Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Homeschooling Girl

In this week’s TIME I review Quinn Cummings’ forthcoming book, “The Year of Learning Dangerously.” The issue is on shelves this week, Quinn’s book next week.

It’s a non-tribal homeschooling book – and it’s funny.  It chronicles her first year of homeschooling her daughter.  Unschooling?  Not enough structure.  Fundamentalist Christians?  Too much.  Online charter school?  Cummings describes it as like a stage of grief many homeschooling parents go through but ultimately reject because it’s part and parcel of what they’re trying to get away from in the first place.  It’s a quirky look at the homeschooling world but one with some serious implications as homeschooling becomes more mainstream.

Final Thought: Supplement Not Supplant?

Those of us who apply for federal grants hate this phrase.  The idea: we don’t want to give you money for anything you’d already be doing (even if you’re short of dough).  Only $ for new stuff.

There’s a version of supplement-not-supplant in student teaching.  Most student teaching moves an experienced teacher out of the room.  Then the novice tries.  That’s supplant.  Kids learn less.

In our teacher residency, we supplement.  Kids take additional classes on Fridays, Saturdays, and summers.  They get more time learning — not as efficiently as with our more experienced teachers, but still helpful time.

Just got a note from a Boston-area principal about her summer program.  She writes:

·         We got to have at least one parent meeting with every single kid whose behavior, attendance, and work habits we’re worried about.
·         We’ve answered hundreds of questions from kids and parents about the school – the expectations, the policies, etc.
·         We have a sense of which kids might need to be evaluated for special ed services, so now we’re getting the ball rolling on that process.
·         We’ve done all of this without asking any of our very hard-working regular teachers to spend a single hour with kids this summer.

That’s because the summer academy for incoming kids was taught by our teacher residents.

I mention this because there is a simple win-win out there.

*Teacher prep programs increasingly want more practice time (and more concrete feedback) for their future teachers.  Particularly if Obama wins, and Duncan then gets to see through the Ed School accountability aspect of his work.

*Schools want more learning time for kids.  Chicago, Boston are two cities that recently made deals.

Only logistics stand in the way.  Anyone?  Bueller?

Fun week.  Thanks to Andy for the forum, and to his readers.

-Guestblogger Mike Goldstein

Wild Idea – Teaching Competition

Here are 25 Olympic athletes to watch.

Many begin practicing at very young ages.

Hmm.  Could that work for teaching?

We have debate teams in middle school, high school, and college debate teams.  Dallas Urban Debate Alliance alone is 10,000 kids.  Pop culture cred: movie with Denzel.

What if there were scholastic “Teaching Teams?”

Imagine a 9th grader.  Joins Teaching Team instead of Debate Team.  Topics are assigned.  She practices practices practices.  Probably enlists a favorite teacher to help her (who wouldn’t enjoy your student asking for teaching advice instead of curricular help?)  Then she competes against head to head against some other high school kid, gets judged, gets supported by teammates, etc.  (I know Andy’s commentariat tends to hate the word “competition” — but even in debate, chess, speech, etc?)

We have 150k to 200k new teachers each year.  Is it possible to imagine a world where thousands of them had five to ten years of formal teaching practice and evaluation before age 20, like many jocks and musicians?  Does this already exist somewhere?

-Guestblogger Mike Goldstein

Mega Expert tells other experts: You’re probably wrong

Alex Hernandez is reviewing Nobel-winner Dan Kahneman on Dropout Nation:

For three chapters in Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman argues that professional expertise is largely an illusion:

• Expert judgment is notoriously unreliable.

• Statistical predictions are consistently more accurate than expert ones in a wide variety of fields.  Professionals with strong short-term recognition rarely recognize their own limits in making long-term predictions.

• Expert judgment can only be acquired in stable, predictable environments where professionals learn patterns from prolonged practice and ample feedback.

….Khaneman notes that his research is met with hostility and disbelief by professionals — and then usually ignored.


-Guestblogger Mike Goldstein

Posted on Jul 27, 2012 @ 11:58am

Husker Do

Maddie Fennell, a Nebraska teacher and chair of the NEA’s Commission on Effective Teaching, is guest-blogging at EdWeek.  Great series — zippy, thoughtful.  Lots of love in the comments section (in contrast to my contributions here; fear not, Andy returns Monday).

Fennell describes a transformative teacher career ladder that culminates with “Accomplished or Master Teacher.”  In addition to higher pay, these folks may “be adjunct faculty at a university, mentor novice teachers, share management responsibility at the building-level, or lead district-level  committees. They are assigned the students most in need of their advanced skills.”

Something quite similar to her proposed ladder is being piloted in charter networks like Achievement First.  Additionally, the teacher prep program in Boston where I work hires precisely Accomplished or Master Teachers as adjunct faculty.

I mention that to illustrate that charter schools sometimes develop ideas that could work in more traditional systems, both K-12 and Schools of Education, even if other aspects are unappealing to traditionalists, or not easily replicable.

(Of course, I hope my mentioning that isn’t a Scarlet Letter to Fennell’s NEA colleagues.  We’re in an age where a Heritage Foundation health care idea that Romney piloted was later judged to be “guilty by association” and “socialist” because You-Know-Who championed it.)

-Guestblogger Mike Goldstein

Political Trivia

Which 2 Massachusetts politicians advocated for schools vouchers…before changing views when running for higher office?

Answer manana.

– Guestblogger Mike Goldstein

Posted on Jul 25, 2012 @ 2:55pm

What I’m Reading Today

Congrats to Rose Kerr via

Roland’s latest experiment via

One of David Brooks’ readers, Frank Wheeler

“Higher education was not a norm, a world war was starting, a depression was fresh in everyone’s mind, the average life span for a male in that state was around fifty, people stayed put and guys went to work in the mines, chemical companies or the state road. But my parents, both from humble backgrounds, were different. They had a vision for education, although they had little.”

– Guestblogger Mike Goldstein

Philanthropy Puzzle

There is a less-known billionaire philanthropist involved with education policy.  Including on ed tech.  Not Gates, not Broad.

My question: is he self-interested?  I’m not going to name him.  But I did some digging on his personal holdings:

$500 million of Apple

$300 million of IBM

$300 million of Microsoft

$150 million to $250 million EACH of these: Google, Oracle, Intel, Verizon, Cisco, HP, Qualcomm.

Some might argue — inherent conflict of interest.

Others would say — no inherent conflict, any guy that wealthy is going to own companies like these, along with a ton of Exxon, Merck, etc.

What do you think?  Does owning a lot of stock mean you should stay out of policy?

I’ll opine tomorrow in the comments.

– Guestblogger Mike Goldstein

Arne Duncan on Tennessee on HuffPo

Arne Duncan writes:

More teachers today are treated as true professionals, instead of as interchangeable cogs in an educational assembly line. Exhibit A: Tennessee.

Tennessee — one of the first two states to win a federal Race to the Top grant — recently released an important report on the first year of implementing its new teacher evaluation system. The report found that after one year, Tennessee’s students made their biggest single-year jump in achievement ever recorded in the state. That is a remarkable accomplishment.

…it’s true that there is no perfect system of teacher evaluation, but Tennessee did not let the perfect become the enemy of the good. They insisted on asking the compared-to-what question — how do the strengths and weaknesses of the new system compare to the old system?

Some numbers

35% of eval is test gains

15% is other measures of student achievement “chosen through mutual agreement”

50% is observations, conferences, review of prior evaluations

5,000 evaluators trained, needed to pass inter-rater reliability exam

On a 5 point scale, more than 75% of teachers score 4 or 5.  Less than 2.5% score 1 or 2.  The report flags as a concern.

The whole 43-page report is worth reading.