December 24, 2014
It might be. Who knows? But speculating about it can certainly keep a week. Light posting, if at all, through January 2nd. Happy holidays and best wishes for 2015. Thanks for reading. - AR
It might be. Who knows? But speculating about it can certainly keep a week. Light posting, if at all, through January 2nd. Happy holidays and best wishes for 2015. Thanks for reading. - AR
Kansas City here you come? The Kauffman Foundation is seeking a fellow to help launch their new teacher residency. Great start-up role with an innovative foundation working on a cool issue. Plus good baseball close by. What’s not to like? Learn more about the foundation, the residency, and the role here (pdf).
Chad Aldeman in Vox on the more than a million teachers uncovered by Social Security. Longer paper on same issue out today (pdf).
On Jeb Bush and Common Core there is a chance the conventional wisdom about how this is a pure political liability is wrong. Hearing concern among some Republican presidential wannabe camps that Bush’s entry into the race creates less of a Common Core liability for him than it does for politicians who transparently flip-flopped on the issue to pander to the conservative base because it will raise questions.
Part of success is belief. So it’s worth paying attention to how an increasing number of people believe an Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) renewal bill is possible in 2015. By way of background, ESEA is the overarching law governing federal involvement and support for K-12 schools first enacted in 1965. Most recently reauthorized in 2001 as the No Child Left Behind Act , ESEA was set to be renewed in 2007 but partisan, inter-party, and inter-chamber disagreements since then have thwarted efforts to update the law. For the past several years the Obama Administration has offered states a set of waivers from various provisions of the law in an effort to update it absent congressional action.
Now, with Senator Alexander (R-TN) taking over the Senate committee that handles education there is an increasing sense that something might happen in 2015. Insiders are talking about it, legislative language is circulating, and a forthcoming Whiteboard Advisors Education Insiders survey shows some (but hardly overwhelming) movement on its forecast of ESEA likelihood.
The factors for action are pretty compelling, but the obstacles are as well. Big substantive issues include accountability, annual testing, data privacy, and school choice are out there and the politics are complicated.
Let’s start with what makes ESEA reauthorization likely?
Speaking of Ohio charters, a roadmap for improving policy and practice there via Bellwether analysts Smarick, Squire, and Robson published by the Ohio-based Fordham Institute.
Peter Hill and Michael Barber take a look at the horizon (pdf).
Earlier this week CREDO, the education research outfit at Stanford led by Macke Raymond, released another in its series of city, state, and national evaluations of charter school performance. This one was on Ohio (pdf). The studies are an amusing Rorsarch test for charter critics. The ones about places where charters are underperforming are widely cited and CREDO is presented as an august institution to be heeded in a Solomon-like fashion. When one comes out showing a city or state where charters are dramatically outpacing other schools it’s crickets or suddenly CREDO is another front group for “corporate reform.”
Actually, CREDO is none of those things but it’s a good research shop offering a great analytic view into how charters are playing out in different places. This week’s Ohio analysis, in broader context, offers some important lessons.
First, beware the ecological fallacy. Not every charter in Ohio is dreadful and there are some quite good ones. That said, overall the state is a charter debacle. If your only experience with charter schools was Ohio it would be understandable if you thought the entire idea was essentially flawed. Within Ohio there are cities doing a better or worse job. For instance Cleveland, the site of some interesting charter innovation, is an outlier high within in the state. Also pay attention to the different impact on different socioeconomic, racial, and ethic groups. Still, the overall story remains discouraging.
Second, this isn’t new. Ohio has been a laggard for some time and despite multiple evaluations pointing this out for more than a decade (Sara Mead and I included it in multi-state charter evaluation we led in the early part of the 2000s and things were not good then). More importantly, the state has missed numerous opportunities to improve its policies and by extension its charter operations. Policy mistakes in the early going of chartering were par for the course, that’s what innovation looks like. But Ohio has failed to learn from its own experience and the experience of other states that are higher performing. That’s inexcusable. The CREDO analysis says that more recent reform efforts are only, “dimly discernible” in the charter data. Bellwether is working with some charter leaders in Ohio on ways to use policy to accelerate the pace of improvement.
Third, policy and practice matter, this is not a crapshoot. There are places around the country that are much higher performing. CREDO analyses of Los Angeles, New Jersey, Massachusetts (and specifically Boston), New York City, and elsewhere show that charters can dramatically change achievement and outcomes for students if policymakers get the balance between freedom and accountability right. What does dramatically look like? In Los Angeles the effect sizes are equivalent to 50 days of additional reading instruction and 79 days of additional math instruction. On Massachusetts and Boston CREDO reports,
…on average, charter students in Massachusetts gain an additional one and a half months of learning in reading over their [traditional public school] counterparts. In math, the advantage for charter students is about two and a half months of additional learning in one school year. Charter students in Boston gain an additional 12 months in reading and 13 months in math per school year compared to their [traditional public school] counterparts.
Extended learning time anyone? Read the rest of this entry »
On Tuesday Fordham hosted a conference in D.C. on the issue of social/economic mobility and education. It produced a set of interesting papers, you can and should read them all here and I enjoyed participating. But the underlying question seemed to be whether the idea of college for all is a misplaced emphasis for education reform. A few thoughts on that:
First, when did college for all who aspire to it become college for everyone? I don’t know anyone who thinks everyone should go to college, needs to, or that college is the only path to a fulfilled, impactful, and well-lived life. I do, however, know plenty of people who think that kids who want to go to college should be able to and that too few poor kids go (more on that in a minute).
Second, at the Fordham event ideas about multiple pathways and even tracking were discussed with a clear undercurrent that we ought to be counseling more poor kids (and others) toward routes like that. This points up the very complicated questions of who decides, how, and based on what criteria? Everyone points to the Europeans here but ignores important cultural differences in how we think about education, gates to various paths, and second chances. In our country these routes have a poor history with second class education for lower-income Americans. These approaches also raise hard questions about how much we want our schools to be vocational and choice-making vehicles and how much we want them to be about preparing people to be able to make choices. And, related, how much we want schools to be able to prepare people to course correct if they realize a few years after high school that they made a choice that wasn’t the right one for them.
Third, right now about nine percent of low-income students get a B.A. by the time they’re 24, about one in five finish some post-secondary degree in that timeframe. B.A.s for affluent kid by 24? More than four in five. One hypothesis is that poor kids are not suited for college. Another, that I subscribe to, is that the outcomes we see are the result of a tremendously inequitable K-12 and higher education system that simply doesn’t work well for the poor. I’d be a lot more comfortable with a conversation about who shouldn’t go to college if it was predicated with an unambiguous declaration that a lot more poor kids can and should be going now.*
Fourth, this conversation cannot be divorced from the reality that for all of its promise technology is wreaking havoc on the job prospects of many Americans and changing the kind of work done here at scale.
Fifth, we obviously need better vocational, technical, and career education in this country. It’s such an obvious point it should go without saying. But the idea that these routes are oppositional to better academic preparation and preparation that leaves the door open for students to make choices after high school is belied by some experience. SREB’s Gene Bottoms wasn’t at the Fordham conference and that’s a shame. These are not new issues.
Finally, why should more low-income kids go to college? Because it’s the best social mobility strategy we have right now as a country. This brief from Ron Haskins (who presented at the Fordham conference) does a nice job of showing just how powerful college is. If you’re poor and you go -and finish – you’re unlikely to remain poor and if you don’t the odds are against you. The data are compelling and in fact show that college matters for more low-income Americans than the affluent in terms of economic outcomes. Unfortunately, those data are apparently not as compelling as a broad set of politics that largely insulate a failing status quo from real change.
*Not to imply that this is easy. It’s a complicated tapestry of highly-effective k-12 schools, counseling and guidance, college support and financing. But it can be done.
A lot of speculation about former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and a White House run and what it means for education given Bush’s Common Core support – something he’s not backing away from even in the face of activist pressure that will be an issue in a Republican primary.
“…Bush’s stand on Common Core won’t help him much in the general election. For the most part, it isn’t an issue of federal policy. So he has stumbled into a fight with the party base that won’t yield him any long-term political gains.”
That’s probably partly right. Common Core won’t yield Bush many gains but voters are craving authenticity and Bush seems a skilled enough politician to wrap his Common Core stance up in that larger theme for a general election and even a primary. More interesting, though, I don’t think Bush cares. Agree with him or not, he’s in education because he thinks it’s the right thing to do, not because it gets him much political traction except with the media and reformers.
A few years ago I interviewed him for TIME and in a passage that didn’t make it into the published interview Bush said,
“Normally in politics you try to do things where there is a political benefit. You believe in the policy and you want the policy to be of some political use. It’s better when you get the intersection of good policy and politics combined. In my experience as governor [education] was a constant struggle and I didn’t get the political benefit of building constituencies that benefited from our reforms – which were significant, top 5 almost every category people look at, particularly in the younger grades. It hasn’t translated into political benefit.”
Yet it didn’t matter, Bush said, because in Florida
“I could win my political things other ways,”
The political question now, looking ahead to 2016, is whether it’s possible to win politically in other ways or if Bush is politically checkmated given the mood of the Republican primary electorate? In general the specifics of education policy do not matter much in presidential elections but here’s a place they just might.
*A question reformers should wrestle with is how to create a politics of reform that doesn’t depend on politicians with a ‘damn the torpedoes’ approach or ones who can win their political things other ways. Sustainable long-term reform ultimately depends on politicians who can win with reform not despite it.
Former NJ education commissioner Chris Cerf punches back on the debate over Newark schools.
New and important role in Bellwether’s D.C. office, great chance to join our team of about 50 professionals (based across three additional offices in Chicago, Bay Area, and Boston as well). More details and how to apply here.
Joel Klein sits down in the Changing Lanes interview car (in this case the Eduwife’s Honda) to talk about his new book and education more generally.
Education policy’s renaissance man? Richard Whitmire analyzes education policy one day, and then splits a few cords of wood the next. He can also fish (see here and here). His most recent book, about the Rocketship charter network, is here.
Blogging light today/week because of some other responsibilities. But many links to new reports, studies, and timely news (and a Nick Lowe/Johnny Cash tune) on my Twitter feed. And also RealClearEducation rounds it all up for you comprehensively and viewpoint neutrally twice a day.
And if you are not already, be sure to check out Ahead of the Heard, the new Bellwether blog.
A decade ago the debate about Washington D.C.’s public schools turned on school vouchers. How many students in the city’s beleaguered schools should get a lifeline out and how many national Democrats would break ranks and support vouchers? As a new report released last Friday makes clear, the questions now are how fast can the city’s booming public charter school sector grow and how quickly — not if — the city’s traditional public schools can improve as well…
New Schools for New Orleans is hiring a writer for an editorial role that also includes comms functions. Great organization doing high impact work to improve the overall quality of educational options in New Orleans. You can learn more about this opportunity here (pdf).
Longtime NEA staffer Bill Raabe reflects on the election and what’s next.
Innovative and sunsetting (but not for a few years!) foundation seeking a vice president. Terrific role with potential for real impact. Learn more here.
On the topic of blogging, another Bellwether blogging seminar coming up, December, in Washington, D.C. The session is free and a great chance to work with leading writers and social media experts. Learn more and learn how to apply here.
Bellwether’s new team blog, Ahead of the Heard, launches today. It’s a place for different team members to share different perspectives about what is happening in the sector.
Ahead of the Heard will be a regular home for commentary, analysis, and original insights from the Bellwether team. To learn more about the name of the blog and what you can expect to see, check out Sara Mead’s welcome post.
At RealClearEducation Northeastern President Joseph Aoun takes a look at veterans and education.
Guest post by Bellwether’s Jason Weeby:
Less than 1 percent of Americans serve in the military and even fewer go to war. For those who do and return home safely, it is a life-altering experience that is incomprehensible to 99 percent of the people that surround them. And for all the visible and invisible wounds that service members incur, they also bring home valuable skills and a unique brand of leadership that the education sector needs.
About a year and a half ago, I launched the Sector Switcher program at Education Pioneers where we recruited mid-career military professionals for leadership roles in education nonprofits. Many of them were veterans of recent wars. Through the process, I was surprised to see how the skills and knowledge they developed during their military service align with what we need in system-level education leaders today.
Military leaders learn to complete a mission within the structure of a bureaucracy and with the people provided to them, limited resources, and significant externalities at play. They learn to be adaptable in ambiguous situations and think in terms of systems. They analyze situations methodically, put a plan in place, pursue it doggedly, and learn continuously. Many are responsible for the safe return of hundreds of subordinates and millions of dollars in equipment. But more importantly, they’re driven by a purpose larger than themselves.
Almost every single service member I talked to said they were interested in pursuing a career in education because they yearned for a job that provided them the sense of service to others they felt as part of the armed forces.
It’s Veterans Day and I want to challenge you to think beyond the platitudes and caricatures that tend to dominate the holiday and consider the tremendous leadership and management capabilities that veterans, today especially those of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, can bring to the civilian workforce when they separate from the military. I know that I’d count myself as lucky to work alongside one.
Jason Weeby is a senior fellow at Bellwether Education.
Whiteboard Advisor’s Education Insiders on impact of Tuesday’s election (pdf).
UP Education Network, a rapidly growing non-profit school management organization focused on school turnaround (and a Bellwether client), is looking for a Chief Talent Officer to develop a vision and strategy for talent across both UP’s central office and schools as the organization scales. Great opportunity to play a critical role in helping a great education organization address one of the greatest obstacles to scaling successful education orgs. More information here.
Short early reax on the election. Full round-up of education election news at RealClearEducation.com.
- Obviously a good night for Republicans. From an education standpoint that’s not as interesting though as what a bad night it was for the teachers unions. They seemed mostly unable to influence targeted races – even in swing states. Their 0-3 record against Scott Walker post the Wisconsin collective bargaining showdown should cause some soul searching.
- That said, in strong blue states they still seem powerful on straight up education issues. The Tuck – Torlakson race is evidence of that. And that has big implications for reform and also portends more Democrat v. Democrat tension on the issue.
- Democratic pension reformers and charter school supporters won in Rhode Island. Coupled with the Massachusetts governor’s race things could get interesting on charters in the northeast. But both those races involved issues beyond education.
-In terms of direct impact on education the governor’s races and continued Republican gains in state legislatures will likely be more consequential than the power shift in Washington.
- You’ll hear some overwrought commentary in the education world in the next few days about what this means in 2016. Looking at the exits and the map Republicans still have a big hill to climb to the White House and depending how things go the next few years probably still face a tough issue environment in that campaign.
Update: Indy school board results.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio rolled out his new school turnaround strategy there yesterday. Key details TBD but it’s hard not to see it as a backing off of the more aggressive approach of the Bloomberg administration.
- Where has this approach worked at any scale?
- Why is it a choice between better supporting students and schools and also taking aggressive steps in cases of persistently low-performance?
- Given the evidence on turnarounds, would these resources have a greater impact if targeted at middling schools while continuing a more aggressive strategy on the lowest-performing ones?
- And, the track record on turning around the lowest-performers is pretty stark. In the context of that evidence base do those parents and children deserve more immediate relief now?