Thursday, September 25, 2008

Diversity is Shrinking in the NYC Teaching Force

The NYSun reports that the percentage of black teachers in New York City is dropping. In 2001-02, 27% of the teaching force was made up of teachers who were black, but that number has shrunk to 13%. The drop could be attributed for an initiative that required all teachers to be fully certified by 2003. In light of this, the city is beginning to focus on recruiting more black and latino educators.
The changing demographics come in a school system that is increasingly made up of non-white students.

Educators and advocates said they have been troubled by the data for several years — and they said they are especially troubled this year, the 40th anniversary of the Ocean Hill-Brownsville crisis, in which black community leaders challenged the city to make school staff more representative of the city.

"We want a school system that values educators who are invested in their students and who reflect the communities of which they are part," a member of the Center for Immigrant Families in uptown Manhattan, Donna Nevel, said.

The Department of Education's executive director for teacher recruitment and quality, Vicki Bernstein, said responsibility for the declining diversity lies with a state requirement that all public school teachers be certified by 2003.

The requirement was introduced in 1998, forcing the New York City public schools to scramble; before 2003, 60% of new teacher hires were uncertified, and 15% of the overall teaching corps in the city was not certified.

School officials said the mandate had a chilling effect on diversity, because the state certifies very few black teachers. According to a state report, in the 2006-07 school year, black people made up just 4% of new certified teachers who identified their race.
The article references the Ocean Hill-Brownsville conflict that occured 40 years ago. Taking Note's Richard Kahlenberg shares a summary of the events that is very much worth reading. Here's the intro:
New York City public schools opened peaceably again this year, making it all the more remarkable to recall the chaos that rocked the system 40 years ago. On what was to be the opening day, September 9, 1968, the vast majority of city schools were shut down as more than 50,000 New York City public school teachers went out on strike. The day marked the beginning of the first of three walkouts that kept 1.1 million students out of school for a total of 36 days through mid-November, constituting what was at the time the longest and largest series of teacher strikes in American history. The strikes persisted for so long because they were not about teacher salaries and benefits, issues of dollars and cents which can be easily compromised. Rather, they were about different visions of racial justice and the meaning of liberalism.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Smoke and Mirrors of Standardized Testing

eduwonkette interviews Daniel Koretz, author of Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us.

She asks an important question:
EW: What are the implications of score inflation for both measuring and attenuating achievement gaps? Because schools serving disadvantaged students face more pressure to increase test scores via the mechanisms you describe, I worry that true achievement gaps may be unchanged - or even growing - while they appear to be closing based on high-stakes measures.

DK: I share your worry. I have long suspected that on average, inflation will be more severe in low-achieving schools, including those serving disadvantaged students. In most systems, including NCLB, these schools have to make the most rapid gains, but they also face unusually serious barriers to doing so. And in some cases, the size of the gains they are required to make exceed by quite a margin what we know how to produce by legitimate means. This will increase the incentive to take short cuts, including those that will inflate scores. This would be ironic, given that one of the primary rationales for NCLB is to improve equity. Unfortunately, while we have a lot of anecdotal evidence suggesting that this is the case, we have very few serious empirical studies of this. We do have some, such as the RAND study that showed convincingly that the "Texas miracle" in the early 1990s, supposedly including a rapid narrowing of the achievement gap, was largely an illusion. Two of my students are currently working with me on a study of this in one large district, but we are months away from releasing a reviewed paper, and it is only one district.

I have argued for years that one of the most glaring faults of our current educational accountability systems is that we do not sufficiently evaluate their effects, instead trusting - evidence to the contrary - that any increase in scores is enough to let us declare success. We should be doing more evaluation not only because it is needed for the improvement of policy, but also because we have an ethical obligation to the children upon whom we are experimenting. Nowhere is this failure more important than in the case of disadvantaged students, who most need the help of education reform.
The willingness for policymakers to think critically about this question reflects their stake in the ed reform movement. 

Do we really want to improve and provide equitable and meaningful education for all students? Or do we just want to make it look like we've closed the achievement gap?  

Let's not accept shortcuts.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Optional SAT: Watch Out Test Prep Industry

A commission led by Harvard's dean of admissions calls for less emphasis on the use of SAT and ACT scores.
“Society likes to think that the SAT measures people’s ability or merit,” Mr. Fitzsimmons said. “But no one in college admissions who visits the range of secondary schools we visit, and goes to the communities we visit — where you see the contrast between opportunities and fancy suburbs and some of the high schools that aren’t so fancy — can come away thinking that standardized tests can be a measure of someone’s true worth or ability.”

Teaching Is a Popular Choice During "Hard Times"

England's Teacher Training Institute approaches nervous bankers, offering a "stable" job.
The Training and Development Agency for Schools is planning to visit London's financial districts in a bid to find people who might re-train as teachers.
The agency (TDA) says the credit crunch has already boosted inquiries about teaching as a career.
Its recruitment website has had a 34% annual increase in traffic.
It also says there has been a 13% increase since last year in the number of people registering an interest in becoming teachers.

Book to Read: Lives on the Boundary

Deborah Meier of Bridging Differences recommends Mike Rose's Lives on the Boundary, an alternative to what she phrases as "another way" to educate, in opposition to "boot camp" methods of education. Rather than attempting to change the symptoms of a poor educational system--high drop-out rates, low test scores, etc., she reminds us of the importance of engaging students in the process of education.
Engaging students in pursuit of their own education is possible, and it’s the real “cure”—not just for the crisis of school dropouts, but the larger one of societal dropouts. It requires knowing each other well and having the power to act on that knowledge in respectful ways.
Here's the summary of Lives on the Boundary:
Remedial, illiterate, intellectually deficient—these are the stigmas that define America’s educationally underprepared. Having grown up poor and been labeled this way, nationally acclaimed educator and author Mike Rose takes us into classrooms and communities to reveal what really lies behind the labels and test scores. With rich detail, Rose demonstrates innovative methods to initiate “problem” students into the world of language, literature, and written expression. This book challenges educators, policymakers, and parents to re-examine their assumptions about the capacities of a wide range of students. Already a classic, Lives on the Boundary offers a truly democratic vision, one that should be heeded by anyone concerned with America’s future.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Life-long learning: University Without Walls

The Boston Globe highlights DOROT's University Without Walls, a program that offers educational opportunities to homebound seniors. Classes are held over the phone.
The curriculum includes more than 250 courses and runs the gamut from understanding feng shui and poetry writing to discussions on moral, ethical and philosophical issues and a discourse on women of the progressive era. Informational classes on money management, Internet surfing and medicine also are available.

"It gets me out emotionally. It releases me from the four walls around me," said Leeds, who has participated in the program for 12 years. Her fall selections include a course on the life and work of author Doris Lessing and a class on recording personal histories.

While the majority of the students are from the New York area, seniors in Alaska, Iowa and Texas also participate. The oldest was 105, but died last year.
For more information on University Without Walls visit:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Whatever It Takes - At what cost?

Bridging Differences is back, and Diane Ravitch has some important commentary on Paul Tough's Whatever It Takes, chronicling Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children's Zone.
Tough’s book is very hopeful. He cites a large body of evidence to argue that children will never fall behind cognitively if their parents and their environment provide them with enough stimulation and support from the beginning of their lives. This is the case, he says, no matter how poor their parents are, no matter how disadvantaged their circumstances. If we as a society do “whatever it takes,” we can close the achievement gaps and get every student ready for college or a good career.

However, and there is always a however, there is a depressing aspect to Tough’s book. As the author describes the situation, Canada is in complete sympathy with his powerful, wealthy board of directors, which includes hedge-fund billionaires. Not surprising. These directors care only for the numbers, and they don’t care how the schools get them. “The overall goal of the Zone might be liberal and idealistic—to educate and otherwise improve the lives of poor black children—but Canada believed the best way to achieve that goal was to act not like a bighearted altruist but like a ruthless capitalist, devoted to the bottom line.” (p.135).

The first principal of the middle school sounds like you, Deborah; she must have been reading your books. She is a progressive educator who worries about the whole child, about their social and emotional problems, and who wants the children to have a rounded education. But her school doesn’t get the test scores gains that the hedge-fund managers and the New York City Department of Education demand. She is removed and replaced by a KIPP-style principal. The wealthy men who run the board of the Zone are impressed by the KIPP model, which is described by one of them as “more of a military-style, real rote-learning, rote-behavior discipline thing,” because this model “delivered results.”

The new principal begins a regimen of test-prep, test-prep, test-prep, no-nonsense discipline. Drill, drill, drill. I won’t spoil the book for you by giving away the outcome, but I can only say that the school part of the book’s message was startling. Do poor black and Hispanic kids really need to be in “no excuses” schools that insist on rote learning and rote behavior? That take control of their lives and change their culture? Should this be the model for education for children of color in big cities? This was the message of Abigail Thernstrom and Stephan Thernstrom’s book "No Excuses," and it was echoed by a recent book by David Whitman, "Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism."

Catholic Charter Schools?

Should Catholic schools be allowed to become public charter schools? To avoid closing, several Catholic schools in D.C. have worked out a deal with the school system in which they will become public charters. 

Saturday, September 13, 2008

New Issues of The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy

The Freire Project has published the second (free!) issue of The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy. Articles that caught my eye:
  • "But What Can I Do?" Fifteen Things Education Students Can Do to Transform Themselves In/Through/With Education"
  • "Liberating Grades/Liberatory Assessment"

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Looking for Social Justice-Related Lessons?

Check out Education for Liberation Network's edLib Lab. You can search the database according to your topic, like "politics", or browse through the list.

Where's the Power in Arts and Education?

Barry's Arts Blog posts a list of the most influential people in the non-profits arts field. You can check his blog as to why they are influential, but here are the top 10 (he lists 25).
Consensus number one on majority of responses. Flush with cash from the Ruth Lily gifts, Bob has guided expansion of Americans for the Arts initiatives into advocacy, business, research, alliances, arts education, marketing and emerging leadership – building the nation’s largest and strongest arts service provider organization. Clearly the premier spokesperson for the arts sector in America. His seemingly laid- back, diplomatic style belies real ambition for the organization. A true political player – smart, savvy, and boundless enthusiasm.

Highly respected senior foundation leader much in demand for her thinking acumen and big picture analytical skills. Depth of experience adds to her bona fide creds. She is a voice of authority.

Former TCG head now at Doris Duke Foundation. Power and influence come from oratory skills and keen analytical insights. Much in demand speaker. Huge network of fans. When he speaks, people listen.

Long standing arts education leader. Knows the arena as well or better than anyone. Gets out into the field rather than staying office bound. If arts education is, in reality, a separate and distinct sector, he is the head man.

Likely the most respected independent consultant in the whole arts & culture field. Hugely influential. Respected by arts organizations, funders, artists and other consultants. Current guru of audience development theories.

Pioneer in the burgeoning area of direct artist services. Persuasive case maker, detailed thinker. Very focused. Global traveler and large network of contacts. . Both smart and realistic. Bringing the artist to the decision making table.

Though the Durfee Foundation based in Los Angeles is relatively small, her position as Chair of the Board of Grantmakers in the Arts has given her a large platform and influential voice in helping to shape Foundation agendas. Well liked. Term over soon.

Four prominent leaders of Foundations with arts programs, each with large agenda, huge budget and lengthy experience in the field. Strategic thinkers. Closely watched by other foundation leaders.

Chair of NEA always in the Top Ten due to huge impact of funding in rural states and broad grants budget. Bully pulpit used well. Was effective in increasing NEA budget via working well with Congress. As his term is nearly over, his stock is now fading. Lame duck status.

Long time leader and voice of state arts agencies. Wide network and deep experience. Understands the issues in depth; helps set agendas and priorities. Affable personality makes him accessible and well thought of.
Richard Kessler at Dewey21C has posted a list in response: The 10 Most Powerful People in Arts Education.  (It's not a very creative list - but perhaps it might be true.) Here it is:
1. Joel Klein, Chancellor, New York City Department of Education
2. Ramon Cortines, Senior Deputy Superintendent, Los Angeles Unified School District
3. Arne Duncan, CEO, Chicago Public Schools
4. Rudy Crew, Superintendent, Miami Dade County Public Schools
5. Carol R. Johnson, Superintendent, Boston Public Schools
6. Arlene Ackerman, The School District of Philadelphia
7. Michelle Rhee, Chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools
8. Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers
9. Reg Weaver, President, National Education Association
10. Checker Finn, President, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation

Okay, here's five more, that cross the threshold from power to influence:

11. Cyrus Driver, Deputy Director, Education and Scholarship, The Ford Foundation
12. Sarah Cunningham, National Endowment for the Arts
13. David Shookhoff, Manhattan Theater Club/New York City Arts Education Roundtable
14. Gigi Antoni, Big Thought of Dallas
15. Eric Booth, Consultant