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Korsmo’s education news roundup for August 26th

When did it start that stores stocked back to school supplies in July and Halloween costumes in August? By this calendar I’d better get my Thanksgiving turkey next week. Yeesh. Speaking of back to school, it is nearly upon us! Or at least some of us…

Come Together: As the summer draws nigh, many school districts are still wrapping up negotiations with their teachers unions. Here in Washington, none has drawn the light and heat of  Tacoma. As with Seattle last year, the negotiations have been watched closely by a community group, Vibrant Schools Tacoma (of which LEV is a member), who have weighed in on the community’s priorities for the new contract, including more rigor in teacher evaluations and closing the achievement gap. Both district and union officials are taking their case(s) to the public through columns and open letters. Business as usual? More or less. Adding another layer of complexity to this mess is that Superintendent Jarvis is stepping down and the search for his replacement was confined to an internal search, with only one candidate applying. As Linda Ellerbee was fond of saying, “who’s in charge here?”

Brill-Oh!: Unless you’ve been living under a brick, you know that Steven Brill’s new book, “Class Warfare” is making its way through the ed reform (and “deniers”) community. Reviews are generally positive, with Brill getting some praise for taking aim at both sides of the debate and drawing out the problems in education. He takes some heat for not putting forward solutions, but the more interesting thing is the range of response focused on the causes for the inadequacies of the system.  Poverty causes low achievement. Drawing light to the issues demonizes teachers. Nothing new here, and I mean that in a nice way (no really) . It would be transformative if we could actually get to root problems honestly so that we might weigh the impact of poverty AND teaching effectiveness in creating solutions… oh, what am I saying?

But Seriously: Childhood poverty is a huge problem for the U.S., a growing problem, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, with one in five children now living in poverty. Unfortunately, poverty has been a growth industry as 38 states have seen increased rates from 2000 – 2009. And this isn’t just a problem for those kids and their families. Because if we continue to believe that kids in poverty can’t learn at rates of their wealthier counter parts, we pretty much bury their hopes for achieving economic independence, let alone stability, and our economy can’t really take much more of that. I’m in no way suggesting we ignore poverty as being impactful on children’s academic growth (says the child whose family lived off dumpster diving for years) and we can’t ignore the impact that a lack of educational opportunity has on the continued economic depression suffered by these kids and their families. (Off soapbox and onto next…)

Presidentialness: Texas Governor Rick Perry has thrown his oversized hat into the race to be the next POTUS and it took team Obama about sixteen seconds to throw it right back at him. Ed Secretary Duncan basically called Texas an education wasteland, and Robert Gibbs more or less concurred. Were they right? As in all things education, it depends. Perry, doesn’t help himself when he explains that Texas teaches intelligent design along with evolution – which, as it turns out, is unconstitutional in Texas, nor when he lambasts the federal government’s role in education. And just for fun, the WaPo published a piece on school discipline, Texas style, that should make all of us scratch our heads and recite Linda Ellerbee all over again. Perry’s not the only GOP POTUS candidate drawing attention on their education stance. Michele Bachman continues to intrigue.

Miscellaneous Nuggets for Noshing:

  • The new Race to the Top is officially flagged “go” and at the top of the Fed’s wish list; a quality rating system for early learning.
  • Washington parents have a new tool in their information arsenal, an interactive map that allows for comparisons of school districts
  • Speaking of maps, a new one shows “pockets of excellence” across the US. Not to bemoan but, if I’m Kansas, I’m ticked that my pockets are empty.
  • One guy’s (balanced) rant against the “man.”
  • Amid waiver mania, a call for high standards of accountability.

That’s all friends. Go forth and enjoy your fourth – and second to last – week of preseason football. Unless you are a Chicago Bears fan, in which case, well….. have a weekend.

Posted in: Blog, Weekly Roundup

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