Guest post by John Thompson. Atul Gawande says that surgery is not like teaching where your best work is behind you by the age of thirty. Just kidding! In fact, Gawande's New Yorker article, "Personal Best" explains the value of programs for coaching teachers in order to show its potential in transforming doctors' practice. In medicine, as in education, the temptation is to look for transformative changes rather than teaching professionals to be more effective. The most famous example was the discovery that simple checklists and reminding doctors to wash their hands were able to improve health as much as ...


Jerry Brown is perhaps the most powerful leader in our country who actually understands what has happened to our schools as a result of standards-based data-driven reform. In a move that signals exactly what should be done with the moribund No Child Left Behind in Congress, Brown has issued a veto of a California law, SB 547, that revamped the state's similarly flawed accountability system. Governor Brown first made waves regarding education when, as State Attorney General, he wrote a scathing letter to Arne Duncan in response to Race to the Top. He sent another strong signal this spring, when ...


A high school in La Palma, California, is coming under fire for a system that publicly identifies and treats students differently according to their scores on the state standardized tests. Students who perform at the highest levels in all subjects receive a black or platinum ID card, while those who score a mix of proficient and advanced receive a gold card. Students who score "basic" or below receive a white ID card. Students with black or gold cards get certain privileges, such as free entrance to sporting events and discounts at local business events. Those with white ID cards get ...


Over the past nineteen days we have witnessed a remarkable movement emerge. First in New York City, on Wall Street, and now in cities across the country, young people have taken to the streets to protest the way their futures have been hijacked by decisions made far beyond them. I am with them 100%. I am with them because I have two sons, now in college, who have a very unclear future. Some 85% of 2011's college graduates are now back home living with their parents, with substantial debt. Every time I see my older son, Alex, we discuss his ...


Guest post by the administrative team of United Opt Out: Shaun Johnson, Morna McDermott, Laurie Murphy, Peg Robertson, Tim Slekar and Ceresta Smith (a website dedicated to ending punitive high stakes testing in public education). In the past year, a number of states have introduced laws that "reform" education in similar ways. In state after state, teacher seniority and due process has been undermined, and the use of standardized tests to pay and evaluate teachers been expanded. In recent months, reports have emerged of a shadowy group that has developed tremendous influence over legislation in states across the country. This ...


Headlines from Alabama tell us that the latest "education reform" there is making sure we know exactly how much the state is spending to educate the children of "illegal" immigrants. According to a new law, parents are required to present documentation when registering their children to attend school. While the law does not require school officials to turn in the names of "illegals," it has sparked widespread fear among immigrant parents, and many have withdrawn their children from school. Meanwhile, Texas governor Rick Perry's poll numbers in the Republican primary have fallen after he said that members of his party ...


The National Bureau of Economic Research just published "School Choice, School Quality and Postsecondary Attainment" by David J. Deming, Justine S. Hastings, Thomas J. Kane and Douglas O. Staiger. Tom Kane, of course, heads the Gates Foundation's $400 million dollar "Measuring Effective Teaching" experiment, and yet his work provides little or no support for the policies preferred by Gates and other "reformers." In fact, the study confirms the judgments of teachers and education researchers who the accountability hawks condemn as the "status quo." If Gates and Kane had had any idea that their research would yield the results reported in ...


Last September NBC brought us the first Education Nation, developed in coordination with the release of the pro-charter documentary, Waiting For Superman. The network ran into a few bumps in the road, catching flak when it was pointed out that panels were loaded with "superheroes" like Michelle Rhee, and critical voices like Diane Ravitch, and those of classroom teachers, were largely absent. This year, NBC has made an effort to be a bit more balanced and inclusive of teachers voices, and the Teacher Town Hall yesterday made a start in that direction. On a stage dominated by the largest golden ...


Last week, one of Stephen Colbert's guests was a former mail carrier named Phil Rubio, who raised the alarm about the potential demise of a basic government service, the US Post Office. Dr. Rubio explained that the Post Office is a rather strange government/business hybrid, where it is controlled by Congress, but expected to cover its expenses through the revenue it generates. Yet it is not supposed to compete directly with the United Parcel Service or FedEx. When Stephen Colbert asked Dr. Rubio why we should care about the Post Office, he replied: "Universal service." He pointed out that ...


Guest post by John Thompson. Part two of two. Last week I read Paul Tough's New York Times Magazine article, "What if the Secret to Success is Failure?," about the approach being taken by the KIPP schools and others, inspired by the work of Martin Seligman. Two big issues came up for me. The first were some practical concerns, regarding what happens when public schools attempt to implement a "no excuses" model. The second were some larger philosophical questions about the moral lessons being taught, and the roles our schools play in this arena. Yesterday's post addresses the first set ...


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