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Archive for July, 2010

Moral Purity, Political Sectarianism And Talking To Bill Gates

In the classic text Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo, the renowned cultural anthropologist Mary Douglas examines how a society’s behavioral norms and taboos are constructed around notions of impurity and pollutants. Some societies have more fluid concepts of  purity and impurity, while others develop more rigid and inflexible conceptions. Douglas found that societies which have more rigid and inflexible conceptions develop elaborate rituals and practices, and devote considerable cultural energy, to the policing of these boundaries.

Douglas’ cultural anthropology provides an important insight into education politics. More »

Lessons from the 2010 State Tests

It’s true, in a sense, that all that happened Wednesday was the state reported test scores using a higher cut-score. It was just like they’d moved the goalpost further down the field, one Buffalo educator (and apparent football fan) explained. More kids failed because they graded the tests harder.

But a lot more happened than that.

As State Education Commissioner David Steiner explained at the state’s press conference, the state tests have not simply become too easy. They have become bad tests. More »

“Innocence” and Experience

In a post on the Education Week blog Inside School Research, veteran reporter Debra Viadero cites some intriguing conclusions and issues raised by Duke University researcher Helen F. Ladd’s new study of the relationship between teacher credentials (both traditional and alternative) and student performance.

Noting that most studies of this topic are old and concentrate on the elementary school level, she examined mandated end-of-course tests given to high school students in North Carolina.

Among her findings, quoted by Viadero, are that “measurable teacher credentials do indeed matter and have an… impact on student achievement… Teachers with an alternative license were slightly less effective than teachers with traditional licenses.”

It was also observed that “getting a high score on the subject-matter tests that teachers take for certification was linked to greater student learning gains… Teachers who were certified in the subject they taught were found to be more effective than those who were not.”

Some critics might argue that these conclusions are themselves inconclusive, were taken out of context or lend themselves to contradictory interpretations. But there is no rational cause for doubt. More »

Ocean Hill-Brownsville Panel Discussion at Museum of the City of New York

Ocean Hill-Brownsville

On Thursday, Aug. 19, at 6:30 p.m., the Museum of the City of New York will host a panel discussion on the Ocean Hill-Brownsville strike of 1968.

The Strike That Changed New York: Ocean Hill-Brownsville, the Politics of Education, & Race Relations in New York City, will feature Clarence Taylor, professor and author of Knocking At Our Own Door: Milton A. Galamison and the Struggle to Integrate New York City Schools, and Jerald Podair, professor and author of The Strike That Changed New York: Blacks, Whites, and the Ocean Hill-Brownsville Crisis, who will discuss the crisis and its aftermath with the Reverend Herbert Oliver, Chairman of the Ocean Hill-Brownsville local school board, and other participants from both sides of the struggle. Presented in conjunction with the exhibition America’s Mayor: John V. Lindsay and the Reinvention of New York. Reservations required. $6, museum members; $12, non-members; $8, seniors and students. Purchase tickets »

“Balanced Education” for Unbalanced Minds

“Balanced literacy,” as any literate person exposed to it realizes, is neither “balanced” nor is it “literacy.” The entrepreneurs and contractors who coined the phrase, concocted the notions, launched the fad and marketed the hoax, parlaying it into an empire of a thousand cash cows and classroom straitjacketing schemes, are minor-league mischief makers compared to the peddlers of “Balanced Education for Everyone.”

According to the Denver Post, “Balanced Education for Everyone” is a “national campaign linked to an unsuccessful effort to remove the teaching of man-made global warming.” Its advocates are convinced that global warming, if it exists at all, is totally unrelated to any human behavior. More »

No Magic Bullet: Yet Another New Report Finds Uneven Effects for Charters

The Evaluation of Charter School ImpactsYet another report has just been released which shows that charters have extremely uneven effects on student test scores — and, in some cases, may actually have a negative impact on the scores of certain types of students. This study has some of the same limitations as earlier work comparing charters to district schools (including a failure to distinguish between high-needs special education students and those with fewer challenges, and the merging of students who receive free lunch vs. reduced price meals). In general, however, it is a worthwhile addition to a growing body of research which documents this pattern of uneven performance, and calls into question arguments that the charter school model should be rapidly expanded without further exploration into whether or not it truly improves student achievement. More »

District 75: Everyday Heroes in Schools of Love and Learning

District 75: Bayside, Queens

Labor Arts’ most recent online exhibit is a pair of photo galleries documenting District 75 schools.

This exhibit features two series of revealing photographs taken by long time documentary photographer Gary Schoichet. The photographs depict New York City teachers who may have the most difficult jobs in the city: in Bayside, Queens they teach children and teens recovering from traumatic brain injuries; in East Harlem they teach children who are “medically fragile” — one label among many which is inadequate to describe their truly overpowering disabilities.

Many of these photographs originally appeared in two articles written by New York Teacher reporter Ellie Spielberg.

The Last Day, and Beyond

Here’s a round up of last-day-of-school posts from some of our New Teacher Diaries contributors: