Friday, September 30, 2011

Jeb Bush Christo Rey event in DC Oct. 17

Looks like a great event in DC on Oct. 17th, featuring the Christo Rey network with Jeb Bush as the special guest:


The Cristo Rey Network ( will be hosting an event to commemorate a decade of innovation in urban America in Washington, DC next month.  The event, to be held on the evening of October 17th, will feature special guest, Former Governor Jeb Bush, and honor John J. DeGioia, President of Georgetown University, for his commitment to underserved youth.  Full details are included in the attached invitation.  To RSVP, please reply to Brenda Schulze at 312-784-7208 or by October 7th.  Further information is at:


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Jeb Bush and Florida's Education Success

Speaking of Jeb Bush, here's an excellent article about his remarkable accomplishments in education while governor of Florida.  Boy, I wish he'd run for President!  I'm not saying I'd support him (or any Republican) over Obama, but I think it's healthy for our country if the Republicans offer a strong, credible candidate (I feel the same way about Chris Christie):

It's probably too late for Jeb Bush to reconsider his 2012 options, but it's certainly not too late to give his record in Tallahassee a second look. And in no area did Bush have more of an impact than in education policy.

"Governor Bush has been at the forefront of education reform," said Michael W. Grebe, president of the Bradley Foundation, which has donated generously to education reform projects, while honoring Jeb Bush earlier this year. "During his administration and since, Florida students have made incredible gains."

Today, improving America's public schools is a cause ostensibly embraced by both political parties. Twelve years ago, however, when Jeb Bush became governor of the Sunshine State, it was a partisan minefield -- and there was little reason to believe that government could turn things around quickly or decisively. That's what seems to have happened in Florida, however, with ripple effects that have spilled out across the country.

Jeb Bush never criticizes George W. Bush publicly -- or, as far as anyone knows, privately -- on education reform or anything else. But it is a matter of public record that Jeb Bush was vowing to create a public school system in Florida "to ensure that no child is left behind" before that became the inspiration for federal legislation. In addition, Jeb Bush has long been on record as believing that the most effective place for school reform is the states, not the federal government.

"By federalizing education policy you create resistance at the classroom, school, school district -- and even the state level," he told the Harvard Political Review earlier this year. "I think you're getting more dynamic results by having the states play the policy role and holding local school districts accountable for actual learning."

This is what happened in Florida, with eye-opening results. It didn't happen in a day, it didn't even happen in a decade, and the difficulty in sustaining the gains made in lower grades through high school in Florida shows that no one in Tallahassee should be resting on their laurels. But the educational successes there were tangible, and measurable, and they have been copied by several other states.

…Since 1994, the reading scores of fourth-graders in this country, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, have risen steadily. "Simply stated, poor and minority students are achieving at dramatically higher levels today than they were two decades ago -- in some cases two or three grade levels higher," writes education reformer Michael J. Petrilli. And Florida, as noted, helped lead the way.

The highlights include:

-- In 1998, Florida's fourth-graders scored at the bottom nationally in NAEP scores in reading and math. By 2009, they had scored above the national average in both categories.

-- Florida's fourth-grade Hispanic students equaled or surpassed the performance of all students in 31 states.

-- Fourth-grade African American students in Florida outperform African American students in all but three states in NAEP math tests.

-- Low-income Florida elementary school students of all races rank near the top nationally in math.

-- High school graduation rates increased 21 percent, even as the requirements got tougher.

-- Some 38,000 Florida high school students were taking Advanced Placement exams for college credit a decade ago. Offering merit pay of up to $2,000 for teachers who get students to take -- and pass -- AP exams helped boost this number to 157,000.

-- The number of African American and Latino students passing AP tests increased 365 percent.

For skeptics who believe that standardized testing sucks the creativity out of the learning process, Jeb Bush always had a stock answer: "What gets measured, gets done."

In the early years, things did not always go swimmingly. The teacher unions made opposing Bush a crusade, even mortgaging their own building to raise money to support his 2002 opponent in his re-election bid. Bush weathered that challenge, but gains at the middle school level didn't really kick in until his last two years in office, leading to some testy press conferences, as his top education adviser, Patricia Levesque, recalled.

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‘Parent Trigger’ Law to Reform Schools Faces Challenges

Here's a NYT article about CA's Parent Trigger law, which I continue to believe can be an ENORMOUSLY powerful tool to bring about needed change.  The idea is spreading – it's very difficult for any politician to oppose empowering parents at chronically failing schools – so all reformers should be thinking about how to bring it to their state (for more info, contact one of the primary architects of CA's law, Ben Austin (, who currently heads Parent Revolution; I met him this week and he is truly an ed warrior!):

The promise sounded alluring and simple: if enough parents signed a petition, their children's struggling school would be shut down and replaced with a charter school.

So, using a new state law known as the parent trigger, organizers at an underperforming school here in Compton collected hundreds of signatures from parents who said they were fed up. Parents were eager, they said, to turn it into a charter school, where students would spend more time in class with a staff of new teachers.

After months of legal battles, the status of that petition remains tied up in court. But in the meantime, a new charter school has opened just blocks from the struggling school, and parents at more than a dozen other schools in California are hoping to take advantage of the trigger law, demanding that their schools radically improve.

In essence, the law creates a parents' union, which advocates say will provide powerful and needed counterweight to teachers' unions and district bureaucracies. If 51 percent of parents in a persistently failing school sign a petition, they can force the school to change into a charter, close it entirely or replace the principal and teachers.

Similar legislation has passed in Texas, Ohio and Connecticut and is being considered in nearly a dozen more states — but California, the earliest adopter, is furthest along. And with opponents and skeptics arguing that parents lack the expertise to make important policy decisions better left to career educators, the Compton case is a prime example of how challenging it can be to create change. 

Here are a friend's comments on this article:


"It basically says there is nothing else a school system can do but say, 'We give up on this school,' " Ms. Weingarten said. "Ultimately, parents should be involved in fixing the school, and nobody should wait until after it fails to give them a voice."


Education is a service provided to the community and is funded by mandatory property taxes. The parent/student is the consumer of the service. If the service is defective why should parents be responsible for fixing it. If the garbage collectors don't do their job is it my responsibility to take it to the dump. What about if the fire and police services don't work? Am I supposed to go drive the fire truck and police car myself? If I buy a defective product is it my responsibility to fix it. Of course not. These parents are poor, uneducated and struggling. How cruel and heartless can Randi be to say that "Ultimately, parents should be involved in fixing the school". they don't know how and don't have the time. Randi is the education genius, why don't her own members who are paid by mandatory taxes fix it.


Someone should sue her for negligence in producing a defective product which results in ruined lives and a more dangerous society.


'Parent Trigger' Law to Reform Schools Faces Challenges

Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Students lining up for recess at a Celerity Sirius Charter School in Compton, Calif., at the site of a public school closed because of low enrollment.

Published: September 23, 2011

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Obama Unveils Education Plan

The biggest ed-related news on the national front is the announcement that the DOE will grant waivers to NCLB to states that embrace Race to the Top-style reforms.  I like the ends – in the absence of more funding for RTTT, it's a brilliant way to keep advancing the reform agenda – but am uncomfortable with the means.  What really needs to happen is Congress needs to renew and fix NCLB – but good luck with that, with this pack of jokers…  I went to a lunch with my favorite senator, Colorado's Michael Bennet, on Monday and his stories of the partisanship and self-serving dysfunction in Washington made my stomach turn…

President Barack Obama is replacing key planks of former President George W. Bush's signature No Child Left Behind education law, allowing many schools to escape looming punishment if their states adopt a new set of standards.

Under the new system, which Mr. Obama announced Friday, states would qualify for a waiver from existing rules by requiring, among other things, that evaluations of teachers and principals be linked to the results of student tests and other measures of performance.

In announcing the change, Mr. Obama said his predecessor deserves credit for focusing the education system on accountability and closing achievement gaps, and said schools needs to stay focused on those goals.

"But experience has taught us that in its implementation, No Child Left Behind had some serious flaws that are hurting our children instead of helping them," he said.

The president was introduced by the Republican governor of Tennessee, a move meant to symbolize the bipartisan support his move enjoys among states, if not members of Congress.


Obama Unveils Education Plan


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Coming Together to Dismantle Education Reform

Andy Rotherham raises valid concerns about recent developments in Washington:

But when you look at the country as a whole, and the decades it has spent trying and failing to reform our education system, it is fair to question the wisdom of handing key aspects of education policy back to the states given their track record and the status quo. Washington may not yet be a great partner on school improvement, but it's hardly the cause of our educational problems. Nor does it make sense to give up on federal oversight and let the state foxes do whatever they want with the hen houses.

Rumors are circulating that Congress is going to seriously try to get something done on education this fall, if only to push back on the administration's plan to rewrite NCLB through the use of waivers. If the eagerness to demonstrate some bipartisanship on education turns into a stampede, it's not hard to see common ground between what Republican governors, Republican leaders in Washington, and the Obama Administration want — and that means a lot less accountability, especially since the administration has a rocky record of standing up to Republican demands. Given the national imperative of improving our schools and the mixed record of states, perhaps it's worth pausing to ask if this is really a bipartisanship worth celebrating.


Coming Together to Dismantle Education Reform

By Andrew J. Rotherham Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011,8599,2095515,00.html#ixzz1ZLdVFbu7

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ObamaFlex: Too much tight, too light on loose

Mike Petrilli is more critical.  Too critical I think -- he's for "tight on results" but anti- "annual measurable objectives"?

So what about the new plan for conditional waivers under ESEA? Is Team Obama right when it insists that its approach provides much-needed flexibility while pushing the reform agenda forward? That this is "tight-loose" in action?

Unfortunately, no. In short, ObamaFlex is much too heavy on the tight, and much too light on the loose.

Let's talk tight. Duncan et al want states to either adopt the Common Core or demonstrate that their own reading and math standards indicate college readiness, as judged by institutions of higher education. (Those institutions would have to certify that students achieving the state's own standards would be eligible for credit-bearing courses.)

On its face, this is perfectly reasonable, and is close to where Checker Finn and I landed when we released our ESEA Briefing Book in April. One of the greatest failings of No Child Left Behind was its agnosticism about the content and rigor of state standards; asking states to peg their expectations to real-world demands makes eminent sense.

But. It's one thing if Congress goes along with such an approach–and if states are given a reasonable amount of time to demonstrate that their own standards are in fact set at a college-ready level. That's not what we're getting through the waiver package. Instead, Arne Duncan is further federalizing the Common Core by making it the only practical route for states wanting immediate regulatory relief. I believe that Texas and Virginia (two states that did not adopt the common standards) could easily make the case that their own standards indicate college readiness. But it will take time. And they will want flexibility now.

A state like Alaska–whose own standards are terrible and which hasn't adopted the Common Core–is completely out of luck. It would take years for it to develop college ready standards. So Arne has forced Alaska's hand–has it "over a barrel" in Lamar Alexander's words–and opens up the Common Core to the label of "federally mandated" national standards.

Even more disturbing is the way in which the Administration's quid-pro-quo will lock all states into the Common Core indefinitely. What happens if a state decides to back out–either for ideological reasons or pragmatic ones–say, because the tests linked to the standards start to go off the rails? Will such a state have to instantly adopt its own college-ready standards, or else risk losing the right to regulatory relief? Or federal education funding? Or both?

Meanwhile, as ObamaFlex fails to get "tight" right, it also goes too light on "loose." Just look at the details yourself. A state can propose its own approach to accountability, for example–as long as it includes "annual measurable objectives," "priority schools," "focus schools," "reward schools," and on and on and on. This is kind of like Henry Ford's approach to car colors.


ObamaFlex: Too much tight, too light on loose

By Michael Petrilli 09/28/2011

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Support Alan Khazei

My good friend Alan Khazei, who is running for Senate in MA, needs our support.  I just spoke with him today and the next filing deadline is tomorrow at midnight.  I just donated $500 at:  Here's an email from Richard Barth and Wendy Kopp:

I am writing to you this morning with a very special favor to ask.  As you know, Wendy and I have supported two candidates for federal election in the past 20 years.  One is Michael Bennet, other is Alan Khazei. 

A good number of you supported Alan' s first campaign for public office, when he ran for the Massachusetts Senate seat two years ago in the special election.   Alan proved himself to be a terrific campaigner and earned the endorsement of the Boston Globe in the process of running a 90-day sprint to election day.


Two years later, with all the experience of his first campaign to draw upon, Alan is running again.   And I am asking you to join me in supporting him.  While I believed it was so important to have people like Alan serve in the US Senate two years ago, the past 24 months have only confirmed that Alan is the kind of leader we need at this time in our country's history.  At a time when the public's faith in Congress is at an all-time low and a toxic environment has made it all but impossible to get important work done, Alan is a person who we know can reach across partisan lines and build coalitions to get things done.   Alan is a pro-business, pro-growth Democrat who understands that in a moment like the one we are in,  we must insist that our elected leaders work together to craft solutions to the immense challenges we face.  Alan will bring boundless optimism and passion for our country that is truly extraordinary.   And Alan is not beholden to ANY special interests as he takes absolutely no PAC money.  Not one cent. 


This next week is a critical week for Alan.  It is the final week of the filing period.   Alan had a terrific first quarter in which he raised $935,745, and we are looking to close strong in quarter #2.    So…


If you believe we need a leader in the Senate who can work in a bi-partisan way to get things done…

If you believe we need a leader in the Senate who is pro-Business…and understands that job creation must be our first, second and third priority…

If you believe we need a leader in the Senate who is always committed to doing what is right for the most vulnerable in our society, and understands the role that high performing public schools can play in providing transformational opportunities for children growing up in poverty....

And if you believe it is not too much to ask for a leader in the Senate who is all of the above, and whose independence of thought is not compromised by the influence of special interest money..then please make a contribution to Alan's campaign in the next 7 days.


It's easy.  Just go on-line and contribute at

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Support Brian Johnson

Please support another good friend and ed reform warrior, Brian Johnson, founder of Larchmont Charter Schools in LA, who is running for State Assembly in California.  DFER just made him Ed Reformer of the Month:



Brian Johnson is the star Teach For America alum you always hoped would run for office.

As a corps member, Brian taught first grade in Baton Rouge and got the bug. He moved out west and eventually became TFA's executive director in Los Angeles.

In Los Angeles, Brian led a dramatic expansion of TFA's footprint in the city. Today, in L.A. alone, TFA teachers have impacted almost 50,000 students.

After four years of growing TFA, Brian joined Larchmont Schools, the only public charter network in L.A. whose mission is to serve a racially, ethnically, and socio-economically diverse student population. The students at Larchmont have achieved breathtaking results, even while the school is expanding.

At Larchmont, Brian diagnosed a problem: California needs legislative leadership badly. The good news is that he turns out to be a talented campaigner, too, so Brian's running for state assembly.

These elections are small – maybe 50 or 60 thousand voters – so every dollar makes a huge difference. CLICK HERE to make a contribution.

I'm ponying up today and I hope you will too.



This email was sent to


Description: Description: Description:


Here's what I wrote about Brian and my visit to his school early last year (

Meanwhile, just up the coast I'm attending my first Renaissance Weekend (no, there's no Medieval jousting; see in Santa Monica and have already run into two wonderful ed reformers.  The first was Brian Johnson, your typical over-educated TFAer: Princeton then Baton Rouge '99 corps, then Stanford JD/MBA.  After Stanford, Brian ran TFA LA from 2005-2009 before becoming Executive Director of Larchmont Schools (, which according to Brian is the only charter school network committed to schools with mixed racial and socio-economic students.  There are now two schools in LA (on three campuses), with a middle school and high school planned.

I visited one of the schools on Oct. 2nd last year and (shame on me) didn't send around my pics and thoughts then, so here goes…  pics from my visit are posted at:

Lindsay was parent who was fed up with the low quality of local public schools, yet believed in public education and didn't want to pay the huge cost of private schools, so she and some other parents decided to create their own charter school that would both be very high quality and reflect the diversity of the neighborhood – and that's exactly what they're done.  Larchmont's scores are very high and the students are 35% free/reduced lunch and 50% minority.  It's an important (and, to date, quite rare) experiment that I hope is successful, certainly for educational reasons, but also for political ones.  Let's be honest: we need a lot more well-off, well-educated white folks with a personal stake in both charter schools and education reform in general if we're going to take reform to the next level, both politically and operationally.

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Newark Charter School Fund Creates “Charter Compact”

The Newark Charter Compact is an important development that I hope is replicated everywhere there are charter schools.  Among other things like high quality and closing failing schools, it aims to ensure that charters are serving ALL students, including their fair share of ELL, SPED, etc. students:


Charter schools in Newark will have an opportunity to sign onto a newly developed "charter compact" that will ensure they are upholding the highest principles of transparency and public accountability, serving an unmet need in Newark, striving for educational excellence, and fulfilling their missions to educate all students in the most equitable manner possible.

The compact was developed by the Newark Charter School Fund, a three-year old organization committed to increasing the number of high-quality schools in Newark by improving charter schools, expanding successful schools, and developing promising new schools.

…Under the compact, the charter schools, funders and stakeholders would commit to serving all students in the city, especially the highest need students requiring special education services, students who are English Language Learners, students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and other underserved or at-risk populations.

Schools would also commit to recruiting and advertising in the widest and most inclusive manner possible and eliminate any process steps or requirements of parents before the charter application and lotteries are completed.

Under the compact, schools would also agree to correct misinformation about any application or lottery requirements for parents.

"As part of this agreement, charters will not be allowed to require families or students to attend information sessions to apply to their schools or enter the lottery," Ashton said. "Charters could offer those informational sessions as an option, but not a requirement."

Charters would also agree to provide multiple ways for charter parents and students to access and complete an application, including posting an application online, a mail-in application, and in-person drop off at the schools.

"We want charters to communicate a clear message that students with special education needs, students who are English Language Learners, and other at-risk students are served by charter schools," Ashton said.


Newark Charter School Fund Creates "Charter Compact"

Thursday, 22 September 2011 16:55 Local Talk News Editor

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Stupid in America

I loved John Stossel's new version of Stupid in America, which aired a week ago.  I can't find a link to the video nor anywhere to order the DVD, which is a bummer because there's some GREAT stuff [WE FOUND LINKS BELOW]– he interviews a range of reformers, but also two union leaders in DC and Newark, and let's just say you can't make this stuff up.  In a truly classic line, the union head in DC, when Stossel says student test scores are abysmal, says "we choose not to evaluate ourselves that way."  When Stossel follows up by asking how he can tell if students are learning, if test scores say they aren't, he replies, "I can tell by looking them in the eyes."


The best I can do is include a few related articles from Stossel's web site (below) and a link to the original, brilliant version of Stupid in America:

School spending has gone through the roof and test scores are flat.

While most every other service in life has gotten faster, better, and cheaper, one of the most important things we buy -- education -- has remained completely stagnant, unchanged since we started measuring it in 1970.

Why no improvement?

Because K-12 education is a government monopoly and monopolies don't improve.

A friend sent me these links to the recent Stupid in America show by John Stossel (discussed in my last email) – a must watch!  (Watch them immediately because they could be removed from YouTube at any time)








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Making Learning Fun

Stossel with a great defense of charter schools:

Charter Schools Don't Succeed?!

Here's a reaction to my special "Stupid in America," which aired this weekend:

Dear Mr. Stossel,

Do you understand how totally unsupported [your] claims are? All the studies of charter [schools] show they do worse on average than public schools, with a few cherry-picked examples doing better but most doing worse.

All the studies? That email came from a public school teacher in Virginia. And I can see where he gets such ideas. In 2006, the U.S. Department of Education announced the results of a big study: "Children in public schools generally performed as well or better in reading and mathematics than comparable children in private schools." The media ate it up. The New York Times put the study on its front page, along with a quote from teachers' union president Reg Weaver, who claimed it showed "public schools were doing an outstanding job."


It turned out that the Education Department's researchers had to torture the data to conclude that public schools performed well. The actual data showed that charter school kids scored higher, but then the researchers put test scores "into context" by adjusting for "race, ethnicity, income, and parents' educational backgrounds to make the comparisons more meaningful."

Maybe it's unfair to call that "torturing the data." Regression analysis is a valid statistical tool. But it's also prone to researcher bias, and there's plenty of that in the government monopoly.

The Department of Education's researchers acknowledged their method could be flawed: "Ideally, to ascertain the difference between the two types of schools, an experiment would be conducted in which students are assigned [by an appropriate random mechanism] to either public or private schools." The NY Times didn't find it "fit to print" that.

Last year, the Education Department came out with the results of one of those experiments - a "gold standard" study that compared students who were accepted via lottery at 28 different charter schools to students who applied to the same schools but who were randomly rejected in the lottery.

They found no significant difference in test scores, but parents were almost twice as likely to be happy with the charter school -- 70% of lottery winners said their school was "excellent," compared to 38% of lottery losers. Kids liked the charter schools more, too, 75% to 62%.

The study found that some schools drastically increased kids' scores, but that others did worse than the public schools. Market competition means that, over time, good schools will expand while the bad ones die.

School choice opponents also claim that successful charters "cherry-pick." Their students get higher test scores because charters enroll fewer special-needs kids, and kids who speak little English. Such "cheating" would be difficult since admission is done by lottery, but it's possible. Maybe the indifferent parents and parents who don't speak English don't enter the lotteries.

I challenged successful charter directors Eva Moskowitz and Deborah Kenny about "cherry-picking". Kenny called it a "myth" and Moskowitz told me the lottery is totally random, and that 70% of eligible kids apply for her schools (on top of that, 78% of the kids that attend her school are eligible for free/reduced school lunch).

Former DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee says charter school success is not about charters picking their students. "I'd have a school where 10 percent of the kids were on grade level. And right down the street I would have a KIPP school (where the kids are picked by lottery) and 90 percent of the kids were proficient... They are getting kids in who are scoring very low in proficiency, and by the time they leave they are achieving like suburban kids are."

Stossel doesn't address the CREDO study, which critics love to cite despite its many flaws (for example, it showed that charter school students did better every year EXCEPT the first year, when they vastly underperformed – that makes no sense: charters stink in the first year they have kids, but are better every subsequent year???).  Also, critics love to use the original study, but never mention that follow-up studies (using the same methodology) that show charters kicking butt in NY and, in a new study this spring, New Orleans as well (  The main message is that states with weak charter laws tend to have mediocre charters, but states with strong charter laws have charters that significantly outperform comparable regular public schools.  Duh!


Making Learning Fun

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The Secrets of a Principal Who Makes Things Work

Michael Winerip with a profile of a NYC principal, with his usual misguided slaps at reformers and tests:

A good principal has been a teacher.

While Ivy Leaguers in their 20s can now become principals, Jacqui Getz, 51, the new principal of Public School 126, a high-poverty school in Chinatown, came up the old way. This is her third principal position, but before that, she was a teacher for nine years and an assistant principal for four. It's hard for principals to win over teachers if they haven't been one.

"You're the principal," Ms. Getz said, "but you have to know how a teacher feels and how a teacher thinks."

I wonder if he's even aware that all KIPP principals must have been teachers?


The Secrets of a Principal Who Makes Things Work

Published: September 25, 2011

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DL21C - Shael Polakow-Suransky, Pedro Noguera on Classroom Accountability

This looks interesting – in NYC:

Tuesday, October 4

6:30 pm to 8:30 pm   

DL21C - Shael Polakow-Suransky, Pedro Noguera on Classroom Accountability


Location TBD

Join DL21C's Education Committee next Tuesday, October 4 for a discussion on teacher accountability, with two of New York's top education officials: Shael Polakow-Suransky (NYC's Chief Academic Officer) and Pedro Noguera, SUNY Trustee and NYU Professor of Education and Executive Director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education.

"Teacher accountability" is considered of the most controversial issues in the NYC schools. Mr. Polakow-Suransky and Dr. Noguera will discuss the DOE's plans for accountability as well as other issues associated with accountability, including testing and the recent decision in New York to wait before seeking the No Child Left Behind waiver. It promises to be an frank and substantial discussion of the progress being made in NYC's schools and the challenges ahead.

Doors Open 6:15pm

Location TBD

Free for Annual Members; $5/everyone else

To learn more about DL21C and become an Annual Member, visit

About the speakers:

Shael Polakow-Suransky is the New York City Department of Education's Chief Academic Officer and Senior Deputy Chancellor, overseeing all of the school system's instructional work and related policy issues. Previously, in his role as Deputy Chancellor for Performance and Accountability, he led the Department's efforts to provide instructional support around the Common Core State Standards, tools to accelerate student learning, professional development for teachers, and the data used to evaluate school quality and improve student performance.
Shael has worked in the New York City public schools since 1994, when he started his career as a teacher of mathematics and social studies. In 2001 he became the founding principal of Bronx International High School, a highly successful school for students who are recent immigrants to the United States. He has worked in several roles at the NYC Department of Education focused on building instructional capacity for teachers and principals, having served as a Leadership Academy facilitator, Deputy CEO for the Office of New Schools, and Chief Academic Officer for Empowerment Schools. Shael holds a bachelor's degree in education and urban studies from Brown University and a master's degree in educational leadership from the Bank Street College of Education. He is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy.

Pedro Noguera is the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University. He holds tenured faculty appointments in the departments of Teaching and Learning and Humanities and Social Sciences at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Development and in the Department of Sociology at New York University. He is also the Executive Director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education and the co-Director of the Institute for the Study of Globalization and Education in Metropolitan Settings (IGEMS). He is the author of several books including City Schools and the American Dream (Teachers College Press 2003), Unfinished Business: Closing the Achievement Gap in Our Nation's Schools (Josey Bass, 2006) and The Trouble With Black Boys…and Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education (Wiley and Sons, 2008). His two most recent books are Invisible No More: Understanding the Disenfranchisement of Latino Males (with Aida Hurtado and Eddie Fergus) and Creating the Opportunity to Learn with A. Wade Boykin. In 2008, Noguera was appointed by the Governor of New York to the State University of New York (SUNY) Board of Trustees. He also appeared as a regular commentator on educational issues on CNN, National Public Radio, and other national news outlets.

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AFT President Randi Weingarten invites you to a conversation with Steven Brill

If you're in DC on Oct. 4, you won't want to miss this:


AFT President Randi Weingarten invites you to a conversation with

Steven Brill,
author of

Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools

Tuesday, October 4
6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Johnny's Half Shell
400 North Capitol Street N.W.

Washington, DC 20001

RSVP: 202/393-5682 or

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NYC DOE Early Childhood Education Volunteers needed

From a friend:


The NYC DOE's Office of Early Childhood Education is working with several other city agencies to do an intensive outreach to educate parents and caregivers in high needs neighborhoods about NYC's free pre-kindergarten for four year olds. Each year, thousands of free seats go unfilled, particularly in these high needs communities.


More info is below - it's just a three hour time commitment plus a short training in advance. Many of your readers likely know just how critical quality early childhood ed is if we hope to prevent the achievement gap so many thanks for any help in spreading the word. 




Participation in a high quality early care and education program stimulates academic, social and emotional learning and helps prepare kids for kindergarten. NYC offers free Pre-Kindergarten for all four year olds, yet many families in high needs communities do not take advantage of this service.


Volunteers are needed to assist with outreach efforts to families and community organizations in key neighborhoods across the city Sat Oct 1, Sun Oct 2, and Sun Oct 16.  The Early Childhood Education Steering Committee (ECE), a collaboration between the Mayor's Office, the Department of Education, the Administration for Children's Services, NYC Housing Authority and other city agencies, is coordinating these activities. For the 2011-2012 School Year, the ECE is working to ramp up participation in Early Childhood programs in Brownsville, East Harlem, and Hunts Point (volunteers are still needed this weekend, in particular, on Sunday in East Harlem).


3 Hour Volunteer Opportunity

Each day will target a particular community:

* Sat, Oct 1st  9am - 12 pm Brownsville, Brooklyn        

* Sun, Oct 2nd  9am - 12pm East Harlem, Manhattan

* Sun, Oct 16th 9am to 12 pm Hunts Point and surrounding areas, Bronx


Volunteers can sign up for one of the following roles - please rank your top choice when responding.


Door to Door:  You will be assigned a specific set of addresses to canvas - informing residents directly about Early Childhood programs as well as leaving information for residents who do not answer. Included will also be community organizations in that neighborhood to ensure that they inform their client base.


Hub Site:  You will be assigned to a public area (park, playground, subway stop) to distribute information to the general public about Early Childhood programs.



All volunteers must attend a training session.

Volunteers can come 30 minutes early (at 8:30am) to their volunteer location OR participate in a 45 minute teleconference at the times listed below :


Thursday 9/29 from 10:45 - 11:30 am
Thursday 9/29 from 2:00 - 2:45 pm

Friday 9/30 from 9:30 - 10:15 am


If you are interested in volunteering or would like more information, please email Ojeda Hall by email at or call 212-374-3435. Please specify your preference for training and for volunteer role and community.


And if you can't attend, please forward this email to any interested friends, family, and colleagues. Thanks!

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Mom, I can do this!

I loved this story!  Check out the video at:

The marching band you see in front of you is like a lot of them in Ohio. They play the 1812 Overture. They form tricky patterns. They even dot the "i" in Ohio.

The only difference is, the "i" they form is in Braille, because this marching band is blind.

They're the Ohio State School for the Blind Marching Panthers and -- as far as I can tell -- they're the only blind marching band in the world.


Mom, I can do this!

By Rick Reilly

Guided By Music

The story behind the Ohio State School for the Blind Marching Panthers

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How "Gospel for Teens" is saving the music

I loved this as well – a 60 Minutes segment on Gospel for Teens in Harlem.  To read the transcript and watch the video, see:

How "Gospel for Teens" is saving the music

(CBS News) 

There's a street in Harlem that comes alive every Saturday with the sound of gospel music. You won't find any church there - just a brownstone full of teenagers and the woman who draws them in.

Her name is Vy Higginsen, a New York radio personality and theater producer. Five years ago she created something called "Gospel for Teens."

Never heard of it? Well, we think you'll be glad you did. And if you're thinking that Higginsen thought up this program as a way to save the teens, you'd be wrong. She did it to save the music.

The faces and voices of Gospel for Teens include kids between the ages of 13 and 19 who gather in Harlem each week from all over New York and New Jersey to study the tradition and the art of singing gospel.

"It's uniquely American. It's a story of a people in song created out of an American experience," Higginsen told correspondent Lesley Stahl.

"And you are not gonna let it die," Stahl remarked.

"No," Higginsen replied, with a beaming smile.

Higginsen runs an advanced class, but each fall she brings in a new group, putting out a call for auditions in local papers, on radio, and in churches. She calls them her "beginners."

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Friday, September 23, 2011

First-Time Email Plea Brings Outpouring for Somalia

My email last Sunday about the famine in Somalia (at the end of this email), in which I offered to match any donation up to $100, has generated – I hope you're sitting down – nearly $200,000!  I was expecting maybe a couple of dozen donations that I'd match up to $2,500, but I'm now giving $10,000 to match more than 100 people who've already donated – and 10 of my friends, who committed $175,000 of the nearly $200,000, are going to use their gifts to match the next 1,750 donations, so please feel free to forward this email, post it on your Facebook page, etc.  Just tell people that if they donate to any organization doing famine relief in Somalia, email my assistant Leila at and we'll match it up to $100 per donation (until the matching money runs out).


My email was forwarded to the person who writes the Donor of the Day profile for the Wall St. Journal, who wrote a story in today's paper (below) – here's the beginning:

On Sunday night, Whitney Tilson sent an email to people he knew urging them to support aid agencies working to address the famine in Somalia. As an incentive to give, he offered to match every gift given up to $100 each.

The 44-year-old founder and managing partner of T2 Partners LLC, a New York-based hedge fund, says he sent the email to roughly 10,000 people, drawn from his professional and philanthropic contacts. He figured 20 people might respond with $100 each and "maybe a couple people more than that" would give a slightly larger gift, he says.

Since Sunday, the response to his email has been overwhelming. Mr. Tilson has personally matched the first $10,000 in gifts. In addition, 10 of Mr. Tilson's friends have kicked in an additional $175,000 in matching dollars. Those friends include: Ciccio Azzollini, chief executive of Cattolica Partecipazioni SpA; Jeff Kaplan, a partner of Deerfield Partners; Anthony Meyer, president of Ocean Road Advisors; and Chris Stavrou, owner of Stavrou Partners.

Now, Mr. Tilson needs 1,750 people to step up to see their $100 donations matched. "Just email me," he says, and forward on your donation receipt as verification.

I'm often asked why I spend the time putting together these emails.  There are a lot of reasons – no wisecracks please about fueling my out-of-control ego! ;-) – but this experience reminded of another reason: being able to reach thousands of people with the click of my mouse can occasionally do some good. 


Until this week, the best example was a decade ago, when I spammed all of my email lists with a story and photos (see: of an Ethiopian brother and sister who had recently been orphaned by AIDS and needed to be adopted (my parents, who lived in Ethiopia then (they now live in Kenya), knew their father).  Sure enough, an old friend of mine adopted them and they're doing great – now 22 and 20 years old!


·         WSJ

·         NY CULTURE

·         SEPTEMBER 23, 2011

First-Time Email Plea Brings Outpouring for Somalia


On Sunday night, Whitney Tilson sent an email to people he knew urging them to support aid agencies working to address the famine in Somalia. As an incentive to give, he offered to match every gift given up to $100 each.

Whitney Tilson

The 44-year-old founder and managing partner of T2 Partners LLC, a New York-based hedge fund, says he sent the email to roughly 10,000 people, drawn from his professional and philanthropic contacts. He figured 20 people might respond with $100 each and "maybe a couple people more than that" would give a slightly larger gift, he says.

Since Sunday, the response to his email has been overwhelming. Mr. Tilson has personally matched the first $10,000 in gifts. In addition, 10 of Mr. Tilson's friends have kicked in an additional $175,000 in matching dollars. Those friends include: Ciccio Azzollini, chief executive of Cattolica Partecipazioni SpA; Jeff Kaplan, a partner of Deerfield Partners; Anthony Meyer, president of Ocean Road Advisors; and Chris Stavrou, owner of Stavrou Partners.

Now, Mr. Tilson needs 1,750 people to step up to see their $100 donations matched. "Just email me," he says, and forward on your donation receipt as verification.

So far, donations have ranged from $18 to a matching gift of $100,000, with most coming in at exactly $100. Most of the donations have been directed to the global poverty organization, CARE, with other gifts going to Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders and the International Rescue Committee, among others.

Provided the donation supports famine-relief work in Somalia, Mr. Tilson says that he will see the gift is matched.

Mr. Tilson's primary philanthropic interests have mainly been in education—he's passionate about education reform in the U.S.—and he says he's never helped to raise money for disaster or relief work. He just decided to do something with the hope that the offer would get passed around, posted to Facebook and "go viral," he says. "It took me half an hour to craft a compelling email and I've never made an offer to match philanthropically like that."

Mr. Tilson is involved with a few nonprofits that work in Africa and has traveled to various countries. He spent some of his childhood in Tanzania, and his parents, both educators, were members of the Peace Corps. Now retired, they live in Kenya. His sister, also living in Kenya, is involved with women's public health in Africa.

But Mr. Tilson says his email was mostly born out of reading recent news reports and seeing photos of the famine in Somalia.

"I've got three of my own kids and seeing parents there holding their kids while they die of starvation is pretty tough," he says. "I suspect those pictures probably impacted the people who gave the same way they impacted me."

From: Whitney Tilson
Sent: Sunday, September 18, 2011 5:19 PM
Subject: Photos and articles from Somalia -- and how you can help


I was overwhelmed by these photos on the NY Times web site about the mass starvation that's occurring in Somalia (warning: not for the faint of heart).  750,000 people could die in coming months, but little is being done, for reasons discussed in the last article below. 


I will match anyone's donation up to $100 each – just email me and let me know – and will donate a minimum of $2,500 (but I hope 50 of you make me donate $5,000!; and if this email goes viral, I'll ask some friends to help).  At the end of this email is a list of organizations working to address the famine.


Below is an op ed in today's NYT by Nick Kristof – here's an excerpt:

The United Nations warns that the famine in the Horn of Africa could kill 750,000 people in the coming months, and tens of thousands have already died. In a German aid hospital here in Dadaab, Dr. Daniel Muchiri showed four wards full of children suffering from severe malnutrition. Even among the rare children who reach this well-equipped hospital, one dies each day on average — and Malyun Muhammad may soon become one of them.

…Listening to the stories of these Somalis left my heart aching. Consider one man I met who had just trekked across the desert and arrived at Dadaab: Bele Muhammad, a 45-year-old farmer. Two of his children had starved to death in the previous three weeks, he told me. A 14-year-old boy, Abdul Aziz, died first, and then an 8-year-old girl, Fatuma. Mr. Bele's wife and six remaining children were near death, so he set out on foot with 50 others to walk to Kenya to scout a route.

It was a horrific 10-day journey, partly because eight armed bandits attacked his group shortly after it crossed the Kenyan border. "The robbers asked me for money, and I said I had none," Mr. Bele recounted.

The bandits separated the men from the women and then, he thinks, raped the women. The bandits tortured the men with fire to find where they had hidden money; Mr. Bele showed me the burns on his face and arms.

Finally, the bandits realized he had nothing and released him. And now, despite the ordeal, Mr. Bele is sending word back to his family that his three strongest children, ages 4 through 12, should set out and try to walk to Dadaab — even if that means they will be attacked by bandits, even tortured or raped along the way.

"If they stay in Somalia, they will die of hunger," he said bluntly. That's what the choice comes down to for many Somalis: Do they risk starvation at home or torture and rape while fleeing?

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Do Schools Matter? (my article)

Is it really egotistical to do a STOP THE PRESSES for one of my own articles? ;-)


I just published this today in the Huffington Post:

I recently had a conversation with a friend who is just beginning to engage on the topic of education reform and he asked me the following:

I've looked at the data for the schools in my city and there's a lockstep correlation between the percentage of children who receive free lunches and academic failure, so I guess the solution is to stop giving kids free lunches, as it's obviously impairing their ability to learn.

He was kidding, of course, and we both laughed, but then he continued:

Seriously, the poverty level of children correlates very highly with their academic performance, however you measure it: test scores, grades, dropout rates, college completion, etc. In addition, if one looks at the international results on the PISA reading test of 15-year-olds, while the U.S. overall ranks 15th in the world, U.S. Asian girls rank #1, beating even Shanghai, Korea and Finland, and girls as a whole rank #8. It is boys, low-income students, and black and Latino students who drag our average down. So, is it really fair to blame our educational system? Isn't the real issue poverty plus the problems boys and minorities are having?

It's a fair question -- and a point made often by the teachers unions and others who defend the current educational system in our country. So I look the time to answer him. Here's what I wrote:

You are correct that today, demography is destiny for most kids. In my slide presentation, A Right Denied, page 46 shows that virtually all kids from high-income families earn four-year college degrees, while few other kids do -- a mere 8% of kids from low-income families -- and the gap has widened dramatically over time.

…In fact, if I could fix either all of the parents (broadly defined, meaning ending childhood poverty, making sure every child had plenty of books and both parents in the home, etc.) or all of the schools in America, I'd choose the former in a heartbeat. But I'm not sure it's possible to fix the parents -- and I know it's possible to fix the schools.

Here is the key thing to understand: if you take 1,000 disadvantaged kids and put them in mediocre (or worse) schools with mediocre (or worse) teachers, they will follow their parents' life trajectory in lockstep. However, if you take the same 1,000 kids and put them in a high-quality school with excellent teachers, you can dramatically improve the life outcomes of a large number of these children.

20 years ago, I couldn't prove this because, other than a few classrooms with teachers like Jaime Escalante, there were no examples of a large number of disadvantaged kids doing well thanks to their school.

But today I can prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt, both with statistics and with my own eyes, as I've visited over 100 schools that are generating extraordinary academic success with the most disadvantaged children. Most are public charter schools that select students by lottery, have comparable students and spend roughly the same per pupil as nearby chronically failing schools, and, in fact, sometimes share the same building.

…Thus, we must reject a "blame the victim" mentality: children are not failing our schools; rather, our schools are failing far too many children.

However, given that many low-income, minority children enter school with two strikes against them, they need the best schools and teachers to change their life trajectories -- but instead our educational system gives them the worst. They overwhelmingly get the lowest quality teachers and schools.

In summary, the color of your skin and your zip code are almost entirely determinative of the quality of the public education this nation provides. This is deeply, profoundly wrong and is contrary to everything this nation stands for.


Do Schools Matter?

Posted: 9/18/11 04:20 PM ET

Whitney Tilson

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Newark Is Betting on a Wave of New Principals

Overall, a very favorable article on the front page of Friday's NYT about new Newark super Cami Anderson's efforts to bring in top new principals:

These are some of the 17 new principals — 11 of them under age 40, 7 from outside Newark — recruited this year to run nearly a quarter of the city's schools. They were hired by Cami Anderson, the new schools superintendent, as part of an ambitious plan to rebuild the 39,000-student district, which has long been crippled by low achievement and high dropout rates, but now is flush with up to $200 million from prominent donors, including Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.

"I believe a strong principal is the key to almost everything," Ms. Anderson said in an interview. "Where you have great performance, you have great principals, period, full stop. Where you have low performance, you have struggling principals. It's not that complicated."

Ms. Anderson, 40, who was appointed in May, said that before she came, Newark chose principals through an informal and somewhat arbitrary process, based largely on recommendations from school employees, parents and political leaders. She quickly ousted six principals she deemed ineffective, then used some of the donor money to set up a search committee to replace them and to fill seven vacancies and four positions at new high schools. Ms. Anderson has also broken from district policy to give all principals more autonomy to hire staff, and teamed up with a nonprofit group, New Leaders for New Schools, to develop what she called an "emerging leaders program."

All of which has led to complaints from some teachers, parents and community leaders.

PS—Did the head of the local teachers union REALLY say this?  LOL!

"It's very easy to blame the sinking of the Titanic on the captain, but I would think the crew had something to do with it, too," said Joseph Del Grosso, president of the Newark Teachers Union.


Newark Is Betting on a Wave of New Principals

Published: September 15, 2011

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