Articles in the Week in Blogs category

Week in blogs: Common core standards face skeptics

(Don’t have time to read through the hundreds of education-related blogs? NSBA Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy brings you the “must-reads” in his weekly round-up, “The Week in Blogs,” now appearing on School Board News Today. Laugh out loud and learn something new each Friday.)

Living in the Washington, D.C., area can make you feel like a real mover and shaker — even if the only moving and shaking you do is on the dance floor. Case in point, watching my 9-year-old daughter’s soccer game one weekend, I couldn’t help but overhear a parent from the other team talking rather loudly and importantly on his cell phone, saying something about “our position regarding the European Union.”

Which, of course, made me think: “What’s my position regarding the European Union — and do I need to phone that in?” No, actually, it made me think: “What a cool place to live — a place where Big Things are being decided.”

In truth, most of us here spend more time talking about those Big Things than deciding them — or being around the people who decide them. An exception occurred last December, on the deadest of Friday afternoons before the holidays, when I attended a small seminar in a nondescript building off Dupont Circle in the District.

The subject: common core standards.

Why was this different?  Being an education writer, I knew something about the Common Core State Standards initiative and how it was being developed (at a relatively fast clip) by two national consortia, endorsed by most states. But it wasn’t until I went to the seminar and heard from some of the consortia’s key curriculum and testing experts that it hit me: A relatively small group of (admittedly nice and professional) experts was very soon going to determine the parameters of what all public school children will be expected to know during the first decades of the 21st century.

A big deal, indeed. And one about which I, and I suspect a lot of other people, are saying: “I just hope they get it right.”

See American School Board Journal‘s March cover package for my overview piece on the common core initiative as well as a number of other stories, including advice for districts from management expert Douglas B. Reeves and a skeptical view from Illinois superintendent Ken Mauer.

This week, that feeling of skepticism was reiterated in a self-described “cautionary tale” by Robert Pondiscio of The Core Knowledge Blog. The piece takes as its jumping off point a New York Times story on how the standards are being piloted at a New York City high school.

The 57th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision was this past Tuesday, and the Alliance for Excellent Education marked the date by noting the high numbers of minority students who continue to drop out of high school.  The Supreme Court may have struck down the pernicious “separate but equal” doctrine more than a half century ago, but “the promise of an equal education remains unmet for too many of the nation’s students of color and Native American students,” said the Alliance blog High School Soup.

A new report from the group notes: “If just half the 333,200 African-American students who dropped out of the class of 2010 had graduated, these 166,600 ‘new graduates’ would likely be earning an additional $1.7 billion…”

Turning to higher education: University of Wisconsin professor Sara Goldrick-Rab questions the rigor of college study on The Education Optimists blog. The decidedly pessimistic findings of a new report: Many students at Wisconsin’s flagship university aren’t being sufficiently challenged. For example, 75 percent of students read fewer than five books during their senior year.

On a more upbeat note: Despite all the pressure and considerable flak teachers have taken recently, a recent survey shows that teaching has once again become the most sought after profession among certain young people. Also big are: artist, football player, princess, and cowgirl.

Yes, it’s a kindergarten class survey, on Jezebel. (Thanks to This Week in Education for pointing that out.)

Lawrence Hardy|May 20th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Announcements, National Standards, Week in Blogs|

The week in blogs

Living in the Washington, D.C., area can make you feel like a real mover and shaker — even if the only moving and shaking you do is on the dance floor. Case in point, watching my 9-year-old daughter’s soccer game one weekend, I couldn’t help but overhear a parent from the other team talking rather loudly and importantly on his cell phone, saying something about “our position regarding the European Union.”

Which, of course, made me think: “What’s my position regarding the European Union — and do I need to phone that in?” No, actually, it made me think: “What a cool place to live — a place where Big Things are being decided.”

In truth, most of us here spend more time talking about those Big Things than deciding them — or being around the people who decide them. An exception occurred last December, on the deadest of Friday afternoons before the Holidays, when I attended a small seminar in a nondescript building off Dupont Circle in the District.

The subject: common core standards.
(more…)

Lawrence Hardy|May 20th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Curriculum, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, Student Achievement, Teachers, Urban Schools, Week in Blogs|

Week in Review

As districts struggle to trim costs, which in many cases mean trimming staff, teacher layoff policies are being examined more and more. Speaking of examining, effective school boards should take time each year to reflect, plan, and talk about the progress they’ve made toward strategic goals. Finally, America isn’t the only industrialized country to struggle with disparities in its education system. Read these entries and more from this week’s Leading Source.

Naomi Dillon|May 14th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Week in Blogs|

This week in education blogs

Have you heard the news? Well, it’s all over the Internet, so it must be true.

Here’s the headline:

Budget Mix-Up Provides Nation’s Schools With Enough Money to Properly Educate Students

The story “quotes” prominent Washington politicians, falling over one another to apologize for the error.

“Obviously, we did not intend for this to happen, and we are doing everything in our power to right the situation and discipline whoever is responsible,” said a House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, (R-Wis.)  – but not really. His “quote” and the headline – along with statements from chagrinned Democrats as well – appears in The Onion, the satirical daily that seems to get all its facts wrong but still manages to come up with the truth.

Would that a little budget “slip up” could fix everything regarding school funding, but in the real world of public education it was not the case last week, as battles raged on over just how to define equity in education and in society.

In the Fordham Institute’s “Flypaper” blog, Peter Meyer charges that protesting New York teachers and their sympathizes, who marched this week on Wall Street to protest Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to cut more than 6,000 teaching positions, were fomenting “a class war.”  (Yes, we’re horrified too.)

 “Even if one sympathized with  these folks’ sentiments about the financial ‘inequality crisis’ or believed for a second or two that it was the big banks that ‘crashed our economy,’” the question is where the big unions – and their contrail of sympathizers — have been during the inequality crisis in education the last thirty years,” Meyer writes. “Their silence in the face of crushing inner city educational failures has been deafening.”

To which teacher and blogger David B. Cohen replies that “they were busy working.” In his own blog, Cohen talks about California teachers protesting in Sacramento over that state’s horrendous budget mess. And his colleague at Accomplished California Teachers, “Mizz Murphy,” writes about a surreal – one could say Orwellian – court hearing during which Los Angeles teachers were protesting their layoffs.

 In this excerpt, a district lawyer questions a high school teacher librarian with “multiple teaching credentials” and more than three decades of experience:

Attorney: I see that you’ve submitted a lesson plan into evidence for a research project on various countries.

TL: That’s correct. The students were assigned a country and then did research on the history, culture, politics, etc., of that country.

LAUSD Attorney: So, you taught them research skills?

TL: Yes, and I also taught them about the countries they’d been assigned.

Attorney: So, you taught them about the history of those countries?

TL: Briefly, yes. As you can see, there are about twenty countries on the list.

Attorney: So, you taught them about the history of Armenia?

TL: Yes, briefly, I did.

Attorney: Could you please tell the court what you told the class about the history of Armenia?

TL: You want me to give a lecture on Armenian history? Now?

Attorney: Please, if you wouldn’t mind.

“The TL then proceeded to give a 3-4 minute lecture on the history of Armenia,” Murphy writes. “He was spot on…”

I don’t know enough about L.A. Unified’s considerable budget woes to know who’s right in this conflict. But, to me, the larger issue is: Why should the schools and the teachers be put in this untenable position to begin with?

Makes one long for a federal (or state) budget slipup – one of Onionian proportions.

Lawrence Hardy|May 13th, 2011|Categories: School Board News, Student Achievement, Week in Blogs|

Week in Review

We concede, the biggest news around town this week was the death of Bin Laden, but in other parts, a fresh new edition of the American School Board Journal scored not too far behind.  Because, like all our issues, the May installment features analysis, expert interviews and groundbreaking journalism on some of today’s meatiest issues. And what could be more important than the economy, which has already battered school budgets and given rise to a significant homeless student population? Be sure to read this week’s entries, as well as, the May cover package to answer these questions and more. Happy reading and we’ll see you Monday.

Naomi Dillon|May 7th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Week in Blogs|

The Week in Blogs: Ensuring all students can read

(Don’t have time to read through the hundreds of education-related blogs? NSBA Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy brings you the “must-reads” in his weekly round-up, “The Week in Blogs,” now appearing on School Board News Today. Laugh out loud and learn something new each Friday.)

If you can’t read, you can’t learn. That statement might seem obvious.

Yet in the United States, according Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash), there are some 8 million students in grades four though 12 who are reading below grade level, according to this video on the Alliance for Excellent Education’s blog. At this time in their schooling – that is, beyond third grade – they should have moved from a “learning-to-read” mode to one sometimes called “reading to learn.” And the fact that they have not reach this point, or have only partially reached it, means they will have trouble keeping up with their peers, graduating from high school, and succeeding in life.

Murray, who received NSBA’s Special Recognition Award last month, is introducing the Literacy Education for All Results for the Nation, dubbed the LEARN Act, which would authorize $2.35 billion in federal support for literacy programs spanning birth through age 12.

If that seems like a hefty sum, consider these next two items: As Joanne Jacobs notes in her blog, a new study shows that almost half the adults in Detroit, or 47 percent, are functionally illiterate.

The second related item? According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, the U.S. spent $3.6 billion on remedial courses for students enrolled in two- or four-year colleges during the 2007-08 school year. The Alliance calculated the subsequent costs to these students – who are more likely to drop out of college – to $2 billion in lost earnings over their lifetimes. The title of its report says it all: “Saving Now and Saving Later: How High School Reform Can Reduce the Nation’s Wasted Remedial Education Dollars.

On a lighter note, read Slate‘s rebuttal to economist Donald J. Boudreaux’s bizarre “thought experiment” in The Wall Street Journal regarding the supposed benefits of free enterprise schooling: “Supposed that groceries were supplied in the same way as K-12 education? ” he asks. “What would happen?”

“In poor counties the quality of public supermarkets would be downright abysmal,” Boudreaux writes. “Poor people – entitled in principal to excellent supermarkets – would in fact suffer unusually poor supermarket quality.”

Five seconds to spot what’s wrong with that sentence. Time’s up. But helpfully, Slate has offered a map showing – surprise! – the poor already suffer from poor choices when it comes to shopping for healthy food. Boudreaux’s analogy sort of goes downhill from there. (Thanks to This Week in Education for pointing us to the Slate piece.)

Finally, read Joanne Jacobs again on a report showing that civic knowledge climbed for fourth graders but dropped at the 12th grade level.

Lawrence Hardy|May 6th, 2011|Categories: Announcements, School Board News, Week in Blogs|

The week in blogs

If you can’t read, you can’t learn. That statement might seem obvious.

Yet in the United States, according to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash), there are more than 8 million students in grades four though 12 who are reading below grade level. At this time in their schooling – that is, beyond third grade – they should have moved from a “learning-to-read” mode to one sometimes called “reading to learn.” And the fact that they have not reached this point, or have only partially reached it, means they will have trouble keeping up with their peers, graduating from high school, and succeeding in life.

“The students of today will be the workers of tomorrow,” Murray told a group of literacy coaches recently. “Trying to find jobs, struggling to make their way in a world in which literacy is no longer a luxury. It’s a necessity.”

Murray, who received NSBA’s Special Recognition Award last month, is introducing the Literacy Education for All Results for the Nation or the LEARN Act, which would authorize $2.35 billion in federal support for literacy programs spanning birth through age 12.
(more…)

Lawrence Hardy|May 6th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, Curriculum, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, Student Achievement, Urban Schools, Week in Blogs|

The week in blogs: British royals gain future queen with credentials

(Don’t have time to read through the hundreds of education-related blogs? NSBA Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy brings you the “must-reads” in his weekly round-up, “The Week in Blogs,” now appearing on School Board News Today. Laugh out loud and learn something new each Friday.)

Far from the American School Board Journal to get all tizzied up over the Royal Wedding. We’ve got more important things to do.

However, seeing as I’ve already mentioned it ….. did you see the lady in the church with the big black hat that draped down one whole side of her face? What was that about? And what’s it like for the guy sitting next to her facing a veritable “hat wall” on his left?

We’re journalists here; we have to ask these things. And, we must add, in the interests of full disclosure: “Tizzied,” apparently, is not a word. But of course it should be.

Now back to the matter at hand: Education. Did you know that Princess Kate, if and when she becomes queen, would be the first English female monarch to have a college degree? That revelation comes courtesy of Valerie Strauss’ Answer Sheet. Although Strauss notes that the best educated and brainiest queen “was probably the brilliant Queen Elizabeth I, who was leaning Latin at age 5.”  (And we thought it was Bush/Obama that pushed academics into kindergarten.)

In other, non-wedding-related, news, Joanne Jacobs highlights a troubling report from the Education Trust, which looked at high-performing schools in Maryland and Indiana and found they were still leaving certain subgroups of students behind.

Richard Thompson, of This Week in Education, seconds education consultant Andrew Rotherham’s asserting that “intention” is key to schools that succeed despite student poverty.  Rotherham made the comment in an interview on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

While on the Fresh Air site, hear Diane Ravitch, who spoke at NSBA’s Leadership Conference in February, on the pitfalls of standardized testing.

Lawrence Hardy|April 30th, 2011|Categories: Announcements, School Board News, Week in Blogs|

The week in blogs

Far from the American School Board Journal to get all tizzied up over the Royal Wedding. We’ve got more important things to do.

However, seeing as I’ve already mentioned it ….. did you see the lady in the church with the big black hat that covered one whole side of her face? What was that about? And what’s it like for the guy sitting next to her facing a veritable “hat wall” on his left?

We’re journalists here; we have to ask these things. And, we must add, in the interests of full disclosure: “Tizzied,” apparently, is not a word. But of course it should be.

Now back to the matter at hand: Yes, Education. Did you know that Princess Kate, if and when she becomes queen, would be the first English queen to get a college education? That revelation comes courtesy of Valerie Strauss’ Answer Sheet, although Strauss notes that the best educated and brainiest queen “was probably the brilliant Queen Elizabeth I, who was leaning Latin at age 5.”  (And we thought it was Bush/Obama that pushed academics into kindergarten.)

In other, non-wedding-related, news, Joanne Jacobs highlights a troubling report from the Education Trust, which looked at high-performing schools in Maryland and Indiana and found they still left certain subgroups of students behind.

John Thompson, of This Week in Education, seconds education consultant Andrew Rotherham’s assertion that “intention” is key to schools that succeed despite student poverty.  Rotherham made the comment in an interview on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

While on Fresh Air’s site, hear Diane Ravitch, who spoke at NSBA’s Federal Relations Conference earlier this year, on the pitfalls of standardized testing.

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|April 29th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Curriculum, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, School Reform, Student Achievement, Week in Blogs|

Week in blogs: Do Easter Island statues represent Race to the Top?

Ready for today’s “Week in Blog Question?” Here goes: “How are those weird Easter Island statues like the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition?”

“Say what?”

Sorry, time’s up.  But because this is our inaugural, occasional, semi-monthly-on-average Week in Blog Question, the Judges have graciously offered to give you another try.  “Now take the eraser end of your pencil and open the test  booklet…” No, actually, just think real hard.

Question #2: “So. About those statues: How is the fact that their construction is said to have totally devastated Easter Island civilization as we know it (or think we know it – it was, after all, hundreds of years ago) analogous to what RTTT will do to the public schools?”

Yes, it’s a toughie, and, yes, I’m poking fun at Yong Zhao’s blog on these two seemingly disparate topics (“I can’t help but make the connection between Easter Islanders’ race to erect the statues and the Obama’s Race to the Top program…” he writes) because it’s a little, well, out there; but the fact is, the University of Oregon professor writes some of the most original and provocative analyses of K12 education on the web today.

Here, to be as brief as possible, is his point: According to Jared Diamond’s thesis in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, just as the Easter Islanders exhausted their human and natural resources in a misguided competition to build ever-grander icons, so is RTTT exhausting our schools’ resources in a misguided competition for the best test scores.

“Test scores have no doubt become American’s stone statue in education…” Zhao writes. “Just like the Easter Islanders’ obsession with building statues damaged their ecosystem, America’s obsession with test scores have already begun and will continue to damage its education ecosystem.”

Of course, others have completely different views. I’m just waiting for Arne Duncan to conjure the Italian Renaissance.
Other blogs? Well, closer to home (and the 21st century) Alexander Russo writes about the rising reputation of former Gov. Jeb Bush, in some education circles. A story on Bush appeared last week in the Washington Post.

In another post, Russo talks about the latest education controversy in Rhode Island, where, according to a published report, the Providence Journal failed to disclose that education columnist Julia Steiny is a paid consultant for the state’s Department of Education on the district in Central Falls.  Yes, Russo deadpans, “that Central Falls.” Is that why she wrote so glowingly of state Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, who’s strongly supported district administrators in their long running fight with the teacher union? Steiny says there’s no connection.

Finally, read this moving op-ed from the New York Times about a teacher who made a difference in the life of author Marie Myung-Ok Lee.

Lawrence Hardy|April 3rd, 2011|Categories: Announcements, Federal Programs, School Board News, Week in Blogs|
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