Ed reform needs ‘happy’ rebranding

Education reform should be the “happy” movement, reports Education Gladfly in its April Fool’s Day edition. “Closing sh***y, no good schools” is seen as mean and divisive. After rebranding, “This school evokes a World War II bomb shelter” can become “We must transform education for the twenty-first century.”

Rather than “This teacher’s grasp of pedagogy is on par with that of a Barbie doll, her classroom presence wouldn’t fog a mirror, and her content knowledge is surpassed by my dog,” say, “We must open up new, twenty-first-century career opportunities for our struggling education professionals.”

The April Fool’s ‘Fly also reports on “tough times” for Chicago union leader Karen Lewis, who’s under attack from members for being too soft.

Dissidents’ demands:

Classes no bigger than eight kids
Tenure after one year of teaching (rounding up any partial years)
Rahm Emanuel’s head on a plate
Rahm Emanuel’s hide as a coat
Rahm Emanuel’s ears on a cat
Ten-year moratorium on standardized testing
Free ponies for all

Chicago “Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced (from his ski chateau) his decision to close all Chicago public schools.” He recommended home schooling.

Needed: More ideologues, less kumbaya

“Can’t we all just get along?” asked Rodney King. No, answers Matt Barnum on Dropout Nation. School reformers and traditionalists have different ideas on “what’s best for kids.”  Ideas matter.

A Teach for America alum, he criticizes TFA President Wendy Kopp for writing, “We have to stop thinking of ourselves as locked in an ideological battle and focus on doing everything in our power to give students today the education they deserve.”

. . . Kopp seems to create a dichotomy between ideologues –those “locked in an ideological battle” – on the one hand, and those who want to do what’s best for kids, on the other. In actuality, ideologues not only want what’s best for kids, they actually have ideas – some good, some bad – for how to achieve results. Reformers emphasize school choice, parental empowerment, and teacher quality; traditionalists focus on class size, early-childhood education, and wrap-around services.

It seems to me that part of the problem in education is not too many, but rather, too few ideologues.

Traditionalist Diane Ravitch and union leader Karen Lewis have engaged in increasingly vicious attacks, writes Barnum. Reformers have employed “harmful and distasteful rhetoric.”  He favors “discussing ideas over demeaning people.”

At times, compromise may be necessary Barnum concedes. But not always. An “uncompromising, ideological vision of change to our education system may, in fact, be what’s best for kids.”

Teachers refuse to give ‘useless’ tests

Teachers at a Seattle high school are refusing to give a district-mandated exam, saying it’s a waste of time, reports NPR. Measures of Academic Progress is given up to three times a year from kindergarten through at least ninth grade, in addition to state exams.

Garfield High’s academic dean, Kris McBride, MAP doesn’t seem to align with district or state curricula. Teachers can’t see the test, so they don’t know why their students did well or poorly. (MAP adapts to students’ performance levels, giving easier or harder questions depending on how well they do, so there is no one exam for all students.)

Portfolios of students’ work could replace MAP, writes teacher Jesse Hagopian in a Seattle Times op-ed.

Seattle’s ninth- and 10th-grade students already take five state-required standardized tests . . . Seattle Public Schools staff admitted to a Garfield teacher the MAP test is not valid at the high-school level, because the margin of error is greater than expected gains.

. . . Students don’t take the MAP seriously because they know their scores don’t factor into their grades or graduation status. They approach it less seriously each time they take it, so their scores decline. Our district uses MAP scores in teacher evaluations, even though the MAP company recommends against using it to evaluate teacher effectiveness and it’s not mandated in our union contract.

Eleven teachers at ORCA K-8, a Seattle alternative school, have joined the boycott.

More than 60 educators and researchers have signed a statement supporting the test boycott, including Jonathan Kozol, Diane Ravitch and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.

Chicago teachers end strike

After more than a week on picket lines, Chicago teachers’ union delegates have voted to end the strike. Schools will reopen Wednesday.

Saying it marked “a new day and a new direction “ for Chicago schools, Mayor Rahm Emanuel hailed the contract — with its teacher evaluations, longer school day provision and plans for five new science and technology high schools.

A union statement bragged about stopping “corporate ‘school reform’.”

“Now we have stopped the board from imposing merit pay! We preserved our lanes and steps when the politicians and press predicted they were history. We held the line on health care costs.”

The district will use students’ “growth” scores as only 30 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, the minimum set by state law. A committee will discuss how to evaluate teachers.

I still think it looks like a victory for the union — and for union chief Karen Lewis, who’s rumored to be thinking about challenging Randi Weingarten for leadership of the American Federation of Teachers. Whether a more militant AFT is good for teachers in the long run is another question.

Rahmbo got rolled by the union, writes Rick Hess.

Chicago mayor asks court to end ‘illegal’ teachers strike

Calling the Chicago teachers’ strike “illegal,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked for a court order to force teachers back to work, but a Cook County Circuit Court judge refused to hear the case till Wednesday, reports the Chicago Tribune. Union delegates will meet Tuesday to discuss the proposed deal.

“State law expressly prohibits the CTU from striking over non-economic issues, such as layoff and recall policies, teacher evaluations, class sizes and the length of the school day and year,” the Chicago Public Schools motion states. “The CTU’s repeated statements and recent advertising campaign have made clear that these are exactly the subjects over which the CTU is striking.”

In addition, the strike is “a clear and present danger to public health and safety,” the motion states.

Rick Hess analyzes the politics of the strike in week two. Chicago Teachers Union leader Karen Lewis “is becoming the anti-Michelle Rhee for teachers who’ve yearned for a fire-breathing anti-evaluation, pro-LIFO champion,” he writes. While she looks strong, Emanuel is “losing traction.”

In the fight against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Democratic reformers had argued “you could get dramatic reforms without changing the rules around collective bargaining.”

If even Rahmbo can’t follow through on tough-minded school reforms, while offering more pay in a tough economy, it’ll raise questions about the seriousness of less combative Dems.

In the long run, it’s bad for the unions if Democrats “decide they have to choose between teacher quality and working with unions,” Hess concludes.