April 19, 2019

April 16, 2019

Charters And Money

Brandon Lewis in The 74:

In a new publication I co-authored, The State of the Charter Sector, we dug into demographics and enrollment data and found that charter schools are blacker, browner and poorer than traditional public schools. Despite serving only 6 percent of students nationally, charter schools disproportionately serve more black, Latino and low-income students than traditional public schools. The most recent data show that charters serve 12 percent more black students, 6 percent more Hispanic students and 3 percent more low-income students than traditional public schools.

Not only do charter schools serve higher percentages of historically underserved student groups, they also have positive effects on their academic performance. Data analysis shows that black and Latino students who attend urban charter schools experience up to 36 more days of learning than their traditional public school peers.

So when charter schools are producing positive results, especially for students of color, it’s troubling that they face significant funding challenges. Across cities with large charter sectors, charter schools receive an average of $6,000 less per student than traditional public schools.

LeBron’s Fanboys, A Neighborhood Schools Advocate’s Choices, Willits, Ryan, A Loss, More…

Kevin Durant on LeBron James:

So much hype comes from being around LeBron from other people,” Durant said. “He has so many fanboys in the media. Even the beat writers just fawn over him…It’s not LeBron’s fault at all; it’s just the fact you have so many groupies in the media that love to hang on every word.

Huh. Anyway, The New York Times takes a look at LeBron James’ new school. It’s an encouraging story but is also hard to miss how night and day the tone is relative to the paper’s Success Academy coverage. And it’s the kind of story, early data, unusually large jumps in achievement, and questionable measures (NWEA is a fine tool but it’s not the state assessment) that would usually bring the debunkers out from under all their rocks. Instead, crickets. And even analysts who should recognize that these numbers are outliers seem cowed into silence. To be clear, I am rooting for this school to succeed,  just as I am for all schools in whatever sector. And I believe schools can do more than most people think when they are intentional and focused. We need more good schools and I was absent the day they taught that you can only be partisan for one kind of school. So I hope it is all this and more. My point is not about the school, which I have not visited firsthand, but rather the reaction and suspension of skepticism. The reaction to the LeBron James initiative, from the start, has been pretty interesting in ways that might resonate with Durant? James throws off a lot of gravity.

Also, I don’t understand why people in education keep arguing for the hopelessness of education. Keep telling politicians that schools can’t work and sooner or later they’ll take yes for an answer.

UVA President Jim Ryan ran the Boston Marathon today in honor of 26 teachers, one of them was my second grade teacher who had a life changing positive impact on me.

It’s really hard to know what to make of this story about a D.C. pol and ardent neighborhood schools advocate figuring out what high school is best for his daughter. But, I would like to see the WaPo’s Pinocchios on this fact check:

“In some ways,” Joe Weedon said, “I’m disappointed we won the lottery.”

And this line is money:

His daughter says she has become an expert card player because of all the free time she has had with substitute teachers.

I mean look, I guess it’s clickable to watch some guy with choices (and the ability to make new ones if those don’t pan out) do a Hamlet routine. And in the past people used to just quietly melt into the suburbs or DC’s large private school sector so maybe in a weird way this sort of exhibitionism is progress. But, still, probably more compelling to hear about what it is like to not have a lot of options? For parents who don’t have choice or means and are stuck with some of D.C.’s lower performing options – and for parents in places around the country where there is no choice at all – the aesthetics of all this and ‘what it means’ are not especially interesting. They are claustrophobic in a way a lot of people don’t appreciate. Write about that.

Don Stewart has passed. I didn’t know him well but he always seemed classy, thoughtful, and generous when we did cross paths.

Interesting talks here and at about 59:30 education’s own Luci Willits gives a talk.

She Remembers Everything.

Posted on Apr 16, 2019 @ 8:58am

April 12, 2019

End Of Testing? Charter Temp Check…

Like outdoor living, experiential education, viewpoint diversity, one or more of those things? It’s not too late to register for this event with the Arete Project next week in DC, it’s going to be great.

I don’t know if he’s going to have to sleep on the couch now or what, but here’s a pretty good temperature check on charter school politics in the Democratic Party. And it’s not good. The charter world seems to be split along the lines of whether this is a passing thing or a realignment. I wouldn’t take it lightly.


Tom Vander Ark proposes a new testing system – basically the idea of a cumulative assessment using tech to move away from point in time “high stakes” tests and to capture more information. It’s a good idea in theory – Checker Finn knocks on some of the practical constraints here and there are real equity concerns with this approach. But more than that, I think it assumes that what the sector wants is better technical solutions and those will ease the politics. This might be exactly backwards: The field doesn’t want better craft to create better accountability, the field is special-interest driven and consequently allergic to accountability. Doesn’t mean it’s not an idea with promise, just means the underlying forces in the field turn on something besides good craft.

Goodbye Carolina.

April 11, 2019

Situational Leadership In Edu, Today In Headlines, Parkland Suit…

OK, it’s awfully hard to defend Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, especially when she shows up again and again at hearings seemingly unprepared to answer what should be obvious questions. Yet there is also an element of the unserious to the whole process. We might remember how when Al Franken “mansplained” to her about testing the woke police called in sick and everyone cheered.

Now, while DeVos’ game hasn’t markedly improved she still operates in an environment of situational gotcha. Just a few years ago everyone was chastising and jumping on Arne Duncan for acting like a national school superintendent and doing things by fiat. Today, apparently, the problem is that DeVos isn’t doing the same thing. Yesterday she declined to say she was responsible for educating every child in America or to take executive action to change policies in ad hoc ways – things Duncan was often criticized for. Cue the jeers. Whatever you think about the idea of arming teachers – I think it’s a lousy one – if the Congress was inclined they could prevent states and schools from spending money on guns or training. Instead, for all of DeVos’ shortcomings a concurrent problem is the amount of theater around all this rather than doing things. Or put differently, Betsy DeVos, pro or con, is not an education policy.

This is quite a headline….

Parkland fallout.

You ain’t gonna learn what you don’t want to know.

April 10, 2019

Heroic Story…Plus Pensions! Finance, Accountability…

Good look at the finance side of the public pension problem (also features fish).

ICYMI Chad Aldeman checks some pension math here.

Supporting women leaders in the ed sector via Chiefs for Change.

School finance need to be a left or right issue, there’s a pretty obvious grand bargain here.

Congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia, who chairs the House education committee worries about the lack of accountability ESSA has ushered in. Virginia’s education secretary meanwhile thinks standardized tests are “toxic.” Good times. (BTW, as in some other states achievement in VA is stagnating, put most charitably, and a charade to change the state’s accountability scheme is what keeps the problem seemingly at bay.)

This thread:

Ft. Hood.

Posted on Apr 10, 2019 @ 3:17pm

April 9, 2019

Definitely Bad Looks And Debatable Looks, Flawed Teacher Pay Math Leads To Flawed Policy, Good Stories, Statistical Insignificance, Parents, Transportation, More!

This is going to be a great event especially if viewpoint diversity and the outdoors are your thing.

This from Chad Aldeman in The Hill is important.

It’s an idea that apparently was too good to check. In The Washington Post, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a candidate for president, proposed a bold new federal-state partnership to raise teacher pay because of a yawning “teacher wage gap.” Yet, while teacher compensation is a problem in many states and school districts, Harris relied on incomplete data. As a result, her proposal will fail to help the teachers as it should — and might actually make their problem worse.

Here’s an interesting case. A female teacher was fired, presumably for violating the morals clause of her contract when a topless selfie picture of her was seen by students. Problem is, the teacher had no intention of sharing this content with students. Instead, another teacher, who she had shared it with in the course of a relationship, apparently left their phone unsecured or otherwise allowed students to see it. The account in the article makes it seem that the school could have handled things with more sensitivity. But, morals clauses are notoriously squishy and subjective and this is explicitly conduct students cannot engage in without consequence. There is also a complicated set of gender issues given the double standards with men and women here. She’s suing for her job and monetary damages. Her take here.

Elsewhere, here’s a teachers union leader arguing against a law that would criminalize sex between teachers and students even if those students have reached the age of consent. His argument is that in theory a teacher would already lose their job and license for doing this so the law isn’t really needed and singles out teachers. It’s not a completely meritless argument except one might argue that the student – teacher relationship is a special one so it’s less singling out than acknowledging the custodial relationship that exists and that even colleges are explicitly banning this kind of thing with even older students. Of course one might also argue that, you know, c’mon when you represent teachers it’s a really bad look to argue against a law making it illegal for them to have sex with students…full stop!

This is a great story.

This is not, a 5th-grader being killed in a fight in school is unacceptable under any circumstance.  As we discussed the other day, keeping kids safe is the core responsibility of any school.

Is statistical significance on its way out?

RAND on principals.

Ken Wagner exit interview in RI.

OK, I want to pretend to be shocked but I’ve heard about other similar stuff:

“If a parent ever feels the need to inform me or my colleagues regarding the actions of a child that is not their own — I will ask you to leave my office or end the phone conversation.”

The message seemed to confirm the vague rumors that had circulated for weeks — murmurs about parents behaving badly, even going so far as to disparage other students, presumably to give their own teens a leg up in the high-stakes college admissions competition.

Anecdotally, even from Walker critics, I hear this (usually followed by ‘but please don’t attribute this to me…’):

Many school superintendents won’t admit it publicly, but weakened teachers unions have given them unprecedented freedom to make important decisions about the schools they oversee. The ability to offer better pay and incentives has school districts across the state competing for the best teachers.

But, it’s debatable how much Wisconsin shows what a post-Janus world is going to look like because Act 10 covered a number of elements that the Janus decision did not. More on Janus context here. My best guess on where the unions will go over time in a post-Janus world.

New report on integration from Century Foundation (includes a recommendation on transportation, but there is even more that can happen on that issue).

Montessori on the march.


April 5, 2019

Education In A Time Of Fracture

Bellwether is co-hosting an event for The Arete Project in D.C. on April 17, from 5:30 – 7:30pm. Originally North Carolina-based the program was for women. Now they’ve expanded to Alaska and you can learn about that work, which is both co-ed and focused on viewpoint diversity. It’s authentic education and you can get sense of that from the video below.

If you are interested in attending please email us at events@bellwethereducation.org.

The Arete Project: Education for Citizenship, Stewardship, and Leadership from Josh Newman on Vimeo.

April 4, 2019

Everybody Knows Small Schools Don’t Work! Plus, Guns In Schools Is A Really Bad Idea…Discipline, Bennet, Predictions, More…

I don’t know if history repeats or rhymes but regardless it’s ridiculous that in 2019 Paul Hill has to write this.

Education suffers from a real “everybody knows” problem where lots of bad information is taken as fact and often passed along by credulous media – charter school and school choice data, teacher pay, teacher credentialing, TFA teacher performance, NCLB outcomes, and how people learn are just a few examples. Another one that comes up a lot is “small schools,” which are now casually dismissed as something that didn’t work despite a lot of evidence to the contrary, for instance this new study. What’s particularly interesting is that small schools are a strategy traditional public school districts can employ and it’s another way that choice can be offered within the public system. For all the braying about “privatization” it is surprising there is not more energy around that.

Here’s your periodic reminder that having teachers carry guns is an idea that generally seems to resonate most with people who have never actually been in a firefight. Also, fewer guns in schools means fewer opportunities for accidents, which while avoidable do happen.

Yeah…I wouldn’t bet a lot on this one.

New data on race and school discipline.

Education leader Michael Bennet has cancer.

Eating in class is always a touchy issue.

Get well soon.

April 3, 2019

School Boards, New Mayor, College Admissions, Success Plans, Panic On Privilege, More…

Phillip Burgyone-Allen on school boards.

The EdRedesign Lab at Harvard GSE on “Success Plans” for students.

Here’s a debate on SEL with Russ Whithurst and Robert Balfanz.

Sign of the times or member services? New DQC report on state report cards and some pushback (that doesn’t alter the main takeaways) from CCSSO.

Lori Lightfoot’s win in Chicago was inspiring on a few levels – but what does it mean for schools there? CTU’s take here.

ICYMI Michael Danneberg takes a look at some of the (legal) ways college admissions are not the meritocracy some people think.

People love to beat up on higher ed by saying how college is nothing like the real world, but then there is this kid at Yale who operated an illegal hedge fund and ran afoul of the SEC.

RAND on some education applications of AI.

Robert Pondiscio takes no prisoners: 

His reward has often been abuse at the hands of critics who conflate orderly classrooms with colonialism, or who see children walking through hallways in straight lines as practice for prison. But they’ve got it backward: The children in those schools are on their way to becoming doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs, not felons. If there is racism at work in these high-performing charter schools (none dare call them “no excuses” schools anymore) it lies mostly within the hearts of their critics, particularly those of a certain caste — armchair social justice warriors who’ve never known a moment of fear or uncertainty over their own children’s path to college, nor any real threats to their families’ continued prosperity.

Aristocracy is returning with a vengeance. It may appear that we’re having an acute anti-privilege moment in education, driven by the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal and the ritual annual hand-wringing over the paltry numbers of black and Hispanic students admitted to New York City’s specialized high schools. But the responses and “fixes” being offered are more likely to make things worse. If the devil’s greatest trick was to convince the world that he didn’t exist, an even greater one is being pulled off by the privileged and powerful. They have convinced their enemies to protect and extend their advantages by dismissing objective merit under the banner of fighting for social justice. The cold, hard fact is that everything in education can and will be gamed by the affluent and privileged. That’s what privilege is. Utopian fantasies to dismantle it by persuasion, public shaming and technocratic manipulation are naive, unworkable or illegal. You can’t eliminate or embarrass privilege; you can only limit its influence. Yet we seem exhausted by the effort.

Tim Daly on the related issue of allegedly victimless fraud in education.

Shorter Tom Kane: “No, I didn’t mean that!” (w/ David Steiner).

Theme song for CTE?