District chief: Why school success stops and ends with teachers

I believe the hardest day of any job is the very first day. On that first day, the basic, most elementary parts of the workplace are foreign. Where do I park? Where is the coffee? How do I log in to my new computer? The list of things to learn goes on and on.

However, a new job also brings tremendous opportunity. The day I walked into my new role as CEO of Ohio’s Youngstown City School District (YSCD’s), I sensed the tremendous passion and promise of the district’s approximately 5,300 students and 500 teachers. While 99 percent of YSCD’s students are economically disadvantaged, I could feel the power and energy within the school system.

The question was, “How do we unlock our school district’s potential?”…Read More

Ravitch: The ‘White House’s obsession with data is sick’

Education historian and activist Diane Ravitch has been blasting the Obama administration for a long time for education policies that have expanded the importance of standardized tests and promoted the privatization of public education, the Washington Post reports. She was just in Washington to talk with U.S. legislators about the dangers of corporate-influenced school reform and she made some of her strongest statements yet, according to my colleague Lyndsey Layton. Ravitch, who has become the unofficial leader of a growing anti-reform movement and who is promoting her new book, “The Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,” was on Capitol Hill on Tuesday with American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten meeting with legislators, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)…

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Joy & rigor: The And-Both solution

Is it possible to create a high-engagement school where students do interesting and relevant work and meet high expectations? Erin Mote and Eric Tucker are a smart duo developing Brooklyn Laboratory Charter School (LAB) and they think the answer is decidedly YES, Getting Smart reports. Admittedly, they haven’t figured it all out but they have seven months before 132 sixth graders show up at their school in the heart of downtown Brooklyn near the Farragut housing projects. The joy-rigor paradox that they have embraced reminds me of another favorite Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) winner—a “no excuses” blended Montessori mashup launching in Austin…

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Does middle school need an image makeover?

Middle school has a terrible reputation, The Atlantic reports. The titles of James Patterson’s middle-school series say it all: From the number-one New York Times bestseller Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, which launched the series in 2011, to last summer’s Middle School: How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill, to this spring’s Middle School: Ultimate Showdown!, the titles reflect a dystopian vision of life in middle school. And he’s far from alone in this. When it comes to young adolescents in schools, Americans seem determined to perpetuate a narrative of hormones and horror…

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A real school reform agenda for 2014

If you remember your No Child Left Behind history, 2014 is the year that all children were supposed to be scoring proficient on standardized tests, the Washington Post reports. That was, of course, a ridiculous goal, which the authors of the bill knew full well when they wrote it, and a symbol for just how misguided school reform has become. Here, George Wood, superintendent of Federal Hocking Local Schools, offers four things that reform really should be targeting…

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School reform: What matters to teachers and students

I’d like to turn the conversation about American public education decidedly combative, says John Flavin for The Oregonian. The enemy of America’s future is anyone who is opposed to increased professional development for teachers; guaranteed classroom sizes of 22 students or fewer; diversified options for students; and the elimination of standardized tests as we know them. Presently, education is crushed by unfunded mandates dealt by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Diane Ravitch, a professor of education, wrote in her book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System”: “I was known as a conservative advocate of many of these policies … I’ve concluded they’re wrong … I don’t think any of this is going to improve public education.”

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Teaching isn’t rocket science. It’s harder.

One of the biggest misconceptions about teaching is that it is a single job, writes Ryan Fuller for Slate. Teaching is actually two jobs. The first job is the one that teachers are familiar with; people who have not taught can pretend it doesn’t exist. The tasks involved in this first job include lesson planning, grading, calling parents, writing emails, filling out paperwork, going to meetings, attending training, tutoring, and occasionally sponsoring a club or coaching a sport. The time allotted to teachers for this work is usually one hour per workday. But these tasks alone could easily fill a traditional 40-hour work week…

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Accountability without autonomy is tyranny

When educational research reaches the public through the corporate media, the consequences are often dire, explains P.L. Thomas for the Daily Kos. Chetty, Friedman, and Rockoff released “The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood” and immediately The New York Times pronounced in “Big Study Links Good Teachers to Lasting Gains”. The simplistic and idealistic headline reflects the central failure of the media in the education reform debate…

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Esther Wojcicki: “American schools are becoming more like classic Chinese schools”

Hysteria. That is what I predict will be happening in education circles next year, EdSurge reports. 2014 may turn out to be frightening for education in America: we will likely see national hysteria over US students’ falling scores, both in the recently released PISA test scores (Programme for International Student Assessment) and as a result of the new generation of Common Core assessments. We will see districts scrambling for silver bullet solutions. But the biggest concern I have is those  such quick fix efforts could just make our education system bleed even more. The PISA scores showed that the American students are falling even farther behind other countries… in spite of our obsession with testing and teacher accountability…

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Inspired vision: Classrooms of the future

You may recall the dramatic leaps in technology of the Seventies — how we hopped from books of “log tables” to slide rules and on to hand-held calculators within a generation, The Telegraph reports. But walk into a classroom today and you’ll probably be equally impressed by the iPads, interactive, touch-screen whiteboards, and Kindles instead of library cards. You might stumble across Year 4 learning to count in Russian or Year 6 studying climate change. But what will the classroom of the future look like? Jo Heywood, headmistress at Heathfield, an all-girls boarding school in Berkshire, believes that in five years we will be more in thrall to IT than ever, albeit using it more effectively…

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How to fix education: Flip it upside down?

Nearly everyone agrees the online education is going to be huge, but ask what exactly that means in practice and how that will impact students, and the bickering begins, Forbes reports. Except about one thing. As Pulitzer Prize winner Tina Rosenberg recently wrote in the New York Times, “online education is highly controversial. But the flipped classroom is a strategy that nearly everyone agrees on.” What is it? A model where “students watch teachers’ lectures at home and do what we’d otherwise call ‘homework’ in class,” Rosenberg explains, before going on to report that though research is still in its early stages, “many people are holding it up as a potential model of how to use technology to humanize the classroom.”

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