Here in California, a big bright spot is that it looks like Tom Torlakson has defeated “school reformer” Marshall Tuck, despite the huge quantities of money spent on Tuck by just about every rich “reformer” in the U.S. That’s a big victory for teachers, students and their families. You can read more about it at The Sacramento Bee and L.A. Times.
In another piece of good news, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson lost an effort to make his office much more powerful. He’s a school reformer in his own right, not to mention that he’s married to Michelle Rhee. This vote is a big loss for him, which means it makes it more unlikely he’s going to try to use his influence in our local schools.
Michelle Rhee and Jack Schneider have had a ten week dialogue over at Education Week, and their discussion has come to an end. However, Rhee finished with quite a doozy, saying that she thinks Kevin Johnson (her husband and mayor of our fair city) — of all people — should be the next U.S. Secretary of Education.
Nonetheless, finding experienced grantmakers like Gates and Carnegie misreading the interests and desires of the parents and educators who were purportedly the intended beneficiaries is surprising, if not shocking. It’s an unfortunate reflection of the top-down approach of some foundations, issuing prescriptions for the benefit of the public even if that public doesn’t buy in. The inability of many funders to see how counterproductive and unpopular their technocratic solutions are with their intended beneficiaries is a disappointingly pervasive trend in much of big philanthropy
The Downside of “Grit” is by Alfie Kohn. I still think it’s an important concept to help students learn. However, this kind of backlash is understandable since some proponents have been communicating it as the answer to many educational problems. In fact, it’s just one of many skills our students need to develop in order to be successful. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About “Grit.”
Even though we’ve been very lucky at our school to have great professional development, there have been times that I’ve had to attend absolutely terrible District-sponsored sessions. Unfortunately, terrible sessions are a common experience that many teachers share.
I’ve got to start off with the recent infamous video clip from a Chicago Schools professional development session that I titled “Though It Seems Like A Parody, It’s A Real Professional Development Event.” I’ll reprint the entire post:
Karen Lewis, head of the Chicago Teachers Union, sent this out:
This presenter was one of several consultants flown in from California and the United Kingdom for the Chicago Public Schools’ Office of Strategic School Support Services’ special network. This is a professional development for teachers of Saturday ISAT preparation classes.
Yes, you can make a lot of things look bad taken out of context, but I don’t think a case can be made that this is appropriate for any professional development, or classroom, context….
Though I’m very familiar with the famous “Walkout!” of Los Angeles schools in 1968, I’m embarrassed to say that I had never heard of 200,000 strong 1963 boycott of the Chicago schools by predominantly African-American students. This past week was its fiftieth anniversary. You can read more about it at Valerie Strauss’ blog in The Washington Post and watch this short clip from soon-to-be-released documentary about it (thanks to Alexander Russo for the tip):
As you probably know, Diane Ravitch’s new book, Reign Of Error, has just been published. I have it on my nightstand, and am looking forward to reading it (and looking forward to hearing her speak in Sacramento this week).
In the meantime, though, here are some links to what I think are a few thought-provoking reviews of it:
NOTE: I’ve converted this original post into a “The Best…” list
Today, The Wall Street Journal published an article pointing out that top New York City school administrators (who pushed for the public release of teacher evaluations and who fought bitterly with the teachers union to get an unfair evaluation system for them in place) are not given…wait for it…evaluations:
Top administrators at the city’s Department of Education haven’t been subject to formal evaluations during the Bloomberg administration, a break from past practice and an unusual occurrence among school districts across the U.S.
The disclosure follows the culmination of a yearslong battle by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to implement tougher teacher and principal evaluations in the district.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who has been on the job since April 2011, said formal job reviews weren’t necessary because he informally evaluated his staff daily, and he was evaluated daily by the mayor. Teachers, he said, were in a different position.
“They’re in front of the classroom and teaching our children, and we need to have a sense of how well they’re doing,” he said. “With us, we’re not teaching children directly, we’re setting policy. And I don’t think it’s hypocritical at all.”
This joins a long list of other examples showing that many school reformers had difficulty understanding what “irony” means.
Those past instances include:
The Los Angeles Times refusing to release a letter from the Chamber of Commerce and other groups asking them not to publish teaching ratings. Their reason — they cited privacy concerns.
Lingo Hut seems like a pretty impressive site for beginning learners of many different languages, including English.
Using a drop-down menu, you can easily select your native language and the language you want to learn, and then progress through a well-designed series of exercises including reading, listening and speaking.
With training and guidance from COR Center colleagues at the Center for Applied Linguistics, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection has developed a website with financial literacy information for people with low literacy levels. Available in both English and Spanish, materials include resources regarding managing money; credit, loans, and debt; and identify theft and scams.
I checked it out, and it’s a great resource. It’s very accessible, and includes audio support for the text. Too bad it seems short on images and videos but, nevertheless, it will come in very handy.
How Michelle Rhee Misled Education Reform is an extraordinary article in this week’s New Republic magazine. It’s written by Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and author of several exceptional books.
He focused on the positive performance of schools in Union City, New Jersey. Here’s an excerpt:
What makes Union City remarkable is, paradoxically, the absence of pizazz. It hasn’t followed the herd by closing “underperforming” schools or giving the boot to hordes of teachers. No Teach for America recruits toil in its classrooms, and there are no charter schools.
A quarter-century ago, fear of a state takeover catalyzed a transformation. The district’s best educators were asked to design a curriculum based on evidence, not hunch. Learning by doing replaced learning by rote. Kids who came to school speaking only Spanish became truly bilingual, taught how to read and write in their native tongue before tackling English. Parents were enlisted in the cause. Teachers were urged to work together, the superstars mentoring the stragglers and coaches recruited to add expertise. Principals were expected to become educational leaders, not just disciplinarians and paper-shufflers.
I have a huge backlog of resources that I’ve been planning to post about in this blog but, just because of time constraints, have not gotten around to doing. Instead of letting that backlog grow bigger, I regularly grab a few and list them here with a minimal description. It forces me to look through these older links, and help me organize them for my own use. I hope others will find them helpful, too. These are resources that I didn’t include in my “Best Tweets” feature because I had planned to post about them, or because I didn’t even get around to sending a tweet sharing them.
Here are This Week’s “Links I Should Have Posted About, But Didn’t”: