Monthly Archives: December 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.

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.

Posted on Dec 7, 2016 @ 8:30am

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

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. 

Posted on Dec 5, 2016 @ 2:15pm

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.

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.

Posted on Dec 1, 2016 @ 8:45am