No wonder Valerie Strauss never engages….

No wonder Valerie Strauss never engages….

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Reading through Alexander Russo’s new blog, “The Grade,” I happened on an interesting blog post about The Washington Post’s blog The Answer Sheet by….Valerie Strauss. He writes:

She doesn’t write very much of her own commentary, they say. She can’t be both a columnist/blogger who traffics in opinion and commentary and also take/get assigned straight news stories, they say. Her reported pieces aren’t well-reported. And most of all: What she does post is pretty much unrelentingly critical of reform ideas like charter schools and test-based accountability.

Now granted, the complaints are mostly coming from reform advocates whose views aren’t frequently found on Strauss’s staunchly critical education blog. Or they’re from education journalists who are competitors of some kind. So all this is all to be taken with a grain of salt. But the list goes on and on, and the behind-the-scenes conversations with editors and ombudsmen I’ve heard about are pretty much endless.

I just assumed she was busy, but I tweet to her every day and have written extensively about an interview she “presumably” did with Anthony Cody in these posts:

Refuting Anthony Cody Part 3

Cody denies progress to advance his agenda

Really? No Gains in NYC?

Anthony Cody, can you look a child in DC in the eyes and tell him that his progress is unrecognized

Refuting Anthony Cody Part 2

Refuting Anthony Cody Part 1

Granted it was Cody’s interview, and if anyone were to respond it would be him, and he has to an extent, but she never has made a peep, ever. And I’ve even gotten John Thompson to challenge me, I’m not a nobody! 🙂

But this blog post of Alexander’s just makes a lot of sense from my experience with the blog.

Alexander goes on:

This might not be the biggest or deepest critique of the work Strauss does and her Post editors allow. My main issue with her blog is that it doesn’t seem to offer readers an honest, somewhat balanced assessment of the big education issues that are being debated, or isn’t balanced with another blog so that readers of the Post can at least see two sides of a discussion. Oh, and it annoys me to no end that Answer Sheet blog posts overwhelm regular reported news stories on the site’s education page and on Feedly as if blog posts and reported news are the same thing. But let’s save all that for another time, shall we?

Yes, yes please write about something other than the far left leaning wing of the Democratic Party. I basically don’t read her material because I know it’s all over the edge and I’m not likely to agree.

Alexander goes on to discuss the world of bylines in the journalism world (and I have to say he did very well by me as a writer or news clipper making me a contributor and my name would be on the morning news) but my biggest pet peeve is this which he brings up later – her lack of accountability:

Issue number two related to the byline is the accountability issue. When there’s heat or pushback on what she’s posted under her byline, Strauss seems like she doesn’t want anything to do with it. In such situations she wants it known that she’s just the person who assigned or accepted the outside contribution. Then, she’s just the editor. But she still gets a byline.

The most recent example of this is a May 15 post Strauss published taking on Deepak Chopra’s work, written by Steven Newton. The headline is “Scientist: Why Deepak Chopra is driving me crazy.” The byline is, as usual, “By Valerie Strauss.” But two paragraphs in, Strauss hands it over to Newton.

The post generated nearly 50 comments and some attention on Twitter, including this hostile/polite tweet from Chopra’s account on May 18 addressed to Strauss and sent to his 2.44 million followers:

Dear @valeriestrauss – I responded to your ad hominem blog on me in the Washington Post in the comments section. Regards

— Deepak Chopra (@DeepakChopra) May 18, 2015

Strauss published a follow-up piececomplaining that Chopra’s email and Tweet were misguided: “He said it was written by me. He didn’t mention that Newton actually wrote the piece.”

To recap: Strauss published a piece under her byline. Chopra responded to her Twitter handle. But Strauss doesn’t feel like the responsibility for the post is hers.

Ah well, didn’t like her before and have zero reason to like her now. Too bad because I generally like the WashPost.

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Yes, let’s tear it down TO build something new!

This sounds like pontificating on your part…

You know what is on its last legs? Status quo education

A school that isn’t teaching you what you need to know, or a college where you can’t do the work?

Last post regarding Anthony Cody’s piece:

He writes:

It is perhaps a basic truth that it is easier to tear something down than to build something new. This may explain some of the trouble reformers are facing. Our schools are flawed in many ways, and do not deliver the sorts of opportunities we want all children to have access to. Racial and economic segregation, inequitable funding, and the replication of privilege are endemic — though truly addressing these issues will require change that goes far beyond the walls of our classrooms. Corporate-sponsored reformers have blamed the very institution of public education for these problems, and have set forth a set of alternatives and strategies to overcome social inequities. Here we are a decade into this project, and the alternative structures are collapsing, one by one.

We cannot pass laws that declare others “accountable” for making sure 100% of our children will be proficient and act as though we have accomplished something. It is time to go back to basic premises, and in every community, ask ourselves what we want from our schools? How can we meet the challenge of educating all our children – not leaving any behind? The answers will not come easily or cheaply. But just as a previous generation faced the challenge of the 20th century Civil Rights movement, our generation must respond.

I believe there really is not distinction between tearing something down and building something new. You have to literally, tear something down in order to build something new. As I mentioned in a former post, What is antiquated about our schools?, we need to tear them down and build new models. Sometimes even actual, physical schools need to be rebuilt. Our schools were built hundreds of years ago for the purposes of “Americanizing” immigrants. We have made tweaks, but nothing substantially has changed. We have more research now on how students actually learn everything from the methods we use (lecturing is antiquated) to the times of day that students attend school and the school year calendar.

Honestly, some of the schools I have been in feel like we are warehousing children. That is not my intention, but it’s what it feels like when as a guidance intern I spend 30 quality minutes with a student and then are forced to send him back to the 5/6 teachers who don’t care and are not helping him learn. It’s like the law requires them to be here and so they are. But who is making sure that they have the teachers they need and the curriculum they need, the school climate and discipline and encouragement they need. It’s just not happening in enough schools. So yes, Please, let tear it all down and rebuild it. You can’t really rebuild a home with a shaky foundation or rotting walls….you need to just start over.

We have been pouring more money into schools (though I know it doesn’t seem like it). One of the reasons that teachers are such a hot button topic is because that’s where the bulk of the school department money goes. I’m NOT anti teacher (regardless of how many people like John Thompson insist it is so). I’m anti the people who work in in our schools who are not doing whats in the best interest of our kids. The especially includes administration. If I hear one more administrator say “Look at the great stuff we’re doing at the department” I’m going to scream because those “things going on at the department” hardly ever fully transition into implementation at the classroom level. But Administrators can’t admit that.

We absolutely need to invest in more community resources, more wraparound programs, we need to support the community organizations that are supporting our kids, we need to have more access to early education and pre-k options, we need to have more parent engagement & involvement. But we still need the best possible teachers and administrators and too many schools don’t have that. So please, while we are tearing it down TO build something new, let’s start with a clean slate that the administrative level too.

A school that isn’t teaching you what you need to know, or a college where you can’t do the work?

Prior posts:

This sounds like pontificating on your part…

You know what is on its last legs? Status quo education

Here is the next in my series of refuting this post of Anthony Cody’s:

He writes:

New and Improved Standards and Tests: Since 2010 we have heard that the answer to the terrible impact of No Child Left Behind was to create better tests, aligned with the new Common Core standards. Modern technology would allow the tests to be taken on computers, which would cleverly adjust themselves to students’ ability levels. These would be tests worth teaching to. Now the tests have arrived, and there are three huge problems. First, the tests themselves are confusing and unworkable, leading a growing number of states to reject them. Second, the tests require a huge investment in technology, since they must be taken online on computers. Third, when students take these tests, proficiency rates are plummeting, leading many to question their legitimacy. How can a test that labels upwards of 80% of students of color below proficient be considered a tool for advancing their civil rights? And when these tests are used to determine who receives a high school diploma, the results could be devastating. When a fourth grader can deliver a devastating statement like this, the Common Core tests cannot long survive.

If the tests and the class room material is mismatched then work on fixing it. Whats the alternative, no tests? I agree there is some sort of bizarre conspiracy among test makers and publishers but we need some kind of test. Why? Same reason we need some kind of standards. Because we are graduating students all over the country with varying levels of actual education. Case in point:

One of my coworkers in Massachusetts (yes I know the “education state”) said that where she grew up in MA, she was in the top of her class. But when she graduated and went to college, she couldn’t do the work and had to take remedial classes. Why would any student who was in the top of her class in high school expect to be in remedial classes in college? That would have to mean that the educational standards in her school district were awfully low. Is that what she deserves?

Maybe that’s why students don’t finish college, because perhaps they went to a school where they thought they were doing their best, where they thought they were getting the “American Dream” education and they did not. Worst of all, you won’t even notice that you are not getting a top quality education until it’s way past too late.

Huge investment in technology. I get that it is expensive and alot of smaller rural districts have trouble funding it. Even normal sized districts with the money still have to decide between big lease contracts or purchasing and software is expensive….but it has to be done and we just have to figure out how to do it. Students need access to computers and the internet to stay on par with the generational changes and to continue to engage students in ways that they expect to. School without computers is boring and kids know it.

Proficiency rates are plummeting because the tests are new and there may need to be some adjustments. But maybe, the kids WEREN’T learning as much as they should have the the tests are point that out. Blame the school district, the curriculum department for that problem. Classic defensive move to deflect from taking responsibility for poor educational standards – is to say that the tests are bad, our kids aren’t underperforming by that much! Maybe, they are. Best to get them on track NOW, ASAP. We’ve already wasted too much of their education.

He writes:

How can a test that labels upwards of 80% of students of color below proficient be considered a tool for advancing their civil rights?

Well, Anthony, I’m not going to speak for the folks whom you’ve taken this reference, but in my opinion, it demonstrates in concrete evidence that we are teaching those students curriculum that is NOT rigorous enough to expect them to compete with every other child. It proves we need to be doing more to properly educate those children. They have not been afforded their civil right to an excellent education.

And when these tests are used to determine who receives a high school diploma, the results could be devastating

This is true, but the heart of the argument doesn’t have anything to do with the tests themselves. It has to do with whether or not tests should be used to determine a diploma. However, if these students may not fare well in college because of their subpar education in their district, maybe one more year will help them achieve that. Or maybe not, maybe their best bet is to….I don’t even know – go back to a school that isn’t teaching you what you need to know, or a college where you can’t do the work? What would you choose?

That’s great that the child was brave enough to speak to the Board of Ed. More students should do it. But her case simply states that the curriculum and tests need to be better aligned, they don’t say anything about the basic use of tests in general.

It’s interesting Anthony, that you offer no solutions, simply hand picked situations that you think are going to sway some of your readers, who hopefully can do their own research after reading your work. However, you seem to strive to keep the “status quo” of course the educational establishment is doing just fine as it is.

 

This sounds like pontificating on your part…

I started refuting Anthony Cody’s post in this blog: You know what is on its last legs? Status quo education , Now I continue with his next claim…

Charter schools: We were told that charter schools were where innovation was happening. Freed from the dual constraints of district management and union contracts, these schools were going to show the laggards in public schools how it should be done. Some even claimed to have “figured out” how to overcome the effects of poverty on student achievement. So the billionaire geniuses of corporate reform insisted that all barriers and regulations on charters be removed or minimized. This requirement was written into Race to the Top and NCLB waivers. Want federal money? Better open the door for charter schools. Want special grants from the Gates Foundation? Open the doors to charters in your district.

But now charter proponents admit they have no secret sauce beyond excluding students who are difficult or expensive to educate. Their plan is to “serve the strivers,” and let the rest flounder in an ever-more-burdened public system. The states where regulations are weakest, like Ohio, have charters that perform worse than the public schools, and even the self-described fan of free-markets, Margaret Raymond, lead researcher at CREDO, recently concluded that using market choice to improve schools has failed. In the state of Washington, where Bill Gates and other reform titans spent millions to pass a law allowing charter schools there, the first charter school to open is struggling to stay afloat, having suffered massive staff turnover in its first year. How ironic that 13 years after the corporate reformers labeled their flagship of reform “No Child Left Behind,” that now their leaders are left defending leaving behind the very children they claimed their project would save.

This sounds like pontificating on your part….Can you source this exact language? “But now charter proponents admit they have no secret sauce beyond excluding students who are difficult or expensive to educate.” I’d like to see it. Just because you say it or wrote it does not make it so. (Thought wouldn’t you love it if you could be right for once?)

Yes, there are charters that don’t perform as well as their traditional public schools. Apparently, though I have not seen the evidence or proof myself, some charters expel or exclude some students. But that is NOT a characteristic nationwide. In fact they traditionally operate themselves in areas to serve low income underserved children. You want to talk about expulsions? Why don’t you check on the school discipline policies (or lack thereof) in all of your traditionally public schools and then come back and talk to be about charters expelling.  Take a look at the movement happening in state legislatures nation-wide because of the school suspension issues in ALL schools. Instead of addressing the fact that status quo education policies, including the ineffective school discipline procedures, that are going on in traditional public schools you’re just trying to draw attention elsewhere. Why don’t you clean up your own house?

 You20141105_193833‘ve mentioned Ohio and California. What about all the other charters? Were those the only ones you can find that were under performing? I wish I could point to only  2 states where traditional public schools were underperforming – unfortunately that’s not the case. What about KIPP school? Democracy Prep? Big Picture Learning  Schools? We have some stellar charters here in GA – Drew Charter and Ivy Prep.

 Also, I’ll have you know that I believed that charters were started to try new education strategies for public schools to learn from. Well, I was informed this fall by Howard  Fuller himself, a father of charter schools in MN that charters were not started to test out new ideas for traditional public schools (though I still believe this is a goal we  should strive for), but that they were created simply to offer parents and students an alternative to their only choice of a public school, which may not be meeting student  needs.

 But feel free to keep writing nonsense, because it gives me plenty of material to work with.

You know what is on its last legs? Status quo education

My search to find articles to refute has bound upon a plentiful pile at “Living in Dialogue” blog.

Here goes Anthony Cody, yet again…

There is growing evidence that the corporate-sponsored education reform project is on its last legs. The crazy patchwork of half-assed solutions on offer for the past decade have one by one failed to deliver, and one by one they are falling. Can the edifice survive once its pillars of support have crumbled?

No. You may wish it so. But it is not true. Saying it doesn’t make it true. But you know what is on its last legs? Status quo education that your folks have been defending for so long, that is still failing children nation-wide.

Teach For America: This project had as its central premise the idea that what was wrong with the teaching profession was that not enough really smart people were becoming teachers. So we will recruit some high flyers and fill the gaps in high needs schools. And because these folks are sooo smart, they do not need the year or two of preparation that regular old teachers needed – they could learn to crunch data, manage a class and prepare for tests in just five weeks. And if they leave after a couple of years, that’s ok too. They can transform education as the next generation of leaders and policymakers, because they will have brains that classroom experience, and TFA’s no excuses philosophy to guide them.

As Cody continues with his selective history, I pulled this off the TFA website:

Wendy Kopp proposed the idea for Teach For America in her Princeton University undergraduate thesis in 1989.  In 1990, a charter corps of 500 committed recent college graduates joined Teach For America and began fueling the movement to eliminate educational inequity.  Since then, nearly 33,000 participants have reached more than 3 million children nationwide during their two-year teaching commitments. They have sustained their commitment as alumni, working within education and across all sectors to help ensure that children growing up in low-income communities get an excellent education.

Given the magnitude of the educational inequity, we have aggressively worked to grow and deepen our impact.  Our corps members and alumni have helped accelerate the pace of change as teachers, principals, elected officials, social entrepreneurs, and leaders in all fields.  Alongside many others, they have proven that classrooms, schools and now whole communities can transform the life trajectories of all students, regardless of background.

We are energized by the progress we have made over the past 22 years and more hopeful than ever before that one day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.

From this excerpt, I can see that TFA was started to commit recent college graduates who believed in eliminating educational equity to serve as teachers in low income communities. TFA is working the make sure that poverty doesn’t write  a child’s future but that their education does. But because the union movement and it’s friends like Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody are just now trying to tackle poverty, they can’t admit that anyone else is, because it takes away from the success they can produce. How selfish. That doesn’t sound like its about kids. Sounds like it is about adults.

What is really the difference between a recent college graduate who took 30 more credits in education and a TFA teacher? Only the quality of their instruction. We already know there is a movement to transform schools of education because the teaching profession is lacking a true leader in that field. So, a lackluster 30 credits (which split up over a couple days a week for a couple of hours a day over two semesters) or 5 weeks of intensive training? Sounds like they could be pretty equal to me.

But this year TFA is hitting some serious headwinds. They are finding that recruitment has dropped for some reason, and the organization is even closing its New York training instituteoffice. Perhaps students have been finding out some of the problems with the program, discovering in advance that five weeks is not adequate preparation for the challenge of teaching in a challenging school. Perhaps potential recruits have encountered TFA alums sharing their experiences, or even some of those organizing to resist the program. And word may have leaked out that TFA is not the best vehicle for those concerned with social justice – given that corps members are sometimes being used to replace veteran teachers.

Ok Cody, where is your data, your research to support the crumbling? So what they are closing an office and there are fewer applicants. Those statements say nothing about the quality of the work TFA teachers do, or the success they have with their students. Where is your data proving that students with a TFA teacher perform worse than traditional public school teacher taught students? Unless you can back your statements up with some data, you are just crying wolf.

Since you mentioned veteran teachers….Some are very good. Many are not – either they haven’t kept up with the times, their classroom discipline/management style doesn’t mesh with today’s youth, they haven’t had a professional, thorough evaluation to determine where their professional development needs are (the subsequently they did not receive professional development to meet their needs, which not their fault, but a reality), they won’t learn new education strategies, or the worst, they are just collecting a paycheck and passing out worksheets all day long.

This may not be a majority of teachers – BUT THEY DO EXIST!! and every single moment a student spends with these ineffective teachers is a wasted moment that the child is expecting to receive a quality education and simply is not. Children, parents and the community expect and are paying for high quality education. When are kids aren’t receiving a quality education we are all wasting our money, might as well be flushing it down the toilet. Or, Like in DeKalb County, GA where I live, as long as all the friends and family have a high paying job at the school department, all is right with the world.