Blog: The Educated Reporter
I am so swamped getting materials together for EWA’s annual meeting, where I will be running a seminar for new beat reporters, leading a roundtable on the polarization of the education debate, meeting one-on-one with journalists and launching a top-secret, totally awesome resource for education writers. So I have not had the time to read the Hechinger Report, which launched today. But I would be remiss if I didn’t call your attention to this new venture in education reporting. It certainly looks smart, and all the people involved are too.
Read this story. You just have to. Tissues, maybe, at the ready.
I believe there is a place for standardized testing, and I believe there is a need to reform the way teachers are evaluated and compensated. But I couldn’t read this story without puzzling over how a teacher like Mrs. Hendrix might have fared in an environment where states are racing to make sure that student test scores count for at least half of a teacher’s measured worth.
My favorite charity in the last few years has been Donors Choose. It has the shopping-mall allure of those microcredit charities where you get to choose whom you fund—the Congolese tilapia seller? the Ecuadorian photographer?—plus how can you not love the idea of sending money directly to cool classroom projects?
In all the coverage about teacher quality and tenure, and lengthy due process for teachers who read porn in the classroom while they are not assaulting or underserving children, I never read anything about how teachers’ union protections compare to those in other unions (especially in the public sector). Are there lessons to be learned from other unions? Reforms that have or have not made a difference?
I really like student-made videos, especially the whole Shorewood/Shorecrest lip sync smackdown out of Seattle back in December. Those videos were awesome, but neither of them made a gal get kinda teary-eyed the way Kalamazoo Central’s entry into the high school Race to the Top contest did. The school won a commencement speech by President Obama.
I spent the last few days at the AERA conference in Denver, meeting with researchers to talk over a project we are thinking of doing at EWA. I had never met most of these people before, so I spent a lot of time walking from lobby to lobby for prearranged meetings, saying “Are you Dick?” or “Are you Bob?”
For my final meeting, with David Plank of PACE, I went to the lobby of the Marriott.
“Are you David?” I said to the only guy there.
“Hi, I’m Linda.”
After I blogged on the topic, several reporters wrote me personally about how policy makers in their states decided that student test scores should count toward at least 50 percent of teacher evaluations. In some places consultants insisted that would be a do-or-die threshold for Race to the Top money, though it is not clear that is the the case.
I am very excited that Caroline Hendrie is going to be the new executive director of EWA. My condolences to Education Week, where Caroline has worked for 15 years and is reportedly invaluable. Their loss is not just my organization’s gain, but a great gain for education journalists everywhere. Caroline has big shoes to fill—Lisa Walker has, over the last 24 years, admirably built EWA into what it is today—and will begin to try to do so on June 1.
I didn’t love Newsweek’s “fire bad teachers” cover image back in March, and the article itself had a critical flaw, I felt: It conflated mediocre teachers and the truly depraved into one big category of “bad.” Firing the latter should be a no-brainer; firing the former is a whole different story. (Practical? Desirable?
The thinking seems to be in some circles that counting student test scores for anything less than 50 percent in teacher evaluation won’t get a state Race to the Top money. Does anybody know where the 50 percent figure originated? Is it just because it is powerful to say that at least half a teacher’s value be tied to student performance?