Monthly Archives: January 2017

DeVos To The Floor, Food And Pensions, Aldeman On Pensions, Child Find In The DeVos Era?

After a bit of drama and some tension over committee rules (the clerk earned his paycheck at this one) the Betsy DeVos nomination is moving to the Senate floor for a vote after a party line vote in the HELP Committee today. Ed Week on why she probably will get through – although at the committee vote Senators Murkowski and Collins both gave cover for moderate Rs to vote against DeVos even as they did send the nomination through, a no or abstention in committee would have been the game changer though. As it turned out, the way it went down just hardened the Democratic narrative against her.

Republicans want to get her through because the longer this hangs out the harder a vote it becomes.

So, bottom line, as we’ve noted, when they vote probably a good day for Vice President Pence to stick around D.C. (Interesting historical note: a vice president has never cast a tie breaking vote on a cabinet nomination as far as I know) but what we’re probably getting here is a politically crippled Education Secretary who will have her work cut out for her. Also, and related, the staff work here has thus far been questionable…

Eva Moskowitz with the case for DeVos in NY Post today.

For everyone thinking the teachers unions are irrelevant in the Trump-era it’s worth noting that DeVos has emerged as the most publicly controversial Trump cabinet-nominee – and that’s saying something in the current context (others like HHS and Treasury are getting more pushback but DeVos has become the public face of opposition to Trump’s nominees). Calls are pouring into Senate offices – substantially more than other nominees by some accounts. Yes, some of it is politics, positioning, and all that but they are still relevant.

Here’s the most interesting pension article you’ll probably read today. The Park Slope food coop in a big fight over its pension fund. Better color from the WSJ’s account:

“It was a bunch of Wall Streeters who came up and made this presentation, and 40 years ago you could never imagine Wall Streeters being part of the coop,” said Mr. Thomas, who works as a fundraiser for a new-music nonprofit.

The Wall Streeters were “perfectly nice gentleman,” Mr. Thomas added, but rubbed “the crunchy people in the front row” the wrong way. They used a complicated Powerpoint, a rarity at coop meetings. “It was, like, graphs and stuff,” he added.

I have no views on what the Park Slope coop should or should not invest in. And no views on what’s appropriate content for their meetings. But, this reminds me of a story an urban superintendent told me once about an attempted deal to refinance some pension debt at favorable rates. The pension trustees – who didn’t have financial backgrounds – didn’t get the proposal with all its complexity and shot it down. That cost millions in public money.

In other news, here’s Chad Aldeman on why despite what you may have heard teacher pensions are not very good for actual teachers.

This might be the first child find effort of the DeVos era?

Immigration Executive Order And What It Might Mean For Education And Dreamers, Rhames On Race, And Match Beyond. Bonus: Pirates!

You’ve probably heard by now about President Trump’s executive order immigration. I’m not a fan on the merits and am biased against it for personal reasons.

So that about covers it from where I sit. Also, this executive order today is preposterous. Government regulations are not a 40-man baseball roster.

On policy, the immigration EO did not get into the DACA/Dreamers issue. By all accounts this Reuters article is right that there is a split in the Trump camp over how to handle the DACA policy. In that regard the executive order this weekend is instructive on form more than content. A very small group around President Trump is making decisions (and not just on this issue) and you’re not getting the normal agency, legislative liaison, and stakeholder input on big decisions that generally helps shape policy including EOs. That could have big impact on the DACA question because most of the opposition to repeal is from the Hill, agencies that would have to implement a plan, and key stakeholders like some conservatives concerned about the impact of a DACA repeal on families. The opposition to DACA repeal is not strong among Trump’s key advisors.

Second, and more generally, the ham-handedness of how this went down is a problem. Policy specifics aside, it’s startling and no way to run a railroad. The lack of agency input. No prep or transition time. Total chaos as a result. The President can’t do an Executive Order implementing school choice but they can design a proposal that is more or less vetted and thought out. They can do a DACA revision that causes more or less chaos and confusion. If this EO on immigration is any indication, look out.

Good news for DACA supporters? Well, so far President Trump has done pretty much what he said he would (turns out Trump voters should have taken him literally…thanks guys!). And he has said he’d find a way to protect dreamers. We’ll see.

The Times takes a look at Betsy DeVos’ personal approach on LGBT issues. I don’t know her so have no idea on this – though I have no reason to doubt the Times’ reporting on it either. But, it does point up an interesting partisan dynamic. On this issue I’ve been struck at how quickly it’s become politicized and more about someone’s general politics than their behavior on the specifics of LGBT policy. Personally, I’m a lot more interested in what a politician or public figure was doing in, say, the 1990s than what they are doing now after they “evolved” when the politics became easier. It’s great that people change their views and all that but it’s good to look under the hood as what people are about may be more complicated than their avatar on Facebook or what you read on Twitter.

And don’t miss some actual nuance from Jay Mathews about DeVos.

Last week we talked about a Rick Hess conference on race and education, here’s Marilyn Rhames’ take on it.

Education Next takes a look at Match Beyond:

Yet, with all of these obstacles, Match’s graduates “had to adjust to the [college] model rather than the model adjusting to their complicated lives,” Hill said

He and his colleagues decided to transform that model, at least for Match’s graduates.

Misinformation about pirates!

Gary Busey In The DeVos Debate! Plus Mead On Choice, Aldeman On Choice And Pensions, C4C On DACA, College Champions, Microaggressions, Hess On Race And Education, Teaching Quality On Campus, Buses! More!

Sara Mead on inter district choice – and Michigan! Chad Aldeman on the ins and outs of how charter schools interact with teacher retirement systems in the states.

Betsy DeVos is invested in a Gary Busey film about a Christian summer camp (Busey’s character is named Cujo) and she is apparently an oyster cracker mogul. Also YETI coolers. And the Cubs!

Here’s Busey discussing hobbits. Because it’s Friday.

More immediately, with Trump nominees getting through despite various issues and flags DeVos is emerging as a prime target to rough up the new President. The hearing created that opportunity and there is a full court press underway with quite organized opposition. So far the Rs are unified but Vice President Pence should probably stay close to D.C. when they vote.

Chiefs for Change on DACA. 

Higher education teaching and research – what’s the relationship? The always interesting Figlio is on it.

Lit review and construct questions about “microaggressions.

Rick Hess on an event he hosted this week to discuss race in the education sector:

There was a willingness to talk frankly but in measured tones about disagreements. Robert Pondiscio of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute pointed out that, for more than a decade, education reform has been approached as a race-based endeavor and questioned the wisdom and the desirability of this shift. After all, a good chunk of (mostly right-leaning) Americans are opposed to race-based policy. They regard affirmative action and racially targeted programs as divisive and an affront to constitutional guarantees that all citizens will be treated equally. Many others, obviously, think race-conscious policies are essential if “equal protection” is to be more than a hollow phrase. That disagreement frames so much of the current debate in school reform, and we need more blunt, civil, and face-to-face discussion on this score.

Yes. But. Leave aside that the data are pretty clear that while class is an enormous driver of outcomes in American life, race exerts its own independent effects independent of class. More fundamentally, this take offers less analytic leverage on the political problem than it seems.

I’ve worked on equity and achievement gap issues since the 1990s but because I think accountability is necessary in a sprawling $650b sector and that poor people should have more control over their children’s education it’s frequently assumed I’m “conservative” or right-leaning when in fact my politics are mostly left-leaning and/or libertarian. If you support rigorous curriculum like Core Knowledge that’s somehow conservative. But supporting keeping poor kids trapped in crappy schools makes you progressive – a progressive hero if you do it vigorously enough.

I’d also be careful assuming that just because someone is opposed to affirmative action programs, for instance, that they are also opposed to accountability schemes that focus on race or income. President Bush, anyone? Conversely, there are plenty of people in favor of affirmative action who are nonetheless opposed to race-based accountability systems for K-12 schools. And plenty of people’s views seem to change when the politics do. I’m not saying there is not room for principled disagreement and Robert raises useful cautions. But, at the core, it could be that education politics are just a faddish and muddled special-interest driven disaster as much as that there are simply misunderstandings or ideological misalignment here.

Said Howard Fuller at the same event:

Fuller argued that ideological line-drawing frequently misses the mark. To him, our “public school system” is really just a “delivery system” for public education. Fuller said, “Just because I don’t support the traditional delivery system doesn’t mean I’m an enemy of public education.” He elaborated, “I’m not committed to an institutional arrangement, charter schools or any of that. If you do, you become a protector of the status quo. You have to be committed to the purpose, which is educating the public.”

Conservative privatizer!

NAATE on teachers and student-centered design. Here’s a lot of people talking about personalized learning at a recent Pearson conference. 

The College Champions initiative of Classroom Champions* is underway.

School buses and seat belts is a long running and complicated debate.

Today in really big avalanches. Here’s Amanda Shires doing Leonard Cohen on ukulele. Her new album is fantastic, by the way.

*Disc: I’m on the International Board of Directors.

DeVos Debate! Plus Michigan Ed Facts, Robson On Zip Codes Plus, Tim Daly Deals Floor Mats, Title IX And Sexual Assault, Harvard’s Money, NCTQ And Fordham’s Reports, Plus More!

You want Michigan education facts? We’ve got Michigan education facts! Handy guide to DeVos claims/counterclaims right here (pdf). Also, Kelly Robson on why addressing zip code disparities is necessary but not sufficient. 

Sara Mead on Betsy DeVos and nuance (plus Michigan!).

Trump team gets a TFA/KIPP alum with progressive instincts to join their education team. I remain skeptical given what is their apparent instinct to focus on taxes for education reform rather than put out a serious choice/reform package (not to mention all the bonkeroo things the President and some of his senior staff have said in the past few days), but this is an interesting move.

I’m also skeptical about Betsy DeVos’ prospects in the Secretary of Education role given what running a cabinet agency actually involves – she will need a strong team. But, people are now trying to smear DeVos as a nazi. This is being circulated by people who should know better. She is not a nazi or nazi sympathizer. Also hard to miss all the casual sexism that seems to accompany the debate over her nomination. Stay classy everyone!

For a more serious take on some real concerns here’s Bob Pianta, the Dean of the Curry School at UVA, coming out against DeVos.

As for DeVos, she pledged this week to enforce special education law. Bottom line: When you’re pledging that you will enforce federal special education law then something went wrong.  She’s still a slight betting favorite though, for confirmation. Party line kind of thing. No sign Rs are weakening and no political downside for Dems.

The NEA said that DeVos supports an agenda that will,

“undermine public schools and colleges, the teaching education professionals, and education unions.”

No, wait, that’s what they said about Arne Duncan. They’re not supporting DeVos either though…

Anyway, just a reminder for when the dust settles, here’s a bunch of education policy ideas, big and small, on a host of issues from food to mentoring to choice and federal grant programs (pdf).

So, sure, the picture art with this article makes it look as though Tim Daly is asking this man, “what do I have to do to get you into a new car today…that blue Camry out there is priced to move…” But it’s an important article and a really cool initiative. If you’re not following the work of Ed Navigator you should be. Big idea and great people.

New report on juvenile justice from Los Angeles and what’s possible with collaboration by Bellwether’s Hailly Korman and other stakeholders.

Fordham on new teachers and retirement systems. NCTQ with a blockbuster on teacher evals and the ongoing issues.

New book on campus sexual assault and Title IX. Will be influential. This issue seems poised to explode once the Trump team settles in and starts making policy on education issues.  Endowments may also be on the agenda, Harvard just make a move on theirs.  This is a little like government outsourcing though, shell game on who is doing the work for how much money.

Peter Cunningham responds to Andy Smarick on the SIG eval debate, which is the next stage in the SIG debate.  We discussed this the other day here.

Allman Brothers cover Into The Mystic.  And, “do you have any Allman Brothers?”

Betsy DeVos, DACA, Teachers Unions, Pensions, and Twinkies! Plus BLM, Michigan Edu, And More!

We’ve talked about the frenemies problem with teachers pensions and private equity / hedge funds. The teachers unions rail against hedge funds but are also a big source of investment dollars for private equity and hedge fund investments. Max Marchitello takes a look at the Twinkies case and its lessons 

Kate Pennington and Bonnie O’Keefe on some Michigan myths and realities around education. New Bellwether analysis takes a look at the fact base on Michigan schools (pdf) to help sort out the various claims and counterclaims swirling around because of the DeVos debate.

As many assumed, DACA repeal not a priority for President Trump. But this points up a dynamic that will matter a lot in the coming years – some on the Hill will see this issue (and others differently). On DACA concerns range from the policy itself to just the mechanism that brought it into existence.  Votes probably not there, certainly not in the Senate, but Trump is sucking up so much oxygen that people are forgetting that (a) he’s a politician now and (b) the Hill will be pushing on their priorities and sending them to him.

The picture of the grizzly bears all showing up for an IEP meeting that is floating around social media is sort of funny in an absurd way. But everyone knows grizzlies only have 504 plans.

Educations/schools will be a piece of the infrastructure package Senate Democrats are rolling out. 

Philly schools debating BLM.

More DeVos, Bears, Guns, and SIG Policy! Aldeman On Obama’s Ed Legacy, Whitmire On Politics, Higher Ed, Spellings Strategy, Plus 50Can Fellowships, Springsteen Set Lists, Kristen Stewart Is Whip Smart, And More!

Don’t miss Chad Aldeman on the Obama education legacy in Education Next. Ashley Mitchel has some pre-K lessons from Michigan that Betsy DeVos might heed. 

New Administration:

They don’t know their way around yet…

But they do know how to hit pause on the regulatory process. This will create some uncertainty for states.

Here’s some nuance on questions on Michigan and charters that came up during the DeVos hearing.  Here’s DeVos’ ethics agreement. Some context there and look for flare-ups during the week as people learn more about her various investments. I’d say she’s still a slight betting favorite to get confirmed but her hearing performance didn’t make Rs more inclined to fight should something come to light – and she is not a Trump loyalist. From The Week here’s a case for DeVos.

Per the post below, Betsy DeVos’ hearing was not a good one for the Trump Administration. Honestly, it wasn’t really a great show for anyone. Going forward, without a very strong team around her she’s in trouble – especially given a lot of higher education policy coming down the pike and a likely run by banks at the student loan program. In the sexism department, her brother sure does come up a lot. The president has nominated a lot of people – mostly men –  for cabinet posts and I don’t think I’ve heard about any of their siblings? Maybe judge her on her own merits?

The President mentioned education in his inaugural address, in the tombstone graf, but mostly in passing and dystopian terms:

…an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge;

Interestingly as a window into the President’s tendency to strong rhetoric, the word “all” was an ad lib that was not in the prepared remarks distributed to media. It does change the sentence some.

This from a staunch Republican:

“I’m willing to give [DeVos] a pass on her stupid bear comment because I’m not looking for the DOE to lead on gun laws or wildlife management but her opinion on the roles of proficiency vs growth is extremely relevant.”

The bear thing was funny, I couldn’t resist and “Potential Grizzlies” sounds like a good band name to play the ski circuit out west. But, the truth of the matter is that a lot of school districts do own firearms for various purposes – including law-enforcement. So while marauding bears are not much of an issue this is another one of these debates that seems to proceed absent context of the actual status quo.

Meanwhile, the Obama education team might say a small prayer for DeVos? This circus is diverting attention from a pretty disastrous evaluation of billions in school turnaround funding released last week (we’ll see if the new Trump team is deft enough to turn this into a compelling  argument for more choice). It’s not diverting Andy Smarick’s attention though. That article is basically the policy version of stumbling down K Street clad only in a sweater vest with a copy of the IES in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other.

Whitmire on the unsettled ed politics.

Fordham checks in on charter school reform in Ohio.

“Free college debate.”  Social mobility and colleges – some grim data and some hopeful examples.

Margaret Spellings rolling up her sleeves at UNC.

Florida’s tax-credit/voucher program survives a legal challenge. Everyone is focused on D.C. and there is a lot happening in the states including a bunch of big proposals from governors.

This AZ bill is a mess, but look for more like it.

This from the Washington Post:

Historically, Democrats and Republicans have looked at public schools differently. Democrats have traditionally been defenders of public education, seeing it as the nation’s most important civic institution, one that is meant to provide equal opportunity for marginalized communities to escape poverty and become well-informed citizens so they can become part of America’s civic life. Public education was seen as a civil right.

Republicans have looked at public schools less as vehicles of social equity and more as places that are supposed to prepare young people for college and careers, an endeavor that should be measured with the same types of metrics businesses use to gauge success. Some Republicans have looked at public schools with suspicion, in some cases seeing them as transmitters of liberal and even godless values.

That’s why it was unusual when, in 2001, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, the liberal Massachusetts Democrat, gave critical support to the new conservative Republican president, George W. Bush, in passing a new education law called No Child Left Behind (NCLB). A bipartisan, they said, was to make sure public schools attended to the needs of all students, but the law actually became known for creating new “accountability” measures for schools based on controversial standardized test scores.

Also, historically, for some reason The Washington Post has let Valerie Strauss  write inaccurate opinion pieces on their hard news pages for years. Republicans can gripe about how partisan this is take is, but more than that it’s just sloppy history.

Great fellowship opportunity with 50Can.

Springsteen private White House set. At least he didn’t end on Downbound Train. Kristen Stewart acts, directs, and also writes interesting papers. Five-tool player!

Posted on Jan 23, 2017 @ 12:24pm

U.S. News: Put Kids First

You may have noticed that education reformers have become pretty focused on adult issues – and that was before this election and all the complexity it brings. It’s not left or right, on a host of issues it’s everyone. Rough times ahead? I take a look at that in U.S. News & World Report today:

Give the school reform world credit: In the 1990s, reformers promised efficiency and they have more than delivered. It took the education establishment more than a century to build norms and politics focused overwhelmingly on what mattered to adults rather than what was good for kids. The reform world pulled it off in less than a quarter century.

Congratulations everyone!

….The next few years will be rocky ones for an education reform community that now has more in common than it likes to think with the norms and culture it set out to disrupt not all that long ago.

You can read the entire column right here. Tweet me your biggest adult concerns @arotherham, or tell me about your favorite kids (or adults).

Posted on Jan 19, 2017 @ 9:18am

DeVos Hearing Recap

Betsy DeVos hearing short version:

– Some of the questions were gotchas, some were softballs, but still, she is out of her depth on policy and will need a strong team. The Department oversees a lot of issues not just school choice advocacy.

– It was a rocky performance on policy specifics – the IDEA issue in particular – but barring something new that doesn’t matter to this process and she’ll get through. In the weird ways of Washington the hearing was a success for everyone. The Dems got to rough her up and make some points and get some media, the Rs will deliver a nominee for the new president (albeit on what looks like a tight vote). It seems like there are bigger fish to fry though – I work in this sector but honestly am a lot more concerned about the possibility of the nation’s chief diplomat having undisclosed financial ties to our global adversaries than about Betsy DeVos not knowing the ins and outs of growth models (and most of the people attacking her about it don’t either).

– This issue of guns and bears attacks on schools that DeVos raised is an easy punch line but turns out it’s a real problem. (Other examples here.)

Posted on Jan 18, 2017 @ 8:56am