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Archive for 2007

Edwize’s Believe It Or Not

“The quintessential liberal fascist,” says the cover blurb on Liberal Fascism, the new book of National Review writer and right wing blogger Jonah Goldberg, “is not an SS storm trooper. It is a female grade school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore.”*

And they’re worried about how WE teach history? More »

Bundling Accountability

[Editor’s note: Sherman Dorn is the author of Accountability Frankenstein, the editor of Education Policy Analysis Archives, and an associate professor of education at the University of South Florida. He blogs on education policy at shermandorn.com.]

The controversy over giving letter grades to New York City schools last month demonstrates two features of modern accountability: it has bundled different types of accountability together, and the bundling of accountability has gone too far.

On November 5, New York City revealed single letter grades assigned to each public school in the five boroughs. Patterned after Florida’s assignment of letter grades, it boiled down statistical data to a single judgment. Unlike in Florida, the inconsistencies and illogic in the letter grades have become the center of vigorous debate.

But the controversy has obscured an important point: while the assignment of letter grades is politically clever—if students receive letter grades, why can’t schools?—it also bundles several different features of accountability into a single package. The same Joel Klein who fought Microsoft’s bundling of software is now engaged in bundling of accountability for public relations purposes. More »

Leaving “No Child Left Behind” Behind

[Editor’s note: teacherken is a high school social studies teacher in the MD suburbs of DC and an active blogger on education and other subjects. This post was originally posted at Daily Kos.]

Our No. 1 education program is incoherent, unworkable, and doomed. But the next president still can have a huge impact on improving American schooling.

So says perhaps the most cogent writer on educational matters, Richard Rothstein, in a piece in The American Prospect whose title, like that of this diary, is Leaving “No Child Left Behind” Behind. Before The New York Times lost its senses, Rothstein wrote columns regularly on educational matters. Those of us who try to help the general public and policy matters understand the reality of educational policy have often drawn some of our best arguments from his work.

The article, which just became available online, presents the key issues as well as they can be presented, and there is little I can add, although I will offer a few comments of my own. The notable educational figure Deborah Meier has said that we should blog about this and distribute the article as widely as possible. I urge you to consider doing what you can, including if warranted recommending this diary, to make the article as visible as possible. More »

Getting real with class size

The DOE today issued its new and revamped class size report, and for the first time–or the second if you count last year’s somewhat controversial report–it is possible to get fairly accurate data on class sizes at the city level, the borough level, the district and the school levels. This is a huge advance, the product of a ridiculous amount of work and struggle.

It’s also a huge amount of data. What to make of it? The best thing to do to start is check out your own school and grade or subject, if you are a teacher, and see if it matches reality. Parents should of course look at their children’s schools and grades. If it doesn’t, let the UFT know. But going forward it should be much harder for DOE to fudge the class sizes. This is a tool that anyone can use to monitor class size. What it shows is that while classes overall are getting a bit smaller, this is not happening fast enough, especially in the high schools.

More »

Teacher News of the Day

More on the school progress reports: everyone agrees PS 35 on Staten Island teaches kids, but they still got an F . . .

. . . while a school labeled “persistently dangerous” got an A . . .

. . . Merryl Tisch, the vice chancellor of the state Board of Regents, weighs in . . .

. . . and so does Diane Ravitch.

The report on the cheating scandal at Susan Wagner HS in Staten Island is out.

205 schools have voted to participate in the school-wide bonus pilot program.

Robert Gordon doesn’t think smaller class sizes matter . . .

. . . UFT President Randi Weingarten disagrees.

New York state may start using a growth model.

An Educational Testing Service report says prospective teachers are becoming better qualified.

The Center for American Progress reports on how Bush’s Labor Department is using it’s regulatory authority to go after unions . . .

. . . the AFT and Trapper John have more.

Do you use Teacher Tube? Here are some teachers who do.

And this week’s Carnival of Education is up.

The Importance of the School Progress Debate

[Editor’s note: Seth Pearce is from the NYC Student Union.]

A few days ago, walking to the train after an NYC Student Union meeting with some of my fellow students, it struck me to ask, Why has the debate on the NYC DOE’s Progress Report program garnered so much attention? Why have so many newspaper articles been written on it, so many people been riled up about it? It’s just a silly report card program right? Aren’t there so many important issues out there?

Well, yes and no.

While there are more urgent issues facing our schools, especially class size, this issue gains its importance because it very thoroughly defines the main theme of Klein/Bloomberg’s tenure running our schools: The Search for Results. Under this administration, and probably in many other school systems around the country, the focus of broad educational policy will be measurable results. These results will set the agenda for individual schools and school systems as a whole. More »

Report Cards For Our Public Schools

[Editor’s note: This originally appeared in the New York Times.]

Report cards and ratings help us make decisions. From our kids’ grades, to which cities to live in, to what restaurant to go to, the letters A, B, C, D and F guide many of the choices we make in our daily lives.

Maybe that’s why the annual college rankings found in various publications get so much attention. But our elementary and secondary schools generally have not been measured like that, until now. Here in New York City, the Department of Education began to issue progress reports with letter grades to each of the city’s 1,400 public schools. It’s the right instinct. Parents, who rely on the services schools provide, and taxpayers, who bear the cost, deserve fair, clear and accurate assessments of our public schools.

But reducing a complex organism like a school to a single letter grade requires selecting just the right ingredients and balancing them carefully. As the new School progress reports illustrate, the right recipe remains elusive, and the starkly counterintuitive, and in some cases nonsensical, results have left many New Yorkers bewildered. More »

Conflicts of Interest in the High School Progress Reports

What is going to happen in our New York City high schools now that Joel Klein has based 55% of the high school progress reports on the number of courses students take and pass. Consider this: if students don’t pass, the school’s grade will suffer, and punishment may follow. Klein will fire principals and close the schools.

And to make things worse, Klein has also sent out signals that it’s a good thing when schools find creative ways to give a student credit. For example, Klein instituted a policy of seat-time credit (credit recovery, as it’s euphemistically called) wherein students who fail a class because they didn’t do much work can hand in a project of some kind to a different teacher after the course is over, and have that grade reversed. More »

Party like a Kindergarten Star

[Editor’s note: Miss Brave is the pseudonym for a first-year elementary school writing teacher.]

Miss Brave: “What would we like to ask Miss G to do with our Flat Stanleys when she gets them in the mail?”
George: “Can we ask her if she’ll go see a PG-13 movie with them?”

* * *

I’m starting to have a problem with some of my kindergarteners. More »

New York Teacher

Read the latest New York Teacher online. Here’s a taste of what you’ll find:

The UFT calls on the DOE to implement the CFE blueprint to lower class size.

85% of eligible schools voted to take part in the school-wide bonus pilot program.

More from the UFT in response to the 14 school closings.

When will a report on the cheating scandal at Susan Wagner HS in Staten Island be released?

6,000 pounds of donated books went to a New Orleans school.

The New York Teacher covers the Assessing Current Assessments panel.

Check out DonorsChoose.org, and read about some of the teachers using it.

Who’s in charge? Who should be?

The sight of Progress Reports mastermind Jim Liebman dashing out a side door in the City Council chamber yesterday while angry parents pursued him nicely exemplifies the issue at hand: Who’s accountable to who here?

Liebman is a Tweed technocrat–for which he is to blame–but also a smart and decent man. He had just been grilled by the Council Education Committee for three hours, answering questions that aren’t really in his domain, especially about the high-stakes consequences of the progress reports grades. He was taking the blows meant for Joel Klein, who was, presumably, safely barricaded at Tweed. More »

And the Oscar Goes to … Kindergarten!

[Editor’s note: Miss Brave is the pseudonym for a first-year elementary school writing teacher.]

Scene: Kindergarten
Characters: Miss Brave and Darryl

(Enter Darryl, pouting and looking miserable.)
Darryl: “Alejandro called me Darryl Banana!”
(Enter Alejandro, looking quite pleased with himself while Darryl is about to have a meltdown. Evidently, this is a serious insult. The gauntlet is thrown! Miss Brave tries very hard not to smile.)
Miss Brave: “You know what, Darryl, sometimes friends call each other silly names because they like each other and they want to say something funny, not because they’re trying to be mean. Sometimes my daddy calls me silly names, too, and he’s not trying to make fun of me.”
(Darryl considers Miss Brave’s speech for approximately one millisecond, then becomes distracted by the brilliance of his writing.)
Darryl: “Oooooh, look at this! Look at this!”
(A Darryl-prompted misdirection! Miss Brave is relieved. Crisis averted!)

More »

Teacher News of the Day

Two more school closings were announced on Friday, followed by three more over the weekend. With 8 closings already announced, that brings the total to 13. What do you think of the strategy to announce the school closings slowly instead of all at once?

Joel Klein defends school closings . . .

. . . while alums remember Far Rockaway High School, one of the schools scheduled to close.

What do you think of Community Education Councils?

The Model City Council debates the cell phone ban.

New York City public school students and graduates are thanking teachers.

McDonaldization of Education

When teachers talk of the “McDonaldization of education,” the term is commonly employed in a metaphorical way, to describe a process that, if it were taken to its logical conclusion, would transform schools into the instructional equivalent of fast food outlets. Of particular concern is the de-skilling of educators into deliverers of canned programs, the unhealthy standardization of curriculum and pedagogy and the commercialization of public schools.

Now it appears that the term has a literal, as well as a metaphorical, application. The New York Times reports that the Seminole County public school system is sending home report cards in packages covered with Mc Donalds’ advertisements, pictures of Ronald McDonald and photographs of ‘happy meals.’ The district even provides a ‘happy meal’ to fifth graders with good grades. More »

Gonna Take on the World Some Day

[Editor’s note: Miss Brave is the pseudonym for a first-year elementary school writing teacher.]

On the fabled Day Before a Vacation, teachers all over the country try to sneak fun activities past the watchful eye of the administration because they know their students will be off the wall otherwise.

My plan for the kindergarteners was to have them author a “Thanksgiving Book,” for which they’d trace their hand on the cover and transform it into a turkey. But, all the kindergarten teachers got together and decided to show their kids a movie.

Have you ever taken a group of 12:1:1 self-contained kindergarteners and put them in a room with 100 other kindergarteners and expected them to sit still and focus on the finer plot points of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving? These are kids whose verbal repertoire consists of (a) screaming or (b) echolalia. Warning, warning: MELTDOWNS WILL OCCUR. More »