End Of Year Odds And Ends

Happy New Year and thanks for reading, commenting, and writing me during the year.  Since 2004 the blog’s growth has been robust but 2009 was the blog’s best year for readership, reader loyalty, and penetration.  A blog without readers is just a diary, so thank you.

A few odds and ends to close out 2009:  

Stephen Sawchuk continues to do great work staying on the trail of state and local resistance to Race to the Top.   This is an important issue for reformers to follow.  In both counterinsurgency and education reform don’t assume that because the statues in the capital come down the resistance is over.   And in many ways the school reform movement is not well positioned in state capitals.

All around the blogs, on Twitter, and on some listserves this Washington Post story on Arne Duncan’s record in Chicago is being made out to be a great repudiation.   I dunno, seems like a fair story to me and one that  — if it’s the hardest hit on Duncan —  means he can phone it in from here on out.  It’s not a bad story and to make sure I wasn’t missing Waterloo as it happened I bounced it off a few media pros who had the same reaction.  Besides, if Duncan isn’t touting Chicago as an unqualified success is there much of a story?  If there is a complaint here, it’s the one voiced publicly and privately that the circumstances in Chicago shielded Duncan and his team from some of the political challenges urban superintendents elsewhere face.  That would be an interesting story.

Just before Christmas I wrote about the new Detroit teachers’ contract and what it means there and nationally.   Ed Darden takes a look at Detroit’s cousin, New Haven, in the New Haven Register.

The Baltimore Sun excerpts Kalman R. Hettleman’s new book (I’ve seen the galleys, well worth reading he has an interesting background on urban ed reform).  First of three excerpts here.    Speaking of Baltimore be sure to have a look at the Urban Teacher Center and their new white paper, “Rethinking the Teacher Lottery (pdf).

And here’s an entertaining transcript from Tutor.com.

Finally, unrelated to education but related to the end of 2009, check out the Rolling Stone article on Springsteen’s decade.  Happy New Year.

4 Replies to “End Of Year Odds And Ends”

  1. Duncan “can phone it in”? That seems like the kind of political/journalistic scorekeeping that ignores the actual issues. Just because he’s not embroiled in a scandal, he’s fine, right? Never mind that he’s promoting policies that don’t really help those of us – students and teachers – who spend our days in the schools. Race to the Top is popular with politicians (anything for money – which we know will let states off the hook at least partially, even it’s not intended to). And then they can look like they’re doing something – bureaucratic solutions quite distant from the most important parts of the problems schools face. Add in national standards – popular with politicians and publishers… Have we seen anything from Obama and Duncan to make teachers, parents, or students stand up and say “Thanks! That will really help teaching and learning!”? You could argue that’s not the role of the federal government, to which I would say okay, fine – but then they should stay out of the business of pushing a misguided teacher evaluation agenda – which is also not the role of the federal government. The use of standardized test scores to evaluate teachers is a deeply flawed concept, rejected by test publishers themselves, a whole host of education and public policy researchers, and teachers. As a teacher myself, I have no fear of real evaluation – I crave a robust, ongoing form of feedback that really captures my students’ learning and my teaching. Test scores don’t. More high stakes resting on limited data will only exacerbate the damage of the NCLB testing regimen – damage so well-established that some of NCLB’s early champions now concede the error of their ways, the unintended consequences of policy guided by political consideration rather than educational expertise. Many states took the time to craft legislation that set appropriate boundaries for the use of test scores – and now they rush to overturn their own laws just to get federal money. Never mind that such policies are counterindicated by research and have failed wherever they’ve been put in place. Resist Race to the Top? Damn right!

  2. I agree with David Cohen, particularly in the push for national standards and using bribes like RtT to get states to commit to common standardds. And not just any common standards. These would be common standards that Duncan pretty much exhorted NGA and CCSSO to take on, though he can and will play the game of “States are free to pick whatever common standards they want”. Right. That’s why 48 states signed on to CCSSI’s common core standards without even seeing them. Why not exhort states to look at standards that already are written and working, like California’s and Massachussetts? Or what about Achieve’s ADP? No, much better to start from scratch.

    From what we’ve seen so far, the “college readiness” standards for math, released last September fall short of what most 4 year universities require for entrance. Well, no problem, those students who want to attend 4 year universities can just take the extra subjects that the standards failed to include; such students will ALWAYS get ahead, they always have, so who cares? Well, so much for increasing college acceptance rates which I thought was a goal of RtT.

  3. From what I can see, the CCRS align pretty well with general admission requirements at four-year institutions. Of course, that doesn’t apply to STEM majors or colleges of engineering – I’m just talking about the general college-going student.

    If anything, the CCRS far overstate what is *actually* required to avoid remediation in college. My read of probability and statistics in the CCRS is basically that high school students now suddenly have to learn what normally happens in credit bearing college statistics classes – even in selective colleges. And as far as math itself goes, let’s get real. In many four-year colleges you can place into credit bearing math courses with an ACT score of 23, no matter what the state standards documents say. Take a look sometime at what’s required, and not required, to get an ACT score of 23. Then realize that fewer than half of all test-takers today reach that mark (http://www.act.org/news/data/09/pdf/one.pdf).

    The average math score in the Detroit Public Schools is 16. (http://www.greatschools.org/cgi-bin/mi/district-profile/346#act_summary)

    As a college professor, I’d be thrilled if more of my gen ed students could do what’s described in the CCRS. My real fear is the opposite: that these standards are a fantasy given where we are today.

    You say that California and Massachusetts standards are “working.” Is that why in 2007, 37% of incoming freshmen in the Cal State system (and 64% of incoming African American freshmen) scored at a level indicating need for remediation in mathematics, despite having an overall GPA of 3.13? (http://www.asd.calstate.edu/remediation/07/Rem_Sys_fall2007.htm) Are the Massachusetts standards really perfect even though, like the rest of the U.S., they have a mile wide/inch deep problem? That’s not my judgment by the way, it’s that of the Massachusetts Curriculum Framework Revision Panel: http://www.doe.mass.edu/boe/docs/0309/item4_report.html.

    The worst of all worlds will be if common standards only replicate what we already see in individual states: Pious, sprawling goals, set down by adults with untethered fantasies about all that students might do, constantly encouraged by politicians’ rhetoric about “higher standards.” And assessments that don’t really live up to those standards – because how could they? – so the cut scores are fake and have no clear link with future college success.

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