The Top 30 Edu-Tweeters Are Back!

Last year, Michael Petrilli and the folks over at Education Next put together a list of the top edu-Tweeters out there in the Internets.  The list instantly generated a great deal of discussion, with some Tweeters demanding they be included on the list and others surprised by those who were included.

Last week, Education Next revealed its 2012 list of the Top 30 Education Policy Tweeters.  For this year’s list, Petrilli used the newly formulated Klout scores, featuring a new algorithm that is supposed to provide a stronger look at one’s true online influence.  A lot goes into those new Klout scores, making it one of the few real measures of online reach.
Last year, @Eduflack was 22 on the Top 30 list.  This year, we were honored to check in at number 21, sharing the ranking with EdWeek’s Politics K-12, Education Trust, Education Sector, Students First, New Schools Venture Fund, Dana Goldstein, the Frustrated Teacher, Nancy Flanagan, and Petrilli himself.  
As Petrilli and company were releasing this year’s list, another interesting news story broke — that of “phony” Twitter followers.  According to recent digging, 71 percent of Lady Gaga’s Twitter followers are fake, and similar estimates put upwards of 70 percent of President Obama’s Twitter followers on the fiction list.
So EIA’s Mike Antonucci decided to take a look at how the Top 30 Education Policy Tweeters stack up when one accounts for those “faker” Twitter accounts.  The list almost flips itself, with EdNext #1 @arneduncan slipping to #24, with only 68 percent of his followers active, real members of the Twitter universe.
Surprisingly, yours truly came in #1 on the EIA list, with 91 percent of my followers genuine, active followers on Twitter.  (For the record, I do a regular purging of my Twitter account via ManageFlitter to remove the fakes and unfollow those who have left the beloved Twitter wilderness.)
So with EdNext, EIA, and others, should we be following Klout scores?  Total followers?  Real followers?  Or does it even matter? 

To the Shore

It’s been about two and a half years since dear ol’ Eduflack’s last vacation.  So today’s I’m packing up the car and taking the edu-family down to the Jersey shore for a week of vacay (or at least as much vacay as one can get with a six year old and a soon-to-be five year old).

Eduflack will be back in a week or so, a lot redder and hopefully a little rested.

A Commissioner’s Network in CT

In May, the Connecticut General Assembly officially established a “Commissioner’s Network” to turn around the state’s lowest-performing schools.  Modeled after turnaround efforts in places like New York City, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Michigan, the Commissioner’s Network was created to identify those schools in most need of turnaround and reconstitute them under the oversight of the Connecticut Commissioner of Education.

The Nutmeg State hasn’t wasted any time getting this up and running.  The Commissioner’s Network was signed into law at the end of May.  Last week, the Connecticut State Board of Education accepted the first four schools into the new network (the law allows for up to 25 schools at any given time).

The Commissioner’s Network is no longer an abstract concept. It is now a very real action, impacting actual students, teachers, and communities across the state. And it is doing so by adopting significant turnaround efforts that reject the status quo and engender hope in those school communities most in need.

These turnaround plans introduce much-needed steps to improve student outcomes. For example, all schools have extended learning time for both teachers and students, and have introduced new ways to hire, retain, and assign staff. In Bridgeport, the Curiale School will require that any teacher hired or retained must earn high performance evaluations. In Hartford, Jumoke at Milner will increase the school year by 34 instructional days, including longer days and Saturday academies. Norwich’s Stanton Elementary is hiring “resident teachers” who will support master teachers in each grade level. And at New Haven’s High School in the Community, outdated school models based on seat time will be replaced with a competency-based instruction, meaning that students will advance once they have mastered content and skills.

It is refreshing to see such out-of-the-box thinking, particularly from a state known as “The Land of Steady Habits.”  But let there be no mistake.  The hard work begins now.  Establishing these reconstituted Commissioner’s Network schools is but the first step.  Now, educators and administrators in these four schools, as well as those that will follow, have to make good on the promise and do whatever is necessary to break the cycles of failure and get all kids learning.

Around the Edu-horn — August 15, 2012

Some of today’s top edu-Tweets from @Eduflack:

RT : Our lowest-performing schools deserve attention, but we need solution that benefits all kids:  
Education Issues To Be Highlighted By College Board Installation Near Wall Street  via 

Around the Edu-horn — August 14, 2012

A few of today’s top edu-Tweets from @Eduflack:

U-Va. questioned Lady Gaga class  (But where was the Spice Girls class when I was there?)

From AYP to a 15% Solution?

Despite the national pastime of griping about No Child Left Behind and its Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) accountability measures, there hasn’t been nearly the attention placed on the NCLB waivers being granted by the U.S. Department of Education.

Perhaps it is because such issues are incredibly complex and can be really confusing.  Perhaps it is because it is deep in the weeds, interesting to only the wonkiest of wonks.  Or perhaps we just figure accountability is accountability is accountability and we’ll just keep doing what we are doing until we get our hand slapped.
This week, National Journal and its Experts Blog decides to step into the scrum and offer a week-long discussion on the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to NCLB waivers.
A post from dear ol’ Eduflack is up there now.  I keyed in on the provisions that focus on the bottom 15 percent of schools, noting that Connecticut opted instead to follow a continuum model based on absolute performance.  Why is that so important?  As I wrote:

Our nation’s performance struggles, though, do not reside solely in those bottom 15 percent of schools. That is why Connecticut is following an absolute performance model, and not the 15-percent path. In Connecticut, virtually all of our public schools have room for improvement. Low-income students. Latino students. African-American students. ELL students. White students. Virtually all of our disaggregated groups, even those in our wealthiest communities, show a need for improvement.

As a nation, we do not want to give the impression that we do not need to worry about 85 percent of our schools. It portrays the achievement gap issue or the student performance issue as one that only impacts our lowest performing 15 percent of schools, making it a niche issue and not one that should concern each and every parent, teacher, community leader, and policymaker across the state. We must all accept that 85 percent of our schools are not doing great, and that most schools can and should improve.

Equally important, Eduflack notes:
When nearly 40 percent of students can’t read at grade level by fourth grade, it isn’t a 15 percent issue. When a third of students drop out of high school, it isn’t a 15 percent issue. When 70 percent of Connecticut’s public high school graduates require remedial education in college, it isn’t a 15 percent issue.
Definitely an interesting topic that isn’t garnering the attention it deserves.  Happy reading!

Around the Edu-horn — August 13, 2012

Some of today’s top edu-Tweets from @Eduflack:

Some Ohio schools introduce blended learning (from )

Politics K-12: $400 Million Race to Top Contest for Districts Starts Now  via 
Virginia to require an online course for high school graduation – 

Partnering for School Improvement

In this era of tight education budgets and state policymakers worried about the out years of new policies, how is one to advance a real agenda of innovation and school improvement?

Over at Education Week, Andrew Ujifusa has a piece on how the Commonwealth of Kentucky is following the lead of the State of Colorado in establishing a not-for-profit partner that can help raise funds and drive education reforms in partnership with the state, the state department of education, and all those who are looking to break from the status quo of public education.
It is an interesting read, and worth consideration in those states that are serious about reforms, even if they are unsure if the state coffers will be able to meet classroom needs.  From Ujifusa’s piece:
[Kentucky Education Department spokeswoman Lisa Gross] tressed that the money distributed by the foundation would supplement, not supplant, state and other school funding.

“It’s more about innovation programs than it is about run-of-the-mill sorts of things,” Gross said, although she added it’s unclear exactly what the group will fund.

What a novel concept, looking for ways to supplement existing efforts and paving the way to innovate through a real reform agenda.

Testing Problem … or Cheating Problem?

For the past decade, opponents of the accountability movement had crowed about the problems with testing and establishing student achievement-based metrics to determine the success, or lack there of, of our public schools.

When we learn of testing scandals such as those down in Atlanta, the finger is immediately pointed at the test itself.  Forget those educators who may have organized the erasure parties.  When we learn of cheating scandals such as those in NY, when high-performing students were paid to take the SAT for classmates, we again pointed at the test.  Oh, those poor students who re being overly stressed by being asked to take an SAT or ACT test to get into college.
The anti-testing forces have made their points clear.  Testing is bad.  Cheating proves it (as, it seems, does poor performance).  We can’t use tests to determine the effectiveness of a school, a teacher, or even a student.  We need to view each child holistically.  We need to let our students think and explore and do what they want to do and chase after rainbows and unicorns.
So how, exactly, does the latest from the Chicago Tribune fit into that anti-testing narrative?  For those who have missed it, John Keilman has a great piece on the impact of technology on cheating in the classroom.  
His lead?

Heloise Pechan’s heart rose when she read the essay one of her students, a seemingly uninterested high school sophomore, had turned in for a class assignment on “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The paper was clear, logical and well written — a sign, she thought, that she had gotten through to the boy.

Her elation passed quickly. What came next was suspicion.

Pechan, then substitute teaching at a McHenry County high school, went to Google, typed the paper’s first sentence (“Kind and understanding, strict but fair, Atticus Finch embodies everything that a father should be”) and there it was: The entire essay had been lifted from an online paper mill.

This piece actually provides a thoughtful reflection of the pros and cons of classroom technology, from the cheating that can come of it to the protections and checks it provides to ensure such cheating doesn’t happen.  
But it raises a very interesting question.  Do we have a testing problem, or do we really have a cheating problem?  After all, an essay on “To Kill a Mockingbird” is the perfect holistic evaluation, letting a student explore a topic in the way he or she wants, using critical thinking, reasoning, argument, and all of the other skills the anti-accountability movement has been preaching.  Yet we hear story after story about how paper mills, Wikipedia, and a host of other online sources have corrupted the five-paragraph essay.
At the same time, when we look at those states that have moved to online adaptive technology for their student assessments, we don’t hear a peep about alleged cheating or data fudging.  
Whether we like it or not, educational accountability is not heading for the exit.  Instead of attacking testing, we should be working to ensure that the assessments that are administered are of the highest quality, effectively measure the knowledge and skills of the students, and are used to tailor and improve instruction in the classroom.

Around the Edu-horn — August 7, 2012

Some of today’s top edu-Tweets from @Eduflack:

9 ways the common core changes teaching  (from)

On  notes that Chris Christie is a top GOP VP choice because he passed teacher tenure reform in NJ.