June 2011 Archives

Secretary Duncan's Data Integrity Warning Misses the Point

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has issued a warning to state-level school leaders telling them: I am writing to urge you to do everything you can to ensure the integrity of the data used to measure student achievement and ensure meaningful educational accountability in your State. As I'm sure you know, even the hint of testing irregularities and misconduct in the test administration process could call into question school reform efforts and undermine the State accountability systems that you have painstakingly built over the past decade. He goes on to say, The successful implementation of Title I and other key ...


John Thompson: Three Visions of Teaching in the 21st Century

Guest post by John Thompson This is the second of two connected posts. Read the first here. Richard Elmore and Elizabeth City have described three possible futures for public education. I see two of them as nightmares, but Elmore's and City's most hopeful scenario is one of schools that foster "controlled engagement," or the "frog gets a GPS." Under their model, "schools set the learning destinations and map out the best pathways to those destinations," and adults and students, together, create a broader learning environment. Nancy Flanagan, a former Michigan Teacher of the Year and blogger, and Jal Mehta of ...


John Thompson: School Transformation in the 21st Century: Turtles, Frogs or Butterflies

Guest post by John Thompson In an earlier contribution to the Harvard Futures of School Reform, Richard Elmore described "the dismal, glacial, adult-centered, congenially authoritarian, mindless soup in which our children spend the bulk of their days." I assume he was mostly describing failing schools, that tend to be high-poverty. I wish he had also acknowledged the excellent teaching that occurs in many inner city and lower-poverty classrooms. Elmore was clearly accurate, however, in recounting "how little the monolithic beast of American secondary education has been affected by the bright, high-minded optimism of professional reformers." In a concluding essay for ...


A One-Sided Dialogue: Teacher Frustration Leads to Protest

We are just over a month from the Save Our Schools March on Washington, DC, and I have been asked how we got to this place, where we are motivated to protest. So here, with links to relevant posts from this blog, is the story, from my perspective as one frustrated teacher. In September of 2008, I posted blogs about the education platforms of candidates McCain and Obama. I did not endorse Obama publicly on my blog, but I organized a fundraiser of educators, and knocked on doors in my neighborhood with campaign literature. A year after the election, in ...


John Thompson: Fact Checking the National Council on Teacher Quality

Guest post by John Thompson The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), is a Gates-funded organization dedicated to data-driven, market-oriented "reform." It sees itself as a part of a coalition for "a better orchestrated agenda" for accountability, choice, and using test scores to drive the evaluation of teachers. Its forte is publishing non-peer reviewed opinion pieces under the guise of "policy analysis." The latest NCTQ opinion piece, "Teacher Quality Roadmap," (downloadable here) seeks to shape Los Angeles school policy. The worst part of the latest attack on teachers is its saber-rattling statement that "economists recommend that districts routinely dismiss at ...


President Obama, We Were There When You Needed Us

It has been a year and a half since I wrote an open letter to President Obama, and started a project called Teachers' Letters to Obama. Back in December of 2009, I sent a package of 107 letters to the President and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (downloadable here). Sadly, there has been no change in education policies, and the administration seems more determined than ever to enforce policies that attach ever higher stakes to standardized test scores. On March 28 of this year, as President Obama began looking towards his reelection in 2012, he held a town hall meeting ...


Jim Owens: School Is Out: Let Your Education Begin!

Teacher Jim Owens was chosen by the 435 graduating seniors at Gainesville High School to address them and their families, and delivered this speech to an audience of 5,000 on June 5, 2011. Testing. Testing 1,2. Just like school, no? Always testing. Can you hear me in the cheap seats? Look at you! You're radiant. You look brighter than ever today. You look like you've learned something. It must be the cap. What do you think, should we make it and the gown the SCHOOL UNIFORM for next year? Think of the photo ops. That would show the ...


Is Diane Ravitch Insulting Teachers? Who Speaks for Us?

Last week, in the pages of the New York Times, Diane Ravitch went after the most sacred of cows of the education "reform" movement -- the supposed "miracle schools" that prove the reforms actually work. Columinist Jonathan Alter offered a rebuttal that was carried in a media outlet owned by leading education "reformer," New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. But his approach was to attack Diane Ravitch, and had little substance. It was immediately rebutted by dozens of commenters (including me -- see here.) Duncan himself was compelled to respond -- the only thing more significant would have been if Obama ...


Interview: How Does Classroom Stress Affect Learning?

The Wall Street Journal recently carried a report about a study that found that students are often affected by the stress that adults working with them are experiencing. In a time when education "reform" and budget cuts often seem to be making schools more stressful, this seems like a very significant issue. I wrote to one of the researchers, Catharine Warner, and asked her to explain more. Here are her answers. What were the key findings of your study? We find that just as adults' workplaces can affect their well-being and stress levels, so also does children's "work" at school. ...


Jonathan Alter Kicks the Hornet's Nest

@anthonycody It has happened again. An "education reformer" has used the pages of corporate media to go on the attack against a leading critic, Diane Ravitch. And lived to regret it. Jonathan Alter, an MSNBC commentator and former Newsweek columnist, penned an op-ed two days ago in the Bloomberg website. Titled, "Don't Believe Critics, Education Reform Works," the piece was long on ad hominem attacks and short on substance. I wrote a response and posted it on the site - and was soon joined by scores of others, almost all scathing. (Note -- comments on the piece were closed off ...


Here's to Our Schools! SOS Videos go Viral

The fourth and final video in our special series of Save Our Schools video spots has been released. We do not have a big budget - just a lot of heart. So when we wanted to share some positive messages about why we are marching this summer, we went to YOU, to ask for images and video footage to help show how we are supporting students, parents, teachers and schools, and build awareness of the Save Our Schools March this coming July 30th. The amazing Tom and Amy Valens, who produced the documentary "August to June," have crafted these images ...


The opinions expressed in Living in Dialogue 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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