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Archive for September, 2009

Arguments On Merit Pay, With And Without Merit

The skeptical take of The American Prospect‘s Dana Goldstein on the Obama adminstration’s promotion of individual merit pay for educators has led to a widely read exchange on a number of different blogs. Take a look at Matt Yglesias’ two posts, here and here, as well as the comments by The Quick and Ed’s Kevin Carey, the Core Knowledge blog’s Robert Pondiscio, and the conservative Atlantic blogger Megan McArdle.

What is interesting about the exchange is the commonplace conceptual slippage between the idea of individual merit pay and the broader concept of differentiated pay. More »

Alabanza: In Praise Of Local 100

Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100
By Martin Espada

for the 43 members of
Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees
Local 100, working at the Windows on the World restaurant,
who lost their lives in the attack on the World Trade Center

Alabanza. Praise the cook with a shaven head
and a tattoo on his shoulder that said Oye,
a blue-eyed Puerto Rican with people from Fajardo,
the harbor of pirates centuries ago. More »

Dog Bites Man: School Environment Influences Academic Growth

How much do collaboration, mutual respect, and other aspects of the school environment matter for improving outcomes for middle school kids?

Quite a lot, apparently, and it shows in New York City’s data. Every year, the DOE surveys teachers, secondary students, and parents to find out what the school looks like to the people who actually spend time there. Basically, the survey asks whether the school community is a welcoming one that holds high standards, inspires kids to learn, and cultivates collaborative culture. The city tabulates the results, combines them with attendance data and then converts that to a letter grade. In addition, the DOE gives schools a separate letter grade that is based on student progress on state exams from one year to the next.*

Compare those two letter grades — for environment and progress — and what you will find is that environment matters. More »

President Obama’s Message to America’s Students

President Obama delivered a back-to-school message to students in Arlington, Va. yesterday, Sept. 8. The speech was also broadcast live on the Web.

Referencing his own days as a student, Obama stressed the importance of hard work and personal responsibility.

Read the transcript here.

Michael Mulgrew on “Good Day NY”

UFT President Michael Mulgrew appeared on Fox’s “Good Day NY” this morning, Sept. 8. He spoke to Rosanna Scotto about swine flu precautions and President Obama’s back-to-school speech to students:

We think the speech is fantastic. Anytime you can have the president engage students and talk about being responsible towards their education, it’s a great thing. And as a parent, and as a teacher, the idea that the president says there’s no excuse not to do your homework, that’s something we’ll always get behind 100 percent.

“Bad” News

A teacher in Grimsby, England was recently suspended and is threatened with termination for “bringing the school into disrepute.” Her offense was that in a private conversation on Facebook she referred to a particular class as “just as bad” as another class on the grade. She said that and nothing more.

An investigation was launched after a colleague, maybe more out of ambition than conscience, ratted out the impeccably-credentialed teacher who now, despite her immaculate record, may be booted from the livelihood of her dreams.

Certainly no teacher should indulge in destructive criticism of students whether they are individuals or groups, identified or not. And the proverbial line must be drawn somewhere on the much trodden pedagogical field of scrutiny. But the human frailties of teachers tend to be tested on the job more so than is the case in most other lines of work. More »

The Paranoid Style In American Educational Politics

“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.” So opened a classic 1964 essay of the renowned American historian, Richard Hofstadter, in which he analyzed a style of politics which is remarkably evocative of what has passed for political discourse these last two months. Consider how Hofstadter’s pithy characterization of this political style —  “[a] sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy” — so aptly fits the sort of behavior we have seen on display in town halls, on Fox TV “news” shows and on blogs from the right. What term better describes the conjuring of  “death panels” out of thin air, the waving of photos of Obama defaced to resemble Hitler, than that which graces the title of Hofstadter’s essay, the “paranoid style?”

After weeks of the paranoid style in health care politics, it is now in full bloom in the realm of educational politics as well. More »