Thursday, July 17, 2014

Feudin' on the Reform Front.  In the wake of the ruling in the Vergara case in California and the filing of a similar case in New York City, the temperature surrounding the education reform debate--especially as it relates to teacher tenure in staffing decisions--is heating up a bit.  Well, actually more than a bit as evidenced by this article by Jonathan Chait in The Daily Intelligencer.  The latest kerfuffle and resulting Twitter war surrounds comments by Dr. Diane Ravitch regarding former CNN anchor Campbell Brown, who is now involved in efforts to revamp teacher tenure laws.

I'll just link the article and let everyone form their own opinion about Ravitch's comments and the charges and counter-charges that emerged after those comments.  Chait admits that he has a bias in the debate (his wife wrote the recently-issued report by the Center for American Progress outlining how difficult it can be to get rid of ineffective teachers) and, as a result, his comments border on snarky at some junctures.  That's not to say that his points aren't without merit (but again, Ravitch's points have merit as well).

New York Magazine Daily Intelligencer article:

Here is a link to the report cited in the article from the Center for American Progress:

Reichgott on Charter Schools.  Former State Senator Ember Reichgott, the chief author of Minnesota's charter school legislation passed in 1991 (the first charter school law in the nation) has been travelling the country for the past year-and-a-half talking about charter school laws throughout the country (and probably promoting her book "Zero Chance of Passage:  The Pioneering Charter School Story) and working to confront issues that are cropping up in the discussion surrounding charter schools.

Beth Hawkins published this article in today's MinnPost in which former Senator Reichgott Junge talks about some of the charges that charter school opponents raise in the discussion about charter school achievement and whether or not charter schools are a threat to traditional public schools.  In reading the article, I was glad to see that Reichgott Junge didn't invoke the "parents are more satisfied with their choice" line that drives me up a wall.  Maybe it's just me, but satisfaction alone should account for much of anything if enhancing achievement and fostering innovation are the goals of the program.  It's like someone going on a high-fat, high-sodium diet which would likely result in health issues going to the doctor and saying "Hey, I was really satisfied with that diet!"

Anyway, here is the link to the article:

And here is a link to Reichgott Junge's book:

Another Interesting Study.  The one really great thing about the non-session pace of business is the fact that I get to dive into articles and studies that add new perspectives to my thinking.  Governing magazine published this article today about a Johns Hopkins University study released in June that certainly adds credence to the points of many who contend the discussion of achievement and the achievement gap go well beyond what happens in schools.  I mentioned Diane Ravitch earlier in this entry, but she, like many others, point out the difficulties experienced by many families throughout the country, especially poorer families in urban areas, and how those difficulties contribute to educational deficits.  The study zeroes in on the issue of affordable housing and how affordable housing helps provide families stability and this stability then shows up in higher test scores by students in these families.  For the most part, the findings are self-evident, but it is always helpful when data is provided that shows that the issues surrounding achievement are about more than simply schools and school structure.

Governing article:

Johns Hopkins link:

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Next Set of Ripples from the Vergara Case.  When I first read a headline about the Vergara case, I thought "Who is suing Sofia Vergara?  I mean, Machete Kills was a lousy movie, but she wasn't that bad in it."    Imagine my surprise when I found out that the case was all about changing teacher tenure laws in California.

Seriously, for those of you who are not familiar with the case, a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge ruled early in June that California's teacher tenure laws are unconstitutional because they disproportionately affected poor and minority students in a negative way and prevented them from receiving a quality education.  Judge Rolf Treu did not mince words in his decision, stating that the tenure laws "impose a real and appreciable impact on students' right to a quality education.  The evidence is compelling.  Indeed, it shocks the conscience."

Reaction to the case has been palpable and has fallen upon predictable lines.  A number of the more strident organizations seeking broad reform of the nation's K-12 system.  Included among the voices embracing the decision, albeit slightly less aggressively, is United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (which has earned him the wrath of national teacher organizations).

A number of other education interests, particularly state and national teachers organizations are decrying the decision, but couching their language in terms that is sympathetic to the students and families who brought the case with the assistance of Students Matter, a California-based education advocacy organization founded by high tech entrepreneur David Welch.

Implementation of a new system has been stayed until all appeals are exhausted and the defendants in the case have every intention of appealing the case.  That delay has not stalled efforts on the part of a number of reformers to seize the momentum and a similar case was filed in New York last week.

One of the interesting aspects that has not been reported is that it was funding equity litigation in California (Serrano v. Priest, 1971) which was first filed in 1968 and subsequently unleashed a wave equity lawsuits nationally, including the lawsuit--Van Dusartz v. Hatfield--that brought about the Minnesota Miracle.  They say as "Maine goes, so goes the nation," but it appears that California is the stepping off point for broad-ranging litigation on education issues.  Given that repeal of "last in/first out" was passed by the Minnesota Legislature in 2012 (and vetoed by Governor Dayton), there may be interest in pursuing litigation in a similar vein as Vergara in Minnesota.

Here are a veritable plethora of links on the Vergara case and the recently-filed case in New York.

Los Angeles Times on Vergara:

Arne Duncan Statement on Vergara:

Students Matter Website (with timeline on court case):

AFT President Randi Weingarten statement on Vergara:

AFT President Randi Weingarten on Arne Duncan's Vergara Statement: in Washington Post:

MinnPost article on likelihood of "Vergara in Minnesota":

MinnPost interview with EM President Denise Sprecht:

New York Times article on Similar lawsuit in New York City:

New York City Parents Union:  Organization supporting the plaintiffs in New York City case::

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Interesting Thought Experiment.  Although I don't always agree with its perspective (especially on matters of business and finance), I truly value my subscription to The Economist.   In my more cynical moments, I've always believed that if we successfully taught critical thinking to students and gave everyone a subscription to The New York Times and The Economist, the rest of the news media would go out of business.  But that's not where we're at, so onward we go.

When I was paging through a recent issue of The Economist, I came across this article and thought it would make a great thought experiment.  It seems that Great Britain's education secretary Michael Gove is a bit outspoken and is speaking outside the realm of his office, causing some problems for British Prime Minister David Cameron.  It doesn't appear he's reached the level of mad-quotability of Martha Mitchell (anyone under 55 is probably going to have to hit Wikipedia for the tortured relevance of that reference), but that's not the angle of the article that piqued my interest.

If you head to the fourth paragraph and erase all the names, you'll find the discussion strikingly similar to the discussion we are having in the United States surrounding education reform initiatives.  Higher standards, school choice, and criticism of unions is all there reminiscent of the discussion currently taking place on this side of the Atlantic.

Even in his wildest moments, I doubt United States Education Secretary Arne Duncan would wander into as many verbal thickets as Gove seems to with regularity, but Duncan does sidle up close to some of the territory Gove has staked out in his attempt to reform British education.

Anyway, make your own judgments and if you have $150 lying around, I strongly recommend a subscription to The Economist.

Article on British education secretary Michael Gove in The Economist:

PS--Here's another link on the debate over British education reform policies that was published at The Economist's website shortly after the article linked above: