In his speech on election night, President-elect Obama said I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way its been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand. Our schools will be remade this same way, classroom by classroom. We are fifty-four years beyond the ruling by the Supreme Court, Brown vs. Board of Education, which struck down the “separate but equal” doctrine that had sanctioned school segregation across the land. The National Guard was sent to Little Rock, Arkansas, fifty years ...


I was born in 1958, and grew up in Berkeley, California, in the 1960s and 1970s. It was a tumultuous time, and my parents were deeply involved in the affairs of the day. But we did not even own a television until the spring of 1968, as the Democratic convention approached. The country then was in fear. We were in the midst of the war in Vietnam, and the Civil Rights Movement was unfinished business. In April of that year, Martin Luther King, Jr, was murdered by a white supremacist. Richard Nixon won that election – having roused the “silent majority” ...


One of the most intriguing initiatives in urban school reform, taking large schools and shrinking them to create more humane and flexible ones, is at a crossroads, and education leaders in Oakland have some tough decisions to make. Six years ago the Oakland Unified School District was in a financial crisis, and was forced to borrow $100 million from the state. Teachers agreed to take a four percent pay cut, and a state administrator was appointed to run things. The District also faced declining enrollment. Every year we had several thousand fewer students – and our funding is directly tied to ...


This week I listened to an episode of the public radio program “This American Life” entitled “Going Big.” The lead story was about a community organizer in Harlem named Geoffrey Canada, who became frustrated with the lackluster results of his work, and decided a major shift might help. He convinced his organization to launch a major new initiative called the Harlem Children’s Zone. He decided to focus his organization’s efforts on a 24-square block section of Harlem, and work to create a network of supports for the children growing up there, starting as young as he could. He ...


The modern educator’s life often feels as if it is driven by test results. Test scores are now used to compare students, to compare and give grades to schools, and even to compensate teachers. But have we staked too much importance on test scores? Harvard professor Daniel Koretz, who teaches educational measurement, has taken on the task of educating us all on what test scores can tell us – and what they cannot. His book, Measuring Up, was published recently by Harvard University Press. I read the book, and Dr. Koretz answered my questions below. 1. What is the problem ...


A fresh report in the journal Science confirms what many of us have been saying for years. California schools are on a collision course with NCLB targets. The Science Daily tells us The researchers report in the Sept. 26 issue of Science that mathematical models they used in their analysis predict that nearly all elementary schools in California will fail to meet the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements for proficiency by 2014, the year when all students in the nation need to be proficient in ELA and mathematics, per the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001" (NCLB). In January ...


Marco Iaboconi’s recent book, “Mirroring People: the new science of how we connect with others”, suggests we are wired to connect with people we find to be similar to ourselves. When we meet people, we look for commonalities, and try to see if they are “like” us. When we want to make a good impression, we unconsciously (or consciously) mimic those we want to impress. This explains a lot of the social conformity we see. We do not NEED someone telling us we must dress the same way. We do it because the drive to be accepted is so ...


I get the feeling sometimes that the rest of the country sees California from afar as some sort of Bohemian enclave, with grapes on the vine and iPods in the vending machines. So as we head into the fall, I am here to give you a bit of an update from the land of milk and sunshine. California schools improved their scores on the state’s reading, writing and math tests, but the achievement gap persists for African American and Latino students. Furthermore, even though more schools raised their scores on the state’s Academic Performance Index, more of them ...


Last week I summarized the education policies of Republican candidate John McCain. This week, let’s take a look at Barack Obama. Please share your response below. After reading both posts, who will win your support this November? Obama’s official site lays out his policies in detail. It states: Obama believes teachers should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests. He will improve the assessments used to track student progress to measure readiness for college and the workplace and improve student learning in a timely, individualized manner. Obama will ...


We have seen the tremendous effect our president can have on education policy over the past seven years. Education may not be the number one issue on most voter's minds, but there are approximately four million teachers in this nation, and that is a lot of votes, so let’s take a look at the stance each of the two leading candidates are taking on education issues. This week I am going to focus on the views and record of John McCain. Next week I will review Barack Obama’s positions. Please read, and share your own views below. John ...


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