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A recent piece in the American Journalism Review ripped mainstream education journalism, especially the televised variety, for fostering a false sense of crisis. It contains a shred of truth. “The sky is falling!” is no longer a fair assessment of American education, as witness modest gains on NAEP and high-school graduation rates. But the author, hell bent to attack “reform,” doesn’t appear willing to give reform any credit for any of that, either.

The Wall Street Journal recently profiled ed school objections to the National Council on Teacher Quality's ongoing efforts to appraise America's teacher preparation programs. The more attention their resistance to transparency gets the better: It just makes more obvious how self-serving their complaints on this issue are.

A new poll shows Cleveland residents support Mayor Frank Jackson's school reform plan. Here’s hoping that leaders in Cleveland and across Ohio will keep in mind that it's the community, not special interests, that should be driving the education agenda.

Reformers bemoan specific bureaucratic hurdles to improving schools, but perhaps the real issue is American education’s basic tendency towards bureaucracy, argues Philip Howard in a recent Atlantic essay.  Howard’s observation that “the organizational flaw in America's schools is that they are too organized” is an axiom worth remembering when considering how to fix our byzantine approach to education governance....

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A great many education-policy types, mainly defenders of the status quo, are smitten with Finland. There, kids have little homework, high-stakes tests are rare, and teachers get lots of money and respect. This self-congratulatory but wide-ranging and informative book by Finnish Ministry of Education Director General Pasi Sahlberg gives such folks aid and comfort, but it also probes key elements of the Finnish system that have gotten less attention on our shores. The most important: Finland’s uber-competitive teacher-training programs, which ensure quality on the front end and allow Finnish schools to confer greater autonomy on teachers in their classrooms. Emulating Finland in that respect would be good for American education. But are the defenders of the status quo ready to embrace TFA-level standards for all entrants to ed schools? Even if that means slaughtering the ed-school cash cow? Finland-lovers, we await your reply.

Pasi Sahlberg, Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from the Educational Change in Finland? (New York, NY: Teachers College Press, 2011).

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Paul Farhi of the Washington Post created a stir this weekend with an American Journalism Review article ripping mainstream education reporting for being uncritical of school reform. His comments were particularly pointed when it came to television coverage of the subject, especially NBC’s.

NBC has concentrated on initiatives favored by self-styled education reformers. The network has been particularly generous to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into promoting teacher merit pay proposals and privately run charter schools—an agenda strongly opposed by many public school teachers, labor unions and educators.
During its first "Education Nation" summit in 2010, for example, "NBC Nightly News" aired a profile of a Gates Foundation initiative, "Measures of Effective Teaching," which seeks to create a database of effective teaching methods. The reporter was former NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw. During the second summit last fall, Brokaw showed up on "Today" with Melinda Gates to discuss the same Gates initiative. Turning from reporter to advocate, Brokaw told host Natalie Morales, "So what Bill and Melinda have done, and it's a great credit to them, and it's a great gift to this country, is that they have taken the kind of episodic values that we know about teaching and they've put them together in a way that everyone can learn from them. So that's a big, big step."
The media has indeed been obsessed with the teacher effectiveness agenda.

And Farhi’s not wrong; the media has indeed...

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Paul Farhi’s smackdown of education reform and education reporting in the American Journalism Review may be inspirational to those who would march with the status quo, but it is dangerous coming from a publication that sets the standard for how newsrooms ought to conduct their affairs.

Newspapers B&W (4)
A cursory read of national news media should shatter any belief that journalists are making life easy for reformers or education entrepreneurs.
 Photo by NS Newsflash.

Farhi, a Washington Post reporter, argues that reformers and billionaire philanthropists have fooled us into believing that American education is in crisis. And worse, passive journalists have allowed this ruse to go unchallenged. Reformers may be used to these sophomoric critiques, but Farhi would have reporters believe that our system of public education has never been better and that their job is to contest any claim to the contrary.

AJR would do better to remind its readers that, yes, some of our education system is fine, but a lot more is mediocre, ragged, losing ground to international peers, leaving many of our poorest and poorest-performing children with worsening odds that they’ll ascend to success and to the higher education of their choice. And it would do better to remind its readers that some of our best education reporters and analysts like Sam Dillon, Thomas Toch, and...

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The Fordham Institute's Rejected Super Bowl XLVI Commercial

Lunchtime in America

With some generous funding, Fordham filmed a commercial to be aired during Super Bowl XLVI. Unfortunately, the ad was rejected by NBC, but for the first time, you can see the unaired commercial here.

Shit Ed Reformers Say

Sh*t Ed Reformers Say

Implementation, Implementation, Implementation

Unfettered by karmic pronouncements, Rick Santorum has already begun designing lesson plans for homeschooling his kids in the White House. According to documents uncovered by the Twenty-first Century Democrats PAC, these plans include an Ayn Rand read-along, an uncritical analysis of the Federalist Papers, and Econ 101 via Hayek.

It was revealed during a friendly Saturday-evening game of Trivial Pursuit with Jeb Bush that Bob Wise is, in fact, the IBM supercomputer, Watson. He (or is it “it”?) was uncovered after correctly answering fifteen questions in a row, and then botching the wedge question, “What does the acronym NGA stand for?” with the non sequitur: “sand castles.” Upon further questioning he started smoking out of one ear.

Not wanting to anger, annoy, or antagonize members of “nontraditional” families, parents in PC County, Vermont are petitioning to ban use of the words “picket fence,” “mothers and fathers,” “straight,” and “marriage” in the district’s classrooms. They are to be replaced with “home-area accoutrements,” “guardians,” “linear,” and “coupling.” (“Traditional” is out, too, replaced by “archaic”.)

Not to be one-upped by reform-minded state chiefs,  Dennis Walcott, John Deasy, Jean-Claude Brizard, and John Covington have teamed up to form Superintendents for Superiority. From the new organization’s press release: “You think the Chiefs are the only ones who can be alliterative? Think again.” Coming soon: Principals for Proficiency, Teachers for Terrificness, and Janitors for Joviality.

During a ...

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At first, I really didn’t care. I’m a pretty easy-going guy, all-in-all. Every few years, we’d get some new transfer, another geek to teach the eighth graders Algebra I, like they need that! They’d just about choke on their single-serving chocolate milk from the cafeteria when they met me.

“Fordham? Your name is Thomas B. Fordham? Like those swivel-eyed crazies with the charter schools and the horseflies?”

“D. For Dayton. (Ohio pride, buddy!) Thomas D. Fordham, no relation. But everybody just calls me Tommy D.”

And that would be that; I could get back to the business of teaching seventh-grade gym at Toledo Central Middle School (Go Jackrabbits!). But every man has his limit, and I’m finally beyond mine.

Problem is, you Fordham types don’t quit. It’s not just the charter thing, mind you, or even the bugs. I mean, enough with the “accountability” nonsense, okay? It’s not enough for you to sponsor some random schools? You’ve got to stick your noses in my school, too? And the reports? Oy. Every year, like clockwork, with those Ohio report-card analyses. (Though they’re useful for evening out the legs on my desk the sixth-grade shop class gave me last spring.)

What really got me, though, was this Senate Bill 5 shenanigan. Charter schools just mean I have a smaller fourth-period class. Not all bad. But taking away my God-given right to a fraternal union contract and then saying I can’t strike over it? Oh no, no, no. This Terri Ryan lady...

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Noting the success of last summer’s Education Reform Idol bonanza, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute proudly announces its new event series, Dancing with the School-Reform Stars. The show pairs noted reformers with famed defenders of the status quo. The first episode features Checker Finn doing the cha-cha with Randi Weingarten, Ted Mitchell dancing the tango with Diane Ravitch, and Michelle Rhee break-dancing with Dennis Van Roekel. See the season’s full line-up here.

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