Education Breakthrough Network

We advocate for School Choice and education reform in the United States.

Category: edbreakthrough

The New Normal…

The New Normal…

The New Normal… – …is not. And thank God. Whatever shape education politics had a decade ago has exploded into a constantly shifting mass that now trends strongly toward school choice from all directions, with the strongest pull coming from Black voters.

I loved reading an interview with one of my heroes and one of the nation’s strongest voices for children, Reverend Reginald Jackson.

I hope you take that time to read both his interview and the New Jersey poll that follows.

Once again, the issue of school choice demonstrates a unique and fascinating constituency.

Black voters and Republicans are most highly favorable about school choices, and most likely to seek a school choice versus assignment for their own children.

Reverend Jackson, who heads the Black Ministers Council, may be the guy most singly responsible for this shift in New Jersey. His is a trusted voice…for all the right reasons.

The Reverend has been a consistent and compelling voice in statehouses, rallies, and churches across New Jersey and the country.

It is always a privilege to listen to him, and even moreso to consider the impact on thousand of children such a steady voice has had.

I know I am among hundreds of education reformers who consider some of the best advice they ever heard to be the words Reverend Jackson took the time to share with us.

Here’s to you, Reverend Jackson…with a heartfelt thank you!…

Georgia on My Mind

Georgia on My Mind

Georgia on My Mind – This week’s decision by the Georgia Supreme Court does not eliminate public charter schools in Georgia.

It is simply a devastating reminder of how incredibly wrong our state laws for funding students are.

And worse, how we wear out our best advocates through mind-numbing and repetitive defeats like this.

Read what Monise Seward – formerly a passionate advocate and now a bitterly disappointed leader who seems is taking her efforts elsewhere – has to say about this process. http://snellville.patch.com/articles/op-ed-on-georgias-charter-school-ruling

(You can find more news about this on our site today… www.edbreakthrough.org/news.php )

The time has come and gone and come again for states to quit funding districts, and to start funding students.

Money in backpacks, traveling to any school that will openly accept all students and report on their progress via state measurement systems.

Anything less will keep our systems grossly unequal, grossly underperforming, and will ultimately cause many of our children’s’ best advocates to throw up their hands and ask why they tried to set this right in the first place.

Georgia – and the entire Nation – can do better. Much better.…

Amazing Milton and Martin

Amazing Milton and Martin

Amazing Milton and Martin – I’m celebrating two of my favorite mentors who came to their unwavering belief in the power of school choice from two very different philosophies.

It’s why working for school choice is always the cool choice.

Milton Friedman and his wife Rose were classically liberal economists, the Authors of Free to Choose, and to my great hapiness were both personal mentors.

Spending time learning from them and simply having the opportunity to be with them in their home was a gift.

They were among the most generous teachers I have ever met.

Check out the Foundation for Educational Choice (www.edchoice.org ) and if you are a 501c3, get ready to throw a party in honor of Milton’s 99th birthday…they will support your party!

And while we are throwing parties, let’s have one for Martin Perez!

Martin and his wife Patty Bombelyn founded the Latino Leadership Alliance in New Jersey ( www.llanj.org ), where they advocate for school choice as one of many ways to advance the interests of the Latino Community, and are amazing and generous teachers in their own right.

Martin has just been appointed by Governor Christie to the Rutgers Board of Governors. He is the first Hispanic New Jerseyan to hold such a post, and there can be no better choice.

So Party with Milton or Party for Martin…can’t go wrong either way.…

And now, back to me… A Mommy Moment

And now, back to me… A Mommy Moment – “Mommy, Thank you for loving me and for ordering me French toast without butter. I love you. -Justin”

It was written on a graduation program from Brophy College Prep, May 26, 2007, and had remained hidden on my bedside table since, until I was seized by a pre-travel cleaning binge this week before heading off to Boston for Justin’s graduation from Boston College.

And it caught me completely off guard.

I fell asleep with quiet tears running down my face, and have been battling them ever since. Oh, for Heaven’s sake.

I am reminded of my beautiful Other-Mother Mary when my step-son graduated from ASU.

We had all approached the day with humor and irreverence, and finally made it to our seats in the auditorium.

This was seven years after initially shipping him off to college. It was a long walk.

When I looked over, her eyes had filled completely. Exasperated, she said…” I don’t know why I am crying all of the sudden.”

Well, because it is sudden. A sudden reminder of an exquisite, constant longing.

They show up on their own time line, these beautiful children of ours, consulting only with the Power that sends them.

They are “ours”, but immediately belong to a world and a path with only their name written on it.

According to our family’s understanding, they are sent to serve the world with work their Creator gives them. We can’t know.

We are intoxicated by the closeness of this life to ours, and terrified by the separation that is ever present.

The life is our solemn responsibility. It is our joy and the source of a shattering kind of love and commitment.

But in one of life’s loveliest ironies, our mission is to hold them close, preparing them to leave.

And we get that, we Moms. So we hold the terror of losing them…from our arms, and then our sight…at bay while we instill calm and security.

We hope our displays of positive demeanor and obvious confidence in them will transfer, so that one day they will happily navigate a world that doesn’t worry about them like we do.

We smile into baby faces, holding their eyes with ours, “You are wonderful, you are amazing, I am so happy to be here. ” We are their everything.

And then gradually we give way. They can walk, they can talk, they have opinions, they don’t need ours. Our voices and our bodies step back; our hearts are relentless.

A critical piece of us travels everywhere with that baby, that child, that achingly beautiful person, and we never get it back.

We get used to the feeling.

But every now and then it catches us off guard, that unbidden space between us.

In a note, in a moment, in the celebration of life moving ahead. So we tear up, apologize and shake it off.

We seize every opportunity to revel in an occasion to look into that beautiful face.

So I have the greatest blessing of flying across the country to see our son graduate.

And with my greatest happiness, calm and confidence to say to him – yet again – “You are beautiful, you are amazing…I am so happy to be here.”…

Music to My Ears

Music to My Ears

Music to My Ears – Here’s a great way to kick off your week-end…by listening to what the new voice of leadership in American Education sounds like…Derrell Bradford in New Jersey (www.nje3.org) , O’Donavan Johnson in Illinois (www.freedom-to-learn.org), Reverend Reginald Jackson in New Jersey (www.blackministerscouncil.org), Michelle Rhee in Sacramento and all over the country these days (www.studentsfirst.org), and Tony Colon in Maryland (www.diversity-leadership.org)

Their sites feature video of recent speeches they have given, and I am struck by the constant refrain of “whatever it takes”.

Since it’s almost the week-end… reward yourself, sit down with some coffee, and get ready to be inspired. If you can only go to one site, hit http://bit.ly/kVbgfv for a great conversation between Michelle Rhee and Derrell Bradford at Alliance for School Choice.…

You should be in Phoenix

You should be in Phoenix

You should be in Phoenix – First of all, because it is GORGEOUS here right now.

Perfect weather, cactus starting to bloom, and the cactus wrens all out advertising, singing constantly this time of year. It’s pretty fabulous.


AND…here’s another reason you wish you were here if you aren’t: ASU’s Sky Song Ed Innovation Summit.

This is an amazing gathering of about 450 people, leaders in education technologies, reformers, investment groups, and policy makers…redefining education.

One of the organizers calls it Davos in the Desert. Which is okay, except folks in Davos wish they were here now too.

If you’re already on your way…I’ll see you there. If not, get it on the calendar for next year. It fills up fast!!…

Take that, Charlie

Take that, Charlie

Take that, Charlie – Lisa Snell of Reason says that School Choice now has more claim on “winning!” than Charlie Sheen.

In the past few months, an amazing number of new school choice laws have been passed, greatly accelerating an already siginifcant trend:

School choice is growing 6 times faster than growth in assigned schools. In fact, since 1990, growth in assigned schools has only grown at half the pace of enrollment growth overall.

So, where is everybody? Public charter schools, online schools, home schools, private schools via public scholarship….

In short, the shift is on. Time to focus on making sure that we bring down every possible barrier to growth in excellent schools. That means expanding scholarship programs, and complete revisions of state education funding so that money follows students.

Everybody, drink your Tiger Blood.…

We didn’t bargain for this

We didn’t bargain for this

We didn’t bargain for this – As far as I am concerned, collective bargaining for wages is an overwhelmingly supported, hard-won American right.

It’s obvious goal is to balance out the power between those who manage an enterprise and thus control application of available resources, and those whose work makes the enterprise possible.

But I find it harder and harder to equate classic employee/management negotiations with the massively detailed teacher contracts whose salary components are nearly an afterthought.

The most poisonous aspects of school management right now are a result of “collective bargaining”.

These bargained for prohibitions include the inability to hire and fire on the basis of student success, to compensate for merit; or even to pay for more time and effort from those willing to give it.

Frankly, what I adamantly favor are job protections for workers whose jobs risk their health and safety, or those whose life experience simply makes them vulnerable to unfair work demands.

I have to say I am really struggling with the entire notion of teachers as a profession being in need of those same protections.

When I look at the schools of choice that are most rapidly advancing the achievement and students and transforming the face of American education, I see teachers who themselves have taken on the management role.

I see school environments where a shared sense of mission looks a lot harder, but a lot more satisfying than the oppressive settings where a workday is counted in minutes, and nobody gets to operate outside a tediously defined role.

We don’t just need choice for students. We need it for teachers.…

News Bulletin to AZ Republic: Kids actually can learn!!!

News Bulletin to AZ Republic: Kids actually can learn!!! – Sundays ought to be relaxing…but I have been furious all day.

Our state newspaper wants us to believe that any academic gains outside the “norm” must be due to cheating on the test.

This constant editorial refrain will only lead us to more student failure…so I set aside the day to address this egregious example of academic bigotry.

I hope you might find time to respond as well if you are in AZ.
The article was A-1, Front Page Headliner
http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2011/03/06/20110306AIMS-questions-arise-over-big-gains.html
My response is below:

Editor:

Sunday’s headline story on differences in AIMS scores from year to year wants us to conclude that these differences cannot be related to teaching effects.

I think that Dr. Haladyna’s response – which you chose to highlight – captures this with disappointing clarity: “If you’re a slow runner, you’re a slow runner, and you don’t break the record for running all of a sudden.”

In other words, students are either smart or dumb, and nothing that happens in a classroom can alter that fact. Welcome to why we are failing our students.

The single biggest impact on a student is the quality of the teacher in the classroom.

The teacher effect on student progress outweighs every other variable, including wealth, race, or type of school.

The data that has emerged in schools across the country over the past decade has allowed thousands of studies on this issue, and is resulting in efforts to eliminate the “Last In, First Out” policies in school district teaching contracts.

Teachers don’t just make A difference, they make THE difference.

As the New Teacher Project puts it in their seminal paper of a few years ago, teachers are not interchangeable widgets.

They are specialists, and their effects can be measured in a myriad of ways. Test scores are one of those ways.

Nothing about this reality means that we should not inspect test results for signs of cheating. We absolutely should.

But to suggest that gains in excess of what is “expected” must be assumed to be an aberration is to deny the effects of teaching…good or bad.

I was struck that there was seemingly no interest by the Republic in checking for scores that under perform the expected gain.

Because we have plenty of that going on as well. If students score very poorly in one year compared to another, do we assume testing alteration?

I hope your readers compare your story with the long running series in the Los Angeles Times, where individual teacher effectiveness has been published by teacher name and grade in a massive database, created jointly by the Los Angeles Times and RAND Corporation.

The entire point of publishing this database was to give parents much needed information about the quality of teaching in their schools, and to point out the vast differences in gains or losses in an individual teacher’s classroom. I hope Republic readers will follow this story in the LA Times and elsewhere.

http://projects.latimes.com/value-added/

Running a front page story encouraging the public to suspect only cheating can lead to “spikes” in testing (and ignoring “valleys” in testing) is an interesting decision.

You have basically led this discussion by dismissing the possibility that teachers can matter that much.

Instead we are treated to the numbing assurance that slow students are slow students and there is nothing we can do to radically alter that reality. Relax, drink your coffee.

Your conclusion is in direct opposition to my experience, and to national evidence .

Should you continue this research ( and I hope that you do) you will no doubt uncover occasions of cheating that should be dealt with forcefully in my view.

But you will also find that variations in student achievement by grade and by classroom can be enormous, but they are predictable over time by teacher.

Saying” teachers matter most” is not some soothing and patronizing bromide.

It is a fact, and effective teachers change lives radically. Our quest ought to be to find out who they are, where they are, and to try to get them into Arizona classrooms.…

A Choice School Board

A Choice School Board

A Choice School Board – Lately, the really cool stuff always seems to be happening in Colorado. And today, I have serious school board envy.

In case you have not been following it, the Douglas County School Board voted unanimously to offer a pilot voucher program for students in the district.

http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_17623486

Douglas County schools are already considered excellent, and the board members simply said that thay are having crowding issues in their popular schools and this can help alleviate that while saving the district funds. They also said they know competition will spur them to be even better, so giving parents this choice seems like the only choice.

Radical sanity. May it spread far and wide.…

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