Friday, August 11, 2006
The Unfolding AFTie Disastie...
Sorry, no "bold outright lies told to large audiences" but here is a quick update on The AFTie Disastie: The teacher blog Homeslice is all over it and wants some AFTie reax, too. Also, media is waking up to it -- calls are being made, and apparently some jobs lost over there over all this...stay tuned. Update: To clarify, AFTie insiders protest that no job changes as a result of the Mike Antonucci release of the report, sorry if that wasn't clear in the post above. Rather, larger changes apparently in the works because of the larger issues. Update II: Sherman Dorn wants context! And, he makes an interesting point about websites. Mike A. explains why no context -- he's protecting the innocent!
I'm not sure I get this latest inside baseball ed research flap. Ed Week delivers the news that National Center for Educational Statistics honcho Mark S. Schneider is now saying that the agency shouldn't be doing research like the recent public - private school report and everyone seems to agree. But why not? In the story AERA's Gerry Sroufe says it's because the agency could be seen to be pushing an agenda. But didn't the opposite happen here? The study more or less undercut rather than bolstered one policy initiative of the administration. Everyone always assumes an agenda, it's par for the course, just do good work and that will take care of itself.
Seems to me the most compelling case against the feds sponsoring this sort of work is the scarce resources argument: There are non-governmental folks wanting and able to do this sort of analysis, so let them do it on a non-governmental dime and focus scarce educational research dollars elsewhere. Fair enough. But, considering the dearth of high quality educational research out there, I'm all for the feds doing and sponsoring a lot more.
Also, while I was away, Harvard's Paul Peterson released a reanalysis of the NAEP data (pdf) using some different coding and finding different results. Interestingly, while the usual suspects attacked Peterson (mostly ad hominem), the researchers who conducted the NCES study say he has a point. But, they argue that Peterson's method also has flaws. The issue basically turns on how to count poor students since public and private schools (a) report differently and (b) participate differently in the Title I program namely because when poverty at a school hits a certain percentage of students the school can use Title I funds to offer services to all students in the building not just low-income ones. There is also debate about some of the variables. Stay tuned for more. Media round-up on this here.
Update: AFTie John weighs-in and starts licking his chops for an all too predictable charter school battle...
So I go away for a week or so and Mike Antonucci -- of all people -- gets his hands on and releases an absolutely explosive internal report about the American Federation of Teachers, --basically the equivalent of the famed Kamber Report about the National Education Association but with more venom. What's more, his outing of the report is apparently causing some chaos at AFT HQ and the firm that did the report is threatening to sue him! So naturally, upon my return, I go to the AFTie blog to get the other side of the story and learn more about all the goings on...but what do I find? Zilch! Nada! Nothing! Ed Week, it falls to you, please tell me what I need to know! Turn loose the bulldog!
Anyway, for now, read Mike A.'s entire report. Here are a few tidbits:
* "People are surprised when they get a poll that comes out that says our members don't even know what union they belong to. Well, why should they?"
* "I think that the AFT could be facing a very troubled future."
* "I find it almost miraculous that we have as many members as we do."
* "I have to step away from looking at the opposing views."
* "I'm glad that a lot of the interviews I do with reporters are over the phone, because they can't see my eyes rolling at times."
* "I have heard bold, outright lies told to large audiences."
And, apparently, according to the report, the AFTie blog is "half-staged" and controlled! Wow, man, I'm reeling, that one is a shocker!
Plenty more...read it.
Big winner could be AFT head McElroy. He comes off pretty well in the report and this certainly frees his hand to make some internal changes. Big loser, ironically, while this isn't good for the AFT it's probably the NEA. In the report AFT staffers give voice to their less than warm feelings toward the larger of the two unions, basically call the NEA's position on No Child Left Behind irresponsible and "kneejerk" and also out the animosity toward the NEA that exists on the Hill today. And no, bipartisanship is not completely dead on the Hill, it's both parties. Some journos have been sniffing around on that story and perhaps this may be all the peg they need...
The Dump: Carey On Higher Ed, Group Grope On Mayors, Fuller On Race And Choice, No EduPerp Walk...And, Make $1K A Month Blogging!
Big thanks to Newoldschool Teacher for her guestblogging of the past few weeks. I'm back now with only adorable pictures of the Eduspawn high in the Rockies to remind me what was...In no particular order, here are some things I'm digging through today as I try to restore some order to my inbox:
In the new Washington Monthly, three edu-related items: First, my colleague Kevin Carey pleads for more transparency in how we rate colleges. Second, Avi Zenilman explains why Teach For America is the new McKinsey. Finally, the issue contains the Monthly's college rankings.
A lot of attention to various housing incentive/assistance programs for teachers. Pessimistic Seattle Times here, optimistic Ed Week here.
Ohio has been behind the curve on some charter school issues but an increased emphasis on holding authorizers accountable and cracking down on "sponsor shopping" could put them ahead of the curve on that front.
Speaking of choice, Howard Fuller lays out his vision and view of the politics in an op-ed. This line should spark some conversation:
It's not hard to understand why many organizations and individuals in our community are either hostile or indifferent to charter schools and other forms of parental choice. Big-city school systems have historically employed large numbers of African-Americans, and for most of us the traditional public school has been our only hope for receiving an education. The traditional system has served many of us well. But that was then and this is now. Today's public school systems are still employing us, but too few are effectively educating our children.
Policy and law maven Christopher Walker says (pdf) that in a post Schaeffer - Weast world (and that's the one we live in folks!) the good 'ol Section 504 might be the better bet for special ed advocates going forward. Does that mean all the heat and light around the new special eg regs was for naught?!
Dep't of Ed releases final report on ELC's grant issues. Could have political resonance but no one is going to be doing a perp walk.
On Sunday night, Mathew Perry, of the inexplicably popular "Friends" fame, stars as educator Ron Clark in a new TNT movie. When they make the Eduwonk movie I'm still pulling for Emmanuel Lewis to play the role, or perhaps Nick Nolte.
Brian Timoney has used Google maps to create a visual representation of student test scores in Colorado. Interesting idea for tech savvy wonksters elsewhere.
In the new Harvard Ed Review a panel of experts discuss mayoral control.
If you're a pre-k teacher, Pre-K Now wants to pay you $1K a month to blog for them, only two posts a week! But, you have to get your employer's permission, so that will cut down on the fun stuff.
Well friends and neighbors, if I'm not mistaken, the Eduwonk is coming back tomorrow. Thank you for all your nice emails. Just as a sign off, I'm reading a great book called How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Makes a lot of sense. Anyway, bye everyone!
--Guest blogger Newoldschoolteacher
cross your fingers
New Orleans is reopening its restructured school system, in which many public schools have been turned into charter schools and in which there is no districting. Any student can enroll in any school. For the kids' sake, let's hope it will be better.
Here's a link to a blog debate on edspresso about standardized testing going on between 2 education professors. Looks like it will be interesting. One side has already tied standardized tests to corporate corruption and drug company profits. Nice.
When searching for KIPP information for the last blog entry, I found this interesting blog article on SchoolsMatter entitled, "Why KIPP is Not a Model for Urban Education." It struck me because it includes a number of arguments and ideas that I heard a lot in grad school. Here are some of the arguments against KIPP and other similar systems contained within this article, and then my response to them:
- "I'm concerned that KIPP, Edison, and other "back to basics" approaches operate under the implicit assumption that the best we can hope for (re: the achievement of black and Hispanic children) is to give them nothing but the basics." Untrue. The idea is that we have to give kids an excellent foundation in reading, writing, and math in order to get them beyond the basics. If a child cannot read at grade level, he/she will suffer in social studies, the arts, music, and life. The basics are the starting point, not the end, of a good education. If they already had a solid foundation of basics, schools like KIPP would skip it. But they have to meet kids where they are.
- "Yes, KIPP might offer a trip to Central Park as a reward for good behavior, but middle-class white parents such as me cringe at the idea that our children would be taken on field trips only as a reward for good behavior."
- "As for interrogating and critiquing socio-historical systems that produce the status quo, I'd be willing to bet that the name "Malcolm X" is not uttered at KIPP schools. I'm sure there's not enough time to cover everything. But, then again, what do they cover in the time they have? Surely black children should know not just who Malcolm X is, but why he believed what he believed and how he conducted his activist work."
KIPP schools contribute directly to the educational achievement gap between wealthy whites and poor blacks. Yes, it may appear that this gap has been closed by these same poor black children scoring higher on standardized tests. But I would seriously question these gains as anything other than illusory, especially when these gains are made at the expense of these children knowing about themselves and their oppression as well as at the expense of their intellectual potential.
This person is crazy. The "achievement gap" is defined by test scores! So you can't say that KIPP schools contribute to the achievement gap if they are helping black children to score higher on tests! Also, the tests TEST SKILLS. THERE IS NOTHING THAT TESTS HOW MUCH CHILDREN KNOW ABOUT THEIR OPPRESSION. And even if there was, would you rather they score high on that and low on tests of literacy and math? How does this benefit the child? This person, apparently, is not in favor of benefitting the child, but rather of furthering a particular type of political agenda. Observe.
Here's the troubling thing: KIPP schools appear to work. But what they work at remains in question. What does it mean for a school to "work"? Some would say that KIPP works because it produces high test scores and gets kids into elite prep schools and then on to college. But others would say that KIPP fails because it does not produce democratically-engaged, independently-minded critical thinkers. In its worst form, KIPP represents a failure of imagination and an abdication on the part of educators who are convinced, albeit with the best of intentions, that this is the best "these kids" can hope for.
I don't know about you, but I am in the "some" group that thinks getting underserved, low-income minority children into elite prep schools and then on to college is evidence that a school works. I have a feeling that the author is in the "others" category, a group that doesn't want college-bound kids, but ones who are "democratically-engaged, independently-minded critical thinkers," whatever that means. You know, he/she may be right. I've always thought that college makes kids really, really love monarchy. And I'm always saying, you know, those college kids wear too many buttons that say I (heart) the status quo and My parents were right every time. We really should stop sending kids to college.
Left to choose its own priorities, surely the state (through the mechanism of KIPP) will choose stability over something else. The effect and impact of this choice can only be guessed at, but I'd venture an educated guess and say that stability means more phonics and less Malcolm X. Again, this is by no means a consciously-constructed plan to exert racial dominance. It is, in a word, efficient. And, according to the KIPP people, what these children need.
So now KIPP is part of the social dominance structure created to keep people down. Why doesn't anyone else see that phonics is important for empowering people??? Slaveowners kept slaves illiterate for a reason. That's right, friends and neighbors, because Knowledge is Power. Why is knowledge always being made evil? I just don't understand. It was this way at grad school, and it's this way in the education world at large. It makes me angry. Also, "these children" need the basics in fifth grade because NO ONE TAUGHT THEM WELL ENOUGH BEFORE! If the school system they were in beforehand hadn't been so screwed up and awful, they could start where they're supposed to, with fifth grade material! And maybe they wouldn't all have to go to school until 5! Here's a last bit I want to get in:
And, with KIPP, we say, "This is good enough for them" while we send our kids to private schools or the best suburban schools.
There are a number of excellent charter elementary schools in New York City now, some of them with the Achievement First system. KIPP has an elementary school in Houston now, as well as a high school. I long for the day that the students who start KIPP or other great schools so early start whipping private school and suburban kids in achievement. That will be a great day for them, and for our country. Maybe then we'll start taking education a little more seriously.
an all-important update on my life
HEY! Sorry for the extended pause in blogging. I was distracted by a trip to our nation's capital and its wonderful museums. The museum gift stores provided me with a wealth of new books and assorted fun stuff for my classroom (Flip book on the First Ladies, wassup!). Of course, before that I was kickin' it at the KIPP summit in New Orleans. There were 1100 people there! It was amazing to meet so many teachers and administrators willing to put in the hours and effort to help kids. Here are some of the results of that effort.
At the Summit we also heard from Don and Doris Fisher, the founders of the Gap clothing store (Don't worry, I told them that sometimes their jeans make us look fat. They are going to rectify the problem immediately.) They contributed a lot of money when KIPP was starting out to help the KIPP idea spread. With their help, KIPP established the Fisher Fellows program to train new KIPP leaders. If you know someone who is an excellent educator and who you think might be ready and interested to open a KIPP or KIPP-like school, send them to this site. It's a year-long program now based out of Stanford Business School, and I hear it's a great experience.
The best piece of advice from the Summit came from a businessman who is a significant donor to the KIPP Schools in Washington DC. He said something like, "Drag rich people into these schools. They will write you checks because this really works." I'm into dragging rich people around, so I'm going to try this one.