April 22, 2021

After The Pandemic We Should Have More Asynchronous Time – For Teachers

So this tweet was a little tongue in cheek.

Yet there is a fiction about these “asynchronous” days that we ought to talk about more honestly. Most teachers I know work some, and they also do some life stuff. Parents are OK with it to varying degrees probably tied to their overall experience with school during the pandemic and the amount of learning they think their children missed. It’s obviously easier with older kids or child care solutions or for people who work from home. And, there is a global pandemic on, everyone is trying to do the best they can.

Here’s the thing. I actually think when this is over we should have more days like this for teachers and fewer for kids. Right now concurrent learning is not great, that’s another thing everyone knows. There is some technology that can make it better, but it’s expensive and most K-12 schools don’t have it. So we’re hearing a lot of complaints about how kids at home can’t hear classroom discussion and teachers are struggling to do a job they were not trained to. Everyone is frustrated. It’s a mess schools are just powering through with a few weeks left in the year (though it could remain an issue next fall and some better planning might create better experience for kids).

Longer term, however, why don’t we think differently about school scheduling for teachers? Kids should be in school – or in other supervised activities that are learning related – five days a week or more. There are a bunch of reasons for that educational, social, and logistical. Plus when it’s done well young people enjoy learning.

Teachers, however, don’t need to be there 7:30-3 or 8-4 or whatever five days a week. A lot of how we organize school days is just inertial more than it’s intentional. Someone must be with students, of course, especially young ones. We could, however, be a lot more creative about who that someone(s) is. Traditionally when we talk about this issue of giving teachers time the conversation defaults to, “and then teachers could have more time to collaborate” or “Japanese Lesson Study!” That’s all well and good. But teachers also want time during the week for just the general life maintenance we all have to do, doctors, dentists, getting the oil changed, or errands.* Or even just a cup of coffee with a friend. Or downtime if you’re an introvert. Time for a walk. Whatever.

Obviously classroom teachers are not going to have an on-demand or just-in-time kind of schedule. That’s the nature of the work. So flexibility is going to be planned flexibility. But there is no reason someone can’t have a morning or afternoon off during the week on a regular basis.

I’m also not saying that PD is unimportant and, yes, teachers should have time to collaborate on professional work. There are just other legitimate reasons someone might want some free time and professional workplaces are increasingly responding to that.**

The teaching schedule is really constraining, though, and increasingly teaching is an outlier among B.A. jobs in terms of the absolute lack of schedule flexibility – and was pre-pandemic. When you talk with people about aspects of teaching they didn’t like, or don’t like now, this comes up, but there is a sheepishness as well. It almost sounds selfish to say you want time off for yourself. And good teachers definitely don’t want that to come at the cost of their students wasting precious time. So people are reticent to raise it but when you ask if they’d like some extra time for life maintenance, it’s a popular idea.

More generally, the pandemic has not lessened the human desire to be with other humans but it has certainly whetted a lot of appetites around more work-life flexibility and life flexibility in general. Thinking about a workforce of the future (I know!), schools would do well to respond creatively and think about ways to give teachers more time off while giving students more time on. Just a morning or afternoon a week would mean teachers don’t have to spend Saturday mornings doing things other professionals fit in during the week. We know there are better ways to do scheduling, this is one component.

Anyway, I’ve been working on something on this for a while, it keeps falling off for other more pressing things (if you’re a philanthropist with an interest in this hit me up!), but that’s the kernel of the idea right there: Give teachers some time off during the week for themselves but in a way that also supports student learning.

*I don’t remember all the details now, but a while ago there was a charter school that decided to hire a concierge for its teachers, to do errands and such that could be outsourced. The idea was to free teachers up to focus on work a bit more because someone would grab their cleaning or take their car to the shop. Rather than the idea catching on they got loads of crap about it from other schools about how unfair or corporate it was. That’s, you know, an unhealthy culture.

**At Bellwether flexibility is a core value and we encourage people to, within reason, set up their days, weeks, and lives in ways that work for them and make them effective. We have more flexibility than a school, obviously, but schools can do more. It’s a great recruiting tool.


April 21, 2021


Measure Twice, Cut Once…ARPA $ And The Story The Sector Will Tell In 5 Years….

Scarcity is a curse. Yet most of the world’s cultures and religions have some sort of story about how having too much abundance is a curse as well.

Meanwhile around the military, EMS, and work like wildland fire fighting you often hear someone say, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”

Carpenters like to say, measure twice and cut once.

What does all that have in common? And what does it have to do with education? With more than $200 billion in federal dollars hitting schools we might pause and ask, what’s the story the sector wants to be able to tell in 3 or 5 years about this money? That’s what I look at today in The 74:

The reflexive answer is states should spend it now, as fast as possible. After all, wasn’t the pandemic an unmitigated fiscal calamity for states and schools? It turns out, no. The impact has been less severe than anticipated. There are pockets of acute problems: For instance, state revenues for tourist-dependent Nevada and Florida are down more than 11 percent. But overall, the fiscal situation is manageable. Some states are trying to figure out what to do with surpluses, which is good news. And it’s in part because previous federal stimulus packages during 2020 kept consumers spending.

Schools also received support last year. In total, including the Biden plan, America’s K-12 schools have received an infusion of about $200 billion in federal dollars since the pandemic started last year…

…While effective reforms vary, what they have in common is effective implementation and real adherence to whatever underlying elements made those initiatives effective in the first place. In a word: planning…

There’s more! Right here at The 74. 


April 20, 2021


April 19, 2021

Edujob: ED @ AF Accelerate

 AF Accelerate is seeking its next Executive Director.

AF Accelerate is a division of Achievement First that provides strategic support to educators outside of AF and partners with them to fulfill their missions and achieve stronger outcomes for students. Their work is anchored on AF’s open source K-12 materials, used by thousands of educators around the world every day, and they work with charter network leaders and with traditional district schools through two programs:

1) the Charter Network Accelerator, which partners with system level leaders of CMOs to create and sustain transformational change in the networks they lead and

2) Navigator, which accelerates student achievement through coaching for district and charter instructional leaders. Ultimately, AF Accelerate Programs serve 40,000+ students nationwide and they have plans to scale to impact the outcomes of 150,000 students in the next 5 years.

This is an opportunity to lead an existing organization and highly talented team doing some of the most innovative work in the field across CMOs and traditional public districts – and one that’s developing a data-driven track record of notable impact and results and sharing its resources –  at a major inflection point in its evolution.

If this sounds like you, or to learn more, the JD is right here.


April 16, 2021


April 15, 2021

Edujob: EVP National Advocacy and Charter Schools Action Fund Director @ NAPCS

If you want to have an impact on charter school advocacy, here’s a great role: Executive Vice President and Charter School Action Fund Director at the National Alliance at Public Charter Schools. 

The EVP will be primarily responsible for the design and implementation of strategies to: (1) protect federal funding and advance charter schools federal policy; (2) support diverse state coalitions to align their advocacy efforts with the organization’s federal goals; and; (3) lead, raise funds for, and build a nationwide advocacy and political strategy for the 501(c)(4), the CSAF.

The National Alliance seeks entrepreneurial leaders who believe in our mission, vision and core values and who have the experiences, networks, political savvy and tenacity required to move the movement forward determinedly in a dramatically shifted political environment.

More information and how to apply here.


April 14, 2021

Reading & Viewing List

Light posting, I’m tacked down with work projects and landing some writing (plus random stuff). But in the meantime, this essay is not surprisingly occasioning a lot of chatter.

My administration says that these constraints on discourse are necessary to shield students from harm. But it is clear to me that these constraints serve primarily to shield their ideology from harm — at the cost of students’ psychological and intellectual development.

Here’s an example of something you could do with ARPA dollars.

Agree or not, Tom Loveless’ new Between the State and the Schoolhouse is an important look at Common Core.

Also, late to this, but finally saw “Captain Fantastic” with Viggo Mortenson – it’s in circulation on Netflix. Has some education themes. Recommend.


April 12, 2021


More Education Cuts…Where Is Mr. Hand When You Need Him? A Thought Experiment…

The President’s Budget request was released last week. With just $29.8 billion in new spending, about a 40.8 percent increase, for education. In this climate, that’s practically a cut. I’m sure we can come up with a baseline to make the case. And complaints are already emerging about particular accounts.

This is a crazy graf, but bear with me, it’s an education story:

An Army veteran and former police chief of La Habra, Calif., Mr. Hostetter was known around San Clemente as a yoga guru — his specialty is “sound healing” with gongs, Tibetan bowls and Aboriginal didgeridoos — until the pandemic turned him into a self-declared “patriotic warrior.” He gave up yoga and founded the American Phoenix Project, which says it arose as a result of “the fear-based tyranny of 2020 caused by manipulative officials at the highest levels of our government.”

My speciality is not “sound healing.” But I can do thought experiments, here’s one: Let’s say there is a public school teacher who is good at their job and effective and went to the rally on January 6 in D.C., but just the rally, they did not enter the Capitol. So peaceful protest. Should that person lose their job? And if the answer is yes, then what are the downstream consequences? What is the limiting principle(s)?

Here’s one very on brand California take from the article about how this issue is playing out:

“Frankly, it’s hard to get stoked about sending flowers and birthday cards to a classroom teacher who appears to align herself with a conspiratorial social movement and embraces the racist values of QAnon,” one mother wrote in an email to other parents.

In the words of another Californian, “What are you people, on dope?”