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You might assume that people with children would be more informed on education issues than those without. But a recent survey on school communication by the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) suggests otherwise.

More non-parents (65%) than parents (47%) feel very well informed or pretty well informed about the issues impacting education in their local district. 59% of non-parents feel that way about state education issues, compared to just 39% of parents.

While at first glance that seems a bit counterintuitive, survey authors offer several possible reasons for these findings. Perhaps parents are mainly focused on classroom and school-level issues. Maybe they have busier lives, juggling careers with children, and have less time to spend informing themselves. Or perhaps non-parents are simply more concerned with big-picture issues, such as the tax burden and impact of district performance on their property values.

Regardless of who knows more and why, none of those numbers bode particularly well for public education at a time when budgets are strained at both the state and local levels. If citizens are not informed about education issues, they cannot be advocates for ...

Last week WAMU ran a segment on charter school closings in Washington, DC, that bothered me. Not because poorly performing (in terms of academics or finances) charter schools were closed (I firmly believe that low-performing charter schools should close), and not only because of the process by which the schools were closed (too late in the year for students to get into either the DCPS lottery for out of neighborhood schools or the lotteries of many other charters, and with little communication with the families of students attending the schools), but because of some of the language used to talk about the situation, specifically the word “placement.”

As the result of three charter schools closing and two eliminating their high school programs, nearly 750 students needed to find new schools. Several have had a great deal of difficulty in doing so. According to reporter Kavitha Cardoza, about 50% of students were without “placements” just ten days before the start of the school year. 64 of the 128 students impacted by the ...

If you haven’t read the New York Times recent A Failing School? Not to These Students, you really should. It discusses some issues around public schooling that have been, in my opinion, neglected in mainstream media debates over education.

The article begins by pointing out that “[e]veryone knows Jamaica High is a bad school,” receiving D’s on its report card from the city and being labeled persistently dangerous by the state. It is scheduled to close in three years, when the last of its current students graduate.

But the article goes on to celebrate the accomplishments of students at the school, including valedictorian Afsan Quayyum, who has been accepted into an engineering program that will allow him to earn two degrees in the next five years; salutatorian Doreen Mohammed, who has a full scholarship to ...

The headline reads: Despite successes, charter school takeovers draw protests. The first two story highlights, taken directly from CNN.com (where the story was posted):

  • Mastery Charter School's Shoemaker Campus has seen big rise in students' test scores
  • Some students, parents don't want their schools taken over by charter school operators

Neither is false. But are they related? No.

Mastery’s success – which is undeniable – has no predictive value on whether other charter school operators will have similar success. In fact, as we know from the often-cited CREDO study, the vast majority of charter schools perform no better than their neighborhood schools – and 37% perform worse. Yet in this article (as in countless others), while the author may acknowledge briefly, deep in the article, that not every charter school is successful, she certainly does not draw attention to that fact – or any specifics on charter school movement as a whole.

Instead, under the aforementioned headline and after showcasing the success of Mastery, this article tells the story of Audenried High School in South Philadelphia, which has been identified to be turned into a charter operated by Universal Companies (i.e., not Mastery).

According to the article, Audenried just reopened in 2008 after closing in 2005 because of its failing status, with students taking state standardized tests for the first time since ...

Remember Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to improve public schools in Newark? According to a recent article in USA Today, $99 million of it is still in the bank.  

The article offers some reasons why there have been problems getting school improvement efforts off the ground in Newark. For example, the city’s public schools have been without a superintendent since February.

But most of the article describes what seems to be a disconnect between those in charge of these efforts and those who must implement them – parents, students and teachers. Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who is charged with making changes and has raised $43 million in trying to match Zuckerberg’s funds, has been criticized for not revealing ...

Clearly both teachers and public education get a bad rap among many in America. And while defenders often point to unfavorable media coverage and blame by politicians, movie and TV show depictions of education are less frequently cited even though these domains can be hugely influential in forming public opinion. (Documentary films about education are especially trendy right now.)

Apparently Hollywood is irresistibly attracted to the same ideas as Michelle Rhee and many conservative pundits: that education in America can be saved by superhero teachers. In researching movie and TV depictions for this post, I came across many that focus on the messianic teacher who allows his or her students to overcome poverty, lack of parental involvement, disenfranchisement, peer pressure, lack of attention or recognition from other adults, cultural myopia, and a host of other deeply systemic issues. A partial list includes:

  • To Sir with Love,
  • Dangerous Minds
  • Mr. Holland’s Opus
  • The Corn is Green
  • The Miracle Worker
  • A Child is Waiting
  • Fame
  • Dead Poet’s Society
  • Music of the Heart ...
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School Boards Circa 2010

Last week, the results of a comprehensive national survey of school boards - the first in nearly a decade - were released. They painted a picture of both the demographics of those serving on school boards and the structure of those boards. Among the findings: nearly three-fourths of school board members have a bachelor’s degree and 94.5% of them were elected to their posts.

But it is what we learned about the beliefs of school board members that has gotten the most attention – and with good reason. Over the past ten years, those beliefs seem to have shifted quite a bit.

Back in 2002 (the last time a similar study was conducted), school board members were consumed with what has been dubbed the “killer B’s” – buses, buildings, books, budgets, bonds and such. Today, they are more concerned with student achievement, evidenced in part by the fact they are more likely to cite that achievement as a key consideration in evaluating their superintendent.

Two other trends in board member beliefs that ...

President Obama has set the goal that the United States will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. To help Americans understand how our country is progressing towards that goal, and to provide an accessible and transparent view of the nation’s education system as a whole, the U.S. Department of Education has launched a new resource: The United States Education Dashboard (http://dashboard.ed.gov).

The Dashboard features 16 key indicators of the state of American education. Taken together, they are intended to provide a complete picture, from cradle (3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool) to career (students completing a bachelor’s degree within 6 years from their initial institution), of education in this country. It includes information on performance, equity, teachers and leaders and more.

The Dashboard also offers a state-level look at education, providing information on these indicators for ...

I was anxious to read the December/January issue of the Phi Delta Kappan because the cover promised a focus on how we can use technology to improve teaching and learning, a field I’ve been immersed in for some time. But once I delved into the issue, while the technology articles were interesting and represented a variety of viewpoints, I was really excited to see the article on the Kalamazoo Promise. Full disclosure here: my good friend and colleague, Jim Bosco, professor emeritus in the Education Department at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, had told me about this project several years ago as it was kicking off. The article details the progress of a project that promised a fully paid college education for any Kalamazoo public school student who graduated with an academic record strong enough to be selected for admission to a state-supported institution of higher education. Jim was excited about the project and his enthusiasm was infectious. Here was a community that focused first on the outcome they wanted….every student proceeding to post-secondary education….not how the school district was going to ensure students took advantage of the “carrot.” ...

Community support for schools is a crucial issue, especially in light of the current negativity toward public schools by the media, and severe funding limits on the national, state, and local level. It is timely then that during a recent meeting, members of the Learning First Alliance heard from Jamie Vollmer—head of Vollmer, Inc., a public education advocacy firm—who discussed ideas from his most recent book, Schools Cannot Do It Alone: Building Public Support for America’s Public Schools. He focused on the idea of local level community engagement for building school support.

Clearly educators face many challenges and have to work under numerous limitations (money, time, and demographic realities of schools, among others). But Vollmer argues there is a largely unexploited factor that can work to schools’ advantages: the malleability of local communities to accepting area educators as legitimate forces for good.

He asserts that by effectively targeting community members and informing them on how it is in their own self-interest to have good public schools, educators can gain the community support that is so vital to school issues.

To do so, Vollmer proposes that educators reach out using two tracks: a formal track that focuses on community groups, and an informal one that takes place through every day interactions. The formal track should take place “on the communities’ turf and ...

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