Blog: The Educated Reporter
“Structured recess” sounds like an oxymoron, especially to those people who are, as one girl in Not Much Just Chillin’ put it, “allergic to anything with the word ‘ball.’” For the introverted and athletically uninclined, fresh hell might be a coach forcing you into a game of kickball during a precious half-hour you could be spending slumped along the wall of the school building, undisturbed by the classmates who will never understand you, reading kiddy manga.
Yesterday’s Education Sector panel on college and career readiness was a success; you can see the video here. Which is funny given that one of the presenters announced that everything she was about to say was on background. I know congressional staffers often aren’t supposed to be quoted instead of their bosses, but this is one Washington habit that will never make sense to me.
Yes, I am overdue in saying something about Diane Ravitch’s book, and I intend to. But in the meantime I will just say this: The reviews of a book are not the book. Especially when I wrote Tested, I was amazed at how people misinterpreted what I wrote; later I would learn they did not read the book but only reviews of it. So an offhand comment by Sandy Kress in National Journal’s conversation about how the feds would hold states accountable on RtTT hit a raw nerve for me.
When it comes to food I maintain what I see as a sensible balance but what others might find hypocritical or insane—there may be cookies in my house, but they are made from scratch and washed down with organic milk, and while this afternoon I snapped at my husband for getting me a doughnut filled with “kreme” rather than custard, far more often (and with nearly equal enthusiasm) I snack on cherry tomatoes.
People often ask me for updates about the kids from Not Much Just Chillin’, who were in middle school eight years ago. I’m in touch with all of them to varying degrees, from Facebook friend to practically siblings—way too close to retain any professional distance. So despite Lily’s mother’s pleas to write another book about her daughter so that she might get into her brain again, I never did so.
Now that turnaround is the concept of the moment, we need to investigate what it yielded in the olden days when it was called “restructuring.” Last week I suggested journalists keep in context that zero-based staffing, as whole-school firings (or reassignments) are called, is not new.
Check out this thorough piece by Sarah Carr of the New Orleans Times-Picayune about the toll on teachers at no-excuses charter schools. Let’s say that the time commitment these teachers make must be kept up to be effective at the school, and that within a couple of years they will burn out and leave because of it. Does it matter? Well, that should be broken down into a few questions. Does it matter for student achievement, as long as strong new teachers take their place?
This Inside Higher Ed article about Stuart Rojstaczer’s latest grade inflation project suggests three possible reasons grades have crept higher: professors are sucking up to the students who write their evaluations, trying to help them do well after school or indulging their sense of entitlement. What about the idea that students might be doing better? Just saying!
I met a woman recently who might occasionally babysit for my son when we are visiting rural Virginia. She seemed unflappable in her oversight of several little kids.
I am surprised at how much coverage the teacher firings in Central Falls, R.I., have gotten, given that schools around the country have gone through these kinds of transformations for years. We should not write about this like it’s brand-new; it is not even close to the first time this has happened. It is usually called “making teachers reapply for their jobs.” Provide some context, keeping in mind that frequently when an entire staff is thrown out, many of them reapply and are rehired.
Scholastic and the Gates Foundation just released an opinion survey of more than 40,000 public school teachers, called “Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on America’s Schools.” Some interesting findings:
—Only 38 percent of high school teachers believe that three-quarters of the students in their classes could be successful at even a two-year college.
Don’t miss Elizabeth Green’s forthcoming New York Times Magazine cover story, “Building a Better Teacher.” Infused into the piece is Elizabeth’s great sense for, and specifics about, what the teacher quality research does and does not say. The reason she does a more thorough and critical job of this than most recent magazine pieces on the topic is not just because Elizabeth is talented but because she is an education reporter.