In Which Kerry Jo Talks Too Much, Test Prep Turns Out Not to Be Satan’s Tool and Buses Run the World

 The Zillion Open Tabs Edition


I don’t know if you do this too, but I am in the habit of leaving things I want to come back to for one or another reason open in tabs on my computer. And yes, that computer is a MacBook so I have a reading list function. And yes, a dear friend turned me on to Evernote and it has changed my life. And yes, I do still have drawers and drawers of actual paper files archiving treasures.

In the most primitive part of my brain, the tabs are like electronic boxes there for the ticking — markers of the daily chaos we all fantasize is tame-able. Other people subscribe to Real Simple or pin photos of tiny houses, where one presumes big messes can’t be made. Me, I dream of a day when the browser can safely be closed.

Why am I boring you with my monkey mind? Because it occurs to me that the fully fashioned blog posts I thought to pen about some of the aforementioned tabs could really just be an annotated list. Which is a win for both of us, right?

Without further ado:


I reserve the right to come back to this one at some length: Here is a proposed Minneapolis School Board rule about talking out of turn. Scroll down to g, “director speaking time,” and h, “other.” It says, essentially, no more running your yap until your fellow directors are forced to call a point of order, particularly if your verbal expositions are couched as questions about items in the board agenda packet you clearly didn’t read.

I’m calling this the Kerry Jo Felder rule.


From the brilliant Stephen Sawchuck at Education Week comes a little bit of counter-intuitiveness: “Does Test Prep Harm Teaching? Maybe Not as Much as We Think.” Turns out common, tenaciously clung-to wisdom on the part of both the accountability hawks and the opt-out zealots isn’t so wise. The existence of standardized assessments neither improves the quality of instruction nor detracts. Meaning it’s neither awful for students nor helpful (at least in terms of summative assessments) to teachers.

“Although the researchers don’t go this direction in their paper,” notes Sawchuck, “looking at these findings makes me ponder a reading-between-the-lines hypothesis: What if a lot of teaching just isn’t that ambitious to start off with? Is that why there’s not all that much of a difference between test-prep and regular lessons?”

Bonus: The photo atop this post is of the infamous staircase from “The Exorcist,” which is in Georgetown and which Sawchuck was kind enough not to push me down as we caught up a little at a conference last spring.


Comes now Boston’s public radio affiliate with the earth-shattering discovery that when used for high-quality teaching, longer school days and school years matter. It seems some conventional districts are all about it.

More time has, of course, been the major ingredient in the secret sauce at many high-performing charter schools for years. And efforts to get that extra time in Minneapolis schools into the teachers’ contract has been a political third rail that a few years ago resulted in a precious few extra days that negotiators bled and died for.

And now, in the latest round of contract talks, MPS is trying to give those days back and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers is complaining it’s tantamount to a pay cut. And no, I cannot supply you a link because in contrast to St. Paul and to MPS regimes past, the district is not communicating with the public about the talks.

Perhaps because there really isn’t much that has to do with the needs of kids on the agenda?

UPDATE: I was wrong! Seems in recent days MPS created a handy, easy-to-navigate negotiation info site.


A few months ago I had a groundbreaking Bellwether Education Partners report on school buses open on one of my tabs, fully intending to mine it for nuggets. Alas it perished in some ignoble restart, so when a quick takeaways version showed up at RealClearEd the other day I started a new tab.

If you spend any time involved with public education you develop an understanding of the absurd amount of the universe that is ordered by and around school buses. They’re expensive, they’re an environmental nightmare in most places, kids bully on them with impunity, and so forth. Their availability — not the sleep needs of teens, the work demands of families or the school schedule most beneficial to learning — determines school start times.

Schools are broke. Before we cut teachers or start a special ed war of attrition, let’s talk about the buses.


This time from Politico, another entry in the canon of stories about the ways in which exclusive colleges and universities – some of them public — are gamed for elites, reinforcing the economic status quo. The idea of looking at tax data to do this is genius. The idea of blaming this inequity for Trumpism? Eh…clickbait, anyone?


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