Here Comes the Judgment

Leadership, Learning, Teacher Quality

On the fourth day of a two-week summer institute, in the haze of post-lunch hour fatigue, I watched something magical and uncomfortable transpire. And I don’t think I’ll ever see the role of the teacher the same way again.

It's the Relationships, Stupid . . .

Learning, Teacher Quality

I’m spending my days observing the two-week summer session of the Inspired Teaching Institute, a yearlong professional development program from Center for Inspired Teaching, a remarkable organization that prepares and supports DC teachers. The institute, described as “a 100% physical, intellectual, and emotional process through which teachers explore the art of teaching in an energetic and safe environment,” is taking place each day in the wrestling room of a DC high school in a leafy green neighborhood of Washington, DC.

Are National Standards a Good or a Bad Idea?

Assessment, Leadership, Learning

Today, a Washington Post story reported that the push for common national standards in reading and math is gaining ground. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have now agreed to adopt the standards as their own.
This is notable progress when one considers how all prior efforts to promote a common set of academic standards in the United States have failed. But as the Post’s Nick Anderson reports, the Obama administration, working in concert with the National Governors Association, has been effective where others have failed by “encouraging the movement and dangling potential financial incentives for states to join.” The administration has also opted not to fund the actual work of the groups that drafted the standards, relying instead on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private donors.
As with many other major issues, the question of standards has become a polarizing issue with starkly divided camps. On one side are advocates like Massachusetts state education commissioner Mitch Chester, who believe the proposed standards would provide “clearer signals to K-12 students about their readiness for success at the next level, including readiness for college or careers.” On the other side are folks like the Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey, who worry that the push for common standards “is opening the door to federal control. It is the most alarming centralization of power in education you can come up with.”
Who’s right?

What No One Else Will Say About Teach for America

Learning, Teacher Quality

There’s an interesting debate unfolding on the New York Times web site today around this question: Does Teach for America Improve the Teaching Profession?
Unfortunately, too many of the featured contributors — who have sparked hundreds of readers to offer their own feedback — chose to cast TFA in one of two terms: as either the White Knight of education reform (e.g., Donna Foote’s “A Corps of True Reformers”) or as the down-n-dirty Devil himself (e.g., Margaret Crocco’s “A Threat to Public Schools”).
As I wrote last week, in a piece titled “What Gandhi would think of The Lottery”, this sort of polarized rhetoric is the latest iteration of the “I/It” way of seeing public education, and it will get us nowhere. So as someone who neither loves nor hates TFA, let me offer a succinct summary of how I see them, since no one seems to want to acknowledge the fuller picture of what they represent:

The Inspired Mindset — Starting a School, Part III

Learning, Teacher Quality

This morning, over orange juice, coffee and red grapes in the theater room of the Capital City Public Charter School, a small group of interested educators, scholars and citizens listened as Center for Inspired Teaching’s Director of Teaching and Learning, Julie Sweetland, explained what makes the Center’s work so powerful. Inspired Teaching is the entity most responsible for the new … Read More

The Testing Carousel Goes Round and Round . . .

Assessment, Leadership, Learning

Today’s Washington Post reports that the test scores of elementary school kids slipped this year after two successive years of growth, “a setback to Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee as she seeks to overhaul the city’s schools.” No doubt, this news is being used by Rhee’s critics to point out that her particular brand of reform can’t bring the city the … Read More

Data-Driven Decision Making . . . and Soccer?

Assessment, Learning

Great timing. A week after I wrote about what the World Cup can teach us about school reform, the New York Times published an article about the growing push for more detailed data in the relatively data-free world of professional soccer. I am not, for what it’s worth, against the use of more sophisticated data in making decisions about how … Read More

What Gandhi Would Think of "The Lottery"

Equity, Leadership, Learning

I just saw “The Lottery” – a documentary film about public education in general, and the charter school movement in particular – and I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. The film is beautiful, and deeply moving, It is impossible not to fall in love with the four children (and their families) whose bittersweet paths we follow in … Read More