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.


May 7, 2015

Personalized Learning And Federal Policy

New Bellwether analysis takes a look at federal policy and personalized learning – where the friction points are, what can be done.

But as lawmakers, advocates, and analysts dust off old arguments about the nation’s most significant K-12 education law, they run the risk of ignoring the future. Where NCLB was bold in its vision—all students proficient by 2014—the current proposals are remarkably lacking in ambition and new ideas. Innovation has been relegated to the fringes of the debate.

One of these innovations is personalized learning, which involves transforming students’ daily experiences so that they are customized to their individual needs and strengths. Through new kinds of learning environments, new technologies, and new ways for students to demonstrate their knowledge, personalized learning aims to meet students where they are and allow them to advance to more challenging material whenever they are ready.

Entire paper here.

You can also read Bellwether’s playbook for personalized learning quality and expansion here.


May 6, 2015

Testing…Testing…

Two things to read today on this testing debate. Justin Cohen pushes back on the post below (great nsfw line, too) and some of the criticism of the Oliver segment. He makes a good point about the joyfulness issue. But most schools were, and are, joyful places – and we should note that what’s joyful differs for different people. Don’t mistake all the rhetoric for the on the ground reality. And, in the political world, some of the toxicity is a deliberate strategy to shut down debate and change. And it works! That’s why we have this bizarre situation where trying to improve a system that results in nine percent of low-income kids finishing college by the time they are 24 (among other poor or mediocre outcomes) is so controversial.

Also check out the letter from civil rights organizations on the testing issue. I don’t agree on the opt-out issue, seems like public schools have little to gain and a lot to lose by fighting opt-outs.  But that’s because it’s ultimately a marginal issue unless people fan the flames. This point, however, is important:

Our commitment to fair, unbiased, and accurate data collection and reporting resonates greatest in our work to improve education. The educational outcomes for the children we represent are unacceptable by almost every measurement. And we rely on the consistent, accurate, and reliable data provided by annual statewide assessments to advocate for better lives and outcomes for our children. These data are critical for understanding whether and where there is equal opportunity.

But except in extreme cases some opt-outs don’t destroy the ability to do that. Their basic point though is an important one. Meanwhile, Jay Greene is almost certainly right about the politics here though. So that’s the puzzle to solve.


May 5, 2015

John Oliver Knows Better Than You! Charlie Barone Probably Does! Lawrence MA, Charter Waits, And More

The idea of a center-to-left coalition focused on broad-based education reform has captivated reformers, including me, like a mirage in the desert. Today Charlie Barone writes about the potential in RealClearEducation.

A lot of people chattering about this John Oliver segment on standardized testing. My take: Yawn. I doubt that too many viewers of that show are really wide open on many issues, seems like a place where people with strong priors go to have them confirmed. But I might be too cynical. Substantively, I guess I’d rather stand with these guys than a TV comedian on an issue that matters to millions of youngsters – especially the most disadvantaged youngsters. But here’s a thought exercise: During this past winter could John Oliver have done the same segment – the same modality –  but about global warming instead of testing? Yes, he could. Think Oliver in a park during a snowfall ridiculing those thinking the earth is getting warmer. They’re ridiculous because anyone can see it’s snowing! Look at me, I’m up to my waist in snow here in Boston and these fools say things are getting warmer! (Imagine the accent and some funny pictures).  Of course, never mind the body of research about warming and the views of actual experts who study it, he knows better. Here, it’s the same thing on education except the stance on testing is just more politically correct. The story was amusing as an entertainment vehicle but you’ll look in vain for a tether to the actual evidence base around these issues. He just knows better. In other words, just because something has some salty language delivered with a British accent and a blowjob joke sprinkled in doesn’t mean it’s still not herd mentality political correctness rather than actual analysis or subversiveness.

ERS takes a look at Lawrence, MA.

You can quibble with various methodologies for computing the number of families on charter school waiting lists but no matter how you add it up there are a lot of families that want something different.

Ross Douthat on police unions. Almost a mirror image of the teachers union debate on the left.

My U.S. News & World Report column this week – on ESEA – will run end of week in a new USN product.


May 1, 2015

Detroit Debt, Roadtrip! AOTH Content, Learning Accelerators, Sanders’ Subsidies, And More!

New plan to fix the financial problems at the Detroit Public Schools.

Check out Roadtrip Nation if you haven’t already seen the show, visited the website, or read the book. Started with an actual road trip and has grown into a great initiative about helping young people discover all the myriad ways to find your passion and build a career. If you’re in D.C. their green RV is in front of the Newseum. They stopped by Bellwether earlier in the week, great people and a terrific project.

There is so much good content at the Ahead of the Heard blog, Chad Aldeman on NAEP, Andy Smarick on Detroit, Becky Crowe on talent, and more.

Andrew Kelly and David DeSchryver on learning accelerators via a new General Assembly paper.

Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says the rich can “literally” buy elections. The Washington Post editorial board says his higher ed policy ideas would give them more cash to do so.

More private equity/public pension frenemy action.  School finance and performance data from Nashville.

This will just make pretty much everyone (except Dan Weisberg, and probably even him, it’s that sweet) feel good.


April 28, 2015

EduJobs @ Acelero Learning

A few roles open at Acelero Learning:  Chief Partnership OfficerDirector of Human Resources, and a Vice President for their Shine Implement Initiative. These are high-impact roles at a leading innovative early-childhood education provider with solid results.

More information and how to apply through the links.


April 27, 2015

ESEA Prospects

Whiteboard Advisors’ Education Insiders getting bullish about ESEA happening before President Obama leaves office.


April 24, 2015

Weekend Reading

David Leonhardt on who college is/should be for. Must-reading. Compelling anecdotes and actual data.


April 23, 2015

At The Opt-Outs – Leaking Questions Might Be Good! Obsessing On 95%, Not So Much…

This kind of thing (penalizing schools for opt-outs) seems certain to just create a target and inflame things. Especially in places where opt-out seems more marginal. Perhaps what we need is just more attention to the percent of students who take tests when considering school performance rather than a slavish focus on 95 percent? That’s the way any sensible analyst thinks about college prep data from high schools now. Could create a good upward incentive for elementary and middle schools.

But this kind of thing (leaking and publishing test questions) creates IP and costs issues for states but seems likely to help Common Core advocates, but I’m biased – I like transparency. Reading a passage and actually understanding it? That’s killing what’s great about education! No, actually, I want my kids to be able to do that (even if it’s not rewarded on Twitter) and don’t want them in a school where teaching that becomes some three ring circus about tests.

My more general take on opt-out here. The numbers in NY aren’t final yet but could be really interesting. Some folks crediting the UFT and the chancellor.


April 21, 2015

Expand Pre-K And Abolish 12th-Grade, Innovative Reform Or Disaster?

In U.S. News &  World Report I take a look at a possible twofer for education policy: Expand access to high-quality pre-K education and finance it by getting rid of 12th-grade.

For a lot of young people spring weather is just another reminder that high school is basically over and it’s OK to check out. I attended a well-regarded suburban high school and still spent too much of my senior spring skipping school to ski, hike, hang out at a local waterfall and do some less wholesome things I’ll probably deny if my own kids ask about them. Meanwhile, at the other end of the educational chain a lot of parents are struggling; not with how to spend those first warm sunny days but how to afford high-quality preschool education for their 4-year-olds. So why not address both issues – the lameness of the senior year and the pre-K access issue – with one reform: Abolish the senior year and instead using that money to create universal access to pre-K education?

You don’t need to abolish anything to read the entire column here. Tell me all about your school skipping days or your gap year plans on Twitter.


Opt-Outs Hit The Times, Pre-K, And Finland Myths V. Reality

The Times looks at opt-outs and teachers unions. Inside baseball: The way they ID Stand For Children* is delightfully reductionist. Would the story have read differently if they ID’d it instead as an organization that supports expanding access to pre-K education and reforming school finance to send more dollars to poor students? Those are true, too. Sometimes the battle lines aren’t so stark…

Speaking of pre-K for a project I was rereading this brief on pre-K from CAP. Vox-like case for why expanding pre-k makes sense. Useful.

Mike Antonucci called attention to this sensible walk-through of the Finland hype from Cambridge Assessment.

*How do I know their policy views offhand? Longtime Bellwether policy research client.


April 16, 2015

College And Career, Summer Melt, Presidential PreK, Pension Fees, YEP Survey, And Gulfstream U!

Sara Mead on pre-k and presidential politics.  There has to be a Pearson joke somewhere in this story about Measured Progress’ server problems.

The teachers unions need to get their story straight on pensions. Is the reason to not switch to 401k-style plans because then investment managers would make gazillions in fees or are today’s pension plans fleecing participants because investment managers are making gazillions in fees?

Summer Melt is one of those things like Sweetbread that sounds a lot better than it actually is (in education Rubber Room is another excellent example). MDRC with research on a strategy intended to curb Summer Melt for college bound students (pdf).

ACT on value-add model considerations. (pdf) Easy to dismiss it as junk. Harder but a lot more interesting to figure out how it can be used to improve schools. And here’s ACT on the career side of ‘college and career readiness.’ (pdf).

The annual YEP survey is out. Young professionals in education talk about jobs and careers.

Plutography. College shopping edition.


April 14, 2015

Hard Out Here For A Yogi! Chait On Property Tax Progressivism, Cunningham On Evals, Is Atlanta A Teachable Moment At All? Teachers And Private Equity!

Oh the pressure of living in Park Slope! You want to opt-out because it’s the thing but it sure is nice to know how your own kids are doing and make sure they don’t lose some edge….Elsewhere UNCF’s Michael Lomax is a no on opt-outs. I’m a yes!

Solid reminder from Jon Chait that this idea that neighborhood schools are profoundly democratic is actually a pretty illiberal idea.

Barry Ritholtz has more on this NYC pension fees issue - look at the recent CALPERS action he says.

Peter Cunningham, Lucy, Charlie Brown, and footballs. Just asking…when Vergara opponents are losing the “Peace and Freedom” party in California on the key Vergara issues it might signal it’s time to recalibrate?

Trying to make heads and tails of all the competing claims about the Cuomo budget deal and teacher evaluation? Sawchuk has a roundup.

Teachable moment? I’m not a big fan of prison sentences for first time non-violent crimes to begin with, there are creative ways people can serve sentences that are contributory, rehabilitative, and punitive as appropriate. We lock too many people up. But it’s interesting that those issues rarely come up in our punishment obsessed society except now when a group of educators are now staring down the barrel of a sentence for running a cheating racket on standardized tests. Maybe this is what it takes to get people talking about sentencing reform?

But, while I think there are better sentencing options here than prison I’m not in the same camp as critics of standardized testing are pleading for mercy for these educators and arguing they were victims of a system that just made them do it (I doubt they feel that way when, say, someone breaks into their car or mugs them because they need money). It’s a great example of everything looking like a nail to a hammer. The problem, here, with that argument in this case is that the cheating in Atlanta was not about accountability and testing per se – it was about financial bonuses and professional prestige tied to test scores. You can argue, of course, that even financial incentives corrupt so we shouldn’t have those policies either but then you quickly find yourself in a place with little practical applicability in our society. And people who will cheat on tests for money might cheat on attendance counts, school lunch counts, or the host of of other ways graft goes down in the public education industry.  Sentencing happening now, follow here.


April 13, 2015

Education Insiders Survey Deck

New data out today from the Whiteboard Advisors Education Insiders survey  (pdf)-  includes higher education futures, ESEA prospects, privacy bill probabilities, and more!


April 10, 2015

NY Pension Fees: Create Your Own Scandal!, Homeschooling & Sports (W/ A Great Kid!), Fun With Success Attrition, Creating Voucher Supporters In Boston, Creating Charter Seats In NYC? Jonathan Papelbon Sets A Standard.

Interesting Matt Levine look at this pension fees issue in New York. You get some of this gold, “Surely if you yourself confess that you are acting “insane,” you are not doing your duties as a trustee? If I were a New York City pensioner I’d be a little disturbed to see my trustees running around calling their investment process insane.” But also some solid contrarian analysis of the issues at play there. Teachers unions and teachers in the middle of this, playing the rhetoric, investing in the funds, etc…The question Levine basically puts on the table is whether the issue here is fees and poor performance or if the problem is that these pension funds are being run by political hacks. Or both? It’s more than a little opaque. That’s a problem, too.

Here’s an interesting research approach: Try to figure out how schools can do better with black and Latino boys in Boston but don’t look at schools that are doing the best job with them, around the country but also in Boston! Every time something like this happens a school voucher supporter gets their wings…

Shanker Blog takes a look at teacher turnover at Success Academy*. Basically Success says attrition was 17 percent a few years ago, per the NYT story the other day, Matt DiCarlo computes it as 33 percent based on data from a FOIA he vaguely says he happened find (that c’mon almost certainly came from the UFT/AFT, a former official is his boss and it’s called the Shanker Institute, let’s not be cagey here  Update: Turns out this is wrong, Shanker Institute says it’s FOIA’ing Success information itself, I don’t know why they just didn’t just say that). He notes that firing – termination or non-renewals in the case of schools like Success – versus voluntary departure may be one reason for the discrepancy. Makes sense. But here are another two: during the years in question Success had 12 schools, the next year they had 10 more. Some of this may be noise from that or people moving into admin and other non-teaching roles within the Success network. In any event, savvy people under scrutiny don’t knowingly put out numbers they know to be false , especially when they can be shown to be false, and especially not in The New York Times. Eva Moskowitz? She’s a savvy person. I suspect there is less here than meets the eye.  Of course, none of this tell us what regrettable attrition is today – that’s what matters most to thinking about this model.

Virgina’s AG steering clear of the Sweet Briar litigation.  A Virginia homeschool parent – whose son I coincidentally profiled for TIME a few years ago – writes about the confusion over how homeschool/public school interaction works today related to the recent veto of a bill that would have created a local school district option to let homeschooled kids try out for varsity sports.

Back and forth on charter schools and corporate reform, absurd time waster. Debate over charter schools and whether they should be required to backfill seats? Actually interesting! Democracy Builders out with a big report on this issue today. Update: Full report is live, read it here.

Political fallout and implication debating from the Chicago mayoral race.

Lots of people upset by former Boston now Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon’s comments about how he feels about Boston and playing in Philly. Short version: he misses Boston. Who knew Philly fans were so sensitive…Anyway, isn’t it refreshing? No BS and instead the guy is just being candid and at the same time he does his job quite well (100 plus saves for Phillies including one – but just one! –  against the Red Sox this week in a three game series between the two teams) regardless of how he feels. Seems like it offers a few lessons applicable to this sector about professionalism and candor. (By the way, if you’re into the happenings of former Red Sox pitchers, check out these hogs). Makes me think it’s time to schedule a “Meeting with Jim Griffin.”

*I don’t carry any particular brief for Success Academy although I know parents who send their kids there and like it and have met plenty of satisfied parents. They’re in the news though and it’s interesting. I would endorse this view on what’s happening in Harlem.  I’d also defend vigorously that we (a) ought to be open to different approaches in public education even ones we don’t necessarily like, Success and Montessori are two sides of the same diversity coin, one just is more popular among the yoga and kale set and less threatening to teachers unions and (b) every time we see some success in education (no pun intended) we shouldn’t suspend healthy skepticism but we also shouldn’t be in such a hurry to tear it down. Not a healthy culture for progress (which, last time I checked, is the root word of progressive).


April 9, 2015

Charter Schools And Illegal Immigration! Learning List Wins! Success Email Dump (They’re Winning, Too), More ESEA, Smarick V. Mead, Walsh V. AACTE, TBT – Halperin and Johnson

Don’t tell the conservatives, charter schools are a hot bed for illegal immigrants!

Learning List, a start-up that works with school districts to evaluate the alignment of various instructional materials, just got into 1776′s Challenge Festival as a People’s Choice. Win for school districts because Learning List makes them the client.

When will these damn reformers start making their own kids take the Common Core tests or send their own kids to charter schools like Success Academy?

Speaking of Success, this dump of emails about how Eva Moskowitz took NYC Mayor De Blasio down on charter schools is actually interesting. Some of it is common knowledge, that behind the scenes the mayor’s team wanted to get a deal with the charters and Eva’s ability to rally parents while the union was stuck with a rent-a-riot approach was inflicting pain. But some is more interesting: Steve Barr was working for the mayor’s team on this?

Chad Aldeman takes a look at the new ESEA proposal in the Senate. Don’t miss the 90 days dig.  Tanya Paperny puts on the black and white stripes to referee the recent debate between Sara Mead and Andy Smarick.

I hope Senator Patty Murray has an ace up her sleeve on this ESEA bill because it seems like on some key issues Democrats are trading away good ideas to keep bad Republican ideas out of the bill. Maybe that’s just what defense looks like these days?

Passion versus exploration (this article is safe for work).

Pension LIFO.  Also on pensions, you won’t read a better lede than this one this week (at least on pensions anyway, c’mon it’s education) and the article is important, points up fees pension funds are paying. Remind me again why today’s teacher pensions are so good for teachers and shouldn’t be reformed?

By the way, all teacher skepticism about evaluations and administrators is not without some cause…

Kate Walsh says AACTE can’t embrace accountability. Seems totally unfair. It’s not like the head of it also makes six figures on the boards of skeeezy for-profit colleges or something…

A reminder that my blog posts are not a representative list of links around the education sector, duh. Rather, it’s the stuff that is catching my eye one way or another. For a more systematic and broader round-up Emmeline Zhao does that twice a day at RealClearEducation. That unique curated roster of links is invaluable if you really need to know what is happening across the sector and need high quality information.

It’s the anniversary of ESEA – a half century*. A few years ago I moderated a discussion with Sam Halperin, Chris Cross, Jack Jennings, and Kati Haycock about the history and changes to this historic law, now called No Child Left Behind. Fascinating discussion for a packed room of people with a sense that it was fleeting history. Sam’s gone now but here he is with President Johnson at a White House event tied to the signing of the original law (which happened in Texas):

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*Secretary Duncan is giving a talk on this and apparently the administration forgot to invite any of the still living people who were key to various iterations of this law or family of those who are not? Inexplicable but illustrative.


April 8, 2015

Opt Out? Why Not? Rangers Lead The Way! ESEA?, NYT, Criticizing Success Academy Is Hardly A Risky Career Move In NYC!, The De Blasio Hustle?, New On NBCT, Michelle Rhee, Bev Purdue To Whiteboard, Whitmire Puts His Candler On In USAT, Sober Teach For America & Aldeman, Ticking Clock & Ticking Off Parents

On testing opt-outs, seriously, why not? Many of my friends working in traditional public schools see allowing opt-outs as a big unravelling but not sure the alternative is all that sustainable (and I don’t see a tidal wave of opt-outs coming anyway). Besides, I’m not sure a lot more unbundling wouldn’t be positive for students. And the opt-out “movement” is a hodgepodge of professional malcontents, genuinely concerned parents, life’s perpetually angry types, and assorted hangers on. Why throw fuel at that? Let ‘em go.

Rahm wins in Chicago. Teachers union partisans wondering how, they don’t know anyone who voted for him…

Do they even make pocket squares for pajamas? Justin Cohen is blogging!

New ESEA bill coming in the Senate. Forthcoming Whiteboard Insiders survey still shows a lot of skepticism ESEA can happen during this administration. The basic problem is that for No Child Left Behind to be overhauled a lot of things have to go right – for the process to stall just one of them has to go wrong. This doesn’t help either.

Could ed tech be the thing that cracks the gender wall in technology?

Bellwether’s team of fifty is a blast to work with if you thrive in a fast-paced but very flexible work environment where intellectual diversity is encouraged. My team is hiring a new AP, pretty crux role in how we operate, great opportunity. Apply asap.

Not sure what to think of this big NYT story on NY’s Success Academy from yesterday. If the schools are so rough on kids why are 20,000 plus on waiting lists to get in? And why do some prominent people in the education world send their own kids there? [Update: One weighs in here.] On the other hand, some of what’s in the story is not new but is disconcerting. But, the blind quotes are unsettling – especially since they all skew one way. The Times is basically alleging somewhat abusive practices but doing so using only anonymous sources because, “These former teachers said they feared hurting their future job prospects by disparaging a former employer or by being identified as critics of charter schools.” Please. Being a charter critic in The Times is a good career move in New York! This is a reason for anonymity one step removed from, “these sources requested anonymity because it’s a hassle to deal with angry emails and tweets…”* And it seems disproportionate to what’s being claimed – especially when paired with The Times’  trolling request for more anonymous stories on their website. That’ll generate a representative sample! In any event, if the big thing people want to go after Eva Moskowitz for is that there is a lot of discipline in her schools then they’re misreading the public and parental mood.

Here’s some good news for NBCT teachers – the certification offers a slight bump in student test score performance – though not for all NBCT’s.  Open questions: Why is modest performance like this good enough reason to support the National Board but not good enough for Teach For America – in the eyes of the very same people? Turnover sounds like a legit issue to raise,** other objections a lot more ideological. Also, is the National Board test really just an expensive signaling system? The cost-benefit question remains…

Pension reform, Rangers lead the way?  And how did we get here anyway?

If Kentucky ends up being illustrative the Common Core folks may have less to worry about than assumed? Richard Whitmire is in the no lousy schools club. Chad Aldeman is all sober and adult about the Atlanta cheating scandal. Dude has no future on Twitter.

Is New York’s teacher test discriminatory? Ask Kimba Wood. Bev Purdue, former Dem governor of North Carolina and a great person, is joining Whiteboard Advisors.

I’ve always been surprised that this parent teacher conference issue in places like NYC doesn’t get more attention. It’s one of those things that drives parents nuts and seems like low-hanging fruit for critics of teachers contracts – five minutes or less to talk about your child? How to alienate people from public schools in three easy steps…

Panorama Ed*** has a new family survey tool out. Here’s a not encouraging dispatch from the frontline of educational gaming. “World of schools is big and insane, and totally out of reach.” Yeah, and that’s not even the hardest part. For all the howling at the moon about privatization this is more the reality of the sector. Full disclosure: My kids absolutely love that ecosystem game so I’m hopelessly biased there, and I’ve consulted for Amplify about their games, too.

Wondering what Michelle Rhee Johnson has been up to? This might be a clue.

The other day a New York education type called this issue the “De Blasio hustle.”  Basically, attack the test for competitive entrance schools in New York City under the guise of minority under-representation but in practice as an effort to help affluent mostly white parents who would likely benefit most absent the test. Progressive!

Seems like there is a gap between all the crazy talk about the Walton Family Foundation**** and what they actually do.

John McWhorter on the UVA – Rolling Stone episode and larger implications. Tom Kane on evals and the NY ed circus.

*I’m not against blind sources, but it seems that when someone is making accusations the bar should be higher?

**Speaking of TFA, I had dinner with the CEO and leadership of an ed tech company the other night and they were taking about why they don’t like TFA. Their issue was the model and the incumbent turnover, which they feel is bad for the profession. They acknowledged the test score gains, secondary impact of TFA alums, and all the rest but didn’t like this issue – that to them was a primary one. It was a refreshingly candid and productive discussion grounded in actual facts. I was struck by how different it was than most TFA discussions you find yourself in. I don’t want to name the company in case they later want jobs in New York. Bellwether recently did a research project for Teach For America.

***Not a BW client (but kinda wish they were).

****BW client/funder.