I’m currently sitting in my favorite DC coffee shop, surrounded by people who are clearly a little too entrenched in the DC way of life. Turns out I can easily tune out their conversation if I instead focus on this week’s education news. The interblag has been spreading the “what I really do” meme, and it recently made its way into education. I suspect this resonates with many teachers:
This essay written by Stuart Schmill, Dean of Admission at MIT, is a must-read for anyone interested in the college admission process. Key point: “Our actions speak the loudest. If we tell students that it’s O.K. to back off on their classes to make room for other activities, or simply to make room for balance and reflection, we must make decisions that align with those statements.” Admission work is half-recruiting and half-gatekeeping. Sometimes, offices lose sight of the need to align these two tasks with each other. Applying students bear the brunt of this failing.
Charter school critics remain vocal. This NYT editorial argues that charter schools are being approved at an increasing rate, while the number of charters that close each year after review is dropping. Their underlying assumption is that the accountability measures built into state laws are failing. The piece itself tells us little about whether this is true, though it does link to many oft-cited studies on the subject. John Thompson, writing on This Week in Education, calls for soul-searching regarding the role of discipline in charter schools. Lastly, Mike Goldstein of the MATCH Charter School in Boston responds to Noble Charter Network’s discipline policy where students must pay $5 when they are given a detention.
Dana Schwartz from the New America Foundation wrote a fascinating piece on how one South LA public school is designing a turn-around model that focuses on improving the local community. My take-away: the increasing number of charter schools in the area led to a declining enrollment at the unsafe and low-performing Crenshaw High School. That Crenshaw is now responding with major improvement strategies seems to be a point in favor of the charter school theory. Competition is actually incentivizing improvement.
The debate around value-added measures continues as New York City releases teacher’s VA estimates, and other states increasingly decide to implement such policies. Matt DiCarlo of The Shanker Blog examines whether these measures do or should rely on poverty measures. Eric Hanushek (you remember him, right?) argues that releasing VA measures focuses the conversation on “what really matters: classroom learning.” I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I much prefer Bill Gates’s take on the matter: releasing these measures is a form of public shaming that does little good.
I’ll end my Ed Bites there. Per the advice of a great professor, I try to stay agnostic about many of these reform efforts. How I feel about something means little compared to the effectiveness of the reform and its unintended consequences. Most of all, please please remember that wearing a bright pink tie and whinging about studying abroad in a third world country makes you look like a DC tool.