Monthly Archives: October 2016

A Different Kind of Diversity: Too Many Introverts?

Guest blogger Mike Goldstein, sharing only his personal views, writes: 

Let me try out an idea.  Good chance I’m off target here.

1. Per this very provocative series, I wonder about a different type of diversity among ed reform leaders:

a. Are they mostly data-and-technology-loving introverts?

b. If yes, does that matter?

2. I am a data-and-tech-loving introvert.  My charter application in 1998 (rejected) and 1999 (approved) sounded a lot like this $10 million XQ winner, described in an excellent NY Mag piece this week.

Students choose interest areas and within them, they think up projects, which they execute themselves. So, for example, in “Signs of Life,” one kid might choose to learn about embryonic development and stage an abortion debate. Another might study the philosophy of science and write a one-act play about a Frankenstein monster. Another might learn “evolutionary design,” a cutting-edge approach to coding.

When Match opened in 2000, pretty much all my nerdy tech ideas failed.  (Hopefully this new Powderhouse school will do better!).

What succeeded, however, was the late Charlie Sposato, our founding principal.  He built positive relationships with kids and parents, through sheer effort and dedication.  Before and after school, weekends and nights on the phone.  Those authentic connections often GAVE the extroverted Charlie emotional energy, rather than depleting it.  That culture became the school’s true foundation.

3. Today’s Globe has a profile of Janelle Smith, on topic of charter school ballot question.  [Dissenting view here from Boston’s mayor].

I remember Janelle as a newly admitted 8th grader in 1999.  She’s now mom to Alorah, on some charter waiting lists.

Janelle enrolled at Northeastern University and excelled early. While 37% of students graduate ready for college, according to national assessments, Smith earned mostly As and Bs in her first two years — success she attributed to the “drive” she found at MATCH, and the constant pushing from teachers she’s still in touch with 12 years later.  But halfway through college, Smith got pregnant. When Alorah was born, Smith left school, vowing to return.

Janelle went back and graduated in May.

Her time at MATCH, she said, was “what propelled me to go back.”  She’d like Alorah to find that same strength.

4. I wonder if nerdy ed reform leaders don’t talk so much about the emotional terrain that Janelle is referring to.  Data-driven instruction, for example, is a more comfortable topic.  Or a longer school day – it’s easily countable.  And perhaps that stuff sits better with nerdy reporters and philanthropists as well.

Has a confluence of introverted leaders affected the message of what reform is all about?

NOLA Unification

The post below is by guest blogger Mike Goldstein.

Background here.  AEI here.  Kira Orange Jones here.  Andy Smarick concern here.
“NOLA had been leading the nation on the two essential elements of systemic reform. First, most of the city’s public education space was defined by the separation of operation and authorization; in the RSD, no entity was performing both functions. 
Second, nearly every city public school was on a performance contract with a non-district authorizer. That meant that most public schools were overseen by a body whose accountability judgment could be trusted because it wasn’t simultaneously running schools in competition with those it authorized.”
Today’s news from Los Angeles goes directly to Andy S’s point.  
I asked 3 NOLA insiders for their views.  
Person 1: 
“There’s a lot of hyperventilating about unification.  But I think the concern is mostly misplaced.  Yes, it could make some operators a little bananas.  But the new approach keeps pressure on the district to make progress, and has some amount of old school educators and reformers working together.  The looming threat is actually that mediocre establishment CMOs would fight to keep the status quo.  The test will be whether or not the local board has the fortitude to keep closing and opening in a saturated market.”
Person 2: 
“I’m quite concerned about unification.  Closing bad schools will, in fact, get harder.  Approving new schools become harder — if you’re a school operator struggling to hit your existing enrollment targets, why wouldn’t you try to influence things.  Consider appointed judges versus elected judges.  Both make mistakes, sure.  But appointed judges tend to stick with the merits.   Elected judges consider “how things look” as well.  Who will get elected to school board, now and over time?  People with aspirations for higher office, at least some of them.  Somehow NOLA will need to educate everyone on what a school board’s function should and should not be — that will be a mighty challenge.”  
Person 3 (a school operator)
“Quite honestly, unification doesn’t affect our schools much at all. A few months ago, I had two concerns: 1) that the district would not allow us to receive differentiated funding for our students with significant needs, and 2) that the board would not be supportive of the continued progress of reforms in the city.  #1 concern was eliminated as a concern a few months ago by a vote. #2 concern was reduced by our board elections a few weeks ago, wherein a majority of reform types were elected.” 
“That said, we could call that impermanent and shaky support.  But that’s no different from our current situation, in which the RSD is just as affected by the elections on our state board.”  

Yearning for Earnings

The post below is by guest blogger, Mike Goldstein.

1. Let’s briefly revisit Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer’s excellent July 2016 paper.  They found (among other things) that kids who attended No Excuses charter schools in Texas didn’t have appreciably higher earnings later in life.

Those of us who support these schools should “wrestle” with that result.

2. The paper led to good online discussion.

The 74 here, for example, and Inside Philanthropy here.

I was struck in particular by Neerav’s two blogs over at Relinquishment.

First he wrote this.

But a week later he wrote this.

When a study tells you what you don’t want to hear, the first reaction is often to not deal with it (in some ways I did this in my previous post).

So everyone in education reform needs to deal with this potential reality: there is some possibility that the best that education reform has to offer can only, on average, move a student from 16K to 18K a year.  

Of course, this is only one study of one state. We don’t yet know if these numbers will hold under different contexts, methodologies, or timeframes.

But, at the very least, your belief that a great school can radically increase wages should be a little lower after reading this study.

It’s rare that any of us manage to notice how our brains automatically spin news to fit our beliefs.  I know I struggle with that.  So: zen move by Neerav to overcome that heuristic, and rethink.

3. I’ve recently spoken to a few researchers in early stages of more such studies.  Yay.  Faster please!

4. You may recall that KIPP laudably began to publish it’s college graduation rate some years ago.  Currently 44%.  That was a bold move.  Until then most charters, including the one where I worked, only put out % of kids heading off to college.

That data point led to KIPP inventing new ways to boost college success.    See here for Picayune series last week (hat tip Joanne Jacobs).

5. Match Charter High in Boston (*I’m on board) stumbled into the earnings issue this way:

a. A red-headed founding teacher from 2000, Bob Hill, became college counselor circa 2011.  (He’d taught every single grad til then).

b. At that time, something like 54% of Match grads had earned college degrees.  Bob stayed in touch with the “other 46%.”

The Boston Globe caught up with Bob earlier this year.

“College wasn’t always a good fit,” Hill says. “The Monday through Friday, the set schedule. That got me thinking, what are our other options? Is there a way to be more flexible?”

c. The result was a new program, called Match Beyond.  It’s an effort to take an existing option (the online, inexpensive College For America); make it more accessible for someone in mid-20s and older to “restart” via tutoring; then helping them re-enter the labor market with a higher-paying job.

6. My modest proposal: that CMOs band together to measure their grads’ earnings.  (And maybe other stuff.  Voting.  Happiness.  Health.  Net Worth [including college loans]).

Top CMOs, in particular, react to data.

Transparent earnings data would steer these CMOs towards some healthy introspection, and then innovation, helping more of their students grow up to escape poverty.

Nerd Unity?

The post below is by guest blogger, Mike Goldstein. 

Hi folks –

Greetings from Boston.

I am terrible at predictions.

But it seems safe to predict that after this election, there will be calls for unity.

My question:

Is there some sort of quickie “unity” federal research agenda among competing ed advocates that can be fashioned in December 2016?

I.e., still leave plenty of room to battle what needs to be battled, yet carve out some sort of “We agree on 20 studies that should be done; we agree on who should do them; we agree how they should be framed; and bonus we even agree on the methodologies.”  Is that plausible?  Silly?

I’m in no way suggesting a “Be all and end all” agenda.  A quick $50 million that “supplements but does not supplant,” to use the feds’ term.  Just a mutual agreement about something.  Yes, I’m increasingly a sucker for “My esteemed colleague on the other side of the aisle” type language.  But also to show “There’s a lot we don’t know” about education (which I admit is a debatable proposition; a lot of people believe we know what to do, we just don’t have the will to do it).

I would think 10 influential people in a room, 5 on “each side”, could get this agenda done and enacted.

For example, I could easily imagine, 5 years ago, competing advocates agreeing to study the earnings effect on Texas charter school students, in the way that Roland Fryer and Will Dobbie recently published.  I.e., the research at the outset seems to have a decent chance of benefitting either side of the charter debate.

(More on that paper tomorrow).


Would/could friendly edu-journalists with sharply different views ever pair up?

My idea is they interview the same sources together, see the same schools together, and then write a story about the same thing —  with competing perspectives, including a nod to what they agree on?


Goldstein’s Gonna Go Wild!

Long time readers know that among the myriad fantastic guest bloggers we’ve been fortunate to host here one stands apart for having the most history – Michael Goldstein. Back in the day we’d check in on Goldstein Gone Wild around the absurdities and the nuance of education policymaking. He  founded MATCH, led a variety of other projects there, and most recently has worked internationally with Bridge International Academies.

And now he’s coming back this week to share, inform, and provoke. Have fun!

Do An Act of Contrition And Lay Off The Common Core Math, New Teacher Preparation Regs & Old Politics, NAACP And Charters, DC Charters, Max Marchitello Is Not Buying Wallet Hub’s Pension Math, Chad Aldeman Is Not Buying Teacher Shortage Math, TNTP, Aspen, CCSSO And More!

Check out some edujobs down the page, some good ones. From BW: Julie Squire with more about D.C. charter school boards and their impact. Max Marchitello on why teachers should grab their wallets before trusting Wallet Hub’s data on teacher pensions. 

The Department of Education released its long awaited teacher preparation regulations.

“It is, quite simply, ludicrous to propose evaluating teacher preparation programs based on the performance of the students taught by a program’s graduates.” – American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on the teacher preparation regulations in a press release.

OK, that about covers the culture here and what you can expect…next battleground, the Higher Education Act.

Chad Aldeman still isn’t buying your scaremongering about a teacher shortage. Seems kind of obvious there is a political agenda behind the constant hysteria about teacher shortages (makes various accountability ideas, Vergara-style reforms, etc…a harder sell) but funders and the media seem to take the bait every time. So here we are.

Wallace is making a big bet on principal training.  TNTP has a new batch of essays from Fishman winners. Fantastic examples what the profession has to offer.

The Washington Post editorial board didn’t have much that was nice to say about the NAACP’s proposed charter school policy:

…Instead of calling for limits, the NAACP should be pushing for new possibilities for students with unmet needs.

Cheering the call for a moratorium — and a similar resolution approved by the Movement for Black Lives — are the teachers unions that have waged a fierce battle against charters — and that have provided financial support for NAACP activities. It will be interesting to see if the NAACP acts in those interests or in the interests of the nearly 700,000 black families who send their children to public charter schools, and the tens of thousands more who are on waiting lists.

For many parents and students, a charter school is the only route to a superior education. In advocating a blanket moratorium on charters, the N.A.A.C.P. would fail to acknowledge what’s happening to children who need and deserve a way out of the broken schools to which they have been relegated.

New performance reports out from Washington D.C.’s charter school board. Important in a few ways including as an accountability model but also because there is a pronounced shift in the number of students severed by the top performing schools – that speaks to parent choices, information, and also accountability and improvement efforts.

New CEP report on teacher focus groups about Common Core. But Common Core is a sin. Well, this report doesn’t actually say that but argues the standards are at odds with Catholic values about life.

Jack Greenberg has passed.

Human capital aspects of personalized learning in this webinar. RAND on coherent instructional support. Here’s a joint Aspen – CCSSO paper about how to drive equity in ESSA implementation (pdf).

Great story: Unsung heroes.

This election season is awful but here are some kids reflecting on it that might cheer you up.

Posted on Oct 14, 2016 @ 8:30am

Edujob: Director, Planning And Analysis @ELeducation

Here’s an interesting edujob in an evolving and exciting organization: Director, Planning And Analysis for EL Education:

The Director of Planning and Analysis is a newly-created position that will design and implement systems, structures and strategic recommendations to support the efficient functioning of EL Education’s School Team, the organization’s partner-facing team of coaches, curriculum specialists and regional directors.  The Director of Planning and Analysis will work closely with the Chief Schools Officer and other leaders across the organization to provide analytics aligned with EL’s financial and operational metrics.  The Director will supervise a small team of analysts and associates who manage EL’s Salesforce platform, revenue pipeline and resource allocations processes.  The role requires systems thinking, strong attention to detail (both precise analytics and consistent follow-through) and the ability to work effectively on a fast-paced, evolving team.

You can learn more about EL Education, this role, and how to apply here.

Bellwether Gets Personal In The Atlantic, WaPo, And A New Paper, Mead On Going Early, Schmitz With Must Read Kansas, Squire In The Detroit News, Bradford On Charters And Race, Autism In VA, Hiring In Chicago, Class Dojo, MS Story, LA Story, Chainsaws, And Science! Plus More.

New Bellwether report looks at personalized learning and rural schools. Potential, barriers, and context! For The Atlantic Tanya Paperny reports out what this looks like on the ground in Maine (bonus, includes lobsters!). While you’re at it check out Paperny in The Washington Post on being out as a student and a teacher. 

Also from BW last few days: Sara Mead argues for starting early in elementary and for policymakers to pay attention to those early grades. Kirsten Schmitz breaks down the Kansas teacher pension system and what it means for teachers. Julie Squire looks at what charter boards matter and what we might learn from them in a Detroit News op-ed.  Danielle Aguayo-Ceribo on gender identity.

Long Times article by Michael Pollan on the politics of food. Some education implications around school lunch and childhood nutrition issues but also more general parallels around coalitional politics and special interests. Powerful look at special education and autism via The 74.

Apparently Hillary Clinton said in a paid speech prior to her presidential run that Common Core was a bipartisan project negotiated by the governors/states with a wholly insufficient plan for dealing with the politics and communicating about it to parents. That about sums it up. Sounds like Hillary Clinton would make a pretty good education analyst.

Derrell Bradford on race and charter schools debate in 74:

The press’s new and sustained interest in the charter/reform divide among black people in America may provide a most teachable of moments on both reform and the educational preferences of people of color. Which is to say, if you want to know how a black person feels about charter schools, you should ask one. If you want to know how black people feel about charter schools, you should ask them all.

Really strong Hechinger Report article about Greenville, MS and school integration.

Here’s some interesting news from Chicago (no, not the tentative agreement though that, too). The district employed a new automated screening system for teaching applicants and it appears to have a disparate impact by race. The headline of the article about it is, “CPS Screening Process Discriminated Against Black Candidates.” The article didn’t provide enough details to know if it’s intentional or unintentional discrimination (Hispanic candidates were affected as well) and in any event the district has ceased using the tool. But, legally, that’s not the standard. It’s not OK in either case in terms of discrimination per se but employment law does distinguish between disparate impact claims based on whether the measure is integral to job performance. There is a lot of case law about this in education related to teacher tests and it’s a lively debate relative to those tests. I don’t know enough about this particular tool to have any sense of what it was measuring and why and whether they have any data correlating success or failure with other indicators, which would matter. But, automated tools can be employed as anti-bias measures to level out various biases. I also don’t know if that’s what CPS was trying to do or if they were just trying to save money. These automated screeners are surprisingly common, it’s not just Chicago. I do know that parents might be surprised to know how often in larger districts this is par for the course and everyone might wonder if this is the best way to hire professionals in the first place?

Here’s an interesting policy issue from Los Angeles that has pensions, charters, and teachers unions all at once!

Technology is driving a quiet revolution in how teachers communicate with parents – a variety of platforms are competing for market share in what is a pretty high-leverage space using various models. Now one of them, Class Dojo, is broadening its offerings into social and emotional learning and support.

Public Agenda has been looking at what the public thinks about various higher ed reform ideas, including the ones being debated on the campaign trail. Kay Hymowitz on confirmation bias and a recent study of pre-k teachers and race.  Steve Glazerman gets his Stihl on and writes about value-add in practice. Sandy Kress on education and prosperity.

The Center for American Progress has a new report out on school schedules and family schedules that raises some important issues and has an obvious but great title.

Amazing science project. Sturgill Simpson coming through Washington, here’s a taste.

New Bellwether Reports, VA Debate History, Charters In MA, Charters Everywhere, Charters And Race, And More Charters! Lots of Hess, Lots of Law, Lots Of Data, Not So Much Innovation….Plus Jobs At Bellwether And More!

Bellwether’s Allison Crean Davis and Julie Squire took a look at charter school board members in Washington – interesting! Chad Aldeman with accountability ideas for states thinking through ESSA.

Here’s a webinar, later today, looking at what the next administration might mean for education. Gerard Robinson, Bev Purdue, me, Ed Surge and hosted by Whiteboard Advisors.

Hailly Korman on the new juvenile justice bill. Lina Bankert and Steph Itelman on what it takes to win federal grant competitions.

They closed their schools. Last night at the opening of the debate Senator Tim Kaine said of the debate setting at Virginia’s Longwood University,

This is a very special place. Sixty-five years ago, a young, courageous woman, Barbara Johns, led a walkout of her high school, Moton High School. She made history by protesting school segregation. She believed our nation was stronger together. And that walkout led to the Brown v. Board of Education decision that moved us down the path toward equality.

This morning Politco’s must-read morning education tip sheet said, “Kaine led his first answer with a quick rundown of Longwood’s civil rights-era legacy.”

Not exactly. What Sen. Kaine said was not a rundown of the Civil Rights legacy of that area. That people think it was indicates how quickly we forget history or fold it into simpler narratives. The walkout was one episode and a vitally important one. The actual history – with real education aspects by the way! – unfortunately includes a lot more. In particular, that the county there closed their schools rather than integrate – for years. It was a major massive resistance episode. It’s a story of awful racism but also heroism and tenacity. It wasn’t until the Warner administration in the early part of the last decade that the state really began to own up to what happened and make financial compensation. Just last year Longwood apologized for its role, or lack thereof, in the episode. Even today, Virginia doesn’t desegregate by race or income in key measures of school performance and accreditation and masks big achievement gaps as a result.

Of course, Sen. Kaine wasn’t there to give a history lesson. He was there to debate and had limited time. But there is a lot more to the history than he let on or Politico did (The 74 looked at this prior to the debate). And it is history as well as more recent actions and issues well worth keeping in mind.

Massachusetts charter cap referendum is up in the air. Bay State Banner wants Massachusetts’ charter cap raised. Elizabeth Warren, who formerly supported school choice is now opposed to lifting the charter cap in MA. Whitmire goes door to door up there and hears from parents bewildered their more affluent neighbors don’t want to toss them an educational life line. Tom Kane on all the evidence about the schools.

Elsewhere in charters: Really big charter rally. New updated model law from the NAPCS. What are Rocketship alumni up to? The debate about race and charter schools via Mother Jones.  NPR looks at the same debate through the voices of various advocates:

But I don’t get this Rick Hess point at all, it’s like a mashup of Hess talking points:

“Twenty-first century school reform has been a story of tackling race-based achievement gaps, with blatant disregard for suburban and middle-class interests. When you racialize an issue, you open the door to folks with a variety of race-based agendas.

“Reform is increasingly a question of race-based grievance rather than helping all children.”

I get the argument that a resurgence of identity politics is going to spark other identity politics. Seems kind of obvious. Glenn Loury and John McWhorter discuss that here.  And I get how white and suburban communities are often at odds with reform that they perceive as focused on other kids (see Massachusetts above). But Rick doesn’t seem to be arguing either of those points. Instead he seems to be saying that the reform movement’s emphasis on achievement gaps (a frequent Hess target) is to blame for the backlash against reform from groups like the NACCP or BLM. But that argument doesn’t withstand much scrutiny – especially in the case of the NACCP, which supports the achievement gap emphasis in policy. I guess you can argue that it sparked unpredictable chaos so here we are? But it – Hess’ point and the underlying situation – seems more to me like politics?

Elsewhere in Hess he says higher ed is about to get NCLB’d. That seems right but higher education leaders would do well to remember the role that resistance to any sort of meaningful accountability measures played in the pot that boiled over and became NCLB in 2001.


This article says that government is a font of innovation. Some truth, especially in some sectors. The education sector arguably not strongly amongst them despite some tries over the past decade.

Here’s a useful primer on teacher pensions via Brookings.  Here’s an overview of the data and research on school discipline. Don’t miss Stephen Carter on banned books.

This is a good debate about single letter grade approach to accountability versus the matrix approach California is taking.

Comparable data matters. Test scores have some problems for principal evaluations. Some dissonance with the research on test scores and teachers and again a reminder that, as in other sectors, managerial discretion informed by professional judgement will have to play a role here.

Complicated legal decision on the Nevada ESA policy.  Big legal decision coming on the standard of quality for special education under federal law. More on the ed cases on the court’s docket via The 74.

The history of cops in schools is more complicated than what you’re probably hearing now.

Bethany Gross argues that cities are becoming education ecosystems not monoliths. Willingham says delete your account – your brain training account.

We’re looking for a comms intern at Bellwether. Great opportunity to work with our team and our comms manager. Also an AP role open on our strategy team. Plus more, check our hiring page out.

This school bus became a deer stand. Now that the Grateful Dead are not touring these sorts of creative repurposing ideas for old buses will take on an added urgency.

Posted on Oct 5, 2016 @ 2:38pm