I have spent an exceptional amount of time this week thinking about tests in the service of three separate, unrelated stories that raise insanely nerdy questions about what gets measured by which, and with what yardstick.
Fun fact: California’s version of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment, the API, rates schools on a 1,000-point scale. I found what I needed to know, but questions persist. To wit: If a score in the 600s is essentially a D, how is one in the high 700s a solid B? And do I stand a snowball’s chance of recovering the space on my mental hard drive now occupied by such details?
Because I need to continue cramming about the tests, today I offer you a short but sweet item of interest. Chris Stewart has left his position as executive director of the African American Leadership Forum (AALF) to become director of outreach and external affairs for a new national education reform communications effort.
Stewart will be blogging for Education Post, a nonprofit stocked with heavy hitters, and also finding education communicators in marginalized communities. The project is in the process of identifying those communities, he says. The idea is to create a space for civil dialogue and to highlight reform efforts that are working.
From the Washington Post’s story on the effort: “Peter Cunningham, the former communications guru for U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, is leading the organization, which is backed with initial grants totaling $12 million from the Broad Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Walton Family Foundation and an anonymous donor.
“It will focus on three areas: K-12 academic standards, high-quality charter schools, and how best to hold teachers and schools accountable for educating students.”
Stewart has some high-profile company. Initial blog posts include writing by former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who heads Education Post’s advisory board. Villaraigosa, for those who do not spend their days staying abreast of education issues nationally, is a former teachers union organizer who, as mayor, pushed reforms the union opposed.
Stewart has been active and visible in Twin Cities education circles since his successful run for the Minneapolis School Board in 2006. His tenure was not without controversy, to put it mildly, though much of it was generated by Stewart’s refusal to go along to get along.
If you’ve never met Stewart, the very first story I wrote using him as a source will give you a flavor. Reporters weren’t typically allowed in schools back in the bad old era of 2007. He invited me to visit a school with him anyhow — he read “The Angry Caterpillar” to kindergartners — because who tells a board member they can’t bring a guest?
Since leaving the board, Stewart has remained focused on education, working through AALF to organize school-board candidate forums — a space once occupied pretty much solely by teacher unions.
Along the way he attempted to bring philosophical foes to the table for respectful conversation about education-sphere books, helped to launch the high-profile Generation Next initiative and spent time at the Capitol working on sundry pieces of legislation.
I may be the only person who knows it, but he is also Minnesota’s most organized and detail-oriented education archivist. He has saved every piece of paper ever generated by any of the bureaucracies he has touched and can remember precisely the associated votes as well as the accompanying skullduggery.
Finally, Stewart is a prolific blogger. It was that writing that brought him to the attention of the folks at Education Post, who are probably right in thinking that Stewart is pretty good at finding and nurturing other tall poppies.