June 18, 2018

Public Schools, Choice, and Privilege. Plus Controversial Experiential Ed, Gaps, Harvard’s Fight, And More…

Harvard gets ready to fight over its admissions practices. Harvard has a pretty big fight on its hands.

Trust for Learning RFP on early ed: practice, policy, and systems change.

Janus inoculations.

Your periodic reminder that traditional public schools are not as “open to all” as billed. Related: Check your privilege.

And a periodic reminder to always read Willingham on learning styles.

Gender achievement gaps.  Sandy Kress isn’t happy with the narrative on education in Texas.

Laura Waters on the education political drama in New Jersey.

Kevin Carey on more transparent college pricing information.

Here’s a teacher tenure case you may not have heard about.

Success Academy and the diverse by design issue. And the craziness over school space continues.

Checking in on the ATR…

Experiential ed:

“Yes, it was abusive and very unnerving,” he said. “But I think they’re doing it for the greater good.”

Do new staffing models for personalized learning work? Depends!

Rural schools without enough kids.

CAP on alternative accountability systems.

The sliding doors and interior layout on a minivan are hard to resist.

June 13, 2018

Jobs And Fit, School Violence, Adjudicated Youth, Gender And NYC Schools, Embeds, More!

A few years ago I talked about job fit – using hockey coach Bruce Boudreau as the example – and how we don’t think about that enough in education. This week Chad Aldeman and Kaitlin Pennington talked with Mathematica’s Steven Glazer about the same thing, but NBA this time!

In The 74 I looked at how a boozy bender of all things is a good example for kids.

One school’s experience with MS-13.

High school in an adult jail. Powerful journalism. Audio version here.

Deep dive with Laurene Powell Jobs.

The gender angle on the NYC school debate.

This case of the teacher who claims they shouldn’t have to call transgender students by their chosen name is kind of odd. Within reason shouldn’t you just call any student by the name they prefer to be called? If you’re not good with that do you really want to be working with young people in the first place?

This isn’t Cameron Crowe embedding himself in a high school but it is still a really interesting take on work today and the practical implications of what’s being discussed about higher ed, skills, jobs.

A lot of chatter about this Max Eden article on an in-school death and what lessons it holds for the debate about discipline in school.

Susan Tedeschi, Angel From Montgomery and Sugaree.

June 12, 2018

The Bender Is A Teachable Moment!

The Washington Capitals are celebrating their first Stanley Cup win today, they are coming off of a pretty epic bender this weekend where they partied like you’d expect hockey players to. And that – and their whole reaction to winning – is something of a teachable moment about showing your feelings and living in the moment. I take a look at that in The 74:

…Now, as the binge enters its fifth day, with a citywide parade no less, the clucking is starting that this is not what role models do — or that part of winning is acting like you’ve been there before.

Forget that.

Even though the celebration is not entirely G-rated it’s actually a good lesson for kids: Don’t be too self-conscious and don’t be afraid to show your emotions…

Click through to read the entire argument here.

June 11, 2018

Janus, Edujobs, Bradford On Integration, Willingham Is Never Average, Newark, Kane, More!

Scroll down for some Edujobs. Here at Bellwether we are growing and  hiring for a few roles, several openings on our evaluation team and a new analyst role.

Kelly Robson with a handy Janus explainer.

I take a look at Social Security and physically demanding jobs.

False alarm on a Janus ruling today but we’re going to run out of June Mondays soon so stay tuned. Here are some resources to help you get up to speed on the case – and why it matters.

Derrell Bradford points out some inconsistencies in the arguments that school integration should supersede other reform efforts.

Pam Moran exit interview.

Dan Willingham on “The End of Average.”

You will not believe this: There may have been some political shenanigans in Newark with the superintendent search.

You’re hearing more conversations about efficacy and ed tech and more discussions on research and evaluation. Here’s Tom Kane with some colleagues on one idea. 

GoPro engulfed in molten lava, keeps filming.

Social Security And Social Security And Teachers

Here’s a funny thing. In D.C. these days everyone dresses like it’s Dawson City – seriously, my office is in a historic African-American neighborhood but come happy hour you’d swear you were in a logging camp (albeit one with a healthy contingent of yogis). There is even a place you can throw axes for fun. But old habits die hard, and Washington still mostly governs like Gucci Gulch.

A great example is the debate over Social Security’s retirement age, where white collar professionals breezily discuss raising the retirement age as though it’s no big deal. And for many it’s not, but if you work on your feet all day or in a physically demanding job it’s a different story.

I take a look at that in The Hill and look at some of the options, including my favored one, to address the problem.

Also, worth noting – though not the focus of the article – 40 percent of teachers are not covered by Social Security. You can learn more about that problem here. 

June 8, 2018

June 6, 2018

NY Equity Debate, CA Results, Jim Ryan’s Commencement, Parent Rights, Civics, More!

Good overview of the California ed stakes/results last night.

Big debate in New York City over admissions to the city’s selective public high schools, which function as their own school system within the school system. They’re not at all diverse relative to the demographics of the public school population in the city. People fall roughly into three camps about that issue 1) that’s a problem that is going to require some complicated fixes b) that’s not a problem policymakers can do a lot about and c) that’s a problem and the admissions have to be changed. Here’s the school chancellor:

“Either you believe that black and Latino students can’t perform and don’t have a role in these schools, or the system is somehow not set up to capture the full array of talent in our school system,” he said. Right now, only 9 percent of specialized high school students are black or Latino.

What’s interesting, is that you can agree with the chancellor, Richard Carranza, and think that the system has failed kids up until the point they test for these schools – or don’t even bother to test. So one solution is the new admissions strategy city officials want to move to, but another is to get serious about early – and universal – screening for talent, better support for students around admission to these schools, and better quality of education overall in the early grades. In other words, a big question here is whether the city’s approach is really progress or just a band-aid on a much deeper wound? Sure, there are plenty of people against both of those approaches who think the status quo is fine, but the fulcrum of the debate should be elsewhere and with a long term focus.

The debate on this will be noisy and it won’t be pretty – people will have a field day with hypocrisy from many parents and all that. Politically, the mayor’s move will also undercut the argument that diversity need not come at the expense of merit – people are already seizing on that. Income versus race preferences may also emerge as a big issue. His hostility to charters is little help here. But underneath all that are some serious questions about what a genuinely equitable system might look like and why we have to have this conversation in the first place?


This is a great commencement address.

Tim Daly on a parental rights template.

This is the kind of conversation we should be having, learning from evidence.

Civics education should be teaching students about the civic process, not intellectually massaging them to adopt your left, right, center, libertarian, anarchist, or whatever views.

“Thirteen Reasons Why” is back, that’s not necessarily good news.

Harder They Come.

This seems indisputably true:

“When an active ‘bullfight’ comes out over the radio,” police wrote, “meetings take pause and everyone listens for the next update.”

Posted on Jun 6, 2018 @ 12:12pm

June 4, 2018

Reactionary Charter Politics, Janus, Gordon Ambach, John King, More…

New from Bellwether, here’s a deep dive primer on the Janus case – the Supreme Court will hand down a ruling later this month. This deck will get you ready. History, context, implications.

This Conor Williams essay in The Times has people chattering. Williams’ basic argument is that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos likes charters, people don’t like Betsy DeVos, President Trump likes charters and a lot of people don’t like President Trump, so that’s all bad for charters. It’s an argument more than a few folks are making and on its face it’s right. But it’s worth unpacking a little.

Ms. DeVos, who has been widely lampooned for her lack of expertise, can’t stop talking about how much she loves charters. She is so unpopular that she has set off a “political backlash” against these schools, two charter supporters wrote in USA Today. One survey of views on charter schools found that Democrats’ support dropped when they heard that President Trump supported them. In other words, the president and his education secretary are so disliked by liberals that some will automatically reject whatever they endorse.

There is some data on this now from more than one survey, and there seems to be a “Trump effect” of some sort going on. So, its magnitude might not as great as some assume, but it’s there. Let’s revisit the “automatically reject” point in a moment.

This puts Hiawatha [the charter Williams profiles]  in an awkward position. How should a charter network run by progressives committed to combating racism navigate the Trump administration’s vocal support of charters? How should it respond to criticism from progressives who accuse it of undermining public education? Charter schools are politically homeless.

I dunno. Maybe stick to doing good work for kids and don’t orient yourself solely in opposition to, or relation to, national politics? North star and all that.

During the Obama administration, tensions over charter schools among progressives were manageable. National charter school enrollment grew with support from President Barack Obama and his secretaries of education, Arne Duncan and John King. But the administration also provided more resources and flexibility for the education system as a whole.

Here’s a funny thing – until the 2009 stimulus the largest increase in funds for K-12 education was courtesy of a deal between President George W. Bush and Congress – and while it was pretty consistently misreported, that was real funds not aspirational authorization levels. Yet charters were caught in the same crossfire in those years and some of the same conversations and concern about a Bush effect. And whatever your politics, only a fool would compare President George W. Bush to President Trump.

It’s entirely possible that the fight over teacher evaluation and the fight about the general political relevance of the unions – remember Steven Brill declared them dead in 2009 and then they came roaring back in 2012 – had more to do with charter politics in the Obama years than much else. It’s also possible that the political pressure on charters today is growing because they’re one of the last things on the left everyone is fighting about on education. And their market share has grown to the point they are putting real pressure on the system.

Also, in terms of a reactionary politics around charters perhaps something else is at work here. I’d nominate ridiculously tribal politics that are now turbo-charged with social media. And it’s hardly just the left. During the Obama years Republicans defined themselves in opposition to the President on a range of issues where there was otherwise common ground. Recall Mitt Romney’s gymnastics on health care, for example. There are multiple issues you can write a version of this column about at a time when both parties define themselves more by what they’re not and what they’re against than what they are for.

Perhaps for charters the best thing the charter community can do is continue doing good work, cleaning up bad actors, and addressing the various challenges that exist. Being reactionary seems awfully short-sighted. It’s also not a good look.

Here’s Bruno Manno on some charter lessons.


Gordon Ambach has passed. In a long and accomplished career in education he was commissioner of education in New York and led CCSSO among other influential education roles.

New Pahara Next Gen fellows announced today.

Here’s a powerful teaching and learning story.

John King in Elle (!) on the gun debate.

Marshmallows revisited.

Serena Ryder, “Racing In The Streets.”

Janus Is Coming – Get Ready Here

Sometime this month the Supreme Court will hand down a decision in the Janus case. The case centers on mandatory union dues and free speech. Its effect on public sector unions could be modest or momentous depending on the ruling. Today, Bellwether is releasing a slide deck that looks at history and context as well as some possible implications.  60 slides that will get you up to speed on a case that, to paraphrase our former vice president, is a pretty big deal for our sector.