Monday, June 30, 2014

Required Reading

Today's Hobby Lobby decision wasn't a surprise to me, but some of the information in this week's TIME article was. Well worth reading, if you like faith-based conspiracies.
In addition to Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, the Greens are beta testing a high-tech Bible-study curriculum for public schools this September in an Oklahoma district. They hope to see it adopted in thousands more districts within three years. A draft copy suggests it will be a wonderland of technological pedagogy but will raise church-state issues that could also end up before the high court.

And then there is the as-yet-unnamed museum of the Bible in a 440,000-sq.-ft. building two blocks from the National Mall, which was bought to house the best of the Greens’ 45,000-piece collection of biblical artifacts. The museum will function as both a magnet and a marker for evangelical Christians on the country’s most symbolically loaded swath of real estate.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

IJ Covers Graduation

O and her classmates are all over these photos.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The State of Educational Freelancing

I sent out a query to my freelance listserve yesterday, remarking on the fact that I've had four projects start and fold this year already and wondering whether I was just unlucky or if something else was going on. Here are some responses I received.

I've stopped doing educational publishing. Ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
I was burned out on assessment projects years ago, kind of in solidarity with kids, I reasoned, and tried to live in hope of the return of the olden days when nearly all the writing projects I worked on seemed to value high-quality research, creativity, and writing. So much fun! Hard work, but great compensation and satisfaction.

I'm still open to such a project, but I'm no longer expecting it to my working lifetime anyhow. Still, I mull what it would take to get out of this rat's nest we're in and will fight to the end for a vibrant public education system worthy of our children and, in my case, my grandchildren. :)

I don't know whether to be glad or sorry to learn that I'm not the only one. I have literally had no work since December. One project seems to have fizzled; other people not even getting back to me. Longtime clients whom I've worked for repeatedly over several years; it burns me when they can't even be bothered to reply to e-mails.
I had a relatively decent year in 2013. There was steady (if not always well-paying) work through the winter and into the early spring. Since then, however, I've had three projects that have turned sour: One was cut back in scope and then postponed until the fall (and I'll be surprised it if revives even then), one suddenly went back to the drawing board (and has since revived--but it's very small, and I hear that it is still a very rocky road), and one that has parceled out one lesson at a time, with unannounced gaps in-between (thus far). In putting out a few feelers, I've heard from one client, "Maybe something in July or August"; and from another, "It's still very much up in the air."
I recently did a social studies project that ended up with my earning less than the lowest paid employee at McDonald’s. The only advantage over McDonald's is that I don’t smell of cooking oil.

The whole industry seems to be fracturing. Digital publishing is spawning a whole new set of players—and a new mentality about publishing. Remember when we prided ourselves on our "bookmaking skills"?

There are now Indian firms who are training their writers to do assessment. I know this because I was approached to do the training! The offer was too low to consider (especially when it involved flying coach to India); I also had serious qualms about undermining a threatened species--American editors. Cries of “turncoat!” haunted my dreams. Nonetheless, overseas writers are poised to grab a share of our too limited market. A writer from another (somewhat) English-speaking culture could do assessment in some areas (math and science, for example) with relative success. With an American editor, non-native writers could even do assessments in other subjects. Their biggest challenge would be to avoid the forbidden topics.

I am currently working on a project for a company that has to have a translator on site so that editors can communicate with the boss a few steps away in the corner office.

Mind you, these are the best of the best and include two people I worked with closely at McGraw-Hill and Harcourt back in the short-lived glory days of educational publishing. DZ wrote a blog post that sums up all of our feelings, I think.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Nimbleness and the News

At TST BOCES this year, we've talked a lot about the advantages of being a smaller, more localized organization than some other BOCES. It gives us the opportunity for a sort of agility that larger organizations just cannot have. If necessary, we should be able to turn on a dime to support new objectives or unexpected requests. We haven't entirely reached our goal of nimbleness, but we're getting there.

A few weeks ago, wearing my other hat as Director of Communications for the local Dems, I met with the editor of a new online newspaper, the Ithaca Voice. The paperless paper went live on June 15, and just five days later, this new medium was tested in the fire of a genuine disaster when a tractor-trailer laden with cars missed the turn at the bottom of State Street, avoided a group of construction workers, and barreled into Simeon's, killing one, injuring several, and nearly destroying a beautiful historic building at the entrance to the City.

What made the Voice's coverage stand out was its nimbleness. Other media tweeted from the site, but the Voice did so continuously and in depth. The Journal was limited by the fact that the accident happened on a Friday late afternoon, when much of the Saturday paper is already complete, and the paper does not publish on Sunday. The radio stations were hampered by lack of personnel and the fact that their local news coverage mostly happens in the morning. Other media arrived late to the scene, but the Voice had already been sending updates for hours on Facebook and Twitter, while putting together longer pieces on its website.

To its credit and reputation, the Voice clambered all over the story, interviewing key players, posting photos (but deciding not to post video of the incident itself), and generally comporting itself like a real, live, capable, scrupulous, nimble newsforce to be reckoned with.

UPDATE: And now the Voice reveals itself as a credible investigative tool as well, with an aspect of the story no one else has broken.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Required Reading

Ed Week blog on the perhaps unsurprising link between presidential contenders and dropping of the Common Core State Standards. My question is: Why do those most avidly seeking a federal position most avidly argue against federal intrusion?
In the end, the landscape seems to say that governors not running for president feel far more comfortable supporting the common core, or at least not actively undermining it, than the half-dozen or so governors who have 2016 on their minds.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Might Actually Have to Read His Book

I don't know, but I still think this stuff's important.
Bureaucracies organically flow toward the easier result, and the easier result is always a smaller company, an undefended person, a low-level drug dealer. They hesitate before it decides to proceed against a well-heeled, well-defended company [against which] they’re going to have to fight for years and years and years just to get the case in court … It’s not just about the poor, it’s more about how there’s a class that enjoys impunity and then there’s everybody else.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Back to the Stone Age

So South Carolina and Oklahoma have voted to dump the Common Core Standards and devise their own. Of course, like all 50 states, SC and OK had their own educational standards for years, which enabled their kids to score regularly well below the national average on the NAEP, the "nation's report card." This chart from the Center for Education Statistics is pretty easy to interpret; just select a state, read it, and weep. It doesn't do much to reassure me that either OK or SC can "raise the bar," as Governor Fallin suggests they can. Both states are always in the bottom 10 of Education Week's ranking of the nation's schools. But f*ck the kids, let's play politics.

"The bill is designed to make sure that any future public school standards bear little resemblance to the Common Core...."