December 2010 Archives

Where are the Cool YA and Chick Lit Teachers?

Alexander Russo asks: "Where are the Best Novels About Education?" and gets some pretty solid answers. I'm surprised, though, that no one mentioned youth classics like These Happy Golden Years, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of Windy Poplars, or Jo's Boys. To be sure, these books are for teenage girls, rather than adults. And they are about education in a very different era (teacher contracts no longer include requirements to haul water or stoke the stove). But the trials, tribulations and occasional triumphs of working as a teacher are central to these books, and some of the heroines' frustrations (fortunately not ...


Water, Water Everywhere, but Not a Drop to Drink

Speaking of the need to expand the supply of high-performing school options: Mark Schneider and Naomi Rubin DeVeaux have produced a sobering report on the lack of real quality school choices for kids in the District of Columbia. Families in D.C. have choice aplenty--about 70% of DC kids attend a school other than their neighborhood assigned school. But only a minority of those choices are actually good choices. And the highest performing schools, both charters and in DCPS, tend to be oversubscribed, meaning that many families that don't get into those schools wind up choosing instead schools whose performance ...


Admissions Lotteries: Not Just About Fairness

Cato's Andrew Coulson takes issue with a recent Brookings report's recommendations that data on charter school lotteries be included in state and local student longitudinal data systems. Never mind that Coulson doesn't actually seem to understand what the report is recommending (which is interesting). I'm more interested in his general opposition to requiring any schools to admit students by lottery. In one respect, I'm sympathetic to Coulson's arguments: To the extent that lottery requirements are an effort to ensure fair distribution of limited slots in desirable public schools, they're clearly inadequate. Much better would be to expand the supply of ...


Turnaround, Bright Eyes

Per previous on the rarity of successful school turnarounds: The difficulty of school turnaround is underscored by the news that D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson has revoked the contract of Friends of Bedford, a New York-based nonprofit organization hired to manage and turn around D.C.'s Dunbar High School. The troubling statistics for Dunbar--which had 22 "serious" security incidents alone, more than any other DCPS high school, and where a recent survey found 45 percent of seniors not on track to graduate--are particularly tragic given the school's illustrious history. Dunbar, founded in 1870, was the first true ...


Every Now and Then I Fall Apart

A sobering report released yesterday by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute finds that most of 2,000 schools identified as low-performing in 2002-03 were still low-performing schools 6 years later. Just 1.4% of district-run schools and less than 1% of charter schools identified as low-performing in 2002-03 "turned around" to the extent that they out-performed state averages by 2008-09; another 8% of district schools and 9% of charter schools made "moderate" improvements to the extent that their performance became merely mediocre rather than disastrous. And 11% of low-performing district schools and 19% of low-performing charter schools were closed. That ...


Pre-K Is Not An Alternative to Education Reform

Kevin Carey has a great post on the problems with pre-k panacea-ism that you should read in its entirety, but the short version is that we should be highly skeptical of arguments that posit pre-k as an alternative to K-12 reform, because delivering high-quality pre-k at scale requires grappling with an overcoming the same challenges of building effective systems of public education delivery that are at the heart of K-12 reform debates. I'd go a step further and argue that this is true when it comes to any of the services or supports that devotees of the "broader, bolder" camp ...


The Grass(roots) is Always Greener(?)

So everyone today wants to talk about Students First, the new venture that former D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee launched today (on Oprah!) to organize parents and others as voices for children and a counter the the established adult interests that dominate education policy and politics. I'm just glad to see some of the leading lights of the education reform movement finally coming around to what I argued 3 years ago they needed to be doing. Seriously, though, there is a real need for more grassroots organizing work in the education reform space. Politics is not the only thing preventing ...


Stimulating Analysis

A new report out today from Bellwether Education Partners looks at the impact of stimulus funds on education reform. The report, by myself, Anand Vaishnav, Bill Porter, and Andrew Rotherham, finds that a combination of mixed messages and unclear guidance from state and national leaders, state and local funding cuts, and inertia and existing processes meant that many districts used stimulus funds simply to maintain the status quo rather than drive significant reforms. We also find, though, that some districts were able to use ARRA funds to make significant reforms, thanks to a combination of strong local leadership and access ...


Is the Pre-K Movement Doomed to Replicate the Flaws of the K-12 System?

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a forum on Rick Hess's new book, The Same Thing Over and Over, which argues that current iterations of school reform are doomed to fall short because they fail to challenge fundamental premises of our current educational system that are ill-suited for contemporary realities and what we need our educational system to do. Rick, as always, makes a provocative argument, and the rock star panel of Tony Bennett, Paul Pastorek, and Stefanie Sanford was also in top form. (You can watch the whole thing here). But something bothered me: I spend a ...


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