August 2009 Archives

Herb Kohl: The Perilous Road We Must Take

Why is the achievement gap so persistent? Herb Kohl thinks we are asking the wrong questions, and our efforts to close the gap are largely misguided. I first got to know Herb Kohl when I was a teen in Berkeley in the 1970s, when he was working to create alternative schools there. You may have seen Kohl's provocative thoughts recently, as he has taken Arne Duncan to task for extending and expanding the education policies of the Bush administration. I thought of Herb again when commenters on my blog raised some questions about how teachers can balance direct instruction with ...

This is Where Some of our Children Live

Hearing about a condemned apartment complex makes Anthony Cody reflect on poverty’s effect on students.

Obama’s Race to the Top Under Fire in California and US

A major conflict between the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program and unions representing teachers has ignited in California, where current education code places limits on the use of student test score data. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has made it clear that California is ineligible for precious Race to the Top grant dollars because the state places limits on the use of student test score data, and on the expansion of charter schools. While districts and schools are free to use such data, current law prevents individual teacher data from being used at the state level. Now ...

California Scores Rise, But Gap Remains

According to test score data released today, California students have increased their ability to pass state tests so that fully half of them are proficient in English, up from 46% proficient a year ago, and 46% are proficient in Math, up from 43% a year ago. However the achievement gap remains as wide as ever, with only 37% of African American and Latino students performing at a proficient level in English. This does not come as any shock to most educators. For all the emphasis on closing the gap, little has really changed for these students. Teachers and students have ...

The Income Gap Compounds the Achievement Gap in Schools

Good news! The productivity of this country has risen by 6.4% in the past quarter, while labor costs have dropped by 5.8%. We seem to be getting even more competitive as a nation. But the news isn’t all so good. New economic data shows that the gap between the rich and poor is wider than ever before – even than the 1920s. Research by UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez shows that in the year 2007, more than 50% of the income went to the top 10 % of the population. Much of that gain was due to tax cuts ...

Is the Race to the Top a Race to Test?

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, California’s state senate is scheduling hearings to consider the abandonment of a policy that blocks the use of student test score data for the evaluation or compensation of teachers, in order to qualify for federal "Race to the Top" funding. California recently created a data system to manage all the standardized test data. The Education Code was revised to state: (c) Data in the system shall not be used, either solely or in conjunction with data from the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, for purposes of pay, promotion, sanction, ...

Reform, Transform, Or Just Hang On for Dear Life?

This week I have read two points of view about school change that both appeal to me, yet seem mutually exclusive. First I read Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach’s essay, The Fabric of Community- The Key to Transforming Education. She argues that we get stuck reforming our schools, when in fact we should actually be transforming them. Then I read Mary Kennedy's Education Week commentary, Solutions are the Problem in Education . She describes how the well-intentioned drive to solve problems in our education system is resulting in teachers being deluged with solutions – and becoming exhausted by the resulting constant turmoil. How can ...


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