NYT story on technology and education: lots of trees, not so much forest

Yesterday's New York Times has a big piece on technology in education that's worth your time: In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores. And while it's a useful read, this kind of story, to me, illustrates issues in both education and journalism.

As much as I love technology, as a student of Neil Postman, I always ask "what problem are we trying to solve," and asking that about kindergartners on laptops returns the null set. Also, I'm painfully aware that gadgets do nothing without the other two legs of the stool: professional development and robust tech support. We still have classrooms that would be familiar to students from Sumer; just adding technology is not transformation.

But this is a failure of journalism, too. There's no apparent awareness of situatedness within the shift from literate to digital culture, and there is an untested belief that we should have definitive, measurable data this early (and yes, just ~30 years of computers in education is early; this is a very big pig going through a very sluggish python's digestive system).

I'm wondering if Plato's students would have done better on standardized tests of oratory in a curriculum delivered through writing.

Sorry to spew. Just makes me cranky.

Localblogging, 02871, Schools, media ecology

Portsmouth Education Foundation awards $15K in teacher grants

Portsmouth teacher Val Seveney receives grant from PPEF President Marilyn Brockway. Photo courtesy PPEF.

At the teacher orientation session on Wednesday, the Portsmouth Public Education Foundation (PPEF) awarded 18 Educational Excellence grants totaling over $15,000. Newly elected PPEF president Marilyn Brockway and PPEF Treasurer Donna Manning were at hand to present the certificates to the teachers.

Every school in the district was represented, with the following teachers receiving grants for their projects:

Howard W. Hathaway Elementary

  • Patricia Fay “Manipulating Math” - William “Jay” Humphrey, Jr. Memorial Grant
  • Laura Backman “Food, Farming and Fiber” – Senate Civic Support Grant
  • Joan Mouradjian “Hathaway Players” – Dr. Robert A. Davidson Grant
  • Karen Anghinetti “Hathaway School Song” - PHS Class of 1981 Grant

Melville Elementary School

  • Valerie Seveney “Picture This” – Dr. Robert A. Davidson Grant
  • Tricia Doran, Cathy Vieira, Sue Frost and Erica Magilton “Every Disc Tells a Story” – Albert Honnen, Sr. Memorial Grant
  • Michelle Polselli “Life in your Watershed”

Portsmouth Middle School

  • Heather Baker and Erin Costa “March into Reading” – Senate Civic Support Grant
  • Carol Strakosch “Capturing Class” – Dr. Robert A. Davidson Grant
  • Susan Janik and Lori Stone “Reading for Research”
  • Keri Jardine “Technology on the Move”
  • Rebecca Silveira “Worming our Way through Science”

Portsmouth High School

  • Kimberly Hancock “Real World Reading” – Senate Civic Support Grant
  • Nancy Brandley and Julie Bisbano “Visually Speaking” – Dr. Robert A. Davidson Grant
  • Julie Bisbano “Be Grateful for Poetry” – Dr. Robert A. Davidson Grant
  • Rose Escobar “Spirit of PHS Calendar” – Dr. Robert A. Davidson Grant
  • Kimberly Hancock “Individual Reading Support” – Barton J. Carroll Foundation Grant
  • Nancy Brandley and Rose Escobar “Drawing the Line”

PPEF grants are made possible by fundraising efforts, community support, donations and sponsorships. PPEF is grateful for the support of the community in helping its mission of enhancing the educational experience in the Portsmouth School District.

PPEF will also be hosting its Annual Fall Showcase in November to showcase the projects of last year’s grant recipients. This year will be an extra special Fall Showcase, since PPEF will also be celebrating its 10-year anniversary. This showcase will be held on Thursday, November 3 at the Glenn Manor House. As always, the event is open to the public and the community is warmly invited to this special Fall Showcase Event.

PPEF recognizes the Dr. Robert A. Davidson Foundation and the Davidson family for their continuing support. PPEF also thanks the Barton J. Carroll Foundation and the Carroll family who are long time supporters of PPEF. We also thank Mr. Albert Honnen, Sr. family and friends for their generous support this year in memory of Mr. Albert Honnen, Sr. and the office of Sen. Chris Ottiano, Mrs. Katherine Humphrey, and PHS Class of 1981 for their contributions.

PPEF is a not for profit 501(c)3 organization formed in 2001 by dedicated, private citizens interested in investing in education. Its mission is to improve and enhance the quality of the educational experiences for all Portsmouth public school students. In the past 10 years PPEF has awarded 152 grants totaling close to $87,000.00 which has impacted every school in the Portsmouth School district.

PPEF also congratulates newly elected president Marilyn Brockway and new board member, Mr. Michael Daly.

Donations are welcomed through our Friends campaign or through your United Way work contribution. Please visit our website or like us on Facebook.

Full disclosure: I am a member of the PPEF board.

Localblogging, Schools, PPEF, 02981

Rhode Islanders celebrate anniversary of Race to the Top

PROVIDENCE (via RIDE press release) Rhode Island educators, government and business leaders, and other community members gathered today (August 24) to celebrate the first anniversary of the Race to the Top grant.

One year ago today, the U.S. Department of Education recognized the excellence of the Rhode Island strategic plan for transforming education and awarded the state $75 million to advance student achievement and close achievement gaps.

“My commitment to public education was reflected in my fiscal year 2012 budget, which fully funded the formula for K-12 education and proposed 10 million additional dollars for higher education,” Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said, in marking the one-year anniversary of Race to the Top. “I look forward to working with Commissioner Gist and the Board of Regents to continue putting Race to the Top funds to use improving public education in Rhode Island.”

At a R.I. Department of Education (RIDE) news conference this morning, many government and education leaders reflected on the significance of Race to the Top for Rhode Island.

“At a time when Rhode Island and many other states across our country are experiencing economic difficulties, there are some beacons of light. and the collaborative energy in Rhode Island surrounding Race to the Top is one of them,” said Congressman David Cicilline. “I was proud to be part of Rhode Island’s Race to the Top Delegation, along with Superintendant Tom Brady and Providence Teachers Union President Steve Smith, which traveled to Washington last year to present the best case for Rhode Island’s application, and I am even more proud to be here with you today to celebrate our achievements. I applaud the work that has been done to strengthen the foundation Rhode Island has built to drive meaningful education reform and the public-private partnerships that are driving the state’s successful initiative. Due to these partnerships, our state’s education system will have a brighter future and our children will be college- and career-ready.”

“The one-year anniversary is a time to reflect upon the foundation being built that we all hope will lead to many accomplishments ahead,” said Speaker of the House Gordon D. Fox.  “Through this grant, the groundwork is now being established to implement innovative programs and develop aggressive strategies in support of our dedicated teachers in order for them to help Rhode Island’s students reach unprecedented heights.”

“Rhode Island’s success in securing a highly competitive Race to the Top grant was a result of a broad cross-section of interests coming together with the common purpose of improving the state’s educational systems,” said Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed. “Rhode Island teachers’ willingness to challenge the status quo has been instrumental in our success to this point. We’re off to a great start, and I look forward to continued collaboration among government leaders, education officials, and educators as we work to implement reforms and build a world-class education system in Rhode Island.”

“The award of Race to the Top was a historic occasion for education in Rhode Island,” said George D. Caruolo, Chairman of the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education. “We were honored to earn this award, and we pledge to all Rhode Islanders that we will use these funds to improve education in Rhode Island. With help from Race to the Top funds, with the support of state and local government, with dedicated and passionate teachers and the interest and desire of parents and families across Rhode Island, we are all working our hardest to make our public schools the best in America.”

“Race to the Top has inspired Rhode Islanders to believe in our students, our teachers, and our schools and to work together to transform education across the state,” said Deborah A. Gist, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “As we enter Year Two of Race to the Top funding, we can take pride in what we have achieved to date, and we look forward to beginning important new initiatives in the coming school year.”

Many government leaders, educators, students, and community members, as well as representatives of the Race to the Top Steering Committee and several Rhode Islanders who traveled to Washington last year in a show of nonpartisan support for the Rhode Island Race to the Top application, attended this morning’s news conference, which was held at the Rhode Island Foundation.

“The Foundation’s commitment to public education is stronger than ever,” noted Rhode Island Foundation President & CEO Neil Steinberg, co-chair of the Race to the Top Steering Committee. “Thanks to the partnerships forged during the application process, we have seen real progress in this critical first year of Race to the Top. It’s rewarding to be part of a group that is so positive and energized about what it is possible to achieve in Rhode Island’s schools.”

“In the first year of Race to the Top, superintendents, principals, and teachers collaborated with RIDE to develop new teacher and principal evaluation systems and plan our transition to world-class learning standards,” said Colleen B. Jermain, co-chair of the Race to the Top Steering Committee. “Now we’re beginning a new school year and an exciting second year of Race to the Top. Educators are looking forward to having a comprehensive set of new tools to support students and teachers in our classrooms. The Steering Committee will continue to provide guidance and feedback to ensure that we use Race to the Top funds wisely to advance student learning and to close achievement gaps.”

The accomplishments during Year One of Race to the Top include:

  • Collaboration between RIDE and every school district to prepare budgets and four-year plans for use of Race to the Top funds;
  • Training nearly 2,500 teachers from 19 school districts to prepare them to use the new Common Core State Standards; and
  • Training nearly 600 educators and 85 principals to prepare them to implement the new educator-evaluation system across the state.

In Year Two of Race to the Top, several new initiatives will get under way, including:

  • Launching teacher-induction programs to support Rhode Island beginning teachers;
  • Beginning intensive curriculum work in English and mathematics in 11 school districts;
  • Implementing annual evaluations of every teacher and principal; and
  • Developing new opportunities for students to use technology to engage in virtual learning.

Race to the Top expenditures to date are:

  • Spent to date on Year One initiatives: $1.6 million; and
  • Projected total spending in Year One of Race to the Top (by September 30): $3.5 million.

On August 24, 2010, Rhode Island become one of 11 states (plus the District of Columbia) to win a highly competitive Race to the Top grant. On receipt of this grant, RIDE worked with all districts to develop Scopes of Work and budget documents, which specify how Rhode Island will use the Race to the Top funds to transform education over the four years of the grant. RIDE submitted the Scopes of Work and budget documents to the U.S. Department of Education in November 2010, and the Department approved the Rhode Island plan in April 2011.

Further information about how Rhode Island is using the Race to the Top funds is available on the RIDE Web site, at:

Editorial note: Served straight up from a RIDE press release.

02871, Schools, RI, RTTT

Portsmouth blogger takes on RI-CAN report in GoLocalProv

Today's GoLocalProv covers an "issue brief" on charter schools released by the RI Campaign for Achievement Now (RI-CAN) and they reached out to me for comment.

You should take a few minutes to read the RI-CAN report, Putting Achievement First. While most of the claims are couched in careful language ("charter schools...can help initiate meaningful conversations," "can model innovative practices," etc.), one sentence, on page 9 of the report sticks out:

Public charter schools are tuition-free public schools. They do not increase a state's education costs because they are funded based on the number of students enrolled, otherwise known as per-pupil funding.

I may just be a simple blogger, without a 501(c)3 organization that advocates at the State House, but this is just plain wrong, and I said so to GoLocalProv. Charters are almost certain to increase the state's overall spend on education, as well as drain funds from cash-strapped districts. Here's how GoLocalProv quoted me:

McDaid said it's unlikely that a sufficient number of students would transfer to a charter to justify cutting a teaching position. "They make the argument that it 'raises the boats.' The issue for me is the concrete impact of removing the funding for the students from the rest of the district," McDaid said. "They can't cut that number of teachers. They can't recoup that $8,000."

While I absolutely support improving student achievement — and long-time readers will know that I'm a big fan of innovation — I just don't see charters as the magic bullet supporters claim.

If you want to see the research I was citing from Education Week, you can see this study at which shows ambiguous results for charters, or this one from Stanford University which found similar achievement compared to traditional schools, or even this study, conducted by a charter operator, Knowlede Is Power Program (KIPP), which found that some subgroups did better at charters, but again, with a mixed overall result.

Full disclosure: I am married to a teacher who works in Massachusetts.

Localblogging, 02871, Schools, RI

Portsmouth celebrates, says goodbye to Supt. Lusi

Supt. Sue Lusi holds her gift from Portsmouth School Committee (l-r Cynthia Perrotti, Dave Croston, Jonathan Harris, Marilyn King)

More than 50 Portsmouth residents — elected officials, teachers, administrators, parents, and community members — gathered at the middle school this afternoon for a farewell celebration in honor of departing superintendent Sue Lusi.

Town Councilor Jim Seveney was on hand to present Dr. Lusi with a ceremonial tile, and he thanked her on behalf of the town for her efforts under what were often times difficult circumstances.

Mark Dunham, director of school finance and administration, read a resolution from Sen. Chris Ottiano, congratulating Dr. Lusi on her accomplishments as "a dedicated, innovative educator and administrator."

Former school committee chair Dick Carpender praised Lusi's integrity and candor. "As soon as I met her, I knew we had hired somebody who wasn't going to hold anything back, and that was the way we worked together for the next five years." He went on, "Some of the decisions she brought forward to us were difficult — closing schools, not one but two. No matter how difficult the circumstance or the pressure, she handled herself with dignity and civility."

João Arruda, vice principal of the middle school, read a letter from RI House Speaker Gordon Fox and Reps Edwards, Gallison, and Riley congratulating her for her accomplishments and praising her "dedication to an atmosphere of excellence for faculty and students."

Joe Cassady, president of NEA Portsmouth, thanked her on behalf of the teachers. "You've been outstanding for this district for the six years of your tenure. One thing we never questioned was your sincerity, and your goal was always, assuredly, the children."

Called on for a few words, Lusi said that she had "cherished every moment," and praised the teachers, administrators, and community members for their "dedication and strength." Said Lusi, "The system is never better than the people, and you are the reason for all the successes."

After the ceremony, members of the school committee, town councilors, and parents spent time chatting with Lusi and enjoying punch and snacks in the middle school library.

I've covered Portsmouth for the past five years. On several occasions, I've heard Lusi use an aphorism to highlight what really matters.

"Superintendents come and go," she would say, "But the schools belong to the people."

Superintendents may come and go, but the truly great ones leave lasting impressions on the schools, the kids, and the town.

Dr. Lusi was one of those, and Portsmouth is better for her years of dedicated, creative, selfless service.

Thank you, Sue.

Localblogging, 02871, Schools

Gist weighs in on Lusi Providence Supe appointment

RI Education Commissioner Deborah Gist released a statement this afternoon on the appointment of departing Portsmouth Supt. Sue Lusi as interim head of the Providence schools.

I commend the Providence School Board on the selection of Susan F. Lusi as the interim superintendent of the Providence Public Schools. From her experiences at the Providence School Department and at the R.I. Department of Education, Dr. Lusi has gained a solid understanding of the challenges we face as we strive to accelerate all schools toward greatness. In her most recent position as Superintendent of Schools in Portsmouth, Dr. Lusi has been a strong advocate for many statewide initiatives, including the development of our strategic plan and our Race to the Top application. We will continue to support the Providence Schools in the search for the next superintendent. In the interim, I look forward to working in partnership with Dr. Lusi to transform education in Providence and to provide a world-class education to all Rhode Island students.
—Deborah A. Gist, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

Localblogging, 02871, Schools, RI, Gist

Patches report on new Portsmouth Superintendent

Portsmouth Patch is reporting that at last night's meeting, the Portsmouth School Committee announced the appointment of Dr. Lynn Krizic as the district's new superintendent.

In a spooky coincidence, Dr. Krizic comes to Portsmouth from a district called Elmhurst in Illinois.

What are the odds, eh?

There's some coverage of Dr. Krizic on the Elmhurst Patch, including this piece on the controversy around her non-renewal, and this story which indicates that she took a $40K pay cut to come to Portsmouth. The comments on this Patch Q&A are pretty harsh, but just remember that every community has their Eastside and SoPo.

Localblogging, 02871, School Committee, Schools

Last week to nominate for the PPEF Portsmouth Teacher of the Year!

Do you know a teacher who has greatly impacted a child’s education? Someone who truly excels at his/her profession? The Portsmouth Public Education Foundation (PPEF), sponsored by NewportFed, is accepting nominations for the 2010/2011 Portsmouth Public School Teacher of the Year until May 31. Any member of the community is invited to submit a nomination form supporting why their chosen teacher has earned this distinction.

Nomination forms were be distributed to all students in Portsmouth Public Schools to bring home the first week of May (check the bottom of the backpack; it's probably in there somewhere...), and hard-copy forms are available for the community to pick up at NewportFed’s new Portsmouth Branch at 1430 East Main Road.

Or you can pop over to the PPEF web site and download a PDF. You can fill it out onscreen and print, but you need to submit a paper copy.

Nominations will be accepted through May 31. Completed nomination forms can be dropped off at NewportFed's Portsmouth Branch, 1430 East Main Road, during normal business hours; or mailed directly to the PPEF, P.O. Box 58, Portsmouth, RI 02871; or the tech-savvy can email to The winning teacher will be awarded at the PPEF Annual Fall Social in November.

Full disclosure: I serve on the PPEF board, and I like teachers.

Localblogging, 02871, Schools, PPEF

RIDE Commisioner Gist vists Portsmouth on May 31

RI Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist will visit Portsmouth Middle School and hold a community forum from 6:30-8pm on Tuesday, May 31 as part of her 2010-11 "Listening and Learning Tour," according to a press release.

The R.I. Department of Education (RIDE) has posted a schedule of the Listening and Learning Tour on their web site.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

Localblogging, 02871, Schools, RIDE