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Updated: 2008-07-03T18:26:14.940-04:00


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Word is that the Colbert Report is trying to land an interview with Margaret Spellings, some disagreement inside the Department about whether this is a good plan or not, but Spellings apparently for it...

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Through the weekend I'll be at the Aspen Ideas Festival for an education session and some other goings on. So, posting might be light until Monday. And, on Friday and Saturday night we're moving the blog to a new template and publishing platform so it will be dark for a few hours and please excuse any glitches through the weekend while our tech folks get all that sorted out. Best of all, for you, is that we're going to improve the comment function, which has turned out to be a great feature but could be a lot more user and reader friendly and will be soon.

After that, I'll blog through July but am taking August off. Kevin Huffman & Michele "One-L" McLaughlin from Teach for America, Richard Whitmire from USAT's ed board, frequent Eduwonk guestblogger Michael "Gone Wild" Goldstein, and representatives of the Obama and McCain campaigns will be here to inform and entertain you.

Happy 4th of July.

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Medina has the latest...background here and here.

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Seems everyone praises talks about, debates, derides what KIPP is doing in their schools in terms of students. But one aspect that doesn't get a lot of attention -- and should -- is how they've developed an internal vertical pipeline for human capital for within school leaders, school building leaders, and school founders (pdf). It's the most robust approach to training and leadership development in any school system today.

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He would have been 100 today. A new website launching today looks at his life and legacy especially Brown.

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Virginia Governor Tim Kaine is in as the new chair of the Southern Regional Education Board. SREB is one of those groups that isn't flashy or really high-challenge but just quietly does good work in the region.

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Couple of great jobs open right now. Advance Illinois, a new statewide education advocacy organization launching there, is looking for a communications director. Also in Illinois, the Office of New Schools in the Chicago Public Schools is looking for a Director of Recruitment. And KIPP is looking for an Executive Vice President of Research, Innovation, and Design.

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Secretary Spellings announced the No Child Left Behind differentiated consequence pilot states today. They're underwhelming. This was supposed to be the big blue sky moment but one could certainly be excused for asking exactly what's so revolutionary about all this? Would have been nice to see the Secretary hold the line a bit more on this one...In fact, while previous pilots and regulatory changes were substantive, this one looks pretty political: Good PR but hardly game-changing...Previous posts here and here.

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Karin Chenoweth takes a look at a high school in Washington's Yakima Valley. Let the debunking begin!

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Per the dueling survey issue in New York, it seems the UFT could have just saved themselves a lot of money on their survey and asked just one question about approval/disapproval of Joel Klein. That's all these questions -- that all conspicuously mention his name -- are accomplishing and they're too smart not to know that. Punchline: Klein is not very popular right now. But, we shouldn't forget the results of the last mayoral election there, which was in part a referendum on the schools.

More serious and longer-term issue, was Joel Klein hired to be popular or effective? The flip side of mayoral control is that it creates an incentive for superintendents to see themselves as only accountable to a constituency of one: The mayor. Why? Because as a practical matter they are. If you look at events in places like Chicago, D.C., New York, can see the upsides and the downsides of this. It lessens the pressure on leaders to really get out there and persuade and cuts a lot of folks out of the loop. That's both good and bad and the ensuing politics are pretty obvious.

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I've been known to point out that media coverage of medical studies is often better than coverage of education studies. Turns out that might not be the case (though the consumption challenges seem similar). Via Andrew Sullivan.

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Per all this debate over test scores in New York, Sol Stern and NYC official Chris Cerf will square off right here on Eduwonk next week and you can join in the debate...

For his part, Sol, who was actually kicked in the shin by Red Sox great Ted Williams in 1949 while seeking an autograph (and wearing a New York Yankees hat), was so convinced that Joel Klein's team would not debate him that he promised to "eat his Yankees hat" in front of Tweed should the debate come to pass. Stay tuned for details on when that event will happen in Gotham.

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Wow. When Jane Hannaway and I did our book on teachers' contracts, we suggested that more transparency around negotiations was one easy step to improve the process. Seth Kirk a parent in Minneapolis really took that idea all the way home. He followed the negotiations there every step of the way....

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Per all this, a bunch of new folks have signed on to the Education Equality Project.

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New lobbying rules coming down at the end of the month, Trish Gac and John Dean will tell you everything you need to know.

And, the Education Law Conference is again in Portland, ME, on July 27-31. Interesting sessions, lobster, and blueberry pie, what's not to like?

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Former UVA and New York Giants star and current NBC personality Tiki Barber goes all social entrepreneurial at the end of this article....

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The HBO Documentary "Hard Times At Douglas High" about a Baltimore High School has been stirring-up some good debate.

Chris Cross, a former president of the Maryland Board of Education, former federal education official, and non-profit leader offers his thoughts on some context. Chris is now a national consultant based out of California.

Earlier this week, I tuned into the HBO documentary “Hard Times at Douglass High: A New Child Left Behind Report Card.” The film-makers, Alan and Susan Raymond spent a year at Frederick Douglass High in Baltimore reporting on what they describe as that school’s struggle to meet the expectations of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

While a very well done documentary that lays bare the wasteland that urban schools often are, the film fails as a commentary on NCLB. Fourteen years ago, I was chairing the MD State Board of Education when Douglass was before us as one of the first two schools which the state identified for possible reconstitution because of its dismal record in serving students in Baltimore City. Regrettably, despite many partnerships and a great deal of attention in the intervening years, little seems to have changed, but to associate the situation as being caused by NCLB is simply bizarre. If anything, NCLB simply cast yet another bright light on an already intolerable situation.

The State Board stopped short of reconstituting Douglass in the 90’s when it became clear that the problems were systemic; Douglass was the recipient of many students who had been simply passed down the line from grade to grade, school to school, all too often never mastering the basics. In March, 2006, the state board voted to have Douglass and a number of other Baltimore schools assigned to an outside organization under a management contract. That action took place in an election year in MD and the mayor of Baltimore, Martin O’Malley, was the leading candidate to beat the incumbent Republican governor. The issue became a political football and the legislature passed a law preventing the state from acting. In the meantime, schools like Douglass limped on.

While campaigning and after taking office, O’Malley attacked the state superintendent, Nancy Grasmick, largely motivated by her attempted actions in Baltimore. Grasmick faced O’Malley down and is still the state chief. In the meantime Baltimore has a new superintendent, Andres Alonso, who seems ready to break a bit of crockery in order to improve schools like Douglass.

Now watching that unfold would be a great new documentary! A TV documentary can be a powerful instrument of communication when it tells the right story.

--Chris Cross

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(image) Per all this NY test score back and forth and what it means for New York City and the contentious debate about the ongoing reforms there, as a public service Eduwonk is offering a quick guide to both sides so you can move on to other things this weekend. Print and keep these in your pocket for quick reference:

Anti-Bloomberg/Klein argument: Test score were up all over the state, Bloomberg and Klein are just riding a wave that's out there. In fact, because of everything they've done the scores in the city should have dramatically outpaced the state. It's a failure!

Pro-Bloomberg/Klein argument: Sure, test scores are up everywhere, and that's a good thing. But considering all the challenges in New York City and the fact that the system has 1.2 million kids, these gains are noteworthy nonetheless. The city hasn't always kept pace with the state and has now turned a corner. It's a success!

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I just noticed that the Eduwonk Facebook page has 198 fans, thanks! Become the 200th and I'll send you a free book. Just drop me a line with some evidence that you were indeed number 200. A photograph of the actual act gets on the blog...

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New York City isn't the only place where you see this sort of back and forth between school districts and teachers' unions about different climate surveys...While I'm playing assignment editor for New York reporters, I'll ask: Why doesn't a newspaper pick up the mantle here and give us a survey that neither side is invested in? Seems like you'd sell a lot of newspapers the day it came out…In fact, seems like a good business opportunity for someone...go from place to place doing these with some solid methodology behind it...

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I have a lot of respect for Sol Stern but I was disappointed by his essay on the latest round of test scores in New York. I don't have any stake in the NY results, and as I said the other day, I can't know for sure whether the gains are real, but neither can Stern. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop him from throwing stones and the usual suspects with an axe to grind in New York from echoing it.Stern's right that the federal peer review process for state assessment programs doesn't guard against gaming and I was surprised to hear the NY education commissioner offer the process up as counterevidence to critics. But, that doesn't prove anything. Absent a real analysis of the test, the methods and decisions used this year in the state to design it, etc...we can't know. Fortunately, this is public record and so some enterprising reporter could, possibly with the aid of the Freedom of Information Act where they get resistance, actually take a hard look at this and tell us something definitive. Otherwise, this is unfair to teachers, public officials, and parents in New York because it's becoming one of those things that "everyone knows..." even absent any real evidence. One possible hypothesis here is that the schools are doing better, no?Stern's also right that National Assessment of Education Progress scores in NY haven't reflected the same gains the state test shows. But again, the NAEP is a useful barometer but not the only one and this is an effect you see in a lot of places and it isn't always just because the state's are trying to game the system. Sometimes different tests measure different things.*More likely, Eduwonkette has put her finger on a big part of the issue here -- pass rates based on proficiency or getting over the cut score on a test. Using proficiency levels for accountability rather than relative measures has a lot to recommend it from an equity standpoint, but Eduwonkette's right that people should be careful about what the results do and don't mean.And that again allows me to beat my favorite drum on this issue: Transparency. In building all of these assessment systems officials have to make a variety of large and small decisions about their assessment scheme. These decisions have real effects on what the results look like and this is not as airtight as people sometimes assume or are led to assume. What we really need here is more transparency about the process so we don't have what's happening in New York right now, which boils down to insinuation and circumstantial accusations getting tossed around. The federal government shouldn't get into the micromanaging this process in the states but could do more to establish very clear parameters for meaningful (meaning non-technical) public disclosure so that everyone knows what they are and are not getting with these systems each year.*More say anything! What's stunning here is the extent to which many people will argue both sides of this depending on what case they want to make at a particular time. For instance, I've heard the same people argue in favor of National Board Certification because of larger achievement gains on state tests than national tests by saying that it shows the National Board Certified teachers are more effective in teaching the state content and that's good etc...etc...etc...and then turn around in a different setting and argue that these state gains are just a sham because the gains on their state tests aren't reflected on national tests...[...]

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Student radio asked teachers what they do over the summer, fun. Via Golden Apple.

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Per this debate about high-and low-achieving students, Secretary Spellings was asked about it the other day:

Q. The No Child Left Behind law has been criticized for focusing attention on struggling students at the expense of high achievers, who many say are most likely to keep the nation competitive. How do you answer that concern?

A. I say that I don't see that assertion borne out in data. It is kind of the rising tide lifts all boats. And the federal role in education for the last 40-plus years has been on behalf of the nation's neediest kids. As such, No Child Left Behind is written primarily around their needs. I would say those are the kids who are being grossly underserved in our schools. That's the raging fire in American education.

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New MDRC study offers some good news for the career academy idea.

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Ed Week's Hoff has more on the changing nature of education politics. Support for No Child Left Behind is noteworthy considering how intensely unpopular President Bush is these days...