New York

Crikey! NYC school reforms taking hold Down Under

Julia Gillard with Australian students Courtesy of ##http://www.theage.com.au/##The Age## It's no secret that Michelle Rhee, down in Washington, D.C., is faithfully replicating New York City's recent school reforms. But it might be more of a surprise that some of Joel Klein's ideas have gained traction with leading education officials in the land down under. After a trip to New York earlier this year, Julia Gillard, the deputy prime minister tasked with carrying out the Australian Labor Party's promised "education revolution," returned home sold on Klein-style school reform. She told the Australian Council for Education Research conference last month: We can learn from Klein's methodology of comparing like-schools with like-schools and then measuring the differences in school results in order to spread best practice. Something Joel Klein is personally and passionately committed to is the identification of school need, the comparison of like-schools and the identification of best practice. Since that speech, when Gillard's ministry proposed ranking Australian schools publicly according to the methodology used to create the controversial report cards released last year for New York's schools, Gillard has sworn to restructure failing schools by removing school heads and firing teachers; proposed financial incentives to attract good teachers to weak schools; and promised more money to low-performing schools, although states that refuse to carry out the national reforms will have their funding withheld. Klein told the Australian, a newspaper, that he's pleasantly surprised by how quickly Gillard adopted his ideas. But school advocates in Australia aren't letting Klein-style reforms be implemented without question.
New York

How “the rich get richer” in reading for understanding

In response to yesterday's post about the Core Knowledge Reading Program, reader Smith asks, Is he saying their is a core set of content that would prepare a student to understand a randomly selected reading passage on a standardized test? Could someone explain this idea to a non-ELA teacher? I’ve always assumed those reading passages could range from “The Mysteries of Ancient Egpyt” to “Sally’s Bad Day at School” to “Roger’s Time Machine Adventure”. How is content selected? Great question. It's true that the content of test reading passages varies, and I don't think anyone believes that a child can be prepared with content knowledge specific to every possible topic. Rather, some children enter school knowing thousands more words than others, and this difference compounds over years of schooling in a "rich get richer" scenario called the "Matthew Effect" by researchers. (Don't take my word for it: this study, one of many, found that by age 3, children of parents with smaller vocabularies not only knew fewer words, used fewer words per hour, and used a smaller variety of words per hour, "but they were also adding words more slowly.") Hirsch summarized this effect in a 2006 article in American Educator: Many specialists estimate that a child (or an adult) needs to understand a minimum of 90 percent of the words in a passage in order to understand the passage and thus begin to learn the other 10 percent of the words. Moreover, it’s not just the words that the student has to grasp the meaning of—it’s also the kind of reality that the words are referring to.... When a child doesn’t understand those word meanings and those referred-to realities, being good at sounding out words is a dead end. Reading becomes a kind of Catch-22: In order to become better at reading with understanding, you already have to be able to read with understanding.
New York

Wayback Wednesday: School boycotts in New York City history

The GothamSchools Time Machine With Chicago schoolchildren in the midst of a three-day school boycott, I thought the GothamSchools time machine might take a jaunt through school boycotts in New York City's history. The biggest boycotts took place in 1964 to protest racial segregation in the city's schools. After school officials produced an integration plan that rejected busing as an option and lacked a timeline for implementation, civil rights leaders called for a one-day school boycott. To organize the protest, black leaders tapped Bayard Rustin, fresh off organizing the March on Washington at which Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream" address. On Feb. 3, 1964, 464,362 of the city's 1 million schoolchildren stayed home, making the boycott "the largest civil rights demonstration in U.S. history," Time Magazine reported at the time, noting that black leaders initially considered the protest "a whoopee success" while at the same time the president of the city's Board of Education disparaged it as "a fizzle." A smaller boycott in March, which only some of the first boycott's organizers supported, drew about a quarter of all students in favor of integration. About the same number of students also boycotted the start of school that fall — but they were spearheaded by Parents and Taxpayers, a group that opposed busing and the dissolution of neighborhood schools. Over the summer, the U.S. Supreme Court had released its landmark Brown v. Board of Education opinion, but because New York's schools were segregated because of residential segregation, not an official city policy, the ruling barely registered in the ongoing boycott saga. Ultimately, not even the city's limited integration plan ever went into effect. The 1964 school boycotts were certainly the largest, but they weren't the first, the last, or the most effective.