The charter school teacher who goes by Mildly Melancholy first got our attention here when she was unceremoniously fired, in the middle of the school year, after struggling for months with what sounds like precious little support from administrators and fellow staff. Since then, she's inspired a great debate in the comments section here about what it means to be a teacher, how to measure teacher quality, and whether urban teachers are asked to do too much. And now, she's emerged from a period of quiet on the subject of herself to respond to this raging debate. The long response she's posted is worth a read, especially her disclosure that she's the third teacher in the grade she taught to be dismissed from this particular school. (Maybe she's not the one to blame here.) Here are some other highlights from the robust conversation Mildly Melancholy started.
The panel where Linda Darling-Hammond spoke yesterday. Linda Darling-Hammond may be feared and loathed by the younger reform set, but among the people who sat with me last night on the Upper East Side to watch her talk, she is such a star! Before the start of the panel, put on by Bank Street College of Education, all I could hear was the simultaneous sound of my Blackberry buzzing with eager e-mails about her and audience members asking their neighbors, "Has Linda arrived yet?" She finally did, apparently via the very last available train to New York from Washington, D.C., where she had been for Barack Obama's inauguration. At the panel, she quickly made it clear how dramatically accountability regimes would change if she is given a major role in the Obama administration. (Of course, that's a big if: Though Darling-Hammond chaired the education policy team for Obama's transition, it's looking like those who have the ear of new Education Secretary Arne Duncan come from a different set. She didn't comment on this yesterday.) Darling-Hammond laid out a dramatic picture of how she hopes Obama will change American schools, one that (for the most part) differed substantially from the vision currently in vogue, the "idealocrat" program Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has pushed. Darling-Hammond's big idea is to move America away from a factory model of education, where teachers are seen as trade workers, and toward a model that treats teachers as just as important as doctors or lawyers. The change, as she sees it, requires that teachers are given better and more extensive training, and that the federal government change the way it evaluates their work, moving from No Child Left Behind's standardized test-based system into one based on sensitive open-ended assessments that schools might create themselves. She hinted that the last part might be the biggest challenge — to "get the measuring right."
On Tuesday morning, the 98 students at NYCiSchool gathered in their school's common room to watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama. This is a report about that experience from Raquel and Angelica, two students who are writing occasional columns for GothamSchools on their experiences attending a New York City public school. Raquel: Returning to school after a 3-day weekend to sit in front of two flatscreen televisions and watch Obama's inauguration was nothing short of amazing, because we were glued to something more than a television screen. We were glued into history. We also created historical artifacts of our own. A school-wide assignment required each student to write a list of the topics we wanted to hear Obama address in his speech. As the speech progressed, we recorded what topics he actually covered. This way, we were able to document not only what we heard, but what it meant to us. I predict that unlike many school assignments, we'll remember this one as not just one more piece of paper. Instead, we will be able to use this assignment as a tool to evaluate whether Obama has kept his word to America, and to us. Angelica: We are teenagers, a rowdy group to tame, especially when concentrated all in one room — and yet the sound of Barack Obama's even voice, fierce and calm, muted us.
Garth Harries The top Department of Education official who is set to review the city's special education system is adding another job to his plate: He's joining a national program designed to produce top-notch urban superintendents. Garth Harries, who until the end of this month is the chief executive of the DOE's portfolio department, is one of 12 people accepted into this year's Broad Superintendents Academy class. The academy, which is based on business executive training programs, is run by the Broad Foundation, which also gives out the annual Broad Prize for Urban Education. New York City won the Broad Prize in 2007. As a Broad fellow, Harries will stay on at the DOE but will leave the city for six multi-day retreats throughout the year. He'll also have regular homework assignments. (Already, Helen Zelon at Insideschools has chimed in with concern about just how much Harries can cram into his calendar.) We asked Harries for a statement, and got this response from Chancellor Joel Klein instead: Garth's selection reflects the extraordinary work he's done in New York and his potential to be a great superintendent in the future. The Broad Academy says it expects its graduates to seek superintendencies, but of the DOE officials who have gone through the program, most still work in the city.
I wish Franklin were around to comment on this: The Department of Education's director of food technology, a job I didn't know existed, but now seems important, is letting principals know that DOE peanut butter is good, despite the expanding recall. Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies are not yet confirmed safe. UPDATE: Peanut butter cookies have now been declared safe, school officials tell me. I think this counts as a good use of teacher e-mail/phone time, yes? Here's director Paul Uffer's note: Subject: Peanut Butter Update Importance: High Please be advised that SchoolFood has confirmed that the PB&J Cutouts and the #10 containers of Peanut Butter used for our program are not affected by the recent peanut butter recall by The Peanut Corporation of America. Listed below are the current peanut butter brands used in SchoolFood operations #10 containers – Sunny Boy or Sunshine PB&J Cutouts – Sunshine Peanut Butter Cookies Food Tech is still waiting on confirmation of the brand of peanut butter used in the Linden's Peanut Butter cookies. Until further notice, please put do not use the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies. Please place any boxes aside and label "DO NOT USE". Further instructions will follow.