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-- eSchool News and Discovery Education

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-- Education Week Research Center

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-- The New Republic's Ryan Lizza

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-- Education Week

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Collective Bargaining in Education: Negotiating Change in Today's Schools

Edited by Jane Hannaway and Andrew J. Rotherham

Why Newsweek's List of America's 100 Best High Schools Doesn't Make the Grade

By Andrew J. Rotherham
and Sara Mead

A Qualified Teacher
in Every Classroom

Edited by Frederick M. Hess, Andrew J. Rotherham,
and Kate Walsh

America's Teaching Crisis

By Jason Kamras and Andrew J. Rotherham

Rethinking Special Education For A New Century

Edited by Chester E. Finn, Jr., Andrew J. Rotherham
& Charles R. Hokanson, Jr.

Making The Cut: How States Set Passing Scores on Standardized Tests

By Andrew J. Rotherham

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Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
Trust for Early Education
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United States Department of Education
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Opinions on Eduwonk reflect the views of the author, Education Sector does not take institutional positions. Outgoing links do not constitute an endorsement.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Little Cake Says "Eat Me"

As my final word, I would like to make a suggestion to all of those who make policy decisions for our schools: consider teaching.

I don't mean that you should teach, I mean that you should think about what stops you from doing it. It doesn't pay much? Your colleagues will be dull and boring? You'll never be respected for your intelligence or ability? It's tedious and time-consuming? It's frustrating to work with piles of bureaucrats and paperwork? Your parents will ask you when you're getting a real job? You'll never really be recognized for doing good work?

If you can find a way to make teaching a career that's good enough for you then people like you will do it.

"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."

--guestblogger Alice in Eduland
Posted at 8:35 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

At a Reasonable Pace
`I can't help it,' said Alice very meekly: `I'm growing.'
`You've no right to grow here,' said the Dormouse.
`Don't talk nonsense,' said Alice more boldly: `you know you're growing too.'
`Yes, but I grow at a reasonable pace,' said the Dormouse: `not in that ridiculous fashion.'

Sometimes it's hard for me to keep up with my students. I've got to stay on my toes and always two steps ahead. When Tweedledee told another child to "Eat my chones," I was thankful for every Spanish lesson that I've taken. Sometimes my district provides free Spanish lessons for teachers but they're only held at a few locations and none of them are near my home or school. I spent some of my summers in Guatemala living with a family and taking classes but I wonder why this experience isn't more encouraged and, dare I say it, financially supported?

I have to translate every notice home, directions for homework every day, and oral instructions for assessments, not to mention the day-to-day workings of a classroom. It's an essential skill for doing my job well and I wish that it was recognized as such.

--guestblogger Alice in Eduland
Posted at 7:37 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

That Smile!
Today the Cheshire Cat looked at me in the middle of math and said, "Teacher, I love you."

--guestblogger Alice in Eduland
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Advice From a Caterpillar
My little flower garden is blooming, new buds each moment! But I also find spiders, aphids, and weeds...

They are non-stop talking, moving, rolling, whispering, shaking, poking, hopping, drawing, sliding, whistling, crawling machines. Classroom management has never been a problem for me and yet I continue to be challenged with this class. They are engaged, they are learning, they are developing and growing but they won't stop talking!

I have my own far-fetched theories as to why this year's class has all of the energy of every year past combined. Maybe they come to school too sugared-up from a school breakfast of cinnamon rolls and "orange drink". Maybe they're trained by the television and X-Box to need constant stimulation. Maybe I'm just losing my edge and listening to me talk for five hours is not as interesting as I like to think that it might be.

But I believe in them and I belive in what I do. I came into teaching at a time when accountability was the norm and I expect to be evaluated by my results, not how hard I try. Parents want their children in my class because they've seen the ones I've had before, not because they think I work harder than other teachers. If anything, I'm constantly trying to find ways to avoid working harder by working more efficiently and effectively.

Maybe I am the "NCLB Generation" but I take full responsibility for teaching being my job. If no one learns anything, I didn't teach, I just stood and talked. I may have concerns about some of the measurement tools being used but I am prepared to be evaluated and I would be deeply troubled if my students didn't do as well or better than expected (for the record, my class is usually at or near the top of the kindergarten scores district-wide).

I know that there are many who argue with this, they say that there is only so much that a teacher can do. I agree, but I think some teachers aren't doing as much as a teacher can do. Some need to be taught how to do things better and some shouldn't stay if they don't want that responsibility. Tweedledum walks to school alone, no one helps him with his homework, and he was the only one without valentines to pass out (although he's always remarkably well-dressed). It is not my job to be his mother, but it is my job to make sure that he does not leave my class without beginning reading skills and a uselful set of social skills as well. That's why I get up at 5:45 each morning and that's what they pay me for. It won't make any difference what those caterpillars say, it's about taking the responsibility, it's not about fearing the punishment.

--guestblogger Alice in Eduland
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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Bond: an insurance agreement pledging surety for financial loss caused to another by the act or default of a third person

I teach a scripted curriculum which will remain unnamed. Generally, it works for me and I have spent enough time with it that I can take what is on the page and still make it my own. I also see its benefits in classrooms with less able teachers. But any tool is only as good as its application. We are expected to "fully implement" the program that we teach. There have been times in the past that administrators observing in classrooms have demanded to follow along in the Teacher's Guide at any and all moments of instruction.

Today our oral blending lesson was a list of short-o words (most lessons generally follow a sound or spelling pattern). A little purple box on the side cautioned teachers of English Language Learners to, "Make sure that children understand the meanings of the words that you are using for blending. Use pictures, realia, and pantomime." Now for the fun part! Here is the list of words that we used today:


First of all, to assume that only English Language Learners would need clarification of these words is simply naive.

Secondly, oral blending is an exercise to build phonemic awareness, not vocabulary. For many students, adding an additional lesson is distracting and confusing.

And finally - bond? fond? Is that a joke? No one actually thought this made sense when they wrote it.

--guestblogger Alice in Eduland
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Ten Feet Tall?
The bottle says "drink me" and it looks so delicious. The New York Times talks about some charter schools popping up around the country, particularly in urban areas packed with under-performing schools like mine. Many of my nearest and dearest have jumped the district's sinking ship for a chance to have more control over how they teach. They say it's wonderful and that every bit of satisfaction that they felt before is multiplied tenfold.

I can't say that I've never held that bottle in my hands and thought about taking a sip. But there is always the voice in the back of my head reminding me that charter schools will never serve every child. While options are important for many families there will always be some that, for a number of reasons, don't take advantage of them. The core of school choice is choice, some people will choose to stay where they are. It's not always an informed choice and sometimes it is the default choice but there it is.

Many of them are concerned about their immigration status, some are caring for children that are not their own, others are illiterate, a few are too involved with drugs and gangs, and there is a heartbreaking handful that just doesn't care enough to do the extra work that's asked of them. I see it every day when five year-olds walk to school alone and no one ever helps with the homework or school projects.

The kids with the most desperate need will not be served by charter schools and I cannot abandon them, no matter how tall I could be.

--guestblogger Alice in Eduland
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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

`if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic.'

So says Tweedledee...

A reminder to all readers that nothing essential or meaningful has been altered in my posts but any seemingly identifying or revealing details are probably intentionally misleading or just plain false.

--guestblogger Alice in Eduland
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Painting the Roses Red
A busy afternoon today, the Queen of Hearts has got everyone busy painting the roses red in anticipation of this week's visit by the Superintendent. We were busily changing bulleting boards, preparing legible lesson plans, and posting rubrics and discipline plans to create the rooms that the Queen wants the Superintendent to see. And, I assume, to disguise the rooms we actually teach in?

I trust my teaching and I know what I'm doing. I teach the standards, I do things in a developmentally appropriate way, I assess my students' progress, I plan, prepare and collaborate. But if I don't have the same posters on my wall as every other teacher in my grade level I am assumed to be a poor teacher.

Too bad this wallpapering holds minimal benefit for my students since, being in Kindergarten, they can't read. I was planning to spend this afternoon making sight word flash cards for my kids but I didn't have the time. I hope that these visits aren't belived to be authentic experiences of what is happening in classrooms around the country. It hurts my feelings just a little that I have to use my wall space as a reference for adults rather than a resource for my students.

The Queen might develop an appreciation for these white roses if she took the time to stop and smell them - she hasn't been in my room once this year.

--guestblogger Alice in Eduland

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Tool Box 2: Electric Boogaloo
The world of education data analysis is generally pretty boring sedate. It doesn’t normally feature the kind of excitement associated with, say, the rolling out of a big-budget sequel to a Hollywood blockbuster. But there was a touch of that energy yesterday with the release of a new report from U.S. Department of Education researcher Clifford Adelman, titled Toolbox Revisited: Paths to Degree Completion from High School Through College.

The report is essentially a sequel to a 1999 Adelman report called Answers in the Tool Box, which analyzed a nationally representative sample of students tracked over more than a decade from high school through college. Tool Box I contained a huge amount of smart, interesting analysis, but one finding stood out: the intensity of a student’s high school curriculum, measured by the number and difficulty of courses taken, is the single most important pre-college factor in determining their likelihood of graduating from college. More than race, income, or even grades and test scores, curricular intensity—particularly in math—matters most.

Those findings proved to be hugely influential. A host of high-profile trends, analyses, and policy initiatives—from the rapid rise in AP and IB coursetaking and Newsweek’s annual AP-based list of 100 best high schools to the American Diploma Project and the growing number of states moving to establish college prep as the default high school curriculum—have used the Tool Box analysis for empirical support.

Toolbox Part Deux replicates and improves upon the first report, using a more recent longitudinal data set from the 1990s. Thankfully, it doesn’t suffer from the standard sequel letdown. Equally chock-full of insightful data tables and timely perspectives, it confirms the original findings: academic intensity in high school has the greatest impact on college success.

The report also has much to say about the college experience. Earning enough credits in the first year is crucial; students who earn less than 20 credits as freshmen are far less likely to graduate, even if they return for a second year. Students who repeat or withdraw without penalty from 20 percent or more of their courses have their likelihood of graduating cut in half. Delayed entry to college and part-time attendance are negatives and continuous enrollment matters a lot: students who leave for more than a short amount of time are at significant risk of never coming back.

Adelman uses his empirical findings as the basis for some arguable opions about policy: like many in higher education, he’s too quick to dismiss institutional graduation rates as a meaningful measure of success.

But overall the Tool Box series should serve as an object lesson for data geeks and policy analysts everywhere: if you combine a rock-solid data source with smart, sophisticated analysis and translate those findings into a clear message that connects with a timely policy problem, you can, through sheer force of evidence, change the world around you. Hopefully, further sequels are to come.

- Kevin Carey
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Measuring Up
We began administering our district-mandated math assessment. Yes, for kindergarteners. It's nearly 20 pages long. It's a useful tool to compare the understanding of some basic concepts for many of my students but for Tweedledum and Tweedledee, it only shows me that they are still five year-olds as they try to color the pictures and circle the page numbers as their answer choices. For them, this test is not an appropriate measure of their skills and knowledge. Tweedledee can give me four toy dinosaurs if I ask for them but he cannot choose a group of four from a selection printed in black-and-white in a stapled booklet. Does that mean he doesn't meet the standard or does the test not reflect what the standard means for young children?

--guestblogger Alice in Eduland
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The Mad Hatter
Because we are a low-performing school, we receive additional support staff including a math specialist. One would hope that a "math coach" (pdf) might, at best, have a degree in math or, at worst, have some classroom and math instruction experience. Our math specialist knows less about math than I do and I teach five year-olds. He presents demonstration lessons and professional development sessions that are nonsensical, inappropriate, and disorganized - when they are not interrupted by his ringing cell phone. The district throws us a tea party but when we show up, we're told to pour out the tea and eat the cups. It's hard to keep taking the invitations seriously.

--guestblogger Alice in Eduland
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Down the Rabbit Hole
I've spent years chasing this white rabbit of fairness, equity, and justice that keeps disappearing around each corner. I teach Kindergarten in a large urban district, most of my students are English Language Learners and all but a handful live in poverty. I was a Teach for America teacher and I am still working my original placement school. We are ranked as one of the lowest-achieving in the state and we continually miss the mark when it comes to AYP. Teaching doesn't pay enough and I work too hard but I love my job. Not many people can say that they're doing exactly what they want to do each day.

I don't teach because I love to do it or because I think I am especially good at it. I teach because I believe in social justice and I believe that education is the most effective form of social justice work that there is.

--guestblogger Alice in Eduland
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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Guest Bloggers

Off for a few days starting tomorrow. Standing in Wednesday - Friday will be Teacher X who we'll call "Alice In Eduland." She's a sharp and interesting teacher in a large urban district somewhere in this great country of ours and she'll give you some free thinking and free linking.

On Wednesday Ed Sector's Carey and Mead might stop by also to warm up for their new edublog coming soon.

Eduwonk is back Monday. In the meantime here is a sound piece of advice for youngsters from Mr. Sun. And for adults there is this warning from about a year ago that turns out to be prescient…
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A Good Question
One reason Jay Mathews is such a treasure on the education scene is that he's willing to ask hard questions. In today's Washington Post he lets fly the lead balloon about whether or not it makes better sense to invest more in teachers than invest in more teachers. It's a good question because while smaller classes are better all else equal, all else is rarely equal and variables like teacher effectiveness matter more. (While parents often say they prefer small classes, watch how at the beginning of the school year they're willing to take a slightly larger class with the teacher that everyone in the community knows is absolutely terrific, they get this, too.)

The problem is, unless it's coupled with more effective evaluation and more sensitivity to talent (pdf) overall, just paying teachers more and hiring a few less won't have an appreciable effect. Like most things in education policy, there are not discreet solutions but rather issues that have to be addressed in tandem.

That said, the predictable reaction, given voice at the end of the article today, is that this is a horrible choice we should never have to make. As a centrist by inclination Eduwonk tries to eschew false choices (see below) but this actually isn't a false choice. The public purse is not limitless, nor is the public's appetite for more spending, and the supply of top teachers -- especially those who succeed with really challenging kids -- is not either. Pubic policymaking necessarily involves making choices in an environment of limited resources and to claim otherwise is good rhetoric but merely kicks the can of hard choices down the street a bit.
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Time After Time
One more thought per this ongoing multi-blog discussion about time mostly between Edwize and Chalkboard. Isn't this debate something of a strawman? There are plenty of high performing-high poverty charter schools (and other public schools for that matter) that are not KIPP. Granted, as a general rule they tend to do more with time and/or intensity, but they're all not KIPP-like in their use of time and their norms and culture.

But setting up the debate as being about whether or not a high-intensity model like KIPP is feasible as the model, as Leo Casey at Edwize seems to in this post, distracts from the more fundamental point that many public schools show that we can do a lot better than we are today, pretty much all else equal (leave aside in the context of more general social policy reforms that many people would like to see). And not to beat a dead horse (something frowned on in the majestic heights of Blogback Mountain) the way through the thicket is to acknowledge that KIPP has an important place as part of a continuum of educational options.

And isn't that the progressive position in this debate? A deliberate effort to design a system that can accommodate all students seems a lot more progressive than reflexively defending a system that demonstrably isn't working for a lot of kids. The latter seems, well, reactionary. But in the weird world of edupolitics it's sort of the other way around right now...
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Monday, February 13, 2006

Where Is The Reflexive Reaction?

More evidence that conservatives (this time former House Majority Leader Dick Armey) really don't like No Child Left Behind tucked in this WaPo Boehner article. Tom DeLay said much the same thing a few years ago. This ought to be a talking point for the Ed Trust because in today's blisteringly polarized and reflexive politics, it's enough for Dems to be rallying behind it now, no? Via Kaus.
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In Other Edublogs
Over at Edwize Leo Casey weighs-in on Joe Williams concern that AFT blogger One-L is lazy (and makes a very funny joke but sadly doesn't give us a film review). He also touches on the KIPP issue per this post and says that "those who promote [KIPP] in New York would insist that it is broadly replicable." I have no idea precisely what is being/has been said in NYC about KIPP. But, there is a distinction between saying KIPP is the model and saying KIPP shows that we can do better than we do now and need different models to try to do that. In other words, replicating KIPP everywhere as the solution and replicating the idea of KIPP everywhere are two different things and it's the latter you usually hear...Also, Casey says that a convincing case has not been made for pluralism around teacher quality. Huh? Isn't the problem that we have too much (pdf) pluralism (pdf) around it now and that maintaining the chokehold of schools of ed does little to address this?

And, Boardbuzz, please tell us what we are to think of this irony laden Wash. Post story! Update: Boardbuzz is on the case -- They tell us (a) to think it's much ado about nothing and then (b) they, pace I'm Rick Hess Bit*h, attack the Ed Schools!!! Art Wise, call your office!

Update: Williams responds and also makes a hilarious point about the inevitable Giuliani - Bloomberg comparisons.
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NYT Does (Or Doesn't) SES
Big NYT front page lead story on Sunday about No Child Left Behind's "Supplemental Education Services" or SES provisions. It's great that the Times is looking at this issue. The SES issue is a complicated one because the program is a muddle intended by some to foster choice, others accountability, and still others just extra, immediate, help for kids. And, it's good question whether it makes sense to essentially vest the responsibility for making the program work with the same entity -- the school districts -- it is aimed at. But, rather than really tackle this, the story was a little disappointing. There are problems with the SES provisions, but will readers know much more about them after reading this article than beforehand?

Basically the Times article says that the SES tutoring provisions are not being used. There are several possible explanations for this (a) not enough money in the program (b) the school districts are not aggressively helping students take advantage of the program (c) parents don't want tutoring for their kids (d) not enough providers of SES in many places. But, to the extent it delves into them, the Times story brings different perspectives but little evidence to bear.

For instance, the article reports, not surprisingly, that "Many state and district officials complain that federal financing is insufficient to meet the demand [for SES]." Could be, the law caps the amount of Title I funding that districts are required to spend on SES (though they can spend more if they like but it's tough because most Title I funding, like most education funding, is tied up in labor costs). But that's a question that can be answered with enough diligence. How many districts are not hitting the cap? Does demand outstrip supply? Etc...

Likewise, in I'm Rick Hess Bi*ch and Checker Finn's book on No Child, CGCS's Mike Casserly discusses supplemental services and reports that urban districts vary in the aggressiveness with which they help parents take advantage of this program. This, too, is a question the Times could look into along with what's happening with parents and the availability of providers in different locales.

And, the Department of Education has been slow in getting on top of SES and deliberately lax in enforcement. The article doesn't really get into that and will leave longtime watchers of the Times on education wondering why, when they did actually have a clean hit on the Bushies, they didn't take it!

Finally, the article ignores what seems to Eduwonk to be the crux issue here: Quality. To be fair, it will be a little while before clear evidence of that emerges (and the always smart, sensible and incandescent Jane Hannaway makes several must-read points in the article about the current state-of-play) but there is reason to be concerned about the quality of many programs now in the SES market and journalism can start to help explore that issue.

Though the ideologues will play it as such, the quality issue isn't a for-profit v. public issue, but rather a good program/bad program one because there are examples of both in the public, private, and non-profit sector. To the extent that SES becomes essentially pull-out, programs with curricula that is weak or not well aligned to state standards then SES will be a step backwards, not forwards for Title I.
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Crazy Talk!
University of Washington's Paul Hill thinks that much of the way public education is organized is geared toward the adults not the kids! That, and other crazy talk like ideas about improving things in this new PPI paper by Hill.
Posted at 8:09 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

State Of CA
California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell's annual state-of-the-state on education speech is worth reading. Among other interesting notes, pronounced achievement gap and Geezer War mentions.
Posted at 7:35 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Revue Reviews
The reviews are in! Over at the AFT's startlingly well-financed anti-(but only kinda, trust us!)NCLB blog they highlight all the reviews favorable reviews of their fix-NCLB musical. But they leave off this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, and this one! It's almost like you don't get the whole story over there! Eduwonk still thinks the dissenters within the AFT on this one were right...

In any event, more important question: If Al Shanker were still running the AFT, and even if he got his hands on a nuclear bomb, would he make a cartoon like this to argue a point?
Posted at 7:18 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post