October 16, 2017

Newark, Pension Funds, Scouts And Gender, Gender And Tech, Personalized, More!

Teens and anxiety, important.

So the idea is out there that teachers unions and hedge funds and private equity are mortal enemies. That’s understandable if all you pay attention to is social media and the rhetoric. In fact, they are more like frenemies, because teachers’ union controlled pension funds are one key source of funds for private equity and hedge fund deals. That’s what makes this financial story sort of interesting. Blackstone is seeking investors with $1-$5m in investable assets for direct investments:

The private-equity firm is pushing aggressively into products for retail investors, betting it can raise as much from them over the long term as it does from the pension funds and other institutions that form the main source of its $371 billion of assets, Blackstone executives say.

This won’t change the landscape immediately but it’s one factor among many worth watching, especially as pension funds face political pressure and policymakers begin to innovate with alternatives.

More data on Newark that points to some progress and the hard choices it took to get there:

“Whether you look at PARCC scores, student growth percentile, value-added scores, or graduation rates, student outcomes are trending in a positive direction in Newark,” [Newark superintendent] Cerf said. “The data shows us that the seeds planted in earlier years are now yielding rewards for students. Today, thousands more Newark students are reading and doing math on grade level than just a few years ago and as a result, these students have a better chance at attending college or pursuing a meaningful career when they leave our schools.”

Quick history: It was Cami Anderson planting some of those seeds.

In Virginia fewer than one in five low-income or black students are on track for college by 8th-grade according to NAEP. And yet this is the state of play about what to do about it.

Here’s a new podcast on women and education technology.

And The 74’s Kate Stringer on scouts and gender.  Here’s a fun take on the scouts’ decision.

Sandy Kress on Eli Broad.

ExcelinEd continues to track personalized learning lessons in Idaho, Utah, and Florida.

Fish story.

October 13, 2017

Bellwether Is Hiring, Charter School Politics, DeVos Prioritizes, Aldeman Analyzes, Broad Retires, Miles Gambles, Does Moskowitz, Too? Plus Pensions, Expectations, Free Speech, Teachers Unions, More!

We are hiring at Bellwether.

And here’s an analysis from Bellwether of teacher pensions in Louisiana  – where again you see the story that teacher pensions are an expensive way to do retirement, which would be okay if it were a really effective way, but as the data show in Louisiana and elsewhere, it’s not (pdf).

Pension costs a problem in CA, too.

Patricia Levesque on personalized learning.

Betsy DeVos on her plans for education policy. Here’s a list of the priorities, it’s a lot of priorities. Only ponies inexplicably left off the list. And Chad Aldeman says on ESSA pay no attention to the lady behind the curtain – no seriously, pay no attention he says. He also discusses the new priorities with ABC.

Karen Hawley Miles has a gambling problem.

Eli Broad is retiring. Quite a career that guy has had.

This, from Panic about Success Academies, is interesting:

When I told [Checker Finn] of Moskowitz’s action, he said “Gutsy and much needed. If schools and parents are truly to share responsibility for educating children, each needs in some way to be accountable to the other.” Another Moskowitz fan I mentioned it to was also impressed. “Holy s—t, talk about cojones!” he cheered. “The anti-reformers have forever said we should hold parents accountable. They will surely find a reason to oppose this anyway.” Without question, but so might some of Moskowitz’s best and most loyal supporters: her parents. If the small handful of Success Academy parents I’ve spoken to about this are an indication, Moskowitz might for once be overplaying her hand.

Meanwhile, Mike Petrilli says charter school supporters should stop antagonizing Republicans. Maybe, but the idea that charters have been successfully rebranded as a lefty idea seems to fall apart with even casual scrutiny of the political landscape today. More generally, wouldn’t it be great if education conservatives stopped acting like snowflakes and getting triggered every time someone says “social justice” or points out that race is an issue and at the same time if education’s social justice lefties decided that actually getting things done to change the facts on the ground was as important to them as making points or getting people to say the “right”  things and think and signal the “right” way? Then, perhaps we could get back to figuring out how to address the formidable array of interests fighting against a reform that’s shown enormous benefit for urban students – who are disproportionately racial and ethnic minorities?

New York charter schools are being allowed to credential teachers – and the legal authority underpinning that is being challenged in court. Some of this is the usual turf war over any effort to break up the iron triangle teacher prep protection racket and I can’t speak to the legal merits under New York law, but it’s nonetheless a good time to revisit an idea we discuss from time to time: Context. In this case, New York – like a lot of places – is screwing around with cut scores on teacher tests and there is no evidence that credentials matter that much (as a practical matter outside of emergency credentials all the different training routes are mostly a wash). So it’s hard to take seriously the claim that allowing charter schools flexibility here undermines teachers quality. Rather, we might just see the kind of innovation and competition that could spur some change. Maybe now is too awkward a time to point out that some of the most interesting innovations in teacher prep right now – High Tech High, MATCH, Relay, are all charter school born…

Euphemism of the day for all that, “historically surprising”

“This whole issue of quality assurance and accreditation is proving particularly vexing for them in ways that are historically surprising, because obviously teaching has been around for a long time.”

You don’t say…

Michael Roth on ideological diversity and campus life.

Ian Rowe says we need to aim higher.

Good thing the teachers’ unions are such progressive stalwarts!  But at least they play it straight with dues.

Almost impossible to give a book talk these days without disruption.

Friday Fish Porn – Little Rivers, Tough Fish

Here’s Jason Gaulden, who among other roles in the education world helped get GratefulEd going and is a keen follower of the music scene as well as a passionate advocate for better schools.

He’s just getting into fly fishing, but the smile is a signal that you should think about taking it up, too.

This is from the Little Laramie River in Wyoming.

Want more pictures of education types with fish? Hundreds, literally as the kids say, hundreds via this link.

October 10, 2017

Whiteboard Insider Survey Data, Race And School Finance, Matt Damon, Inconvenient Anti-Reform Advocate? Louisiana Pension Mess, Allred A Principal, Bellwether Is Hiring, More!

Chad Aldeman on the pension situation in Louisiana:

To make up for a shortfall of almost $12 billion, Louisiana school districts are now forced to pay more than 30 percent of each teacher’s salary toward the state pension fund. The vast majority of that contribution goes to pay down debts, not for actual benefits for teachers. For at least the last 25 years, Louisiana has never paid its pension bills in full, causing the debt to grow and grow.

And here’s Chad on teacher turnover. It’s a must-read on both the content but also the constant advocacy-driven sleight of hand around important issues that plagues this sector. This, kids, is why we can’t have nice things!

Bonnie O’Keefe is blogging about turnover, too, here she is on the leadership factor.

We’re hiring at Bellwether.

New Education Insider data from Whiteboard Advisors. Insiders see long odds for Trump Administration education priorities that require congressional action. Plenty more and you can read it via this link (pdf).

Maybe this is common knowledge, but I didn’t know Gloria Allred was in education and almost became a principal before her legal career. That was included in this New Yorker profile.

The fraternity paradox, work less and earn more.

Matt Damon is a hero to the anti-reform left because he couldn’t find a single public school in Los Angeles that was “progressive” enough for his kids and went private. (As I noted at the time, if for no other reason than security that choice makes sense for the Damons but why wrap it in all the rhetoric – and the LAUSD superintendent at the time pointed out that there are plenty of progressive public schools in LA). In any event, Damon is back in the news because of allegations he had a hand in squelching Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment claims. (Not the only such allegations surrounding Damon).  Rose McGowan, a key figure in the Weinstein episode, is now turning her attention to Damon. If you’re say the American Federation of Teachers, or the host of other anti-reform groups that have thrown their lot in with Damon on his new anti-reform documentary, this is some awkward timing…really awkward. Update: Damon responds in an interview:

For the record, I would never, ever, ever try to kill a story like that. I just wouldn’t do that. It’s not something I would do, for anybody.

Paul Krugman today in The Times:

If you want to understand why policies toward the poor are so different at the state level, why some states offer so much less support to troubled families with children, one predictor stands out: the African-American share of the population. The more blacks, the less compassion white voters feel.

There is some evidence this dynamic plays out in school finance. Obviously. But, while the evidence is relatively thin and early so all the usual caveats apply, there is some evidence older white voters are less likely to support school bonds (less likely than usual, which is its own problem if you live in a retirement area) in more racially diverse school districts. Add that to the downward pressure on school finance as the population ages and the demographic fiscal burden shifts toward older Americans.

Bears get late night pizza cravings, too.

October 6, 2017

The Most Interesting Charter School Debate Has Nothing To Do With Betsy DeVos, High School Football, Competitiveness, Teacher Diversity, Partnership Schools – Third Way Or Trap? All That Plus Tom Petty!

Bonnie O’Keefe on local and tailored solutions to local teacher turnover issues. We are growing and hiring at Bellwether, a communications manager among other roles.

This isn’t fake news, but this Wall Street Journal article succumbs to the catnip of Betsy DeVos friction and pro-con charter debates and totally misses the real story with this gathering of charter leaders in New York. I’ll spare you the Game of Thrones analogies but the story here is the ongoing tension between faster growing charter management organizations, CMOs, and independent charter schools not the larger war over charters. At one level it doesn’t matter – 100 great new schools is 100 great new schools whether they’re in a big network or independent. But as a practical matter it does matter because CMOS can grow faster, and some evidence indicates they can do it with less variation in quality. On the other hand, independents can bring more pedagogical diversity into the sector. So reasonable people can disagree! But there are big questions of public dollars, philanthropic strategy, voice and ownership, and other issues bound up in the conversation. It’s really interesting! Yet the article misses all of that.

Education makes the Hollywood Reporter!

Are partnership schools a third way forward or a pathway/roadmap/camel’s nose under the tent [insert your metaphor here] to the erosion of charter school autonomy?

Urban Institute teacher diversity project.

If you promise unprecedented transparency you lead with your chin for stunts like this.  Also, where have you gone Article I, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you…

Two things that are not unrelated:

RAND on teachers and their take on standards and testing. America Succeeds on the future of work.

Dana Laurens and Charlie Barone on ESSA gaming.

If you think high school football, at least contact high school football, might be on its way to being a regional activity – you may be right.

Want a job with a low chance of being outsourced or becoming obsolete? You should have been a school finance attorney. More from Kansas.

Tom Petty.

October 3, 2017

2017 And CHIP Still In Question, Janus, Transportation, Books! Is Testing History? More…

Here’s another look at school transportation – it’s not as boring as you think.

CHIP funding falling prey to Congressional dysfunction.

Brief history to the present:

Teachers unions face existential threat from mandatory dues case at the Supreme Court. Key vote in that case dies unexpectedly. Stay of execution. New justice, not favorable to union’s arguments confirmed. Existential threat returns.

The rhetoric and headlines are all about how the unions are gearing up to fight this and all that. They’re not, they know it’s over and was over with the election because the new president would fill Justice Scalia’s seat. What they are doing is ramping up to deal with the effects through a variety of methods to expand membership and pass laws that protect current practices. Not a lot of attention to the impacts in the education world – I’d update that piece but why bother, not much has changed except the name of the case and the specific facts.

Pearson on skills and automation.

Oh the places you’ll go!*

*Except Cambridge.

One size doesn’t fit all.

I don’t think they talk to Matt Damon like this on set?

Apparently tenure track jobs are the gin of our time?

Where is the fun in this? (Actually you hear teachers – in places with a decent assessment system – say this all the time, it just doesn’t make great copy):

 I wish they had listened to Mark Ingerson, a splendid Salem, Va., history teacher I know. He never mentioned the exams to his students until a month before testing day. “If you focus on learning and help the students to understand what they have mastered and what areas they need to grow in, the scores take care of themselves,” he said.

Bear proof can foils bears.

September 29, 2017

September 27, 2017

DeVos Approval Underwater, Ref Rodriguez, Renewal Schools, Common Core, More!

It’s September 27th. On this date in 1929 Ernest Hemingway sent a letter to Max Perkins from Paris asking for money, a frequent theme of Hemingway’s letters), talking about upcoming skiing or time in Key West, but also discussing his pace of work. “Have been working well ever since back a week ago. Have done two more stories. Have six now but between ourselves only two seem saleable. But don’t tell anyone – might be able to sell them all.”

Cambridge University Press is releasing an edited volume of Hemingway’s letters from 1929 – 1931 in October. It’s the latest in their curated series of his correspondence. Edited by Sandra Spanier and Miriam Mandel, it’s dense but a treasure trove.

Closer to home, Betsy DeVos’ approval ratings are still underwater, but at least 1/3 of respondents haven’t heard of her or don’t have an opinion. She still has usually high name recognition.

Oh, and only 4 percent of voters say education is their top priority right now…so it’s all upside for us!

Also, new DeVos advisors.

Here’s the most thought provoking thing I’ve seen written about the Ref Rodriguez issue in LA.

People starting to ask the cost-benefit question about NYC’s “renewal” schools initiative. More blunt take here.

If you’re a Common Core opponent this is the kind of thing you don’t want to  see – the standards and assessments becoming embedded like this.

We’ve discussed how sexual abuse episodes in schools are often systemic failures with multiple breakdowns of accountability and plenty of history. That’s not about due process, which is essential, it’s about people failing to address problems. Here’s an episode from Oregon that points up the problem.

Arson squirrel.

September 26, 2017

Private Jets And Public Dollars, Value-Added Redux, CRPE On Next Gen Ideas For Chartering, Matt Lewis Interviews Moskowitz, The Dems Dilemma, More!

Last week a variety of folks from Bellwether took a look at different dimensions of family engagement.

Chad Aldeman with a tour of pension history – you’ll learn something.

Do you know what a B-3 indicator is? It’s ESSA talk and Bonnie O’Keefe and Chad get you up to speed here via this CCSSO toolkit.

I wrote this column on value-added and teachers seven years ago (Facebook just reminded me). Does it still stand up?

So last week CRPE released a report raising some questions about the next generation of charter schools, policy, and collaboration with districts. Reasonable people can disagree on all of that and it’s hardly settled. I’m not sold on all of it at all – and I’m a formal advisor to CRPE (but wasn’t involved in this work). But the amount of behind the scenes pushback on them even raising the issues was startling. I’ve noted that too many reformers and advocates are trying to set a land speed record for becoming what they sought to change. This seems an example. We should be having these kinds of conversations not be scared of them.

Here’s a thoughtful take on it from Terry Ryan.

Is the era of regulations by letter really over? Surprised this hasn’t gotten more attention. Well not really, given how bonkers the last few days have been, but it’s worth watching.

Matt Lewis talks with Eva Moskowitz.

Yellen on ed.

Sexual assault policy and race. I’ve been surprised this issue hasn’t seen more attention, too.

Where you stand and where you sit and all that…when are parents “fleeing” and when are they advocating on behalf of their own children? And is the difference contingent on where you send your own kids to school?

Breaking: Betsy DeVos is rich. That seems to be the underlying point of the new round of stories about how she flies on her own plane. Except she’s paying out-of-pocket and paying for her security and so forth as well. So what is weirder, an education secretary with her own plane or that this arrangement seems to save taxpayer dollars. From the AP:

Hill said DeVos pays for “all her travel expenses including flights, hotels, etc., out of pocket and at no expense to taxpayers.” Since coming to office, DeVos’ only charge to the department was one roundtrip Amtrak ticket from DC to Philadelphia for $184. Hill added that DeVos also covers travel expenses for her security detail or any other staff accompanying her on the aircraft.

Obviously, ability to pay is not the top skill set we look for in a public official. And I guess it’s a little weird the education secretary flies around on her own plane (but really, who amongst us wouldn’t stop flying commercial if we could). But the bottom line seems to be that she’s spending less taxpayer dollars on travel than her predecessors rather than more as result – even though more is what the phrase private jet immediately conjures up.

Here is Stan Greenberg’s after-action on the Clinton 2016 campaign.  The Democrats’ dilemma, or part of it, it seems to me is that voters are hungry for candidates who are outsiders and who will disrupt a pretty insular system that doesn’t work for too many Americans. That’s why “drain the swamp” is at once a punchline and a sentiment that resonates with a lot of Americans. This issue should be a natural for Democrats who relish attacking monopolies, self-dealing financial arrangements, and structural barriers to opportunities. Problem is, that doesn’t just describe banks and parts of corporate America – it arguably also describes our education system and its constellation of special interests. People get that and in today’s politics it’s hard to be half a reformer.

Prep schools and privilege. Lots of concern but so far more absolving than change.

Interesting analysis of geography and opportunity. And new California school ratings from GreatSchools.

Russian bear rides in motorcycle sidecar, and plays the horn.