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The Impending End of “No Child”

July 19, 2013 Politics-2013 No Comments

» Wash. Post: GOP education bill comes under fire from House Democrats
» Politico: House poised to leave ‘No Child’ behind
» NY Times: Education Proposal in House Could Replace ‘No Child’ Act

We’re not in 2001 anymore …

For the first time since No Child Left Behind, President George W. Bush’s signature education law, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support a dozen years ago, a bill seeking to rewrite the law came to the floor of the House for debate on Thursday, dividing legislators along party lines.

Lawmakers tussled over the role of the federal government in public education, with Republicans calling for a return of control over curriculum standards, testing and spending to states and districts. Democrats, by contrast, assailed the proposed bill, saying that it reduced financing designated for the students most at risk, failed to set high standards and watered down efforts to hold schools accountable for student performance.

Both parties agreed that No Child Left Behind, which was signed into law in 2002, is in dire need of revision. States and districts have struggled to meet a deadline enshrined in that law, requiring that all students become proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014.

I’ve only started compiling information on the competing bills and I’m sure that Rep. Kline’s bill will warrant some further reading. I’m a little skeptical that any changes will pass this Congress. But it’s still interesting to see how far the GOP is willing to move from where it was twelve years ago.

ADD-ON: The ideologues …

» Center for American Progress: The Student Success Act Is the Wrong Way Forward
» Heritage Foundation: The Student Success Act: Reforming Federal Accountability Requirements Under No Child Left Behind

A 2011 Update on Education Demographics

June 15, 2013 Politics-2013 No Comments

A not-insignificant trifecta of demographics coming out of NCES and Census data …

» NY Times: Census Benchmark for White Americans: More Deaths Than Births
» NY Times: Data Reveal a Rise in College Degrees Among Americans
» Huffington Post: Hispanics Now Majority In Texas Public Schools, Districts Assess If They Are Ready For Change

The findings on college education comes from a report put out by Lumina Foundation. Their report can be read in full here. Their section on Texas reads in part:

In Texas, 34.5 percent of the state’s 13.4 million working-age adults (25-64 years old) hold a two- or four-year college degree, according to 2011 Census data. Texas’ attainment rate is increasing slowly; last year, the rate was 33.7 percent. Still, Texas’ rate of higher education attainment is well below the national average. This year, the percentage of Americans between age 25 and 64 who hold a two- or four-year degree is 38.7 percent. This rate is also rising, but again, only slowly. In 2010, the rate was 38.3 percent; in 2009, it was 38.1.

There is also reason for concern about the educational trends in Texas. The best indicator of where attainment rates are heading is the rate among young adults — those between the ages of 25 and 34. In Texas, 2011 Census data put the attainment rate of these young adults at just 33.9 percent, lower than that of the adult population as a whole. What’s more, Texas’ attainment rate among young adults is well below the national rate of 40.1 percent.

Texas clearly has a long way to go. In this state and nationally, college attainment rates must increase rapidly and steadily to reach 60 percent by 2025. If the current rate of degree production continues, about 40 percent of Texas’ adult population — 5.9 million people — will hold a college degree in 2025. To reach 60 percent attainment among its projected 2025 population of 14,850,154, Texas will need to add more than 3 million degrees to that total.

By now, most people understand why increasing attainment is so important — both to themselves and their communities. Experts from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University say that, by 2018, 2.2 million of the expected 4 million job vacancies in Texas will require postsecondary credentials. Indeed, 56 percent of all Texas jobs will require postsecondary education by 2018.

Aggreblogging in the Raw

February 18, 2013 Politics-2013 No Comments

Just pure, raw linkage this time. A few of these, I may come back to at some point during the week. But for now … read ‘em yourself. Committee hearings are picking up here in Austin, so there’s much fear and loathing to contend with. Reminds me: why is it that Hunter S. Thompson never thought to cover the Texas Legislature?

» Huffington Post: University Of Texas, Rick Perry Clash Over Future Of Public Higher Education

» NY Times: Fears of the Future Haunt a Budding Generation of Afghan Strivers

» NY Times: Slower Growth of Health Costs Eases U.S. Deficit

» TNR: Original Sin: Why the GOP is and will continue to be the party of white people

» Inside Higher Ed: Questions on Debit Cards

» Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The “Me” Curriculum at the DOE: Why we need to stop telling students “Narrative writing is all about me.”

» Washington Post: Why introverts shouldn’t be forced to talk in class

» EducationNext: Solving America’s Math Problem
» EducationNext: A Double Dose of Algebra

» Chron: School district, others owe Valero nearly $5 million

» Atlas Project: Changing demographics in Georgia could give Democrats a chance in the deep south

» NY Times: Voting Rights Act Is Challenged as Cure the South Has Outgrown

» Politico: Lone Star Rising

» The Atlantic: Obama’s LBJ Moment: The War on Inequality Is the New ‘War on Poverty’

» NY Times Magazine: Can the Republicans Be Saved From Obsolescence? (Robert Draper)

State of the Aggreblogging

January 28, 2013 Politics-2013 No Comments

There’s a possibility that the House will have committee assignments later this week. And Rick Perry will opine on the state of the state. Doped or un-doped … we’ll have to wait till tomorrow to find out. Till then, homework on a batch of bills in the Lege is underway. Oh, and a few news items from recent days …

» Chron: Alvarado, Garcia headed to a runoff for Gallegos’ seat
The only surprise here was how negligible the vote was for the “other six” candidates. Unfortunately, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see the piling on that “Hispanic voters” are getting for a low turnout special election. First off, not all voters in SD6 are Hispanic. A quarter of the district’s citizen, voting age population are Anglo. 17% are African-American. Yet I don’t seem to see as much head-shaking over that part of SD6 online. The net result is that the turnout is almost identical to the runoff turnout in SD22 when Brian Birdwell was winning that seat in June of 2010. The first round in that contest (in May) was only 6.85% turnout. And somehow, I don’t recall seeing a similar share of head-shaking over the patheticness of turnout among white Republicans. Bottom line: I think the reaction to turnout in this more recent contest highlights the prevalence of a bad stereotype that political junkies would be better off re-evaluating. Special elections are built for crappy turnout. I’d love to live in a world where that wasn’t the case. I’d settle for one where turnout was double what it is. But that just ain’t the real world.

» I’m still not sure what to make of the new redesign of The New Republic. But I am glad to see Michael Kinsley back with the rag. My sense is that the design is targeted toward tablet users/readers. It felt cozy to read on my Kindle browser on the ride between Austin & Houston. But on my laptop … not quite as inviting.

» NY Times: Chinese Graduates Say No Thanks to Factory Jobs
Interesting for context on how American college graduates need to “catch up” to Chinese if we want to see any of those iPod manufacturing jobs in America. Considering how many jobs will supposedly require some post-secondary education, it’ll be interesting to see how some of the definitions around these kind of projections change over time.

» Politico: Democrats launch plan to turn Texas blue
When I see a minimum of $50M being spoken of, a voter registration drive that makes sense in urban Texas, and a credible statewide candidate who can raise some dough to be on TV … I’ll believe it then. At first glance, however, I like Brad Bird’s involvement.

» Statesman: Tort reform foes team up to force insurance companies to pay promptly
Mikal Watts … still at it. I leave it for the reader to determine whether Watts would be a good fit for one of the open questions in the previous bullet point.

» Political Animal: Will Phil Mickelson Go Galt?
Oh good gawd, I sure hope so.

» Washington Post: Maryland Dream Act loophole increases costs for some Montgomery high schoolers
Always good advice to think through the unintended consequences of a poorly worded bill. Still, this is an easy fix.

» Washington Post: Dartmouth’s unresearched swipes at AP
A good follow-up from last week’s item on Dartmouth vs AP.

Teaching Tech

October 2, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

» NY Times: Fostering Tech Talent in Schools

Worth noting …

There are likely to be 150,000 computing jobs opening up each year through 2020, according to an analysis of federal forecasts by the Association for Computing Machinery, a professional society for computing researchers. But despite the hoopla around start-up celebrities like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, fewer than 14,000 American students received undergraduate degrees in computer science last year, the Computing Research Association estimates. And the wider job market remains weak.

“People can’t get jobs, and we have jobs that can’t be filled,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel who oversees its philanthropic efforts, said in a recent interview.

Big technology companies have complained for years about a dearth of technical talent, a problem they have tried to solve by lobbying for looser immigration rules to accommodate more foreign engineers and sponsoring tech competitions to encourage student interest in the industry. Google, for one, holds a programming summer camp for incoming ninth graders and underwrites an effort called CS4HS, in which high school teachers sharpen their computer science skills in workshops at local universities.

This, of course, would go very well alongside of something like an alternate graduation track here in Texas. Kuff’s been all over that debate (follow the links). Imagine students getting teaching in a program like CS4HS while taking vocational high school courses and graduating with computer science certifications of value to regional employers. When you look at why American tech firms outsource to places like Foxconn, the employees they’re getting there aren’t substantially more educated than what I think we could crank out with a system like that.

Testing to the Teacher

October 1, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

» NPR: Teacher Evaluation Dispute Echoes Beyond Chicago

In my defense, I was trapped in a car for a road trip when I heard the NPR story referenced above. But one quote jumped out at me when I heard the story …

Experts concede that teacher evaluation formulas are still a work in progress. But Dan Goldhaber, director of the Center for Education Data and Research at the University of Washington, Bothell, says algorithms have now become very sophisticated. They measure student improvement, not just scores, and they adjust for everything from socioeconomic factors to class size.

Maybe I’m not as well-versed in recent advances in mathematics, but algorithms themselves aren’t entirely new and I have a hard time accepting that “algorithms have no become very sophisticated”. I do find it to be far more believable that the data for processing those algorithms may have grown. So I’m not sure if that’s what was meant by this quote or not.

But it gets to the lingering problem I have with treating these type of evaluations as the be-all, end-all for identifying quality teachers. At least in my days as a student, we were told what percent the mid-term would count toward our final grade, what percent the final exam would count, what percent quizzes and homework would count, and whether the teacher was going to grade on some definition of “improvement” over the semester or on a straight mathematical accounting of those inputs. But in the drive to put a number of new inputs into an algorithm that defines whether a teacher is doing good or bad … I’d be willing to be that even most math teachers wouldn’t be able to explain the formula.

That brings me to this story …

» Washington Post: New teacher evaluations start to hurt students

The shortcomings of evaluating teachers by test scores were apparent in the recent report of the American Institute for Research (AIR), which developed the New York growth score model. AIR, in its BETA report, shows how as the percentage of students with disabilities and students of poverty in a class or school increases, the average teacher or principal growth score decreases. In short, the larger the share of such students, the more the teacher and principal are disadvantaged by the model. I predict that when the state results are made public, you will see a disproportionate amount of teachers of students with serious learning disabilities and teachers in schools with high levels of poverty labeled ineffective on scores. And that label will be unfair.

Likewise, in the model used this year, teachers who have students whose prior test scores were higher were advantaged, while teachers whose students have lower prior achievement were disadvantaged. This phenomenon, known as peer effects, has been observed in the literature since the 1980s. There is no control for peer effects in the model. We will see patterns of low scores for teachers of disadvantaged students. Over time, the students who need the best teachers and principals will see them leave their schools in order to escape the ‘ineffective’ label.

Perhaps the best critique of the model comes from AIR itself. The BETA report concludes that “the model selected to estimate growth scores for New York State represents a first effort to produce fair and accurate estimates of individual teacher and principal effectiveness based on a limited set of data” (p. 35). Not “our best attempt,” not even a “good first attempt,” but rather a “first effort” at fairness.

And yet, across the state, teachers and principals have received scores telling them that they are ineffective in producing student learning growth.

I’m all for generating as much data as possible and using that data to test theories on what works and doesn’t work in schools. But there’s a tendency to look at mounds of data and just assume that a conclusion can instantly be derived out of it all.

Unless those allegedly new & improved algorithms are fairly accounting for the factors external to teachers and doing so in a more rigorous, proven method, creating a flawed scoring system for teachers independent of that strikes me as a flawed attempt at accountability.

ADD-ON: Then again, do the algorithms account for per-student funding?

Sharpstown High Hits PBS

September 26, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

I neglected to watch it last night, so here it is.

Opening segment …

Watch Dropout Nation on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Thursday at the Baker Institute: Mark Chancey

February 21, 2011 Politics-2011 No Comments

Via TFN

Educating for a “Christian America”? Bible Courses, Social Studies Standards and the Texas Controversy

Thursday, February 24 from 06:30 pm to 08:00 pm

Mark Chancey, religious studies professor at Southern Methodist University, explores the implications that debates over teaching religion in Texas public schools might have on the American cultural identity.

Looks like you can either soak it up live, or via webcast. If it is webcast, I’ll be sure to watch it.

The State of Education Reform

February 8, 2011 Politics-2011 1 Comment

» Dissent: Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools (Joanne Barkan)

This week should be a bit rough on the blogging schedule, so I’m more in a link-recommending mode of operation. This one in particular, is a worthwhile read if you want the alternate view of education reform. Barkan definitely hits all the notes you’d expect if you were to pick away at the Gates Foundation and the other two biggies that dominate education philanthropy. There are some aspects of the criticism that I can appreciate, but at the end of the day, I’m left wondering how different the education philanthropy field is from others that rely on philanthropy (and haven’t been overtaken by Gates).

Of particular interest, Barkan spells out how the reform movement has taken root in the Obama administration and Education Secretary Arne Duncan in particular. Now, I’m generally supportive of the reform agenda that Duncan has spelled out. And I realize full well that there are some areas that run up against areas where I may disagree – I like the idea of better longitudinal data tracking students and teachers together, but I don’t know that I fully support that as the end-all of teacher job performance. Likewise, I don’t have much against third-party and state-mandated testing, but I do disagree with it as a high-stakes component to graduation and school performance measurement.

At some point, a more holistic pattern of metrics should be utilized and I can’t help but scratch my head over why we aren’t starting off with larger, meta-metrics that highlight a school system’s ability to send elementary students to middle school, middle schools to high schools, and high schools to college. As a sidenote, I should point out that as I start to finalize the datasets needed to wrap up my “How Houston Commutes” work, the data that’s next involves education in Harris County. And the first glance of what may or may not evolve to a fuller pattern is that the ability to matriculate students and ultimately get them into college is a big differentiator among the various parts of the county. None of that is new or earth-shattering. But for some reason, it never seems like enough of a metric to use when we talk about education.

Lastly, I think one very worthwhile critique of the Gates Foundation is that they rarely, if ever, seem to acknowledge failure. Their initial push was for small schools. It’s an approach that I’ve supported and still feel very favorable toward. But the results of the initial approach did not seem to show causality of small schools toward student accomplishment. Indeed, Barkan highlights some of the negative side effects of the immediate shift to smaller schools. Why those can’t be acknowledged while emphasizing the point that a multitude of different reform attempts still need to be attempted is beyond me.

There’s an obvious parallel to this in what we see in the charter school movement in Texas (and probably beyond). What we were sold on with charter schools is that they would operate more to the market demands. If they failed, they would close. If they succeeded, they would expand. The latter has happened in spurts – funding for infrastructure and availability of qualified teachers has been an issue with regard to the ability for schools not named KIPP or YES to expand. But when the results merit closing an obviously failed – and likely dangerous – charter school, we rarely see the market in action as much as we see the usual political demands being vocalized in efforts to keep the schools opened. As one who supports the growth of charter schools, even I can’t say that’s the way the system should operate.

Either way you choose to see the current Ed Reform movement, I think it’s worth spending some quality time reading Barkan’s write-up. Feel free to apply as many or as few grains of salt as you choose to.

TANGENTIALLY RELATED: I leave it to you to determine whether you agree that Barack Obama is killing the science fair.

Innovative Education in the ‘Hood

January 27, 2011 News - Local/State No Comments

Good news for the middle school in my neighborhood …

Jane Long Middle School in southwest Houston is one of four U.S. schools or districts selected to take part this year in Microsoft’s worldwide Partners in Learning program.

Microsoft announced today that the Houston magnet school at 6501 Bellaire Blvd. was named to the program because of its partnership with Citizen Schools to lengthen the school day for all sixth graders by nearly three hours each day.

The expanded learning time offers extra academic support and project-based learning, including 10-week apprenticeships with local professionals, according to a news release.

Considering that the immediate neighborhood has something of an Ellis Island nature to it, demographically, I guess it makes a good fit for a program that connects teachers internationally.

Coming Soon: KIPP Gulfton

December 22, 2010 News - Local/State 2 Comments

I’m not able to find anything announcing this to the world, but the signs are up at what used to be the Twelve Oaks Hospital on Tarnef & Bellaire, which straddles the Sharpstown & Gulfton neighborhoods. The hospital was shut down in mid-2008 and has been sitting idle since then (with the parking lots sealed off and the occasional manned security visible on site).

Between then and now, YES Prep has opened up on the building located a few blocks behind the hospital – DeMoss & Rookin. So it looks like Precinct 430 is becoming quite the educational haven, with those schools to go along with Jane Long Middle School and a Head Start program located across from YES Prep on Rookin.

Right-Sizing HISD

December 17, 2010 Politics-2010 No Comments

» KTRK: HISD discusses ‘rightsizing’ schools

Just in time for the new census numbers rolling out …

Robert E. Lee High School is one of the schools at which the district will be looking. Right now, the school has the room to hold more than 1,200 additional students. It’s a problem for the district and the students who go there because they’re the ones losing out on money and resources.

There are nearly 1,700 students enrolled at Lee High, but the school is zoned to hold almost 3,000 students. The district is now keeping a close eye on Lee and 65 other HISD schools. They want to implement something called “rightsizing.”

In this process they’re going to look at why some of the schools’ enrollment numbers are so low. For instance, if a school is zoned for about 900 students and enrollment is only at 450, it’s considered a problem.

I can’t wait to see the reaction to parents currently dropping their kids off at Bellaire that they should instead head to Lee. Look for a lot of spin from Newsweek rankings to smooth things over.

The reality, of course, is that this is the crux of the problem with rightwing reform efforts on public education: they invariably favor good schools somehow weeding out bad ones without accepting the reality that the goal is to teach everyone, not just those lucky enough to get into a top-flight school.

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