Monthly Archives: February 2015

House ESEA Collapse

Alyson Klein has a good write-up laying out the dynamics that brought down the Elementary and Secondary Act/No Child Left Behind reauthorization bill in the House on Friday. Here’s the basic math on the political log jam: First, House conservatives realized this bill really didn’t do what they want and in actually added to their angst over other pending bills unrelated to education, in particular the Department of Homeland Security funding bill. Meanwhile, any education bill that the House Republican caucus will support – a majority of that caucus, they’re unlikely to run an ESEA bill through absent that – is unlikely to be able to get through the Senate and even less likely to be signed by President Obama. Likewise, any bill that is a genuine bipartisan effort in the Senate is unlikely to appease House conservatives. Best hope at this point: Getting two vehicles of some kind to conference and then hoping it can get done and slipped through. Prognosis: More Department of Education waiver action, which is of course, ironically, the approach conservatives claim to hate.

Posted on Feb 28, 2015 @ 11:17am

Scott Walker Didn’t Finish College And Rick Perry Had Lousy Grades, Does It Matter?

I take a look at the debate about candidate degrees and grades in a new column for U.S. News & World Report:

Let’s stipulate that it would be better all around if Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker had finished college – especially because he apparently came close to graduating from Marquette. It would be better for his advisers, because issues besides Walker’s non-degree might get attention. (Although after Walker’s past week, the academic credential issue probably looks better all the time.) It would be better for Democrats because they wouldn’t come off as snobs talking about the issue. Who knows, it might even be better for Walker himself. Sure, he’s governor of a major state and a serious presidential contender, but with a degree, perhaps he could have found honest work?

But does a candidate’s college experience – especially if it is years in the past with a public record interceding – matter to their fitness for high office…

Click here to read the entire column (and a surprising fact about Texas education). Send me your college war stories on Twitter. I’ll send a copy of Jack Jennings’ new federal policy book from Harvard Education Press to the first person who correctly ID’s the education reform leader who was a  classmate of Scott Walker’s at Marquette.

Update: Laura LoGerfo of NAGB is the winner. It’s DFER exec and former MJS reporter Joe Williams. Enjoy the book!

Pension Dollars: An Exception To The Education World’s Anti-Bullying Stance

Bloomberg takes a look at some pushing and shoving over where teacher pension funds should be invested in New York. I have no idea if Joel Greenblatt* is the best money manager for public pension funds and how his investments compare with other options, but I do think that whether or not he’s into charter schools really shouldn’t be a factor in whether public entities use his services. Pension funds are supposed to provide for the retirement security of the current and future retirees they’re serving, not act as political slush funds to bully people around various education issues (or other issues for that matter).

Here’s some background on this issue and also how teachers unions and private equity/hedge fund types are really frenemies when it comes to investment strategies.

*Don’t know Greenblatt (though I know Eva Moskowitz who leads the school network he is helping).

Update: Here’s a profile of Greenblatt’s education work. Apparently in addition to helping provide better educational options for low-income kids he also helped turn around a Queens elementary school. He sounds just horrible!

Update II: Word is the teachers unions are outliers on this at yesterday’s meeting, other city pensions want to invest with Greenblatt who apparently delivers results.  And here’s another article on this issue.

Posted on Feb 24, 2015 @ 4:41pm

Homeschoolers & Sports Access

The issue of whether home school students should be able to play high school sports in the communities where they live is bubbling up again in Virgina. About 30 states offer some sort of access but fewer than 15 offer broad access. Virginia’s legislature passed a bill allowing access (with some conditions) and it’s now up to the governor to sign or veto.

I wrote about this issue a few years ago (here and here). With appropriate safeguards to ensure homeschooling isn’t used as a way to advance athletics I’m generally in favor of letting homeschoolers play. It’s a good way to tear down walls within education, bring people together, and broaden the pool of people with a stake in public schools. More importantly, while adults on all sides of this have their ideological issues – the kids just want to play. So if they’re good enough to make the team, why not let them? Not to put too fine a point on it but this is a classic case of adult baggage getting in the way of what’s best for young people.

Here are a few other wrinkles that don’t get as much attention but bear on the debate:

– The idea that the battle lines here are home school parents versus the education community is wrong. The education community is split on this and homeschoolers are as well. There are separate home school sports leagues and many in the home school world view the sports access issue as a camel’s nose under the tent toward more regulation of home schooling (Virginia has some of the most permissive home school laws in the country).

– The issue is not whether home school students get any guaranteed spot on a team, but rather whether they have an opportunity to try out.

– That’s why many coaches, especially in rural communities, are fine with allowing home schoolers to compete. Smaller schools and rural schools need every athletic kid they can get to be competitive. In suburban areas where there are more non-school based sports opportunities for kids and more players for coaches there is more opposition. That said, the politics around the issue in the education sports establishment are intense and when I was writing about this plenty of people expressed support – but were unwilling to go on the record. In Virginia opposition from powerful Northern Virginia education constituencies – where they don’t need home schooled kids to be competitive – could be a big factor in how the governor views the bill.

– The education community has strident debates about this but for everyone else it’s mostly a big yawn. According to VCU’s education poll 72 percent of Virginians supported allowing home schooled kids to play sports the last time the question was asked in early 2014. Only 24 percent were opposed.  Not surprisingly, current and former school employees were less likely to be supportive than the public overall. But, parents were more supportive than non-parents. Something that should give proponents hope: Younger voters (44 and under) are a lot more likely to support. Like other issues with a big generational split if the bill isn’t enacted now look for everyone’s views to “evolve” in a few years.

– Under current law there is a local option for home schooled students to take classes in public schools and last time I looked about half of Virginia counties offer the option. So the idea that there is some sort of impenetrable high wall between homeschoolers and public schools is at odds with the reality. And in states that allow home schooled students to play sports the overall impact has been negligible but it’s been meaningful for impacted students.

Posted on Feb 24, 2015 @ 4:02pm

Common Core Confusion

New poll on Common Core and – surprise! – most people still confused about them. WaPo write up includes this gem:

Misperceptions were widespread, including among both supporters and opponents of the program and peaking among those who say they are paying the most attention to the standards.

Posted on Feb 23, 2015 @ 12:50pm