Saturday, August 02, 2014

KIPP Summit pics and video

I’m fired up! (As I always am after the KIPP Summit and, in particular, the closing gala, which this year was the best ever.)


~15,000 (!) KIPP students, alums, parents, teachers, principals and supporters filled the Toyota Center (where the Houston Rockets play) to celebrate KIPP’s 20th anniversary – and they weren’t disappointed as the KIPP students put on a fabulous show, as did guest performers Common and Mary J Blige. Below are some pics and links to numerous videos I took.


In the pics (clockwise from upper left): my wife and oldest daughter, who came with me to KSS for the first time (and now have a better understanding of why KIPP is so special); Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg honoring the 10 winners of the Harriett Ball Excellence in Teaching Award; the crowd, which filled the arena; Michelle Obama, who spoke via a recorded video; another crowd shot; the ~57 alums from the first two KIPP classes, Houston ’94 and ’95 and Bronx ’95 (truly amazing that so many came back); me with two of my favorite people, Kathleen Nugent, the rock star head of DFER NJ (on the left) and Joanna Belcher, the amazing principal of KIPP SPARK Academy in Newark:



KIPP has posted two videos:


·       KIPP School Summit annual video (Looking Forward):

·       A history of KIPP (Looking Back):


Here are my videos:


·       The crowd doing the wave:

·       KIPP Academy Nashville Choir:

·       KIPP Zenith Star Steppers:

·       Dominique Young (KIPP alum and now teacher):

·       KIPP Academy String and Rhythm Orchestra:

·       Michelle Obama video:

·       Earliest KIPP alums honored:

·       Common performs:

·       Common performs with Dominique Young:

·       Common:

·       Mary J Blige:

·       Mary J Blige:


All in all, an AMAZING event! Enjoy!

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Greetings from the KIPP Summit

I’m at the annual KIPP Summit in Houston, celebrating KIPP's 20th anniversary, at a quick break before dinner and the closing gala, which is always incredibly inspirational (and will have 13,000 people this year!), so I wanted to send out a quick email related to what I saw today.


Here are some pics:



The top pic is of Jim Collins (author of Good to Great) giving a great talk this morning; the lower right pic is NYT columnist, David Brooks, who spoke last night; and the last one is me with Dan Porterfield, the ed warrior President of Franklin & Marshall College (note our matching beards – I have some summer stubble going…; also note my KIPP Infinity t-shirt; those of you who’ve been on this email a long time will recognize the shirt, which is at least a decade old and has been around the world many times).


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Amanda Ripley & The Smartest Kids in the World

Amanda Ripley also spoke this morning about the findings of her book that was released a year ago, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way (, which is an absolute must read. Below are the first three items from the email I dedicated to it last August, including a link to an extended excerpt from the book (including my underlining).


1) STOP THE PRESSES!  I just finished reading Amanda Ripley’s new book, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way ( and it is an absolute must read! I’m dedicating this entire email to it.


The book covers a lot of ground, but mainly focuses on three American high school students who spend a year at regular public schools in Finland, Poland and South Korea – all countries that, unlike the US, have made great progress educationally and now score well above us (despite, needless to say, spending a ton less per pupil than us). Each country has lessons for us:


·       Finland is the model we should aspire to, especially the way they recruit and train fantastic teachers – and then give them great autonomy. It’s the way EVERY successful school (and school system) I’ve seen works, rooted in what Charlie Munger calls “a seamless web of deserved trust” (he was referring to how one of the largest companies in the world, Berkshire Hathaway (of which he is Vice Chair to Warren Buffett), with nearly 300,000 employees, operates with only a couple of dozen people at headquarters).

·       I’d never heard anything about Poland’s educational system, but we could learn a lot from their first phase of reform in which the country re-set the bar to a rigorous, high level and outlined a standard national curriculum – but then gave schools and teachers freedom in how to meet the goals (Poland’s next phase is upgrading teacher quality).

·       South Korea has a laser-like focus on education – to an obsessive, insane degree, including private cram schools called hagwons – that could never be fully replicated here, but if we took education even half as seriously as they do, it would make a HUGE difference.


To summarize the book in three points:


1.     Set up a system to get only top-caliber people into teaching and then train (and retain) them well (like we do with doctors, for example).

2.     Set a high bar and demand hard work and critical thinking. “Nine out of ten international students reported that school in America was easier than school back home. Seven out of ten American students agreed with them.” Ripley’s research confirms that what I’ve long said is true worldwide: young people, like big organizations, will like up – or live down – to whatever expectations you set for them.

3.     There needs to be a national ethos regarding the importance of education (as opposed to, say, high school football).


As I write these points, I’m realizing that there’s another reason this book might be very powerful: it focuses on things that folks like Ravitch and me might (I hope you’re sitting down) actually agree on.


2) So much of the book is a must-read and I underlined and starred so many pages that I had trouble narrowing down what to share. I scanned 27 pairs of pages and posted them at: (the file was too large to attach, sorry). Here’s a rough table of contents (using my page numbers since the book’s page numbers were cut off by my scanner):


a)     Page 1: a chart that shows how different countries have done on the PISA test since the 1960s – note the US stagnation, Korea and Finland soaring (and, lest you think all rich, homogeneous countries do well, Norway crashing).

b)     Pages 2-3: Korea rising from the ashes of the Korean War

c)     Page 4: our startling (and horrifying) math deficiency

d)     Pages 5-11: if you read anything, read this section, called A Tale of Two Teachers, which compares how Finland and the US recruit and train teachers.

e)     Page 12: Finnish students answer the American student’s question: “Why do you guys care [about school] so much?”

f)      Pages 12-13: A Finnish student comes to the US and can’t believe how dumbed down our standards and expectations are.

g)     Pages 14-15: traits of good parents (authoritarian vs. authoritative; cheerleader vs. coach)

h)     Page 16: Summary of what top countries are doing (“everything was more demanding”)

i)      Page 17: Our glorification of sports (at the expense of academics)

j)      Pages 18-20: The Poland case study

k)     Page 21: Inequalities in our system (but not in top countries)

l)      Page 22: The complaints and obstacles to change are similar around the world

m)   Page 23: How we make excuses for poor kids – but top countries don’t. (A Finnish teacher said: “Wealth doesn’t mean a thing. It’s your brain that counts. These kids know that from very young. We are all the same.”)

n)     Page 24: The one test in the U.S. that’s highly rigorous, which schools and students treat seriously: the Presidential Fitness Test.

o)     Pages 24-25: Summary of what top countries are doing.

p)     Page 26: A top teacher in a low-performing DC public school “discovers the airless void where the rigor should have been.”

q)     Page 27: Summary of what good parents should be doing.


3) Here’s a 5-min video of Ripley presenting her work at a Stand for Children event:


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Reed Hastings' interview and presentation on Freedom & Responsibility Culture

David Bradley did his usual brilliant interviewing – last year, he brought Chris Christie to tears and this afternoon he did a one-on-one with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. A major part of the interview was around this slide presentation Hastings published in 2011, which is posted at:

The presentation was created by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, and it was first published in 2011. It's an easy-to-skim slideshow called Freedom & Responsibility Culture that explains the company's management philosophy.

Why does Sandberg feel it is so important?

Hastings mentioned a number of new, controversial ideas in the document. For example, Netflix has a "no vacation policy" for its employees. Its staff is allowed to take off as many days as they want, as long as they do so responsibly.

Other things in the presentation that caused a stir:

·        "Outstanding" employees only. Netflix doesn't accept anyone who does an "adequate" job (Hastings says those hires often lead to "generous severance packages"). 

·        "Freedom and responsibility" vs command-and-control: Employees get to make decisions; managers just give them the right context to do so.

·        No "brilliant jerks." It doesn't matter how good you are at the job. If you're a jerk, you won't stick around Netflix for long. 

The document has been read more than 3 million times on Slideshare and many of Hastings' controversial ideas have been implemented by other companies, including Business Insider.


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Why Do Americans Stink at Math?

Lastly, another panel raved about a new book by Elizabeth Green, Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone) ( Below is an extended excerpt from last weekend’s NY Times Magazine, entitled Why Do Americans Stink at Math?:

Instead of having students memorize and then practice endless lists of equations — which Takahashi remembered from his own days in school — Matsuyama taught his college students to encourage passionate discussions among children so they would come to uncover math’s procedures, properties and proofs for themselves. One day, for example, the young students would derive the formula for finding the area of a rectangle; the next, they would use what they learned to do the same for parallelograms. Taught this new way, math itself seemed transformed. It was not dull misery but challenging, stimulating and even fun.

Takahashi quickly became a convert. He discovered that these ideas came from reformers in the United States, and he dedicated himself to learning to teach like an American. Over the next 12 years, as the Japanese educational system embraced this more vibrant approach to math, Takahashi taught first through sixth grade. Teaching, and thinking about teaching, was practically all he did. A quiet man with calm, smiling eyes, his passion for a new kind of math instruction could take his colleagues by surprise. “He looks very gentle and kind,” Kazuyuki Shirai, a fellow math teacher, told me through a translator. “But when he starts talking about math, everything changes.”

Takahashi was especially enthralled with an American group called the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, or N.C.T.M., which published manifestoes throughout the 1980s, prescribing radical changes in the teaching of math. Spending late nights at school, Takahashi read every one. Like many professionals in Japan, teachers often said they did their work in the name of their mentor. It was as if Takahashi bore two influences: Matsuyama and the American reformers.

Takahashi, who is 58, became one of his country’s leading math teachers, once attracting 1,000 observers to a public lesson. He participated in a classroom equivalent of “Iron Chef,” the popular Japanese television show. But in 1991, when he got the opportunity to take a new job in America, teaching at a school run by the Japanese Education Ministry for expats in Chicago, he did not hesitate. With his wife, a graphic designer, he left his friends, family, colleagues — everything he knew — and moved to the United States, eager to be at the center of the new math.

As soon as he arrived, he started spending his days off visiting American schools. One of the first math classes he observed gave him such a jolt that he assumed there must have been some kind of mistake. The class looked exactly like his own memories of school. “I thought, Well, that’s only this class,” Takahashi said. But the next class looked like the first, and so did the next and the one after that. The Americans might have invented the world’s best methods for teaching math to children, but it was difficult to find anyone actually using them.

It wasn’t the first time that Americans had dreamed up a better way to teach math and then failed to implement it. The same pattern played out in the 1960s, when schools gripped by a post-Sputnik inferiority complex unveiled an ambitious “new math,” only to find, a few years later, that nothing actually changed. In fact, efforts to introduce a better way of teaching math stretch back to the 1800s. The story is the same every time: a big, excited push, followed by mass confusion and then a return to conventional practices.

The trouble always starts when teachers are told to put innovative ideas into practice without much guidance on how to do it. In the hands of unprepared teachers, the reforms turn to nonsense, perplexing students more than helping them. One 1965 Peanuts cartoon depicts the young blond-haired Sally struggling to understand her new-math assignment: “Sets . . . one to one matching . . . equivalent sets . . . sets of one . . . sets of two . . . renaming two. . . .” After persisting for three valiant frames, she throws back her head and bursts into tears: “All I want to know is, how much is two and two?”

Today the frustrating descent from good intentions to tears is playing out once again, as states across the country carry out the latest wave of math reforms: the Common Core.


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Saturday, July 19, 2014

For-profit schools

I’m not opposed to for-profit schools (either in the K-12 or higher ed arena) (I’m a hedge fund manager after all!) – I’m just opposed to the messed up system we have that allows for-profit operators to run amok. We could learn a lot from how Brazil is doing it:

After equally hectic expansion, Brazil’s for-profit institutions have three-quarters of the country’s higher-education market—and fees are low and quality is rising fast. And since a degree boosts wages by a bigger multiple in Brazil than in any other country tracked by the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, graduates can make back their tuition fees in just a few years.

Soon Brazil will become home not only to the world’s liveliest for-profit education sector, but to its biggest for-profit higher-education firm, too. Last month the antitrust regulator, CADE, approved the purchase by Kroton, the biggest such firm in Brazil, of Anhanguera, the second-biggest, to create a giant with a stockmarket value of around 18 billion reais ($8 billion).

“Quality [in education] is easy,” says Rodrigo Galindo, Kroton’s energetic young boss. “And so is quantity. What’s difficult is combining the two.” The trick, he explains, is to abandon “handcrafted” teaching methods for scalable ones: online course materials and tutors; star teachers’ lessons broadcast by satellite; tightly specified franchise agreements with hundreds of local teaching centres staffed by moderators. The company has invested heavily in “adaptive” learning materials—computerised courses that react to users’ progress by offering further explanation and examples where answers suggest they are struggling, and moving on swiftly where they are not.


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forcefully advocates for an urgent school reform agenda. It was made
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did an interview about it with CNBC's Maria Bartiromo:

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For-profit colleges are lobbying hard to weaken rules

At long last the for-profit college sector, which completely ran amok and became predatory and exploitative, is being brought to heel by the Obama administration (exhibit A being the recent crackdown on Corinthian Colleges, one of the very worst actors). The industry and its army of lobbyists and bought-and-paid for (mostly Republican) politicians is franticly trying to keep the gravy train going, so the Obama administration needs to stay strong:

For-profit colleges are lobbying hard to weaken rules proposed by the Obama administration that would deny federal aid to career training programs that burden students with crippling debt and worthless credentials. But a recent spate of state and federal investigations into potentially predatory behavior by the for-profit sector — combined with the collapse of Corinthian Colleges, one of the country’s largest operators of for-profit colleges and trade schools — makes clear that the rules need to be strengthened and that federal oversight generally needs to be broadened.

That’s the only way to shield students and taxpayers from exploitive or irresponsibly managed for-profit institutions that rely on federal student aid for up to 90 percent of their revenue.

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The regulatory failure

The NYT’s Gretchen Morgenson with more on the regulatory failure – and the costs we taxpayers will bear – in the for-profit ed arena:

In the years before the mortgage crisis, financial regulators often looked the other way as banks and other lenders pursued reckless activities that cost investors, taxpayers and borrowers billions of dollars. When trouble hit, these regulators had to scramble to fix the mess that their inertia had helped create.

This same dismal pattern is now playing out in the for-profit education arena.

For years, federal and state regulators have done little as dubious operators of for-profit colleges and trade schools have pocketed tuitions funded by taxpayer-backed loans. Many students left these colleges with questionable educations and onerous debt loads that cannot be erased in bankruptcy.

Regulators have finally woken up to this ugly reality. And, once again, taxpayers and borrowers will pay the price of regulatory failures.

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We think we have the world’s best colleges, but don’t

Two outstanding articles by Kevin Carey: the first on how we think we have the world's best colleges, but don't (my view is that our top colleges and universities are the best in the world by far, but below that there's a lot of mediocrity – and true rot at the schools serving our neediest students – just like our K-12 system!):

Americans have a split vision of education. Conventional wisdom has long held that our K-12 schools are mediocre or worse, while our colleges and universities are world class. While policy wonks hotly debate K-12 reform ideas like vouchers and the Common Core state standards, higher education is largely left to its own devices. Many families are worried about how to get into and pay for increasingly expensive colleges. But the stellar quality of those institutions is assumed.

Yet a recent multinational study of adult literacy and numeracy skills suggests that this view is wrong. America's schools and colleges are actually far more alike than people believe — and not in a good way. The nation's deep education problems, the data suggest, don't magically disappear once students disappear behind ivy-covered walls.

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Our broken, unaccountable community colleges

Our broken, unaccountable community colleges:

For the last two years, the City College of San Francisco has operated in the shadow of imminent death. It is the city’s main community college, with 77,000 students, and in June 2012 its accreditor warned that chronic financial and organizational mismanagement threatened its future. If the problems weren’t fixed in short order, the accreditor said, it would shut down the college. A year later, the accreditor decided that City College’s remedial efforts were too little, too late, and ordered the campus to close its doors this July.

The political backlash was fierce. The faculty union lodged a formal complaint with the Department of Education against the accreditor, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, challenging its right to exist. A separate lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial this year. Politicians including the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, whose district includes part of City College, issued public condemnations. Finally, last month, with the scheduled closing date weeks away, the accreditor gave in. The college was granted two more years to improve, and most observers assume that the threat of dissolution has passed.

Most of City College’s problems, however, remain unsolved. Its brush with mortality illustrates a much larger problem in higher education. Millions of students are enrolled in colleges accountable to no one other than accreditors that lack the will and authority to govern them. Because the consequences of closing these institutions are so severe, they have become, in effect, “too big to fail.”

PS—the main argument I heard from defenders of the for-profit colleges is that “we’re not as horrible as the community colleges that serve similar students,” citing statistics that their graduation rate is, say, 15%, while the community colleges are half that (believe it or not). While there’s some truth to these awful statistics, the for-profit colleges cost 4x as much (I’m not kidding – along the lines of $32k vs. $8k), so when students fail at, say, Corinthian (as most do), they’re saddled with crippling debt that hounds them the rest of their lives (the only type of debt that’s not dischargeable in bankruptcy – outrageous, and topic for another day…).


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Obama and college ratings

A spot-on NYT editorial – another area the Obama administration needs to stay strong:

College and university leaders have been up in arms since President Obama announced last year that the administration would soon deploy a rating system that evaluates schools based on factors like affordability, graduation rates, student earnings and how well institutions serve low-income students. Mr. Obama wants Congress to use the ratings to help guide the allocation of federal student loans and grants.

This is immensely controversial among college presidents, who have argued, unconvincingly, that such a system would elevate financial concerns above academic ones and that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to compare schools with different educational missions. Yet graduation rates, loan defaults and percentages of low-income students enrolled are extremely useful indicators of which colleges are serving their students and the country well and which are not. The federal government also has a compelling interest in getting the best possible return on its $180 billion annual investment in higher education.

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The Reality of Student Debt

A very interesting, counter-intuitive article which claims that “The Reality of Student Debt Is Different From the Clichés” – mainly because, while the actual debt owed is very high today, interest rates are so low that the monthly payments aren’t too high:

The deeply indebted college graduate has become a stock character in the national conversation: the art history major with $50,000 in debt, the underemployed barista with $75,000, the struggling poet with $100,000.

The anecdotes have created the impression that such high levels of student debt are typical. But they’re not. They are outliers, and they’re warping our understanding of bigger economic problems.

In fact, the share of income that young adults are devoting to loan repayment has remained fairly steady over the last two decades, according to data the Brookings Institutions is releasing on Tuesday. Only 7 percent of young-adult households with education debt have $50,000 or more of it. By contrast, 58 percent of such households have less than $10,000 in debt, and an additional 18 percent have between $10,000 and $20,000.

“We are certainly not arguing that the state of the American economy and the higher education system is just great,” Matthew Chingos, a Brookings fellow and one of the authors of the new analysis, told me. “But we do think that the data undermine the prevailing sky-is-falling-type narrative around student debt.”

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Kudos to Starbucks and AZ State

Joe Nocera with well-deserved kudos to Starbucks and AZ State:

On Monday, Howard Schultz, the chief executive of Starbucks, unveiled his company’s newest — and possibly most important — perquisite for its employees: a free college education. He announced this new program on a stage in The Times Center in Midtown Manhattan, alongside his partner in the new venture, Michael Crow of Arizona State University.

Starbucks has long been a trailblazer in offering company benefits; part-time employees get stock options and health insurance. Schultz has also been one of the few chief executives willing to speak out — and do something — about the need to get people back to work again. A few years ago, I wrote a column about a Starbucks program that turned donations from customers into small business loans.

What I hadn’t realized is the extent to which Arizona State is a trailblazer as well. Under Crow’s leadership, it is attempting nothing less than the reinvention of the university. If Crow’s model succeeds, it offers some real hope that higher education can become, as it once was, a place that views its mission as educating everybody, not just the world’s elite.

“In the bottom quartile of family incomes, only 9 percent of kids attain a college education,” Crow said about five minutes after I met him on Monday afternoon. “And, in the top quartile, 80 percent get a college education, regardless of academic ability.” That statistic is what he is trying to change.

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Talented poor kids aren’t even applying to top schools that want them

I hadn't heard of this promising program in Delaware to address a vexing problem – talented poor kids aren't even applying to top schools that want them. Every state should be doing this:

Delaware's governor, Jack Markell, announced a program called Getting to Zero. Its goal was to get all high-school seniors with an SAT score of at least a 1,500 (out of 2,400) on the SAT to enroll in college. In recent years, state data show, about 20 percent of such teenagers did not.

State officials started the program last fall by working with the College Board to mail informational packets to all 1,800 high-school seniors deemed college-ready. In the packets, low-income students received application fee waivers to eight colleges, and students with the best test scores were encouraged to apply to top colleges. High-school guidance counselors and state officials then followed up with students and their parents — through evening phone calls and in-person meetings — to make sure the thorny logistics of college applications didn't deter them.

While it's too early to judge the program fully, the early results are impressive. Every single one of those 1,800 college-ready high-school seniors applied to at least one college, and 98 percent are on track to enroll.

Ms. Nye is among them. She will be attending Stanford University, where the admissions rate — as she told me with a sheepish laugh, after I'd asked — was 5.07 percent this year. "Give or take a little bit," she added.

Delaware's efforts are part of a national wave of interest in getting more low-income students to graduate from college. The reasons are obvious: The wage gap between college graduates and everyone else has reached a record high, and yet recent research has found that many qualified low-income students do not earn a bachelor's degree. In fact, the college-completion gap between low- and high-income students has grown sharply over the last 20 years.

Think for a moment about what that means: Many teenagers who overcome difficult childhoods or troubled high schools and excel as students nonetheless fail to finish college. Some never enroll, waylaid by bureaucracy, financial fears or low expectations. Others attend poorly funded colleges and end up d out — even as upper-middle-class students with less impressive records graduate from better-funded colleges.


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The Rape Case

This is so horrifying (esp. since I have a daughter going to college)! Kudos to the NYT for its in-depth research and putting this story on the front page:

She was 18 years old, a freshman, and had been on campus for just two weeks when one Saturday night last September her friends grew worried because she had been drinking and suddenly disappeared.

Around midnight, the missing girl texted a friend, saying she was frightened by a student she had met that evening. “Idk what to do,” she wrote. “I’m scared.” When she did not answer a call, the friend began searching for her.

In the early-morning hours on the campus of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in central New York, the friend said, he found her — bent over a pool table as a football player appeared to be sexually assaulting her from behind in a darkened dance hall with six or seven people watching and laughing. Some had their cellphones out, apparently taking pictures, he said.

Later, records show, a sexual-assault nurse offered this preliminary assessment: blunt force trauma within the last 24 hours indicating “intercourse with either multiple partners, multiple times or that the intercourse was very forceful.” The student said she could not recall the pool table encounter, but did remember being raped earlier in a fraternity-house bedroom.

The football player at the pool table had also been at the fraternity house — in both places with his pants down — but denied raping her, saying he was too tired after a football game to get an erection. Two other players, also accused of sexually assaulting the woman, denied the charge as well. Even so, tests later found sperm or semen in her vagina, in her rectum and on her underwear.

It took the college just 12 days to investigate the rape report, hold a hearing and clear the football players. The football team went on to finish undefeated in its conference, while the woman was left, she said, to face the consequences — threats and harassment for accusing members of the most popular sports team on campus.

This is so horrifying (esp. since I have a daughter going to college)! Kudos to the NYT for its in-depth research and putting this story on the front page:

She was 18 years old, a freshman, and had been on campus for just two weeks when one Saturday night last September her friends grew worried because she had been drinking and suddenly disappeared.

Around midnight, the missing girl texted a friend, saying she was frightened by a student she had met that evening. “Idk what to do,” she wrote. “I’m scared.” When she did not answer a call, the friend began searching for her.

In the early-morning hours on the campus of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in central New York, the friend said, he found her — bent over a pool table as a football player appeared to be sexually assaulting her from behind in a darkened dance hall with six or seven people watching and laughing. Some had their cellphones out, apparently taking pictures, he said.

Later, records show, a sexual-assault nurse offered this preliminary assessment: blunt force trauma within the last 24 hours indicating “intercourse with either multiple partners, multiple times or that the intercourse was very forceful.” The student said she could not recall the pool table encounter, but did remember being raped earlier in a fraternity-house bedroom.

The football player at the pool table had also been at the fraternity house — in both places with his pants down — but denied raping her, saying he was too tired after a football game to get an erection. Two other players, also accused of sexually assaulting the woman, denied the charge as well. Even so, tests later found sperm or semen in her vagina, in her rectum and on her underwear.

It took the college just 12 days to investigate the rape report, hold a hearing and clear the football players. The football team went on to finish undefeated in its conference, while the woman was left, she said, to face the consequences — threats and harassment for accusing members of the most popular sports team on campus.

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Rape is a serious violent crime

Some insightful letters to the editor – my favorites:

Rape is a serious violent crime. College administrations have shown themselves time and again to be completely incompetent when addressing charges of sexual assault. Why do we allow this process in the first place? Would we allow a college administration to investigate a kidnapping? Would we allow it to adjudicate a murder charge? Of course not.

But since we allow rape investigations to fall within the scope of its authority, we drive home the message that rape is not a serious crime, that it is merely a campus-related issue that does not require the same level of criminal legal investigation as other crimes.


Foolish and courageous. Those are the two words that came to mind when reading this horrifying story. Too harsh?

Foolish, because we need to teach our young women to avoid being in situations in which they may become a victim. While assaults happen no matter how careful you are, drinking large quantities of alcohol and being alone with the wrong kind of man is a precarious position at best.

Courageous, because Anna is determined to have her story publicized and willing to help her peers become educated about the failures of our college administrators. The disciplinary panel that heard her case was a kangaroo court at best.

I hope Anna finds some kind of justice through the civil system as a last resort. I applaud her bravery.


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U.S. Department of Education Monday detailed its long-awaited "50-state" strategy

Kudos to Duncan – this is SO important!

The U.S. Department of Education Monday detailed its long-awaited "50-state" strategy for putting some teeth into a requirement  of the 12-year-old No Child Left Behind Act that has gone largely unenforced up until now: ensuring that poor and minority students get access to as many great teachers as their more advantaged peers. 

States will be required to submit new plans to address teacher distribution by April of 2015, or just a few months before the department likely will begin to consider states' requests to renew their waivers from the NCLB law. (Read a letter the department sent to state chiefs outlining the plan here.) 

This isn't the first time that the feds have asked states to outline their plans on teacher distribution, but the results so far haven't exactly been a stunning success.

Under NCLB, which was signed into law in 2002, states were required to ensure that poor and minority students were not being taught by unqualified teachers at a higher rate than other students. But fewer than half of states have separate teacher-equity plans on file with the department. Most of those plans are at least several years old, and the Education Trust, a Washington based organization that advocates for poor and minority kids, found them to be seriously lacking in this  2006 report. 

Meanwhile, a national survey of teachers found that core classes in high-poverty schools are twice as likely to be taught by out-of-field teachers as similar classes at schools serving more advantaged students, according to the Education Trust.

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Unions -their bad behavior

Articles calling out the unions for their bad behavior are a dime a dozen, but this one is worth noting for three reasons: a) the powerful language; b) the author, Joe Klein (author of Primary Colors, etc.); and c) the publication it’s in: Time magazine. Further evidence that the unions are losing the battle of ideas and public support.

Teachers’ unions are suddenly on the defensive across the country. The Supreme Court recently ruled–unfairly, I believe–that some home health care workers did not have to join the union that negotiated their contract. That could have an impact on all public-employee unions. In California, a district court judge recently threw out the state’s tenure rules. In his ruling, he wrote that the widespread protection of incompetent teachers “shocks the conscience.” A group called the Partnership for Educational Justice, which is led by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown, is filing a similar suit in New York and promises to take the movement national. Brown’s group has hired Robert Gibbs, the former Obama press secretary, to run its communications strategy; other Obama stalwarts will soon join the effort as well. Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised the California decision, which caused the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers’ union, to call for him to be fired.

All of which raises an old labor-movement question for Democrats in 2014 and 2016: Which side are you on? Competent teachers should certainly be paid more, but the protection of incompetence is a national scandal, as is the unions’ resistance to teacher evaluations and charter schools, as is the quiet undermining of educational creativity by eliminating special programs for needy students. The Obama Administration has clearly edged away from the unions’ excesses. But what about the rest of the party? Which side are they on: the students’ or the unions’?


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RiShawn Biddle’s spot-on take on the unions’ thrashing about

Here's RiShawn Biddle's spot-on take on the unions' thrashing about:

But what got your editor's attention is the response to the resignation call from both Duncan and the Obama Administration. It was clearly not to the liking of either the NEA or other traditionalists long-opposed to the administration's reform efforts. Duncan simply brushed off the NEA — and actually pointed out the lack of credibility the teachers' union even has among its own rank-and-file membership — when he said that "I always try to stay out of local union politics" and that "I think most teachers do, too". As for the White House? The president's flacks didn't bother to comment at all.

There are certainly some national reporters outside the education beat (along with a few newbies within it) who are finally, belatedly acknowledging what Dropout Nation and others have pointed out for at least the past six years: That neither the NEA nor the American Federation of Teachers can count on the Democratic National Committee for unquestioned support. So the NEA's call for Duncan's resignation is about as newsworthy as the fact that the union's longtime second-in-command, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, was formally anointed as Dennis Van Roekel's successor as its overlord.

At the same time, the NEA's desperate move — along with the Obama Administration's response to it — is noteworthy for this important reason: It epitomizes how far the NEA's influence over education policy (as well as that of the AFT)  has declined at the federal level as well as within states.


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DFER has come so far, so quickly, with such modest resources

It is beyond wonderful to see that Democrats for Education Reform is getting so much traction that the presidents of both national teacher unions singled us out for attacks in their keynote address at their unions’ national conventions.


Unveiling a new organization called "Democrats for Public Education" (they’re even miming our name!) in Los Angeles, AFT boss Randi Weingarten criticized politicians like President Obama and liberal judges for daring to focus on the needs of school kids in education policy. "And they've been aided and abetted by some lawmakers, judges, and even some Democrats. Some -- like those who call themselves Democrats for Education Reform -- mimic the Jeb Bushes and Eli Broads of the world promoting competition and test-obsession."


And last week, outgoing NEA President Dennis Van Roekel before 10,000 union delegates railed against "the onslaught of corporate reformers like Democrats For Education Reform, Michelle Rhee, and the like."


DFER’s official response to Randi's announcement: "Welcome to the jungle, baby."




DFER has come so far, so quickly, with such modest resources – it’s one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. A real testament to Joe Williams and the DFER team (and supporters).


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NYC tried balanced literacy and it didn’t work

NYC tried balanced literacy and it didn't work, so why on earth is Fariña bringing it back?!

The student-led approach to reading and writing used by Ms. Bauer, which is known as balanced literacy, is poised to make a comeback in New York City classrooms. The new schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, wants more schools to adopt aspects of balanced literacy, including its emphasis on allowing students to choose many of the books they read.

The move, while cheered by proponents of this method, is seen by some as a departure from recent trends in the city and nationwide.

The city's Education Department turned away from balanced literacy several years ago amid concerns that it was unstructured and ineffective, particularly for low-income children. And Ms. Fariña is facing sharp resistance from some education experts, who argue that balanced literacy is incompatible with the biggest shift in education today: the Common Core academic standards.

During her almost six months as chancellor, Ms. Fariña, a veteran of the school system, has reduced the role of standardized tests, increased collaboration among schools and shepherded through a new contract for teachers that includes more training and more communication with parents. But her push for a revival of balanced literacy may have some of the most far-reaching implications in the classroom.


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Popularity of charters

Parents are speaking loud and clear in Newark:

In the debut of a system that lets families apply to charter schools and district schools at the same time, Newark got an eye-opening lesson: More than half of the applicants for kindergarten through eighth grade ranked charters as their first choice.

The application numbers, supplied by the state-operated district, show the popularity of charters at a time when Superintendent Cami Anderson’s One Newark reorganization plan faces heated opposition from some residents.

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KIPP was awarded the third annual Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools

Kudos to KIPP, which was awarded the third annual Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. I can’t wait for the KIPP Summit at the end of this month! This year it’s in Houston to celebrate KIPP’s 20th anniversary.

Twenty years ago, two Teach for America alumni launched a small academy with 47 kids inside a traditional public school in Houston.

Today, KIPP academies are educating 58,000 kids in 20 states across the country and last week, the KIPP Foundation was awarded the third annual Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools.

The $250,000 award is another feather in the cap of a charter-school network that for two decades has been bringing a high-quality education to an overwhelmingly low-income and minority population and now comprises 31 separate local organizations that run 162 public charter schools.

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Unions’ desperation - calling for Arne Duncan’s resignation

In another sign of the unions' desperation (and lack of any strategic sense whatsoever; thank you!!!), the NEA at its annual meeting approved a resolution calling for Arne Duncan's resignation. He was so clever in his reply (his best line: "I always try to stay out of local union politics. I think most teachers do too."):

But Duncan couldn't be baited.

"Secretary Duncan looks forward to continuing to work with NEA and its new leadership," spokeswoman Dorie Nolt said over the weekend. And at a White House press briefing Monday, during which Duncan outlined a plan to ensure all students have access to highly effective teachers, Duncan said he was "trying to stay out of local union politics."

"We've had a very good working relationship with NEA in the past," he said and congratulated President-elect Lily Eskelsen García on her win.

Duncan also noted that the president of the other major teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, was joining him Monday for the rollout of the teacher equity proposal. He said had NEA members not been at their convention, "I think they would have stood with us on this" today, too. The AFT is not expected to consider a resolution calling on Duncan to step down at their convention, which starts Friday.

And I am bursting with pride about this!

Van Roekel didn't call out Duncan by name, but he did blast Democrats for Education Reform, a group that supports Duncan, in his keynote address. He told delegates that teachers everywhere have had enough of being "attacked" by during a reform era that he said began with the George W. Bush administration and continues to this day.


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Why bringing back balanced literacy is a terrible idea

This NYT op ed by a teacher nails why bringing back balanced literacy is a terrible idea (especially see the second-to-last paragraph that I highlighted – ed school profs living in their ivory towers do such damage to disadvantaged kids!):

even on good days, it proved a confounding amalgam of free period and frustrating abyss.

This morass was never my students’ fault. A majority of them were poor, or immigrants, or both. The metropolis of marvelous libraries and bookstores was to them another country. To expect them to wade into a grade-appropriate text like “To Kill a Mockingbird” was unrealistic, even insulting.

Writing instruction didn’t go much better. My seventh graders were urged to write memoirs, under the same guise of individualism that engendered independent reading. But while recollections of beach trips or departed felines are surely worthwhile, they don’t quite have the pedagogical value of a deep dive into sentence structure or a plain old vocab quiz.

Now the approach that so frustrated me and my students is once again about to become the norm in New York City, as the new schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, has announced plans to reinstate a “balanced literacy” approach in English classrooms. The concept’s most vociferous champion is probably Lucy Calkins, a Columbia University scholar. In her 1985 book, “The Art of Teaching Writing,” she complained that most English teachers “don’t know what it is to read favorite passages aloud to a friend or to swap ideas about an author.” She sought a reimagination of the English teacher’s role: “Teaching writing must become more like coaching a sport and less like presenting information,” a joyful exploration unhindered by despotic traffic cops.

Ms. Calkins’s approach was tried by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, but abandoned when studies showed that students learned better with more instruction. My own limited experience leads me to the same conclusion. But Ms. Fariña seems to be charting a course away from the data-driven Bloomberg years, perhaps as part of her stated plan to return “joy” to the city’s classrooms.

I take umbrage at the notion that muscular teaching is joyless. There was little joy in the seventh-grade classroom I ran under “balanced literacy,” and less purpose. My students craved instruction far more than freedom. Expecting children to independently discover the rules of written language is like expecting them to independently discover the rules of differential calculus.

Balanced literacy is an especially irresponsible approach, given that New York State has adopted the federal Common Core standards, which skew toward a narrowly prescribed list of texts, many of them nonfiction. Ms. Calkins is a detractor of Common Core; Ms. Fariña isn’t, thus far, but her support of balanced literacy sends a mixed signal.

…The fatal flaw of balanced literacy is that it is least able to help students who most need it. It plays well in brownstone Brooklyn, where children have enrichment coming out of their noses, and may be more “ready” for balanced literacy than children without such advantages.

My concern is for the nearly 40 percent of New York City schoolchildren who won’t graduate from high school, the majority of whom are black and brown and indigent. Their educations should never be a joyless grind. But asking them to become subjects in an experiment in progressive education is an injustice they don’t deserve.


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Some important research, ideas and programs to reduce the terrible dropout rate among young black men

Some important research, ideas and programs to reduce the terrible dropout rate among young black men:

This month, more than three million high school students will receive their diplomas. At more than 80 percent, America’s graduation rate is at a record high. More kids are going to college, too. But one-third of the nation’s African-American and Latino young men will not graduate.

In an era when there is virtually no legal work for dropouts, these young men face a bleak future. It is not news that the students who don’t make it out of high school largely come from our poorest neighborhoods, but the degree to which they are hyper-concentrated in a small set of schools is alarming. In fact, according to new research I conducted with my colleagues at Johns Hopkins University, half of the African-American boys who veer off the path to high school graduation do so in just 660 of more than 12,600 regular and vocational high schools.

These 660 schools are typically big high schools that teach only poor kids of color. They are concentrated in 15 states. Many are in major cities, but others are in smaller, decaying industrial cities or in the South, especially in Georgia, Florida and North Carolina.

This seemingly intractable problem is a national tragedy, but there is a solution. In the high schools where most of the young men are derailed, the number of ninth-grade boys who desperately need better schooling and extra support is typically between 50 and 100. Keeping many or even most of those boys on track in each entering ninth-grade class in 660 schools does not seem impossible.


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It’s SO important to read to children

It's SO important to read to children – let's hope this gets traction:

In between dispensing advice on breast-feeding and immunizations, doctors will tell parents to read aloud to their infants from birth, under a new policy that the American Academy of Pediatrics will announce on Tuesday.

With the increased recognition that an important part of brain development occurs within the first three years of a child's life, and that reading to children enhances vocabulary and other important communication skills, the group, which represents 62,000 pediatricians across the country, is asking its members to become powerful advocates for reading aloud, every time a baby visits the doctor.

"It should be there each time we touch bases with children," said Dr. Pamela High, who wrote the new policy. It recommends that doctors tell parents they should be "reading together as a daily fun family activity" from infancy.

This is the first time the academy — which has issued recommendations on how long mothers should nurse their babies and advises parents to keep children away from screens until they are at least 2 — has officially weighed in on early literacy education.

While highly educated, ambitious parents who are already reading poetry and playing Mozart to their children in utero may not need this advice, research shows that many parents do not read to their children as often as researchers and educators think is crucial to the development of pre-literacy skills that help children succeed once they get to school.

Reading, as well as talking and singing, is viewed as important in increasing the number of words that children hear in the earliest years of their lives. Nearly two decades ago, an oft-cited study found that by age 3, the children of wealthier professionals have heard words millions more times than have those of less educated, low-income parents, giving the children who have heard more words a distinct advantage in school. New research shows that these gaps emerge as early as 18 months.


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