August 2011 Archives

The Trouble with Steven Brill's Black-and-White Worldview

Steven Brill's Class Warfare is a highly readable, fairly reliable, if incomplete history of contemporary efforts to "reform" American schooling. Kudos on the readability--there's way too little of that. The guy's a terrific writer and really captures the flavor of the debates. I don't think his small-bore errors are a big deal (it's tough to write 437 pages without making a few mistakes). And, while he omits much of consequence, every journalist or historian ultimately is forced to do that in shaping any tale. But what drove me to distraction is the casual certainty with which he frames the whole ...


So, Wishing to Focus Edu-Dollars on Legal Residents Is Racist?

Yesterday, the Washington Post devoted its lead Sunday editorial to slamming Alabama's tough new anti-illegal immigration statute. Titled "Alabama's immigration travesty," the editorial charged that the law is "poisonous" and seemingly opposes denying illegal immigrants any privilege enjoyed by citizens and legal residents. The WaPo argued, "Perhaps the most obnoxious provision of the law is its requirement that public schools confirm all students' immigration status and report those who lack proper documents to school officials." While Alabama officials acknowledged that established law requires them to serve these students, the WaPo opines, "But whom are they kidding? The measure is meant ...


Appellate Court Gets It Wrong on NYC Teacher Data

Here's something you won't read too often in RHSU: "UFT president Michael Mulgrew is right." But he is. Just today, a New York state appellate court ruled that New York City must release reports that show value-added data on a teacher-by-teacher basis, with teachers' names attached. I agree with Mulgrew that this is an unfortunate decision. New York City issues the reports in question to about 12,000 teachers annually, covering teachers in fourth through eighth grades whose kids take the state reading and math assessments. The value-added model in question incorporates a variety of factors, including student absenteeism, race, ...


Randi and I Argue, Earth Rumbles

If memory serves, the old TV show Hart to Hart used to begin with the narrator intoning, "And when they met, it was murder." Well, yesterday AFT honcho Randi Weingarten and I engaged in a hard-hitting but genial debate at the Fordham Institute. Within a couple hours, we experienced the most severe East Coast earthquake in sixty-plus years. A coincidence? You decide. The Oprah-style affair, titled "When Reform Touches Teachers," was adeptly hosted by Fordham's Mike Petrilli. You can catch the video online here or when it shows on C-SPAN. In my experience, these kinds of "union leader v. 'reformer'" ...


Cheating Scandal Newsflash: Teachers Aren't Plaster Saints!

As I noted last Thursday, I'm fairly confident that isolated cheating scandals will eventually snowball. After all, I'm a pretty bleak person, and yet even I've been surprised to learn just how incredibly lax test security was in cities like Atlanta, Philadelphia, and DC--even as we amped up the significance of testing for teachers and school leaders. Seems to me that through all this there's been a bizarre tendency to assume that educators are human enough to respond to incentives but angelic enough that they won't cheat or cut corners, even when given manifold opportunities to do so. The result, ...


More Cheating To Come ... & Lessons Reformers Can Take from Atlanta

Bulletin: a large urban school district is dealing with a brewing cheating scandal. This time, it's the School District of Philadelphia (the nation's 10th largest district). Again, the situation has been marked by foot-dragging and half-hearted revelations. After being directed by the state to examine 28 schools for possible cheating on the 2009 Pennsylvania state exam, Philly officials now find that 13 schools "bear further investigation" due to suspicious jumps and dubious erasure patterns. This new scandal in Philly comes in the wake of last month's revelations, after a year-long investigation, of widespread cheating by 178 teachers and principals in ...


PDK Finds Public Likes Teachers, Down on Teacher Unions, Mixed on Obama

Today, Phi Delta Kappan releases its 43rd annual Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup Poll on public schools (full disclosure: I've been a regular member of the advisory panel for several years now). As always, there's much to chew on. I'll start by noting that I'm not a huge fan of the American public right now. After all, we're the twits who demand lots of services but don't want to pay for them. And then we get angry when our leaders can't square this circle. We insist that they take painful steps to rein in spending, and then complain when they try ...


Why Mike Casserly Is a Stud

The National Council on Teacher Quality is currently preparing a controversial, much-anticipated national study of teacher preparation with U.S. News & World Report. Scheduled for release in Fall 2012, the analysis has occasioned much hand-wringing and wailing from the teacher education community. Considering that the nation's 1,000+ teacher prep programs vacuum up dollars from aspiring teachers, school districts, and state governments, you'd think they would welcome the chance to demonstrate that their dismal reputation is undeserved. You'd be wrong. Instead, they've sought to undermine and impede NCTQ's efforts, while slamming NCTQ. The organizations that represent school, district, and state ...


Straight Up Conversation: Former New York Commissioner David Steiner

Back in April, New York's classy commissioner of education David Steiner discreetly announced that he'd be stepping down in July. This was shortly after Cathie Black's tumultuous departure as NYCDOE Chancellor, so David's announcement drew less attention than it probably merited. A lifelong academic, with a philosophy degree from Oxford and a doctorate in political science from Harvard, Steiner may have been the most erudite state chief in recent memory. Before taking the appointment, he'd previously served as the dean of the education school at Hunter College, where he oversaw the creation of the heralded Teacher U training program. (Back ...


The Duncan Precedent, 2013 Edition

The Obama administration steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the problems with ED's "backdoor blueprint" waiver strategy or the ugly precedent that it's trying to set. But those with even a glimmer of imagination can see where this is going... Transcript from Fox News Channel January 13, 2013 Chris Wallace: First off, congratulations Congresswoman Bachmann on being named U.S. Secretary of Education by President-elect Perry. SecEd Nominee Bachmann: Thanks very much. It's a big job, and I'm looking forward to tackling it. Chris Wallace: Last November, the Democrats narrowly retained control of the Senate and the Republicans enjoy only a modest ...


The Wisconsin Recall

Given the result of yesterday's state senate recall elections in Wisconsin, I'm feeling a lot of sympathy for the labor unions this morning. As the Washington Post's Michael Fletcher noted this morning, the fact that Republicans retained control of the state senate is "a major victory for Republican Gov. Scott Walker and a crushing defeat for Democrats and organized labor, which poured millions of dollars and countless volunteer hours into the recall effort." Last spring, Walker stirred a heated national debate when he pushed to cut spending, require state employees to contribute more to their health care and retirement plans, ...


After the Debt Deal: It Gets Tougher From Here

Last week, while I was on blog hiatus, the President and Congress topped off months of increasing rancor by cobbling together a last minute debt deal. There are several key edu-world takeaways that can too easily get lost amidst the languid summer heat. So, let's take a moment to flag them. After all, edu-advocates don't seem to have a clue as to what's ahead. As the debt deal was getting resolved, the Committee for Education Funding--a decades-old alliance of 80-odd trough-snuffling universities, education associations, and assorted hangers-on--issued a hand-wringing letter that said, "We fear that education programs will face multiple ...


Duncan's "Backdoor Blueprint" Strategy

Hidy, all. It's me. I'm back from points south, west, north, and so forth. I want to thank our terrific line-up of guest bloggers for their outstanding work. Anyway, I was going to settle in with a few broad musings, but I'll hold that for a moment in light of ED's decision, teased Friday but embargoed until this morning, to test new heights of hubris when it comes to ESEA. On Friday afternoon, in a hush-hush press call, Secretary Duncan and White House domestic policy honcho Melody Barnes told a handful of select national press more details about their scheme ...


Pedagogy v. Content Expertise

Note: Michael Bromley, a teacher in Washington, DC, is guest-posting this week. I'm finally coming to terms with modern education theory, or pedagogy. Six years ago I was hired to teach U.S. Government, and was put directly onto something called "World Cultures." I was given the textbook and told to teach the first three chapters on prehistory and the first civilizations. I'd never even heard of "Sumer," although "Mesopotamia" and "the land between the rivers" sent me back, most vaguely, to my own high school ancient history class. I spent the next four years teaching this class, running it ...


Teacher Pay

Note: Michael Bromley, a teacher in Washington, DC, is guest-posting this week. My colleagues groan when I say it, and then tell me to shut up: teachers are over-paid. Truly, we are. To argue that teachers are underpaid defies logic and means nothing: based on what? Oh, teachers are socially important, so they should be well-paid. Okay, measure that importance for me, will ya? Let's see, if I fail five fewer kids this year will you give me a raise? That won't work. What if I passed 'em all? Hmm. As with all attempts to quantify, measure, and manage education, ...


Stumbling Into Teaching & Some Lessons Learned

Note: Michael Bromley, a teacher in Washington, DC, is guest-posting this week. My first experiences teaching came as a substitute teacher in Montgomery County. It was useful work, flexible, and fun. It culminated in a long-term subbing job for the last months of the year for a government teacher on maternity leave. These two months led me into teaching as a profession. My college degree in writing (English Lite), prepared me none for teaching government, much less much of anything. My prior business experience gave me no academic credentials, although I did spend my million-plus miles on American Airlines reading ...


The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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