Monthly Archives: December 2017

What I’m Reading:

Reminder, we’ve got 34 ESSA reviews coming tomorrow.

Department of Education explainer on Endrew F. case implications.

Parallel play on civil rights and education.  And this on the same issue from U.S. News. Very much related: Petrilli on school discipline. Not long ago we talked about PX90 for your mind – the school discipline issue is a great one to try that workout on.

Fensterwald goes deep on CA funding issues.

Teaching about economic inequality.

New ideas in Detroit. And a Janice Jackson profile from Chicago.

The invisible primary – some education impacts here.

“Design Thinking is Kind of Like Syphilis — It’s Contagious and Rots Your Brains”

Here’s a good example of why strategic planning pays off.

Amy Wilkins Takes No Prisoners! Plus, ATR Debacle, Success For Success, Music Ed, ESSA Reviews, Laine & Lane, More!

Coming attractions: Working with the Collaborative For Student Success, Bellwether convened a crew of state and federal policy experts to evaluate state ESSA plans. Round 1 results here, on Tuesday the 34 round 2 states will be released.

Justin Trinidad on music education.

Amy Wilkins:

The problem is the mindset of revanchists who peddle stories like these — professional anti-reformers who go nuts when approaches other than those they sanction and control deliver results for the students whom they insist cannot learn at high levels.

There is no comparison — none — between the enforced segregation of the pre–Brown v. Board era and the choices black families make when they enroll their children in better schools. It’s ludicrous to suggest the two are in any way similar. In fact, it’s far closer to the spirit of Jim Crow to tell a black student that she has to go to her dismal neighborhood school because the better charter school up the street is not white enough to satisfy the defenders of the status quo.

Jon Chait on the same issue.

That this isn’t occasioning more outrage is an indictment of this sector. It’s what inequality looks like in practice but from the usual suspects…crickets:

…the department said that it had placed only 41 of the teachers, who were part of a pool known as the Absent Teacher Reserve. As critics of the plan had feared, they were disproportionately employed in schools that serve high-needs students.

Here’s Elizabeth Green with a bold (and stronger than I’d characterize it substantively) thing to say in the current climate:

Of all the reforms that have set out to free schools from this trap, to date I’ve seen only one that works: the implementation of charter-school networks. Large enough to provide shared resources for teachers, yet insulated from bureaucratic and political crosscurrents by their independent status, these networks are creating the closest thing our country has ever seen to a rational, high-functioning school system. They have strengthened public education by extracting it from democracy as we know it—and we shouldn’t be surprised, because democracy as we know it is the problem.

Also, I’m not big on revealing people’s school choices, but here’s one already revealed and there is more of this than you’d think listening to the usual suspects:

Their names, I learned, were Joel Greenblatt and John Petry, and they were the hedge-fund managers who, as founders and board members of Harlem Success Academy, had recruited Moskowitz as their CEO. They were, I also learned, very nice gazillionaires. Petry, who graduated from the same Maryland public-school district I did, helped throw me a book party in 2014. To this day, he and his wife send their own children to Success schools. In the decade after my Harlem visit, he always cheerfully took my calls, though “Ask Eva” was the refrain when it came to on-the-record comments.

Deep dive on the portfolio model.  And a look at how it’s playing in KC.

The fight over money.

Geography and Demography: You could write this Oklahoma article about a lot of states. The South. Changing racial make-up of the nation’s big city mayors.

Don’t agree with all of this but definitely worth reading.

ESSA Reviews, Test Scores, Taste Scores And More! Plus Moodys On Higher Ed & Aldeman On Russia

This Rick Hess column about reviewing ESSA plans – that I assume is aimed at our ESSA review project even though he doesn’t say it – is kind of interesting. For starters, I had thought Rick was in the advising and analysis business, but apparently that’s wrong and they’re running some sort of school or auto body shop over there at AEI.

Substantively what jumps out is that apparently the new conservative education position is not that federal law should be minimalist and not-prescriptive and so forth. Instead, the new position is that federal law should not matter at all or doesn’t matter at all.

Hess makes a reasonable point that some of the states are putting in place goals that are questionable, at best. We agree and the ESSA reviews point that out. And that’s why a comprehensive review matters, to see what supports are or are not in place and whether it’s a paper chase or serious effort in different states. Yet it’s quite a leap from dubious work by some states to saying that none of this ESSA process matters at all. It matters because it’s the best signal of what states are going to be up to under the new law – and of course down the road looking at what they’ve actually done will matter, too, but it’s too soon for that work now.

But this part is of Hess’ critique is worth responding to because it’s so far wide of the mark, at least as far as our work is concerned:

Bizarrely, the whole exercise proceeds as if there were some agreed-upon “one best” approach to educational accountability. Of course, there’s not. In fact, the actual authorities on accountability—you know, the folks who spend lots of time examining how accountability works in practice—usually take pains to note that the “right” approach to accountability will vary with culture, context, and experience.

We agree! That’s why the Bellwether/CSS review was made up of former state chiefs and state policymakers as well as experts on various aspects of the policy – and very intentionally people with diverse views on federal policy, accountability, and other key issues (round 1 here and round 2 here). That so many state level people are willing to put time in on this speaks to the value they see. Around AEI I think they call that a market signal? Anyway, the entire project was specifically designed not to be one-best approach to how states should do this work but rather one best method for evaluating state approaches: Bring together diverse expertise to talk each plan through on its specifics. You can see the results from the first round and stay tuned for round two via this website. That lands next week.

Back at the ranch, global test scores causing alarm.

The only reason we know any of this is….data. DQC with new report cards out.

This Upshot column should spark some conversations on school quality. You shouldn’t fetishize growth any more than you fetishize status scores but a good push here.

And on school quality, check out this new resource in Boston.

Here’s perhaps the one test the education world actually loves, and it’s got some flaws.

Speaking of tests:

So, I came to the conclusion that I care about my students’ test scores. Do I think that they are the only thing that matter? Of course not. Do I think that they are the most important aspect of teaching and learning? No. But do I think that standardized tests results are solid predictors for how kids will do after high school? Yes. Do I think they help hold us educators accountable in a way that we need? Yes.

Moody’s downgrades higher ed.

London’s very best restaurant.

Robin Lake Basically Ghostwrote This Blog Post, Plus DeVos’ Hand, Revisiting RAND, And Arete. More!

I talked with The Line about school choice and why I joined their editorial board.  Yesterday I reviewed a recent Dead & Company show.

Cannot remember if I posted this article about the Arete project and Laura Marcus – but you should read it.  Very cool to see this idea come to life.

This past weekend’s AP charter segregation story rested on two common analytic problems in this debate. First, when analyzing the impact of choice schools the benchmark should be comparable schools in the community rather than some idealized standard. Second, comparing schools to school districts leads to flawed conclusions because schools, generally, draw from smaller areas than school districts.  Both of these issues are a function of housing segregation. Researchers and analysts call issues like this unit homogeneity, in common parlance it’s called apples to apples. Either way the AP fell for it. (Also important to note that outcomes matter, plenty of nominally “integrated” schools have practices that result in internal segregation, achievement gaps, and all the rest).

Here’s Robin Lake:

But when researchers Zimmer, Gill, and Booker took a closer look, they found that kids attending racially concentrated charter schools had come from equally racially concentrated district schools. It turned out, charters were simply locating in majority-minority low-income neighborhoods and serving the at-risk kids who live there. Los Angeles is about 80% Hispanic. New Orleans is more than 80% black. Charter schools that locate in those cities are trying to serve those students. This is not segregation; this is school founders doing exactly what policymakers hoped they would do (as required in most state charter laws): serve kids most in need of a better education.

The irony, of course, is that there are problems with charter enrollment, particularly for ELL students and students with special needs. See this Bellwether deck on charters for more on that. But we’ll never get to talking about that kind of issue with stories like this one driving the debate. And we also won’t get to the conversation about what chartering could do – with appropriate policy support – to help attack the segregation problem that is an issue for all public schools because of housing and the related issue of school district boundaries.


Betsy DeVos is playing a tough hand:

“Betsy absolutely cares about those families,” said Howard Fuller, a professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee who helped found the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a group that supports school choice. “But her boss doesn’t, and she’s not a free agent.”

College Board on college credit in high school – this is an important issue policymakers are taking another look at.

Important analysis from Ed Trust-West about the achievement of Hispanic students in California.

Jenga, but with kids’ learning. Keep an eye on this issue.

The California governor’s race could be interesting on education. So the proposed new 529 policy is a joke in terms of expanding choice for families but it’s good politics for Ted Cruz. The Douglas County, Colorado voucher program is ending, implications beyond that community.

The cost / benefit question on Greek life on campus.

Here she is again! Thoughtful Robin Lake and Ashley Jochim on the portfolio approach.

Here’s an oldie but a goodie I was reading for a project.

Don’t assume that because an area is affluent overall that everyone is thriving….school accountability implications there.


Friday Links – Short And Sweet (The Milk Part) But With Side Hustles! And Real Hustles, Too.

Kirsten Schmitz says teachers are underpaid, shouldn’t need side hustles, and there is a pension reform angle to that story.

Michael Flynn pleading guilty today in the Mueller probe. Good time to point out that among his other business dealings was taking money from the Turkish government to discredit charter schools in the United States that are associated with followers of a Turkish dissident who lives here – and is into math and science among other things. Flynn did a good job of it and the number of people in our sector who parroted that stuff courtesy of his work, a lot of which was just think veiled anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry, was pretty stunning. Stay woke everyone!

Breaking: Betsy DeVos likes school choice and thinks it might improve things! She said so in a speech. Everyone outraged all over again. Find your own links.


Big win for chocolate milk in the school nutrition debate.

This Ballou situation is not a good one.

Apparently someone wrote this with a straight face:

The study aims to put to rest a long-held debate about whether alternative route teacher training programs, which tend to provide a quick path to the classroom for people who already have a bachelor’s degree, can sufficiently prepare new educators.

RiShawn Biddle reads LM-2 forms so you don’t have to. All that NEA money isn’t just going to PD.

Young farmers can produce good fresh food for kids – but it’s not an easy field. Here’s more on that.

Holiday cheer from Valerie June.