Monthly Archives: November 2017

ESSA Reviews, Part Deux! Now With Podcasting! Plus Pensions, The Commodore Talks Money, Willingham Talks Reading, $10m For Better Lesson, And Alcohol And Money, More!

Jim Cowen and I discuss the ESSA review work the Collaborative For Student Success and Bellwether is doing, along with other discussions about ESSA review work via a new series of podcasts.

Chad Aldeman compares pension plans.

The procedure involved alcohol and metal – and this isn’t a music story.

This is a great chance to learn about school finance from The Commodore herself.

Race and special education.

Wash Post on higher ed, people are angry out there. That’s one takeaway. Also, snakes.

Willingham on reading and knowledge. Important research-grounded ideas that are too frequently ignored.

Don Shalvey:

But sitting in my classroom, alone on that Saturday, figuring out how and when I should turn on the cooler and just what those bulletin boards should look like, I realized that Lennon and McCartney lied to me.

$10m Series B for Better Lesson.

A few years ago I did a column and event at Harvard on the NFL and teacher education and possible transferable lessons – the only time I have ever been or will ever be mentioned in the Boston Globe’s NFL coverage. Goldstein goes wild and revisits the case.

Bobcat on the move.

Keep An Eye On The Tax Bill, Keep An Eye On Discipline Policy, Too. Plus, The Cannon Rule, Dark Rooms, John King Cooler Than You Think, Kerri Rodrigues Pulls No Punches, Kamras To RVA, And Memphis Blues…

Jennifer Schiess on school transportation. This is one of these issues that doesn’t get the attention it should.

What does Aurelia Twitty do when she’s not working? Find out here.

Important package on helping improve student lunch delivery for students who don’t pay full price. A lot of schools have done this informally for a long time in various ways, but more attention to it lately as a practice.

In addition to a lot of other proposals that would impact education, the pending tax bill (House version) could create real problems for charter schools. It also has some provisions (Senate version) that could impact non-profits – including some language on licensing and sponsorships that’s aimed at higher education but could impact some education non-profits, too.

On the tax bill, Republicans don’t want grad students to form unions, but do want to tax their income like workers.  (Meanwhile, left-leaning professors love unions, except for ones for their grad students).

Two thoughts on this Times profile of Edward Blum, the architect of some high-profile efforts to dismantle racial preferences. First, everyone who thinks this Harvard probe is a dud or stunt should pay attention – he seems pretty effective.

Second, this line jumped out:

Rachel Kleinman, senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said that Mr. Blum’s opposition to affirmative action was related to “this fear of white people that their privilege is being taken away from them and given to somebody else who they see as less deserving.”

Maybe it is rooted in that sentiment, which is a real thing in American politics. But I’ve never met the guy and have no way of knowing what drives him (he says no in the profile, and I found this more in-depth discussion). For my part, I’m generally sympathetic to well-constructed affirmative action programs of various kinds given how American life worked and works today. But what if Blum’s opposition to even those sort of policies is just rooted in a different way of looking at the world and the costs and benefits of various policies and the very real tradeoffs and tensions that always exist on policy questions like this? After all, some non-white people oppose affirmative action, too. If he weighs the tradeoffs differently than I or others do it doesn’t make him right or wrong either, of course, but it might actually be the core of his argument? Worth entertaining.

Why? Because the thing is, in my experience, if you can’t describe the positions of people you disagree with in ways they would themselves recognize then, whether quickly or over time, you’re going to lose the argument. (We call this the “Cannon rule” around Bellwether as a nod to a journalist who teaches the idea at workshops we do). Blum seems to see the world as more of a vacuum than I would argue it actually is based on the evidence, in terms of who gets subtle or substantial advantages or not, especially in education. You can argue about the structure of American life and the best remedies for problems and ways to expand opportunity without amateur psychoanalysis, the evidence is there for all to see and sort through.

Speaking of hard issues, school discipline…

Not too long ago in reference to restorative justice and work to make school discipline less punitive I remarked in an article that there is no good idea the education sector can’t execute badly. That’s pretty safe ground, and this New York instance may be sadly illustrative.  You’re hearing frustration from teachers about this, too, and national leaders like Randi Weingarten have found themselves on all sides of the issue cross-pressured between national politics and membership concerns.

Now, the Trump Administration is preparing to move on discipline policy. A lot of cross-currents colliding on this issue and they sometimes seem to obscure the core problem that students are often disciplined differently for similar issues in ways that are correlated with race. That is a distinct issue from prevalence of incidents or remedies and from disagreements about how the Obama Administration made their discipline policy. And it’s a problem reformers should want to solve given that it’s a long-standing problem and a big deal in terms of the impact on students and their lives.

Mike Petrilli calls for discipline common ground. We have been trying to get work funded on synthesis solutions here involving a broad range of stakeholders for several years. Synthesis is  not where the market is right now, and DeVos and Trump politics only make it more challenging.

John King has a piece in Teen Vogue – Teen Vogue! My kids were impressed when they saw me reading this – and at their age that takes a lot.

Kerri Rodrigues on parental advocacy.

Governance changes on the way in Philly.

Longtime DC schools teacher and leader to lead Richmond public schools in VA.

Is Paul Weinstein’s three-year college idea catching on?

Dark rooms are back.

Memphis Blues.

Posted on Nov 21, 2017 @ 10:30am

Anti-Zero Sum! Walmart, Campus Life, Pipe Bombs And More! Plus Superintendent News, Title IX Suits, And The SEC’s Blog Game

Scroll down for jobs.

Sara Mead on zero-sum thinking in education. Phil Burgoyne-Allen on buses.

Speaking of zero-sum, Chad Aldeman and Max Marchitello explain why pension reform doesn’t have to lead to bad outcomes for current or retired teachers.

Thinking about a piece of work this week it occurred to me that I’ve never seen a state enact ambitious and sustainable reform work without a critical mass of people interested in education reform first, rather than secondary to other political issues, without a lot of political and advocacy work, the hard three yards and a could of dust kind, and without state education advocacy organizations working to advance the issue. Good news: That’s a tall but hardly impossible order.

Don’t miss this profile of EL Education at 25.

Charlie Barone on segregation and students.

Clayton Christensen says don’t get used to all these colleges everywhere.

CRPE deep-dive on public school choice across multiple cities.

NACSA on how authorizers can address the challenges of growing charter enrollment.

Fordham on ESSA accountability systems.

Rural NAEP.

Gosh, if only there were some examples of success in New York City that Mayor de Blasio could look to….

This is gross:

…The Recovery Institute treats patients from a number of unions, but many are public school employees. Many of the New Jersey teachers went to Florida after their union representatives put them in touch with a consultant who, they were told, helps members in need of treatment. That man is Terry Livorsi, a former union electrician who said in a 2007 deposition that he has been in recovery from substance abuse since 1982.

What many of the teachers weren’t told was that the smooth-talking consultant has a second business: He owns the Recovery Institute of South Florida…

Principal + pipe bomb. This is no good.


And frankly, these attempts at smearing parents from a classist perspective don’t work either. You’re not ever going to make me feel bad for shopping at Walmart. I’m the single mother of three boys. I shop at Walmart. A lot.

And this:

…as enticing as the salaries for boilermaker, pipefitter, and heavy equipment operator may be, if we are being honest, rich folks –and those leading the charge for vocational education– are not preparing their children for those jobs.

Whether consciously or not, the wealthy and privileged in our society prepare their children for opportunities that protect and build upon their family wealth, social status, and societal influence. From The Montessori preschool experiences for their toddlers to the decisions to spend thousands each year on private school, these parents are able to ensure their children have competitive advantages.

All this can be yours, too, for just $50K a year!

…As a college senior eager to engage in lively debate, I’m disappointed in students who used this event as an opportunity to taunt and disparage a speaker who made every effort to engage in good faith. Although many student activists at Williams seem hostile to conservative ideas, I believe all of my peers are capable of disagreeing without being disagreeable.

But college administrators aren’t much help. Since Ms. Sommers’s talk at Williams, my college’s president, Adam Falk, has characterized the event as a success. He wrote in the Washington Post this week that “our students listened closely, then responded with challenging questions and in some cases blunt critiques.”

That grossly misrepresents what happened…

Here’s a run at Title IX with an interesting fact pattern.

Superintendent debate in New Haven. Changes in Lawrence, MA, too.

Profile of my favorite SEC official.

New Video: School Transportation

School buses are safe and bus drivers are often cherished figures for kids – it’s the first school system adult most kids see in the morning and the last one in the afternoon.  Unfortunately, the good news ends there. Buses are environmentally harmful, inefficient and needlessly costly, and the way we organize transportation today works for school systems but not for parents. This new Bellwether video will get you up to speed on all that and avenues for improvement – in less than three minutes:


Election Reax, More TFA Positioning, Choice & Information

I’m tweeting some election reaction here. I’d keep an eye on what happened in Maine with Medicaid, that’s important on the policy but also the politics and impacts education, too.

From Ed Next here’s an interesting look on how more school choice changes informational markets.

As predicted, the issue of TFA and its audiences is in the open now. How can you tell? Well, here’s Elisa Villanueva Beard – the CEO of TFA on this very question.  Scroll down for other takes.

Teach For America And Its Audiences, We Work School, Accountability, Betsy DeVos Still Here, Obama Guidance, Not So Much…Food Ideas, More!

Yesterday, off-edu, I asked what was going on with Ryan Zinke, who isn’t living up to billing on public lands policy.

Don’t miss this 74 package on accountability.

Betsy DeVos is not leaving. She went through a lot to get the job. But, the, ‘who, me?’, no one was at the scene of the crime – her, the transition team, etc… – quality to who is to blame for her confirmation hearing is one of those amusing Washington things. To recap, she tells Politico she was badly staffed, the people staffing her say she wouldn’t pay attention.

Anyhow, DeVos will probably turn out to be a somewhat consequential Secretary of Education if for no other reason than she is undoing most of her predecessors’ policies over eight years because they were all done via guidance and executive actions rather than being embedded in law or formal regulations. And the one consequential recent education law she inherited, ESSA, she can basically choose to ignore because of how it’s structured and with a blessing from Hill Republicans.

Speaking of ESSA, all the confusion that color coded matrix accountability schemes cause is not a bug, it’s a feature.

Heather Harding on Teach For America and its positioning and audiences:

Finally, it’s important to remember that like many organizations, TFA is beginning its second act as its founder exits the central leadership and new leadership emerges. It would be a mistake to conflate TFA’s maturing policy platform with the identity politics frame being thrust upon new CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard. Straight from a Harvard Business School case study, Kopp surely has shepherded TFA’s transition into the post-founder era carefully and deliberately. Probe Villanueva Beard’s backstory, and you will find a classic American Dream narrative that offers something closer to the meritocracy we all want to believe in. Smartly, though, Villanueva Beard understands the need to listen to what narratives are most compelling to her most important audience: young people on college campuses.

The first time I walked into a “We Work” the very cool Emmeline Zhao of Topsheet was with me, which was a good thing because it’s so trendy we immediately agreed she should do the talking. Now there is this:

“In my book, there’s no reason why children in elementary schools can’t be launching their own businesses,” Rebekah Neumann said in an interview. She thinks kids should develop their passions and act on them early, instead of waiting to grow up to be “disruptive,” as the entrepreneurial set puts it.

The students—this pilot crop is five to eight years old—spend one day at a 60-acre farm and the rest of the week in a classroom near the company’s Manhattan headquarters, where they get lessons in business from both employees and entrepreneur-customers of WeWork. Neumann, who attended the elite New York City prep school Horace Mann and Cornell University, studying Buddhism and business, said she’s “rethinking the whole idea of what an education means” but is “non-compromising” on academic standards. The students will have to meet or exceed all of the state’s benchmarks for subjects such as math and reading.

At the farm, which the Neumanns bought last year, “if they are learning math, they are not just sitting in a classroom learning about numbers. They are also using numbers to run their farm stand, they’re reading about natural cycles of plant life,” she said. “It’s a very hands-on approach to learning.”
We will see…I do a bit of work on the side on food and farm policy via this excellent group, so this whole thing is worlds collide…BTW – couple of education and food policy ideas in here via Lindsey Shute and Tom Colicchio.


Here is a gas addicted monkey.

What’s Going On With Ryan Zinke?

Off-edu, I take a look at Ryan Zinke in U.S. News & World Report.

When President Trump announced his selection of Ryan Zinke to lead the Department of Interior, it landed pretty well. Zinke was a well-regarded former Navy SEAL and congressman known as a champion of protecting public lands and for being attentive to native issues. As opposed to some Trump nominees where defections of Republicans complicated the Senate math, Zinke was confirmed with a bipartisan 67 Senate votes – a landslide in the Trump-era.

During his Senate confirmation, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, a pro-public lands conservation group, said, “Both Zinke and President-elect Trump have identified themselves as conservationists in the model of Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican who helped create America’s priceless public land heritage.

That was then…

The story is different now and the Roosevelt comparisons a lot less flattering. You can read the entire column here.

The Tax Bill And Education, O’Keefe, Mehta, Dynarski, Race & Higher Ed, Race And Schools, The Mess In Online, And More!

Scroll down for edubjobs and a fish pictures.

Bonnie O’Keefe on teacher turnover and assumptions about it.

I endorse the idea that you should read Jal Mehta.

Mark Dynarski wants to know where the research is in state ESSA plans. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. No, seriously,  he does.

Most sectors have to figure out how to police potential conflicts of interest while also allowing cross pollination of ideas, practices, and solutions. Surprise! The education field will be no different as it evolves.

Race and higher education:

Is college necessary? It turns out about half of Californians don’t think so, according to a new Public Policy Institute of California survey.

The difference of opinions in ethnic groups is surprising: While two-thirds of Latinos answer yes, a majority of Asian- and African-Americans think so — but only 35 percent of whites agree.

The same disparity holds across income groups: Almost 60 percent of those from households earning less than $40,000 say college is necessary, while only 42 percent from households making at least $80,000 agree.

Again, when a bunch of people who have been successful doing something spend a lot of time telling you not to do it, be suspicious.

Tax bill: A bunch of proposals for the tax bill that would impact education. Some directly – for instance President Trump seems to be trying to make good on his $20 billion for school choice proposal in part by expanding 529s to include private k-12 expenses. That wouldn’t do much for low-income Americans as 529s are already skewed toward the more affluent who can take advantage of the savings opportunities. And, as we’ve discussed around here before, in general the experience with school choice initiatives shows that if you really want to empower the poor to choose schools you have to give them the choice via strategies like charters or give them money to spend via ideas like vouchers. These indirect strategies are expensive but low-leverage, at best.

Proposals to cap the state and local tax deductions and mortgage interest deductions would also affect public K-12 schools given the instrumental role property taxes and property values play in school finance today. Lawmakers taking aim at college endowments, too. Plenty of twists and turns to come before a final bill but right now hard to say this bill is good news for public schools. 

Reform is winning? Mike Petrilli says that everyone feeling a little down is wrong and the last year has been great for education reform.  He has plenty of examples of things that did or didn’t happen. The problem with this analysis is that there is always something happening – there are 50 states doing things always! The questions you have to ask are whether overall, big picture, in ways that affect millions of Americans, the politics are favorable to systemic improvement of our education system in service of larger goals like improved equity, better preparing Americans for the changing economy, or a deeper understanding of our shared civic bonds and ideals. It’s unclear to me how anyone can look at the past twelve months, or few years for that matter, this is about a lot more than President Trump, and come away feeling great about where things are.

Pat Riccards with a smart dissent on this point here.

School choice. A few months ago Randi Weingarten described school choice efforts as the polite cousins of segregation and pretty much anyone who has analyzed public school outcomes and demographics or even considered this for more than a few seconds, thought, well, wait, aren’t a lot of public school districts actually the polite cousins of segregation? Here’s a take on that and an important debate:

Pushing back against these invidious attacks is the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, an organization that represents 47 historically black schools. “We cannot afford this kind of issue-myopia in our society,” the fund’s president, Johnny Taylor, wrote in a syndicated op-ed this fall. “If the NAACP continues to reject the educational opportunities school choice provides them, they risk becoming irrelevant—or worse—an enemy of the very people they claim to fight for.”

Speaking of….stay classy Denver!

The mailer is the handiwork of Every Student Succeeds, which gets its support from the state’s largest teachers union, the Colorado Education Association, as well as money from the Denver and Aurora teachers unions.

The term “bare-knuckle politics” just gained a new level of brutality. Cobián is no supporter of Trump, DeVos or their education agenda.

In reality, Cobián is an impressive up-and-comer who learned English in the Denver district, overcame significant hurdles to students of color, went on to gain an exemplary education…

Proponents of virtual and online education really ought to get on top of the quality and accountability issues – and yes those issues exist all around the education sector but when you’re an upstart you bear an extra burden.

I am not much on alternative history as a genre, but James Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry would have been something else.