Tuesday, September 29, 2015

'Old' Rick Hess was a Patchouli-soaked Hippy

Peter Cunningham:

As Hess put it (in 2004), “Washington ought to establish clear and uniform expectations regarding student mastery in reading and math at the fourth-, eighth- and perhaps twelfth-grade level.”

No reformer in 2015 considers this to be an acceptable position. Not (just) because of the "Washington ought to establish" part, but even more because Hess only calls for standards at grades 4, 8 and 12. The easiest way to improve the Common Core standards would be to delete the standards in grades K, 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9-10 and 11-12. Keep grade 4, 8 and "college and career readiness."

Seriously, that would be way better.

Unfortunately, Old Rick also thought this:

The performance of schools and districts should be judged primarily on how much students are learning while in school—not on the absolute level of student achievement.

Which leads to wanting multiple versions of standards at every grade level.

Monday, September 28, 2015

We Know How to Do This

C. Kirabo Jackson, Rucker C. Johnson and Claudia Persico:

Our analyses also reveal sizable effects of increased school spending on low-income children’s labor market outcomes and their economic status as adults. For children from low-income families, increasing per-pupil spending by 10 percent in all 12 school-age years boosts adult hourly wages by $2.07 in 2000 dollars, or 13 percent (see Figure 4).

So... according to Chetty et al, we could get the same increase by giving low income kids essentially all high-performing teachers throughout their 13 years of school -- which we totally do not know how to do, or by increasing spending 10%, which we absolutely know how to do.

Of course, the strategy is to go with the approach we don't know how to do, and which is probably impossible.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Personnel Changes at PPSD HQ

Kate Nagel:

"While I was on vacation in July, I was told that Jose Gonzalez and Dr. Tomas Ramirez had been brought in and were told to resign immediately," said (State Senator) Metts, who said he has concerns in particular about how a particular current PPSD employee is "being given a hard time."

"The only thing I know, is when you look at the demographics of the school department and you see how many minorities are currently there and you look at the staffing...if you're saying that diversity and EEO is your goal, the last thing you do is get rid of minorities," said Metts. Metts said additional conversations he had with people in the city further raised concern with him.

"My wife and I went out for ice cream...my wife is a retired guidance from Roger Williams [Middle School]," said Metts. "We ran into a female minority math teacher she knew, who recently got her administration degree. [This teacher] didn't get a job in Providence, but she got one in the suburbs. What does that say?"

PPSD recently appointed a new interim superintendent, and long-time spokesperson Christina O'Reilly is no longer with the department.

Mayor Jorge Elorza's spokesperson Evan England responded to the press inquiry, and pointed out on Tuesday that no actual firings have taken place. "There were no terminations this summer (or since)," said England.

So... we'll see how this plays out. It may end up determining whether Chris Maher glides smoothly into the superintendent slot permanently.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Will Black Lives Matter Change School Reformers?

As with most headlines posed as questions, the answer is probably no.

However, there are some important connections that should be interesting to watch. Most clearly, from my vantage point on the internet, is Campaign Zero, which has set itself up as the wonkier branch of BLM. They've released a 10-point agenda to "end police violence in America," which looks sound and well thought out on the whole. Three quarters, at least, of their planning team have heavy school reform connections. I'm assuming right now that this all seems consistent to them, but I have to wonder how it will play out over the next five to ten years.

Consider their first point "end broken windows policing." OK, but don't "no excuses" charters practice the disciplinary equivalent? Isn't pushing students out of charters into district schools that are made up of charter school lottery-losers, transients and charter-rejects the clearest manifestation of a school to prison pipeline?

Number two is "community oversight." Haven't charters and increased federal and state regulation, such as the SIG program, imposed by reformers, dramatically decreased community oversight of urban schools?

Why should we "Increase the number of police officers who reflect the communities they serve," when reformers have pushed policies that clearly would and did decrease the same for teachers? Why shouldn't we have "Police for America" recruiting Ivy League grads into police academies?

Why would we think "invest(ing) in rigorous and sustained training" works for cops but not teachers?

Why is for-profit policing bad but for-profit educational entities ok? Why is it ok that prominent charter schools fine low income students for behavior issues?

How can you attack the militarization of police while accepting a school reform agenda that in some cities embraces military-style schools?

The clearest point of consistency between Campaign Zero's agenda and the school reform agenda is pushing back against public sector unions. They will certainly find that the police union has sharper elbows than the teachers'.

How these dissonances will play out over time, I don't know, particularly when there is such an imbalance in wealth and power backing the two reform agendas. If you gain some prominence as a school reformer, you're set for life. Police brutality activists, not so much. It will be interesting to watch.

Wait, Trump's Grandfather was Al Swearengen?

Al Solotaroff:

This time, he did divulge about his father, going on at length and with real feeling. Fred Trump, the second in a line of self-made magnates (his father, Friedrich, had earned his fortune in the Klondike gold rush, selling lodging, food, booze and possibly women to hordes of miners), was possessed of the singular family gift: He could see the future and beat everyone else to it.

That would explain a lot.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Get on the Bus

Matt Breunig:

When pressed on this, one of the responses you will hear is that they don’t see practically (speaking in political terms) how we can get busing. But why would people oppose busing, one has to wonder. Is it because they don’t want to send their kids to school with poors and blacks? But wait, isn’t that the same reason they don’t like charters? Isn’t the opposition the same to both things? Why advocate one thing that runs up against a brick wall due to racism and dislike of the poor but not another thing that runs up against the same brick wall?

There are two basic answers here.

The first is that the charters don’t promise integration (and in many cases brag about how segregated they are, e.g. KIPP gleaming about how uniformly poor and black their schools are). So the reformers sidestep the hurdle of the racist affluent white liberal by basically giving in entirely to their desire for segregation, which charters don’t threaten that much if at all.

The second is that practicality is defined here in terms of what you might call the Left Wing of the Fundable. You can get money to push for charter schools and privatization and breaking teacher/public unions (all things the education reformers push, including right now Students First pushing a SCOTUS case that aims to eliminate all public sector union security, not just for teachers). You can get a fellowship at a think tank to push for those types of things. They are thus practical in the sense that there are enough rich people and institutions with somewhat mixed interests that are willing to pony up the money necessary to push them through our hilariously undemocratic political system and to fund a healthy number of advocate jobs. The same money doesn’t exist for busing advocacy.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Let's Have a Little Common Core Rant for Old Times Sake

Me, at Slate:

As is typical for Common Core advocates, Karen Babbitt misrepresents Massachusetts previous standards, which did not simply "primarily (ask) students to identify story elements." Among many fiction standards there was one grade 5-6 standard which stated "Identify and analyze the elements of setting, characterization, and plot (including conflict)," but even in that case, the example given immediately after the standard was “What qualities of the central characters enable them to survive?”

For that matter, the example question she cites: "How does the main character change over time?" is not particularly well supported by the Common Core standards. The relevant 8th grade standard would seem to be "Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text," but she is suggesting the opposite process. Of course, you can just shrug and say, "Well, close enough, whatever," but that's a sure sign that these standards are not actually very good at all, when the most seemingly straightforward examples don't quite fit.

Back to Garden Variety Bullshit at RIDE

Ken Wagner:

For my part, I am committed to promoting personalized student learning, where every student participates in a challenging and exciting learning environment that meets his or her individual needs. I am eager to work together to support and hold the ladder steady as our students climb toward success.

Yes, feel free to go according you your needs, in whatever way you find challenging and exciting -- as long as you're going up the ladder I'm holding for you (as fast as possible, or everyone will be fired, including me).

And pay no attention to the tests, charters, and ed-tech corporations behind the curtain.

Monday, September 07, 2015

This is What You Call an "Essential Question"

Charlie Stross:

Assume you are a historian in the 30th century, compiling a pop history text about the period 1700-2300AD. What are the five most influential factors in that period of history?

Please note that this is a 600 year span—around the duration of the entire mediaeval period. Events a mere 20 years apart, such as the first and second world wars, merge together when viewed through the wrong end of a temporal telescope, just like the 30 years' war or the Wars of the Roses. Individual people, even hugely influential thinkers and rulers and tyrants, are a jumbled mass of names with dates attached. This is a question about the big issues—the ones big enough to remember half a millennium hence, like the Black Death, the Crusades, or the conquest of the Americas.