Teacher talent is the biggest challenge to education reform: notes from Ted Hershberg

Penn Professor Ted Hershberg

A dense, 30-minute look at the past, present and future of education reform in the United States was the focus of a presentation by the celebrated University of Pennsylvania professor Ted Hershberg last week.

Though his lecture was part of a class I’m taking that is officially off-the-record, because I know Hershberg’s work through a friend of mine who is part of his research team and what he said follows what he often speaks on, I thought it was okay to share what I felt was a helpful top-level look at the problems and opportunities.

For context, Hershberg is an open left-of-center thinker, but he has a reputation for being an outspoken critic of the teacher’s unions. I share some easy-to-digest notes below.

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8 ways to make Philadelphia more innovative: Young Involved Philadelphia presentation

The annual State of Young Philly event series from Young Involved Philadelphia featured two economy-focused events at which I spoke.

One was a series of lightning presentations last week and a second was a panel discussion Tuesday night that was followed by breakout groups.

Some takeaways below.

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Mark Headd is your new Chief Data Officer: Philadelphia magazine

The future for the new City of Philadelphia Chief Data Officer Mark Headd and his role on this local government’s online transparency was the focus of my first contribution to Philadelphia magazine.

I’ve followed Headd, the city’s transparency movements and the open government movement for years, so I was eager to pitch and report out a more general-interest focused story. I was also excited to get the piece out to a broader audience — thanks to editor Tom McGrath for the interest and the opportunity.

I suggest you buy a copy, but you can also see the story online.

As always, I share some of what didn’t make it into the story below.

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Puritan Boston, Quaker Philadelphia: notes on 1979 research from E. Digby Baltzell

Sociologist E. Digby Baltzell. Photo from Penn Collection. Circa 1970.

Boston was built by Puritans, who celebrated civic power and class authority. Philadelphia was built by Quakers, who championed equality and deference.

Two hundred fifty years later, though considerably fewer people in those cities consider themselves a member of either group, their impact is still chiefly responsible for Boston outperforming and Philadelphia underperforming in their contributions to the greater world.

That’s the chief argument of the dense, heavily-researched, 500-page, 1979 academic classic Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia, written by University of Pennsylvania sociologist E. Digby Baltzell (1915-1996). The core of the book is said to be based on some 300 interviews with Proper Philadelphians and Brahmin Bostonians, and part of a decades-long research focus that Baltzell had on his Protestant brethren — he has been sometimes credited with popularizing the “WASP” term.

This is a book that is a fabulous read for understanding Philadelphia and Boston, but it is also a treasure for those who love new perspectives on American culture, U.S. history and the development of cities.

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One Percent for Art Ordinance: in Philly, a percentage of all public construction costs must go to art

In Hawthorne Park at 12th and Catharine in South Philadelphia, this lectern was commissioned to commemorate a speech in 1965 that Martin Luther King Jr. gave on that spot when it was a housing project. It was funded as part of the city’s ‘One Percent for Art’ ordinance.

Visiting the freshly renovated Hawthorne Park in South Philadelphia recently had me reading casual references to this city’s celebrated, half-century old One Percent for Art Ordinance. Though I’ve come to know it and it’s often called a major reason for this city’s reputation for public art, I haven’t been able to find much writing of its roots.

Since so many other cities have followed this trend, I thought it was worth sussing out where the idea originated.

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Technically Baltimore and Baltimore Innovation Week: we’ve expanded

First shared in April and then announced more fully last month, earlier this summer, I helped soft-launch Technically Baltimore, another local technology news site committed to covering and growing the conversation around technology bettering the region there.

What’s even better is that, with the help of more than a dozen partners, we’re also organizing the inaugural Baltimore Innovation Week the last week of September, featuring more than 20 events.

It’s an entirely new challenge to go to a new city, though we’ve spent at least a year familiarizing ourselves with Charm City and its meaningful, passionate technology community and have hired a full-time reporter there. Our goal is to take what we’ve learned in Philadelphia and do it better in another city we love: connect entrepreneurship, enterprise, digital access, smarter government and creative and artistic communities at their intersection and try to use news as convener and connector to raise awareness and strengthen their impact on Baltimore.

Let me know if you know anyone we should know. It’s a thrilling opportunity.

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Philly Geek Awards 2012 presenting

geek-awards-2012

My cofounder Brian Kirk and our lead reporter Juliana Reyes joined me on the stage at this second annual Philly Geek Awards to introduce two categories. As last year, it was a special event and a great opportunity to poke a little at our friends and award show organizers Geekadelphia.

Watch me do something similar at the inaugural awards last year here. See a full recap of this year’s vent here.

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Corporate jargon: a collection and translation of common business slang

There is no shortage of jokes and jabs at corporate jargon. But here’s another.

Though the Internet has its fair share of lists and collections and compilations and generators, I felt too few of them actually helped remind us what they really meant and why they’re so hated — a PC obfuscation of business politics.

So this isn’t meant to be as comprehensive as the ones above, but rather a set of ones I really hear and have really come to understand to have a different, somewhat more subtle meaning.

In the past few years, I’ve gotten a taste of some and felt it took time to learn the most common underlying meaning. I use a lot of these words and phrases, and I don’t necessarily think that’s all that bad. Instead, I list them to help remind myself that I can often be more direct. Here’s my best shot at helping the cause for the rest of us.

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Does your knowledge economy-based city of the future import or export more ideas, culture?

If we are to build cities based in the so-called knowledge economy, one of the primary methods for judging its success should be very familiar: net exports.

In culture, ideas, concepts, general intellectual capital and, yes, even businesses and organizations, it may be worth questioning whether your city is mostly taking from others or mostly giving to others. Indeed, one wouldn’t only want to export knowledge — we always want to take ideas from others to get better — but a good sign of the success of a healthy region is the clustering of smart, creative people and their creating ideas, projects, businesses, ideas that are worth being shared elsewhere.

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