Monday Reading List: Education at the Emmys, State Control, and Gaming Graduation

Char Adams of People has the big education story this morning ... for real:

Leave it to Dave Chappelle and John Oliver to get the Twittersphere talking. Chappelle, 44, inadvertently sparked the trending topic at Sunday’s Emmy Awards when he gave a shout out to Washington, D.C., public schools during an unrehearsed bit ... “Shout out to D.C. public schools. Here we go,” he said before going back to reading the monitor. Later in the show, John Oliver urged Twitter users to use the hashtag #DCpublicschools to make the slogan trend on the social media site. With that, the hashtag was soon in the site’s top ten trending topics.

And then DC Public Schools was like:

It's touching to see the spotlight turn to DC in such a positive way, given how hard that system has worked to improve in the last decade, often while inspiring vigorous critique. (Full disclosure: I used to work at DC Public Schools.)

In other news, as David Chen writes in The New York Times, the Newark, New Jersey school system is changing its governance structure after two decades of state control:

For more than 20 years, local administrators have had little leverage over the finances or operations of the state’s largest school district. Choices about curriculum and programs were made mostly by a state-appointed superintendent, often an outsider. The city could not override personnel decisions ... With the district improving slowly but steadily in recent years, the state board of education is expected on Wednesday to approve a plan that would ultimately give Newark control again over its public schools with their almost $1 billion budget and 55,000 students.

There are many micro-stories within the narrative of Newark: the lackluster results of state control nationally; the waning of the era of the hard-charging-outsider superintendent; the relationship between charters and districts at the local level; and more. For education insiders, however, the relationship between Mayor Ras Baraka and Superintendent Chris Cerf might be the most constructive thread to pull; their surprising partnership contains a multitude of lessons for would-be reformers on any side of the education debates.

Finally today, Alia Wong is in The Atlantic, examining the unintended consequences of Chicago's newest education dictum:

In April, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel laid down a mandate: Every public-school student in Chicago must have a destination in order to receive their high-school diploma. In other words, all Chicago Public Schools and public-charter-school students must have a postsecondary plan in order to graduate. The idea is to ensure not only that the estimated 40 percent of CPS students without a plan don’t end up on the streets once they leave high school but also that they’re equipped with the know-how to fulfill their goals ... To Emanuel, the mandate is urgently needed to address a grave problem in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, where unemployment is widespread and violence seems unavoidable. The mayor’s critics say the rule will make things much worse for people who are already struggling; the last thing Chicago’s students need is another hurdle in the way of a high-school diploma.
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Read the whole article, because Wong does a nice job of describing how large, bureaucratic systems react to the imposition of a new public metric. On the one hand, when it comes to accountability for significant public systems, fewer, clearer metrics are preferable to multiple, diffuse ones. On the other hand, it's easy to game - and consequently dampen the value of - the acquisition of a high school diploma. Spoiler alert: there's no easy answer.

Have a great week!