July 2, 2015

SCOTUS To Hear Friedrichs, Doomsday For Teachers Unions Or A Mixed Bag For Schools? Or Both?

In its next term the Supreme Court will hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers association a cleverly constructed case that threatens to undo today’s agency fee structure and dramatically weaken teachers unions. Simplistic takes of how good or bad this will be – and the unions seem likely to lose – miss how complicated it will be for the operation of schools and education more generally. I look at all that today in a column in U.S. News & World Report:

By this time next year, everyone in the education world cheering the Supreme Court’s progressivism on health care and gay marriage may be singing a different – and sadder – tune. In its next term, the court will hear cases that could end affirmative action in higher education and curtail the power of teachers unions and other public employee unions. This latter case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, could dramatically weaken teachers unions and scramble the education landscape. The prospect of a defanging of the unions has many in education hopeful after the court agreed to take the case earlier this week. In practice, though, the ramifications of Friedrichs are not so straightforward.

You can read the entire piece here – no agency fee required just click here for USN’s Report. Tell me why you think a post-Friedrichs world will be all Eden-like or horrible on Twittter @arotherham.

Also, check out Bellwether’s Kaitlin Pennington with more on why this case matters at Ahead of the Heard.


July 1, 2015

New Pahara-Aspen Class

New class of Pahara-Aspen Fellows announced today, learn more about them here.


June 30, 2015

Pacts Americana

Bellwether’s Chad Aldeman, Kelly Robson, and Andy Smarick propose a way through the federal accountability/flexibility thicket in a new paper.


Three Points On Dems And Education

Earlier this month Third Way hosted an event to discuss education politics and Democrats. Great event and it was good of them to host the discussion. The theme was what’s next but it turned into a more general discussion of education policy and politics. Discussants were former House education committee chair George Miller, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, pollster Jefrey Pollock (who had an unfair advantage because he has his SAG card and the event was held at D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theater), and me.

A wide-ranging discussion on a range of issues. It used to be that education politics seemed like a race to the center. It’s easy to forget, now, the way George Bush used it in 2000 and the gains (short lived) he made with minority voters in states like Ohio with the issue. These days with only a few Republican leaders (including the president’s brother Jeb Bush) standing in the way of a full-on bums rush to the hard right on education policy the dynamics have changed. Today education politics are less about centrist consensus building and more about resisting reactionary pressure from the right and the left to try to ensure that a focus on under-served students isn’t lost. Three points I made were:

It’s exasperating that Democrats can’t embrace a comprehensive and reformist politics around education. Nine percent of low-income students get a bachelor’s degree by the time they are 24, compared to about four in five more affluent students. It seems more than a little crazy that the party that purports to speak for the little guy isn’t all over that and doesn’t have an aggressive plan to take it on. Solving that problem includes tackling education and non-education issues but it unavoidably demands hard look at our educational system. How we finance, staff, organize, and hold schools accountable has to be part of any serious improvement agenda. Part of the problem with a robust and comprehensive agenda is special interest politics, of course, that’s an old story. But it doesn’t explain all of it and people who only focus on the unions are missing an important part of the story.

We need a middle class politics of education, too. What’s been interesting the past few years is the extent to which people who should be allies on reform have become adversaries. Traditionally a middle class politics of education means leaving suburban schools alone to rise or fall as they might. This has led to widespread mediocrity and pockets of excellence. It also creates an enormous problem for underserved students in those schools. Today, these politics increasingly mean neutering accountability systems to mask uncomfortable bad news about school performance – the Common Core debate is in many ways the latest manifestation of this – and take the pressure for improved performance off. In practice that means that the constituencies Democrats claim to speak for the most – minorities, and working class whites, disconnected, at-risk, or special need students are most likely to be overlooked. Democrats need a much more sophisticated middle class politics that is about supports for better schools, more options and customization for parents, sweeteners for middle income and affluent parents and also about the kind of accountability that doesn’t leave traditionally underserved populations out in the cold. It’s increasingly clear, though, that protecting the most underserved students demands more attention to the politics of the middle class to sustain these efforts.

Watch the courts. There is a lot of attention on the Vergara-case (the California court case about personnel policies in schools) and similar cases in other states. I expect to see more of that because traditionally when people cannot get issues addressed in the political arena they turn to the courts (in this case to force legislators to do something). But the case I’m really watching more immediately is another California case: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. (Just today the Supreme Court agreed to hear this case in its next term). Friedrichs could completely scramble education politics and also the operation of school districts. On the politics, while a lot of people, and a lot of Democrats (George Miller made the point that when he’s considered “anti-union” the term has ceased to mean anything), are exasperated with the teachers unions on education – I think they’re more part of the problem than the solution these days in terms of making schools work better for more kids – they also do a lot of helpful things on various social issues. And if you worry about education funding and other social supports a weakening of the unions is a macro-problem there (impact on a broader array of social issues and causes is another, and significant, issue). Democrats should look at Wisconsin to start to get  a sense of what a post-Friedrich world might look like for good and ill in terms of substantive and political effects. (My bet is that if this comes to pass the NEA will fare better than the AFT because it has much more experience operating successfully in right-to-work environments).

In addition, while the union’s positions on some key educations are hard to defend (read the transcript or watch the video of Vergara for a taste of that) on a day -to-day basis they also do a lot of things that are useful to the operation of schools. Politics aside, if the unions decline there will need to be some smart and innovative ideas about how to pick up that slack through policy and practice. You don’t have to be a fan of today’s teacher work rules, for instance, to also realize that educational administration is a slow-motion disaster and many teachers are treated unfairly and in counterproductive ways. Discrimination remains a live issue and some kinds of discrimination are still unprotected in many states. And given the churn of superintendents in larger districts some mid-level union officials end up being the only people in management/leadership with any institutional memory. In other words, while a lot of people are cheering quietly or not-so-quietly for the Supreme Court to move on Freidrichs it’s naive for reformers, union critics, or others to think it’s all cut and dry if the case is decided against the unions.


June 26, 2015

Paul Hill On Rural Education: Final In A Series! Brand Name Reforms And Rural Education

Note: The Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho (ROCI) has published ten papers over the last six months, looking at important issues in rural education. This is the last in a series of four blog posts that examine key themes that have emerged from the work. 

  • The first blog post discusses the need for rural education reformers to reconcile broader national and world standards with the demands of place-based education. 
  • The second blog post addresses the need to increase rural students’ participation and success in college. It is available here. 
  • The third blog post examines the need to lift counter-productive financial and regulatory constraints on rural schools.

The posts are all available below. The final blog, here, considers how brand reforms that have emerged nationally can be thoughtfully applied to the special circumstances of rural K-12 education.

 BRAND NAME REFORMS IN RURAL EDUCATION

By Paul Hill

Brand-name reforms common in urban education reform – e.g. alternative sources of teachers, technology-based instruction, family choice, charter schools – can have promise in rural areas. But these ideas need to be adapted to the circumstances of rural places and subjected to careful trials, not mandated or rushed into implementation.

Reasoning from results in urban areas helps no one: it is no more valid to say “X (e.g.; chartering) worked in big cities therefore it will work in rural areas,” than it is to say, “Y did not work well in a city, therefore it will fail in rural areas.” A much more cogent line of thinking is necessary.

In applying ideas developed elsewhere it is necessary to consider the special attributes of rural areas. Small size and remoteness will affect whether and how brand-name reforms work in rural areas, for example:

Development of new supplies of rural teachers, as by Teach For America, will depend on whether qualified recruits will be willing to accept the low pay and isolation in rural districts, and whether localities can create teacher vacancies.

Increased use of technology-based instruction depends on need – communities are less likely to use online courses in subjects that are already well taught by a local teacher. It also depends on capacity. Communities with one qualified person to teach a subject like physics can increase the numbers of students that person can reach with online materials. But the same materials may be less useful in a locality that has no one who knows the subject.

Localities too small to have more than one class per grade level will have difficulty offering choices to students (e.g. those entitled to options as a remedy under No Child Left Behind). However, localities large enough to host a charter school, or that are near other school districts or a community college, can offer choices. So can a district of any size or degree of remoteness that has a productive relationship with online coursework providers.

The applicability of charter schools is complex and controversial.[1]  Whether some form of charter school might benefit a rural community depends Read the rest of this entry »


Paul Hill On Rural Edu: Third In A Series! Resource Constraints In Rural Education

Note: The Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho (ROCI) has published ten papers over the last six months, looking at important issues in rural education. This is the third in a series of four blog posts that examine key themes that have emerged from our work. Previous posts are available lower on the page. 

Reports from the ROCI task force are available at www.rociidaho.org. Stay up-to-date on future publications by following on Twitter: @ROCIdaho

The final blog post will discuss how reforms that have emerged nationally can be thoughtfully applied to the special circumstances of rural K-12 education.

RESOURCE CONSTRAINTS IN RURAL EDUCATION

By Paul Hill

Rural schools are highly constrained, both in the resources that receive from state and local sources and in the ways they are required to spend money. As a result schools have difficulty recruiting all the teachers they need, especially in science, mathematics, and education for limited-English speaking children. Localities forced to cut spending can be forced to cut instructional time and student services rather than change staffing patterns or cut the costs of compliance and record keeping. Rural schools need much more flexibility in how they staff themselves, use funds, find talent, and experiment with online technology. Regulations and mandates from policymakers and administrators who think they know the answer to rural schools’ problems, e.g. to hire particular people or use particular online courses, are steps in the wrong direction.

Idaho is an example of a state in which the very low rate of spending on K-12 limits what schools can provide. Some efficiencies are possible, but a combination of very low spending levels and continuing cuts in state and local support can be crippling. Wealthier urban areas around Boise can generously supplement school budgets, in ways that poorer rural communities can’t match. This puts rural schools at a disadvantage in the competition for talented educators, consistent with Dan Player’s report.

Moreover, the fact that virtually all the money available to rural districts is tied up in Read the rest of this entry »


June 25, 2015

Paul Hill On Rural Education, Part Deux! College And Career Connections In Rural Schools

Note: The Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho (ROCI) has published ten papers over the last six months, looking at important issues in rural education. This is the second in a series of four blog posts that examine key themes that have emerged from our work.  The first blog post discusses the need for rural education reformers to reconcile broader national and world standards with the demands of place-based education. The second blog post, below, addresses the need to increase rural students’ participation and success in college. Reports from the ROCI task force are available at: www.rociidaho.org. Stay up-to-date on future publications by following on Twitter: @ROCIdaho.

COLLEGE AND CAREER CONNECTIONS IN RURAL SCHOOLS

By Paul Hill

Though rural K-12 education in most places is performing reasonably well on traditional academic instruction, schools need to give young people better linkages, both to further learning and employment close to home, and to higher education and jobs in urban areas. Students who are geographically isolated from institutions of higher education face particularly severe “linkage” problems. The educators who serve them can also be isolated from new ideas about teaching and the demands of the economy.

In Idaho and in many other states, rural schools have reasonable success teaching core courses and keeping students engaged until graduation. However, schools are much more challenged when it comes to preparing children for education and work after high school. Rural students are less likely to apply to college, less likely to enroll if admitted, and less likely to complete a degree if they enroll. Economic and social factors – e.g. rural students’ distance from their families and unfamiliarity with the college environment – work against rural students. But so might their schools — what students are taught, the kinds of work they are assigned in high school, and how they are advised about college choices. Understanding the causes and remedies for rural students’ college difficulties will be a major focus of future task force work.

Rural areas in sparsely populated states are much more isolated than they are in the Midwest and South. In Ohio, for example, the distance between rural towns is seldom more than 5 miles, and no place in the state is more than 20 miles from a college or university. Something like that might be true Read the rest of this entry »


June 24, 2015

Paul Hill On Rural Education, Part One! World Class Standards And Place-Based Education In Rural Schools

I’ve been traveling – apologies for the light posting. Paul Hill is going to pinch hit with some thoughts on rural education for the next few days.  Paul is chair of the Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho (ROCI) task force, which has published ten papers on important issues in rural education, including work by Bellwether analysts. Reports from the ROCI task force are available at www.rociidaho.org. Stay up-to-date on future publications by following on Twitter: @ROCIdaho.

WORLD STANDARDS AND PLACE-BASED EDUCATION IN RURAL SCHOOLS

By Paul Hill

Place-based education is vitally important for rural (as for urban) areas, but it can’t be pursued to the point of denying rural high school graduates a real choice about whether to attend college or do something else. As a country we need to find ways to improve rural students’ options, both in higher education and the world economy, and in their home communities. Unlike some who fear that education to world standards will drain the brains out of rural America, it can give young people the option of living and working where they choose, including returning to and strengthening the communities where they grew up.

Some scholars have created a false dichotomy between place-based education and education to world standards.  These can be complementary, not opposed, both in cities and rural areas. Thoughtfully pursued, place-based education is good education. Children need to understand their home towns – their founding, why and how different groups moved there, how people make a living, cultural assets, political issues, and history of exclusion and inclusion of women and minorities. This is so whether children go on to universities and lead their adult lives elsewhere, or return home. Standards, tests, and university admissions requirements are no excuse for schools becoming ivory towers.

Everyday educators have less trouble with these ideas than some scholars do. In the task force members’ research to date, we met Read the rest of this entry »


June 23, 2015

Edujobs @ EDI

Check out a couple of great edujobs at the Education Delivery Institute.

Good people, important mission to improve implementation and policy fidelity in the sector. They’re looking for an Engagement Manager and an Engagement Associate.  More details on the roles through the links.


June 19, 2015

Edujobs! @ Acelero Learning

Acelero Learning and Shine Early Learning are hiring for multiple roles:

Director of Education, Shine Assist to provide overall support to program leadership throughout the Shine Early Learning Assist network.

Director of Management Systems and Director of Program Design and Management responsible for ensuring data are effectively used to drive decision-making throughout the organization (high travel but these roles have flexibility for geographic base).

Executive Director for Acelero Learning Monmouth/Middelsex County, Inc. -Responsible for coordinating and directing all program and administrative services for this Head Start program.

Learn more about these roles and Acelero here.


Where Are We On Charter Schools?

I take a look at the charter sector in a column for U.S. News and World Report today. A lot of good, plenty of room for improvement, and some hard questions emerging:

Are charter schools – independently operated public schools – at an inflection point? While education advocates fought about Common Core and teacher evaluations charter schools continued to grow and now serve 6 percent of all American public school students. This growth, which is even more pronounced in some cities and states, is highlighting both the promise and challenges of charter schooling. 

At education conferences, among special interest groups and in the media the debate over charter schools is three to five years behind the current state of play. People are arguing about charters version 1.0 while version 2.0 unfolds around the country. The disconnect is bizarre: As public opinion about charters becomes much more favorable the historically bipartisan charter school issue is threatening to become partisan. Pundits question the sustainability of charter schools even as their numbers are poised to top 7,000, public finance in key states is becoming more equitable for charters and many of these institutions operate on public funding alone. And charter school performance is improving even as critics escalate their calls for charter moratoriums, bans or other steps to hobble the movement.

Here’s what is happening today…

You can read the entire thing here via USN’s ”Report.“ Tweet your inflection points to me @arotherham or tell me what’s surprised you most about charter schools.


June 18, 2015

New Whiteboard Advisors Education Insiders Survey Results

Whiteboard Advisors Education Insiders on student data privacy, ESEA and HEA prospects, testing, and debt-free college ideas (pdf).  Interesting forecasting on testing among other issues.


June 15, 2015

Common Core, Pre-K, NOLA, Is College For All A Phantom Menace? It Varies! All That, TFA Vs. Malkin And More…

If pre-K advocates think this is the biggest problem with how pre-K is being rolled out in New York City they’re kidding themselves. I’m worried this whole thing could set the cause of universal pre-k back. But on the economic integration point charter school pre-K programs could play an instrumental role here. (By the way, is there any education issue the Century Foundation doesn’t think more economic integration will fix? Winter is coming, I get it.)

Chad Aldeman on high school graduation rates: Even discounting for the scams, something is happening.

Liz Farmer on the mess that is New Jersey fiscal and pension policy. Also, Paul Volcker on the larger issues at play in states.

David Osborne looks at New Orleans and charter schools.

In the battle you knew would come it’s Michelle Malkin vs. Teach For America in the first round. If there are any TFA alums who vote Republican or perhaps own a gun this might be a good time for the organization to produce them. This push from the right doesn’t balance out the attacks from the left – it doubles down on the organization’s political liabilities and this isn’t going make TFA’s left-leaning critics change their minds.

Mike Petrilli is not on board with the “college for all” movement (but says, sensibly, that schools should prepare more kids for college success). I’m not sure such a movement even exists? There is definitely a post-secondary for all movement – including a variety of post-secondary paths that don’t involve traditional four-year college – that I subscribe to. But I don’t meet too many people who think everyone should go to college. Some of the language may have become sloppy but who thinks everyone should go to college?

Richard Phelps takes no prisoners.

People get sick of hearing you say, “it varies” in response to questions about various educational issues. But that’s the answer more often than not in our decentralized system. Teacher experience? It varies!

Are ESA’s like the Nevada plan the “smartphone of school choice?” Perhaps, or they may turn out to be the iPhone 4 of school choice?

Good overview of the splits on school accountability policy via Emma Brown.

Hard to believe Virginia would try to limit parent choices…keep doing this long enough people notice and don’t like it.

ICYMI it’s Kati Haycock v. Marc Tucker.

TN teacher Joe Ashby on constant feedback via RealClearEducation.

I talked on NPR about Common Core goings on.


June 11, 2015

Pahara NextGen Fellows

New class of Pahara Institute NextGen Fellows just announced. Learn more about them and the fellowship here.


June 5, 2015

Friday Fish Pics- Kosar Returns!

20150523_074447Education analyst and professional whiskey expert Kevin Kosar took his son fishing along with a friend. They hooked into this big (31″) catfish near Fletcher’s Cove on the Potomac.  Also – and Potomac-related –  don’t miss his take on CRS.

Through this link you will find hundreds of pictures of education types with fish. You can also scroll down this page to see a few recent ones. Here and also here are two past Kosar fish pics.


June 4, 2015

Today In Nutty Ideas, Layton Sets A Standard, Nevada Is All Choice, Policy Innovation, Common Core, And Jim Shelton’s New Gig

A lot of news today, it’s all curated here, as every weekday, at RealClearEducation.com

Whatever you think about Success Academy (and it’s especially important to have really strong views if you haven’t spent time there) be sure to read this Lyndsey Layton article in The Washington Post. It discusses (a) actual teaching, a little (b) what frequently happens in schools around feedback and evaluation and (c) has nuance around the “backfill” issue  - actual substance! – as a criticism of Success rather than the usual blather. More, please!

Randi Weingarten seems never to have heard a faddish idea she doesn’t then propose: This time it’s getting rid of cut scores on the new Common Core tests altogether. Al Shanker has left the building. A cut score is the point considered proficient or passing on a standardized test (short primer on the various ways for doing it here (pdf)). Weingarten’s gambit seems to be more about making sure people don’t use results from the more rigorous assessments (and their more rigorous cut scores) to bash schools. That’s a legitimate point but not a reason to jettison cut scores. And, so far in the Common Core rollout I’ve seen a lot more said/written about not using the new tests to bash schools than I’ve actually seen them being used that way. It could be that Weingarten is a living embodiment of that old New Yorker cartoon? Most of the known world is not east of the Hudson and all of it is not east of the Great Lakes…

Nevada is all voucher*! Going to be interesting to see how this plays out. One angle I’m particularly in is what happens in hyper-rural communities. There are some very isolated schools in Nevada.  Is another angle to watch whether this strengthens Nevada Governor Sandoval’s hand in the Republican veepstakes? I’m not close enough to know but it sure seems plausible from the cheap seats. *Update: Or all Education Savings Account. Given how the policy is set up it seems a distinction w/o a difference in this case but advocates are taking exception to what they see as imprecise language. Neerav Kingsland has some good thoughts on all of this here.

Related, the other day Governing ran a piece about the lack of policy diversity among states. In general that’s a real issue. But on education I don’t see it as much. You don’t see this Nevada policy elsewhere! You see a lot of carbon copy RFPs and things like that but on policy the bigger problem is a lack of policy feedback. So, for instance, it’s hard to argue that state charter laws are copies of one another. And that’s why you have disastrous states with charters – e.g. Ohio – and states and cities really doing well – e.g. NJ, MA, NYC , etc…You’re starting to see the same thing with the “Achievement School District” turnaround model. The problem is the enormous gap between the evidence from all of this and ongoing policy design.  Jay Greene has raised this policy diversity issue and competitive federalism as a reason to be concerned about Common Core. I see it playing out a little differently but it’s definitely among the actual serious critiques of the Common Core.

Mike Petrilli on social capital and Putnam.  Robert Pondiscio on Grant Wiggins. Wiggins had plenty of strong views but he wasn’t close minded or a tribalist, something to admire.

Jim Shelton writes why he’s “not head of this foundation or why not raise a fund with these people or why not CEO of this company or why didn’t you ask this person for a few hundred million dollars.” Instead, he’s joining online ed outfit 2U.

Yesterday I wrote about how when most people criticize the Common Core they’re often really talking about something else.  Sandy Kress pushed back here.


June 3, 2015

What We Talk About When We Talk About Common Core (Hint: Not Common Core)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s flip flop on Common Core looked like pretty naked politicking. But that wasn’t as interesting to me as what it seemed to vividly illustrate: These days when people debate “Common Core” they’re not really talking about Common Core at all. I take a look at that in a U.S. News & World Report column today:

In 2013, Christie supported Common Core. “We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey, and we are going to continue. This is one of those areas where I have agreed more with the president than not and with [Education] Secretary [Arne] Duncan,” he said. But last Thursday he changed his tune. “We must reject federal control of our education and return it to parents and teachers,” Christie said. “We need to take it out of the cubicles of Washington, D.C. where it was placed by the Obama administration and return it to the neighborhoods of New Jersey.”

It’s easy to pick on Christie for shameless politicking – he offered little in the way of specific criticisms and the standards are unpopular with conservative primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina where his fledgling presidential campaign is struggling to get traction. He’s hardly the only politician pandering on the issue; calling Common Core the product of federal bureaucrats (it’s not) is a standard Republican talking point. Meanwhile, reasonable people can change their minds or disagree about the standards, which turned five this week. For my part, I think they have promise but their transformative potential has been oversold by many advocates and their adoption and implementation is inadequately supported.

None of that, however, is what makes the New Jersey situation so illustrative. Instead, the saga of Common Core in New Jersey (and elsewhere) highlights how our education debates are often proxies for other issues…
You can click here to read the entire column in U.S. News’ daily “Report.” Follow me on Twitter and share shameless political things you’ve done to woo primary voters or what problem Common Core is a proxy for in your life.

June 2, 2015

Common Core Is Five, Parent Trigger Aging Well, Aldeman on Attrition

A few years ago when I was concerned about how “parent trigger” might play out and what made it different than past efforts in the same vein, one of the leaders of it told me that it was the threat of the trigger and empowerment of parents that would prove to be the real leverage point rather than actual usage of it. Really starting to look like that may be right.

David Brooks on campus activism. 

The actual data on teacher attrition is a lot more interested than the crazy town debate about teacher attrition.

Pension transparency in RI.

Common Core is five today - draw whatever conclusions you wish!


May 29, 2015

CA Election Implications, Aldeman On Grad Rates, Whitmire On NOLA, And An Eduangle To Hastert Indictment?

The way this Dennis Hastert indictment is written strongly hints at a dark education angle to it.

Weeby on Christie. 

Chad Aldeman on high school graduation rates going up. Even discounting for some graduation scams bumping numbers something positive is happening here.

Have been meaning to note the elections last week in California – LAUSD school board and state legislative special. Normally the teachers unions should have run the table – off-cycle elections are favorable for them. But they didn’t. Why? I think three reasons. First, candidate recruitment. Ref Rodriguez, for instance, was a great fit politically and a good candidate. Second, ground game. There was a serious canvas on behalf of reform candidates (SFER deserves some credit here) that matters especially when coupled with high-quality voter data. Money matters in politics but so do committed people on the ground. Third, coordination. The reform side worked together smartly to coordinate efforts, including money. That paid off. Good news for reformers: Those things can all be repeated. Good news for the teachers unions: It’s a real challenge to do so.

Richard Whitmire on New Orleans education and a new normal there:

When schools reopen in New Orleans later this summer, you can expect a steady flow of reporters to document the 10th anniversary of the post-Katrina transformation of schools here. Roughly 95 percent of students here attend charters. Regardless of how you feel about charters, that’s stunning…

Re the fish pics in the item below, here’s three easy steps to get outside and take a kid fishing.

Peter Wehner on confirmation bias.


Friday Fish Pics – Leafy Suburbs Edition!

IMG_1734Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute took his kids, ages seven and five, fishing and it was a success. Look at that catfish (and those smiles)!

More pictures of education types and their fish via this link.


May 27, 2015

Friday Is Proof Point Day

Proof Point Day is Friday. Learn more and participate here.


What’s Working In Texas? New York Commish, Measured On Charters, Inequality, Philanthropy, More!

Two takes on what is working in Texas: Politico says Houston, Richard Whitmire says high-performing charters.

You can go home again!

Taking on a big challenge: Emily Esfahani Smith defends fraternities.

The New York Times looks at blacks and middle class public sector jobs – big education overlays.

Public Agenda and the Spencer Foundation are trying to bring some seriousness to the charter school debate.

An interesting indicator of how political our education debates are is that when you change the names of things it suddenly defuses the controversy – more people OK with public money for private school tuition than are on-board with “vouchers” and Common Core-like math in non-Common Core states doesn’t spark the same firestorm. 5-3 takes a look at that issue with science standards.

A lot of grumbling around the education sector from all sides in the ed reform debate about how rich people choose to spend their dollars in education, even where you disagree worth pointing out it’s a good problem to have:

“It’s not inexpensive,” Mr. Rosen said. “You stay until the neighborhood no longer needs you.” But, he added, there are a lot of wealthy people with the resources to do the same thing if they choose.

Clive Crook on our inequality debate -last few grafs have education implications.

 ICYMI  - Illinois’ pension system is a mess.  But this is a story that will make you feel good.


May 21, 2015

Are Schools To Blame For The Testing Circus As Much As Any Vendor Or Public Official?

It’s easy to blame Arne Duncan or Pearson for some testing policy you don’t like – but the response of schools may be a culprit, too. I take a look at that in a U.S. News & World Report column today:

It was like I was living an anti-testing blog post. My daughters were stressed and anxious about the upcoming state test. But here’s the thing: They were first graders at the time, so they didn’t even have to take the test for two more years. We live in a state where the elementary school tests don’t start until third grade and are not consequential for kids anyway (and in practice carry little consequence for the adults, either). So why were my kids freaked out?

It turns out, surprisingly enough, when adults in a school make tests into a big deal – telling kids they really matter, wearing matching shirts for solidarity, holding pep rallies, emphasizing test prep rather than teaching and launching parent-teacher association campaigns to make sure everyone is fortified with enough snacks – the kids pick up on it. A cynic might think it’s a deliberate effort to sour parents on the tests.

There’s more, including three big problems with tests today and some ideas for ways forward. Get a snack and the right color shirt and you can read the entire thing here via U.S. News’ The Report (which you can, and should, get in your email box for free). Transfer your test stress to me via Twitter or send me tales of ridiculous stuff happening in the name of testing.


May 20, 2015

LA School Board, Pensions In IL, Not So Great Common Core Expectations, Even Less For Tech And Ed? Dems And Ed, And More!

Smart observations on reasonable Common Core expectations from Mathew DiCarlo. Seems like another benefit of commonality is that it creates a more robust platform for innovation. As with the other issues that, in isolation, won’t boost student learning but it’s a helpful predicate.

It’s hard to choose a college major when you’re young.

Here’s an interesting point: 

Especially in an age of informational abundance, getting access to knowledge isn’t the bottleneck, mustering the will to master it is. And there, for good or ill, the main carrot of a college education is the certified degree and transcript, and the main stick is social pressure. Most students are seeking credentials that graduate schools and employers will take seriously and an environment in which they’re prodded to do the work. But neither of these things is cheaply available online.

Great pension headline followed by a sensible pension editorial.

Dems and education event - appropriately enough in a theater - via Third Way.

There were school board elections in LA last night.

I’m re-reading this analysis from Mathematica (pdf).


May 19, 2015

Edujob: ED @ Building Excellent Schools

Building Excellent Schools is a national nonprofit organization training leaders to lead high-achieving, college-preparatory urban charter schools. BES focuses on improving the academic achievement of the most underserved students in U.S. cities – 85% of students in BES schools qualify for free/reduced lunch, 50% are Black, and 42% are Hispanic. BES has established 79 schools in 22 cities, educating nearly 22,000 students. BES anticipates there will be nearly 100 BES schools impacting 27,000 students by the fall of 2016.

Sound like something you want to be a part of? They’re searching for a new executive director now. More details via the link.


Is Pearson Setting Up ETS? Best CMOs Says Broad, Kingsland On Opt-Outs, Hot Mess In East Ramapo, And More…

This East Ramapo situation is a mess. Big NYT story today but surprised it has not received more attention. The Times focuses on process doesn’t begin to get at all the shenanigans going on there.  From the usual suspects who go bonkers over a charter school…crickets.

ETS into the breach in Texas or changing horses midstream or some such metaphor. But it doesn’t matter what vendor you ask to meet impossible to meet specs, they won’t meet it.

Via Teacherpensions.org some resources to figure out how your state teacher pension plan stacks up.

This op-ed on who is “college material” implicitly points up an important issue. With undermatching for low-income and minority students as pervasive as it is (in my view) shouldn’t policymakers be focusing on that rather than sorting kids into tracks?

Achievement First, Noble, and IDEA charter schools rocking it for Broad Prize this year (pdf).

Suicide is up in rural communities, including among young people.

Neerav Kingsland on the commonalities between opting out of tests and opting out of a school to attend a charter school.


May 15, 2015

Friday Fish Porn – Summer Day Edition

photoHere’s Victor Reinoso fly fishing in Utah a few years ago.

He and I had a great day on the water outside of Park City after a meeting. A little hiking and we had the river all to ourselves. Victor is a former deputy mayor in Washington, D.C., he’s a senior advisor at Bellwether, and he’s a co-founder of DecisionScience Labs (the other co-founder, Marguerite Roza is no stranger to fish porn either).  Enjoy the weekend!

Click here to find an exclusive archive of hundreds of pictures of education figures fishing.


May 11, 2015

Maryland Not As Hopeless As You Thought?

Perhaps!


May 8, 2015

Inequality, Education, And ESEA

Are we heading toward a period of time where we just basically say that wide variance in American schooling is unavoidable or the least bad option? That’s what I ask in a U.S. News & World Report column:

For the past several years, economic inequality grabbed headlines, sparked protests and spurred Americans to ask hard questions about the structure of opportunity in our society. In the wake of Baltimore, North Charleston, Ferguson, Cleveland and other episodes, the conversation and attention of protesters is giving way to an even more immediate concern about disparate treatment of Americans by law enforcement based on their race. That, too, is another kind of structural inequality. Here in the education sector people are quick to identify with the protesters and the issues they raise yet there is an inescapable and uncomfortable dissonance: Attacking inequality is at the forefront of our national conversation, but in American education we are actually becoming more accepting of it as a fact of life.

Read the entire column here – we strike a tiny blow against inequality by making it open access for all. The column today is part of a new weekly USN product called The Report, be sure to check it out while you’re there. Let me know what you think via Twitter.


Friday Fish Porn – Frying Pan Edition

IMG_1215Simmons Lettre is a co-founder of Charter Board Partners, a smart capacity building non-profit that helps improve the quality of charter school boards through governance training and training for board members.

She found herself in Colorado last week for work and did what anyone should do in that situation – went fishing.  In this case on one of my favorite rivers. Here she is with a lovely rainbow from the Frying Pan that she took on a tiny midge. A tailwater known for its truly ridiculous hatches and off-the-wall dry fly fishing, during the summer season the Pan gets crowded and the fish get cynical. But this time of year and in the fall there are few better places to spend a day. Located in an out of the way canyon near Basalt it is home to a lot of fish, and some big ones. The Pan flows into the Roaring Fork and then ultimately into the mighty Colorado.

Friday Fish Porn? Whaaaat? Here’s a nine year running compilation of well more than a hundred  education types with fish they’ve caught.