Lesson from Peter Rabbit?

As the father of a struggling reader, I was surprised to see this olde tyme cover of a Peter Rabbit book. The scowl on Peter’s face, the result of needing to go back to school, makes me think of just what I’ll be seeing in a few weeks when the eduson needs to give up his summer of freedom and start third grade.

Don’t know who to credit for the photo, but whoever you are, thanks much!


“The Top Twitter Feeds in Education Policy,” Courtesy of EdNext

August. That time of year when parents start wondering when their kids can go back to school already, when Mets fans can start thinking about how we will get over the hump “next year,” and when Education Next and Michael Petrilli (president of the Fordham Institute) release the annual Top Twitter Feeds in Education Policy.

I believe this is the fourth year that Education Next has published the list. Each time, I am amazed by the rich list of names of organizations and individuals that are committed to Tweeting about all things education. And while some may question the methodology, Petrilli does a strong job in building the list, relying on Klout scores and total number of followers to apply some quantitative metrics to an exercise that could quickly devolve into qualitative messiness.

So who is on top this year? Teach for America (@teachforamerica) vaulted from the “show” spot last year to lead the pack for 2014. TFA is followed by EdSec Arne Duncan (@arneduncan) at #2 and Diane Ravitch (@DianeRavitch) at #3. The two shared the top spot last year. (And one has to ask the question why Ravitch uses CAPS in her handle while Arne goes all ee cummings on us.)

The Top 10 is rounded out with Education Week (@educationweek), AFT’s Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten), Michelle Rhee (@MichelleRhee), Education Next (@educationnext), the U.S. Department of Education (@usedgov), Huffington Post Education (@HuffPoEdu), and Harvard Graduate School of Education (@HGSE).

You can view the full list, along with the metrics and last year’s rankings at Education Next.

There are four newcomers to the list this year. Badass Teachers Association (@BadassTeachersA) jumps in at #15. Mark Naison (@mcfiredogg) enters the charts at #21. Campbell Brown (@campell_brown) quickly joins the edu-fray and comes in at #24, and Education Nation (@educationnation) launches at #26.

And what of dear ol’ Eduflack? Thanks to a growing group of Twitter friends, @Eduflack went from 26th last year (with a Klout score of 64) to 22nd this year (an a 67 Klout).

This year, Education Next also provided some additional perspective by looking at the “top education-policy people on Twitter), with Arne, Ravitch, and Randi taking win, place, and show respectively. (Your favorite neighborhood Eduflack came in at 13, between Naison and Campbell Brown.) The people list also adds a number of media members to the list, including Joy Resmovits (@joy_resmovits), Eilzabeth Green (@elizwgreen), and Libby Nelson (@libbynelson).

If you are on the Twitters, you need to be following all the voices on this year’s lists. Collectively, they offer some valuable perspective, a wealth of resources, and a ton of content.

(and while you are at it, retweet and favorite more of my posts, so my Klout score can increase. 🙂 )


Divining Wisdom from “This Is Not a Test”

Readers of Eduflack know that I am a strong advocate of discussion, disagreement, and engagement. To put it simply, we spend just far too much time talking to and seeking out only those that we agree with 100 percent of the time. While this approach can make us feel better about ourselves, the simple fact is we cannot have truly meaningful conversations with those who agree with every syllable that comes out of our mouths.

The issue is compounded when we talk about how best to improve our schools and deliver a better education for our children without actually talking to the teachers who stand in those classrooms each and every day. And it is hard to argue with the fact that the educator perspective is often in short supply when we start talking about change and reform to our educational institutions.

One of the ways I solve both issues is by closely following Jose Luis Vilson, known on the Twitters as @TheJLV. On a daily basis, I find Jose’s frank observations and pull-no-punches approach to education refreshing And while I don’t agree with many of the positions he takes, I enjoy following his logic model. I love hearing him tell a story. I applaud his passion and conviction. (And he wins bonus points from me by including hip hop and rap in his approach.)

So I wasn’t sure what to expect when I dove into Vilson’s Haymarket Press-published book, This Is Not a Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education. Any reader of Eduflack knows, professionally, I am a big supporter of accountability and believe that testing plays an important part in K-12 education. But as a father of two Latino children, I am also keenly aware of the issues surrounding race in our schools and know far too well we cannot and must not try to test our way out of them. When I talk about the achievement gaps, it isn’t a talking point or a buzz word for me. It is a wholly personal issue and the reason I do what I do in the edusphere.

I was prepared to be lectured to. I was ready to hear that our schools have never been better and the only problem is poverty. But I got none of that. Instead, I got an incredibly smart narrative that captured and held my attention. More importantly, Vilson forced me to think about many of the educational issues I hold so dear in very new ways.

But most importantly, I walked away thinking I want someone like Vilson to be teaching my kiddos. This is a teacher who cares and a teacher who is making a difference each and every day he steps into his classroom. We may disagree on the finer points of testing, with me hoping he would give more credit to the value of interim assessments in improving both teaching and learning. But there is no disagreeing that Vilson gets it. He knows what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong in the American classroom. He cuts through all of the flowery language and platitudes and excuses we hear far too often, and speaks truth on issues where honest truth is often absent. And he lays out issue after issue that I want to further engage him on, have a deeper discussion of, and, yes, try to change his mind about.

TheJLV reminds us that all of these discussions of education reform and achievement gaps and the impact our rhetoric has on black and brown kids are very real. It isn’t a test, and our actions have very real consequences. 

Some of his stories may make people feel uncomfortable, but they are must reads. If we are serious about addressing what ails our schools, we can’t ignore a voice like TheJVL. Agree with him or not, This Is Not a Test is a must read.


Excellent Teachers, Meet High-Needs Schools

We are constantly hearing about the struggles finding (and keeping) effective teachers. And the discussion gets louder and louder when it comes to placing (and keeping) such teachers in high-needs schools.

A decade ago, the Feds tried imposing “highly qualified teacher” provisions on such schools, but those provisions have had little lasting impact. Next came a collective push for merit pay for teachers, particularly those in hard-to-serve schools. But again, the data on whether such efforts improved student outcomes or improved placement efforts is still TBD.

So the (multi) million-dollar question is, what can we do to ensure that excellent teachers are being placed in our high-needs schools?

Over at Education Week, Arthur Levine, the president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, offers some sage insights on what it takes to match great teacher with in-need schools.

Based on the Foundation’s experiences with Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellow programs in Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio, Levine offers 15 specific lessons from their on-the-ground efforts working with real teachers at real ed schools in real states before moving those educators to real schools.

These lessons provide a real, effective blueprint for successfully addressing the teacher quality debate. From selectivity to one-year masters programs, accountability to recruitment, partnerships to sustainability, these Woodrow Wilson exemplars can serve as tent poles for future efforts across the country.

And Levine knows of what he speaks. The former president of Teachers College was ahead of his time was ahead of his time in focusing on how to address teacher prep for the 21st century while at TC. And he is ahead of the pack with the Teaching Fellows initiative.

The lessons put forward by Woodrow Wilson Foundation are important for both the five states currently invested in such a path, as well as for the 45 states that should be pursuing similar ideas. If nothing else, they serve as an essential launch pad for where the we need to start focusing when it comes to identifying and preparing excellent teachers for a career in the classroom.

Rather than looks for the next fad or the newest silver bullet, isn’t it time we look to proven ideas for getting excellent educators in hard-to-staff schools? Levine’s list serves as the syllabus for such a discussion.

full disclosure, Eduflack serves as a director at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

I’m Going Home

Last week, over on Fordham Institute’s Common Core Watch blog, Robert Pondiscio wrote on the importance of shifting our thinking from one of teacher quality to one of quality teaching.

This is an idea to which I have long subscribed. Working in the education reform field, I grew amazed (and frustrated) by those who thought we could raise up all schools without working in partnership with educators. Surprised by those who believed that harsher teacher evaluation would result in improved teacher quality. And completely disenchanted with those who subscribed to the notion that educators were the problem causing all that wrong with the schools, instead of the central, necessary actor in improvement efforts.

So what does one do with all of this? Much reflection of the past two years has helped me better understand what is needed to provide every child — regardless of race, family income, or zip code — with a high-quality public education. I had to remember all the great lessons I learned about instruction as chief of staff at the National Reading Panel. About engagement as executive director of the Pennsylvania STEM Initiative. About research during my tenure at American Institutes for Research. And even about why I started Eduflack in the first place.

With all of that in mind, I am proud to announce that this month I am officially joining the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

Some may know Woodrow Wilson for its longstanding work in foreign affairs through its Pickering Fellowships. Others may know of the number of doctoral dissertation fellowships it has awarded through its Newcombe and Women’s Studies programs. All of these are enormously important to the tapestry of elevating scholarship and learning in higher education today.

I am particularly proud to now be a part of the foundation’s work with its Teaching Fellows efforts. Under the leadership of foundation president Arthur Levine, the former president of Teachers College, Woodrow Wilson has sought to redefine how we prepare teachers and teacher leaders for the 21st century.

Woodrow Wilson is currently working in five states — Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio — to train the next generation of STEM educators. Working in collaboration with the Governor’s offices and a number of IHEs in each state, Woodrow Wilson “recruits and trains the nation’s best and brightest recent graduates and career changers with STEM backgrounds to teach in middle and high school science and math classrooms.”

And this work is now being further enhanced by the foundation’s MBA Fellowship in Education Leadership which “recruits and prepares outstanding leaders for schools and districts in participating states, with an integrated business and education curriculum, a focus on intensive in-school experience, and ongoing mentoring.”

I’m enormously excited to be part of the terrific team that is the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and to work with Dr. Levine and company to further elevate the teaching profession and further the necessary shift from rhetoric on teacher quality to action on quality teaching.

In addition to going home rhetorically, it also means that Eduflack is also physically returning home. This Jersey boy is off to Princeton, NJ, where I actually did my pre-k studies. And the whole edufamily will now be living just a town over from my dear edu-parents.

I’ll continue to write on the Eduflack blog (as well as my new Dadprovement blog), and will still be posting on a Twitter at @Eduflack. So keep reading!