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Posts by Benjamin Riley

GREAT Act: More Reality Needed in Teaching… and Op-Eds

We have a serious problem in the United States: when it comes to training teachers, we are somewhere between mediocre to terrible. And we do a particularly bad job of training effective teachers to serve in our highest-need areas (particularly areas of poverty) and our hardest to staff subjects. At NewSchools Venture Fund, we’ve made no secret of our strong support for proposed federal legislation, the GREAT Teachers and Principals Act (S. 1052 and H.R. 2196), that’s designed to address this problem. The GREAT Act is an entirely voluntary, state-based program that – if enacted – is designed to create new teacher and principal training academies that will embrace three core principles. Read more

Mowing Down the Mistakes of Confused Common Core Opponents

On Friday, the San Francisco Chronicle’s online portal SFGate.com ran an anti-Common Core op-ed authored by George Ball, the “past president of the American Horticultural Society.” While reasonable minds may disagree about the merits of the Common Core, this particular editorial was so riddled with factual errors I couldn’t stop myself from going through this piece line-by-line to rebut the most egregious misstatements. It’s one thing for the far-right fringe to indulge in Common Corespiracy theories, but surely the Chronicle can do better than this? Read more

Why are the Common Core standards worth fighting for?

Before answering that question, let’s first do a little homework. Please turn to page 22 of this booklet, released only this morning, which contains sample assessment items from the New York state Common Core-aligned math assessment for third graders. Although you might be afraid of math even at this grade level, page 22 contains a relatively easy question about finding the areas for two equivalent rectangles. This question aligns with the Common Core standard 3.MD.C.7a, which in plain English means 3rd grade math, measurement and data, covering the concept of geometric measurement of area and related to multiplication and addition. Read more

Refuting Peter Buffett’s ‘New Code’

So, what should we make of Peter Buffett’s op-ed against “The Charitable-Industrial Complex”? I’ll confess I’m confused by his argument. Buffett begins by railing against something he calls “Philanthropic Colonialism,” which he describes as the hobby of philanthropists who want to improve the world by meddling with farming methods, education practices, or job training. There’s a legitimate argument to be made about how misguided philanthropic endeavors in local communities can go awry (and Buffet is hardly the first to make it). Read more

Building a Digital Depository

These are exciting times for education entrepreneurship, technology, and the policy ecosystem that surrounds them both. Whether gauged by new school “startup weekends,” venture capital interest, or simply taking note of educators embracing digital tools, there is no question we are in a special moment. We may be on the verge of transformation that will radically redefine our instructional practices and improve learning outcomes – and make the education field one that […] Read more

Fat SOTUesday: Benjamin Riley’s Take on the SOTU Address

I have a confession to make. I did not watch the President’s State of the Union speech last night. I have not even read the transcript. Am I a bad policy director? Yes, yes I am. On the other hand, it’s not my fault that the President inconveniently scheduled his big speech laying out his domestic policy agenda for 2013 the same night as Fat Tuesday. Read more

Edu-implications of the Election

I came into work this morning to find a note on my monitor that reads, “4 More Years!! :).” That nicely sums up the predominant sentiment in the nation’s capital, which celebrated last night in truly spectacular fashion. Congratulations, President Obama – may your next four years be slightly less eventful than the first.I also tip my proverbial hat to Mitt Romney, who in my opinion ran a very good campaign. He […] Read more

Personalized Learning: Racing Too Fast?

A few years ago, I read a column by Bill Simmons (the Sports Guy of Grantland/ESPN fame), wherein he described his inexplicable resistance to watching new television shows that friends recommend to him. Because of this trait, Simmons failed to watch The Wire or Breaking Bad until they were well into their third or fourth seasons, two shows that he now hails as masterpieces (because they are). Despite some furious Googling this […] Read more