Twitter Feed Analysis Week April 17th through 24th
By: Tiernan Donohue
So in this our last twitter feed analysis, twitter has provided us with some hard hitting, dare I say deeply serious topics and highly controversial discussion, the likes of which we have not yet seen in the twitter-verse this semester. This week on twitter the discussions spanned from debates on: New Jersey to Canada to, wait for it, pineapples. In all seriousness, these seemingly confusing topics all dominated twitter this week serving as source material for far more practical discussions on parental involvement in education reform and the place and purpose of standardized testing in American education.
At the beginning of this week (April 17th through 19th), the discussion on twitter continued the debate on parent engagement and standardized testing carrying over from last week. At the start of the week, the discussion on twitter focused largely on the New Jersey story of students who were “opting out” of New Jersey standardized testing (http://willrichardson.com/post/21226188628/opting-out). This report sparked discussion early in the week regarding parents’ role in guiding education reform. The Center for Education Reform (CER) tweeted on April 18th “Need 2 stop talking 2 parents as though they r policy wonks…” in response to the discussion of parent’s decision to opt their children out of standardized testing in New Jersey. The theme of this discussion on parent engagement was well balanced with supporters and opponents both voicing their opinions on twitter. This debate paralleled a larger discussion in education reform in America over how parental involvement benefit student’s education versus harming policy wonks ability to execute reform policies.
Towards the middle week, a new topic on twitter was sparked by Edutopia, a subsidiary of the Pearson Foundation, tweet on “How Canada is Closing the Achievement Gap’ as part of their Education Everywhere Series (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDs4gr0pYrw&feature=youtu.be). This video was trending on twitter throughout the middle of the week after it was first released by Edutopia on Wednesday, April 18th. This discussion revealed another theme on twitter this week which was measuring student achievement. The video presents a case study of the Ontario school system as a larger example of how education policy can deal with diversity and promote student achievement.
Most tweets expressed interest in how Ontario’s “full-time student success teachers” program allowed greater communication among teachers and with families, and advocated looking at student’s lives holistically in addressing how teachers can help them. This type of community school model being used in Canada received positive reactions on twitter, and many retweeted this as something that should be applied in American education as a way to increase student achievement and close the performance gap.
Standardized testing in general was the main theme on twitter this week and dominated #edreform and #edpolicy discussions through the middle up until the end of the week. Discussions on standardized testing continued throughout the week, and spanned from commentary on New York’s ban on “references to dinosaurs, birthdays, Halloween, dancing in standardized tests” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/26/new-york-city-bans-refere_n_1380991.html) to discussion of student learning and teaching to the test. This discussion on standardized testing mirrored the start of the standardized testing season in schools this month, and through the middle of the week the discussion of the standardized testing question was evenly divided between proponents and opponents of testing. That is until ‘Pinapplegate’ broke.
How are pineapples and the anti-standardized testing movement connected you may ask? Well on twitter this week, the two became intimately involved as ‘Pinepplegate’ exploded in the twitter-verse. “Pineapples don’t have sleeves” became a popular tweet on twitter this week following a New York Times report from April 21st dealing with the controversy surrounding one of New York’s standardized English tests (http://mobile.nytimes.com/2012/04/21/nyregion/standardized-testing-is-blamed-for-question-about-a-sleeveless-pineapple.xml). Gaining its own hashtag (#pineapplegate) and traction with Diane Ravitch, the use of the “Pineapple and the Hare” story in a New York standardized English test, substituting a pineapple for the traditional tortoise, left students confused and twitter in outrage.
To sum up this retelling of the classic fable, the pineapple challenges the hare to a race and the other animals agree, “No doubt, the crow insists, the pineapple has something up its sleeve.” The animals decided to cheer for the pineapple and foil its plan, but of course, the pineapple does not move, and the hare wins, then the animals eat the pineapple. This interesting (slightly disturbing) story was followed by these questions to students:
Why did the animals eat the pineapple? AND Who is the wisest?
A. They were annoyed A. The hare
B. They were amused B. The Moose
C. They were hungry C. The Crow
D. They wanted to D. The Owl
The story coming out of New York was picked up by both the Times and the Washington Post who stated “This may well go down in the annals of history as the least comprehensible reading comprehension question of all time” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost/post/talking-pineapples-and-unanswerable-questions/2012/04/20/gIQAZ6M3VT_blog.html). Moreover, the twitter discussion grew even more heated after the Post reported that this question was not just administered to eighth graders in New York but was a question featured on tests around the country this testing cycle.
Based on this controversy, Diane Ravitch claimed “Standardized testing has become a vampire” and released an article on EducationWeek this morning entitled “The Problem is Bigger than the Pineapple” this morning, April 24th addressing the development of what she called a “genuine national revolt” against standardized testing in America (http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2012/04/the_problem_is_bigger_than_a_p.html).
Pineapplegate served as a mechanism for a more heated discussion on the state of standardized testing in general on twitter, however. After this story, the discussion of standardized testing on twitter shifted to mostly negative opinions on standardized testing. Many of the tweets reflected the anti-standardized testing sentiment and tied back into the “opt out” discussion from earlier in the week; with numerous tweets like this one “Stories like that are why I’m giving strong consideration to opting my kids out” appearing in #edreform and #pinapplegate. Also, tweeters exhibited backlash against the standardized testing industry, targeting Pearson who was responsible for this test question with tweets such as Pearson “has to keep on making dollars off our kids.” These tweets highlighted a more subtle theme of this week’s twitter feed which was the profitability of the standardized testing industry, and questions about the power these companies were gaining over general education policy in America.
This week’s twitter patterns matched the previous week in terms of the continued discussion on “opting out,” but also varied as the Bullying theme and pushback against the Obama administration disappeared in favor of discussion more directly related to news from this week, such as Pineapplegate. This week’s discussion was largely dominated by the standardized testing theme, which overshadowed other topics and with the controversy surrounding this issue on twitter, left little room for other meaningful discussions.
Some anomalies this week on twitter included a brief discussion of flipped classrooms after Edutopia tried to spark a discussion on whether “Can they work?” in American education on April 18th (http://www.edutopia.org/files/existing/edutopianews.html). This theme was initially picked up on twitter and gained some traction but was overtaken by midweek when Pineapplegate broke.
Additionally, another anomaly for this week involved a discussion of a state bill sent to the Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam which would place a cap on the number of foreign workers charter schools can hire in Tennessee (http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/charterschoice/2012/04/tenn_bill_to_limit_foreign_workers_at_charters_goes_to_governor.html). The bill specifically states “that a charter school could not rely on non-immigrant foreign workers on H1B or J1 visas for more than 3.5 percent of their workforce in any given year.” News of this bill was first tweeted on April 18th but failed to gain a following on twitter after Education Week tweeted on April 23rd that Michelle Rhee had asked the governor to veto the bill (http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/charterschoice/2012/04/rhee_urges_tenns_governor_to_veto_bill_on_charter_teachers.html). Michelle Rhee’s involvement seemed to attract a larger audience on twitter, and the discussion on this topic was growing towards the end of the week.
My overall assessment for this week was that the twitter discussion focused on standardized testing and student achievement, which echo pertinent questions about how we should be measuring student performance and learning. This discussion coincided with the onset of the standardized testing season, but brought up important themes including parent engagement, the power and ethics of the standardized testing industry, and the need for alternative methods of measuring student achievement. This emphasis suggests a growing national concern over the standardized testing industry and the need for either increased accountability or fundamental reform of the current system.
By: Tiernan, Taylor, Stacy, Sarah, and Rachel
Professor Adrea Lawrence
April 3, 2010
What started as an idea eventually led to the implementation of vouchers and modern day charter schools. The overall purpose of school choice is to increase the well-being and improve the learning opportunities for all students. As a policy, school choice has been viewed through many lenses since its legal appearance in the 1980s, but the idea behind it has been evolving since the nineteenth century. Town Tuitioning systems, which were set up by the state, were the first instance of vouchers in the United States and are what gave students access to education when there was no district school to attend.
In the first half of the 20th century John Dewey thought of schools as a social system and encouraged “efforts to make schools the social, educational and recreational loci of their communities”(Charter Schools and Community Development). The development of charter schools expanded from this by not only focusing on teaching purposes, but also youth development, employment, and future planning. A growing number of educators and community developers could then share responsibility for the welfare of communal activity, and work together to reform education.
The development of school choice can be seen in three stages: The Market Phase, The Integration Phase and The Policy Phase (Viteritti, Walberg and Wolf 138). Each brought to the surface new interpretations of the rationale for school choice and justified their stance by providing well-grounded arguments. The Market Phase laid the economic framework down for schools while the integration phase highlighted the relationship between school choice and race. Southern school districts furthered integration efforts by responding to Brown v. Board of Education with tuition grants that allowed students to attend private “segregation academies”, which were exempt from the integration laws (Herzberg; Gerald). Vouchers became a way to exert educational choice and therefore promote efforts to integrate schools. Poorer families who could not afford to move would then have the opportunity to enroll their children in quality schools. The Policy Phase is the third, and current, phase where politics become the key instrument in education reform. Economic arguments came to the forefront and helped back support for legislation that would promote vouchers. Milton Friedman expressed how vouchers would increase the competition among schools and therefore make education quality more important (“Free To Choose Media Samples”). State legislation favorable to charter schools became of prime importance in 1991 when Minnesota created the first charter, and increasing state control has been seen in the 21st century.
There are often benefits for being seen as a high performing school, such as greater funding and better teachers, and the structure of education in the United States has been changing to reach this status. Since it has only been about two decades since charter schools were officially established, it is astounding that over a million and a half children are already educated through such a system (Lubienski and Weitzel). The charter school movement was founded on the idea that more equitable access to quality schools would be made available for students, and became more successful by introducing competition to the school sector.
Is the Policy Principled?
The evolution of the school choice idea into a full-fledged policy movement and the spread of the charter schools necessitate an analysis and critique of school choice/charter school within framework of education theory and development. Furthermore, H.S. Bola’s work articulates how a comprehensive policy analysis requires the assessment of “three interrelated questions: Is the policy principled?; Is the policy professionally sound?; and Is the policy practical?” (Bola 207). This 3-P analysis of school choice/charter schools will therefore examine these three different questions in order to thoroughly analyze the varying assumptions underlying this policy, the potential for implementation, along with outlining recommendations for policy revision.
The first question this policy analysis will address whether the policy is principled. H.S. Bola describes how “An answer to this question, of course involves an analysis of the principles and values of policy,” as well as, “Questions of ideology and theory of development and education are also implicated” (Bola 214). In evaluating whether school choice/ charter school policy is principled, first the values assumptions underlying this policy must be identified and critiqued.
As previously noted, the overall purpose of school choice is to increase the well-being and improve the learning opportunities for all students. This purpose highlights a value assumptions to charter schools, which is that school is purposeful beyond just an educative role. The philosophy of charter schools suggests that the purpose of schools goes beyond just classroom education but should also involve promoting student achievement on a broader scale. Essential to the success of this goal, is the argument that the school choice/ charter school policy model allows for increased student achievement by promoting innovation and accountability.
An additional value assumption of school choice and charter school policy places an emphasis on self-determination. Over time school choice policy has developed based on the assumption that individual parents, families, and students had the right to choose their own school environment, whether based on racial characteristics as in the 1960s or more contemporarily based on a specific school model with charter schools. This value assumption elevates the idea of choice as both desirable and a goal within the American education system. Moreover, this value on self-determination has been an important feature of the development from school choice as an idea into legal policy with charter schools.
The notion that autonomy is both good and necessary for charter schools to be successful in their educative purpose is an essential value assumption of modern charter schools. The guiding argument is that “charter schools need to be autonomous, self-governing organizations to enhance their potential for high performance” (Wohlstetter, Wenning, Briggs, 331). Concurrently, the various state legislation, passed over the last twenty years, authorizing charter schools all note the importance of autonomy, to different degrees. This argument also reveals how the values assumptions supporting school choice/ charter school policy place a premium on autonomy as central to policy success. This value assumption functions as powerful support for charter schools on a case-by-case or even state-by-state basis, but also reveals one of the central problems to the expansion of school choice policy at the national level. Any national legislation requires a degree of regulation, but “too much regulation will defeat the purpose of a system whose goal is to promote autonomy in schools” (Gill 225). So how would a national charter school system function? This question signifies one of the many roadblocks facing legislators, Local Education Agencies (LEAs), non-profits, and parents and teachers who might favor legislation allowing school choice, but currently lack the vision for how to transition school choice policy from an individual to a broader national level.
This emphasis on self-determination, autonomy, and choice highlights how school choice policy values the individual rather than the group. While school choice/charter school policy will have group effects in terms of promoting competition within the broader school system or the improvement or “reinvention” of the public school system, these are assumptions based on the philosophy that these goals will be accomplished by elevating individual choice (Bulkley and Fisler 2). This value on the merit of individuality mirrors the value assumption on the benefit of the free market model for education. School choice/ charter school policy assumes an education philosophy based on market model promotes innovation and accountability. Charter schools will be more accountable because they are forced to “meet the demands of parent and student consumers” (Bulkley and Fisler 3).
Additionally, this policy assumes that “the interplay of autonomy and market forces would make charter schools more innovative” (Bulkley and Fisler 2). This policy, however, sees no contradiction within the idea of elevating the individual while simultaneously benefiting the overall group. School choice policy suggests that individual, choice driven education policy will have a positive trickle-down effect on the public school system as a whole. This assumption is vested in the benefits of a market model for education. This policy, nevertheless, ignores one of the central tenants of a free market model, the stratification of individuals. A free market model is not based on equal access or equal benefit, but on a differentiated system of benefits based on competitive structure. School choice policy, therefore, is correct in its assumptions of the possible benefits for individual students, but negligent in its ignorance of how this policy could create unequal access and benefits for different students.
These values assumption on choice and the individual, however, also outline a less obvious but historically apparent assumption of school choice/ charter school policy, which is that segregated education is an individual right and possibly beneficial. The notion of segregation represents an important part of school choice history, and during the 1950s and 60s the idea of school choice was harnessed to resist racial desegregation of public schools. School choice/charter school policy today does not value racial segregation, but the idea of segregation is not irrelevant to the school choice idea. School choice policy is predicated on the idea that individual students and parents have the right to choose a school environment which best suits their educational needs. In valuing choice, school choice policy places a value on student’s right to self- segregate themselves based on self-determined factors, including differences in educational priorities or socio-economic considerations. Segregation in a historical sense is not a value assumption of school choice policy, but segregation in terms of separating students based on different sets of criteria is entirely relevant to school choice and charter school philosophy. Moreover, the implications of this value assumption should be further analyzed when determining the need for policy revision to the values assumptions of school choice/charter school policy.
Is the Policy Professionally Sound?
The principle of school choice has taken form as a policy in school vouchers, charter schools, and cyber charter schools. A question of interest to education professionals and to the elected officials who craft policy is whether or not these policies are professionally sound. H. S. Bhola explained, “The question here is about the soundness of policy in regard to the theoretical understandings and research knowledge in the particular policy domain” (217). To determine whether or not these policies are professionally sound, their descriptive assumptions must be addressed. For each of these policies, the common underlying descriptive assumption is that school choice, whether enacted as school vouchers, charter schools, or cyber charter schools, will foster competition among public and private schools, resulting in the creation and maintenance of higher quality schools with better student outcomes. As explained in our policy history, this descriptive assumption was first articulated in 1955 in “The Role of Government in Education” in which Milton Friedman “advocated a market approach to education” and theorized that “the appropriation of public funding for non-public schools would create a market of new educational providers” (Viteritti, Walberg, and Wolf 138). Though Friedman proposed this argument for school vouchers, it also underlies charter schools and cyber charter schools.
If these policies are professionally sound, “the theoretical understandings and research knowledge” of the education field should support the descriptive assumption of “a market approach to education.” (Bhola 217; Viteritti, Walberg, and Wolf 138). This market approach to education is meant to “spur traditional public schools to improve through competitive pressures” since “traditional public schools will work harder to prevent students from leaving so as to avoid losing funding and enrollment” (Imberman 850, 862). Evidence of this improvement has been studied using student standardized test scores and students’ recorded behavioral incidents. A study that measured these factors showed that the presence of charter schools among traditional public schools had negative effects on the mathematics and English standardized test scores of students enrolled in traditional public schools (Imberman 862). The presence of charter schools had no effect on student attendance and negligible effects on students’ recorded behavioral incidents (Imberman 862). In similar studies of the effects of school vouchers, “the best research to date finds relatively small achievement gains for students offered education vouchers, most of which are not statistically different from zero” (Rouse and Barrow 17). For cyber charter schools, there is no research literature that suggests that students enrolled in cyber charter schools perform better on standardized tests than do traditional public school students (Cavanaugh). This information suggests that the market approach to education has not fostered competition among traditional public schools and other schools that improves student outcomes.
Another assumption of the market approach to education is “that competition and choice will spur changes in schools to be more innovative, which in turn will lead to better student outcomes” (Preston, Goldring, Berends, and Cannata 318). Here, the focus is mainly on innovative practices in the field of education. In a study that defined innovative practices as practices different from those of traditional public schools in a geographically limited local context, the researchers found that charter schools do not implement more innovative practices or different innovative practices than do traditional public schools (Preston, Goldring, Berends, and Cannata 324). The exception is charter schools’ elimination of teacher tenure (Preston, Goldring, Berends, and Cannata 327). Tied to the assumption that the market approach will drive innovation is the assumption that increasing the number and diversity of education providers will increase innovation and student achievement. However, a study that tested this assumption found that “the type of institution [local school board, postsecondary institution, nonprofit organization, or the state department of education] that authorizes a charter school has no statistically significant relationship with mean levels of student achievement” (Carlson, Lavery, and Witte 265). Further, the charter schools with the least variable student achievement scores and arguably the fewest fluctuations in quality were authorized by local school boards, which are traditional education providers (Carlson, Lavery, and Witte 265).
The implementation of school choice as a policy through school vouchers, charter schools, and cyber charter schools rests on the assumption that a market approach to education will encourage innovation among education providers and improve student outcomes, particularly student standardized test scores. At this time, research does not show that these policies create the intended consequences, suggesting that school choice policy does not have a professionally sound base from which to justify its expansion.
Is the Policy Practical?
When we ask whether school choice policies are practical, we are asking how possible it is to implement the theories whose principles and professionalism we have assessed.
Because most policies concerning school choice are developed at the state level, it is difficult to make a generalized judgment. Even federal policies, such as No Child Left Behind, surely encounter different difficulties in implementation in different states, and even in different school districts.
Studies in Texas, California, and Indiana on the relative efficiency of charters found that, on average, there was no significant difference in cost efficiency between charter schools and public schools (Gronberg, Pérez, and Akey). These results suggest that charter schools are equally financially practical to regular public schools. However, all three studies qualified their conclusions by saying that the consideration of other factors, such as school size, could yield different results, and that charter schools were found to be much more heterogeneous, with many schools falling far to either side of the average. This is a testament to the vast variety of factors affecting school choice programs and the resulting diversity of situations, and to how difficult it is to make an overarching judgment on the financial practicality of charter schools.
A report by the United States General Accounting Office found that areas in which charter schools commonly lack resources include facilities, start-up funds, and, to a lesser extent, necessary expertise. Acquiring these three things is the biggest challenge faced by new charter schools. The process of getting a charter approved is expensive. Even with grants from the Public Charter Schools Program, new charter schools often struggle to finance programs and facilities. New charters, especially those started by small groups of parents and teachers, may lack the legal and business background to practically apply for a charter and manage a school. These struggles suggest that the current charter schools policies in general are not practical. Of course, like any other factor, this varies between states, with some charters benefiting from more available state-level grants (United States General Accounting Office).
Just as much as there is variety in situations in which school choice is implemented, there is a wide variety of ways that it manifests, and just as many varying opinions among stakeholders. Of these manifestations, we’ve explored school vouchers, charter schools, private schools, and cyber charters. Federal and state governments have tended to favor the implementation of school choice, at least experimentally, as evidenced by the NCLB legislation at the federal level, and individual charter and voucher laws at the state level (“School Choice: Vouchers”). There are several different entities that can provide charter schools, including local education agencies, non-profit organizations, businesses, universities, and groups of parents and teachers in a community. All of these groups might be in favor of legislation allowing school choice. Many stakeholders in public non-charters oppose school choice legislation because of charter schools’ potential to draw funds and focus away from non-charters.
The training, knowledge, organizational tools, and support that are required to practically implement school choice can differ from those needed for the regular public school system. A charter schools benefits from the support of the establishing body, be it a university, business, or local community, and in this way can be better attended to than the non-charter public schools that are one of many of an LEA’s responsibilities (Samuels). On the other hand, charter schools often do not enjoy the support that comes from being in a close network of other schools. Training and knowledge of implementers of school choice, including state governments, LEAs, school administrations, and teachers, can vary as much as in non-charter situations.
School choice is a vast and complicated collection of policies, and it is not helpful to try to label it en masse as either practical or impractical. However, this analysis demonstrates the need for more studies on the effectiveness of different iterations of school policy in different situations. The data from these studies could distinguish what is practical and what is impractical about implementing school choice, and provide a basis for more informed and effective policies.
Akey, Terri, et al. “Study of the Effectiveness and Efficiency of Charter Schools in Indiana.” Center for Evaluation and Education Policy. 1 Apr 2012
Bhola, H. S. “Adult Education Policy Projections in the Delors Report.” Prospects 27.2 (1997): 207-222. Print.
Bulkley, Katrina, and Jennifer Fisler. “A Decade of Charter Scools: From Theory to Practice.” Consortium for Policy Research in Education. Graduate School of Education. University of Pennsylvania. April 2002. Policy Brief. Print.
Carlson, Deven, Lesley Lavery, and John F. Witte. “Charter School Authorizers and Student Achievement.” Economics of Education Review 31 (2012): 254-267. Print.
Cavanaugh, Cathy. “Effectiveness of Cyber Charter Schools: A Review of Research on Learnings.” TechTrends 53.4 (2009): 28-31. Print.
“Charter Schools and Community Development: Schools as Community Centers and the Potential of Co-tenancy.” Civic Builders Policy Brief. 9. (2006): 1-15.
“Free To Choose: Original 1980 Television Series.” Free To Choose Media Samples. Free To
Choose Network, n.d. Web. 2 Apr 2012. <http://www.freetochoosemedia.org/freetochoose/
Gill, B. P., and Foundation George Gund. Rhetoric Versus Reality: What We Know and What We Need to Know About Vouchers and Charter Schools. Mr (Rand Corporation): Rand Education, 2001. Print.
Gronberg, Timothy J., Dennis W. Jansen, and Lori L. Taylor. “The Relative Efficiency of Charter Schools: A Cost Frontier Approach” Economics of Education Review Volume 31 Pages 302-17. SciVerse. Web.
Herzberg, Marcus Louis. “The Development of the Concepts of the Public School and the
Private School in the United States.” The Ohio State University, 2002. United States –Ohio: ProQuest & Theses (PQDT). Web. 2 Apr. 2012.
Imberman, Scott A. “The Effect of Charter Schools on Achievement and Behavior of Public School Students.” Journal of Public Economics 95 (2011): 850-863. Print.
Lubienski, Christopher, and Peter Weitzel. The Charter School Experiment: Expectations, Evidence, and Implications. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press, 2010. Print.
Pérez, María, et al. “Schools, Resources, and Efficiency.” 2007. Stanford University Institute for Research on Education Policy & Practice. 1 Apr 2012.
Preston, Courtney, Ellen Goldring, Mark Berends, and Marisa Cannata. “School Innovation in District Context: Comparing Traditional Public Schools and Charter Schools.” Economics of Education Review 31 (2012): 318-330. Print.
Rouse, Cecelia Elena and Lisa Barrow. “School Vouchers and Student Achievement: Recent Evidence and Remaining Questions.” Annual Review of Economics 1 (2009): 17-42. Print.
Samuels, Christina A. “Charter Schools: “Transforming Public Education in New Orleans: The Recovery School District, 2003-2011″” Education Week 31 (11 January, 2012): 5. ProQuest. Web. 16 April 2012
“School Choice: Vouchers .” National Conference of School Legislatures . National Conference of School Legislatures , 2012. Web. 12 Feb 2012. <http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/educ/school-choice-vouchers.aspx>.
United States General Accounting Office. Charter Schools: New Charter Schools across the Country and in the District of Columbia Face Similar Start-up Challenges: United States General Accounting Office, 2003. Print.
Viteritti, Joseph P., Herbert J. Walberg, and Patrick J. Wolf. “School Choice: How an Abstract Idea Became a Political Reality.” Brookings Papers on Education Policy 8 (2005): 137-173. Print.
Wohlstetter, Priscilla, Richard Wenning, and Kerri L. Briggs. “Charter Scools in the United States: The Question of Autonomy.” Educational Policy (1995) Vol. 9. No. 4: 331-358.
TWITTER REPORT FEBRUARY 14-21
This week on Twitter a huge focus was placed on Obama’s 2013 budget and the impact it will have at different levels. Other discussions revolved around faith in schools, waivers, and authority. The overall tone seemed pretty calm and most people were agreeing, which is in contrast to past weeks. Last week more attention was placed on the impact of the State of the Union address and what reforms were still needed, along with the impact of school choice week, teacher evaluations, and unions. This week was different because the overall tone was less critical and more agreeable. The biggest pattern was that of Obama granting waivers to states for the No Child Left Behind Act (#teachersvoice—daily practices of everyday teachers). The hashtags #NCLB and #waiverwatch (as it was happening) led to a variety of responses that were very positive. This crucial step will now offer schools more flexibility in terms of honest standards. High School Equity: “Reviewing @BarackObama’s #budget2013, @hsequity is pleased to see $5B investment in improving teacher effectiveness #ESEA#edreform #edchat”
Large amounts of money were invested in improving teacher effectiveness, increasing federal work study, and funding for the arts. I think the majority of people were happy to see schools being the prime and Obama spending the necessary time extending grants that will help those students who cannot afford to go to college. The Pell Grant was extended and tweeted about by Generations United, “#Budget2013 extends the #Pell Grant maximum to $5,635 & continues to serve nearly 10 million college students.”
The budget will increase the money allotted to schools, which will allow them to get the resources necessary to create change within schools and as High School Equity tweeted : “giving schools needed resources to reform schools equals a real opportunity to clse the achievementgap plauging the us #edreform”. Along the same lines, Arne Duncan also had a positive reaction to how the budget will have initiatives that can contribute to modernization (community college partnerships) and improve outcomes for individuals with disabilities. Duncan actively responds to many of his followers to provide answers to questions and to spread facts that may have otherwise been misunderstood. (“@danbakers We need both #STEM & arts as part of well-rounded curriculum. Success in one subject often breeds success in others.”) STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mechanics Education Coalition and they work to inform others on the importance that these workers have in keeping the US at the top of the economic ladder. Although, The Heritage Foundation was not as positive by sharing links to blogs that discuss the benefits of “being friends with the President.” Saying that those who benefit, are not the one’s who actually need the help. The biggest issue was raised because Obama decided to raise subsidies on electric cars and take away all the funding for the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, which allowed underprivileged children to go to higher ranking schools in our capital.
Diane Ravitch tweeted a great deal about the issues she has with today’s authority. Most of her anger was directed at authority figures and she posted articles as to why they fail (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/02/19/1066355/-Do-as-I-Say-Not-as-I-Do-Why-Authority-Fails). She remained critical while discussing the challenges teachers face but stated individuals in positions of power, like Arne Duncan, are unqualified for their positions because they were appointed to them and do not take accountability for their actions.
A less tweeted about topic was Indiana’s proposal to expose children to creationism as well as teaching evolutionary theory. The Indiana House of Representatives knocked down the bill, with one reason being because it would violate the US Constitution by advancing religion.Proponents of the bill believe in “Intelligent Design”, not a religious theory per say, but says that life as we know it could not have came to be by accident.
A paper published by the New America Foundation analyzed Obama’s 2013 education budget request. Special Education, ESEA, innovation, and teachers are the focal point; each section being broken down into different methods, reforms, and costs. The guidelines are stated as facts and the source of each funding expenditure discussed.
—Did not come across a lot of tweets or articles related to gays in schools.
Education Week: “Judge issues injunction barring Mo. district from filtering websites w/ positive viewpoints on gay people: bit.ly/xjXokb #schoollaw”
—A Cincinnati Ohio High School started paying students to come to school and do well.
Michael Johns: “”Hope and change” does create some jobs–like for #Cincinnatipublic school students who arrive on time: tinyurl.com/7xqxzkl”. The Dohn Community High school–it’s a charter–Seniors; $25 Weekly, Underclassmen; $10 Weekly in the form of Visa Giftcards. (Class on time, every day, and good behavior). An additional $5 into a savings account every time paid.
In the week of February 14-21 the major trends on Twitter #edpolicy and #edreform were the extension of NCLB waivers to New Mexico, negations behind NY teacher evaluations, the appearance of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, and the activity behind new “parent trigger” laws.
The No Child Left Behind waivers have now been extended to 11 states with the newest addition this week being New Mexico. The waivers give the states more flexibility to implement their own grading for schools. Last year almost 90% of that state’s public schools didn’t meet NCLB’s requirements (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/16/no-child-left-behind-new-_n_1281658.html). As many as 28 more states along with DC and Puerto Rico have applied for such a waiver (http://www.roosevelttorch.com/sections/opinion-editorial/states-leave-flawed-education-law-behind-1.2703375#.T0PC4fEgfTQ). In order to receive a waiver states must be prepared to implement their own system of teacher and school evaluations. The White House has called the waivers a stopgap measure to address the overburdening evaluation issue under NCLB until congress can pass improved education reforms.
After a contentious run up to a deadline in New York to reach agreement on teacher evaluation regulations, a deal brokered out between Governor Cuomo, state legislators, and union leaders calls for “independent validators” to monitor and rate teachers as a second opinion to school principals. The observers will be licensed educators contracted from a company to observe 50-80 teachers that have been rated as “ineffective” by their principals and will observe their classrooms three times per year. “If an evaluator concurs with a principal’s finding that a teacher is ineffective for a second consecutive year, city officials can begin a new, expedited termination process. Currently, the burden of proof is on the city, making the dismissal process lengthy and difficult” (http://www.nytimes.com/schoolbook/2012/02/20/struggling-teachers-to-be-scored-by-independent-observers/). This system of evaluation is currently in place in New Haven Connecticut and has reportedly led 36 teachers in that city to resign or retire. The idea is that supposedly ineffective teachers will leave on their own instead of facing an embarrassing process towards extermination. http://gothamschools.org/2012/02/17/in-new-havens-experience-validators-dont-lead-to-firing/
Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s appearance on the Daily Show was largely received as “robotic” and “cliché-filled.” (http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-february-16-2012/arne-duncan) Jon Stewart was pressing in rehashing criticism from the education community that the Race to the Top reform did not promote the innovation and creativity that it supposes to support. A critical review that circulated around twitter by Washington Post’s blogger Valerie Strauss took aim at Duncan’s inability to “deviate from his talking points” http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/jon-stewart-tries-to-talk-to-arne-duncan/2012/02/16/gIQATPNVJR_blog.html. Quoting Strauss: “Stewart tried again and again to get Duncan to have a real conversation, but Duncan seemed to never directly respond to a question, always coming back to one of his talking points. He even said that ‘teachers have been beaten down,’ again without betraying any recognition that many teachers blame his policies for this state of affairs. What we learned from this exchange (the part that was televised) is that Stewart displayed a great grasp of the issues and the consequences of Race to the Top, and Duncan, well, not so much. I don’t need to say that something is wrong with this picture, so I won’t.”
Elsewhere on Twitter, a host of activity around “parent trigger” laws shed light on a new and contentious issue acting on education reform. The laws give the parents of children enrolled in public elementary and high schools the unprecedented capacity to make decisions about a school such as hiring a new principal, converting a school into a public charter school, or closing a school completely, all after gathering signatures from a 51% majority of all parents (http://midtown.patch.com/blog_posts/op-ed-parents-and-students-cant-wait-for-the-parent-trigger-act). So-called parent trigger laws were first passed in California in 2010. Texas and Mississippi have since enacted similar legislation, and 22 additional states are now considering trigger bills. Mostly this reform had been cheered by a number of education oriented groups and its expansion across the states has been fueled by major voices such as Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. The first action taken by parents with these new powers from Compton, CA was declared invalid because of signature and dating problems. Now the battle has moved to Adelanto, CA where parents turned out in throngs to sign petitions to overhaul Desert Trails Elementary School. Outside groups such as the right-wing ALEC coalition, seeing the desperation of the parents from afar, have moved in to push their own agenda on the school. By organizing signatures to enact trigger legislation, ALEC has gained around 70% of parents’ signatures (http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/02/adelanto_calif_–_seated_in.html). Many parents however have now complained that the petitions they were presented with had been distorted. One of the two petitions that were signed by parents was designed to transform Desert Trails Elementary into a charter school – a proposal many said they were never told. The other petition still aimed high in transforming the school, but left out the controversial charter school takeover. Many parents are now trying to rescind their signature on the charter petition, but ALEC denies that they misrepresented the petition claiming all signatures valid. Critics of the legislation now point to this example and the power it gives to outside organizations with their own agendas to act on a community’s schools. With the battle still raging, Hollywood has been all over the drama and policy debate surrounding the desert community of Adelanto. “Won’t Back Down”, a film by 20th Century Fox, will be released in September starring Viola Davis from “The Help” and Maggie Gyllenhall (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/21/movies/viola-davis-and-maggie-gyllenhaal-in-parent-trigger-film.html?_r=2).
Elsewhere on Twitter, the anomaly known as Rick Santorum produced an anomaly of criticism towards the President over education reform. In a crowded week of attacks aimed at Obama, Santorum took to Columbus, Ohio in a speech to chastise the idea of federal government planning for schools. While he and his wife took to home-schooling their children, Santorum did not suggest that government should get out of education completely. Though the federal government contributes less than 11% of total education funding to primary and secondary schools, “Republican candidates have called for a cutback in this formula, which has had bipartisan support for decades, saying they would give block grants to states and local districts while repealing federal requirements” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/us/politics/santorum-criticizes-education-system-and-obama.html?_r=3&hp).
Perhaps the biggest outlier of the week – and perhaps the most comedic/ambitious reform proposal – was a tweet and accompanying blogpost (http://www.andrewkmiller.com/2012/02/4-ways-to-use-massively-multiplayer-online-games-in-the-classroom/) suggesting “4 Ways to Use Massively Multiplayer Online Games in the Classroom.” The tweeter, a self-proclaimed regular MMORPG player, considers game-based learning to be potentially very successful. His blogpost was inspired by a story out of Massachusetts. Quoting the Massachusetts Institute of Technology website: “With a new $3 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the MIT Education Arcade is about to design, build and research a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) to help high school students learn math and biology… The game will be designed to align with the Common Core standards in mathematics and Next Generation Science Standards for high school students and will use innovative task-based assessment strategies embedded into the game, which provide unique opportunities for players to display mastery of the relevant topics and skills. This task-based assessment strategy will also provide teachers with targeted data that allows them to track the students’ progress and provide valuable just-in-time feedback.” (http://web.mit.edu/press/2012/mmog-stem-development.html).
In a broad analysis of the twitter feed this week, I found that most of the chatter was quite critical, especially towards Arne Duncan’s appearance on the Daily Show. Many also denounced New York’s teacher evaluation system, especially the proposals that had popped up prior to the one that was actually agreed upon. Furthermore, while there were many people excited about the spreading of trigger laws, there were almost as many voices on twitter completely blasting their not-so-obvious aspects especially with respect to charter schools. In light of what has come out of previous week’s twitter feed, this week seemed relatively doldrums as there weren’t any big events, meetings, or announcements regarding education policy nationally. The twitter feed mirrored this with tweets on lots of orthogonal and minor issues and few patterns or discussions/responses. I suspect that in the coming weeks more NCLB waivers will hit the twitter feed – because of the fact that so many states applied for them in the second wave – and that parent trigger laws could play a larger role nationally in light of talk about such upcoming legislation in many states.
Lastly, the study I have chosen to propose for class reading comes from the National Education Policy Center and reviews the January study from the National Bureau of Economic Research which reported that a student’s having high performing teachers contributed to their higher future earnings. The review does not reject the earlier study’s findings, but criticized their methods of statistical extraction and proposes that policy makers “tread cautiously in their reaction” to the report. http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-long-term-impacts
TWITTER REPORT March 27-April 2
The week began fairly calm with many posting interesting questions or articles for followers. The overall tone remained neutral throughout the week, with many of the tweets adding to an active discussion over topics such as the budget, competitive programs, and family influences on students. There was also some discussion about Obamacare, since arguments were being heard all week on the floor of Congress.
The hash tag #edchat was great to follow because it provided an arena for teachers to work in to create and improve practical solutions for the classroom. When these discussions take place it goes beyond the realm of just agreeing or not, because useful resources are shared here that end up bringing new insight into a classroom. One teacher tweeted a new study about why Facebook and Twitter should be used in schools as learning tools. There is evidence that technology can lead to new approaches to engage learning, but a major focus must be placed on making this technology accessible and both the teachers and students trained in how to use it.
Last week contained extremely constructive discussions, instead of people just yelling their opinion without any grounding. Technology in the classroom was emphasized in terms of what can be developed, general access, and potential safety mechanisms. Flipped classrooms, which allow teachers to record lessons on certain pieces of technology, allows all of the classroom time to dealing with issues to the problems they were sent home to do—or problem solving with general ideas and concepts. There is a growing community supporting this idea since more classroom time will be spent helping the student, but the downsize is that educators must have access to this technology and be aware of how to use it. This week technology also was on the forefront, following the hastag #digidirections, which followed the expansion of virtual education companies. People who were discussing these companies seemed to be less attached to their original stance and open to hearing other arguments. Parents who opposed virtual educations argued that the studies that are now being released may not actually have accurate numbers. Those educators are being accused of exaggerating student achievement scores.
Education Sector posted an interesting piece about the effect that parents have on their child’s learning at different ages. Contrary to what many may think, so-called “helicopter parents” were found to help their child become more successful in college, but not in high school. This difference could be attributed to the student knowing that they have their parents support while simultaneously living an independent life where they get to make their own decisions. Parents are also becoming more involved by discussing financial, life and academic issues with both their child and the school. Similarly, Diane Ravitch tweeted a link to a British study, which found that families have a greater effect on test scores than teachers do (50% of the variation due to family units and 10% due to teachers). These findings were in spite of income and the outside support went beyond homework help to open debates and discussions.
Education Week held a Spring Leadership Forum on Monday and twitter followers could follow the agenda filled with expert led sessions that contained superintendents, chancellors, and other educators at #edweeklive. The event wanted to encourage education leaders to interact with one another and create strategies that can be executed to raise student achievement while minimizing costs. Most of the responses to the event were in response to common core standards and how to put them into practice. Many liked the idea that the leading teams who create the curriculum would stay connected with state leaders so that they can plan ways together to improve student outcomes.
Education Weekly tweeted a question about whether 3rd graders should be held back if they can not pass a standardized reading test. I think the following debate was important since there are crucial times at which a child must acquire certain skills and the test checks a student’s ability to not only read the page, but comprehend it. Some argued that the test would prevent the students who have different testing abilities from obtaining a high score, while others thought that standard should be a minimum (other subjects involved).
Arne Duncan was questioned by members of Congress about why so much money was being spent on competitive programs, such as Race to the Top, and instead not being invested in funding for special education and disadvantaged students. Opponents argued that the goal is to reach as many people, and as many districts, so the money needs to be allocated in such a way so that programs are widespread and effective. With across-the-board-cuts, Duncan said that educators are going to lose funding and stressed the importance of time for this issue since school districts must makes next years budget decisions right now—and Congress most likely will not come to an agreement about sequestration soon enough. In response to what will happen if a state does not provide the necessary resources for special populations, Duncan responded that the Education Department would pull their waiver.
Duncan also weighed in on the budget issue by citing the downfalls of proposed government budget cuts. For example, Representative Paul Ryan’s budget would cut $3 billion from Pell grants and 30,000 special education teachers. Surprisingly, not too many people found this to be worth debating but Duncan neatly ended his argument with “We must come together as a country to make sound, bipartisan investments in education”.
Hearings on Obamacare were held last Wednesday, with many protestors showing up to express their opinions on the individual mandate and the framework. This was a hotly debated topic all over social media sites. On the other hand, Rep. Paul Ryan supporters argued that Obama and other party leaders are not working together to end the current debt-fueled economic crisis. Ryan and his followers continued to propose the removal of special interest loopholes that only help higher income earners. By allowing the states to customize Medicaid to the people in their state then they will be able to decide how to best reach the unique needs of the population and achieve economic prosperity. Opponents tweeted they believe Rep. Ryan is dodging the fact that he wants to actually cut Medicaid by almost $810 billion.
Duncan discussed the newly launched RESPECT project, which facilitates a national conversation about teaching. Educators can inform others and the Department of Education, and that information can be used to alter policies and programs. Last week Duncan came out saying he disapproves of the publication of teacher evaluation scores. Many were angered by the fact he did not state his opinion sooner, but Duncan held his ground by reminding followers that he never said he approved of score publications.
I found Diane Ravitch particularly sarcastic this week, confirming her past arguments with articles about e-learning, test scores and funding. Ravitch and her followers commented on Michelle Rhee’s lack of research based facts and overuse of “hunches”. It was argued that real reform could not occur until teachers were paid and trained better.
The downfall of the arts in public education has been overly exaggerated according to new data from the National Center for Education Statistics tweeted by Education Week. Data was collected from public schools (K-12) and it was found that the availability of music and visual arts has remained high over the last decade, “The vast majority of public elementary schools (94 percent) offered music instruction in 2009-10.”Although, many argued that those in high-poverty schools were still suffering. The largest difference can be seen with visual instruction at the elementary level for dedicated rooms with special equipment as the primary space for instruction: Low poverty 76% and High poverty 59%. The problem may be the way in which the information is reported, because disparities still persist among different socioeconomic groups.
Diane Ravitch tweeted a critique of media coverage on education reform.
Farhi, Paul. “Flunking the Test.” American Journalism Review. (2012): n. page. Web. 2 Apr. 2012. <http://www.ajr.org/index.asp?artType=2>.
Twitter Feed Analysis Week March 13th through 20th
By: Tiernan Donohue
This week on twitter the discussions spanned from debates on teacher quality and evaluations to the ways in which American education can learn from international school models.
Beginning on Tuesday, March 13th, a lot of the discussion on twitter centered on the controversy regarding the Khan Academy in response to a 60 Minutes story on the program which aired on Sunday, March 11th. The Khan Academy was founded by Sal Khan to help a family member with homework through “a collection of video lectures” (http://educationaltechnologyguy.blogspot.in/2012/03/khan-academy-not-good-pedagogy-and-not.html ). The discussion on twitter to the Khan Academy continued through the middle of the week, but the reactions were generally mixed. Criticisms argued that the Khan Academy’s program of video lectures was bad pedagogy which lacked the interactive and student centered learning necessary for effective education reform . Those on twitter who favored the Khan Academy noted the “Flipped Classroom” model, in which students watch videos and lectures at home while the teacher does other work in the classroom such as answering questions
Towards the middle of the week, March 14th and 15th, the conversation on twitter turned to addressing Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s address to the Louisiana House Education Committee following passage of a voucher reform bill, HB 976, and a teacher tenure reform bill, HB 974, by large margins. These bills represented part of a larger education reform package Governor Jindal proposed which includes “which includes vouchers for students in under-performing public schools, performance-based tenure, and tax credits for individuals and businesses to sponsor tuition for the schools that best meet a child’s educational needs” (http://www.freedomworks.org/press-releases/governor-jindal%E2%80%99s-school-voucher-and-tenure-reform ). The response to this legislation varied on twitter, with initial support expressed earlier in the week. As the twitter discussion in #edpolicy and #edreform shifted to teacher qualification, however, responses became more critical of the legislation.
Towards the end of the week, March 16th through 18th, the discussion began to focus on the question of state tests and teacher evaluation. These discussions sparked in reaction to a twitter posts in #edpolicy regarding South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard signed a new teacher evaluation law that would “will eventually eliminate state teacher tenure provisions, and that will award bonuses to top teachers based on student achievement” (http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/state_edwatch/2012/03/sd_governor_signs_new_teacher_evaluation_law.html). The reaction to twitter regarding this legislation was mostly negative, and perpetuated similar themes on twitter this week regarding teacher quality and the relationship between state achievement tests and teacher performance.
A new conversation gained traction on the twitter feed yesterday afternoon and continuing today regarding high school dropout rates in the U.S. The discussion represents an offshoot of the international theme on this week’s twitter feed. The tweets on U.S. dropout rates lament the U.S. falling short of international standards, noting that the U.S. formerly had the highest percentage of high school graduates. The discussion also focused on the state of so-called “Dropout Factories,” such as those found in Ohio, as “schools that fail to graduate more than 60 percent of students on time” (http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2012/03/20/dropout-factories-grow.html).
The discussion on twitter this week largely concentrated on the subjects of teacher evaluation and teacher quality. Following the passage of a new teacher evaluation law in South Dakota, twitter responses began focusing on methods of teacher evaluations and the implications on teacher quality in American education. The National Association of State Board of Educators (NASBE) began tweeting on March 16th regarding this issue and helped perpetuate the debate on the best method for evaluating teachers in today’s school environment. Their tweets regarding the New York Times “Sunday Dialogue: How to Rate Teachers” and tweets calling for ideas on how to raise the teaching profession helped facilitate this discussion on twitter. Meanwhile, the Louisiana Teachers decision to protest the legislative proposals on teacher quality in the state house was retweeted.
Additionally, the twitter discussion on teacher evaluations and quality created a twitter debate regarding the relationship between state achievement tests and teacher performance in public education. The Scholastic survey, funded by the Gates Foundation, of 10,000 teachers found that “teachers don’t trust annual state skills tests” in increasing numbers. The study revealed that “only 16% believe linking student performance and teacher pay is “absolutely essential” or “very important” in retaining good teachers” which was down 28% from 2010 (http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/story/2012-03-15/survey-teacher-pay-linked-to-test-scores/53554210/1?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&dlvrit=206567). While this discussion continued throughout the end of the week, the main focus on twitter was less so on problems with state achievement tests than on the state of teacher quality and evaluation today.
Another theme I found in this week’s twitter analysis, was an emphasis on education reform in an international context. These tweets responded to the second International Summit on the Teaching Profession which met in New York City this week. The conference brought together educators from twenty-three different countries and the theme of the conference was how we “can learn from other countries with such different contexts and cultures” (http://www.freedomworks.org/press-releases/governor-jindal%E2%80%99s-school-voucher-and-tenure-reform). This theme carried over to twitter, with the Gates Foundation tweeting on the ways in which American education can learn from East Asian education systems, which boasts four of the top five highest-performing education system’s in the world according to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). This was consistently retweeted, as was Diane Ravich’s post on the Norway education model.
This week’s twitter patterns varied from the last two week’s discussion. The discussion of NCLB waivers and charter schools subsided in favor of a greater focus on the teacher evaluation. This week’s discussion was directed by events from this week such as the International Summit on the Teaching Profession, South Dakota Teacher Evaluation law, and Governor Jindal’s education reform proposals.
Some anomalies this week included a post by the University of Chicago from the beginning of the week stating that Virginia parents were being tried in court for “too many tardies” with fines up to $3,000 (http://ht.ly/9EDrW /). Also, singer John Legend called for national education reform at the at the NASPA Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education Conference in Phoenix as part of his Show Me Campaign which works toward education reform (http://www.statepress.com/2012/03/11/singer-john-legend-calls-for-national-education-reform/). Also, an anomaly this week which had been a pattern in previous weeks on twitter was mention of parent trigger laws. Parent trigger laws were briefly mentioned at the beginning of the week but failed to attract a real debate or discussion on twitter this week.
My overall assessment for this week was that the twitter discussion focusing on teacher evaluation and quality echoes contemporary questions of how best to measure teacher achievement and to what degree state tests help or hurt. Furthermore, the discussion stressed the various opinions on this subject which are affecting education reform policy. Moreover, this week the twitter feed demonstrated the role of education in global competition. The emphasis on learning and improving American education based on different international models stressed how the U.S. was falling behind. Also, this emphasis implied the importance associate with the U.S. reclaiming primacy in global education standings as not only an education issue but a matter of national reputation.
Policy Paper Recommendation:
My recommended policy paper for this week is “Teacher Evaluator Training & Certification: Lessons Learned from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project” part of the Practitioner Series for Teacher Evaluation. This policy paper looks at over 23,000 lessons collected from more than 3,000 classrooms as part of the Gates Foundation’s MET project in order to offer policymakers and district leaders’ insight for improving teacher effectiveness thereby improving student learning.
This week, the #edreform, #edpolicy, and #edpolitics Twitter streams deviated from last week’s mentions of the effectiveness of teacher unions, teachers’ roles in education reform, and the 2012 State of the Union address. The most notable Twitter topic was Representative John Kline’s (R-MN) proposal to reform the Elementary and Secondary Education Act with the draft Student Success Act and the draft Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act.
The Twitter response to the two draft bills was overwhelmingly negative. Many “retweeted” an issue brief on the draft legislation released by the Center for American Progress. The issue brief noted that the draft bills depart from the trend of more federal control of public education by modifying some provisions to give greater autonomy to states. Positive tweets about the draft bills mentioned this point. However, the Twitter consensus was that the draft bills present huge obstacles to schools educating historically disadvantaged students, many of whom are minorities, because they would dilute Title II-A funds that benefit schools in high poverty areas. Other people “tweeted” that the draft bills would remove accountability measures for poorly performing schools, raising concerns that this loss, compounded with the loss of some Title II-A funding, would negatively affect student achievement in these schools.
Others “retweeted” an Education Week report that “Principals, Superintendents, School Boards Critique Kline Draft.” These tweets included the concern that should the draft bills increase the number of charter schools, it could reduce charter school accountability. News agents and people who may be teachers but are unaffiliated “Tweeters” contributed most to this discourse. I did not notice any charter school organizations that “tweeted” on this issue in particular.
More concern over charter schools arose when the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released a statement contending that proposed Treasury and IRS reviews of pension systems would restrict states from allowing public charter school teachers to choose state retirement plans. The Twitter sentiment was in favor of protecting the right of public charter school teachers to choose these plans.
Concerns about high school graduation standards were given some exposure on Twitter. The New York Times published “Despite Focus on Data, Standards for Diploma Still Lack Rigor.” The article was “retweeted” numerous times by people concerned with the evidently mediocre standards to pass the New York State English Regents exam, especially after the proliferation of “data-driven” education reforms. While the number of points awarded to poor student work on the free-answer portion was criticized, the appropriateness of the test’s content was not questioned.
Another publication given “retweet” exposure on Twitter was the Center on Education Policy’s report, released February 7, on where state education agencies have chosen to cut funding. Many tweets expressed outrage that many of these agencies cut costs via teacher and school personnel attrition while maintaining or growing employment for departments that deal with teacher evaluation and with student achievement data systems.
One topic that was an anomaly among the Twitter feeds was the proposed savings that online textbooks could give public school districts. The Utah State Office of Education is developing its own online textbook initiative.
Since following the coverage of #edreform, #edpolicy, and #edpolitics was my first experience using Twitter, I was a bit overwhelmed. Judging from this week’s tweets, Twitter is a good source of news coverage of and think pieces on education policy. I think this week’s tweets covered very substantive topics, but at times Twitter seemed like an echo chamber of retweets in agreement with other people’s tweets. For most of the issues, one side of the debate was well-represented while the other, either praise or criticism, was fairly absent. I would like to have seen a variety of opinions, similar to how a major newspaper would interview prominent figures with opposing opinions. However, Twitter is valuable in that it does not discriminate between the opinions of “insiders” and of the public.
I chose to share the Foundation for Child Development’s “Investing in Public Programs Matters: How State Policies Impact Children’s Lives” with the class. This policy paper received a lot of exposure on Twitter and examines how state policies, including tax rates and revenue, affect children’s well-being, which is critical for school readiness.
The Twitter discussion of #edreform, #edpolicy, and #edpolitics continued this week with similar themes of school choice, teacher evaluation, and student assessment, but was inspired mostly by President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday evening. Many seemed critical of the President’s assessment of U.S. education as well as of the proposals for reform suggested in his speech.
In particular, Diane Ravitch composed a response for Politico that was often linked to Tweets, in which she claims that if Obama truly believes “teachers matter” and need to stop teaching to the test, his Race to the Top initiative would not require states to meet testing goals. Even more frequently “retweeted” was Ravitch’s own speech entitled, “Whose Children Have Been Left Behind?” which can be found at the Washington Post. With such a strong presence and following on Twitter (she has 26,565 Tweets, 25,534 followers, and is frequently re-Tweeted), her views against strong assessment, accountability measures, and school choice seem to be most prominent.
In response to the online debates and analyses of the speech, the White House held Twitter “Office Hours” on education @WHLive on Friday at 12pm. Beginning at this time, Twitter users could ask the administration questions regarding education reform. Most questions were on the topic of higher education access and affordability for students in the U.S. On this same day, President Obama announced his plan for a new Race to the Top competition that would focus specifically on higher education, mentioned under #edpolitics. The Office Hour discussion turned again to No Child Left Behind and student assessment, specifically the ideas of waivers for states and new flexibility in complying with the original provisions of the law.
Ideas that stood out as unique during the Office Hours and the week’s Twitter feed in general included reforms for adult education as well as cyber education as an alternative choice for parents. In addition, several Tweets addressed reform of specifically urban schools, using the hashtag: #urbaned. However, none of these Tweets really sparked discussion or were re-Tweeted.
The primary topic of discussion continues to be methods of teacher evaluation and the role teachers should play in education reform. The opinions expressed via Twitter clearly demonstrate an idea we touched on in last week’s lecture: a divide exists in education reform between those who are in the classroom and those who attempt to influence reform from outside the classroom. Tweets from teachers are often defensive, and many users Tweeted criticism of the Gates Foundation Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Project and “corporate” attempts at influencing reform. This rift between educators and policymakers on how to best evaluate teachers and include them in reform seemed to be the most common theme this week. Therefore, I suggest the class read a recent Center for American Progress study on different approaches to increasing teacher effectiveness.
This week on Twitter there was a fairly even spread of ideas. The biggest topics included test scores, teacher evaluations, teacher unions, California’s changing education legislation, and school funding models. Compared to last week, people were not talking about the purpose of education as much (I saw one unique post) nor whose voice is most important in reform debates. Voice really only came into play in discussions over funding, but the focus was on the modeling of funding. I would say that this was due to the discourse surrounding the State of the Union Address. It informed most, to all, of the topics being discussed on Twitter in regards to education and policy.
For test scores and teacher evaluations the dissent was pretty overwhelming. Most of those commenting on these systems were educators, and they were strongly opposed to the current model of standardized tests and proposed teacher evaluations. Cited reasons against testing mainly referred to the cost of testing and the failure to really address the issues of inequality in schools. A similar argument was used against teacher evaluations, stating that they would not accurately represent a teacher’s potential since they’re being judged on student and school performances. These were the only addresses to teacher evaluation, again due to the State of the Union Address which emphasized data collection as a means to pick out “good” teachers. This topic incited a lot of exasperation, with little dialogue other than denouncing the use of more tests to determine teacher fitness. Several tweets linked to studies or outside opinion pieces. Examples:
plugusin Bill Ferriter
rpondiscio Robert Pondiscio
AnthonyCody Anthony Cody
AnthonyCody Anthony Cody
A topic that did not appear in last week’s report was a wide-spread review of articles discussing the validity and usefulness of teacher unions. There was no common opinion on this topic. Some who provided links to articles cited the importance of the support provided them through unions. One woman in particular even mentioned how she was not a fan before she started to try and mobilize a movement to save arts funding at her school. The union stepped in and helped gather support from parents and teachers for the cause. On the opposite end of the spectrum though was someone who posted an article about the possible sabotage unions cause unknowingly to reform debates. It is obviously a very contentious issue, but if the volume of tweets are any indication, it is not as important to the Twitter-verse as evaluations and scores.
The last two major topics were the changing education policies in California and school funding models. California’s governor has been gaining a lot of attention lately for his views on education reform. Governor Brown is proposing a temporary tax increase on sales and wealthier individuals. It would make sense that one of the states, which holds sway over classroom materials production, would garner so much coverage, especially when daring to raise funds instead of cut them from education in this economy. To further his education cost cutting, he proposed changes to science requirements in schools. Currently students in high school must complete two years of science, but with the new proposal they would only be required to complete one. This was largely criticized on Twitter for dropping a technical/science field when the U.S. is already behind in technical fields. There was no response posted to Twitter, either directly in a tweet or through a link. Upon running a Google search for more news on this topic, nothing comes up. Since this search is now a week after the initial tweets appeared, they are no longer accessible on Twitter for reference, but it would appear this policy might have been a conflagration by angry Tweeters.
As for the funding critiques, there actually is a research paper that deals with the notion of market driven/competitive schooling reforms. It talks about the negative effects of this model, based off data collected in Minnesota. This article was relevant to discussions surrounding the “School Choice Week” event. It is a national week created to discuss schooling options and how they function together. School choices are classified as public, charter and private. The hotly debated topic for this week was funding of these different systems, especially since a growth in charter schools has been seen in the last few years. The article can be accessed on Scribd.
These topics were largely informed by the State of the Union Address. The hashtag #edSOTU became very popular as people discussed what President Obama had called attention to in his speech. The views posted on his speech were mostly negative, frustrated and/or angry comments. The popular education topics on Twitter this week, were mostly correlated to the State of the Union address, or based around “School Choice Week.” The major buzzword throughout all of these discussions was inequality, referencing the education gap (both in K-12 and in college attendance), and affordability of higher education. The general tone of the Twitter feed was negative and disparaging. This is not unexpected, as many people are becoming disenchanted with government education reforms. However, it was shocking that there were only a handful of neutral to positive Tweets in the span of a week. It is often the case on Twitter that people feed off of each other, and with the contention over the State of the Union, it is makes sense that the feed was very critical; Politics seems to garner more criticism on public forums than support. It is an interesting phenomenon that as a society we often fixate on the issues, rather than the successes. Instead of always focusing on the problems, it might be a nice change to focus some energy on finding what is working and highlighting it for inspiration. Since there was not a lot of dialogue happening in this current conversation, perhaps coming at it from a different direction will invoke some new solutions through open discourse, instead of just criticisms.
Anomalies of the Week (singular tweets on interesting topics)
- New Hampshire passed a new law that allows any public school parent to object to a text/subject matter and work with the teacher and principal to develop an alternate curriculum specifically for their child at their own expense.
- A new wave of school ID cards that would include a QR code linked to a data base with a student’s picture and information are proposed to help reduce cheating on standardized tests. The cards are being referred to as ‘DNA,’ however there doesn’t appear to be any actual DNA in use.
- There was an article about gamification of education linked through a tweet. An interesting learning concept being debated across disciplines.
This week, a few major themes surfaced in #edpolicy and #edreform tweets: debate on the purpose of education, discussion of how we fund and evaluate our education system, its teachers and its students, and argument over who’s voice is most important in those debates.
Many of the links posted and events covered in this weeks feed focused on No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, and the ideals and programming that these two federal programs entail. These discussions included topics such as high stakes standardized testing, evaluating school success, raising teacher professionalism, the use of value added teacher data evaluations, and the effectiveness of common core standards.
This led to a broader discussion of who is responsible for education, with commentaries on youth voice, parent power, the influence of foundations and private funding and the role of teacher’s unions and larger education agencies in the creation of education policy.
Debates over these responsibilities seemed to reflect back on conflicting ideas of what the purpose of schooling is. Some articles discussed education’s economic necessity, creating workers and successful economies. Others pointed out the value of education as a tool for social mobility and personal gain, and that the denial of that education results in social/economic “stagnation”. Some said, “just teach the basics”, while others focused on the need for civic education and computer literacy in an increasingly technological and interconnected world. Still others focused on specific groups of students with policies concerning English Language Learners and the definition of Special Education.
Special events this week included “School Choice Week” with a focus on charter schools and vouchers (mostly by parents and teachers), as well as “No name-calling week” an anti-bullying movement aimed to keep schools a place of safety and growth (mostly teachers). The final piece of news was Apple’s announcement of digital textbooks available through iBooks and their viability in the school system, which had both positive and negative responses.
NEAToday: Next week is No Name Calling Week. Tweet us your ideas for stopping #bullying in our schools neatoday.org/2012/01/19/no-…
educationweek Textbook publishers are cheering #Apple’s new dive into the e-textbook market, not dreading it: bit.ly/zz1X5i
One of the most interesting anomalies of the week came from Diane Ravitch:
DianeRavitch RT: Read it and gasp: plunderbund.com/2011/07/15/vid…
This link spotlighted a controversial graduation ceremony in Ohio where the event speaker used the podium to give a religious speech, with great confusion from the audience, but little public response otherwise.
After reading the twitter feed, it’s obvious to me that many different definitions of “education reform” and “education policy” exist, and that those divided opinions can get very passionate about their point of view (even engaging in personal attack tweets, such as those aimed at Michelle Rhee and Diane Ravitch). Overall, I was frustrated with the number of complaints and the lack of solutions proposed. In order to create a better school system, we do need to identify problems, but it is more important that we discuss solutions to those problems and the specific changes we need to make.
To start such a discussion in our own class, I’d like to offer up a report from the Data Quality Campaign that was discussed this week at the national data summit in DC. Data-driven school systems are a popular solution in some policy circles today, but I think the subject needs a little more research and exploration and would be a great topic for discussion. This paper discusses some of the justifications for the system, as well as a clearer definition of what “data” means and how states can be using that data to help improve their schools. To learn more, read the report here and read Education Week’s review of the report here.