Critical Questions for Public Ed’s Future

Although this article starts by questioning the possible life and future of public education, what writer and 30-year classroom vet Nancy Flanagan actually does here is lay out some of the essential questions of public ed. Traditional schools or 21st tech-based ed delivery? Private or public? Equity or meritocracy?

In a complex issue such as the fight for American public education, it can be helpful to clearly identify some of the big questions that we’re wrestling with. This article is a good place to start sorting out some of the major policy issues underlying the struggle.

Seven Points of Argument, Leverage, and Change


Ten Things To Tell Your Legislator

Education policy is in the hands of politicians. That’s a fact of the American landscape. But when approaching pols, teachers and concerned parents often are unsure of exactly what to say. Last year, 30-year classroom vet Nancy Flanagan created a simple list of ten things that legislators should know and do when making education policy. It’s a simple clear list, suitable for handing the policymaker of your choice, and it has the added virtue of not simply being built on either an attack or the assumption that all politicos are jerks.

If you want to talk to a policymaker and you’re not sure where to start, this is a great list:

Ten Things Legislators Should Know and Do When Making Education Policy

Who Is Diane Ravitch

In the world of school reform and the debate surrounding it, there are certain names that are going to crop up from time to time to time, so part of our work here at RPE101 will be to introduce the players so that you can keep your scorecard up to date. Let’s start with one of the biggest names in the pro-public education side.

If you are a regular reader of Curmudgucation, you probably know who Diane Ravitch is. But you would be surprised how many people do not, and do not know what the big deal is. Let me draw the broad outline.

When the current wave of school reform was starting, Ravitch was there helping it take shape. But then a few years went by, and something happened.

Ravitch looked at the reforms she had championed, and she concluded that they weren’t helping. They were making the school world worse.

Ravitch did two extraordinary things. She recognized that the actual events on the ground were proving her wrong. And then she said so.

Read the rest of the profile here.

Charter Schools vs. Democracy

Occasionally, fans of reform are pretty clear and direct about what they want. Here’s one such example. Reed Hastings is a heavy investor in one charter chain, and at the California Charter Schools Association annual conference, he delivered a keynote address in which he was quite clear about what’s wrong with schools– it’s that whole democratically elected school board thing that has to go.

Read and hear more of what this charter leader (and gazzillionaire head of netflix) thinks needs to be done with US schools.

Six Things the US Dept. of Ed Did To Reduce Privacy

This piece looks at six steps taken by the federal government to facilitate the massive data collection that goes hand in hand with Race to the Top driven education. Some of it is surprising. You may think that FERPA keeps student data locked up tight, but while nobody was watching, FERPA was changed, and private student data is no longer quite as private as you thought it was.

You will notice (if you haven’t already) that opposition to the current high-stakes test-driven Common Core encoded education comes from many parts of the political spectrum. Today’s column comes from a blog connected to Three Moms Against Common Core, a trio of conservative activists in Utah. The three women are college-educated prodigious researchers; they do their homework.

Six Things the US Dept of EDucation Did To Deprive Your Child of Privacy

Inside the Essay Scoring Business

This piece from CityPages was a wake-up call for many teachers when it first ran back in 2011. If you’ve always imagined that your standardized tests are shipped off somewhere to be scored by highly trained readers who share your professional background, values, and commitment to educating students, guess again. The essay-scoring business most closely resembles a minimum wage sweatshop, and this thorough piece lets you talk to some of the people who have seen the sweatshop from the inside.

Inside the Multimillion-dollar Essay-scoring Business

13 Ways High Stakes Tests Hurt Students

“Oh, it really helps my students to have tons of standardized tests,” said no teacher ever.

Jessie Ramey at yinzercation (an education blog out of Pittsburgh) offers a good, straightforward list of thirteen ways in which the current high stakes testing regimen is bad for students.

Yinzercation: High-Stakes for Students



Is Close Reading A New Thing? Sort of…

One of the teaching techniques that has been pushed with the Common Core is called Close Reading, and it’s not new. English teachers have been doing it for years. In fact, it’s so omnipresent that many English teachers do it without even knowing what it’s called.

So why is it a big deal now? Because the version of Close Reading that is being currently promoted is not quite the original almost-a-century-old version. Some significant changes are being slipped into Close Reading, and none of them are a good thing. Here’s a history of the original Close Reading and a breakdown of what is different about the current version.

Curmudgucation: Close Reading 2.0



Lisa T. McElroy: Not Taking the Big Test

As we enter standardized test season, many parents around the country are choosing to have their child opt out (not take the test). How that works varies from state to state. Here’s a first-person account of how it went for one mother in Colorado, where it is apparently okay to smoke dope, but not skip out on the Big Test.

Here’s the story as it ran in Slate.

What Is Value Added Measurement?

Value-Added Measurement is a new and common tool in the world of teacher evaluation. Many states have their own version (sometimes it’s Something-VAAS) but they all involve some mysterious math and explanations that seem so obtuse than an educated person could be excused for fearing he’s having some sort of fugue episode.

Here’s a fairly simple explanation, which includes links to places that heavy-duty math whizzes can better appreciate.