is that they don't get additional funding. They don't get it in the state funding formula. You essentially can't run a charter school which serves a significant number of students with "multiple and severe challenges." You'll go broke almost immediately. So this is a workaround. You can't make the sending school district (or parent, etc.) pay a charter school for extra special education costs. But a private provider can. So the private part of Meeting Street will accept that money and pass it on to the charter. Who will in part give it back to Meeting Street for rent, management costs, etc. In this particular case, it doesn't actually seem fishy to me -- either way, Meeting Street is getting paid, and they generally have a very good reputation. In general, this sounds like a terrible idea though, with all that passing money around there would be plenty of opportunities for self-dealing and skimming.
More importantly to me, if you can have a charter school which is responsible for educating non-charter or public school students, including excluding them from the lottery admissions process, you can do all kinds of crazy things that nobody ever thought possible before. GSMA is a neat hack, but it opens a huge security hole.
And there are two other mechanisms through which inequality might have precipitated the crisis:
- Insofar as rising inequality in the 00s was correlated with a rise in wages in the financial sector relative to other industries, it attracted “talent” into banking. And this contributed to its downfall, because “talent” produces not stability but rent-seeking and overconfidence. Remember - banks survived for decades by employing doddering Captain Mainwarings but collapsed soon after hiring physics PhDs.
- One contributor to bank collapses was inequality of power. Top-down management structures produce bosses who combine domineering arrogance with ignorance. As Julian Birkinshaw has said (pdf), the management model in investment banks was one in which “Aggressive and intimidating behaviour is tolerated; effective teamwork and sharing of ideas are rare.”
This reminds me of something...
You can write an entire book or two about the funding of education in Rhode Island. But this is a tour of the entire budget, so we’re just going to skim some of the important points.
In 2013, the Governor’s budget would provide $674 million to all the cities and towns, to help run their schools, plus another $46 million for charter schools. This is up from $616 million last year, and the difference is revenue from the proposed increase in the tax on restaurants and hotels.
As of 2010, the latest year for which the collected municipal budget data is available, all the cities and towns together spent $1.79 million on education. To that amount, the state contributed $592 million, plus another $30 million for charter schools.
A couple of points leap out here. The first is that, just since 2010, charter schools have seen a 53% increase in state funding, while everyone else got 15%. You might sniff at that and say 15% isn’t nothing, but in 2008, the traditional schools got $98 million more than they got in 2010, and $16 million more than they’ll get in the proposed budget — the rosiest scenario on the table — in 2013. That is, between 2008 and 2010, they were cut from $690 million to $592 million. The Governor’s proposed increase doesn’t even get back to the 2008 level. Not to belabor the point or anything, but during each of those years, rich taxpayers were granted an increase on the “flat tax” cut.
Oh, and the charter schools? They got no cut at all. Some years they might not have received what they were hoping for, but between 2007 and the present, each year they received more than the previous year. Sauce for the goose is apparently too good for the gander.
Wednesday, March 07, 2012
Lisa Delpit's new book is shipping from Amazon. I had it pre-ordered so I got it yesterday and am about halfway through it. It is one of the more profound and difficult to refute or dismiss critiques of contemporary school reform I've read because Delpit takes a back seat to nobody in terms of stressing the importance of great teachers, high expectations, "no excuses," and the overall capacity of exemplary schools to close the achievement gap and create transformative experiences for young people.
She also thinks that the current testing/data obsessed/TFA/charter, etc. is completely and utterly wrong-headed, and she can put that across with a certain weight of moral and intellectual authority which is unique to her.
In 2011, Harlem Day was arguably the worst elementary school in the city, Bloomberg and Andrew told their audience as servers floated around the darkened, East 60th Street restaurant offering dumplings and sushi rolls. Last spring, the State University of New York charter school authorizer granted Democracy Prep permission to take over Harlem Day, now called Harlem Prep.
The Wall Street Journal reported last June that 40 percent of students were held back, including two-thirds of fifth-graders. Teachers at the benefit put that number even higher, with some saying they thought as many as 70 percent of students had repeated a grade after Democracy Prep took over.
You know what would make your test scores look even better? Sending kids back a grade.
Also, remember that holding kids back is not free. Holding back 100 kids in Providence (for example) costs the local, state and federal governments about $1,400,000 but doesn't cost a charter school anything (or show up on most cost comparisons).
Monday, March 05, 2012
City principals are up in arms over a new plan that gives bonus points this year to high schools based on graduates going to college — but doesn’t count those who join the military.
To be honest, I don't think what graduates do is the government's business, and schools shouldn't be "incentivized" like this to push kids one way or another.
Sunday, March 04, 2012
Some more quick D3 experiments. A scatterplot of RI schools with free lunch on the x axis and NECAP reading on the y, based on 09-10 data. Same data coerced into RIDE's proposed 5 point ranking system from the NCLB waiver.
I'm thinking the one to focus on would be an animated graph of PPSD schools over the past four years or so. There have been so many changes, it is easy to forget how much has been done, especially considering the lackluster results. You'll see a big collapse in the range of scores, but losing the high end more dramatically than the low.
Well, I probably should get the whole dataset in there for the past three years, because I have a strong suspicion that the main effect of Commissioner Gist statewide is getting everyone much closer to their proper spot on the trendline.
Thursday, March 01, 2012
The thing I'm wondering about is whether there is any organization, bloc of politicians, whatever, with the interest and gravitas necessary to put out a short but substantial white paper proposing consolidating Rhode Island into one school district with the primary goals of economic desegregation and fiscal stabilization (but not necessarily substantial cost savings overall). This is triggered by two things:
- The realization that once you separate "free-" from "reduced-" lunch eligibility when looking at school demographics, the school-by-school outlook in Rhode Island is a lot clearer than it is otherwise:
- Above 70% free lunch, there are about 55 (out of 307) schools, none* of which have sustained high test scores and more qualitative measures of success (i.e., public perception) over time. It is important to note that over the past 10 years a number of schools have proven that it is possible to have high achievement (and improved public perception) of very high poverty schools in Providence, but what we have also learned, over and over and over and over again, is that these efforts cannot be sustained politically. The schools and the district are simply too weak as institutions, and there is no indication that our current course will strengthen them (quite the opposite).
- Starting at about 70% free lunch (and down), we have some schools that are recognized as successful, e.g., Reservoir Elementary in the PPSD, The Learing Community charter. Basically all the charters are under this level.
- Around 45% free lunch and below you get urban schools with very good reputations (among various interest groups) like Blackstone Valley Prep (mayoral academy), Vartan Gregorian (PPSD), and Classical (PPSD).
- The statewide average is around 35% free lunch.
The key argument here should be about schools as institutions. Schools with too high a rate of poverty are too weak to sustain improvement. There is a tragically long list of examples of schools that have improved and declined and no counterexamples in Rhode Island. None.
The center of the pitch would be the 45% free lunch schools -- highlighting the well-known examples that schools with this level of poverty can be strong and attract happy middle and upper class white parents.
There are way too many insolvent cities and school districts. You've got both the structurally screwed urban districts firing all their teachers periodically and threatening or actually filing for bankruptcy. This includes a number of inner ring suburbs. You've also got the towns who are going to be destroyed by losses under the new funding formula. It would be difficult to argue that the existing system actually works.
In particular, no serious analysis can doubt the death spiral the PPSD faces. Mayor Taveras's mayoral academy proposals would likely suck over $11 million dollars a year out of the district by 2018, and who knows how many more charters will be proposed between now and then. There is no reason to think these won't all further concentrate the poorest students into the shrinking PPSD, with endless rounds of school closings, layoffs, etc. Having all this happen within the context of a statewide district would be much less disruptive and painful for the children of Providence in several ways.
I should hasten to say that I don't literally think this will become law any time soon, but it is the actual correct solution to the current dilemmas. And even insofar that I don't agree with the entire reform thrust at this point, everything RIDE is doing would make more sense and work better within a statewide desegregated district (e.g., you wouldn't be spending all your energy trying to turn around institutions which are simply too weak and poor to make it, it would be easier to add charters, easier to do charter/non-charter collaboration, easier to get the best teachers in front of the kids who need them most, etc).
Presumably this would all entail a statewide elected school board.
Probably the most important thing is just having a clearly articulated argument for reform to counter the "it is either this or the status quo" line and show that there are well thought out, evidence and data based alternatives.
So Gentle Reader, any thoughts about who might be willing to back this? It is one topic the union leadership has been willing to broach publicly, but I think not formally.