Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hechinger's top stories of 2015 - The Hechinger Report

Hechinger's top stories of 2015 - The Hechinger Report:

Hechinger’s top stories of 2015



 ’s been another big year for The Hechinger Report. We unveiled a new website, held a successful crowd funding campaign and published a record-breaking 652 stories.  If you found it hard to keep up with them all, fear not! We chose some must-reads to squeeze in before the ball drops. (And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, so you can keep up with all the stories we’ll produce in 2016.)

Our five most viewed stories of the year:
The graduation rates from every school district* in one map:  Previously, if you wanted to compare graduation rates across the country, you had to rely on state averages from the federal government. We decided that’s not good enough. Since we’re becoming a little obsessed with high school reform,Hechinger data editor Sarah Butrymowicz gathered district-level data and created a map that let’s you see how your town compares to others across the country.
As Mississippi delivers bad news to 5,600 third graders, stressed-out parents say there must be a better way: OurMississippi coverage followed a tense year for education reform in that state, including this in-depth look at the ramifications of a new law that third-graders cannot be promoted without passing a test to prove they are adequate readers. Nearly 15 percent of the state’s third graders failed the test on their first try.                                                                                                                                                                  
Memorizers are the lowest achievers and other Common Core math surprises: Jo Boaler, a professor of mathematics at Stanford University, stirred up readers with her argument that “we don’t need students to calculate quickly in math. We need students who can ask good questions, map out pathways, reason about complex solutions, set up models and communicate in different forms.”
Want high schoolers to succeed? Stop giving them fifth-grade schedules: Who knew class scheduling could be so controversial? Nick Stoneman, president of Minnesota’s Shattuck-St. Mary’s school, attacked “the typical one-size-fits-all daily schedule known widely as ‘cells and bells.’” Instead, he argued, high school students should be allowed to manage their own time.
Common Core’s unintended consequence? According to many teachers, experts and advocates of the Common Core, traditional curriculum sources haven’t been meeting the demands of the new set of math and English standards that have been rolled out in more than 40 states in the past few years. More and more teachers are scrapping off-the-shelf lessons and searching for replacements on the Internet or writing new curriculum materials themselves.
Other great reads you may have missed:
Is the future of education robots bumping into walls? Blended learning fellow Nichole Dobo visited a school in Ohio where many 

Feds say too few students took required tests in 148 CT schools | The CT Mirror

Feds say too few students took required tests in 148 CT schools | The CT Mirror:

Feds say too few students took required tests in 148 CT schools



After thousands of Connecticut students failed to take required statewide achievement tests last spring, federal officials want to know what Connecticut education leaders are doing to ensure it doesn't happen again.

"The U.S. Department of Education is concerned that Connecticut's participation rate did not meet requirements of [federal law]," Moninque M. Chism, the director of the agency's Office of State Support, wrote Connecticut's education commissioner last month. "Let me emphasize the importance of a high-quality, annual statewide assessment system that includes all students so that local leaders and educators have the information they need to help every student succeed."
The state was required to send its plans to improve compliance to the U.S. education department earlier this month, but spokesmen for both the federal and state education departments were unable to provide any details about those plans Monday.
Numerous Connecticut Mirror requests since August for documents showing any guidance the state has provided to districts to boost participation have gone unanswered.
About 11,200 students did not take the state exams last school year — a growing trend referred to as the "opt-out movement." It coincides with growing concern among parents that their children are spending too much school time being tested or prepared for tests.
While Connecticut's statewide participation rate did meet the federal standard, many individual districts did not. One-quarter of public school districts did not test at least 95 percent of their students, the minimum participation rate the federal government expects.
High school students missing the exams were to blame for most of the decline. Of the 148 schools where too many students missed the statewide Smarter Balanced Assessment, nearly three-quarters were high schools. (Curious how many students skipped the test in your school? Click here to find out.)
Connecticut lawmakers earlier this year voted to replace the Smarter Balanced Assessment for high school students with the SAT, an exam many students take regardless.
Aimed at removing one of the many tests high school students must take, it's unclear whether this shift will improve participation rates.
The federal government's letter to Connecticut Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell emphasizes that the state could lose millions in funding if too many students sit out again.
A Bridgeport student takes a Smarter Balanced practice test.
CTMIRROR.ORG FILE PHOTO
A Bridgeport student takes a Smarter Balanced practice test.
The federal education department "has a range of enforcement actions at its disposal… The State Education Agency should demonstrate that it has taken or will take appropriate actions to enforce the requirements."
The state's enforcement actions could include cutting funding to school districts, lowering a school's rating, identifying a school as 'high risk' or counting non-participants as non-proficient on the exams.
When releasing the results of this years' exams, Wentzell was vague about how the state plans to address low participation rates and whether funding would be in jeopardy.
"We are going to work with our districts to ensure that we have similar levels of participation," she said. "When the final analysis is done, I believe, it will be a handful, literally, of Feds say too few students took required tests in 148 CT schools | The CT Mirror:
 

“We do not count within the political process” —Chris Hedges

teacher/poet/musician/watch cat: “We do not count within the political process” —Chris Hedges:

“We do not count within the political process” —Chris Hedges



 “…This truth, emotionally difficult to accept, violates our conception of ourselves as a free, democratic people. It shatters our vision of ourselves as a nation embodying superior virtues and endowed with the responsibility to serve as a beacon of light to the world. It takes from us the ‘right’ to impose our fictitious virtues on others by violence. It forces us into a new political radicalism. This truth reveals, incontrovertibly, that if real change is to be achieved, if our voices are to be heard, corporate systems of power have to be destroyed. This realization engenders an existential and political crisis. The inability to confront this crisis, to accept this truth, leaves us appealing to centers of power that will never respond and ensures we are crippled by self-delusion.


“The longer fantasy is substituted for reality, the faster we sleepwalk toward oblivion. There is no guarantee we will wake up. Magical thinking has gripped societies in the past. Those civilizations believed that fate, history, superior virtues or a divine force guaranteed their eternal triumph. As they collapsed, they constructed repressive dystopias. They imposed censorship and forced the unreal to be accepted as real. Those who did not conform were disappeared linguistically and then literally.

“The vast disconnect between the official narrative of reality and reality itself creates an Alice-in-Wonderland experience. Propaganda is so pervasive, and truth is so rarely heard, that people do not trust their own senses. We are 
teacher/poet/musician/watch cat: “We do not count within the political process” —Chris Hedges:

You say you want a revolution

With A Brooklyn Accent: What Is The Paper Clip Revolution?

What Is The Paper Clip Revolution?

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The paper clip became a symbol of resistance in Nazi Occupied Norway. Thousands of Norwegian teachers who refused to teach the fascist curriculum were sent to prison camps. The resistance of these teachers, as well as over 200,000 parents caused the government to abandon their plan. We as educators have decided to use this symbol to catalyze resistance to the privatization, corruption and profiteering that threaten to destroy public education in the United States. Hence we are launching "The Paper Clip Revolution"
This group will generate symbols that are easily duplicated and displayed to build resistance and morale among teachers students and parents and to undermine the parasites and bullies who have hijacked education policy We will also propose actions that make use of those symbols to give power back to educators.
One portion of this effort will be Honey Badger Squads, groups of retirees, parents and professors who will confront and challenge superintendents and principals who harass and humiliate teachers and students.
 Big Education Ape: 1942 Norwegian Teachers’ Nonviolent Resistance to Nazis | PopularResistance.Org http://bit.ly/1YPRtv6


The Charter School Business (Racket)

The Charter School Business:

The Charter School Business

And how to keep it from being the charter school racket: An interview with Bruce Baker.

Rachel M. Cohen is a writing fellow at The American Prospect



AP Photo/The Topeka Capital-Journal, Ann Williamson
Tong Athwai, 16, studies during his Intro to Algebra class at the Highland Park Success Academy in Topeka, Kansas. 
Rutgers University professor Bruce Baker is a longtime expert on charter schools, which are in the crosshairs of a nationwide debate over school performance standards. Recently, Baker, and his colleague Gary Miron,authored a study about the ways in which individuals, companies, and organizations profit through laws and regulations governing the charter school sector. In an interview with The American Prospect, Baker discusses some of the most egregious policy problems, and steps that governments could take to fix them. What follows is an edited transcript.
Rachel Cohen: Your report explores what you call, “The Business of Charter Schooling.” Has this been studied much before?
Bruce Baker: I don't think it's been systematically studied because I don't think there are many unified data sources for this information—it’s more like investigative reporting. I had been repeatedly asked to look into charter school real estate deals and things like that but getting good data just isn't easy. This was really just a first cut at summarizing the business practices and financial transactions occurring in the charter sector, and what policy structures encourage or permit these things to happen.
RC: You say that current laws and policies governing charters are increasing the privatization of public schooling. What do you mean?
BB: I want to be careful on this issue of ‘privatization’ because I don't think the intent of our report was to say that public policy is promoting privatization, or that privatization is necessarily bad or good. But there is a long line of case law that carefully parses under what circumstances, and in what settings, certain activities of charter schools are public or private. I’ve coauthored law review articleswhere we discuss extensively how the charter school industry claims it is “private” when dealing with questions of employee rights, student discipline policies, student handbooks, or contracts, and “public” in other respects.
The idea put forth in our report is that there are certain policy structures, and in some cases lack of policy controls, that are permitting more extensive degrees of privatization in some states. Sometimes it just makes business sense for charter operators, good or bad, or it affords them a way to do something more quickly or cheaply. But I think that some actors in the charter world such as Imagine Schools, White Hat, and Charter Schools USA, are taking advantage of these opportunities in ways that are self-enriching and not in the public interest.
RC: What are some examples?
BB: Sometimes charter providers take actions that are illogical and inefficient from a public policy standpoint, but it might simply be what they have to do to get by. For example, sometimes charter providers create third-party entities, and then pay rent for the school facilities to these new entities. Since charters can't directly The Charter School Business:

Special Nite Cap: Catch Up on Today's Post 12/29/15



CORPORATE ED REFORM






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YESTERDAY

Pennsylvania is failing Philly's schools — so, close the schools? — NewsWorks
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Special Nite Cap: Catch Up on Today's Post 12/28/15
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