September 3, 2015

Declining Enrollment With A Side of Duck Fat Fries and Head Cheese! Today In Crazy Ledes, When Free Teaching Becomes A Free Pass, And We Don’t Need No Data!

By Bellwether

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This Libby Nelson article on Senator Marco Rubio and higher education is really interesting. Solid take on New Orleans from Pondiscio. In Philly they’re turning schools into bars. Sorry, I mean gastropubs.

Speaking of Philly, when your story includes the line,

“School officials said year-to-year comparisons were “not appropriate” because of the changes”

about year-over-year test scores because the underlying test changed significantly, then your story should not have a lede that reads:

Student performance on state exams dropped significantly in the Philadelphia School District, according to results released Wednesday.

Nor should it have the headline:

Major drops in city test scores

Speaking of ledes that shouldn’t be: First a Washington Post reporter writes this as a lede to a story in the paper’s news section:

Many public school teachers today are evaluated in part by something called a “growth score” — a number obtained through a complicated (and often nonsensical) formula that purports to show how much a teacher has contributed to the “growth” in their students’ academic performance as measured through a narrow (and often nonsensical) standardized test score.

It gets better. The underlying story is about a school superintendent who sent a letter to teachers in his district saying that he “does not care” what teacher’s student growth scores are. Not that he doesn’t think it fully defines their work, or that he’ll consider the data in a broader context, or even that the district has a different evaluation scheme that he thinks is better and here’s why…No, just that he doesn’t care. He said it more than once and in all CAPS to make sure that idea was clear. Yes, we celebrate that in this sector. Maybe he wrote it after getting off the phone with his stockbroker who also doesn’t need any stinkin’ data to make decisions, or his doctor who just goes with his gut! Anyway, it’s pandering, sure, but the message about quality is corrosive. Remember, a voucher supporter gets their wings every time something like this happens…

By the way, in practice, this guy is no more a hero than the teacher who says they won’t teach evolution. I look forward to all the articles and cheering about that…

No free lunch. Everyone is focusing on the teachers who are working for free in Chester-Upland because the district is broke. They’re not really working for free, they’ll be paid when this is settled but it’s an important gesture and about the only high note in a pretty grim story (and I think Pennsylvania case law doesn’t require them to work in this situation, PA attorneys is that correct?). But, there is so much more going on around that district and its charter schools that reporters should really dig in on. The “free” work is becoming a smokescreen to a lot of problems there that deserve attention.

And this could be bonkers before it’s done: This rescind Common Core petition (pdf)  is going to be on the Massachusetts ballot for voters to consider.

Here’s a crowd sourcing of reasons consuming news exclusively via social media is making our education conversations dumb.

Three stages of being a big city superintendent: First, I’m not the last person! That usually gives way to ‘conditions here are really hard,’ and is followed by ‘let’s get someone new.’

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