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In which Mike offers/threatens to kiss Joel Klein

Mike and Brickman talk poor-quality math instruction and the ramifications of this week’s Supreme Court decision on union dues. Mike pitches a new bumper sticker: “Keep NCES boring.” And Amber is psyched about New York’s tenure reforms.

Amber's Research Minute

Performance Screens for School Improvement: The Case of Teacher Tenure Reform in New York City,” by Susanna Loeb, Luke C. Miller, and James Wyckoff, Working Paper 115 (Washington, D.C.: National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, June 2014).

The early-childhood folks didn’t much like it when I faulted NCES for relying on the Rutgers-based National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) as the source for federal data on “the state of preschool”—and for subsidizing the advocacy work of that organization, which just so happens to be aligned with President Obama’s preschool initiative.

NIEER’s Steve Barnett insisted that the sole-source federal contract pays only for data gathering, not advocacy. And the Department of Education noted that when it had announced its intention of awarding such a contract to NIEER, nobody objected at the time. So why, it implied, was I grumping after the fact?

Talk about splitting hairs. At the receiving end—I speak as the long-time head of a fundraising-dependent nonprofit organization not so very different from NIEER—all money is green, even federal contract dollars that must be accounted for. At minimum, they offset costs that would otherwise be borne elsewhere in one’s budget, thereby freeing up funds for other activities, in this case including advocacy, which is what NIEER is best known for. (OK, data-based advocacy, but limited to the data they want you to see because those are the data that buttress their views...

  1. It took a little while, but the Enquirer finally noticed the Southwest Ohio winners of Straight A grants from the state. Quite a mixed bag among the winners: Common Core, reading proficiency, arts assessments, and technology access are all in there. Also of note: the journalist includes the number of students projected to be affected by each project, and there’s a district/online charter school collaboration in there that probably raised some eyebrows. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. Speaking of technology, Mansfield City Schools recently underwent a tech assessment which revealed a number of deficiencies (old equipment, lack of backup, lack of disaster recovery plan, etc.), many of which the Supe says are being addressed over the summer. But buried in this story appears to be the news that both the firm paid to do the assessment and the contractor being paid to fix some of the problems seem to be owned/run by the same person. Not sure if I’m reading it right or not, but if so I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this one soon. (Mansfield News-Sun)
     
  3. In somewhat happier (and clearer) technology news, a team from Newark Digital Academy was in Portland, Oregon last week, presenting
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Bravo to Fordham’s original gadfly!

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools yesterday inducted Fordham president Chester E. Finn, Jr. into its Charter School Hall of Fame—established to honor pioneers in the development, growth, and innovation of charter schools.

At its annual conference in Las Vegas, Checker was lauded for his long track record of support and hailed as one of the “intellectual godfathers” of the charter school movement. He was inducted along with Success Academy founder Eva Moskowitz and the Doris and Donald Fisher Fund.

“Hall of Fame members include school teachers and leaders, thinkers, policy experts, and funders that have paved the way for the success and growth of public charter schools. They have strengthened public charter schools nationwide and inspired us to do more for our nation’s students,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance.

Checker is among twenty-six individuals and organizations named to the Hall of Fame since 2007. He joins U.S. senator Lamar Alexander, the KIPP Charter Schools, Joel Klein, and Chicago mayor Richard Daley, among others.

Check out this short video on Checker’s contribution to the charter school movement....

  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis was a guest on The Ron Ponder Show in Canton yesterday, talking about third grade reading, as were OEA’s new president and a member of the state board of education talking separately about Common Core. The audio for Chad’s segment is here. If you’re interested, you can find the others at this link. Just click on the “audio vault” tab and look for the June 30 segments. (WHBC radio, Canton)
     
  2. OEA’s new president Becky Higgins also called in to public radio in Cleveland yesterday, noting that she was on her way to Denver for the NEA annual convention, where she expected Common Core to dominate the agenda. Her take on CCSS in Ohio? She firmly supports the standards and is “cautiously optimistic” that districts statewide will allow a one year safe harbor provision before teachers are evaluated based on PARCC exam scores. (IdeaStream radio, Cleveland)
     
  3. Editors in Youngstown opine most strongly on the difficult job ahead for the new academic distress commission chair overseeing Youngstown City Schools’ attempt to climb out of the achievement basement. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  4. Speaking of oversight by the state, Monroe schools are almost out from
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  1. The Akron suburb of Woodridge debated school building issues for most of their meeting last week. But the superintendent wanted to talk about some nuts and bolts good news as well. Such as the great work being done to make sure all third graders pass the reading test and move on to fourth grade, explaining what Common Core means for the district and how good the new standards are, and that the district is ready for PARCC exams. Nice. (Akron Online)
     
  2. How is this possible?! As noted in the above story, there are plenty of high-level resources available to districts to help them reach the goals of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. How, then, did that train-wreck of a volunteer reading tutoring program in Akron that we mentioned last week get over 100 kids signed up? (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  3. What do you think of when you hear the term “foreign language immersion school”? It’s a school for folks who want their children to learn a foreign language, right? Unless that term has changed meanings over the years (could be, I’m kinda old), I think that Toledo Public Schools may be unfamiliar with the concept as they
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While education reforms are nearly always won via legislation, rare exceptions do occur—and sometimes they’re significant. The year 2014 has already proven to be a landmark one for education reform thanks to judicial decision. Perhaps the most notable example thus far is Vergara v. California, which struck down tenure and kindred state laws that make it difficult for schools to ensure that their students (especially those living in poverty) have an effective teacher. This week brought word that some New York families are kick starting a similar challenge to equally oppressive laws in the Empire state. Other states could follow.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision in Harris v. Quinn, which could be even more momentous for education reform (and public-sector unionism broadly.) Indeed, some liberals are calling it the “gravest threat today to public-employee unions.”

This case deals with the representation of Illinois’s home health care workers (often family members taking care of loved ones). The issue arose when plaintiff Pam Harris (the mother of a disabled son whom she takes care of) worried that union dues (or “fair share” payments in lieu of dues) would divert money she needs for...

  1. Editors in Canton opine on Ohio's new teacher evaluation protocols…and the even newer tweaks made to them by the legislature. (Canton Repository)
     
  2. St. Paul Lutheran School in Union County has closed its doors after 122 years. It is not noted in this article that St. Paul took students on the EdChoice Scholarship for some years. Its closing leaves just two EdChoice-participating private schools in the county. Interestingly, both are Lutheran schools. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. Yesterday’s PD piece on whether or not there will be a “safe harbor” for teachers from evaluations based on PARCC exams apparently grew out of this longer and more in-depth interview with ODE’s data-guru Matt Cohen. In it, he answers questions about how value-add will be calculated when tests switch from OAA (RIP) to PARCC (OMG), among other intricacies. I was happy every time I read the phrase “in simple terms”. I can only imagine the level of detail Mr. Cohen was able and willing to provide! (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. In case you think being in charge of a state-mandated commission overseeing school districts in fiscal trouble is a glamorous business, this story will probably change your mind. There appears to
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  1. It wasn’t on his Year One to-do list, but apparently it will be going forward. Columbus schools supe Dan Good says that future district budgets will be more than one page long and contain some details which are not currently provided. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. As I write this, teachers in Reynoldsburg are standing on some street corner actively protesting the new contract offer from the district. The piece doesn’t specify what they don’t like, but you can probably read the FAQ to get some ideas. (ThisWeek News/Reynoldsburg News)
     
  3. As the dust settles around the K-12 education portion of the MBR, certain provisions are getting a deeper look. That includes the fact that the legislature’s "safe harbor" provision relating to Common Core implementation likely won't extend to teachers, especially in districts like CMSD where teacher evaluation based on student test scores is already well-established. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. We’ve been following this story for a few months now, and it ends where all but the most die-hard folks thought it would: AB Graham Digital Academy, a charter school in the Springfield area, has failed to find a new sponsor and will not reopen in the fall.
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One of the received truths of education reform is that a creative, talented school principal can do a lot, whether by embracing technology, changing the way a school is organized, or allocating resources differently. The counter is that true principal autonomy doesn’t exist because of strict limitations by district, state, and federal mandates, union contracts, and such. This new study from the Center on Reinventing Public Education asks two questions: First, what do principals report as barriers to their autonomy? And second, are the barriers are real or imagined? (Fordham tackled similar questions in 2008 in The Leadership Limbo, primarily in reference to union contracts. To find the answers, the researchers interviewed eight principals in three states from a variety of policy and district environments—a small sample, yes, but the analysts spent considerable with them and probed deep. The researchers organized principals’ responses into a total of 128 barriers to change: 22 percent impeded efforts to improve teacher quality, 38 percent restricted resource allocation, and 40 percent prevented instructional innovation. The researchers then compared the principals’ responses with state and federal laws and local collective bargaining agreements. They found that 31 percent of the reported barriers were real, including...

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