The Best Education Writing of the Year -- Sort Of

There were over 500 entries for the 2004 Education Writers Assocation contest, including some really great writing and reporting (sadly, none of it mine).

You can see the full list at the EWA website, but some of my favorites from the EWA list include:

Diane Rado, Ray Long, Stephanie Banchero, Christi Parsons - Chicago Tribune - "Education Takeover" (Large Circulation Breaking or Hard News Second Prize)

Stephanie Banchero - Chicago Tribune - "No Child Left Behind" (Series or Group of Articles First Prize)

Bill Graves, Betsy Hammond, Chris Broderick, Melissa Jones - The Oregonian - "Fixing High Schools" (Series Special Citation)

Joshua Benton, Holly Hacker, Herb Booth - Dallas Morning News - "Children Left Behind: Corruption and Cheating in Texas" (First Prize Investigative)

Chris Davis, Matthew Doig - Sarasota Herald-Tribune - "Teachers Who Fail" (Second Prize Investigative)

Alec MacGillis - Baltimore Sun - "Poor Schools, Rich Targets" (Special Citation Investigative)

Hara Estroff Marano - Psychology Today - "A Nation of Wimps" (Magazine Second Prize)

Congratulations to all.

However, I'm not sure that the contest includes everything out there that might have been considered in an ideal world, and, while impractical, perhaps there also might be some new categories for awards in the future.

For next year, however, I think that EWA should:

(a) only give awards to publications that allow live/free links to the stories that are being honored so we can easily find them;

(b) find a way to recognize great education writing that may not have been written by full-time education writers or een submitted to the contest (Kate Boo's piece on Pacific Rim charter school in the New Yorker, for example, or Ira Glass's NPR piece on the rise and fall of Washington Irving Elementary School); and,

(c) include new categories for lazy freelance writers and/or sloppy-thinking education bloggers -- we deserve recognition too, sort of.

What do you think? Any other new categories or missed articles out there? If so, I'd love to hear about them.


Why people like (or hate) NCLB, what might happen next - and what won't

A few thoughts about NCLB came out of a talk on the law that I led at North Kenwood Oakland charter school last week, courtesy of the New Teachers Network and the Center on Urban School Improvement:

1 - A lot of people opposed to NCLB take that position on instinct as much as anything else. To paraphrase a recent New Yorker article on British views of the EU, "Nobody knows what NCLB looks like, but they nonetheless feel morally impelled to state that, whatever it is, they don't like it."

2 - Critics of NCLB generally see good schools and teachers being held back or stymied by the law’s requirements, while proponents generally see bad schools getting a much-needed nudge forward. If you like what you see in your teacher, your classroom, your school, you probably don’t like NCLB. If you are frustrated or dismayed with what you see in schools, you are probably for it.

3 - In broad strokes, what happens next with school reform at the national level can probably be boiled down into just three main possibilities: continued refinement of the standards-and-accountability mechanisms in NCLB, some sort of rollback to an earlier era when states and districts set their own standards and requirements, or an expansion of the choice/competition/vouchers approach that is currently only a small part of the law. While desired by many educators, a fourth option -- a world largely without standards and accountability or charters and vouchers -- seems highly unlikely.

Is It Ethical for Teachers to Refuse to Teach in High-Poverty Schools?

The whole issue of just how much choice teachers have in where they teach -- and how they tend to choose when given unfettered choice -- is one that many educators struggle with (or should). Some thought-provoking comments from the Pinellas County FL Learning Cooperative February newsletter [LINK HERE] cast the issue in particularly vivid moral terms:

After listing the familiar factors that made the current distribution of teachers so problematic, the newsletter presents the following fictional conversation between a local union president and superintendent:

"Local Union President -- Teachers are professionals and they deserve the right to choose where they teach. If they don't feel comfortable teaching in high-poverty schools they shouldn't be required to.

Superintendent -- Teachers are public servants, just like firefighters, police officers, and public hospital doctors. Do we allow firefighters to pick which fires they fight, or police officers to choose which neighborhoods they patrol, or public hospital doctors to only treat affluent patients? Of course not, and teachers are no different. We should be able to assign teachers in ways that best serve the public good.

L.U.P. -- These comparisons don't work because of the unique relationship that exists between teachers and students. Teachers and students are together five-days a week, often for ten months. If a teacher doesn't feel comfortable with these students, or doesn't think she can relate, then their relationship won't work. We need to trust teachers to make the professional judgment about which students they are most capable of teaching.

Supt -- The reality is that we do assign teachers to work in high-poverty schools, but in most cases these are inexperienced teachers who are the least well prepared to teach these children. So what you're saying is that it's OK to assign inexperienced teachers, but not experienced teachers. Seems like your primary consideration is not what's best for the students but what's most politically expedient inside your union.

L.U.P. -- That's not true, but we are tired of teachers being blamed for society's failures. The real problem is the lack of resources in these schools. Without adequate funding and community support teachers can't succeed in these schools. This lack of funding is what's unethical. Why should we cooperate with a system that refuses to properly fund these schools?

Supt -- I agree that these schools are under funded and need more community support, but I don't understand how assigning our least experienced teachers will help. A child is only nine-years old once, why shouldn't we do all we can to help that child while we are working on these larger resource issues. You're making your political stand on the back of our most needy children.

L.U.P. -- The bottom line is that we are not going to abandon our seniority provisions. Veteran teachers have earned the right to choose where they teach. They have personal issues to consider, such as childcare, transportation, and often second jobs. If veteran teachers were making more money they might have more flexibility, but they don't and frankly many will just leave if we force them to choose between work and family.

Supt -- So the least powerful children, living in the least powerful communities, get assigned the least powerful teachers. This is wrong. It may be good internal union politics, but it's wrong. These practices are not serving the public good.

L.U.P. -- We are not the ones under funding public education. We aren't the ones starving these schools, and yet we get blamed for not fixing this achievement gap. That's not fair and we resent it.

Supt -- No one is asking teachers or teacher unions to fix all these problems, but you do have an obligation to do all you can, and you're not doing that. By forcing districts to place inexperienced teachers in the most challenging schools you are undermining the public good. Police officers and firefighters are also underpaid but they don't refuse to fight crime or fires in high-poverty neighborhoods.

L.U.P. -- As I said, that's not a fair comparison.

Supt -- Is it ethical for teachers to refuse to teach in high-poverty schools? The answer is clearly no. The seniority provisions in your contract may be good union politics, but they're wrong and the public knows it.

L.U.P. -- You're wrong, and the public agrees with us.

Supt -- We'll see."


High School Hooplah

The nation’s governors speak, and we all dutifully report what they say…over and over and over again: Governors endorse high school overhaul (Chicago Tribune), Governors Seek Rise in High School Standards (The New York Times), High Schools in Limelight for Summit (Education Week), High schools failing Generation Next.. (Stateline.org).

Everybody likes this cool new idea called "small schools" -- it's all the rage: In high school academies, going small is big (SD Union Tribune), Foundations Boost Giving to Small-Schools Effort in N.Y.C. (EW), Delayed small schools vote (Philadelphia Notebook), Schools-within-schools a growing trend (CNN), High school academies creating community Kansas City Star.

How much longer can small schools be treated as if they were shiny and new? And how many weeks in a row now of essentially the same high school hooplah can get covered? Apparently, there’s no limit.

The Gadfly’s blissfully skeptical take on it all is here: The blind men return (The Gadfly).

Of course, there are a couple of more engaging pieces out there on the topic: In Miami, Rudy Crew wants high schoolers to get a taste of what it’s like to be a working stiff: Let seniors learn (Miami Herald). In Houston, the news about high schools is not good: Half of HISD's high schools fail to meet U.S. goals (Houston Chronicle). On a more uplifting note, the ACT and Education Trust put out a report on high performing high schools that has some real-life examples: What High-Performing Schools Are Teaching (ACT/Education Trust).

A few more folks have now picked up on the fact that the Administration’s high schools initiative relies for funding on eliminating other programs: Bush seeks cuts elsewhere to boost schools initiative (Washington Times), Is Upward Bound Headed for a Fall? (LA Times), and Vocational Education’s New Job: Defend Thyself (Education Week).

Smoke But No Fire (Washington DC)

You’d think that all 50 states had passed legislation against NCLB from reading many of the headlines (and some of the stories) about this week’s NCSL report calling for changes in NCLB.

But in reality it’s just another report (albeit a good one) finding fault with the law and calling for Congress or the USDE to make 43 specific changes to the law (one for every state that paid its dues?).

As far as I can tell, it doesn’t even call on states to take any specific action, which few of them are even considering doing. The actual number of legislatures working on NCLB rollback measures is a measly nine. It was something like 12 last year.

Some of the coverage is better than others:

In the Washington Post (State Officials Seek Changes In 'No Child'), the situation is fairly described as “an escalation in the war of words surrounding the law.”

The Associated Press goes a little over the top (Lawmakers blast Bush education initiative), calling the report “a bipartisan statement from all 50 legislatures.”

The New York Times (Report Faults Bush Initiative on Education) clearly identifies the NCSL release as a report (written by 16 legislators and six staff members) and plays down the possibility of a constitutional challenge.

The piece in USA Today (States want more control over No Child Left Behind) highlights the main thrust of the NCSL report, which is that states should be in charge of accountability among other things, not the USDE, and includes a harsh rebuttal from John Boehner, chair of the House education committee, who accuses state lawmakers and others of wanting federal funding without any accountability.

Nobody includes the sharpest rebuttal of all, courtesy of the Education Trust’s Ross Weiner, who calls out the NCSL for defending “state systems that for too long have neglected the needs of students” and “shamelessly” arguing that states were doing a fine job educating children before NCLB was enacted. “Legislators need to turn their time, energy and resources to help schools do this important work, rather than try to dismantle the best tool the nation has to help these students,” says Weiner. “State systems of public education need to change much more than NCLB needs to change.”

For a more balanced take on what should – and can – be done about NCLB between now and 2007, there are a couple of pieces in the new Education Next worth looking at:

Do We Need to Repair the Monument? Education Next
NCLB: A Mid-course Correction Needed Education Next

Speaking of national groups weighing in on NCLB, the PTA survey results came out this week:

PTA Members Are Split on NCLB’s Effectiveness Education Week
National PTA Survey Results Reveal Parents Views on No Child Left ... U.S. Newswire

Elsewhere in Washington, more fluffy coverage of Spellings:

Profile: Education Secretary Margaret Spellings NPR (audio)

On the other hand, she is saying some interesting things about bringing accountability to higher education:

Officials Urge Accountability In Universities Daily Californian
Spellings Backs Accountability in Higher Education Education Week

Utah Makes Feds Blink (NCLB News)

There must be some trick to getting the Feds to blink on NCLB:

Feds yield to Utah educators Salt Lake Tribune
Rebellion in Utah The Gadfly
Utah House OKs Bill to Trump NCLB Law The Washington Times
House passes measures to rein in 'No Child' law Salt Lake Tribune
Utah set to reject No Child Left Behind Washington Times
Utah lawmaker leads a new wave of opposition ... Houston Chronicle

Having a statutory fix poised to pass must help, as does having a conflict that's largely focused on HQT issues rather than AYP. Because, just a little further west, California is still squirming over the possibility of adding 300 more districts to its “in need of improvement” list:

US raises bar for state's schools Sacramento Bee
Let's Try 'No State Left Behind' Los Angeles Times
Feds, state struggle over schools law conformity Contra Costa Times

Apparently there are also problems with CA still having scads of unqualified aides and allowing too many out of level tests for mildly disabled students.

It's also worth noting that many other states won concessions and adjustments to their state plans during earlier rounds of negotiating with the USDE.

Out in the real world, there are a couple of good articles on how schools can meet AYP:

Six ways to make AYP Scholastic Administrator via PEN
Searching for Strategies to Make AYP Education World

Meanwhile, states and districts are increasingly having to deal with school turnaround efforts required under NCLB, which include closures, charter conversions, and the like:

Privatization of low-performing schools is put on hold
Houston Chronicle
Private takeover step closer for F schools Miami Herald
DPS considers closures Denver Post
Lessons From Cole Middle School Piton Foundation (PDF)

Faster Than a New York Minute (NYC)

Sizer For Vouchers, Mining the Data, Media Coverage, and More (New and Notable)

First off, two interesting perspectives on pubic versus private education, including a call from Ted Sizer for vouchers in the Boston Globe:

Opinion: Public, private schools need not be enemies AJC
Real Choice Boston Globe

A trio of interesting articles/reports on using data to make school decisions, if you can find the data:

Buried Treasure PDF CPRE
New Report Concludes School-Readiness Data Need More Attention
Basic info system eludes state Education Department AZ Central.com

A pair of articles on media coverage of education, one of my favorite topics:

Let’s Blame the Readers Columbia Journalism Review
Educators and journalists need a clearer understanding of one another
Home Town Source

Best of the Rest:

Online Mentoring Washington Post
Fostering education Christian Science Monitor
Ties to adults keep foster kids on track at school CSM
Boys, Girls Are Faring Equally, Study Finds The Washington Post
More high school seniors working their way through school USAT
Recent arrivals better educated USAT
No books, no problem Edutopia

Wired for Sound, Black Market Sweets, Mellow Parents, Dr. Seuss on Testing (School Life)

Teachers, Turnaround Efforts, and Catholic Schools (Urban Education)

Scads of articles about teachers this week, starting with a trio of pieces about efforts to find, support, and keep the good ones:

Initiative targets school leaders Baltimore Sun
House OKs teacher certification reward bill AJC
In School Talent Searches, Good Managers Are in Demand NYT
Weighing the Merits Teacher Magazine

A second set of articles about teaching touches on various ways of making sure teachers keep learning and improving what they're doing in the classroom:

The Film Room for Teachers Chris Correa
City teachers experiment in lab of learning Baltimore Sun
Teaching methods tailored to black students Indianapolis Star

Meanwhile, news continues to come out about structural inequities in the quality (and pay) of teachers in lower-performing schools in the same districts, and the teacher turnover that can result:

Study: Teachers at needy schools earn less
Educators: Minority students deprived Sacramento Bee
Black parents decry inner-city schools Charlotte Observer
Teacher Turnover Tracked in City District Education Week
Cincinnati cuts 41 teacher coaches Cincinnati Enquirer

Alt. cert. is so common now that, like alt rock, it's going to lose its "alternative" moniker:

Taking their own paths to teaching Phila. Enquirer
Alternative Routes Attracting Unlikely Candidates Education Week
Charts: Alternative Certification: Who Trains and Who Pays Education Week

Meanwhile in Houston, Denver, and all over Florida, policymakers are considering all sorts of measures -- autonomy, closure, faculty swap, and takeovers -- to transform struggling schools:

Reforms envision more autonomy for Denver high schools Denver Post
DPS considers closures Rocky Mountain News
Faculty must reapply for jobs at 2 Denver schools Denver Post
Privatization of low-performing schools is put on hold Houston Chronicle
Private takeover step closer for F schools

The checkered history of urban school closings in places like Chicago, San Francisco, and Denver is also covered in a timely issue of the Piton Foundation's Term Paper: Lessons From Cole Middle School PDF.

Best of the Rest:
Catch-up classes push for better math scores Charlotte Observer
Miami plans dramatic expansion of summer school The Miami Herald
Specialized help to prep students for tests Waco Herald-Tribune
The SDUSD “Blueprint for Success” is Dead! LaPrensa
Saving Catholic schools from whom? Gadfly
…Saving Catholic schools for everybody Gadfly

Choice, Charters, and Vouchers, Oh My

Lots on choice, charters, and even vouchers this week:

Bush renews push for school vouchers in '06 budget Plain Dealer
Legislatures Hit With Surge in School Choice Plans Stateline.org
Public schools as charter school authorizers NSBA PDF via PEN
Whatever happened to magnet schools? Education Next

Charter school enrollments hit high mark Star-Tribune
Successful D.C. School Weighs Charter Bid Washington Post
Gov. touts charter schools in weekly radio address LA Daily News
Texas Roundup: Charter Schooling in the Lone Star State PPI
State Faults 3 Charter Proposals From Buffalo Education Week
Plea made to save charter school San Diego Union Tribune
Vista district's magnet school plan discussed SD Union Tribune
Board OKs fall start for two charter schools SD Union Tribune
Town official takes on charters Boston Globe

Board Meetings, Unfunded Ren10 Schools, and Responses to the Governor's Education Funding Proposal (Chicago IL)

What a strange week it was, what with the Board meeting on closing more schools, the announcement that some --but not all - of the new Ren10 schools would get outside funding, and mixed reactions to the Governor's budget and its lack of a school funding fix.

Wednesday's Board meeting on closing 4 schools was predictably contentious and by most accounts all over the place, once again raising serious questions about the Board's ability to develop clear school closing criteria and pull the trigger when the time comes:

Communities given chance to 're-invent' schools Sun Times
Parents fight to save public school Tribune

Things might not be going much better on the school openings side of things, either. The Mayor and the New Schools for Chicago folks held an event to announce that they were giving $500k to 8 schools: Businesses help new schools (Tribune). Eight others are supposedly getting money from CHSRI, leaving two new school design teams out in the cold. I wonder which ones they are? Arai is one.

Meanwhile, it's becoming even more confused and unclear just how much, if any, support any of the new schools are going to get in terms of getting up and running in the short term (and "incubation" and ongoing help over the long haul) -- and who's going to provide it. For a while, CUSI seemed in line to get the nod. But now, funding, governance, and staffing all seem to be up in the air. Yikes.

On the budget side of things, responses to the Governor's funding proposals continue to be mostly negative, except for one bright and cheery announcement from the early childhood folks:

Educators Disappointed by 2006 Illinois Budget WBEZ (audio)
Schools not quite back in black Chicago Tribune
Prisons, schools tell gov $53 billion isn't enough Chicago Sun-Times
Governor Makes Early Education a Priority Ounce of Prevention Fund

The underlying pension problem and funding equity situation are on lots of peoples' minds, including the Mayor's:

Daley takes dig at gov over school funding Sun Times
Supporters of school tax hikes to try again Tribune
Time to send in a coach -- gov's not ready to play Sun-Times
Pension blowback Tribune
Pension overhaul called hit to schools Chicago Tribune
Panel brainstorms solutions for education-funding problems Daily Southtown

Then, of course, there's the rest of the school system just trying to make it through February and get ready for those darned ISATs:

Program helps failing kids make the grade Sun Times
Schools say some transfer students a handful Sun Times
Opinion: A how-to on keeping teachers in class Tribune
City schools to ax scripted reading program despite gains Sun-Times
Schools Chief’s Blog Offers Tips Education Week
Schools can't explain how special ed toddler got away Sun Times
23 Catholic schools closing Tribune
Latino, black parishes hit hardest by decision Tribune
Public schools brace for more kids Tribune
Parents who raised $75,000 irate over school closing Sun Times


Headlines/Best of the Week

Budget Cuts, High School Stumble, Higher Ed Accountability (Washington DC/National)
Amid ongoing concerns about the President's proposed education budget, the Administration's high schools initiative seems to be stumbling, even as Secty Spellings outlines a new vision for more accountability in the HEA reauthorization.

Soft on HQT/Hard on AYP (NCLB News)
Hmmm. Having just caved on HQT in North Dakota, the USDE's next challenge comes in Utah, where opposition to NCLB (substantial or strategic, it's hard to tell) is on the rise. At the same time, the USDE seems to be taking a hard line on AYP definitions in California and elsewhere.

Struggling Schools Get Fewer Resources (Urban Education)
A new report highlights how better-off schools get more resources for paying teachers than worse-off schools -- all in the same district.

Union-Run Charters, Billions More, Gifted and Elite (NYC)
Union efforts to get on the charter bandwagon don't always turn out well, says EIA. And more.

Meddlesome Boards, Top-Notch Teachers, and Clueless Teens (New & Notable)
Some districts take steps to try and keep their boards out of the way. And more.

Cigarettes vs. Lottery Tickets (Chicago IL)
The Governor's proposed budget dominated education news this week, in what is turning out to be a slightly different (though no less contentious) budget development process than in the past.

Wacky Wiki, TFA Satire, Blah Blogs, and Slacker Moms (School Life)
Another week in the strange world of kids, teachers, parents, and technology.

Budget Cuts, High School Stumble, Higher Ed Accountability (Washington DC/National)

Concerns about cuts and eliminations in the proposed FY2006 federal education budget continue in this week's news, seeming all the more telling in light of the Administration's newly proposed "emergency" military spending supplemental, which, like the costs of revamping Social Security, weren't included in the initial budget proposal:

Costs of Education Slope Sharply Upward The Washington Post
Other Agencies’ Budgets Would Also Affect Education Education Week
Table: The Bush Education Budget Education Week
Congress to Colleges: Bush Budget is DOA Inside Higher Education
Molly Ivins: Bush budget proposals hurt children the most Naples Daily News

Meanwhile, plans to expand NCLB to high school don't appear to be gaining steam:

Bush’s High School Plan Off to Rocky Start Education Week
Odd allies oppose Bush education plan Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Wrong answer for schools USA Today

All this even though problems with many high schools are increasingly clear:

Governors will focus on high schools Philadelphia Inquirer
Perspective: Disaster Relief Education Week
Leave no grades behind USA Today
Students Tell What Works at Smaller High Schools
Gates Donates $28.5 Million for Support of Small Schools NYT
Gates Foundation gives $28M to support small NYC schools USA Today

Meanwhile, Secty Spellings proposes an even bigger NCLB expansion -- bringing accountability to higher education as part of the HEA reauthorization:

Spellings: Better Data Needed from Colleges CNN.com
The Spellings Agenda Inside Higher Education
2004 Reauthorization, Take Two Inside Higher Education
Colleges could learn from No Child law, ed chief says CHE
Education Head Asks College Accountability SF Chronicle
The Education Secretary's Knowledge Campaign CHE
Spellings Calls For "Strategic Vision For Higher Education" USDE
The Trouble With Ed Schools Education Week

Soft on HQT/Hard on AYP (NCLB News)

New Secretary Showing Flexibility on 'No Child' Act New York Times

Hmmm. Having just caved on HQT in North Dakota, the USDE's next challenge comes in Utah, where opposition to NCLB (substantial or strategic, it's hard to tell) is on the rise:

Utah ed bills may rattle D.C. Deseret News
Utah Bill Mounts Challenge to Federal Education Law New York Times
Rebellion against federal ed law reignites in Utah Stateline.org
Utah House backs bill challenging 'No Child' law Philadelphia Inquirer
Deal possible on 'No Child' law The Salt Lake Tribune
Feds coming to sell ed law Deseret News

In other places, the Department is holding firm - so far:

U.S. May Force California to Call More School Districts Failures LA Times
Feds raise pressure on schools New Orleans Times-Picayune

Meanwhile, states and districts focus on their most low-performing schools:

Bill offers choices for fixing failing public schools Denver Post
State taking step to fix F schools Sun-Sentinel.com
HISD can't fix 3 schools Houston Chronicle
When is a graduate not a graduate? Cleveland Plain Dealer
Dropout rate targeted Atlanta Journal Constitution
Schools' Great divide San Francisco Chronicle

Best of the Rest:
Survey Results Reveal Parents Views on NCLB U.S. Newswire
The Art of Testing EW
Measure would cut "fill-in-the-bubble" tests Seattle Times
Good news for state's 'English learners Sacramento Bee
Mass. may raise passing score on state test The Boston Globe
EWA releases reform brief on NCLB and teacher quality EWA
Reading Teachers See Few Changes Under NCLB Law EW

Struggling Schools Get Fewer Resources (Urban Education)

The big story this week -- not just for California -- has to be the Education Trust West's timely report on pay gaps between schools in the same districts: Study finds big gap in teachers' salaries (Pasadena Star), Teachers paid less at poorest schools (The (San Jose) Mercury News), and Teacher pay gap debate fueled (Sacramento Bee).

The findings, which show how school budgeting systems favor better-off schools, could play a part in promoting c changes in how students are paid: Study could trigger meaningful talk on teacher pay (Sacto Bee). For some, that means merit pay: Pair Merit Pay, School Choice (Cato Institute), Teacher-Pay Plan in Denver Gets Foundation Boost. But the big story here is inequities among schools -- not necessarily related to merit pay.

Best of the Rest:

District may offer 4-year-old kindergarten Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
San Diego's academic juggernaut is on a roll
Bersin Paints Gloomy Picture For Public Education Voices of San Diego
R.I. State Commissioner Imposes Plan of Action on Providence School
Philadelphia Lands Grant for Principal-Training Effort EW
From Street Punk to Principal Philadelphia Inquirer
District chief urges Edison's departure Philadelphia Inquirer
Students, officials lament court ruling on school funding Boston Herald
Change Is Promised in Houston New York Times
Report Takes Aim at First Year of D.C. Voucher Program EW
Almost a quarter of D.C. students were truant Washington Times
Is city mulling a takeover of public schools? Seattle Post-Intelligencer
A Teachers Union for 2005 Los Angeles Times
Has NEA Reversed Its Membership Fortunes? EIA

Union-Run Charters, Billions More, Gifted and Elite (NYC)

Meddlesome Boards, Top-Notch Teachers, and Clueless Teens (New & Notable)

More Boards Mulling 'Policy Governance' EW
Grant eases way for upcoming principals USAT
Teacher Training Leads to Higher Test Scores EW
Closing the gap requires top-notch teachers The Charlotte Observer
Groups Tackle Teacher Quality in Needy Schools EW
Tool Helps Wash. Teachers Write Learning Plans EW
All-day class earns top grade Baltimore Sun
American schools outsource math tutoring The Straits Times
Kids skip class - and parents go to jail? Christian Science Monitor
Parents Behaving Badly Time Magazine
New Web Site for Academics Roils Education Journalism NYT
College liberalism countered in states considering legislation USAT
Teaching Students to Swim in the Online Sea New York Times
PBS Struggles, Pressed by Right and Competitors New York Times
Don't Teach Preschoolers To Read LewRockwell.com
Texas Urged to Beef Up Oversight of Poor Charter Schools
AFT Archive Opens Collection of Shanker Papers EW
"CSI"-loving teens hot on forensics trail EW
Expensive English lessons Arizona Republic
For Blacks in Law School, Can Less Be More? New York Times
Does English have to be so hard to spell? Radio National
My Career in Bumper Stickers New York Times
Two-Way Language Immersion Grows in Popularity EW

Cigarettes vs. Lottery Tickets (Chicago IL)

The Governor's proposed budget dominated education news this week, in what is turning out to be a slightly different (though no less contentious) budget development process than in the past. For starters, the Governor's proposed increases for education are smaller than in the past: Critics: Gov's budget skimps on education (Chicago Sun-Times). It also relies heavily on cigarette tax increases, which some oppose: Jones' rival plan would sell lottery tickets online (Chicago Sun-Times), Unhappy with cigarette tax, lawmakers eye other revenue sources (Chicago Tribune). Last but not least, it includes no effort at revamping the school funding system to increase equity as Emil Jones among others advocates: Key ally digs in over funding for schools (Tribune).

For even more, see: Schools sound alarm over funding proposal (Chicago Tribune), Education budget irks suburban lawmakers (Chicago Daily Herald).
For ALL the details, look here: Governor's education proposal PDF

Best of the Rest:

Vouchers proposed for city's students Chicago Daily Southtown
Jones is hottest prep school in the city Sun Times
Inner-city teachers' turnover is charted Tribune
Dynamic Duo Education Week
First Ren10 leaders chosen as charter leaders depart Catalyst
'Third-shift' classes ease preschool shortage Sun Times
The State of the State: Illinois Education Week
Life After Stanley Inside Higher Education
Chicago Dropouts Education Week
Marist leading Catholic schools' coed revolution Sun Times
After teen brawl, only grief Tribune
Students sue to flush suspension for TP'ing Sun Times
Sex charge hits music teacher Sun Times
Wedgie gets 2 teens arrested Sun Times

Wacky Wiki, TFA Satire, Blah Blogs, and Slacker Moms (School LIfe)


Here One Year, Gone the Next (Chicago IL)

Just a quick note to highlight the release today of ACORN's third annual survey of teacher turnover, which includes school by school information that you don't often see from CPS or anyone else.

Clearly, teachers at some schools are dropping out of the system at ridiculously high rates. Even more alarming, there is little detailed information comparing teacher dropout rates at various schools, much less data on where these teachers go and why they left.

According to the study, turnover is on the rise at 64 schools serving low-income children, including a 39 percent turnover of first year teachers and a 25 percent rate overall from last year to the year before.
More than a third of all teachers in their first five years are also leaving these schools from one year to the next, according to ACORN. The report shows that roughly 15 percent of teachers at these schools are new to the classroom, or about six per school. More than 30 percent are within their first five years of teaching.

Even a cursory reading of the findings suggests that retention efforts must go beyond the first year or two of a teacher's time in the classroom and that retention efforts should be targeted where they are most needed, rather than the current across-the-board effort funded through GOLDEN (the new MINT). The report also shows the need for better data on teacher retention and turnover than CPS provides. At present, there are no exit surveys for teachers leaving the system, so no one really knows why they are leaving or where they are going.

The complete report, by Sheri Frost, can apparently be sent to you if you email: atmsteve@rcn.com

See also:
Inner city teachers' turnover is charted Chicago Tribune
Study finds many don't last in Chicago schools AP


Remembering Grant Pick (Chicago IL)

Since Grant Pick died earlier this month, lots has been said about him, including some beautiful remembrances at his service, a Michael Miner column in the Reader and on WBEZ and a piece by Andrew Patner on WFMT:

Grant Pick, reporter for Reader, People Chicago Sun-Times
Critics Choice: Grant Pick WFMT
Hot Type Chicago Reader
Eight Forty-Eight Chicago Public Radio (audio)

Pretty much everyone knew Grant Pick better than I did. I don’t really remember his trademark laugh. I wasn’t on the list of people he sent postcards. I never met his family.

Still, I am not entirely without qualification, having thanked him on the dedications page of a book I edited last year and having named one of my resolutions to be a better writer after him. And, among many, I was a great fan of his.

I don’t remember exactly how I met him or when we started having regular lunches, but soon enough I came to rely on them. Usually, Grant would tell me about the stories he was working on, ask after my writing, and chide me for my lazy and anxious writing habits. He himself, as much as his writing, is a great reminder of the importance of noticing things.

Perhaps most notable, however, is the way that Grant managed to balance – or even integrate – professional accomplishments and human decency. Grant’s accomplishments as a writer were neither widely known nor insignificant. Hopefully they will be freed someday from the Reader’s pay-per-article clutches. But his accomplishments as a family member and community leader seem no less developed. How many of us can claim such balance?


Headlines / Best of the Week

Budget Brouhaha, Ignoring Early Education, and More (Washington DC/National News). This week features a slew of "sky-is-falling" budget cuts stories, even though everyone knows most won't come true, and a belated realization that universal preschool is hot in the states but dead in DC.

High School, Social Security, and Iran (NCLB News). Whether it's high school reform, revamping Social Security, or invading another country, the process is the same. First, create a sense of crisis. Next, provide simple-sounding answers to ridiculously complex problems and invite everyone to get on board. Third, cross your fingers that your previous efforts – last year's Medicare drug plan, the invasion of Iraq, or No Child Left Behind – aren't revealed as flawed, incompletely-implemented efforts.

Finding and keeping teachers, Cuts to teacher leadership in San Diego, and Small schools as far as the eye can see (Urban Education). In a trend that I personally find highly disturbing, this week brings another slew of noteworthy articles about classroom teachers -- most notably, the challenge of retaining and supporting the ones we have.

Budget news, Ren10 rolls on, and The Squid (Chicago, IL). It was a budget-licious week, what with proposed federal cuts, a Catalyst analysis of within-district inequities and a pilot budget scheme that's in the works, and a state funding debate with new dynamics. Plus: no rest for Renaissance 2010, and are you a Squid?

Homeless kids, charter colleges, schools finding money online (New and Notable). Now firmly ensconced in K12 education, the charter concept is moving on up to higher education, with charter colleges and charter ed schools a small but popular idea.

Union charters, Amistad in the city, Cutting and spending (NYC). It doesn't sound like anyone's having much fun right now, including Klein, Bloomberg, or the kids. Will a couple more charter schools -- or millions of dollars -- make a difference?

Valentines, Imaginary friends, Bad juice, Droopy drawers, Grandpa in the classroom (School Life). For kids (and adults) of a certain age, there's no bigger test than how many Valentines you get.

Budget Brouhaha, Ignoring Early Education, and More (Washington DC/National News)

To be sure, it is hard to justify spending less on education, eliminating major programs without much consideration, and proposing new initiatives without any new money to pay for them.

And yet, it's amazing how universally critical the reaction has been to the President's proposed education budget for FY 2006 -- both among school advocates and, more surprisingly, education reporters and editors:

Both sides of aisle question Bush cuts Chicago Tribune
A Cut for Schools, a First for Bush New York Times
The 2006 Budget: Meeting the Nation's Priorities Whitehouse.gov
President's Budget Puts NCLB Implementation at Risk Market Wire
Schools bracing for Bush's budget cuts San Diego Union-Tribune
Bush wants education spending cuts
Critics: Bush budget guts school services
Schools bracing for Bush's budget cuts
Bush Budget Would Cut Millions From New York Services
Program for middle schoolers faces elimination Las Vegas Sun
Lynch proposes education risk index to determine school aid

What nearly everyone leaves out or hides is (a) the cuts in dollar terms were much smaller than they seemed from looking at the large number of small programs to be eliminated, (b) few of the cuts and eliminations are likely to actually make it through Congress (despite the fact that some of these programs are mangy dogs), and (c) as the NEA’s Joel Packer points out, no one is going to be forced to pack up and stop providing services immediately. Multi-year grants for programs on the chopping block such as Upward Bound, GEAR UP, and Talent Search would be honored in the Bush budget to the tune of $683 million in continuation grants.

In the meantime, it seems like nobody on the high schools bandwagon in Washington wants to talk about preschool or early childhood education, which would cost a lot and mean having to deal with Head Start, Reading First and its little sister Early Reading First and other scary things like testing little children.

Out there in the states, it seems, preschool is no less controversial and expensive, but much hotter than high school reform:

Is full-day kindergarten worth it? DE News Journal
A good start makes for a good finish American Educator
More Governors Want to Rate Early-Childhood Programs Ed Week
Rell Boosts Education Funding ... The Day
Major cash backing for city's preschools San Francisco Examiner
Head Start Group Releases Test Data Ed Week
The Pied Piper of Preschool New York Times

On a related note, two interesting pieces on reading programs:

Decode This! Eduwonk
Reading Program Didn't Boost Skills Los Angeles Times

Best of the Rest:

Taking Note of Federal Faith-Based Efforts Ed Week
Secretary says cultural issues should be decided at ... Houston Chronicle
Spellings inherits title, Cabinet post Houston Chronicle

High School, Social Security, and Iran (NCLB News)

As with the campaign to revamp Social Security (or invade Iran), the first step in any major initiative is to convince everyone that the current situation is dire and needs immediate attention: Studies Show High Schools’ Shortcomings (Education Week), and “Study underscores calls for high school reform” (Stateline.org).

The next step is to flood the market with ideas about how to make things better: Spellings to focus on high schools (Washington Times), Governors’ Association Offers Steps to Help States Improve High Schools (Education Week), Miami District to Study H.S. Courses With Eye to Addressing Inequities (Education Week).

If possible, minimize confusion about whether the problem is really that bad, or how to fix it, or whether any of the proposed solutions stand a chance of being implemented (or making a difference): District Initiative Key to Improving High Schools, Study Says (Education Week), High-school testing bill 'faces stiff resistance' (CNN), No Child expansion likely to face trouble (USA Today), Bush’s High School Agenda Faces Obstacles (Education Week), and Are more tests the correct answer? (Kansas City Star).

Last but not least, cross your fingers that your efforts aren’t undercut by revelations that a previous initiative – be it last year's Medicare drug plan, invading Iraq, or the existing NCLB act – turns out to be full of hidden problems: Utah Is Unlikely Fly in Bush’s School Ointment (Education Week), Utah hopes to persuade feds to loosen No Child rules (Salt Lake Tribune), Two senators challenge No Child Left Behind (Spokesman Review), Scattered rural districts passing on No Child Left Behind (AZ Central.com), No Absurdity Left Behind (Washington Post).

Stand firm, most of the time, sort of, where you can:

Spellings to Listen, But Not Retreat, on NCLB Education Week
ND: A victory apparent NCTQ Bulletin
Chicago, Ed. Dept. Settle Tutoring Dispute Education Week

Best of the Rest:

Charters likely for 8 schools Inside Bay Area
State removes four schools from list St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Facing the Challenges of Meeting AYP Education World
Standards, Tests Shape Education KC Star
Some tests could go online Austin American-Statesman
Albeit Late, State Data to Go Online in March EW
Using Data Rooms to Map Your Way to Success Ed World

Finding and keeping teachers, Cuts to teacher leadership in San Diego, and Small schools as far as the eye can see (Urban Education)

Lots on teacher recruitment, induction, and retention this week:

New teachers chalk up first day to experience Philly Inquirer
Teacher induction in other countries PDK (pdf)
No teacher left behind Edutopia
The Back Office Education Week
Save Money by Retaining Teachers Boston Globe
'Boot Camp' Teachers Ready Oregonian
Communities of practice CPRE (pdf)via PEN NewsBlast

Teacher leadership initiative unsettled in San Diego:

SD schools scrap teacher-leader policy San Diego Union-Tribune
Early Bersin Exit Further Clouds San Diego Plans Education Week
A step backward in San Diego NCTQ Bulletin

Lots (as usual) on the small schools front:

Meeting set to sell small-schools idea Philadelphia Inquirer
Smaller high school plan has its draws Philadelphia Daily News
More Small Schools Slated to Open Education Week
District Making ‘Transition’ to Schools of Choice EW
Philadelphia shifting to smaller high schools Phila. Inquirer
Public high schools to shrink Daily News
Renaissance 2010 loses its muscle Chicago Journal

Differential pay, controversial and not:

Minn. Teachers warm to performance pay
For Elite U.S. Teachers, Cachet and More Cash Wash. Post

Best of the Rest:

Town official takes on charters Boston Globe
AFT organizes PA charter school Education Intelligence Agency
Charter Schools a Beacon of Hope Los Angeles Times
State extends contract for operator of schools Baltimore Sun
For-Profit Writes Mandatory Courses for Phila. High Schools EW
District Breakup Backed Los Angeles Times
Taft plans to expand school vouchers Cleveland Plain Dealer
HISD school breakfast program halted Houston Chronicle

Budget news, Ren10 rolls on, and The Squid (Chicago IL)

It was a budget-licious week in Chicago school news, from the Board’s annual throwing down of the gauntlet to state lawmakers, to the President’s threatened cuts to popular programs, to Catalyst’s report on effort to change budgeting schemes within the district.

First, the Bush administration announced that it wanted to cut at least $30 million in federal funding: Potential impact of federal cuts WBEZ (audio). See above for more on whether any of these cuts stand a chance of being implemented.

Then, Catalyst’s excellent report on funding inequity among schools and a potential change in how funds are allocated started to get lots of attention: CPS eyes budget equity (Catalyst), City schools look to fix funding gap (Crain's Chicago Business). The issue also got national coverage on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Later in the week, the Board finally rolled out its annual press release on how much it needs from the state: Schools threaten to start slashing (Chicago Tribune), More than 200 schools may have to share buses (Chicago Sun-Times).

But the budget news doesn’t end there. While school budgets have rebounded somewhat -- Many fewer school districts reported budget deficits in 2004 (Chicago Sun-Times) -- it’s going to be a strange year for education because there’s no longer an independent state board to help shame the Governor and the state into doing as much as possible for Illinois schools: Board lets governor make first call on school funding Governor ... (Chicago Daily Herald).

Meanwhile, the Governor is AWOL on education, according to some critics: Heat is turned up on school funding (Chicago Tribune).

On the Ren10 front, this week brought more reflections on Greg Richmond’s departure, including my own revised and expanded thoughts -- Renaissance 2010 loses its muscle (Chicago Journal) – as well as several others’ more respectable insights: Chicago School Official to Head Up Authorizers’ Group (Education Week), CPS New Schools Development Head Departs WBEZ (audio), and Human Capital: Greg Richmond, Karen Boran, Jean Franczyk (Teach and Learn).

On a related note, Teach and Learn’s Mike Lach does a good deed by posting the recent New Yorker cartoon about the giant squid who decides he would rather be a sushi chef than sushi (who wouldn't?). “He feels he can do more good working within the system,” says the sushi chef to the customer about his deep-sea partner. I’m a squid (Teach and Learn). Eventually, of course, you know what happens to the squid. He loses his sense of humor.

Meanwhile, the Ren10 juggernaut continues. The 12 newly approved schools met with their new CPS “project manager,” Lisa Schneider, whose place and power have yet to be entirely spelled out. Hearings for the four proposed school closings took place at the Board. And, even though New Schools for Chicago’s Phyllis Martin doesn’t even have any staff yet, at least one funder has stepped up with some Ren10 cash: Northern Trust Grants Record $3 Million to Help Chicago Public ... (Chicago Business News).

Last but not least, here’s something I missed from a few weeks ago -- a good WBEZ segment: Portrait of a Renaissance 2010 School Head (audio). And something from today that I didn’t miss: Charter schools boast lower dropout rate (Chicago Sun-Times).

Best of the Rest:

City schools go after overcrowded classes Chicago Tribune
Class Size Teach and LearnChicago, Ed. Dept. Settle Tutoring Dispute
Parents sue U-46, accuse it of racial bias Chicago Daily Herald, IL
3 Hispanic families sue District U-46 Chicago Tribune

Homeless kids, charter colleges, schools finding money online, (New & Notable)

Union charters, Amistad in the city, Cutting and spending (NYC)

Valentines, Imaginary friends, Bad juice, Droopy drawers, Grandpa in the classroom (School Life)


Richmond Rehash (Chicago IL)

A revised and expanded version of last week's posting about the internal turmoil surrounding who will run Renaissance 2010 is now out in my monthly column in the Chicago Journal.

Renaissance 2010 loses its muscle (Chicago Journal)

The new piece includes some but not all of the things I've learned since last week about why Richmond is leaving. Perhaps most importantly, the column raises questions about why it seems so important to some Ren10 supporters that the initiative be kept "safe" from educators and the CPS bureaucracy, as if charter schools in Chicago were all that radical:

"Many of those pushing hard to make sure that Renaissance 2010 didn’t get absorbed by the education bureaucracy ignored the fact that charter schools in Chicago are much less autonomous, and less radically different, from public schools than they are in many other places...Creating more charter schools under current law and calling it a major change is somewhat akin to a college kid wearing long sideburns and an earring and calling himself a rebel."

As always, if you think I missed something or got it wrong, let me know.

See also:
Chicago School Official to Head Up Authorizers’ Group EW
A Sudden Resignation February 4
CPS New Schools Development Head Departs WBEZ (audio)
Mid-Renaissance Move February 2