Around the Edu-Horn, June 30, 2010

Teachers report students are learning more with technologyhttp://sbne.ws/r/52I5 (from ASCD)


Comprehensive teacher induction boosts student test scores — http://tinyurl.com/2bu8erg

Coaching Hispanic students for higher school achievement –http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2010-06-30-betteradvising30_CV_N.htm

Marketing school improvement in Memphis —http://tinyurl.com/26grtl7

Are Cali schools going insolvent? http://tinyurl.com/29ly2nz


Gutting School Improvement to Keep the Lights On

Short-term pain relief or long-term improvement?  That seems to be the choice that is currently facing Congress, as the House debates how to fund “edujobs,” the federal relief necessary to supposedly save hundreds of thousands of teachers’ jobs in this difficult economy.

Earlier this month, Eduflack wrote on the edu-jobs issue and how Congress could get creative in finding the $23 billion needed to protect classroom jobs.  Since then, the edu-jobs issue has gone nowhere.  The U.S. Senate, in particular, seems to lack the fortitude to vote for additional spending, even it was to save the jobs of K-12 teachers.  So edujobs has just been left hanging, with no resolution in sight.
Until this week.  In the U.S. House of Representatives, Appropriations Chairman David Obey has offered plans to move $10 billion in edujobs dollars.  The full text of Congress’ spending plans can be found here, on the House Rules Committee website.  But since the release of the report language, it begged the question — where is Congress finding the money to offset the dollars being spent on edujobs?
It is a question that Alyson Klein over at EdWeek and its Politics K-12 blog has refused to let go of.  Now, Klein has the answers for us.  It seems that, to ease the short-term pain of school districts struggling to meet payroll, that Congress is ready to sacrifice some of its commitment to wholesale school improvement efforts.
According to Klein, much of the money needed to offset the spending for edujobs comes from cuts to existing school improvement efforts.  Chairman Obey and company are planning on pulling $500 million from Race to the Top, $200 million from the Teacher Incentive Fund, and another $100 million from innovation and improvement (which she reads as charter school moneys) to help fund the $800 million in budget offsets Democrats have promised.  
In response, Rep. John Kline (MN), the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee referred to the move as exploitation, and said Dems were taking the first chance to “discard education reform.”    
So it begs an important question — is the short-term gain worth the long-term pain?  Is one year of supporting teachers’ salaries worth slashing one-eighth of the RttT pool?  Is it worth eliminating the $200 million increase that the stimulus bill originally gave to TIF?  And is it worth slashing charter dollars after we demanded that states change their charter laws and promote the establishment of more charter schools?
RttT, TIF, and innovation dollars are all long-term investments.  Cutting $500 million from Race, for instance, likely means at least three or four states that won’t be able to participate in the Phase Two program.  Those mid-sized states that could have taken a Race and done some real good with it over the next few years will now lose out.  All to cover salaries for the coming school year (and one coming year only).
What makes such a move dangerous is that this is stopgap; it isn’t a solution.  What happens next year when we need another $10 or $15 billion to help with teachers’ salaries?  And more importantly, what happens with plans to add new phases to RttT or i3?  Once these cuts to education reform efforts are made, it becomes near impossible to restore them.  Supporting teacher pay becomes a long-term obligation, with little opportunity in the near term to add new programs or expand competitive grant programs. 
Without question, it is important that our school districts figure out ways to pay their workforces, both this year and the years to come.  But should that maintenance mean sacrificing real efforts to improve our schools and their outcomes?  Do we really want to get into a position where we are choosing between paying teachers and improving student test scores?  And do we really want the federal government to become more and more responsible for paying salaries in our localities?
 

Around the Edu-Horn, June 29, 2010

EdTrust: unequal access to good schools in Cali — http://tinyurl.com/32gsjy7

RT @Education_AIR RT @educationweek Blog: American Institutes for Research Focuses on ELLs http://bit.ly/8YpKa9 #ELLs

Boston charters are seeking major expansion http://sbne.ws/r/525Z (from ASCD)

Spellings to teach at Harvard this fall – http://bit.ly/d0S7uD

Grading Houston ISD’s Grier — http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7083522.html

Remembering THE Senior Senator

Sadly, Eduflack awoke this morning to learn that U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia had passed away, at the age of 92.  Senator Byrd was a true institution, a policymaker, a statesman, a voice for the voiceless, and a true senator in the classical definition of the word.

Nearly 20 years ago, the senior senator from the Mountain State took a chance on dear ol’ Eduflack.  While still in college, I joined his press office.  I learned how to write press releases and floor statements.  I would field calls from reporters across West Virginia and around the globe (learning that those reporters from the weekly newspapers in the hills of West Virginia were far more important).  And before many of those West Virginia newspapers had computers or fax machines, I would read them press releases over the phone, as you could hear the clickety-clack of the typewriter as they took down every word.
Then, a little over 15 years ago, he asked me to serve as his press secretary, and it was a true honor.  Having just graduated from college, at the age of 22, I was a public representative for the senior senator from West Virginia and the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.  One of my first assignments — write a draft of an hour-long floor statement he could deliver on the historical meaning of Independence Day (going all the way back to Aristotle).  I learned more in my time as Byrd’s press secretary than I have in any job since.
In my professional life, Senator Byrd was one of my great teachers.  He taught me history.  He taught me about American government.  He taught me about the Constitution.  He taught me about legislative processes and about the federal appropriations system.  He taught me the differences between a politician and a public servant.  And he taught me the true value, and potential dangers, of a representative democracy.  I treasure the autographed copies of his books that I proudly display in my home office, and I still take great pride in the fact that I was a Robert C. Byrd Scholar in high school (a West Virginia high school to boot!).
While most primarily talk about his work as the leader of Senate Appropriations for nearly two decades, Senator Byrd also did tremendous things for education.  He was a strong advocate for rural education, a champion for community colleges, and a firm believer in the value of a college education.  The Robert C. Byrd Scholars program has made a difference in the lives of thousands of young people (and needs to be saved from its proposed elimination in this year’s presidential budget).  And along with Senator Lamar Alexander (TN), Byrd has long been an advocate for increased instruction in civics and the U.S. Constitution in our K-12 classrooms.  
He was also a pioneer in online learning and teaching, bringing telemedicine to West Virginia long before most saw the value of sharing information and engaging via satellite or computer. 
I recognize that some like to dwell on the missteps and mistakes of Byrd’s past, but I also hope we can recognize that, unlike many who serve in public office, he regularly reflected on his past and learned from it.  When I had the privilege of working for Senator Byrd, he would often say his greatest regret was voting against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  While he was mindful that his past would always be part of the “official bio,” as we see in obits today, he did not let it distract him from doing what was right in the now.  And he did do what was right, for both the people of West Virginia and for the nation he loved so much.
The Washington Post has its story here.  The Charleston Gazette has its story here.  And my friend Marty Kady at Politico has his here
As WaPo reminds us, after the 2000 elections, Senator Byrd said, “West Virginia has always had four friends.  God Almighty, Sears Roebuck, Carter’s Liver Pills, and Robert C. Byrd.”  Nothing could be more true.
I am incredibly fortunate that I had RCB as a boss, mentor, teacher, and friend.  The Great State of West Virginia and the United States of America are better places because of Senator Byrd’s service to our great nation.  There is no replacing Robert C. Byrd.  One can only pick up where he has left off, building on the legacy he has left us all.
     

Father, father, father …

In our nation’s capital yesterday, President Barack Obama reissued his call to get fathers more involved in their children’s lives.  Calling for “responsible fatherhood,” the President noted that fathers (Eduflack included) need to be part of their kids’ lives “not just with words, but with deeds.”

USA Today’s Greg Toppo has the full story on the event here.  What’s most interesting are the stats that Toppo offers up from the U.S. Census.  About one in three children lived away from their biological fathers last year, and that number leaps to almost two in three (64 percent) for African-American children.
Why is this an issue for Eduflack?  Allow me to get on my soapbox for a moment.  If we are serious about improving our public schools, particularly for historically disadvantaged students, we need to better engage in the homes.  If we are going to improve student proficiency scores, we need parents keeping tabs on what is happening in the classroom and making sure homework is done.  If we are going to improve graduation rates, we need parents who are prioritizing that diploma.  And if we are going to move more first-generation students onto college, we need parents who nag and prioritize and push their kids to achieve.
So when Obama talks about getting fathers more involved in their children’s lives, he is also talking about getting them more involved in their kids’ schools.  He’s reminding them that good fathers can be in the PTA.  They can chaperone class trips.  They can pick the kids up at school.  They can actually know their kids’ teachers and other parents in the classroom.  They can talk with their kids about school, and life.
Back in November 2008, Eduflack offered up some education reccs to then President-elect Obama.  The “big idea” of the day was focused on parental involvement, building off of the similar father encouragement efforts the President is still offering today.  At the time, I wrote:
  

I propose you actually establish an Office of Family and Community Engagement, an authorized body at the Assistant Secretary level that can get information into the hands of those who need it most.  The most recent regs from ED show that the current infrastructure isn’t getting it done.  If you’re serious about greater family involvement, turning off the TVs, and such, make the commitment to Family Engagement (and we do have to think beyond the traditional mother/father nuclear parent family structure). EdTrust has today’s student attaining education at lower rates than their parents. That is a travesty.  And the responsibility falls on the family.  Parents are our first, and most durable, of teachers.  Equip them with information, help them build the paths and help them paint the picture of the value and need for education.  Create this new office, have it collaborate with OESE, OCO, and others, and see the impact of effectively collaborating with families and the community at large on education improvement.

      
So how about it?  Obama is absolutely correct.  It falls on all of us fathers to be a bigger and better part of our children’s lives.  But we can’t ignore the fact that some kids will never experience the benefits of having their biological fathers around them.  That’s why we need to focus on family and community engagement.  Buying into the notion that it takes a community to raise a child, we need to engage all parental units into tuning in to the education needs facing their family, boosting interest, involvement, dialogue, and results.  The U.S. Department of Education has focused on family engagement before.  Now is the time to go all in and note that family engagement is just as important to classroom success as many of the content areas on which ED currently focuses.
Can anyone really question that Race to the Top and I3 have a higher chance of success if families are engaged in the process and invested in the outcomes?  What about ESEA?  Clearly, the families of today’s students can help prioritizing key issues, hold policymakers accountable, and ensure that our expected results are not forgotten once the ink on the reauthorization has dried.
An Office of Family and Community Engagement fits with Obama’s call to fathers yesterday.  And it works with EdSec Duncan’s speech to the National PTA earlier this month.  And it aligns with the goals and priorities both have offered for our national education agenda.  So if not now, when?  And if not now, why?  The time, the demand, and the attention is there.

Around the Edu-Horn, June 22, 2010

ASU is offering online certificate program in Web-based teaching http://sbne.ws/r/4Z5o (from ASCD)


NBPTS wins Gates $$ to “measure effective teaching” —http://tinyurl.com/2bfahsy

RT @douglevin Huge number of i3 Applications received involve #edtech | data.ed.gov http://ht.ly/21KY0

Is cheerleading a sport (for Title IX purposes)?http://tinyurl.com/23b5z2b

KIPP “isn’t gaming system” on student gains —http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7067226.html