Education News Bulletin - 24 May 2010
NewSchools and Our Ventures in the News
The Teachers' Unions' Last Stand
NEW YORK--MICHAEL MULGREW is an affable former Brooklyn vocational-high-school teacher who took over last year as head of New York City's United Federation of Teachers when his predecessor, Randi Weingarten, moved to Washington to run the national American Federation of Teachers. Over breakfast in March, we talked about a movement spreading across the country to hold public-school teachers accountable by compensating, promoting or even removing them according to the results they produce in class, as measured in part by student test scores. Mulgrew's 165-page union contract takes the opposite approach. It not only specifies everything that teachers will do and will not do during a six-hour-57 ½-minute workday but also requires that teachers be paid based on how long they have been on the job. Once they've been teaching for three years and judged satisfactory in a process that invariably judges all but a few of them satisfactory, they are ensured lifetime tenure. Next to Mulgrew was his press aide, Richard Riley. "Suppose you decide that Riley is lazy or incompetent," I asked Mulgrew. "Should you be able to fire him?" "He's not a teacher," Mulgrew responded. "And I need to be able to pick my own person for a job like that." Then he grinned, adding: "I know where you're going, but you don't understand. Teachers are just different." That is the kind of story that makes Jon Schnur smile. Schnur, who runs a Manhattan-based school-reform group called New Leaders for New Schools, sits informally at the center of a network of self-styled reformers dedicated to overhauling public education in the United States. They have been building in strength and numbers over the last two decades and now seem to be planted everywhere that counts. They are working in key positions in school districts and charter-school networks, legislating in state capitals, staffing city halls and statehouses for reform-minded mayors and governors, writing papers for policy groups and dispensing grants from billion-dollar philanthropies like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill Gates, along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan; Teach for America's founder, Wendy Kopp; and the New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein could be considered the patron saints of the network. (New York Times registration required)
What Educators Are Learning From Money Managers: Innovative schools collect data, look for small changes, intervene quickly and move resources to the formulas that work.
NATIONAL--Brownsville Elementary School in Brooklyn is surrounded by neighborhoods with the highest murder rates in New York City. But inside the charter school at 10:30 a.m. everything is tranquil. Dressed in identical uniforms of green polo shirts and khakis, students walk carefully along tape strips in the halls before sitting down at their desks. Except for controlled bursts of excitement, as when a teacher asks kids to yell out their goals for a lesson, classrooms are hushed in concentration. Children perform tasks like organizing papers on their desks and placing pencils next to their books with precision. The emphasis on polite manners and discipline is straight out of the 1930s. Except for what is going on behind the scenes: From quiz scores to homework and attendance records, every detail of a student's performance at Brownsville Elementary is fed into computer databases where teachers and administrators examine the constantly unfolding record and quickly adjust lesson plans and individual teaching strategies in response. a quiet revolution in American public education is occurring at organizations around the country like Achievement First (see sidebar stories listed below). Most were launched by idealistic liberals with dreams of social equality. But with annual budgets exceeding $50 million, sophisticated computer systems and hundreds of employees, they are starting to resemble corporations--tracking and responding to minute changes and putting resources to efficient and innovative uses. (Forbes Magazine)
More Than 1,600 Seeking to Win 'i3' Funding: Applicants will face stiff competition for grants to spur K-12 innovation.
NATIONAL--More than 1,600 districts, schools, and nonprofits applied for a piece of the $650 million Investing in Innovation Fund by last week's deadline, even as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warned that the vast majority of them will end up losers in their quest for the economic-stimulus grants.
With just $650 million available for the innovation fund, and an estimated 205 awards at most, the "i3" competition will be tight. So Mr. Duncan had a message last week for the 1,669 who officially applied by the May 12 deadline. "I need you not to scream about the process" and the scoring system, Mr. Duncan told about 600 in attendance at the May 12 NewSchools Venture Fund Annual Summit, many of whom applied for i3. Instead, he said, "I need you to [lobby for] Investing in Innovation Two." For the entrepreneurs who gathered at the NewSchools meetingmany of whom have been on the front lines of education innovation for yearsthe federal government is a new partner in this innovation push. (Education Week subscription required)
Press Release: Bronx Lighthouse Charter School Wins $100,000 Technology Grant
New York, NY Bronx Lighthouse Charter School has been awarded a $100,000 grant for technology equipment from the New York City Council. This grant was sponsored by Councilwoman Carmen Arroyo, a long-time supporter of the school. The school is using the money to purchase new computers for all classrooms, interactive white boards, and other cutting-edge educational technology. "As a charter school in New York City, we are asked to do more with less. Until now, we've had to get by with just a handful of old, broken down computers," said Jeffrey Tsang, principal of the school. "This generous grant will allow Bronx Lighthouse Charter School to put cutting-edge technology into the hands of all of our kids this year." (eSchool News)
Revolution Coming To L.A. Schoolchildren's Plates
LOS ANGELES--Vegetables, beans and organic chicken, oh my! A revolution is about to take place in your children's mouths. Revolution Foods, which provides healthy breakfasts and lunches to mostly lower-income schools, is arriving in Los Angeles. Instead of providing the typical school lunch loaded with too much sodium, sugar and saturated fat, but too few fruits and vegetables, students will nosh on organic meats and fresh vegetables. One of the first schools to benefit from Revolution Foods' new menu will be Milagro Charter Academy near Chinatown. (CBS Lost Angeles)
The New York Times Company Names Six Finalists for the Fourth Annual Nonprofit Excellence Awards
NATIONAL--Finalists include: Achievement First a nonprofit, public charter school management organization that delivers on the promise of equal-educational opportunity for America's low-income, minority children. (Wire Update)
Commentary: How Schools Can Achieve Obama's Lofty Education Goals: Three positive trends offer big lessons on making America more educationally competitive by 2020 (By Richard Whitmire , Andrew J. Rotherham)
NATIONAL--Finding depressing education news is easy. The recession, combined with the waning of federal stimulus money, is about to trigger hundreds of thousands of teacher layoffsan "education catastrophe," warns Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The layoffs will play out against a background of flat national reading scores and mediocre showings on international education rankings. Looming behind everything: the country's much-debated school reform law, No Child Left Behind, has fallen into disrepute. None of this can be sugarcoated; yet dwelling on the negatives masks some significant education breakthroughs that promise to pay dividends for years to come. Together they represent the country's best shot at achieving President Obama's ambitious goal of pushing the country back to the top of international education rankingsmeasured by college graduations by 2020. Most parents assume the debate over teacher quality is about "merit pay" or reforming teacher tenure so that during layoffs the best teachers, not just the more senior teachers, keep their jobs. Far more important are the breakthroughs that even allow those debates. Can good teaching be taught and measured? Yes and yes. These developments include breakthroughs on answering these questions: How do school districts do more than just talk about effective teaching? Teacher/innovator Doug Lemov put it into a book: Teach Like a Champion. You can see it in action in any of the charter schools he helps oversee at Uncommon Schools. In the District of Columbia a former national Teacher of the Year, who won that award teaching in one of Washington's most challenging neighborhoods, devised an evaluation system that both defines and measures effective teaching. (US News & World Report)
"Change Agent of the Year": Paul Herdman, Rodel Foundation of Delaware
DELAWARE--The NewSchools Venture Fund has named Paul Herdman, the president and CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, as "Change Agent of the Year." NewSchools applauded Herdman for his leadership in helping to craft and implement Vision 2015, designed to make Delaware a leader in education. The award credits this "bold plan, which puts students at its center," as a key factor in Delaware winning the first round of `Race to the Top.' Herdman responded in his blog: "It's a wonderful, yet humbling, acknowledgement of the work of the amazing team here at the Rodel Foundation, which I've had the pleasure to lead for the past six years. Successful change never results from the work of a single individual. A catalyst working in isolation just creates smoke." (PIE-Network)
National Journal Blog: All sectors bring strengths to the table (By Deborah McGriff, Partner, NewSchools Venture Fund)
NATIONAL--At NewSchools Venture Fund, where I work, I am considered a "hybrid" education reformer: my background spans work with large urban public school districts, for-profit education management organization (EMO) Edison Schools (now called EdisonLearning), an industry association for private providers of education services (the Education Industry Association), and a range of nonprofit organizations, including the Black Alliance for Educational Options and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
What I have learned from this work across these sectors is this: no sector has a monopoly on innovation and quality, and no sector is immune from failure. Entrepreneurs in each sector have designed and launched schools, tools, programs and services, and the ultimate measure of their success is not their corporate structure but their impact on student achievement and attainment. Each sector brings unique strengths to closing the achievement gap, the civil rights issue of our time.
If anything, I believe that for-profit and nonprofit organizations are often more...
At NewSchools Venture Fund, where I work, I am considered a "hybrid" education reformer: my background spans work with large urban public school districts, for-profit education management organization (EMO) Edison Schools (now called EdisonLearning), an industry association for private providers of education services (the Education Industry Association), and a range of nonprofit organizations, including the Black Alliance for Educational Options and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
What I have learned from this work across these sectors is this: no sector has a monopoly on innovation and quality, and no sector is immune from failure. (National Journal)
Schools: Turnarounds and Charter Schools
Mathews: Jay Memo to charters: don't mess with D.C. teacher contract
WASHINGTON--My colleague Bill Turque has produced his much-anticipated story on the furor among D.C. public charter schools over the generous new contract for teachers in regular D.C. public schools. He reveals the charters might take legal action to tap into some of that money for themselves. They better not. Everyone who reads this blog knows I am an aggressive supporter of the charter school movement, particularly in D.C. My most recent book was about the birth of the most successful charter network in the country (and D.C.)--the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP). I have said often that charters are the most interesting and beneficial development in public education in the last decade or so. But it would be an act of betrayal for D.C. charters to try to grab some dough from the regular public schools just as Michelle A. Rhee, the greatest friend of charters ever to lead the D.C. schools, is putting into place her controversial plan to change the way teachers are compensated and motivated. Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS), the charter-promoting organization here that is reportedly considering legal action, has done heroic work to earn D.C. charters one of the highest levels of tax-dollar support in the country. FOCUS is going to look craven and petty if it attacks the contract, particularly since the new D.C. teacher deal is unlikely to hurt charters nearly as much as some charter advocates think it will. (Washington Post registration required)
Dem Challenges Administration On School Turnarounds: Backed By Teachers Unions, Rep. Judy Chu Proposes More Flexibility In Fixing The Nation's Worst Schools
NATIONAL--Union leaders and a House Democrat pushed back this morning against the administration's proposals for turning around chronically underperforming schools. A newly released plan from Rep. Judy Chu of California criticizes the four models for improving the nation's worst schools pushed by the administration through its School Improvement Grants program. In order for districts to receive the funds, they must choose one of four strategies to improve their troubled schools: turnaround, restart, closure or transformation. Three of the four methods put educators on the chopping block. Turnaround and transformation require firing the principal. Under transformation, principal dismissal is accompanied by instructional reforms and more learning time, among a few other provisions. A school implementing turnaround must also fire 50 percent of the teachers. To restart, a school must close and reopen as a charter or another type of education management organization. The last option, closure, means shutting down and sending students to a higher-performing school in the district. (National Journal Blog)
Charter-School Cap Issue Nears Deadline
NEW YORK--Only days before a June 1 deadline for the state to apply for up to $700 million in federal Race to the Top funds, New York officials and the teachers union are trying to hammer out an agreement on raising the charter-school cap to 460 from 200. There are varying versions of how far the negotiations have progressed since late last week. Some people familiar with the talks say all of the nettlesome issuessuch as situating charter schools within existing public school buildingshave been resolved. The only issue left, these people say, is whether to continue to allow the trustees of the State University of New York to have the power to decide which of their charter applicants are approved or rejected. SUNY is heralded by the Obama administration as one of the strongest charter authorizers in the country. The authorizer has closed eight charter schools for academic underperformance, and the rest of the schools it has approved have on average outperformed those approved by the three other New York authorizers. But Merryl Tisch, the chancellor of the Regents of the New York State Department of Education, has argued that the Regents should have final say over which charters get approved. (Wall Street Journal subscription required)
JER: Charter School
Video: Lottery Focus of Documentary
NATIONAL--A fight over how charter schools select their students and perform against other schools is the focus of a new documentary: "The Lottery." (Wall Street Journal subscription required)
People: Teachers and Leaders
Colorado: A Rougher Road to Tenure
COLORADO--Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. signed a law on Thursday that will make it more difficult for teachers to get tenure and will require that at least half of their annual evaluation be determined by the academic growth of their students. Currently, rookie teachers earn tenure after three years in the classroom, but under the new law they will earn that status only after proving themselves effective, as defined by a state panel, for three straight years. The American Federation of Teachers backed the measure, and the National Education Association opposed it. (New York Times registration required)
Satchel, uniform, bonus: Pay-for-performance for school students is no silver bullet
NATIONAL--POLITICIANS around the world love to promise better education systems. Proposals for reform come in many flavours. Some tout the benefits of more competition among schools; others aim to train more teachers and reduce class sizes. Still others plump for elaborate after-school programmes or for linking teachers' pay to how well pupils do. A relatively recent addition to this menu is the idea of paying students directly for performance. Boosters argue that pupils may fail to invest enough time and effort into education because the gainsbetter jobs and higher incomesare nebulous and distant. Cash payments, on the other hand, reward good performance immediately. Link payments to test results or graduation rates, the argument goes, and test scores should increase and drop-out rates decline. Two new papers* describe the effect of such schemes in Israel and America. Their results will disappoint those who hope for a silver bullet. But they also suggest that cash payments may have their uses in some situations. (The Economist)
Teachers Facing Weakest Market in Years
NATIONAL-- The recession seems to have penetrated a profession long seen as recession-proof. Superintendents, education professors and people seeking work say teachers are facing the worst job market since the Great Depression. Amid state and local budget cuts, cash-poor urban districts like New York City and Los Angeles, which once hired thousands of young people every spring, have taken down the help-wanted signs.
Even upscale suburban districts are preparing for huge levels of layoffs. School officials and union leaders estimate that more than 150,000 teachers nationwide could lose their jobs next year, far more than any other time, including the last major financial crisis of the 1970s. (New York Times registration required)
Report: Schools in Crisis: Making Ends Meet: The Disproportionate Impact of Seniority-Based Layoffs on Poor, Minority Students
NATIONAL-- This analysis relies on existing databases to gauge the problem of the disproportionate effect of "last in, first out" policies on high-poverty and high-minority schools. Higher-poverty schools generally ontain more novice, lower-paid teachers, and conversely, lower-poverty schools tend to cluster more experienced, higher-paid teachers. Partly due to teacher collective bargaining agreements, teachers who have been in the district system longer are able to move and work in schools of their choosing. Even where seniority rules are not in effect, the poorest schools typically receive the few-est applicantsmany of whom lack the experience typical of applicants to wealthier schools. And, as the all-too-typical story goes, after a few years, teachers with more experience exercise their seniority rights and move to wealthier schools in a district, or leave teaching all together. In their place, less experienced teachers move into the high-poverty schools, leading to the teacher experience inequality. Teaching experience varying by school poverty concentration is reflected nationally. As shown in figure 1, the highest-poverty schools, where over 75 percent of their students qualified for free and reduced-price meals, had the highest percentage of teachers with less than four years teaching experience. Students at these schools are more likely to have a less experienced teacher than their peers at lower-poverty schools. (Center on Reinventing Public Education)
Tools: Academic Systems and Solutions
Tying Together the Common Core of Standards, Instruction, and Assessments: Fewer, clearer, higher standards will point the United States in the right direction for developing an education system that prepares high school graduates who are college-ready. (By Vicki Phillips and Carina Wong, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)
NATIONAL--After more than 20 years of messy thinking, mistakes, and misguided direction, policy makers have finally given teachers and students a solid set of standards in mathematics and literacy. The Common Core of Standards only begins the process of moving academic performance in these subjects to the levels we need, but it's such a relief to have them. Now, the Race to the Top funding and the federal investments in state assessment systems have targets that make sense. The anticipated adoption of the Common Core by 48 states (only Texas and Alaska are not on board) also indicates genuine political will to move away from disparate standards across the country. The bottom line? K-12 public education is as close as it has ever been to saying every high school graduate must be college ready. (Phi Delta Kappan International subscription required)
Report: D.C. schools make most significant reading gains among urban systems
WASHINGTON--A federal study of trends in 11 major urban school systems shows that only one has made significant gains in reading achievement since 2007 in fourth and eighth grades: D.C. Public Schools. The finding emerges from an analysis of 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress data made public Thursday. Nationally, the study ranked Atlanta as the top-gaining urban school system of the past decade. Scores there rose steadily and significantly in fourth and eighth grades in the seven-year span after enactment of the No Child Left Behind law in 2002. But in many big cities, reading achievement has grown slowly or stagnated, especially in eighth grade. The results mean that the goal of closing achievement gaps by 2014, an idealistic standard set when President George W. Bush signed the education law, remains far out of reach. President Obama is seeking a new goal that might be equally hard to attain: for all students to be on track for college and careers by 2020. (Washington Post registration required)
Public Policy: Federal, State and Local
U.S. schools chief: We're in 'educational emergency'
NATIONAL-- (CNN) -- The battered economy is devastating school districts nationwide. Faced with shrinking budgets, many schools say they have no choice but to lay off teachers, cut arts and sports programs or consider other drastic measures to save money. CNN's Soledad O'Brien talked with the top school official in the nation, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, about the ties between the economy and schools, the state of education and options for the classroom. (CNN)
Education debate remains heated
NATIONAL--Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, says the No Child Left Behind law will be updated this year to allow "some additional flexibility at the local level for outcomes, for results." "Data that has been released under No Child Left Behind [show] where we're having success and where we're not having the success," Miller told POLITICO in an interview for the video series "The Politics of America's Youth." "We'd really like now to put more emphasis on better teachers, more emphasis on better leadership and then stand back and hold them accountable for results."The updates are part of a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, originally passed in 1965 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty and amended under President George W. Bush as the No Child Left Behind Act. (Politico)