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May 2011 Archives

Cut Off!

Big NYT article over the weekend on kindergarten cut-off dates (the age by which children must turn 5 to enter kindergarten). Connecticut (along with New York City) has some of the latest cut-off dates in the country, and is considering moving them up. As my colleague Andy Rotherham notes, this is complicated stuff, and given the difference from other states, in may make sense for Connecticut to do this. But it is worth noting that there's been a trend of states moving up kindergarten cut-off dates over the last few decades, such that, while it was once the norm for ...


Stephanie Wilson, Chief of Staff, Aspire Public Schools

Many of the leaders profiled in this series are people who have started their own organizations to address education needs and challenges. But an equally critical challenge is ensuring the next generation of strong leaders working in existing organizations, to sustain these organizations and enable them to grow to scale. As Chief of Staff for Aspire Public Schools, a charter management organization serving more than 10,000 California students, Stephanie Wilson is one of these leaders. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Wilson earned her Bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia and spent three years in management consulting before making ...


Questions for Mark Zuckerberg on Kids and Social Networking

Last week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg spoke at the New Schools Venture Fund Summit, a major conference for education reformers, funders, and social entrepreneurs. And his comments there suggesting a desire to allow younger children to use Facebook have garnered considerable attention and controversy. I actually asked Zuckerberg a follow-up question on this at the Summit (see minute 53:30 here), specifically around what he thinks quality educational technology and social networking experiences for preschool-aged children should/would look like (because his initial comments were framed in terms of the importance of education starting early). I didn't get much of ...


One More Thought on Early Learning Challenge

I should have said this earlier, but, given the outlines of the Early Learning Challenge program announced yesterday, ensuring high-quality evaluation/research for this program is really important. There's a big emphasis right now in the early childhood space on systems-building and coordination. That makes sense: The early childhood sector today is a total mishmash of unaligned programs, providers, funding streams, and policies--and that creates gaps in services, tremendous frustration for parents and providers, and inefficiencies. But--there is very little evidence about the various strategies states are currently using, and early childhood advocates are encouraging, to build systems and improve ...


Evan Stone and Sydney Morris, Co-Founders, Educators for Excellence

As young teachers in the New York City Public Schools, Evan Stone and Sydney Morris struggled with a feeling that the policies and practices that affected them and their students were being developed with little teacher input or voice. So they decided to work to change that, by created Educators for Excellence to organize teachers and provide an independent voice for them in public and policy debates over education. Today, Educators for Excellence has 2,500 members, a staff of 6 former teachers, and is already putting its imprint on legislation and policy in New York State. Educators for Excellence ...


Too Soon to Celebrate New Early Learning Challenge Race to Top Funds

Big Race to the Top announcement today from Secretaries Duncan and Sebelius: Of the $700 appropriated by Congress, $500 will be used for a new "Race to the Top--Early Learning Challenge" competition, and $200 will be open for competition among the 9 states that were "Runners Up" in RTT round 2. The decision to create a separate early childhood competition, as opposed to folding early childhood into the original Race to the Top program, isn't particularly surprising to anyone who's been following this issue--the FY2011 appropriations legislation clearly contemplates this, and both Congressional early childhood supporters and the early childhood ...


Mickey Muldoon, Manager of External Affairs, School of One

Mickey Muldoon has a knack for going where the action is: Shortly after graduating from Harvard, he did field organizing in Ohio for the Obama campaign. Last fall he joined School of One just as the initiative to transform schooling through radical personalization was gaining national attention. In between, he spent time at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. At only 26, Muldoon has already acquired an eclectic set of experiences that reflect not only his own wide-ranging interests, but also a broader mindset that characterizes this new generation of education leaders: A desire to go where the action and potential ...


Major News

This new report from Georgetown University quantifying the earnings of people with different college majors was bound to get a lot of attention. Two quick observations worth noting: First, Early Childhood Education is the second-lowest paying of all college majors surveyed--with a median earning of $36,000 beating out only Counseling psychology. The relatively low wages of Early Childhood Education bachelor's degree holders has serious implications for efforts to improve the quality of the early childhood profession--particularly those that focus on requiring pre-k teachers to hold a bachelor's degree. Second, it's interesting to note that of the three majors in ...


Jennifer Medbery, Founder, Drop the Chalk

As Jen Medbery notes, data-driven teaching and data-driven reform have become something of a buzz word in education circles over the past several years. But despite the profusion of data points, many teachers lack the time, tools, or skills to use this data effectively. And without those tools or time data can become a burden rather than an asset for teachers. The company that Medbery founded, Drop the Chalk, is working to change that. Drop the Chalk gives teachers the tools they need to really analyze trends in student learning and behavior in order to drive improvements in instruction and ...


Where is the Next Generation of Education Leaders Coming From?

In making a list of promising young education leaders, it only seemed reasonable to look at their backgrounds, to try to identify trends in where young education leaders are coming from--and where we might look for them to come in the future. Perhaps one of the most striking features of this list is the diversity of the people on it--in terms of race/ethnicity, geography, life experiences, and the type of work they're currently doing. But a few clear trends emerge: Teach for America remains the dominant source of leadership talent in education, and the transformative reform efforts in post-Katrina ...


Ana Menezes, Partner, the New Teacher Project

The New Teacher Project is known for encouraging the education field to be smarter and more strategic in its use of talent. So it's hardly surprising that TNTP was quick to spot and take full advantage of Ana Menezes' potential as an education leader. Landing in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina, Menezes, a Teach for America alum, first trained teachers in TNTP's first New Orleans Teaching Fellows Cohort, then moved to managing the entire teachNOLA program (of which the teaching fellows program is one component). Today, as a Partner with TNTP, she manages teaching fellows programs in New Orleans and Philadelphia, ...


Hailly Korman, Associate, Morrison & Foerster

Earlier this year, a California judge ruled that the Los Angeles' school district's practice of laying off teachers based on seniority--leading to massive layoffs in some of the districts' highest-poverty schools, where novice teachers disproportionately work--violated the rights of students in these schools to equal educational opportunity. Hailly Korman was one of the lawyers who worked on the case. Korman, 31, has long been driven by a passion for social justice and civil rights, which first led her to teach kindergarten in a high-poverty Los Angeles school, and eventually to law school at UCLA and the litigation practice at Morrison ...


Neerav Kingsland, Chief Strategy Officer, New Schools New Orleans

Neerav Kingsland is one of a crop of education reformers who moved to New Orleans to help rebuild and reshape the city's schools after Hurricane Katrina. As a freshly-minted Yale Law grad, Kingsland helped launch New Schools New Orleans, which has been a key force in shaping the transformation of public schooling in New Orleans and in recruiting, supporting, and growing operators of effective schools to serve the city's students. Today, as Chief Strategy Officer, Kingsland operates NSNO on a day-to-day basis, as it embarks on an aggressive effort to transform the lowest-performing quarter of New Orleans schools over the ...


Andrew Kelly, Research Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

Most of the people on this list focus on elementary and secondary education reform. But when I think about how the next generation of education reform leaders are going to transform education, I can't help but think we're going to see them driving big changes in higher education, too. The American higher education system is widely regarded as "the best in the world," in contrast to the mediocre performance of our K-12 public schools. Yet fewer than 60 percent of students who enroll in 4-year colleges earn a bachelor's degree within 6 years (with much worse rates for many institutions ...


Kirabo Jackson, Assistant Professor, Northwestern

Kirabo Jackson's research tackles some of the most important questions in education today: What makes a good teacher? Do students benefit from attending "better" schools? What is the relationship between student demographic characteristics and teacher quality? Do extended public transit hours reduce drunk driving arrests and accidents? (ok, that's not an education question--but interesting!) At a time when education policymakers are especially focused on teacher quality, Jackson uses the tools of labor economics to look beyond what research already shows (teacher quality matters and teachers vary in quality) to investigate still unanswered questions about the factors that influence teacher quality--and ...


Alex Grodd, Founder, Better Lesson

Alex Grodd knows that teaching can be isolating work--particularly for novice teachers. He's experienced that for himself, as a middle school teacher in Atlanta and Boston. And that experience motivated Grodd, now 30, to found BetterLesson to help change things for other teachers. BetterLesson is an online community that enables teachers to share lesson plans and access proven content from effective educators. Applying the tools of social networking to education, BetterLesson helps teachers to connect to one another. It's already gaining traction in some of the nation's highest performing charter organizations and has even greater future potential to leverage the ...


Bill Ferguson, Maryland State Senator

In 2010, Bill Ferguson, a 27-year-old staffer for the Baltimore Public Schools, scored an upset victory over a 27-year-incumbent in the Democratic primary to represent Maryland's 46th Senate District, with a campaign built largely on support of Teach for America alumni and other Baltimore education reformers. A freshman who had never previously held elected office, Ferguson faced a steep learning curve in his first legislative session this spring, but nevertheless was able to score victories on Baltimore school funding and charter school access to facilities. The lifelong Maryland resident, now 28, is just one of a growing number of Teach ...


Roxanna Elden, teacher and author, See Me After Class

You know you're doing something right when Dave Barry (yes, that Dave Barry) calls your first book "very funny." That's just one reason to highlight Roxanna Elden, whose book See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers earned not just Barry's praise but kudos from a host of educators. The audience whose praise Elden most values, though, aren't nationally recognized figures but the novice classroom teachers who are finding a lifeline in her book. At a time when many teachers feel their voices are excluded from public debates about education, Elden, a full-time classroom teacher, is bringing teacher voice ...


Justin Cohen, President, School Turnaround Group, Mass Insight

What to do about chronically low-performing public schools is one of the biggest--and most debated--challenges in public education today. As President of the School Turnaround Group at MassInsight, Justin Cohen tackles this challenge every day, working with states and schools districts to put in place the right conditions and policies and turn around low-performing schools. Since graduating from Yale in 2002, Cohen has worked in a variety of education organizations: the D.C. Public Schools under Chancellor Michelle Rhee, Edison Schools, and the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools. He serves on the Board of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter ...


Rafael Corrales, Co-founder, LearnBoost

Rafael Corrales is "a start-up guy." As an undergraduate at Georgia Tech (from which he graduated at only 19 years old), Corrales, an Atlanta native, co-founded College Knowledge, a tutoring company serving middle and high school students in the Atlanta area. Since then, he's worked with a variety of start-ups both in and out of education, including RentJuice and HubSpot. While attending Harvard Business School, Corrales co-founded LearnBoost, an online gradebook, lesson planner, and calendar for teachers, students and parents that has been named one of the best start-ups of 2010. Now based in San Francisco, he also blogs frequently ...


Karim Kai Ani, Founder, Mathalicious

Karim Ani is a guy who asks interesting questions ... and then translates them into real-world math lessons: "Do people with small feet pay more for shoes?" (Ratios & proportions) "Have video game consoles followed Moore's Law?" (Exponential growth) "Is Wheel of Fortune rigged?" (Percents & probabilities) These are just a few of the questions around which Mathalicious builds high-quality, standards-based math lessons designed to transform how students learn math, and how teachers teach it. This emphasis on interesting questions is hardly surprising. Ani, a former middle school math teacher and coach, views Socrates as his role model. At a time when many ...


These People are Going to Transform Education

Over the past 15 years, public education in the United States has been profoundly shaped by the work of a generation of young educators and reformers who launched their careers in the early 1990s: people like Wendy Kopp, Dave Levin, Mike Feinberg, Michelle Rhee, Chris Barbic, Rick Hess, and my own colleagues Kim Smith and Andrew Rotherham. The first class of Teach for America corps members (1990) alone included a host of people who have since launched and led influential education organizations and/or had significant impacts at the local, state, and national levels. And its successors haven't done too ...


Pop Culture Finally Notices There Are Lots of Teachers

Alyssa Rosenberg reports on a forthcoming wave of school- and teacher-focused TV shows and movies, attributing the new pop culture focus on education to increased awareness in the wake of Waiting for Superman, Race to Nowhere, and other education-focused documentaries. My question is: What took so long? In fairness, pop culture is no stranger to education--the saintly teacher movie is a well-worn cliche, and some of our most cherished movies and TV shows have draw gold from high school drama (and comedy!). But given the prevalence of both dramas and comedies organized around the workplaces of doctors, lawyers, and police ...


Go 'Dores!

If you want an indication of the serious potential for real progress on educational transformation in Tennessee under new Commissioner Kevin Huffman, the announcement that YES! Prep President Chris Barbic is leaving the organization he founded to head-up a new statewide Achievement School District (a vehicle for taking over and transforming chronically low-performing schools) is a pretty damn impressive sign. Barbic is a real education rock star, he's leaving one of the strongest organizations in the space at an important point in its growth, as well as a community where he has serious roots/connections, and taking on an incredibly ...


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