Yesterday, a new publication published by 2Revolutions and The Learning Accelerator was released to the public. It's worth reading, and it's titled, "So You Think You Want to Innovate: Emerging Lessons and a New Tool for State and District Leaders Working to Build a Culture of Innovation." It's 55 pages long, but it contains a robust planning tool that can help schools to not only assess but also to strengthen their infrastructures to ensure it is one that embraces innovation. I hope that school districts take the time to review the material and consider completing the scorecard to take an honest assessment of their school environment. They might find that it helps them identify the barriers to change and uncover strategies to alleviate them.
Welcome to the newly designed ReinventED Solutions blog! I hope you enjoy the simpler blog layout and appreciate your continued interest in my thoughts about how to reinvent public education. I hope you continue to read and comment and feel free to suggest ideas for future blog posts.
Now that many of our public schools are back in session, I'm sure we'll be hearing more about budget problems and the philosophy of "addition by subtraction." Time and time again, we hear from educators and education journalists that we should spend more money on core curriculum and that sports and the arts are non-essential activities that can afford to be eliminated should funds not be invested effectively. And there will be people like me who will be the first to immediately refute these ignorant points of view for not thinking about how critical these activities are to a child's social and emotional development - their "non-cognitive skills" so to speak.
Let me start out first by saying that I don't think everything is copasetic with youth sports. We focus too early on winning and losing, all star teams, and not enough time on having fun, learning the game, and most importantly, sportsmanship. Too many coaches have their priorities backwards and are psychological bullies on the field. Negative reinforcement is the worst thing you can do to a youth athlete. I should know. I lost my son to the sport that gave me much success in life, baseball, because of a terrible coach. Instead of fielding more teams, we need to field less teams that have well trained coaches.
I don't watch the Little League World Series. I haven't watched it in years. Why? Because it pains me to see 12 year olds throwing curve balls, splitters, and other junk that puts too much torque on their underdeveloped arms. By the time these young pitchers reach their late teens or early 20s, many of them will experience serious arm issues and perhaps even Tommy John Surgery. It's wrong - plain wrong. When I was twelve, I went to a prestigious baseball camp in New Jersey and learned how to throw a "safe" slider by a former major league pitcher who eventually became the head coach of a Division I Baseball Program. I never learned how to throw a "real" curve ball. I used this pitch my entire career.
But as I was watching sports highlights last night, I saw for a brief moment that there is still good in youth sports. Despite the over-exposure these youth face with the increased telecasts of the Little League Regionals as well as the Little League World Series, we sometimes see a coach whose priorities are right where they should be. We see a coach who understands that there is agony in a tough defeat, but that it's important to put it all in perspective for these impressionable young minds. We see a coach who realizes that it is his responsibility to be a coach first - not to get caught up in the moment and live vicariously through his players. Yes, there are some coaches who understand that sports build non-cognitive skills in our youth - things like teamwork, persistence, and sportsmanship. Youth sports are essential to a child's development, and if we spent a little bit of time training our coaches to be like Rhode Island Little League Coach Dave Belisle, we'd all realize that youth sports, like music and the arts, builds social and emotional skills. These youth will remember this coach for the rest of their lives, and while they may be heartbroken at first, they will eventually look back with pride. Why? Because Coach Belisle taught his players, as well as youth coaches and players around the world, that a good coach is like a good school teacher - they shape your character and prepare you to not only excel in sports, but more importantly, excel in life.
Watch the 3 minute speech and judge for yourself. We could all learn from this honorable man, who didn't memorize a speech. He simply spoke from the heart, and at least for this occasion, I was glad that there were cameras to capture the moment for the world to see.
Now that the recount on the GOP side of the election for State School Superintendent has been completed, it is clear that Georgia's recent ed reforms are at risk. Richard Woods, the GOP nominee, brings a base of Tea Party conservatives and an anti-common core, local at all costs platform. The Dems chose teacher's union darling Valarie Wilson, who, while supporting the common core, has demonstrated a blatant disregard for public school choice and charter schools. Both parties are seeing their education policies driven by a strong extremist base of support. What does all of this mean?
The state has spent many millions of dollars implementing a system of reforms largely driven by its $400M+ Race to the Top grant award. While it enacted a Common Core platform, it has recently seen its support of Common Core assessments shift to a vendor that is not part of the state consortium known as PARCC. Instead, it is developing its own assessments and while saving roughly $25 million in the process, they have given the business to one of the major textbook monopolies, McGraw Hill. In addition, the state has invested heavily in new teacher evaluations, new performance metrics, and a system to provide an alternate charter approval process should the local school districts not demonstrate a willingness to collaborate with new charter school options.
In a state that is still largely Republican, it is highly unlikely that Valarie Wilson will win the election; however, a Woods victory will take Georgia further away from a common framework that allows academic performance to be measured across states, and will also continue to wreck havoc with traditional public schools who already feel they are being short-changed in the wallet. Wilson, on the other hand, would likely shift democrats towards an anti-reform stance that aligns with the current platforms of the AFT and NEA. Charter schools will see their resources put at risk in a Wilson administration.
But here's the rub. In Georgia, the State Superintendent is not a position of power. Why? Because the governor controls the budget. If Deal wins re-election, perhaps he can keep Woods' agenda in check, as he'll be a lame duck governor. A Carter administration would make for an interesting duel should the GOP win the top education post.
At the end of the day, Georgia's citizens have made one thing perfectly clear. They don't want the current reform process to continue, and instead, they want to cause more pain and stress in an already dysfunctional system. Teachers have been put through the ringer - they just want to stay on the current path. More change will not be welcomed.
Ed reform in Georgia is certainly at risk. How much we won't know until the November election when some of the uncertainties will be resolved.
This year's election for GA State School Superintendent is not getting the same microphone as the races for Governor and US Senator - nor should it.
However, for those of us who follow national, state and local education policy, this election is representative of the national conflict around reforming our public education system. We can debate the pros and cons of whether this position should be an elected one or a position appointed by the governor another time. As much as it creates unnecessary redundancies, bureaucracy and instability in our education system, Georgia has created this monstrosity by virtue of its outdated Constitution for which an amendment would be necessary to fix this dysfunction. And we know from the Charter School Amendment two years ago that it would be a painful and destabilizing process for the state.
So lets return to the question at hand. There were so many candidates in both parties running for this position, that Georgia is not faced with a runoff in each party on July 22nd to see who will run in the general election. Turnout will likely be terrifyingly low and it will be these few voters who will determine which candidates secure their party's nominations.
The election is pitting the Tea Party against the Common Core, and pitting an DFER against a status quo candidate supported by the nation's most powerful unions: the NEA and AFT. These organizations are now undermining President Obama's efforts to reform public education in this country.
The anti-Common Core faction is very strong in Georgia. They almost rammed through a bill in the General Assembly that would have rolled back education reform efforts and set this state's education system back at least a decade. What's good for America is obviously not what's good for Georgia - hence the strong forces against any national efforts that folks will presume without evidence will tread on state's rights. Georgia has already moved forward with major education reforms and while change is never easy, it is way too soon to claim that they are not working or will not work. Miracles don't happen overnight.
So what will Georgia do? Will Georgia vote for more influence from teacher's unions? Will they vote to unravel the Common Core and wreck more havoc in a system that is in the midst of major policy transitions and where educators are getting comfortable with such changes? Will Georgia's voters vote for a candidate who will work across party lines to continue to reforms that Georgia signed up to enact based on its $400 million Race to the Top grant award?
This is the moment of truth for Georgia. I hope they let the current reforms take root and not put our parents, teachers and children through more policy changes. Only two candidates fit that bill: Mike Buck and Alisha Morgan. If those two win the runoffs, then Georgia should win regardless who you like amongst the two. I know who I'm voting for - do you?
This is my final post in a series about the importance of ethics in public education reform.
Conveniently, I received a note from a reader of my blog post that was republished in the AJC about the situation with the UGA football program. Head football coach Mark Richt chose not to discipline 4 student athletes who were arrested in a check fraud scheme involving stipends received from the athletic department. They dressed in full pads for practice the next day, and no discipline was ever announced. UGA's discipline policy states that such discipline for misdemeanors is "at the discretion of the coach." I was wondering if we would ever see resolution on this matter.
Yesterday, a story came out that one of these four student-athletes, safety Tray Matthews, was dismissed from the team because of additional, more recent infractions. However, we do not know what these other infractions were. Making matters worse, the player immediately tweets "Auburn or Louisville will be my home." Why would he say such a thing? (An aside: we still don't know if the other three students were disciplined at all).
Let me refresh everyone's memory who may not be familiar with this issue. Auburn, and even more importantly, Louisville, seem to be more than willing to immediately admit 4 star recruits who were cast aside by Georgia solely for disciplinary issues, regardless of their criminal nature. You see, the former Defensive Coordinator for UGA is now in the same position at Louisville, and works for none other than our nation's ethical compass, Bobby Petrino. Just recently, Louisville immediately scooped up disgraced UGA defensive back Josh Harvey-Clemons, who was dismissed by Coach Richt for drug-related incidents.
So what does this all mean? It means that there is a moral hazard on college sports because there is not a consistent disciplinary policy across programs. Another story recently came out that talked about Georgia's efforts to push for a uniform drug policy in the SEC. Unfortunately, the efforts appear "dead" because at a recent SEC meeting, the issue wasn't even brought to the table and discussed. And so Georgia's efforts to take the moral high ground will continue to place it at a significant disadvantage, at least on the field, until such time as there is sufficient backlash to force the issue to be reconsidered.
This topic goes way beyond sports if you read my previous posts. In a recent blog on Ed Week, the author makes the claim that "ethics are caught, rather than taught." I think it's a combination of both, and it's not only taught by educators, but more importantly, parents and other family members. This goes far beyond whether a student-athlete should be punished for criminal behavior and be allowed to play, and whether schools should have consistent policies so that students aren't rewarded for making such mistakes. If we want our students to be successful in life, they need to know right from wrong. They need to know that "integrity is doing the right thing when no one else is looking." So before we get all wound up about common core standards, I say again, "how about common ethics first?"
Every once in a while, a comment on a blog, or a blog topic itself, really gets under my skin. The last time this happened was when UGA Football Coach Mark Richt decided not to discipline 4 players who were arrested for theft and deception and the opinion of some mothers that these kids "deserved to be back on the field immediately." Now, another situation has me really thinking about education reform and the requirement that a two pronged intervention approach from educators AND parents is what is really needed to fix our education system.
I shared a story with Maureen Downey, editor of the Get Schooled blog for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, about a Florida high school that was charging up to $200 a seat to attend its graduation ceremony. And for the first time, seniors had to pay a $20 fee to attend their own graduation! She in turn published a post on her blog about the incident. However, what really riled me up (I need to stop getting riled up or I'll lose my hair) was the fact that certain readers posted comments suggesting that they told their parents not to attend their own graduations because all they did was "do what they were supposed to do." And that hit me like a knife to the heart.
Whether it's your first child or your last, as a parent, there is absolutely no good reason to miss your child's graduation, whether from high school or college. Whether you graduated Valedictorian or graduated last in your class, graduating is an accomplishment, and one that should be celebrated by parents and children alike. You reached a milestone and you should always celebrate such things with your children. They need to know that you care, and that you're proud of them. Now lets just dismiss the folly of charging seniors and their families to attend their own graduation. There is no debate. Families should attend graduations regardless of whether or not your child is getting any additional accolades.
This is why I believe that education reform is so complex in the United States. Prioritizing education is not just with dollars and policy, it is a MINDSET. In Finland, they have this mindset. They also do in Singapore and other countries with best-in-class education systems. If parents don't feel that attending a graduation is important, then do you really think they're going to be there to help their child with homework, or in building both cognitive and non-cognitive skills? So again, that is why feel more strongly than ever that education reform starts and ends in the home. Teachers can only do so much, and if parents undo all of the work that teachers are trying to do in the classroom, then education reform will not succeed.
So do me a favor - attend your child's graduation.
The final segment of my three part blog post about ethics and public education is basically a reference post. I came across a NY Times article from last week that I found quite interesting. Titled, "Raising a Moral Child," the author unveils some fascinating research about how to raise a "moral" child. As the article states, "When people in 50 countries were asked to report their guiding principles in life, the value that mattered most was not achievement, but caring." The article goes further:
If we want our children to care about others, we need to teach them to feel guilt rather than shame when they misbehave. In a review of research on emotions and moral development, the psychologist Nancy Eisenberg suggests that shame emerges when parents express anger, withdraw their love, or try to assert their power through threats of punishment: Children may begin to believe that they are bad people. Fearing this effect, some parents fail to exercise discipline at all, which can hinder the development of strong moral standards.
I highly recommend to read the NY Times article and review some of the innovative research cited therein. As the author, Wharton Psychology Professor Adam Grant, concludes: "People often believe that character causes action, but when it comes to producing moral children, we need to remember that action also shapes character."
Parents, this is advice we must all heed.
From a story at UGA, to one that hits closer to home: high school sports. Let me reiterate why it is so important that rules are rules, but "doing the right thing" in sports and in life is far more important.
Yesterday, I was watching a high school regional tennis tournament. For those of you who know how high school tennis works, there are no umpires. Line judges are only called if the players cannot agree on line calls or other situations that may come up during a match (e.g., keeping score). Coaches and parents are not permitted to intervene on these things, which, while teachers the kids to problem-solve, does spur the moral hazard of cheating (or, as they like to say in professional tennis, "gamesmanship"). During the match, one of the players lost track of the score. For everyone in the stands, it was abundantly clear that a game was lost. If this player served the first game of a set, then how could they be serving in an "even"game based on what the score said? It was supposed to be 4-2 in this player's favor, but instead, the score read 3-2. Keep in mind that these players had played each other before, and the opposing player has a history of "cheating," slamming the racket against the net, etc. The player clearly knew it was wrong, because they had served out the previous set. Finally, coaches and parents spurred an intervention, which, while against the rules, was warranted. There was a very long stoppage where USTA officials, coaches and players discussed the situation. When the opposing player was asked about this, they denied that there was a game missing from the score! After a long discussion, it was decided that because the players did not agree to the change themselves, they could not go back and fix the score. So instead of this player winning the second set 6-4, they ended up losing the match in a second set tiebreaker!
The parents from the opposing team just stood there and defended their player. After the match, the USTA official goes over to the opposing player and pats them on the back saying "nice job." Nice job? So we're supporting cheating here? In all my years of playing Division I baseball, high school baseball, American Legion baseball, etc., I thought I had seen it all. Why couldn't coaches be permitted to intervene if EVERYONE knew that a game was missing? As a bystander watching this unfold, I was mortified. Yes, the player should have kept track of the score, but why was another player allowed to blatantly cheat? This happened at other times throughout the match - scores in a game getting messed up, not switching sides after 6 points in a tiebreaker, etc.
Bear in mind that this player attended a Christian school in the Metro Atlanta area. I do not want to stereotype by any means, but at Christian Schools, there should be even GREATER emphasis on values such as integrity, honesty and sportsmanship. In sports and in life, doing the right thing and as the Romans would say "show honor in battle," is the most important trait to have. Luckily, this player's team lost the match, even though that line won under controversy.
Some folks who read this blog may disagree with my perspective on what transpired herein. They'll say, "rules are rules." However, watching this unfold and thinking about my last post about teaching ethics in K-12 education, this incident was a harsh reminder that we need to teach our kids about honesty. A famous person once said that "integrity is doing the right thing when no one else is looking." Well, everyone was looking, and because of the archaic rules, no one was able to make this right. Instead, bystanders were left with a stinging feeling that it's ok to cheat, just because your opponent couldn't remember the score. And the player who was wronged had to learn a very harsh lesson. I'm sure they won't ever forget the score anytime soon!
We need to teach our kids that speaking up and being honest is more important than a ridiculous rule. Maybe this player, and this school, needs to re-read a classic children's book titled, "Tell The Truth: It's The Right Thing To Do."
I was gearing up to write a scathing piece that lambasted the Georgia Assembly for their reckless disregard for students and educators and their blind loyalty towards Jeffersonian, state-controlled philosophy. I was going to refer my readers to the folly that took place in Georgia over the past few weeks, with the Georgia senate teeing up a disastrous bill, SB 167 that would have set Georgia's reform efforts back at least 8-10 years, and would have not only voided any set of standards conceived out of state, but would have also put to rest any chances of cloud-based education and digital learning being implemented in Georgia's schools. When you have the author of the bill unable to cite examples of inappropriate Common Core Standards, you see why this was reckless and a breach of politicians' fiduciary responsibilities. But enough said there - at least common sense prevailed at the end of the day when the bill was effectively killed for now by the Georgia House.
What I want to write about is something far more serious - ethics and morality. You might have heard about four University of Georgia football players who were arrested for theft and deception and then subsequently allowed to practice by Coach Mark Richt! The sports radio stations in Atlanta were talking about this all day, and I heard one talk show host saying unequivocally that these players should NOT be suspended or removed from the team. I had to call into the station. I said it was a "privilege" to play college sports, especially under a full or partial scholarship, and that they committed a crime and should be suspended indefinitely. Another call echoed my sentiments, but then a woman (probably a mother) phoned in and accused us of not having ever played a college sport and that these kids deserved and were entitled to a second chance!
At this point, I was about ready to explode. To use a Percy Jackson metaphor, my gut was ready to unleash a tidal wave on this woman! First, let me say that this woman has probably experienced criminal behavior in some way, either herself or via a loved one. She may even be the mother of a college athlete who has faced disciplinary action. And she couldn't be more wrong.
First of all, I was a Division I baseball player. I went to an Ivy League school and they do NOT offer athletic scholarships. I was listening to the radio hosts talking about mistakes - this wasn't a mistake. A mistake is being late to class or handing in an assignment late. A mistake is not being arrested for a misdemeanor! What does this say about society when a college coach allows these students to practice the very next day??? How about these disciplinary options?
- Suspend the players for the rest of the season
- Void their scholarships and kick them out of school
- Lose one year of athletic eligibility
Any type of arrest, once proven guilty, should be grounds for serious punishment. These kids can still go to college, they can apply for financial aid just like any other student. They can alternatively transfer to a junior college or some other institution after a period of time. But for this female caller to shrug this off like playing a college sport is some irrevocable entitlement is not only ignorant, but not something a parent should ever say in this situation. I can hypothesize that this woman never had any control over her children. She taught them that when you do something wrong, you don't have to get punished. So when these children grow up, they know no boundaries and never worry about being responsible for their actions. And when discipline doesn't exist in the home, how can we make it work outside the home?
Ethics and morality must be integrated into the school environment at all times. If we do not make this a priority, then we will continue to see spoiled, misguided college athletes who lack a moral compass making bad decisions and expect their coaches to look the other way. Student athletes should be bound by the same disciplinary code as non-athletes. I hope we see more outrage on Coach Richt's poor decision to look the other way. We need a Common Core of Ethics and Moral Behavior, because this incident is deeply troubling on so many levels. May it be used as a teachable moment for all children.
Last year, Anthony Cody, a prominent NEA member and author of an Education Week blog titled, "Living in Dialogue." wrote more than 80 posts in 2013 about the Common Core, and others specifically about Bill Gates. Diane Ravitch will use any story on her blog to sensationalize the facts and rally the NEA troops, whether or not the facts have been verified or not. Others like Paul Thomas regularly write in such an adversarial, unprofessional tone that it comes as no surprise why the mainstream media won't respond the his verbal volleys. He, like all of the NEA bloggers who the NEPC republishes to try and amplify their perspectives to the base NEA membership,
Why am I highlighting and giving acknowledgement to certain bloggers who are fundamentally opposed to any meaningful change in public education and who regularly lobby personal attacks on those who oppose their views? Because it is important to understand your opponent in any type of debate. And it's clear that the mob mentality is alive and well in many of the camps involved in the Common Core policy debate.
I have posted contrarian views on some of these blogs. What you will find is a mob mentality in full effect. Teachers (mostly retired I suspect or using an unidentifiable alias) will preach the words of these authors as the holy gospel and verbally bully anyone who is opposed to their views, immediately claiming that those views do not matter, especially if you are not a member of the teaching profession. And if you are not a member of the teaching profession, you are immediately characterized as a profiteer who seeks to profit from public education and are lumped with the so-called "privatizers" of public education: the triumverate of Gates, Walton and Broad who in the minds of the NEA and AFT are the education equivalent of the "Axis of Evil."
But what fascinated me about the conduct of these people is that their behavior has been diagnosed. I recently read a blog post about a book that is next up on my reading list: You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself by David McRaney. We're not only seeing the mob mentality with the NEA, but also with the Tea Party which is also trying to derail the Common Core. The Common Core has not been implemented well, that I will readily confess. However, what it has exposed is the fundamental tension in our republic (we are not a democracy - remember that) which is a tuggle between Federalism and state control. Because the Common Core is being supported by the U.S. Dept. of Education although a state-led effort, states are forgetting about the advantages of a common set of academic standards and instead feel it is an assault on their state rights. We will never be able to choose a side - the inherent tension between these two philosophies is here to stay and will always make education reforms very difficult to enact in the United States.
The mob mentality is everywhere, especially in public education policy discussions. Facts are ignored, research is regularly twisted to meet the needs of the argument, conclusions are taken out of context, all in the name of unionism. Self interest groups cannot support anyone who disagrees with their platform and they will use whatever tactics are necessary to cut them down to size. You can look at the comment threads on nearly every Ed Week blog or the blogs of the specific authors I mentioned above if you do not believe this to be the case.
One of the articles I alluded to above was from a popular blog called "Brain Pickings," by Maria Popova. Dubbed "The Benjamin Franklin Effect," Maria talks about Franklin's mastery of human psychology and how to handle "haters." McRaney gives valuable advice to those who want to try and win over their opponents instead of disparaging them further:
For many things, your attitudes came from actions that led to observations that led to explanations that led to beliefs. Your actions tend to chisel away at the raw marble of your persona, carving into being the self you experience from day to day. It doesn’t feel that way, though. To conscious experience, it feels as if you were the one holding the chisel, motivated by existing thoughts and beliefs. It feels as though the person wearing your pants performed actions consistent with your established character, yet there is plenty of research suggesting otherwise. The things you do often create the things you believe.
Cognitive behavior therapy is something that the self interest group "bullies" should prescribe to. As McRaney adds:
The Benjamin Franklin effect is the result of your concept of self coming under attack. Every person develops a persona, and that persona persists because inconsistencies in your personal narrative get rewritten, redacted, and misinterpreted. If you are like most people, you have high self-esteem and tend to believe you are above average in just about every way. It keeps you going, keeps your head above water, so when the source of your own behavior is mysterious you will confabulate a story that paints you in a positive light. If you are on the other end of the self-esteem spectrum and tend to see yourself as undeserving and unworthy [and] will rewrite nebulous behavior as the result of attitudes consistent with the persona of an incompetent person, deviant, or whatever flavor of loser you believe yourself to be. Successes will make you uncomfortable, so you will dismiss them as flukes. If people are nice to you, you will assume they have ulterior motives or are mistaken. Whether you love or hate your persona, you protect the self with which you’ve become comfortable. When you observe your own behavior, or feel the gaze of an outsider, you manipulate the facts so they match your expectations.
Will Common Core survive? It's clear the mob is gaining the upper hand right now, but the question remains, "how do you tame it?" We are in uncertain times. The Common Core has forced the hand on public policy. Even if the end result is that many states create better standards, even if not uniform, it is still unlikely that public education will take the bold steps necessary to fix a dysfunational system that has not been fundamentally altered in more than a century.
Over the past week, we've seen some cautionary signs coming out of some of the new public school designs in k-12 education. We've seen certain growing pains from the "flexible school" model coming out of Rocketship Education. Education Week blogger, and public school protectionist Walt Gardener wrote a post today called "Bad News for Charter Schools"where he talked about the charter school closings in various states and making the sweeping conclusion that charters are not working. And folks like Diane Ravitch believe wholeheartedly that charter schools are a "colossal mistake" and uses a conspiracy theory claiming that they give public money to private corporations. These are VERY predictable responses and certainly not surprising to those who understand the principles of disruptive innovation theory:
- If an innovation is in fact "disruptive," it will start out as low cost and likely inferior to the existing products or services in the market.
- It will target areas of non-consumption
At this point, some charter schools may be sustaining innovations and not disruptive innovations. Are they targeting a different set of consumers? Are they being deployed disruptively? If a charter school is controlled by the local school district, will it be able to disrupt the status quo? This was part of the debate in 2012 in Georgia and other states about whether there should be alternate authorizers at the state level for public charter schools.
Is it too soon to gauge whether certain innovations are having the favorable impact expected of them? In some cases, the answer is YES. In a recent article titled "Schooling Rebooted,"we see a case study about Carpe Diem Collegiate High School and Middle School in Yuma, Arizona. As the article states:
Carpe Diem has delivered some promising results, while serving a student population that was 46 percent low-income in 2011–12: Carpe Diem ranks among Arizona’s 10 highest-performing charter schools, outperforming Arizona’s statewide four-year graduation rate five of the six years between 2007 and 2012 (with a 96 percent graduation rate in 2011), and regularly exceeding the Arizona average at every grade level on the statewide assessment.The Carpe Diem model is also cost-effective. It requires fewer teachers per student than a traditional school, so Carpe Diem has achieved those results with only about $5,300 of the $6,300 per pupil allocation, according to Ryan Hackman, the school’s chief operating officer.
With new school designs, it's still a mixed bag. Some models will be successful, and some may not, But we know unequivocally that charter schools have certain accountability systems that traditional public schools do not. If a charter school does not meet the requirements of its charter, it can be shut down. Traditional public schools have historically not faced the threat of closure.
At the end of the day, the defenders of the status quo expect charter schools and other new innovations to become instant successes. That's not how innovation works. These folks would be mindful that reforms and evolution take time, and can be painful at times. Do you think the American Revolution was a smooth and orderly transition? Far from it! However, the analogy here is that we must have the courage to change our system because if you ask college professors or look at the abilities of our international graduates, the status quo is not an option.
"After living with their dysfunctional behavior for so many years (a sunk cost if ever there was one), people become invested in defending their dysfunctions rather than changing them."
— Marshall Goldsmith
I for one am glad that 2013 is behind us. We have seen the establishment in public education work feverishly to oppose any and all new ed reform efforts. These include the relentless opposition by self interest groups to try and dismantle the Common Core and the assessments attached to it, not too dissimilar from efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. We have also seen misinformation and paranoia in efforts to bring cloud computing to the K-12 market, and wreck havoc on the efforts of Gates-backed nonprofit organization InBloom to try and create efficiencies with student information and learning management systems WHILE protecting personal student data. We have also seen feverish opposition to research-backed proposals to evaluate and measure effective teaching. In all, it's been a brutal year to be an ed reformer.
Now let me be clear here. Not all of the policies are the right ones. We live in republic that after 225 years is still torn between federalism and state-driven policies. The battle fronts have never been more dangerous than they are at present. Reformers must work harder to build a spirit of collaboration with educators where possible. Change will not come easy, and despite the recent backlash over the PISA results, those of us who have worked in Corporate America know full well that despite the incredible wealth of the United States, our education system is not churning out graduates who are prepared to succeed in careers, and life for that matter. Moreover, our international peers are hungry, and their education systems, regardless of what we might think about their tactics, are working.
We should be able to use the power of technology to ensure that every child, regardless of socioeconomic background, gets a quality education. And we know from research at organizations such as CASEL that social and emotional learning might be the missing piece in the puzzle. There are many programs successfully teaching at-risk youth and removing the excuse of poverty. A child in a poor home should be able to get a rich learning experience outside the home.
I wish that in the year 2014 we can get all parties to stop clinging to positions and start focusing on interests - our children's interests. If they embrace the principles of the well-known book Getting to Yes, then perhaps we'll see some progress. At the end of the day, we know that disruptive innovation works because change only happens when those inventions below the radar start to hit the radar from a position of strength. I hope that in 2014 we can all get on the same page and create a new spirit of collaboration in order to get the United States back where it belongs: a leader in educating its citizens, from cradle to grave.
Maybe I'm still the Cockeyed Optimist of which I blogged about a few years ago. But hope is what our country is known for. And it should always be in the hearts and minds of every child. Public education can instill that sense of hope and wonder - isn't that what learning is all about?
I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to title this blog post. It can probably be re-titled.
This past week, I caught the attention of Ed Week blogger, Anthony Cody. A former educator in Oakland Public Schools, Mr. Cody has a blog on this leading trade publication in the K-12 industry. It is titled Living in Dialogue Mr. Cody essentially plays the role of Clarence Thomas to Antonin Scalia (played by Diane Ravitch). I have been nearly always commented on Anthony's blog to rebut his NEA-line agenda time and time again. His blog states that it is about the following theme: "With education at a crossroads, he invites you to join him in a dialogue on education reform and teaching for change and deep learning." However, if one looks beneath the surface, what you will find is that the author is proud of the fact that his blog archive shows no less than 80 (that's right, 80) posts related to the Common Core. He has taken a cue from Diane Ravitch and talks about the so-called conspiracy around the formation of the standards. In addition, Mr. Cody assassinates ed reformers such as the Gates Foundation at every turn, believing that they have no business meddling in education policy.
Mr. Cody then decided to honor me with writing a blog post that references my previous comments and deducts that I sought to muzzle Cody and the like and that they don't have voice - that they should simply worry about what they can control which is their classrooms. And this, of course, opened the flood-gates and created a surge of comments on his blog, many of them personally attacking me and calling me a corporate reformer. One even had the audacity to state that our education system is not broken.
Here is where I drew the line. Mr. Cody's blog has not been living up to its billing. It is more or less taking the NEA -line about the Common Core and the political forces meddling (as he puts it) in education policy. Is 80 blog posts overkill or what? What you find on this blog and many other blogs by educators is that they use blogging to rant and to turn it into an NEA beat down on any reformers who may differ from them in what ails our schools. Many of the educators on the blog are NEA members, are retired teachers who are free to say whatever they wish, or are educators using an alias, for fear they might face reprimands from their administrators if identified. Most of the time, these educators personally attack and character assassinate their targets, without using any factual evidence to support their views. Or alternatively, they will take an outlier situation - and use it to state that the particular practice is killing our schools when it is just one extreme case. This is a typical weapon of choice by Ravitch, Cody, et al.
Mr. Cody's blog is supposed to be about "teaching for change and deep learning." I commented that Mr. Cody, as an experienced educator, should use his bully pulpit to try and help teachers improvise and use the limited resources they have - to think differently. Instead, they talk about compartmentalizing subjects and worried about insufficient time during the school day to add new things. Mr. Cody should look at the amazing teaching practices happening across the nation and the fact that there are some innovative programs where they are able to integrate music and arts in their curriculum, as well as crate intrinsically motivating learning environments through digital technology, video games and the like. In the new year, I hope that educators will spend more time looking at the opportunities afforded by changing their teaching habits, and to be more positive versus the constant rants and complaints seen across the educator blogasphere, which includes Mr. Cody's blog. If you read this blog and others on Ed Week, you'll find that more than 90% of the comments are simply agreeing with the author's premise, rather than engaging in true civil discourse, or even creating an environment of collaboration. That's my wish for educators and other key stakeholders in 2014 - a new spirit of respectful discussion and collaboration. I hope we can see this happen.
As co-founder of the Atlanta Music Project, I believe unequivocally in the importance of social and emotional learning on academic learning. As such, I have been a big fan of the research being conducted at the Collaborative for Academic, Social & Emotional Learning ("CASEL"). Teacher unions and many teachers have historically blamed poverty as the excuse for why they are unable to successfully teach impoverished youth. While poverty does make the learning process quite challenging, we know from successful programs such as KIPP and El Sistema that these children can learn under the right conditions.
In September, CASEL introduced a new study titled, The Missing Piece: A National Teacher Survey on How Social and Emotional Learning Can Empower Children and Transform Schools Per CASEL:
The central message of this report is that teachers across America understand that social and emotional learning (SEL) is critical to student success in school, work, and life. Social and emotional learning involves the processes of developing competencies, including self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Educators know these skills are teachable; want schools to give far more priority to integrating such development into the curriculum, instruction, and school culture; and believe state student learning standards should reflect this priority. Teachers also want such development to be available for all students. These and other findings are the result of a nationally representative survey of pre kindergarten through twelfth grade teachers to assess the role and value of social and emotional learning in America’s schools. The voices of teachers on SEL are more important than ever, when expectations for classroom effectiveness are higher, the U.S. educational advantage worldwide is slipping, and a skills gap is threatening American economic growth.
This report concludes that there is overwhelming evidence linking SEL, student outcomes, and school performance. Is Social & Emotional Learning the secret ingredient to reinventing education in America and around the world? Feel free to share your thoughts on this blog or on Twitter - @Reinvent_Ed.
Tell me this isn't true.
I've been meaning to write something about this news story but wanted to take some time to ponder my thoughts before penning something that was intelligent and not emotionally charged.
Earlier this month, Atlanta's Mayor (who has done a solid job as mayor by and large) was on record stating he has raised outside donations to boost the incoming Superintendent's salary to a whopping $600,000 per year! My first reaction was shock and muttering to myself: "Are you kidding me?" But let me explain why this is not the solution that Atlanta is looking for in persuading a best-in-class education leader to be interested in taking the job.
- No Superintendent should command such a salary
- With the governance structure of APS, unless a Superintendent will have the ability to implement a reform agenda, the person is set up for failure. Why take a huge salary when the probability of failure is so high?
- What message are we sending our community? That the only way to fix public education is to overpay a leader at the expense of funding the areas where it's needed the most, such as teachers and innovative learning tools driven by digital technology?
It seems to me that the Mayor has hijacked the recruiting process. I find it objectionable that he would equate the hiring of the superintendent to "hiring the head football coach at University of Georgia." The two business models couldn't be more different.
And there is research to support my perspective, not simply a non-educator expressing an opinion about the matter. I would point the mayor and his advisors to the following article from Harvard Business Review which clearly states the "the correlation between salary and job satisfaction is very weak." Moreover, the research shows as well as being commonly known that intrinsic motivation is a far stronger predictor of job performance than extrinsic motivation. What does that mean? It means that Mayor Reed is "rolling the dice" and lowering the probability that Atlanta will find the visionary leader it sorely needs.
We don't need a superintendent who is nearing retirement, as the Mayor believes. What Atlanta needs is a rising star - someone young and hungry who may have been an Assistant Superintendent in an urban district in the midst of a successful transformation strategy. Instead of hiring another Nick Saban, we should be looking for the next Thomas Dimitroff. But no leader will succeed in APS unless the stakeholders give her the autonomy to be a change agent. And unfortunately, that's just not going to happen - not when a school system spends $150 million on one high school.
The nation has been looking at Georgia's education system recently, and not through a favorable lens. Why is that?
- GA received the lowest grade in the United States on the strength of its proficiency standards.
- Citing cost issues, Georgia decides to pull out of the consortium that was developing assessments based on the Common Core (PARCC) and instead, while NOT sharing any details on how it will get there, states that it can develop similar quality tests at a fraction of the cost. The tab? Approximately $30 million, a rounding error as a percentage of the total state education budget.
- The GA DoE has been warned by the U.S. Dept. of Education that at least $10M in RT3 award funds are at risk because it did not live up to certain obligations outlined in its grant proposal about the timing of the implementation of a new, accountability-based teacher evaluation system.
With all of the backpedaling on Common Core, the current State Superintendent, John Barge, decides his job performance was so stellar that he feels capable of running for Governor against the incumbent in a primary!
With all of the challenges facing public school systems related to school governance, academic achievement, the Common Core and other key reforms, the microscope continues to shine the brightest on Atlanta Public Schools ("APS"). Crippled by a major cheating scandal, and graduation rates for certain minorities still below 50 percent, the school board decides to spend nearly $150 million on rebuilding one high school - North Atlanta High School. Plenty of education reformers and public policy officials have question the wisdom of this move, which was featured in a major NY Times story, on whether this will truly transform public educaton in Georgia when it reaches less than 1,500 students.
With this massive cloud continuing to rein over the sixth largest school district in the state (~50K students), it was recently announced that the school board had not only fired its original search firm leading the search for a permanent Superintendent, but that it hired two search firms to take over the effort. Both of these firms are well respected firms, but they are not known for making waves or finding visionary leaders. They are skilled at finding leaders who fit PRECISELY into the box laid out for them by the client.
So the question I raise is whether APS is not only capable, but positioned to attract a skilled, visionary, progressive administrator to fundamentally reform this school system, which is one of the largest employers in Metro Atlanta. I am very concerned that at this critical moment for Atlanta's public schools, that Atlanta will not find the leader they sorely need. Why is that?
- They are bringing the public into the process. The taxpayers elected a school board to make these decisions, with the input of key stakeholders from private industry and city and state government. I fear this is a terrible move by the search committee and will only add to the chaos.
- What will the role of politics be in this process? Will the process be circumvented by political favors and referral candidates?
- Will the search committee be able to attract serious candidates with the cheating scandal trial not taking place until 2014?
- Should APS try and lure a "rising star" with progressive leanings and some experience in urban school districts, versus an experienced administrator who will command major dollars a la Dr. Beverly Hall?
- Will APS find the best candidate regardless of race or ethnicity?
- How will APS address the perceived disconnect between the goals of the school board and what actually occurs? A recent article outlines the difficulties a prospective candidate will face.
Running a major urban school system in the current toxic environment of public education is a daunting task for any leader. APS would be wise to look at best practices and identify those administrators who have successfully turned around failing urban school systems (e.g., Nashville) and try and poach key members of their team. Find a candidate who has been trained in a successful environment - just like the Falcons did when they hired a young, but very smart member of the New England Patriots organization: Thomas Dimitroff, to become their General Manager. Seems that hire has worked out pretty well.
"DANGER, WILL ROBINSON, DANGER".......
For those of you who remember the 1960s television sci-fi series: Lost in Space, this was the famous catch phrase that the robot, acting as a surrogate guardian, would voice to Will Robinson whenever there was an impending threat.
Fast forward to July 2013. A supposedly reputable magazine: Scientific American, posted an article by self proclaimed education historian Diane Ravitch titled, "3 Dubious Uses of Technology in Schools." Interestingly enough, the article was originally published under the title, "Promise & Peril." Ms. Ravitch is a very controversial figure in the field of public education, and she has been consistent in her disdain for education reform, especially the influence of private foundations and other stakeholders who Ravitch feels will destroy her "utopian" aspirations for public education. Per the magazine's website, it serves as "The leading source and authority for science, technology information and policy for a general audience." I believe that the article in question does not uphold the tenets of the brand, and in fact, damages the brand. Lets discuss my concerns in more detail.
- The author does not give sufficient weight to discussing the benefits of technology. The subtitle of the story is "Technology can inspire creativity or dehumanize learning." Ms. Ravitch is generous enough to give a total of TWO SENTENCES discussing the benefits of technology in public education.
- Are her so called "dubious uses" of technology really "dubious?"
- Ravitch attempts to stoke fear into readers by claiming that "for-profit" charter schools are evil, while not providing sufficient empirical evidence to support such generalizations. In any new school design, there will be outliers, but for Ravitch to single out the few in a pool of many successful charter schools is foolhardy. How many public schools are squandering taxpayer dollars and not governing their schools with integrity? Quite a few if you did the research.
- Ravitch does not provide sufficient detail in her discussion about online assessments and the online grading of essays. I am not up to speed on this development and while I need to look at this area more closely, I share the author's concern about online grading of essays. It depends how it will be done, because there is a subjective factor to it. However, I would not state that online assessments are not in the best interests of the system just because of this one concern which will certainly be worked out. Certain types of assessments must be conducted online, as this will greatly enhance the efficiency of our public education system, improve productivity, and support adaptive learning systems. We need to use big data more effectively in public schools so that teachers can spend far less time on remedial work at the beginning of each school year. It will also help us evolve our system into a competency-based one versus one that depends on seat-time.
- Finally, Ms. Ravitch continues her assault on the Gates Foundation-funded nonprofit, inBloom. Ravitch is terrified of the use of "big data" in public education, and the risks of storing personal, confidential data on students in the cloud. Ravitch, to the best of my knowledge, has not represented that she has even seen a demo of the technology in action, yet she amplifies the propaganda being distributed by self interest groups. Many other industries such as health care are seeing the material benefits of leveraging the cloud for data storage and data intelligence. InBloom has been very consistent in their communications that they will not be providing personal data to third parties without consent, yet Ravitch and the teachers unions have used their influence to misrepresent the intent of the inBloom solution and spread fears about applications that are not part of the core use case. The FAQ page on inBloom's website states: "inBloom is not creating a national database. It is providing a secure data service to help school districts manage the information needed for learning, and to support local educational goals. Only school districts decide who has access to that information and for what purpose."
It is perfectly acceptable to be concerned about the online storage of data. However, public education would be best served by working collaboratively with an organization whose intent is noble: to create a technological standard that connects the entire public education ecosystem. The main objective of InBloom is to make the disparate systems compatible, and as such, make the job of educators and administrators much easier. It is unfortunate that Ravitch has taken such a pessimistic view of what this initiative can offer to our education reform efforts, and instead anoint herself the "Ralph Nader" of public education.
Finally, I take personal issue with Ravitch's comment that "teachers see technology as a tool to inspire student learning; entrepreneurs see it as a way to standardize teaching, to replace teachers, to make money and to market new products." That is categorically false and insulting to the many entrepreneurs who are trying to bring innovation to K-12 education, but are stonewalled by an anachronistic system dominated by textbook publishers extracting billions of dollars in monopoly profits from K-12 - something that Ravitch fails to acknowledge in her assault on entrepreneurship.
If Diane Ravitch or any writer for that matter wishes to communicate their skepticism with new technologies, that is perfectly fine. However, if you are going to write a policy piece for a supposedly reputable publication, then the story needs to provide sufficient empirical data to support the assertions. It is clear that this story could have easily been posted on Ravitch's blog, where she is free to publish her "rants" that are opinions devoid of supportable fact. Instead, we are forced to accept the grim reality that major publications will abdicate their journalistic integrity to forward a political agenda, which in this case is the supposition that technological innovation will seek to destroy public education, rather than improve it.
I think Will Robinson would have ignored the robot because he would have assumed the robot had a technical malfunction......
I haven't posted in a few weeks because I have been in a period of frustration. Reading the lies that continue to published to unravel the Common Core has caused me to reflect on the state of public education in the United States and how difficult it is to effect meaningful change. The politics around public education reform is as toxic as it's ever been.
What is happening right now is a symptom of the broader political battle between Democrats and Republicans, between Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians, between state and local control versus the role of the federal government in our society. This blogger will continue to insist that local control will exacerbate the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of public education.
The Common Core was an effort led by the states - by a group of Governors and Chief State School Officers. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan staunchly defended the Common Core in a speech last week. His remarks should be read. He discusses the difference between a "curriculum" and "standards." These standards are far superior to what preceded them. We should not have 50 states with 50 different standards. No content provider would be able to scale such a fragmented business, but more importantly, the standards we hold our students to should be substantially similar regardless of where they are educated. There was tremendous state support for these common standards - 45 states plus DC adopted them. While it is important that the standards do NOT result in an excessive amount of standardized assessment, what is important is that the quality of such assessments improves significantly. And we don't need more multiple choice tests, which do hardly anything towards assessing learning, only the ability to memorize facts without context.
Tea Party activists are distorting the facts and causing fear and paranoia in the education space. Even folks like AFT President Randi Weingarten are lobbying for a moratorium on tests related to the Common Core. We know that anytime a new reform is put in place, there may be an initial drop in academic achievement. That happened in parts of Tennessee which was one of the winners of the Race to the Top competition. But then scores go up.
Even in Georgia, whose own standards are practically identical to the Common Core, local school boards are caving into the misinformation and paranoia spread by local Tea Party members. Cobb County's board decided NOT to approve new math textbooks aligned to the Common Core. As education journalist Maureen Downey stated in the story: "In declaring that Cobb cannot buy textbooks aligned with Common Core math standards, the school board is essentially saying students cannot have textbooks aligned to the Georgia standards, either. Because they are the same."
We cannot let these self interest groups unravel years of collaboration that resulted in a set of standards that are materially better than what preceded them. Our education system will be set back many, many years if the Common Core is derailed. In the words of Secretary Duncan:
Whatever your views about public education, it is indefensible to lower learning standards. There is simply too much at stake — for the country — for our future — and for your industry.
If your state lowers standards, you lose a high bar for reading, for critical thinking, for writing, and for taking ideas seriously. You lose one of the cornerstones of democracy. Because the power of democracy depends upon an informed electorate — and a free press.
Politics certainly undermines education reform - I hope we have the courage to overcome such obstacles. Our children's future depends on it.
What is happening to our society? It is clear we have become hypersensitive and have lost our light-hearted nature. While the proliferation of social media has made the world feel "smaller," it has also had some unintended consequences, such as impulsive responses without the full context, only 140 characters of context. But it all starts in public schools, where our zero tolerance policies run completely counter to the elements needed to foster creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation - elements which our nation was founded upon.
What triggered this reaction today? Yesterday, three radio disc jockeys were terminated after a stunt mocking ALS patient (and former New Orleans Saints player) Steve Gleason went awry. After first making a public statement that the three radio hosts would be "suspended indefinitely," they were summarily fired less than a few hours later. Now don't get me wrong. I do not condone what they did - it was an ill advised stunt that was meant as a parody, and no one should degrade anyone who suffers from such a terrible, debilitating disease such as ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). Listeners took to the blogosphere and immediately went looking for blood, including some of his former teammates. I'm sure some sponsors also threatened to pull their advertising if something wasn't done to reprimand these radio hosts. Gleason said nothing until AFTER they were terminated (we'll get to what he said later). Why the rapid-fire trigger finger on the part of the radio station's parent company, Lincoln Financial Media? Social media allows anyone to have an opinion and make it known, but it astounds me how quickly people react without knowing the facts. Let me provide some background, since I have met two of these radio hosts and have some interesting background information to share:
- One of them, Steak Shapiro, was one of the founders of the radio station and has been on the air in Atlanta for nearly two decades. His performance has been impeccable and I know him to be of impeccable character.
- The men immediately issued heartfelt apologies and promised to make it up to the Gleason family. One of them actually spoke to Steve's wife and apologized. Shapiro is a graduate of Tulane University and while the Saints are clear arch rivals of the Falcons, he has always held the city of New Orleans in high regard. No doubt it will take him a long time to mend fences there.
- A former colleague of mine, Rodney Ho, a journalist with an Atlanta newspaper, wrote a very interesting background story. Shapiro sold the station to Lincoln Financial Media a few years ago, and there is evidence suggesting that the station was looking to let their contracts expire in a few months, with no intention to renew. With additional competition for sports talk in the Atlanta marketplace, it has adversely impacted the station's finances and market position and they were clearly looking to reduce their cost base. This incident, while ill-advised and inappropriate, was a convenient way for the station to get out what would have been an already complex negotiation.
My feeling is this. Why the rush for blood? Why not look to use this as a "teachable moment" and positively reinforce a behavior change? Gleason didn't comment until AFTER the decision to terminate was made. While not reacting to the station's decision, he posted on his Facebook page that "he accepted their apologies." Some options the station could have considered include:
- Have the hosts go on the air the following day and use a segment to make an on-air apology and put some focus on awareness of ALS
- Consider having the hosts contribute meaningfully to ALS or Gleason's charity, as well as participate in some fundraising or other events related to ALS
- Consider a suspension as a reprimand for their actions but recognizing they are ALL first offenders who have a long track record of professionalism in the radio industry.
But that didn't happen here. Just like our public education system, we are quick to punish those who break the rules and refuse to identify ways to turn an unfortunate incident into a positive, teachable moment. All we did in this case was throw these gentleman under the bus and likely prevent them from continuing to work in the radio business, at least for the foreseeable future. As Shapiro said in two tweets:
What is so ironic is that I went to Tulane, love New Orleans and love the @steve_gleason story, what a moronic 2 mins, I am truly sorry....
ALS not a joke, bit or game. 20 yrs on the air, 2 bad mins on a show, look at the whole picture I hope. Zone was a great ride!! #thebest
i expressed my views in an even-toned letter to the GM of the station, and surprisingly, received the following response:
Thank you for your e-mail. I appreciate the time you took to write it and I respect your point of view. I thought it was important, however, to share some additional perspective. Deciding to terminate Nick, Chris and Steak as a result of what transpired on Monday morning was neither an impulsive decision nor an easy one. As you outlined in your e-mail, they each have long careers in radio and are fixtures in our community. Notwithstanding this fact, I have a responsibility to our listeners, to our advertisers and to our overall community to protect the standards and core values of our organization. The content of Monday mornings programming cannot be reconciled with those standards and core values. While this was a difficult decision, I am confident that it was the right one.
No one is defending their actions, but this blogger feels that the station found a convenient way to get out of a difficult business decision, and these guys deserve a second chance. There were other options "to protect the standards and core values of the organization." Just like in public education, we need to learn from failures and allow people a chance to redeem themselves. If we punish those who break the rules, then you can throw America's innovative spirit out the window.