December 8, 2016

Student Voice! Aldeman On Pensions, Biddle On Reform, Plus Idaho Charters, The Ones Who Leave Chris Christie, DeVos, Dreamers, ESSA Testing, Yale Investing, Sam Gleaves, And More!

Here’s a new analysis by Kelly Robson and Julie Squire on charter school facilities in Idaho.

Currently, about 6,000 Idaho students are on waitlists for charter schools. And the state is expected to add nearly 22,000 new prek-12 students by fall 2022. The charter sector can help ensure these students have access to a high-quality school, but only if it is able to grow and expand. Unfortunately, future growth in the charter sector is stymied by its limited access to facilities financing…

…we use survey data we collected from Idaho’s charter school leaders to quantify the stark discrepancy in access to state and local facilities funding sources between district and charter schools: On average, districts have access to approximately $1,445 per pupil of state and local funding. Charter schools get less than one-quarter this amount on average: $347.

Heroes walk amongst us. Watch a high school student undress their school board for the kind of redistricting decisions that happen all the time even in communities that consider themselves delightfully progressive:

Although you claim to “value all students, staff and families in our diverse, inclusive school community,” when given the opportunity to help free and reduced lunch students, you consciously chose to do the exact opposite. Your stated mission is to prepare students to “be responsible and productive global citizens.” Surely part of becoming a “global citizen” includes knowing how to interact with people that don’t look like you.  Yet, this move in four years according to your own data will remove 27 percent of black students at Washington-Lee and send them to Wakefield, despite the fact that Wakefield’s a black population is already larger (20.7 percent to Washington-Lee’s 9.0). After this move, according to your data, Wakefield will have twice as many black students as Washington-Lee and Yorktown combined. Additionally, if your projections for this move are correct, Yorktown will pass James Madison and Langley to host the highest concentration of whites in one high school inside the beltway. Arlington is only 26 square miles but through negligence you’ve managed to become more racially segregated than all 406 square miles of Fairfax.

Give that kid a column!

Chad Aldeman takes a look at a missed opportunity to improve teacher pensions in Michigan:

How would closing a pension plan be good for teachers?

First, Michigan teachers would have been eligible for retirement benefits much earlier in their careers. Right now, Michigan teachers have to stay 10 years before they qualify for even a minimal pension. According to the state’s own financial models, 57 percent of new teachers won’t make it that far. Under the new plan, teachers would have been eligible for half of their employer’s contribution after just two years, and 100 percent after four years. That would have meant more Michigan teachers had access to retirement benefits earlier in their careers.

Second, the new plan would have been more generous for teachers. According to the official fiscal analysis conducted on the bill, Michigan teachers currently receive retirement benefits worth just 4 percent of their salary. Under the proposed legislation, teachers would have received retirement benefits worth 7 percent of their salary. That would cost the state a bit more money, true, but Michigan teachers would have gotten more in the way of retirement benefits.

Third, the state would have stopped accruing the large unfunded liabilities that are eating into school budgets. In response to those debts, the state has already raised contribution rates and cut benefits for new teachers. Today, Michigan employers are contributing not just the four percent for benefits; they’re actually contributing more than 22 percent of each teacher’s salary toward the pension plan. That is now set to continue for the foreseeable future.

RiShawn Biddle on Walter Scott and school reform.

One of the most-interesting aspects of the criminal justice reform movement is that it has been as championed by many conservatives and libertarians (including Radley Balko of the Washington Post, Jonathan Blanks of the Cato Institute, Congressman Justin Amash, and Atlantic Monthly‘s Conor Friedensdorf) as it has been by progressives and Black Lives Matter activists. Cato, in particular, is holding a conference this week tackling such issues as mass incarceration and militarization of police departments (including those harming children in our schools).

I’m starting to think Chris Christie is Ursula Le Guin’s wretched Omelas child in the basement for President-elect Donald Trump. He must suffer so Trump can thrive. Passed over for VP, pushed off of the transition, no AG, no DHS, and now apparently he won’t lead the RNC. But don’t forget Christie’s awful school finance proposal a few months ago. It basically pitted middle class and affluent communities against poor ones by telling the former they were getting ripped off and that everyone should just get the same funding allocations. The whole plan seemed to me an effort to step into the slipstream of Trumpist politics. Even without Christie that kind of inverse class warfare on education could be one way Trumpism moves depending on 2018 and 2020 politics.

The PISA data this week was covered top-line and is certainly not all great news but there is also some really interesting stuff buried in it. And I would like to assume this means we can stop fetishizing Finland. But that’s probably wrong given the cargo cult approach to things in the education sector. Bob Rothman says Estonia is now open for business. Don’t miss Amanda Ripley on this.

ESSA testing rules. Dan Quisenberry on the DeVos record in Michigan. Is the President-elect softening on immigration policy for Dreamers? Is the Yale investment model busted?

Wait, I read on Twitter that this was a big scandal…wump wump wump….NCTQ is out with a new analysis and rating of elementary education programs.

The President-elect called out a local union leader – by name – on Twitter last night. That is not behavior becoming a United States president (and in the current climate it’s dangerous). It also should terrify the teachers union. They are looking at bigger problems than a school choice policy they don’t like. For instance today Randi Weingarten called the Secretary of Labor-designee “slime.” That about sums up where they are.

Slightly off-edu: My wife and I host a concert series for folk/roots style music at a place in Arlington, VA. We partner with a non-profit Spread Music Now on some of it – they help expose low-income kids to music. Next show is 4/29/17, Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes are coming. Here’s NPR on Sam. Here’s No Depression with an article and song.  Here’s both of them. Sam’s message is a good one for the times. Save date if you’re interested. All are welcome, contact me for details.


December 7, 2016

Edjuob: High School Leader Blackstone Valley Prep (Includes Referral Bonus)

Blackstone Valley Prep is seeking a new leader. Great opportunity, among other things:

-Part of a network of diverse by design public charter schools that serve 2 urban and 2 suburban Rhode Island communities

-Part of the first Summit Basecamp and using a self-paced personalized model

- Part of innovative new school initiative in Rhode Island.

And:

They are also offering a $5K referral bonus for anyone who refers a candidate who accepts the position.

You can learn more about how to apply or nominate here.


December 6, 2016

Bellwether Better Blogging Seminar – February 2017!

Next Bellwether blogging training is in February 22-23, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Application is open now, you can learn more here. We will do another one in the summer of 2017 with a schedule more friendly to working teachers. Couple of things to keep in mind. This training is always at least 4 – 5x oversubscribed so don’t delay in applying. This training is strictly viewpoint neutral and selection is based on opportunity to benefit not any particular point of view. Our coaches are fantastic and at the top of the game in their various areas of expertise. Here is what some past participants say about the training:

“It was an extremely enriching professional development opportunity that I have been and will continue to be incorporating into my work. As a result of the training, I am now writing a memo and preparing to hold a meeting with colleagues about how we can refine our blogging and social media strategy. “ –Zachary Malter, American Youth Policy Forum

“The Better Blogging training should be required professional development not only for education bloggers but also communications professionals. While the training covered what I expected, like tips on topics ranging from headline writing to social media promotion, it also offered me strategic advising on how to completely rethink my organization’s blogging fellowship and guest blogging program, as well as our approach to communications more broadly. Since I attended the training, we have become much more thoughtful about the voices and ideas we elevate–on our blog and beyond.” – Ari Kiener, MinnCAN

“The Bellwether Better Blogging conference was a great opportunity to meet influential professionals engaged in promoting their voices and perspectives online, and to learn from them how to better promote and refine my own classroom-based perspectives on education reform.” – Mark Anderson, New York City middle school teacher and blogger

“The Better Blogging seminar greatly improved my writing. I am blogging more concise, poignant pieces and my voice as a teacher has gained greater confidence. I am now starting to network online and build a loyal readership.” – Marilyn Rhames, blogger at Education Post and alumni support manager at a Chicago charter school

“I left feeling inspired and equipped to implement new strategies for getting my voice out there. I appreciated the quality of the presenters, the diversity and expertise of the other attendees, and the time that each of you took to make sure that everybody was getting what they needed out of the conference.” – Luke Foley, 2014 Vermont Teacher of the Year

“Was some of the best training/professional development I’ve ever received…and in such a short amount of time!” – Brianna Crowley, high school English teacher, Hershey, PA, and blogger

“The training gave me the tools to make my organization’s blog stand out from the crowd. The presenters offered insights into not only creating content that jumps off the page, but also marketing it so that it attracts the widest audience and has the biggest impact. I go back to tips from the training on a daily basis, as I’m creating headlines, promoting our blog on social media, and talking to teachers about how to tell their stories most effectively.” – Kate McGovern, Teach Plus


December 5, 2016

Trump’s School Choice

In U.S. News & World Report I take a look at the opportunity Donald Trump has on school choice – and all the ways it could go off the rails:

Donald Trump didn’t say a lot about education during the presidential campaign, but he did make clear he favored school choice. His selection of Betsy DeVos, a longtime choice advocate and funder, to be secretary of education seems to indicate this is a policy area where we should, at least for now, take the president-elect both literally and seriously.

A Trump school choice push could be as disruptive as the rest of his unconventional approach to politics. Let’s be honest, there is a comfortable class of education mandarins living in exclusive suburbs enrolling their kids at so-called “public privates,” working out arrangements to send their kids to that one special school that allows them to claim public school parentage while sidestepping the problems other parents face, or taking advantage of private schools while nonetheless fighting tooth and nail to deny poor parents the same options. It’s gross, considered rude to talk about and widely normalized in an education world focused on what’s OK for other people’s kids.

On the other hand, all choice is not good choice. A quarter-century of school choice initiatives show pretty clearly the design of choice programs matters as much as their availability. DeVos should face some tough questions about her role in Michigan’s uneven charter school sector and her views on choice and accountability regulations more generally. If confirmed, she’ll then confront tough choices about how to design a school choice initiative that can both get through Capitol Hill and do some good for parents desperate for better schooling options.

This is where things get interesting…

Click here to read the possible upsides and the risk. 


Kaya Henderson Is A Model Citizen, Plus Bellwether’s Position, Coal Country, Michigan, Virgina (Foxx), PARCC Items, Biddle On Teachers Union Charter Spending, Davis On SEL, And More!

I’ve received a few emails in the past week asking about Bellwether’s “positioning” because of various things our analysts have written or said lately. Here’s the deal:  We take no organizational positions, on anything other than issues affecting all 501c3 organizations like ours as a class. Instead, our analysts enjoy editorial freedom. It’s how we attract the best people and such an exceptional team of analysts. So we’re serious about quality control but there is not editorial control, at all, and it doesn’t matter whenever I or Sara Mead or anyone else at Bellwether agrees with this point or that one as long it’s well argued. Unusual, yes. but we think (hope!) there is a place for it. Our grant funded work allows us to support a variety of perspectives and points of view – because we believe less of this is settled than most people seem to. It’s also what makes our client work strong, you’re not getting whatever the tired truism or fashion of the moment is, we stress test our work by filtering it through genuinely different and informed viewpoints and perspectives.

Some takes the past week. Here’s a new Bellwether analysis by Kate Pennington and Sara Mead on teacher evaluation in the ESSA era. 

Here’s Mead on school choice. Hailly Korman on the new federalists in the education world. Kate Pennington and Max Marchitello on charter schools and unions. Max on why urban and rural communities have more in common than not when it comes to school finance - important political implications if Democrats play their cards right. Allison Davis on SEL. Kirsten Schmitz on gender gaps and pensions. And here’s Pennington in U.S. News about teacher evaluation.

New resource from ED about helping students in secure facilities transition back to school. We do a lot of work on this issue at Bellwether. Overlooked but very important.

The new regime in D.C. Welcome to western Michigan…. And here’s a Virginia Foxx profile. 

New PARCC items released so  you can play along at home. Free press on campus. Chicago education funding plan vetoed. Thoughtful discussion on vouchers from Marquette Law.

Coal jobs, school finance, and school closings.

Conor Sen wants a pension bailout for Rust Belt cities. Some merit to the idea but a restructuring of pensions should accompany any aid. Teacher pensions really only work for about one in five teachers right now. It’s important that cities meet existing obligations to retirees and workers but this is not a system that should be extended in its current form.

Department of winning battles and losing wars: RiShawn Biddle looks at teachers union spending against the expansion of Massachusetts charter schools.

This is fantastic!  Kaya Henderson is moonlighting as a model.  After the World Series Cubs (and former Red Sox) executive Theo Epstein was asked his secret. His response,

 “All that business school leadership stuff is bullshit,” he tells me. If there’s a secret, it’s to “keep deflecting credit, keep from blaming. Live your fucking life and be nice to people.”

Kaya seems to live that as much as anyone in this sector.


December 1, 2016

Edujob: Program Director, Character and K12 Education Program @ Kern Family Foundation

Here’s a dynamic role at a foundation committed to thinking about character education:

The Kern Family Foundation operates on the belief that the United States’ flourishing depends on the ability of its communities to form citizens of good character, while also instilling the technical abilities that allow young people to support themselves with meaningful work in well-paying, high-demand jobs.

The Character and K12 Education Program teams are dedicated to restoring these two objectives—character formation and technical aptitude – to educational institutions. In the area of academic achievement, the Foundation places emphasis in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – disciplines that will allow young people to adapt to an increasingly technological world.

The Character and K12 Education Program Director will work closely with the Program’s team leader on the creation, implementation, assessment, and evaluation of strategies for the Character and K12 program. The Program Director is responsible for managing day-to-day grant making activities in keeping with the Foundation’s current policies and procedures, developing and maintaining strong relationships with regional organizations and peer foundations, and articulating Foundation goals and programs to the community.

You can learn more and apply via this link.


November 30, 2016

Trump, DeVos, Whiteboard Insiders On DeVos, Choice And Accountability. Plus: Steve Fleishman With The Eduwonkiest Non-Eduwonk Post Ever, Wisconsin News And Ravitch Could Have Stopped Trump And Chose Not To! Student Speech, When Does McWhorter Sleep? Also Data On TIMSS, Fordham Authorizing, EdTPA And More…

Another Bellwether Education blog training coming in February. Applications due in December. More here.

Last week I offered some thoughts in U.S. News & World Report on lecturing Trump voters that were really about the rampant assumption of monocausality since the election. I voted for Clinton. I’m no fan of Trump. But all of his supporters are not odious and castigating all of them doesn’t hold up intellectually (and even if  for some reason you believe it, it’s counter-productive politically and actually empowers the actually odious ones). Of course, you could write the same piece the other way because some of the truisms among Trump supporters are just as absurd. But the basic point is that it’s a sprawling and diverse country and we could all – urban, suburban, exurban, rural, whatever – do a bit better engaging with that.

DeVos twitter cards.001We asked the Whiteboard Advisors Education Insider panel (balanced politically) about approval or disapproval of Betsy DeVos. 57-43 approve/disapprove of the choice.

Related, within the education world (among those who didn’t support Trump for President, which is a majority) people seem to be breaking into two factions. One are the Never Trumps who just refuse to work with him and instead prefer to carry on the arguments from the campaign. These range from the folks calling out anyone who seeks to serve in the administration to folks just quietly planning to do politics rather than policy for a few years. On the other side are the folks who are saying, basically, ‘oh well, this is the world for the next few years let’s see how we can adapt to it and get something done for kids.’ They’re not coming over to Trump’s way of looking at the world but are talking about how to operate in this new environment. So a lot of operators, especially those deeply integrated with federal policy are less about castigating the incoming administration right now than trying to figure out who the deputy assistant secretary they will be dealing with might be.  I’m not arguing that there is a right or wrong answer. Trump is not a normal political event so there is no template or tradition for the proper response. But, organizations that need to work with Congress and the administration will have some tough choices to make about pragmatism versus political idealism in the Trump era.

Also related, is it me or has the incoming Trump administration done a really poor job defending Betsy DeVos after they nominated her? Some of her friends, political allies, and related groups have come forward but overall they’ve sort of left her hanging out there. Not even much of an argument from the transition about why she’s a good choice. For the record, I think she’s (a) an acceptable nominee in the category of presidents deserving a fair degree of discretion about who they choose to serve in their administrations and the context of the ed debate and (b) I think no one really has any idea what kind of secretary she will be. A lot hinges on the deputy and subcabinet picks who will oversee operational and line roles and I can see her being effective in a bully pulpit/leadership role or getting eaten alive by the scope of the job, the politics, and what could be a pretty impromptu style of governing across the administration. Too soon to know. Here’s an interview with DeVos about choice from last year, a bit vague but some flavor. Also here’s (BW board member) Paul Reville in TES on DeVos and the moment.

DeVos must have an answer for some hard questions about her views on regulations and quality in the choice sector – not just in confirmation but as the new administration designs policy. Expect to hear a lot about stuff like this as well as the authorizing problems in Michigan. Reality check though: None of this is as simple as you are hearing on Twitter. In Michigan, for instance, some of the worst actors are for-profit but also so are some of the best. The anti-choice types will make a bunch of noise but that ship has sailed and parents are speaking. This does, however, set up an interesting - and important – debate among people who support choice about the role of regulation and quality measures in choice systems. That debate was muted during the Obama years but should burst into full view now.

Think I am kidding? Just today here’s Shavar Jefferies and Peter Cunningham on that today. And here’s Mike Petrilli responding.

Elsewhere:

Oh my. This post by Steve Fleishman touches all the right points for me. Dry fly fishing and evidence in education…plus drift boats.

From Wisconsin two non-recount articles worth paying attention to. First, the DeVos pick is energizing school choice supporters there. That will have some political implications going forward.  Second, a deep dive on the fortunes of organized labor there since Act 10. Warning signs for teachers unions elsewhere that are not just about people who oppose unions:

Dave Weiland, an Oconomowoc school district teacher and local union leader, thinks the state union was stuck in a 1920s mentality.

“The gravy train was running, and they didn’t see the curve,” he said.

RiShawn Biddle unpacks NEA political spending.

Looking for someone to blame about the election?  Start with Diane Ravitch, apparently she could have delivered some rust belt states if she had wanted to. Also, is Ravitch honoring Fidel Castro with this post? It’s that long and all over the place. And Kevin Carey responds.

Is John McWhorter on Adderal? He’s everywhere after this election. CNN here. Democracy here. More down the page.

The ESSA regs are out. This matters but now a bit TBD because of the election.

Thoughtful pushback on anti-standardized testing ideas.

Annual Fordham charter sponsorship report.

New TIMSS data. A lot to look at but pay attention to the gender gaps. And here’s some EdTPA data. 

Student voice: This is a pretty good speech. And here’s a rural student talking about college.


November 28, 2016

Betsy Devos – Ed Sec Designee

It’s Betsy DeVos. Turns out President-elect Trump’s choice for education secretary was hidden in plain sight. You say you want to do a big push for choice so you pick a prominent school choice booster (she’s flirted with Common Core and for the types that approach anti-Common Core with religious fervor she’s suspect, but that’s already being mopped up). The Free Press lays out the stark good versus evil takes most people seem to have about her.

I wrote last Wednesday that:

This riled some people up, of course. But bear in mind a few things. First, the standard is not who you would have picked or I might have picked. Donald Trump won the election and DeVos is within the mainstream of Republican thought on education. People are acting as though the choice was DeVos or maybe Pedro Noguera or Jonathan Kozol instead. Second, given some of the alternatives were reportedly folks like Jerry Falwell Jr. and given the President-elect’s apparently fast and loose style with nominations DeVos doesn’t seem so bad! Also, seriously, does Michelle Rhee look so bad now? Education’s mandarins couldn’t stomach her aggressive reform style, so now they get DeVos. (By the way, one knock on DeVos is that she never attended public schools, worked in them, or sent her kids to them. Yet many reformers (including Rhee) are public school products, have worked in them, and send their kids to them. Many prominent reform critics are more like DeVos. So what’s the point exactly? It’s almost like this is a bunch of bullshit?)

Of course, on Twitter there is a fake DeVos Twitter account. Disappointing. Huge potential for entertainment but so far pretty lame and interchangeable with a bunch of other fake accounts by the same folks.

Basic test of seriousness for DeVos critiques is, are they DeVos critiques? There is plenty in her record that warrants scrutiny and a bunch go-forward questions about federal policy, as with anyone set for a role like this. Or, are they generic critiques that would be raised about any Trump education nominee? For instance, it’s barely newsworthy she’s for school choice. But it is worth asking how her ideas about school choice comport with several decades of research and evidence.

In The Times Doug Harris does just that and offers a critique of Detroit arguing DeVos would support weakly regulated choice contrary to the experience of places like New Orleans. It’s a good point, but here we are. Just last week the president of the NEA was attacking New Orleans as a total scam and now it’s going to be the gold standard! And here you thought turnarounds were impossible in K-12 education. New education establishment posture: “Why can’t we just have choice like New Orleans….it’s so good there!”

Also, worth noting, too early to tell but DeVos may end up being one of the Trump picks with the fewest conflicts of interest? After all, she just believes in school choice she doesn’t stand to make any money off of it.* Questions about her view of the role of public schools in her confirmation hearings should be interesting, though (as well as the Office of Civil Rights, role, scope, and size of the Department of Education overall, and some other pretty significant issues).

Two things to bear in mind going forward. First, pay attention to the subcabinet roles. That’s where a lot of the action is – especially for an incoming secretary unfamiliar with many of the policy domains the agency works in. Second, and related, the role can evolve in unexpected ways. For instance, people think of Margaret Spellings as the No Child Left Behind architect. But she spent much of her last two years as Secretary focused on student loan problems. That kind of unpredictability is par for the course with cabinet roles.

Other takes: Campbell Brown on DeVos.  Greg Forester sees risk for school choice because of Trump in this really smart piece. Mike Petrilli has twenty questions. RiShawn Biddle says you can’t detach any Trump pick from larger concerns about Trump. Kevin Carey argues she won’t get as far as people think on choice. Kevin assumes a restraint not to wreak havoc on federal policy that I’m not sure is there.

I hope by this point people might have learned the basic lesson that, at least so far with Trump, anything is possible. Just yesterday he was claiming, with no evidence, that he would have won the popular vote but for fraud. This is not normal in American politics. So I’d avoid certainty.

*Update: Politico says she may or may not have an investment position in a for-profit education company (K12). If true, she’d have to divest.


November 23, 2016

Edujob: CEO Teach Plus

Here’s a pretty big edujob, Teach Plus is looking for a new CEO. Interesting organization that plays on policy and practice and a pretty fluid time in the sector.

The mission of Teach Plus is to empower excellent, experienced teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ success. The organization recruits and selects expert teachers to advance policy changes and improve instructional leadership and teacher supports; trains and coaches teacher leaders to successfully mobilize and lead teacher teams; and empowers teacher leaders to be change agents among their peers and policy makers.  Since 2009, Teach Plus has trained thousands of teacher leaders across the country who are driving policy changes to create a more performance-based teaching profession, and improving the instructional practices of teachers to better serve all urban students.

You can learn more and find out how to be considered via this link.


It’s DeVos! Lecture Your Relatives, Donate To Your School, Pearson! Spec Ed, NC Chief Race, Trump’s MO? Happy Thanksgiving!

In U.S. News I offer a Thanksgiving thought counter to the ‘go lecture your backwards relatives or ignore them altogether’ sentiment swirling on social media. People vote for lots of reasons, a lot of people are frustrated and hurting, so maybe go easy? And for all the talk of checking privilege, check yours. Besides, politics is core to how we organize ourselves but there is still so much more to life than politics. Still want to lecture your relatives? OK, do what you want, I offer talking points.

An Opportunity Culture teacher reflects on personalized learning.

Personnel Department: Antwan Wilson coming to DC to be schools CEO. Leaves a big hole in Oakland. Betsy DeVos is very pro-school choice so it’s going to make everyone bonkers but in the big scheme of things pretty establishment pick if she becomes Secretary of Education - as is being reported. I was hoping for Nina Rees, both because she’s talented and because it would be fun to watch the alt-right lose their minds over it. But they might meltdown a bit over DeVos anyway. (Update: DeVos already tamping down the Common Core stuff. She may not have formal political experience but clearly a fast learner!)  More Secretary of Ed news further down.

And we still have a current Secretary of Education! On many issues I can get multiple perspectives and various arguments but honestly one I don’t is corporal punishment in school. I simply cannot wrap my head around willingly consenting for someone else to lay a hand on my child. Yet here we are. John King tries to prod action on that issue with a letter this week. I’m sure this is just more Obama overreach or something…but seriously, hitting kids?

David Leonhardt on Delaware Governor Jack Markell and education.

In some communities “voluntary” school donations are in practice not all that voluntary. The voluntary nature is mentioned just in passing before the request goes out or you get a yard sign or other signal when you contribute. The NYT Ethicist looks at that question. These donations stem from a few causes, including force of habit and poorly designed school finance schemes that underfund schools, cause workarounds in some communities, or leave too little discretionary dollars for teachers or principals. But it’s worth pausing and reflecting on how various approaches to this might be experienced by families struggling to make ends meet – either temporarily because of a life event or as an ongoing situation.

This story conflates standards and test but overall is a pretty straightforward look at Pearson and its North American situation, challenges, opportunities. Not sure why it’s being hailed as a hit piece, pretty pedestrian business story.

This story tries to make sense of Donald Trump’s education plans. Ha ha ha ha ha. It’s just too soon to tell beyond some broad directional signals (pdf).

Here’s an interesting amicus brief (pdf) in the upcoming special education case. North Carolina schools chief election fallout.

Two things are true at once: Better integration of schools is an important goal, but it’s complicated and the idea that parents are just clamoring for it is misleading of the complicated realities.

“Corporate education reformer” is a term that makes no sense when you unpack it but has sort of stuck. Welcome to the age of Trump, I guess. Here CNN just deploys it like an official title when discussing Michelle Rhee. Could make for a fun correction, “the previous version of this story referred to Rhee as corporate education reformer. There is no such thing…”

Conor Wililams is worried about Donald Trump. A big debate has broken out in the Democratic part of the education world about the rightness or wrongness of working for the administration of Donald Trump. DFER came down hard in the “no” camp but Michelle Rhee said that while she wasn’t pursuing a role “wishing for [Trump's] failure is wanting for the failure of millions of American children.”

It seems like two ideas are getting conflated in this debate:

1) Arguing against the President-elect’s policies or rhetoric, or any presidents proposals or rhetoric, is patriotic. Dissent and debate is core to the American political tradition. It might be especially important now.

2) Wishing the president’s failure though, which has become something of the norm the past few decades as politics has become more of a rooting sport than battle of ideas, seems decidedly less patriotic. The speculation about what possible policy debacle might be most advantageous for Democrats in the next few years (“let’s hope he privatizes Medicaid!”) has the same sour flavor as Republican jubilation about how health care might get all screwed up under President Obama. In all these cases actual people are hurt as Washington’s factions vie for an edge. Should’t we want all our presidents to succeed – in the create shared progress way – regardless of our personal taste for them and however vigorously we might oppose some of their various policies and ideas?

In other words, if you’re not a Trump supporter then perhaps skepticism or deep concern about Trump should be balanced with a quiet hope to be genuinely surprised.

So should Democrats go work in a Trump Administration? That’s not so straightforward. Seems like everyone has to decide for themselves and different conclusions are justifiable. (The arguments are pretty obvious on both sides and will change few minds.) On education, it is hard to square some of what Trump has suggested he wants to do related to education with progressivism or liberalism. On the other hand, per above, who knows? My basic sense is that Trump is a real estate developer, many real estate developers fly by the seat of the pants, Trump flies by the seat of his pants in politics so far, too. Earlier this month Trump’s supporters were chanting “look her up” now they’re going after him for protecting Secretary Clinton. It’s a weird time.

Happy Thanksgiving!


November 21, 2016

Eduwonk: The Divisiveness Issue! Is It Identity Politics, Campus Culture, Or….The SAT? Pensions And Beer, DC Charter Performance, Coal Country School Finance, Grit, Hansel On Reading, Hess On EDSec, Oscar The Grouch Gets 2 And 20, Pavel Datsyuk Gets His Degree! And More…

Let’s start with some catastrophic pension news that should have everyone on edge about an age of austerity:

For a half-century, retired Labatt employees have been entitled to as much as a 12-pack of free beer every week, an unusual perk that Anheuser-Busch InBev — the brewery’s owner for the last 21 of those years — has now made the “reluctant decision” to end in an effort to save costs.

We do seem a bit divided lately, why?

Justin Fox blames the SAT:

I’ve been puzzling over this meritocracy problem for a while now, and I don’t have any brilliant answers. But it does seem like we’d be better off if we dispensed with the notion that a “meritocracy” or “aristocracy of the intellect” is really something to strive for. Yes, it’s good to have competent people in important jobs! But admitting only one style of competence, or assuming that skill at one narrow activity (taking standardized tests, for example) implies competence in other areas, seems like a sure-fire way of sorting society into classes of people who neither understand nor trust one another.

George Will blames college campus culture these days:

Many undergraduates, their fawn-like eyes wide with astonishment, are wondering: Why didn’t the dean of students prevent the election from disrupting the serenity to which my school has taught me that I am entitled? Campuses create “safe spaces” where students can shelter from discombobulating thoughts and receive spiritual balm for the trauma of microaggressions. Yet the presidential election came without trigger warnings?

The morning after the election, normal people rose — some elated, some despondent — and went off to actual work. But at Yale University, that incubator of late-adolescent infants, a professor responded to “heartfelt notes” from students “in shock” by making that day’s exam optional.

There may be something to this. You save and spend a fortune to send your kid off to college so they can come home, at best, a half-educated marxist and lecture you about the errors of your ways – that might piss you off (unless you’re a half educated marxist yourself so given what we know about college going patterns this might take care of itself over time). But, I’m having trouble seeing what in the Will column he wouldn’t have written regardless of the election outcome? On both the right and the left a lot of the post-election commentary has an old wine, new bottles flavor to it. On the other hand….there is this, which while not new is new again in its prominence in our national politics and is disturbing. Where is everyone who couldn’t shut up about Jeremiah Wright?

Speaking of colleges, there is definitely donor influenced affirmative action for the rich that goes on and is gross, of course. But, in fairness, there are also instances where colleges do the right thing and turn down unqualified children of large donors. Harder to write about because it’s handled discreetly and is a dog that didn’t bark kind of thing. But it happens, too. Also, it turns out pretty much everyone at Harvard graduates with honors.

And Mark Lilla set off a debate with his essay about identity politics in The Times. It has an education angle:

But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good. In large part this is because of high school history curriculums, which anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country. (The achievements of women’s rights movements, for instance, were real and important, but you cannot understand them if you do not first understand the founding fathers’ achievement in establishing a system of government based on the guarantee of rights.)

When young people arrive at college they are encouraged to keep this focus on themselves by student groups, faculty members and also administrators whose full-time job is to deal with — and heighten the significance of — “diversity issues.” Fox News and other conservative media outlets make great sport of mocking the “campus craziness” that surrounds such issues, and more often than not they are right to. Which only plays into the hands of populist demagogues who want to delegitimize learning in the eyes of those who have never set foot on a campus. How to explain to the average voter the supposed moral urgency of giving college students the right to choose the designated gender pronouns to be used when addressing them? How not to laugh along with those voters at the story of a University of Michigan prankster who wrote in “His Majesty”?

Elsewhere:

If you followed the Pence/Trump/Hamilton debate over the weekend and didn’t see Stevie Van Zandt’s Twitter feed you’re missing out. Also education’s own Robert Pondiscio took to the Daily News about this, too.  This, of course, diverted attention from the settlement in the Trump U case. 

Did you know that Oscar the Grouch is a hedge fund guy in his free time?*

Don’t miss Lisa Hansel on reading and equity. Rick Hess has a hard core of top ten attributes for a new education secretary - he doesn’t want your Common Core or early education ideas!

The 74 continues to track bullying incidents in schools following the election.

New DC charter school performance rankings.* In coal country depopulation is complicating school finance formulas.

Apparently Pavel Datsyuk just finished his bachelor’s degree.

Today in grit: Donkey becomes running partner.

*Bellwether has worked with Sesame Workshop as a client.  Bellwether’s Sara Mead is on the DC Charter School Board.


November 17, 2016

New Education Insider Data – Trump Ed Policy

New data from the Whiteboard Advisors Education Insider survey panel (pdf). Looks at higher education policy, K-12 policy and choice, and overall polarization in the coming months. A lot of interesting stuff.


Teaching Trump/Scaring The Children!

Bob Weir has a fun act called Scaring The Children. This post, unfortunately, is not about them.

Rick Hess and Checker Finn urge a tamping down of the anti-Trump talk in schools:

We’re no fans of the president-elect, whose behavior has frequently been appalling, whose policy ignorance is vast, and who appears to lack any coherent philosophy of government. That said, we are astonished that so many educators, schools and colleges chose to treat his election as reason to alarm their students and to suggest that only a Democratic victory would have aligned with the nation’s values.

We understand that the country is divided and that some kids share their parents’ fears of potentially being deported or losing their health insurance. We’ve surely no objection to teachers comforting fearful children. That’s a responsibility of all adults who care for them. But we don’t believe that educators are supposed to make kids scared or teach that there is a right outcome and a wrong one to a presidential election. And we’re puzzled to see so many educators – and even education journalists – imagine that Trump’s election can only be understood through the prism of racism and xenophobia.

Kevin Carey says, no, “teachers should tell the truth about Trump

By defining president-elect Trump’s shortcomings in a way that deliberately excludes all of the worst things about him, Hess and Finn are joining the ranks of conservatives and Republicans in Washington, DC who, after eight years out of power and for reasons that range from wishful thinking to much worse, are busily convincing themselves that Donald Trump is redeemable. He is not. His bigotry is bone-deep.

This truth is perfectly obvious to the many educators who spent last week meeting their fundamental obligation to their students: helping them understand the full measure of the world we now live in, and validating their entirely justified fear.

It seems this one is not straightforward. Finn and Hess are clearly right that our national inability to understand each other (as well as some partisanship) penetrates into some schools and classrooms. On the other hand, Carey is certainly correct that Trump (and this election season overall) are not normal or routine events in American politics and some kids have reason to be more alarmed than might otherwise be the case after a more routine election.


November 14, 2016

Trump Advice: Don’t Call Me Shirley. Trump’s Education Hands, Choice & Charters, Union Infighting, Friedrichs Redux? Massachuetts Charters, Van Jones

This is good advice:

If you ever find yourself writing a sentence in which Donald Trump is the subject, maybe don’t start it with “surely.”

With regard to education that means everyone telling you what a Trump Administration will or won’t do really has no idea about what they’re talking about. President-elect Trump doesn’t either, at this point. Behind the scenes he is bringing in some competent hands, folks like Townsend McNitt and James Manning, but they are just getting their sea legs. Obviously look for choice to be a theme. But, also, The Department of Education has a lot of political appointees, more than most agencies, so if you’re looking to see where the Steve Bannon-types land and establish a power base, keep an eye out there. And obviously, Vice President Elect-Pence is going to have a lot of influence here and has pretty established views on education policy from his time as Indiana’s governor. Also keep an eye on Newt Gingrich. In a minister without a portfolio kind of role he is a recipe for a lot of this.

On choice, everyone might settle down a bit. If Trump mishandles the issue it could end any semblance of bipartisanship on issues like choice and make charter schools completely toxic politically. And plenty of people on both sides want that exact outcome. Choice could be a place for productive bipartisan agreement or it could be a flashpoint depending on both how the incoming administration handles the issue and how people respond – especially people who are favorably disposed toward choice but have little use or love for President-elect Trump

Union leaders are not happy about the election. A lot of complaining about Randi Weingarten on this score behind the scenes, relative to how the Clinton – Sanders endorsement decision went down and so forth. Keep an eye on that, it’s been getting louder the last few days. The teachers’ unions stroke of luck on Friedrichs ended what would have been a lot of recriminations about that case and it could open up again soon (Friedrichs-like cases are on the move in the federal judiciary).

In general terms it seems like Trump is likely to make some sort of play around infrastructure that private sector labor might like. Public sector labor, more closely associated with America’s culture wars and the currently out of fashion elites than its working class, looks to be in for a bumpy ride. But, you know who else is a New Yorker besides the President-elect? Chuck Schumer, the dealmaking incoming Senate Minority Leader. Reports that Randi Weingarten, whose base is also New York, had tried to surgically attach herself to his leg in the wake of the election could not be confirmed….but, per the good advice above, surely there are many twists and turns to come. Here’s one take, that seems rosy to me, on how things could play out.

Also on choice, more evidence the money argument moved votes in Massachusetts.  My early take on this here. History rhymes, repeats, or something.

Clive Crook:

Elite opinion admits of only one answer: People are more stupid and bigoted than we ever imagined. Without denying that there’s plenty of stupidity and bigotry to go around, I think it’s more a matter of elite incompetence. Elite opinion heard the rebels’ complaints, but instead of acknowledging what was valid, it rejected the grievances in every particular and dismissed the complainers as fools or worse.

The elites weren’t deaf. They were dumb.

I’m all for CNN dumping some of its commentators, the assault wave upon assault wave of pundits was hard to take during the entire election. It was like D-Day but for political nerds. But, I hope Van Jones isn’t* shown the door. Check out his post election conversations with voters.

Update: This pretty key word was missing from the version originally pushed live. Next time the publishing template asks me if I want to revert to the earlier version I’ll pay attention.


November 11, 2016

Veterans Day

Never a bad time to thank veterans for their service and sacrifice. And probably not a bad week this year to revisit some of that World War I poetry we post here on Veterans Day from time to time and reflect on how fragile this all is.

Also, as we consider what binds us and separates us as Americans ask yourself if you know anyone in the armed forces, anyone who is enlisted, and anyone who has fired a weapon in anger during their service.

Lauren Schwartze and Jason Weeby take a look at veterans talent in education organizations.

A few years ago Eric Greitens, a former SEAL who launched a non-profit to help veterans, penned a piece for this blog about veterans and education. On Tuesday evening he became governor-elect of Missouri and is someone you might want to keep an eye on politically.


More Post-Election, Rural And Education, Must-Read McWhorter, Blame Trump On Charters, Civic Education Please, Mike Rowe On Cats And The Election (and CTE), Gaulden On Lattimore, Taylor On Sturgill. More!

Sara Mead on five election takeaways for education. Chad Aldeman looks through the education tea leaves as well. Some of these 16 ideas might work in the new politics of Washington.  The 74 has a lot of election round up news.

This John McWhorter essay in the Boston Globe is valuable -  strong pushes that demand engagement even where you disagree. Too much to pull quote but if you read one thing today you can do a lot worse than this. Go to the Globe for McWhorter, stay for the wonderful news about Mookie Betts!

This is also a pretty spectacular read you shouldn’t miss.  And Matt Levine has been very good on all this.

Rural:

Still reading? OK, then somewhat related, after condescending to rural Americans – and worse – the education reform coalition realizes rural Americans matter to our politics. The superficial enthusiasm for a class-based politics obscures how politically complicated such a project will be. Class exerts enormous leverage in the world view of a lot reformers of all races. We at Bellwether do a lot of work in rural America and I personally spend a lot of my time there. But recently at a meeting with a lot of elite types involved in education and other issues a very influential person remarked matter-of-factly, as if it was the most obvious demographic statement in the world, that the trends were clear and rural was “done” as a significant part of American life. This was met with agreeing nods. OK.

I don’t think it’s by coincidence that people in the education world who spend a lot to time in rural America were actively concerned about this outcome happening or saw it as a real possibility, or both. For my part, I split my time between a community that voted 75-17 for Clinton and one that voted 64-32 for Trump. I wouldn’t want to idealize either place, plenty of pluses and minuses, that’s life, but I have great affection for my friends and neighbors in both communities. I can assure you, though, that if you think rural Americans don’t understand that many in the 75-17 parts of the country quietly or openly hold them in some contempt, see them as a drag on progress, or at best see them and their lives as relics, you’re kidding yourself. And stuff like that transcends “issues”and  is not all about race. And if you double down on it this will happen again. That’s why it’s especially astounding to me that people who can’t shut up at dinner parties and on Facebook about structural inequality (an idea I happen to agree more with than I disagree) don’t realize that millions of Americans they regard as backwards are actually plenty smart and capable but were born in some small community rather than Greenwich and that might have something to do with the jobs and lives they have now. Although as I noted the other day more still binds us than divides us as people (and that’s the big political opportunity waiting for the right leader in 2020), Tuesday night was a big fuck you. And in education for all the talk of listening to communities and all that, well,….check your privilege I guess?

And just so there isn’t confusion because this gets reductionist pretty fast, I think Trump has proven to be a racist and appealed to racists in his campaign in various ways. It just doesn’t follow from there that everyone who voted for him is racist. Our politics are more complicated than that. That said, it does seem to me that Trump voters have a special responsibility to speak up/act about things like this.

Meanwhile, except for the big prize the teachers unions had a decent night on Tuesday and won some state ballot issues and some races that will help them in states, where the balance of power is during the ESSA era. That’s bad news for low-income and minority students whose needs will be obscured in a lot of new accountability systems. ESSA is the kind of bill you sign when you think there is no way a Trump Administration will oversee federal civil rights protections. How’s that going? An interesting political question is whether the teachers unions are now more valuable in state and local politics to Democrats than in national races. I don’t know, but it’s clear that while they produce volunteers and money they can’t reliably deliver the vote.

Here’s a look at the structure of the election and reasons why Clinton got fewer votes where she needed them and Trump got more. Brownstein on that, too – the American demographics of 2050 are really interesting but this election was held in 2016.  All of this has some pretty obvious education implications going forward.

Here’s a new theory on why Trump won:

Rick Kahlenberg says that a lack of civic education (and too many charter schools) are a cause of why Trump won. Seriously.

I guess I’m sort of with him on the first point, but there are a few problems with this analysis – although I’m all for better civic education and wish schools emphasized it more and had better curriculum for it. Enormous area to do better.

First, there is no evidence any one kind of school is better or worse at helping students internalize democratic values. Charter examples like Green Dot in California or Democracy Prep in New York show how powerful charters can be at that. Many traditional public schools show the same. So do many private schools. There is actually literature on this that indicates we should be cautious about ascribing great civic virtue, or lack thereof, to any particular class of schools. What’s more, reasonable can disagree, but it may well be that letting parents choose schools and having various public authorities oversee them can itself encourage good civic habits? In the city where Rick works, Washington D.C., does anyone really want to argue that the D.C. Public Charter Board is less a model of good civic habits than, say, the old D.C. school board?

Second, and actually seriously, Rick’s case suffers from the flaw of many arguments for better civic education: They boil down to ‘if people were more educated then they would vote more like me.’ Perhaps. But it may well be that a lot of Trump voters simply have a different conception about the Supreme Court than Rick and I do or a different set of economic concerns than we do or they just liked or trusted Hillary Clinton less than we do, or were simply mad about their health care bill. Check the exits, Trump voters are all over the place. People disagree! That’s democracy. I have friends who are quite well-versed on civic matters but don’t agree with me on politics and don’t support the candidates I do. In fact, one might argue that the significant share of Trump voters who saw the composition of the Supreme Court as an overriding issue in this election were looking at the world through a particular civic prism that resonated with them.

I certainly agree with Rick that the lack of concern in many quarters about Trump’s indifference to Constitutional issues and constraints as well as his apparent indifference to democratic norms is jarring and serious and real cause for concern. But don’t look too closely at the free speech views of millennials – especially left-leaning ones – if that kind of thing makes you uneasy.  A lot of students and Americans see the authoritarianism of the left modeled for them regularly so it seems somewhat unsurprising they’re not as resistant as they should be to the authoritarianism of the right.

Perhaps we could all use a constitutional refresher, and hopefully it’s not too late for one

Speaking of coming together and millennials. Although I’m not at all happy about the election and would like to say I think this is simply all wrong, there is probably something to it. Around the country people have an admiration but also unsurprising lack of sympathy for students at elite schools. If you went to those schools you might not talk with them very much about it. And think about it, if you’re say a single mom waitressing and working extra shifts to make ends meet and dragging yourself to work even when you feel awful – physically or emotionally or both – then hearing that kids at the nation’s most elite schools don’t want to go to class because they’re upset about the election might just piss you off. On the other hand, people like my fictional waitress and everyone calling these students snowflakes also needs to appreciate that they are still young and it’s understandable how some of the context of this election – not to mention some of what has transpired the last few days – might have someone concerned or freaked out.

Elsewhere:

Mike Rowe on the election and CTE. Bizarrely fascinating cat analogy. And Mike Petrilli looks at what’s next.

Non-election news: MDRC looks at a texting initiative to help students.

Tim Taylor reviews Sturgill Simpson in Denver (my take on Sturgill’s current tour here). And here’s Jason Gaulden on Kenny Lattimore at an intimate private show.


November 10, 2016

Massachusetts Charters, Trump And Ed, The Election And Bullying, Plus Election Takes

OK, wow. Interesting election. Good reminder that any major party nominee can win, one-in-three odds are not really long odds, and people vote for lots of reasons. Next time you hope the other party nominates someone who can’t possibly win and treat that person as a political gift rather than a real threat, well, something to think about.

On the education front the charter referendum in Massachusetts, probably the most watched education issue on the ballot on Tuesday anywhere, went down. Something interesting on the referendum is that it failed by roughly the same margins (62-28) state voucher referendums in various places often did in the past. And those referendums were fought with a political message about costs, taxes, and the damage that might to do suburban schools. That’s basically the same playbook opponents of raising Massachusetts’ limit on charter schools effectively used there.  The opponents knew they couldn’t win if the debate turned on quality – because everyone pretty much agreed Massachusetts charters are an outlier high on quality – so instead they went after the risk aversion suburban voters feel about their schools. It worked. One impolite question a reasonable person might ask, in the wake of the national election, is how much money did the unions spend in Massachusetts in an effort to basically protect jobs and keep poor black kids bottled up in crappy schools? And might that money and effort have been better spent in, oh I don’t know, Wisconsin or Michigan or Pennsylvania on politics there?

About that election. Voters are frustrated and angry. Shouldn’t be too hard to see why? The moment early this year I began to worry was at a typical Washington dinner with nice food and discussion of various issues when someone – a comfortable dean at an elite college –  literally raised a glass of fine red wine to their lips while saying “I just can’t understand what all these people are so angry about.”

Everyone has a theory about the election but many of them don’t comport with what we see in the exits and seem more about confirmation bias than political analysis. It’ll take a while to sort out. But, Sean Trende is good to read on the possibly fragile coalition Trump put together. This New York Times map of counties and voting is worth paying attention to before you buy into reductionist narratives about the election. It appears, for instance, that about one-third of Hispanic men who voted on Tuesday voted for Trump. Voting behavior is often not as simple as people will have you believe.

This article from a Never Trumper is also worth reading.

More generally this Tucker Carlson piece from early in the year and this Glenn Greenwald from this week offer some explanatory views on what’s going on. Arthur Brooks cites out of work men as a fulcrum. But I’m not sure the data support that. Rather, based on both the demographics of Trump voters and then a bunch of anecdotal evidence I think a driver for some may have been economically anxious Americans who have a job but worry if they lose it they’ll never have one as good again because of actual economic dislocation or their perception of it.

At its core this election seems like a populist revolt from understandably frustrated voters. What makes it unique is that the person it thrust into  the highest office is such an unknown quantity and so non-transparent about his policy preferences and even his own personal business and financial interests. So no one really has any idea what is next.

The President-elect could do a lot worse as an early step than to say a few words in an effort to tamp this sort of thing down. I heard about episodes like this from some teachers yesterday.

This summer I spent five weeks all over the country from the reddest enclaves of Oklahoma and Wyoming to Erie and Toledo in the Rust Belt midwestern states and blue havens like Marin and Cape Cod. I listened to a lot of very different people of various economic means, races, ethnicities, and creeds and I remain firmly convinced that a few things are true. As people Americans have much more in common than what divides us and most are not consumed by our various cultural battles but rather are frustrated with our leaders, don’t like being condescended to by American elites they know sneer at them, and mostly just want to live their lives. But, second, we, and especially politically active Americans, are increasingly isolated in our lives, communities, media and social media choices and so forth and people don’t spend a lot of time talking to people with substantially different views and we’re losing the ability to do that and consequently to understand each other. Rhetoric about America being a failed state is way overblown but we’re certainly failing each other. And that’s why millions were willing to take the risk they did Tuesday. Ignore that at our peril.

For education, we’re likely to see some familiar names in the policy world emerge. I’d keep an eye on Gerard Robinson and on Bill Evers in particular. Probably good news if you favor D.C. vouchers and a larger school choice package, perhaps as part of some sort of urban bill, seems likely. For-profit higher ed types probably woke up happy on Wednesday, too. President Elect-Trump is one of them. I don’t think Trump will abolish the Department of Education or end the federal role in K-12 schools – there are 100 Senators and 435 members of Congress who like that money and are fine with swamps getting drained as long as it is not their own. But we’ll see. Maybe he’ll just end the federal Common Core for the next four years.

*Spellcheck completely failed on this post so it’s been updated with numerous corrections.


November 9, 2016

Edujob: In-Schools Program Coordinator @826LA

Great edujob in LA. 826LA is a non-profit organization that helps students aged 6-18 and their teachers with expository and creative writing. Activities include after-school tutoring, workshops, in-school tutoring, support for ELL’s, and support for student publications.

From the JD (pdf):

826LA is looking for someone to join our hard-working, passionate team as a full-time In-Schools Program Coordinator. Reporting to the Director of In-School Programs and College Access, the In-Schools Coordinator brings 826LA programs to students in West and South LA. e In-Schools Coordinator is responsible for managing the In-Schools program, along with developing strong relationships and delivering quality programming to partner teachers, schools, and community members. e In-Schools Coordinator works primarily out of 826LA’s Mar Vista o ce, but must be able and willing to travel to schools all over Los Angeles, and 826LA’s Echo Park office and satellite site at Manual Arts High School on a regular basis.

Learn more and apply here (pdf). Learn more about 826LA here.


November 8, 2016

More Education In The Election Than You Think?

At U.S. News & World Report I take a look at three ways education mattered in the election and will have some leverage on politics going forward:

With 2016 voting fully upon us today, the education world can now stop complaining about how education really didn’t matter to the presidential race. It’s finally time for education advocates to begin gearing up to complain about how it isn’t really a big issue in the 2020 race for the White House.

But although it was hardly a centerpiece of this year’s campaign, education did actually matter in a few key ways in the 2016 race that have implications going forward.

Here are three…

You can see all three if you click here.


What To Watch On Election Night

The 74 has a nice round up of education issues to watch around the country. They will also be live blogging key education issues and races, including state races, all night and into Wednesday.

And you can cut through the noise. Clinton is ahead based on the overall polling of the race, but as any horse player will tell you a horse with a one in three chance does win sometimes. But forget early exits, polls, or the hype or panic from one side or the other. Just watch how Clinton and Trump perform in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire and you’ll get a pretty good sense of what kind of night it will be. Spoiler alert, if Trump doesn’t win Florida it’s basically over and if Jon Ralston is right about this and Hispanic turnout either in Nevada or more generally, it’s probably cooked for him, too, and a significant moment for the country. On the other hand, it’s 2016 and it’s been unpredictable to an unusual extent. So, along with those states and their exits the Comstock – Bennett race in Virginia, where polls close early, is a good barometer for just how imperiled Trump is among educated white voters who are pivotal in this year’s race given Trump’s strategy. The Gottheimer – Garrett race in New Jersey is another good and early one to watch for a sense of where things are.

Here are a few education votes, from east to west, that are worth watching, are entertaining, or both:

The Massachusetts charter question has big stakes. Most immediately for kids in that state who need better school options. But more generally. If a state with the kind of performance that Massachusetts has turned in can’t raise its cap on charters to allow more for urban students, then charter advocates have to dramatically rethink their political strategy.

The Georgia achievement district vote will be influenced by the national contest but will also say something about the appetite of voters for aggressive education reform right now.

The Indiana state superintendent’s race doesn’t have huge national stakes but is certainly a fun one to watch given the absolutely bonkers education politics there.

The Montana congressional race featuring the state superintendent Denise Juneau as a candidate does have real national implications. She will immediately emerge as a voice in education in Congress if she wins (and be the first American Indian woman in that body). And if she loses the NEA is pushing her hard for a prominent education role in a Clinton Administration.

The California bilingual referendum is interesting. The old bilingual system in California produced atrocious outcomes and was an adult protection racket. Parents want more multilingual options and bilingual advocates have deftly stepped into that slipstream. But can this initiative produce those options without bringing back the worst of the old system?

There are some other issues and some tax and funding issues, The 74 has them for you.


Edujob @NASBE Project Director: Teaching, Leading, and Learning Policy

Want to work with state board of education members as they make policy? Here’s a project director role at NASBE:

NASBE seeks a talented, dynamic, and experienced Project Director to work as a collaborative team member to administer a portfolio of grants and projects in the areas of leadership development, effective teaching, and deeper learning as part of the Center for College, Career, and Civic Readiness.  The primary function of the Center is to help state boards of education prepare all students for postsecondary success through effective and impactful policy making and implementation.

You can learn more and apply here.


November 7, 2016

Edujob: CEO ReNEW Schools In New Orleans

 Here’s an edujob in one of America’s great cities:

ReNEW is driven by its mission to ensure that students are academically and emotionally prepared to access the full range of life choices that are the fundamental right of every child in the city. Focused on results, ReNEW uses data to measure progress toward ambitious academic goals, and find solutions to overcome obstacles. ReNEW’s dedicated and talented team collaborates to serve students and assumes shared responsibility for their success. Reflective and committed to continuous improvement, ReNEW team members proactively offer and solicit feedback, maximize strengths, develop themselves professionally, and learn from their mistakes to give students the best education possible. They invent, refine, and imagine practices and policies to successfully meet students’ needs, and they establish schools as safe and exciting places of learning. Fueled by the promise that all children can learn, team members approach their work with joy and enthusiasm for the impact ReNEW Schools can make on the community and in recognition of their students’ achievements.

ReNEW Schools is proud to operate six distinct schools in New Orleans.

You can learn more and apply through this link.


Slow News Day – A Few Links, But Massachusetts Charters A Pitched Battle! Plus, Kosar’s Navy

Everyone is holding their breath for tomorrow, refreshing their favorite political sites. Not a lot happening.

Politico looks at the student loan debt relief issue – it’s an important issue by itself and then also illustrative of a range of things that will be caught up in transition between administrations.

The Times looks at the stakes in Massachusetts with the charter referendum. Here’s a Massachusetts pol explaining their change of views on this issue. And here’s Nat Malkus in RealClearEducation on what’s going on with Massachusetts charters.

Here is a New Jersey parent on the LIFO suit there.

Penn on the run from the Trumps:

Recently, Huntsman attended a Board of Trustees meeting, where he ventured a joke: “I remember sitting in this meeting twenty years ago, and the great lament was: We don’t have enough Penn people running for politics at the highest level!”

Kevin Kosar now has a boat. Does Ali Fuller need to step up her game?


November 4, 2016

Massachusetts Charters On The Ballot, Virginia Transgender Case On The Docket, Child Care, Reading Science, New Jersey LIFO & School Finance, Paul Quinn Goes Field To Farm, The Chiefs On SNS, Turnarounds, Petrilli On Campaign Finance…Headwear, And Raccoons, Adorable But Dangerous!

Sara Mead on child care deserts. Not desserts, deserts. This is not an article about sliced apples. More on SNS below but do not miss Bellwether’s Max and Chad on the issue here. 

Do you want the process-oriented argument around administrative authority and the transgender guidance from USDOE? That’s it! The 74 looks at the stakes.

In MA here’s a look at Question 2, the charter referendum and some of the complicated issues around it.

There is not a science of many things in education, for instance a science of how to be a great 10th-grade history teacher. But, there is science around reading. And we ignore it. Here’s an interview about some aspects of that. Unfortunately, we’ve politicized reading so much – it’s not an overstatement to say there are Democratic and Republican ways to teach reading and think back to Reading First – that the state of play in the field remains poor.

And one more time into the breach! A rich curriculum and good teaching and these reading tests sort of take care of themselves…

New Jersey parents seeking to end last in, first out layoffs there also want to put the brakes on Chris Christie’s school terrible finance ideas.

The state chiefs on supplement not supplant. Tennessee Senator and HELP chair Alexander likes it! CRPE looks at turnarounds and consideration for states in the ESSA era.

Ed Trust report looks at the perspectives of black teachers. NACPS looks at what’s happening with charters where they are dense. New Classrooms asks students about tech.

Mike Petrilli wants Elizabeth Warren to return her union money because of her stance on donations. Aaron Churchill wants plain language on school finance ballot questions. Low odds on both.

Kudos to CATO for an event that really brings together genuinely diverse perspectives on a question. If your event doesn’t feature this much dissonance of viewpoint, ask yourself why.

Is anyone reading your stuff?

Paul Quinn decided to ditch football and open a farm instead.

This is a very fine item. This raccoon was implicated in a shooting.


November 2, 2016

On Charters, Nevermind The Evidence! Dr. Ravitch On Pain Meds, Trump’s NEA Support, EdTPA, Risk And School Innovation, Shelton On Personalized’s Promise, Talent, Discipline, Warm Showers…

Phillip Burgoyne-Allen on graduation rates and learning. Bellwether kids in their Halloween costumes.

Here’s what education’s leading intellectuals are up to these days. Diane Ravitch:

Oxycontin has made the Sackler family of Connecticut very rich. Forbes says they have a net worth of $15 billion. A fortune built on death and ruined lives. Pharmacists have been murdered by opiod addicts in search of the pills.

Jonathan Sackler is a major donor to the charter movement. He launched ConnCAN and 50CAN to sell privatization. Killing public schools too.

OK. Reasonable people can disagree about charter policy. Charter supporters disagree about charter policy. Here at Bellwether we disagree about charter policy. But that’s all pretty irrelevant in this instance. In writing this I have to assume Ravitch, and I’m glad for this, has never seen someone fighting serious pain close up? Opioid addiction is a huge problem but so is pain management and poor pain management for seriously ill people. So forget the charter politics or the hyperbole, this is just offensive on a human level.

Here’s the beginning of a pretty revealing education op-ed:

SOME CHARTER schools do an excellent job with the students they enroll. Many come up with better test scores than do their public counterparts. It does not mitigate the victories these schools may have achieved to state the clear and simple fact that, on average nationwide, charter schools are not running circles around the public schools that serve the vast majority of children. Some do better. Some do worse. Some have been consistent disappointments. The pattern here in Massachusetts may, for now, appear to be a rare exception to the norm, but as charter schools proliferate, their record seems to be increasingly uneven.

In other words, charters in Massachusetts are really good – this is something basically everyone agrees on and the evidence convincingly supports – but because some other states have a mixed record kids in Massachusetts shouldn’t have more of them. There are then hundreds more words about charters elsewhere and adult politics.

Also in MA, Senator Sanders (I-VT) comes out against the charter cap raise there:

“Wall Street must not be allowed to hijack public education in Massachusetts,” Sanders said in a statement. “This is Wall Street’s attempt to line their own pockets while draining resources away from public education at the expense of low-income, special education students and English language learners.”

There are plenty of reasons to be for or against charter schools but Wall Street really has nothing to do with it. More generally, this seems like a pretty suburban populism. If you care about social mobility and inequality then how can you be against schools with results like this (pdf) for urban students in Massachusetts?

And here’s Richard Whitmire on the Denver charter model and its promise – and what it takes.

This Noah Smith column on risk and entrepreneurialism has an interesting education parallel. When you talk to mid-career educators, teachers, administrators, superintendents, you at times hear a desire to start or join new things but a reticence because of the realities of life for most people – mortgages, pension contributions and participation timelines, college costs on the horizon, and other mundane but important considerations for most people at that point in life. I certainly wouldn’t want to over-romanticize it and say there are thousands of Don Shalveys or Jamar Mckneelys just waiting out there. But there are certainly dozens, if not hundreds, and the multiplier effect from even those numbers would be substantial. But a risk aversion that may not make sense to someone in Silicon Valley but resonates with most Americans understandably impacts their decision-making. This issue is even more compounded for educators from lower income backgrounds, obviously. Perverse incentives abound but it seems like an issue philanthropy could help tackle.

LIFO lawsuit filed in New Jersey.

Will personalized learning ameliorate or exacerbate equity issues? Here’s Jim Shelton of CZI with the positive case.

Here’s an old story made new: Teacher tests tend to have disparate impact issues. The new and vaunted EdTPA is a teacher test. The new EdTPA has disparate impact issues.

And here’s an interesting item on support for Trump within the NEA.

Teacher talent pipelines in AZ with an assist from the Chamber of Commerce. Teacher race and discipline from Ed Next.

Seriously, who doesn’t enjoy wood fired showers?


October 31, 2016

Dog Stories, Campus Climate, Mass Charter Parents, ESSA Accountability, CS Pipeline, Richmond Schools, And More!

Here are two dog stories.

Ehlena, a child with cerebral palsy and her service dog, Wonder, navigate the school day together. Wonder, who Ehlena got after friends and family raised money, is quite a dog according to NPR:

Wonder was trained to hit handicapped buttons for her, to open and close doors, to pick up items she dropped, and perhaps most importantly, to stabilize her so that she could make transfers from a chair to a walker, or from a walker to a toilet seat.

And, not surprisingly with skills like those, Wonder is pretty popular at school:

He went to class with Ehlena and to lunch. He was in the staff section of the yearbook. He had his own ID card. He was in the class picture. And, says Ehlena’s mother, the relationship between dog and kid was integrated into the school seamlessly.

But here’s a similar situation in a different school district with a special-needs child and a service dog:

the dog was not permitted to sit with [the child] in class or to go with her to the lunchroom.

[the family] were even required to demonstrate a toilet transfer with adults from the school watching, an experience that [the parent] says was devastating and traumatic for her daughter.

After the 30-day trial, the school returned to its no-dog policy. Although [the dog] is a hypoallergenic breed, the school said among other things that two children and one teacher were allergic to dogs, and that one child had a dog phobia because he had previously been attacked by a dog.

OK, perhaps not everyone is a dog person? Actually, as you can no doubt tell, they are the same dog story. Same child. Same dog. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in this case today (link goes to a great Mark Walsh scene setter). The issue turns on what actions parents can bring under federal disabilities statutes and where the Individuals With Disabilities Act and state processes fit into that scheme. That’s a legal question that reasonable people can disagree about especially in the context of the litigation-heavy IDEA. But the underlying facts and that ethos might be more important in the long run for public education. There are a lot of districts like that second one and they turn parents who could be allies into adversaries. We might ask why? (By the way, it takes cases a while to find their way to the high court, in case you’re wondering Wonder is now apparently enjoying retirement though he will be at the court today).

Erika Christakis, the early childhood expert and former Yale professor speaks out – on the eve of Halloween of course – about her experience at Yale last year.

“I don’t wish to trivialize genuine concerns about cultural and personal representation,” I wrote, in part. “I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students.”

Some called my email tone-deaf or even racist, but it came from a conviction that young people are more capable than we realize and that the growing tendency to cultivate vulnerability in students carries unacknowledged costs.

There is a lively debate about this idea. I was at a dinner recently with faculty and students of a prominent east coast school and a student affairs dean made the point that declining participation in formal student activities on their campus owes in part to a culture where the 3.3 student who does a bunch of activities feels like they are losing out to the 3.9 student who just keeps their head down and focuses on grades. It’s an interesting point and a real one for some post-graduate paths. So I wonder if what Christakis is talking about is another cost, a lot of students just want to keep their heads down because they feel less agency in today’s statist climate regardless of what they think about the various issues?

Whitmire on Massachusetts charter parents:

Barbara Madeloni, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, takes a more philosophical approach to wait-listed parents. Rather than denying that there are thousands of parents on those lists, she suggested in a radio interview that those parents need to sacrifice their personal desires for what she sees as a greater good: high-performing traditional public schools in all neighborhoods.
“I would ask that person to join us in thinking beyond just your child,” said Madeloni in an interview on WBUR’s Radio Bostonshow. “We are stronger as a community when we think beyond our circle. … As a community together, are we going to be interested in the common good, or are we going to be invested in our individual needs?

This is basically the debate. Except it’s not in practice. That’s because the charter parents and want-to-be charter parents aren’t stupid. They get that parents with means have already exited. Those parents live in places they can afford to live with good public schools or they send their kid to private options. So they – the people who most need good public schools as a matter of social mobility and opportunity for their kids but can’t move to a tony neighborhood or pay for a private school – are being asked to ‘think beyond their circle’ when no one else is. Maybe flip that on its head and ask all the comfortable suburban voters who are against creating more charter schools for underserved Massachusetts kids to think beyond their circle?

This paper looks at the 5th indicator for ESSA accountability systems. First, it should go without saying that 5th Indicator is a fantastic band name, especially for a band that had education players in it. The author thinks chronic absenteeism is a place to go. It’s a key indicator – for adults and kids – in terms of climate.

Google and Gallup look at the computer science pipeline. Buzzy Hettleman on tutoring. James Dyke and Gerard Robinson on the long overdue but hard choices for Richmond, Virginia schools. Jamar Mckneely on a NOLA turnaround.

Homecoming news: Here’s a sweet story. Here’s a story that I can’t help but think occasioned a lot of, “Honey, who did you say our sculpture is by?” conversations over the weekend.


October 28, 2016

The Hero America Needs…

As Red Ribbon week winds down a parent reflects…not all superheroes wear capes…

 


Clinton On Bullying, John Legend On Charters, Marc Tucker On Finance Scams, Teachers And Retirement Scams, Key Charter Endorsements In Massachusetts, Conflicting Education Data In VA, Mathematica Evals, NAEP, And Stoner Moms!

Scroll down this page for a picture of Steve Mesler with a fish and some open edujobs.

Hillary Clinton released an anti-bullying initiative yesterday. If ever there was an issue that screamed for national attention but local solutions this is it. Her plan walks that line. This is an issue that easy to dismiss as hyperbole or kids today are snowflakes but it’s real.

The other day I chided the teachers unions for playing and profiting in a part of the financial world that sells people – in this case teachers – suboptimal retirement products. The Times revisited the issue and Matt Levine offers some smart context that argues that maybe what the teachers unions are up to isn’t so bad:

If you were on your way to Vanguard to buy index funds when [the salesperson for these vehicles] waylaid you, he has moved you from option 1 to option 2, and made you poorer in retirement. If you were on your way to blow your paycheck on lattes at Starbucks, he has moved you from option 3 to option 2, and made you richer in retirement. The context is key.

It’s a reasonable point in general. Sub-optimally saving for retirement is arguably better than not saving at all. But in the case of teachers that’s not the choice. Their unions and associations could choose to set up partnerships with vendors who offer the best quality vehicles (the unions have a lot of purchasing power in the marketplace) and eschew ones that are suboptimal or worse. Remember, these vendors are paying handsomely for access and endorsements. Instead, the unions are putting poor choices in front of their members – and being compensated for it. That’s the bottom line here.

Oh, and the unions also love to hammer hedge funds and others for having high cost structures. I’ll leave it to you to square that circle.

And also remember all this is in the context of a retirement system for teachers that’s pretty broken to start with and hamstrings their retirement saving out of the gate.

Strong John Legend on the NAACP charter school moratorium:

Charter public schools are not the solution to every problem that’s plaguing public education. The NAACP is right to raise some questions over the practices of some individual charter schools. There are schools of all models – district, charter, magnet, private – that are failing to educate our kids properly and accountably.  States and districts should hold all of these school types to high standards of accountability.

What’s shortsighted about the NAACP’s decision is that it’s ignoring the many successful charter schools that are delivering results for many communities. In New York City, third grade charter school students outscored students at district schools in math and in English. Charters here are closing the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged Black students and their more affluent white peers.

The NAACP understands that where you live, your skin color, your income level and zip code shouldn’t determine what kind of education you can get in this country but unfortunately, in far too many places, it does.

It does seem the NAACP situation is a classic two things are true at once situation – and we’ve discussed on this blog how bad the education sector is at dealing with those kinds of issues. Not all the concerns the NAACP is raising are off-base or unfounded. But a moratorium doesn’t logically follow from them. That piece is politics.

Speaking of two things being true at once, something I like even less than Donald Trump and that brand of politics is stifling dissent and speech. This situation with a Virginia school board is worth watching. The illiberalism of the right meets the illiberalism of the left. Also, the idea that school boards, especially this one!, are non-partisan…well, adorable.

Also in Virgina. Here you go through all this work to muddy up the state’s already weak accreditation and accountability system to mask the mediocre performance of a lot of schools. And then all these schools still don’t meet the bar! So frustrating! This is like a company cutting costs to make budget when revenue is down. You can only do so much of that. Also on VA, shouldn’t the shocking last graf of this article be the lede? Speaks volumes about how people think about these issues. By the way, a reasonable person might ask how so many schools can even be succeeding on the accountability system with outcomes like that. But please don’t ask that, it’s rude.

David Tyack has passed. He was thoughtful. And when your work becomes part of the grammar of schooling, well that’s something.

Arne Duncan comes out strong for ballot measure lifting the charter cap in Massachusetts. Boston Globe editorial board comes out in favor, too:

But a goal of an equal, quality education for all continues to elude Massachusetts public education. The families affected are those who don’t live in the suburbs, don’t have the resources to shop for the best school district, and haven’t been lucky enough to win the lottery for a seat at the state’s existing charter schools. Charter schools exist because all parents deserve the same thing for their children: enough choices to ensure their kids get a quality education.

The vote there looks to be tightening some.

Marc Tucker on the contextual issues here:

The root cause of the enormous and shocking difference in performance between Connecticut’s inner cities and its wealthy suburbs is the local control of education finance.  It is this system of education finance that is responsible for the housing segregation that produces in turn the social class and racial segregation underlying the enormous disparities in student performance that outraged Judge Moukawsher.  The solution—easy to say but very hard to implement for political reasons—is an approach to the financing of local schools in which the state would collect the funds for the schools with a statewide tax and distribute those funds to each school based on student need, not local property wealth.  That is how school finance works in most of the top-performing countries. And it is the system we need, but, while we are waiting, maybe we should take another look at Ruth Batson’s rather practical idea.

Mathematica’s RTT evaluation is out. Something for everyone in here. New NAEP data – something here for everyone, too. Also, newly released and  quite interesting Mathematica analysis of teacher effectiveness.*

Juneau – Zinke MT race poll.

Stoner moms.

*Disclosure: I was on the advisory board.


Friday Fish Porn: Bull Session With Steve Mesler

P1010956.Steve Mesler is, among other things, a Bellwether author, three-time Olympian, member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and founder of Classroom Champions (it’s entirely possible he doesn’t introduce himself in that order very much). He can also fish.

Here he is earlier this month in Alberta with a bull trout. Bull trout, an aggressive hard fighting fish, are threatened in the U.S. and an illegal target species in a lot of places. But in remote Western Canada it’s a different story and big fun.

Mesler is hardly the only education personality who fishes. Here are pictures of hundreds of education types since 2006 showcasing their angling adventures.


October 27, 2016

Edujob: Director, Nashville Rise

Here’s an edujob in Nashville!

Nashville Rise, a program of Project Renaissance, seeks to educate and empower parents and community members to advocate for high quality public schools. We envision a Nashville where all children receive the schooling and support they need to live successful, fulfilling lives. We pursue our vision by educating and empowering parents, educators, and community to influence, support, and hold accountable our city’s educational leadership. We also support our network to work with community and leaders to implement policies that put students first.

You can learn more about the role and apply via this link.