Washington area's top education bloggers
[This is my Local Living section column for April 15, 2010.]
Several weeks ago, my blogging colleague Valerie Strauss (The Answer Sheet) and I announced our picks for best education blogs of this year. Our favorites were a diverse bunch, with many witty teachers, incisive journalists and droll experts of other kinds providing unusual perspectives.
But Washington area education bloggers were severely under(represented. I found only two, one in Fairfax County and one in the District, who had the acidity and depth I craved.
Since then, the more I read those two blogs, www.assortedstuff.com by Tim Stahmer and GFBrandenburg's Blog by Guy Brandenburg, the more impressed I am by their erudition, energy and skill at undermining my most cherished ideas. So I feel obliged to introduce them to readers who see my stuff only here in the newspaper, not online. At the same time, I beg Web surfers to tell me when they find a similarly worthy Maryland education blog, so I have at least one to follow in each of our three major jurisdictions.
Stahmer says on his blog that he is "an Instructional Technology Specialist working in the Office of Instructional Technology Integration" of what is clearly the Fairfax County public schools. Nonetheless, he never identifies his employer in any way but "an overly large school district on the Virginia side of Washington DC." He knows classrooms, having taught math, computer literacy, computer science and even a bit of American history in middle and high schools for 17 years. His wife taught music in public schools and a D.C. charter school. His sister home-schools her four kids.
My favorite Stahmer posts are his attacks on me. For instance: "In his discussion of Diane Ravitch's new book, Jay Mathews inserts several declarative statements of what he believes to be truth, including the assertion that I must be nuts. And by his definition, I am." I had said that America, since it is a democracy, has to bumble along without expecting quick and radical school improvement, even though "there are some crazies out there who disagree with this and say an education revolution is possible."
Stahmer responded: "When I take a good look around, it's not difficult to understand that not only is an education revolution possible, it's happening. Just not in schools." His posts are smart about the technology. He is clear and often funny. I long for more on how the revolution he is talking about can be brought to public schools, given the change-resistant nature of school administrations and school boards.
Brandenburg is much more critical, not of me but of my favorite urban school superintendent, Michelle A. Rhee, and also of the Post's pro-Rhee editorial cartoonist, Tom Toles. A better title for this blog might be Everything You Need to Know to Hate Rhee, and More. Don't take that to mean the blog is repetitive and boring. It's not. Brandenburg is a great reporter. I am betting there is some journalistic experience on his résumé, although I can't find any personal information on his blog.
He goes deeper into the Rhee phenomenon than anyone I have read. He somehow unearthed a couple of newspaper stories from the 1990s that shed light on what Rhee did as a schoolteacher in Baltimore. They did not prove Brandenburg's thesis that she lied about her success there, but at least he tried harder to get at this than anyone else. Lately he has been digging into the Capital Gains program in the District, a bizarre experiment in paying students for good grades and good behavior that even Rhee fans such as myself thought was not a good use of teacher time.
Reading these blogs is a good way to spice your lunch break. Find me a Maryland schools blog as exciting, and I will give you full credit in large, boldface Web type.
For more Jay, go to washingtonpost.com/class-struggle. For more on schools go to washingtonpost.com/education.
| April 14, 2010; 10:00 PM ET
Categories: Local Living | Tags: GFBrandenburg's, Guy Brandenburg, Tim Stahmer, assortedstuff.com, top Washington area education bloggers
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