December 8, 2015

Vicki Phillips Open Letter

As she transitions from the Gates Foundation Vicki Phillips has penned an open letter to teachers, it’s posted here in its entirety:

Raise Your Voice!

Miss Marjorie was the hardcore head teacher of McQuady Elementary, the grade school near where I grew up in Falls of Rough, Kentucky. She was the kind of teacher who would bop you on the head if you weren’t paying attention – back when we admired that kind of thing. She had a reputation for kids leaving knowing their stuff. When I came out of her 8th grade English class, I could diagram any sentence you could write. She taught me hard work, courtesy, punctuality, how to treat my peers, how to respect my elders, and how to hold myself accountable. I owe her a lot.

But when I got to college, I didn’t have the skills I needed to succeed. I had learned the small mechanics, but not the big concepts. I learned how to follow directions, but I couldn’t find my way when I got lost.

This wasn’t Miss Marjorie’s fault. She had the intelligence and devotion to her students that every good teacher does. She worked with few resources to teach kids who had nothing, and she didn’t give an inch to anybody because they were poor. But she wasn’t supported with high standards or exciting lessons or helpful feedback. She had no time to talk to her peers about her practice. She was isolated, trying her best to be a solitary genius.

Miss Marjorie was a great person who would have been a phenomenal teacher, if she’d only had the support she needed. Read the rest of this entry »


NCLB Myths Become Policy Reality, Prize Pushback, Huffman V. K12, Bellwether Talent Ready Insititute, Westendorf, High School Students And Discount Rates

Abandon hope all ye…The Times editorial board says this about No Child Left Behind and the pending overhaul:

The part of the [NCLB] law that labeled schools in need of improvement and subjected them to sanctions was flawed. It did not distinguish between truly abysmal schools and otherwise strong schools that missed performance targets with certain groups of students, like special education students. As a result, half the schools in some states were labeled in need of improvement and viewed as failing.

Except the law didn’t actually say that. In fact, it said pretty much the opposite. The language was clear that interventions should be targeted to whatever the specific problem is and the point was to identify schools that needed to improve – which if you look at the outcome data across the country many, including in our comfortable suburbs, could certainly do. Despite the claims, schools were not being reconstituted because one group of students was under-performing. And, states could have done exactly what The Times advocates here — namely design accountability systems that clearly differentiated between different schools in terms of the severity of the problems. Guess what? With one or two exceptions that were quickly abandoned, they chose not to for various substantive and political reasons. And as the reins come off that’s a lesson worth remembering.

Question worth asking: If popular government really can’t maintain a committed focus on dramatically improving schools, what, then, is the moral justification for not giving citizens options to those schools? In political terms I think the Rs get this and understand the long game here, I’m not sure the Ds do.

It’s Kevin Huffman v. K12 Inc.  One interesting aspect of this is the extent to which school districts are involved in so many of these issues. When people complain about the uneven quality of charter schools, for instance, you rarely hear them point out that districts actually authorize the majority of charters (and on average are not as good at is as the professional independent authorizers). Doesn’t lead to easy answers.

LearnZillon’s Westendorf: The scarce resource is no longer content, it’s community.

Your organization can join Bellwether’s Talent Ready Institute in 2016. Great opportunity that is filling up now.

Prize pushback.

Line of the day: I was with a group of high school students last night in the mountain west talking about high school – post secondary transitions and one remarked dryly, “you have to remember, our frontal lobes are not fully developed yet so we’re not really engaging with the consequences of our choices.” So true. Reminded me of this.


December 4, 2015

Edujobs @ Acelero Learning And Shine Early Learning

Acelero Learning and Shine Early Learning are seeking leaders for the following roles:

Director of Early Learning (Flexible location)- The Director of Early Learning takes the lead with the VP and the Early Learning Leadership on supporting all Acelero programs to achieve educational quality and positive child outcomes, through technical assistance, monitoring and on-site support, and other tasks as needed. This will include a variety of projects related to monitoring child and classroom assessment, on-going data analysis and reporting, research projects, and more. Geography of this position is flexible as the position will require regular travel (up to 50%). Great position for a motivated individual with an interest in training and technical assistance, data collection and analysis, Head Start and closing the achievement gap.

Director of Early Learning Support and Transition (Flexible location)- This position is chiefly responsible for supporting all partner transitioning programs to achieve educational quality and positive child outcomes, through technical assistance, monitoring and on-site support, and other tasks as needed. Geography of this position is flexible as the position will require extensive travel to transitioning programs across the country as needed (up to 75% of time during initial start-up of transitioning programs).

Director of Family and Community Engagement (Flexible location)- As a Director of Family and Community Engagement, you will be part of an innovative strategy and content development team working in collaboration with network leadership to develop and refine Acelero Learning’s outcomes-based family engagement approach.  You will also act as lead coach to a group of Acelero Learning delegate programs to support strategy execution, with the goal of developing high quality two generation strategies to improve child and family outcomes and ensure school readiness that can be disseminated broadly throughout the Head Start and early childhood community. Location of this position is negotiable but Harlem is preferred, with regular travel to Acelero Learning delegate programs and network meetings across the country required (approximately 35-40% of the time).

Senior Human Resources Generalist- (New York, NY) Reporting to the Vice President of People, the Senior Human Resources Generalist will be responsible for driving key business partnerships, fostering employee relations, and transforming employee performance management to create a world class work environment.

Director of Analysis- (Perth Amboy, NJ) The Director of Analysis is responsible for ensuring that data is effectively used to drive decision-making throughout the organization. The Director of Analysis oversees the management and implementation of the Head Start program’s data system application for tracking, reporting and analyzing information about children and families. He or she is responsible for training staff on the use of data, providing technical support and troubleshooting for users, insuring the accuracy of data, and reporting and analyzing information.

Director of Education- (LaGrange, GA) The Director of Education (DOE) combines the dynamic roles of strategic planning and innovation, as well as operational planning and follow-through. This is a fantastic opportunity for an educational leader to be part of a national team and play a key role in leading a growing organization that has tremendous impact on Head Start children.

More information on each of these roles and how to apply here.


December 3, 2015

Lily Eskelsen García And Spec Ed, Civil Rights Groups And ESEA, David Welch Speaks, Zuckerberg – Chan Financials, WTF Is A PSMO?

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García is now on a serial apologizing tour. The latest is this video. That follows a tour of blog comment sections and other outlets. Assuming she’s telling the truth then I wish she’d stop. Because the more she says the less favorable she looks. Misspeaking is not an “epic failure” as she now characterizes it (and where are all these high priced PR firms the NEA keeps around?)

Recall that at a recent awards banquet (that’s an informal DC pay to play kind of deal to begin with so there is a certain amusing irony here) Eskelsen García launched into a riff on all the various things teachers are asked to do. At one point she said they are required to educate the ‘chronically tarded” and “medically annoying.” Disabilities groups were understandably upset because there is a pronounced bias against special education students in many parts of the education world (and society more generally) and people do say things like this more often than you’d think. Except Eskelsen García said afterwards that she misspoke and meant chronically “tardy” and medically as in persistently or chronically, a way it is used in casual conversations. Listening to the video those do sound like reasonable interpretations and as I noted the other day they sounded legit to me.

But the outrage continues, not everyone (including friends and foes of the NEA) buys her apology,  and now she’s apologizing more, and more forthrightly, for the entire episode in an effort to tamp this all down. “We should all be more careful when we speak, slow down, make sure our points are well-articulated and fully understood. The bottom line for me is, I screwed up, and I apologize. Please judge me by my heart, and not by my mistakes” she says in the video by way of offering a lesson from this. That, too, seems legitimate (except for the heart part, I tend to think you’re on safer ground judging what people actually say and especially what they do than trying to infer what is in their hearts).

I’ve got my issues with some NEA policy positions and God knows Eskelsen García does seem prone to saying whatever pops into her head (for instance, she supported impeaching President Clinton, her penchant for hyperbole got her thoroughly dismantled by  the Ed Trust’s Kati Haycock during a discussion of federal policy earlier this year) but on this one unless she’s being misleading about what she actually meant then it’s hard to argue with this. And in our videoed world if this was a pattern I suspect we’d know about it. If she’s not being truthful then the lesson is a much darker one. Otherwise, isn’t the real lesson here that we should cut people some slack when they misspeak rather than demand ritualistic public cleansing? It’s poisoning our public debate.

Meanwhile, another irony here related to what people do is that as this unfolds the NEA is supporting rollbacks in federal accountability policy that aren’t good news for special needs students. More attention to that and pressure on the NEA about those issues might be helpful? One need not be bigoted toward special needs students to nonetheless support policies that are arguably not in their best interests.

Speaking of accountability, the new ESEA passed the House yesterday. Plenty of news and views for you to read about that. A lot of civil rights groups are issuing measured and mostly lukewarm at best statements of given what a mixed bag the new law is shaping up to be – I think there will be a price to pay for not fighting it more aggressively. Essentially the impetus to get this done is concern that any version under any new administration (D or R) might even be worse which is bound up with pressure on the right to stick it to Arne Duncan and President Obama and a behind the scenes consensus on the left to get this out of the way for Hillary Clinton. Add to that a calculus that the votes are probably there regardless. There is certainly a political logic to all of that, but the lack of fight doesn’t help the civil rights groups have leverage the next time push comes to shove on a crux policy issue affecting minority or low-income youth. If people in the education sector don’t want to be taken for granted and treated as though education is a second tier issue, then don’t get taken for granted and act as though it’s a second tier issue…

Elsewhere, Michael Jonas talks with David Welch. Post NCLB/ESEA predictions from Sandy Kress. Oregon’s pension mess.

WTF is a PSMO? Your questions answered here! Personalized learning in ESEA? Carolyn Chuong has the goods.

A lot of bad reporting on how this Zuckerberg – Chan charitable operation is going to work, how it is structured, what it means for their personal finances and taxes, and so forth. Matt Levine takes a look at that.

Hemingway on the ropes?


December 2, 2015

Edujob: Director Of Communications At National Alliance For Public Charter Schools

Here’s a good edujob in DC: Comms director for NACPS.

This role reports to the Vice President for Communications and Marketing, and helps craft and execute the communications strategies across the organization and the various activities NACPS supports. In particular, this role is responsible for print, broadcast, online, and social media communications about the charter school sector.

More information and how to apply here.


November 30, 2015

ESEA! Native Students, Newark Ed Tech, Calpers Fees, Virginia’s Ed Issues, Hill And Jochim on Politics, Mobility, Keg Tossing!

Get the latest on ESEA here. Short version of this memo: Please vote for things like the ESEA rewrite.

Enjoyed this David Brooks column. Mentions a few Bellwether clients and friends of Bellwether (and the Dunkelman book really is good if you’re looking for a holiday book for a reader in your family).

A look at the federal government’s schools for native students. Enormous problems, but always important to keep in mind that most native students attend traditional public schools  - and are not currently well served there either.

Fredrichs to be argued on January 11th. Background here.

What if the fees Calpers pays to private equity are not too high? Paul Hill and Ashley Jochim on cities and education politics and politics.  It’s unclear if Illinois is governable. Geographic mobility and social mobility. Campbell Brown profile.

What’s the point of giving lots of money to groups so you can pass awards around if stuff like this happens as a result? For the record, I have trouble believing NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia would say that so her explanation seems legit. But still!

Big progress on ed tech in Newark. This is the kind of thing leadership can accomplish that doesn’t get a lot of attention with the media and activist focus on the flashpoint issues like eval or school closures.

Mesecar: Innovate in education Virginia!

Last week I wrote about why I’m becoming a Missouri fan.

New keg tossing record. Bullshit, unpacked.


Edujob: Regional Director, National Center For Montessori In The Public Sector

The National Center For Montessori In the Public Sector seeks to expand access to Montessori education in district, charter, and magnet schools. They’re hiring a regional director for the Washington, D.C. region to further that work. You can learn more and apply via this link.


November 23, 2015

What The Missouri Football Players Can Teach Students At America’s Elite Colleges

We fetishize elite colleges, but these past few weeks students on the University of Missouri’s football team have led a master class on how to drive change (that their peers at schools that are allegedly the cradles of our future leaders might learn something from). I take a look at that in U.S. News today:

William Buckley said he’d rather be governed by the first 2000 names in the Boston phone book than the faculty of Harvard. After the past few weeks on America’s college campuses, I think I’d like to take my chances with the University of Missouri’s football team.

Around the country students are calling for changes at colleges and universities. Some of the demands for change are more than reasonable – if not overdue. Others clearly trample free speech and are out of place in an intellectual environment.

But one protest stands out – the actions of the some of the University of Missouri’s football team…

Please stipulate that you agree with this post before clicking here to read the entire thing. And tweet your protest strategies to me @arotherham.


November 20, 2015

Edujob: Deputy Director, State Public Charter School Authority

Nevada is a fascinating state in a lot of ways and here’s a great chance to get involved in an interesting role: Deputy Director, State Public Charter School Authority (pdf). This role is based in Las Vegas. It’s a senior role and a chance to help lead and impact the charter sector in a dynamic state. More details and how to apply here (pdf).


November 19, 2015

Clinton & Charter Schools, Kaya Henderson, ESEA Deal, Pensions, Paul Hill, Chad Aldeman, Peter Hoffman, And Sonja Santelises!

On this date in 1969 it was a good day for the Navy as Pete Conrad and Alan Bean of Apollo 12 became the second team to visit the Moon. Among other work they brought back some parts from an unmanned spacecraft that had used their same landing site a few years earlier.

In education, whistling past the graveyard? Charter school supporters and reformers more generally are still parsing Hillary Clinton’s charter school remarks like Kremlinologists looking for little clues or signals. Meanwhile, Randi Weingarten is emerging as the campaign’s surrogate on charter schools. Hello people!

Clinton ed policy lead Ann O’Leary says Clinton is really for charter schools. RiShawn Biddle says not so fast. Meanwhile, most Americans say, “I just told a pollster I support them, but what is a charter school anyway?” And, “what are we going to do about ISIS?”

Chad Aldeman says, wait, don’t take your eye off teacher effectiveness policy!

Should be noted that compared to the Republicans the Democratic debate is a veritable symposium on education policy these days….

Last week I moderated a discussion with Kaya Henderson about Washington, D.C. and her five years here. That link will take you to video. We talked about the schools but also the experiences she’s had in this role. Don’t miss Ed Trust’s Sonja Santelises’ intro.

Ed First on what now after RTT. Pensions and intergenerational transfer. School choice and anti-semitism. When disruption isn’t. Peter Hoffman on under-adressing over-testing.

Gates Foundation getting into teacher prep.

ESEA deal looks promising at this point on the Hill. Only things that seem like they could derail would be a conservative revolt (the bill doesn’t have a lot of conservative elements and revolts always possible there these days even on routine stuff) or opposition by pro-accountability (doesn’t have a lot of that either) Dems like Murphy, Warren, and Booker. The enormous counterweight on the Dem side? Clearing this off the decks for Hillary Clinton so she can have a cleaner education message heading into a general election and checking Duncan, surprising amount of animosity there.  Anyway, it’s all about the kids…

Paul Hill on John Chubb.


November 16, 2015

Whitmire & Clinton On Charters, Bradford V. Weingarten, Campus Issues, Teacher Shortages, Philosopher Welders!

Whitmire on charters and hornets nests. He makes a point we made in the Bellwether slide deck on charters, the growth means charters and districts are going to be bumping into each other more for good or ill.

More Hillary Clinton charter fallout (which is almost entirely irrelevant after Paris). Wash Post editorial board here. Matt Barnum with a measured walk through of a statement that while problematic wasn’t entirely off-base.

We’re getting reports that Derrell Bradford didn’t like Randi Weingarten’s recent op-ed on charter schools and school discipline.

This is revolting.

Michael Dannenberg on campus unrest.

Seems like philosopher welders are going to be easier to find than philosopher kings? Phillip Burgoyne-Allen takes a look at an Obama – Rubio convergence on education. The teacher “shortage” seems to move reporters more than it does school districts. A North Carolina Opportunity Culture teacher shares her story.

Bulldog fights bears.


John Chubb

The education world lost a powerful intellect late last week with the passing of John Chubb. Chubb held a number of roles in education, political scientist at Stanford, at Brookings, Edison Schools, Koret Task Force, head of Education Sector, and most recently the president of the National Association of Independent Schools. He was also on a variety of boards, committees, task forces, and the like. But those roles are stars, not a constellation. The fuller view of the sky here is that he was a keen intellect, always probing, and he deeply believed that schools could be a lot different and better than they are today. Most recently his insights on the independent school sector were fascinating. Among the myriad reasons his early passing is a loss is that American education will not get the benefit of all them.

John’s book, with Stanford’s Terry Moe, Politics, Markets, and America’s Schools (1990) is not only the hottest book to come out of Brookings, it’s among the most influential education books of the 20th Century. The analysis is inconvenient for much of the K-12 education establishment but has yet to be refuted either by a secondary analysis or the passage of time and experience. Coming from Brookings the book marked the return of choice as an issue that centrists and liberals could embrace and in the process paired powerful symbolism with its analysis. That sowed the seeds for much of the dynamism you see in the sector today. Others can debate books versus action in the larger sense but in this case that book led to changes in lives, for the better.

Michael Horn on Chubb here.


November 13, 2015

ESEA Deal? Hillary Clinton And Charter Schools, Cunningham Unpacks, Rauch Triggers!

Yes, rumors of an ESEA deal.

Spent time this week out at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center with some of the great people there. In general I like my job, but some days are definitely cooler than others. NASA is hiring.

Does Hillary Clinton have a charter school problem? Whitmire at war. Barone concerned. Roland Martin revises and extends. And Denver Post editorial board weighs in. Rubio pounces. NACPS is mobilizing. Factcheck.org jumps in. No spin: The Denver Post should concern the Clinton team. These education contretemps rarely break of the low earth orbit of the education world. And when they do it’s usually as a metaphor for a larger issue. Denver Post + Rubio and you can see a glimmer of that here. Otherwise, ask yourself, when was the last time you heard a serious person say they were going to base their vote in a national election solely on education policy? I haven’t seen it polled lately, but when Mrs. Clinton’s husband was president that figure was about 10 percent.

By the way, I don’t want to give away any trade secrets but when you look at the data on charter school performance the one group they are not benefiting is white students. Keep that in mind.

Peter Cunningham looks under the hood on what’s happening in Chicago. Jonathan Rauch comes out for a trigger warning on campus. It looks like school superintendent might not be a great fallback option for Ben Carson. Quality assurance in higher education?

Great Nation article on why what the Missouri football players did is special, but not unique.


Friday Fish Porn – On The Fork Again

IMG_2199IMG_2195Simmons Lettre and Ted Preston found themselves in Colorado this week for meetings. Fall is the best fly fishing so they went out with Taylor Creek to float some water you can’t reach from shore. Rainbows, browns, and a crisp late fall day. There are some big fish in that river. Hard to beat.

Earlier this fall Bellwether’s Adair Bard fished the same water - also with Taylor Creek.

Simmons, Ted and Adair are not the only education types who fish. Hundreds of pictures of education people with fish via this link and more via this one.


November 11, 2015

Veterans, Pennington, Teach Strong, Personalized, LA Charters, EQUIP, NAEP, & Mark Zuckerberg, Education Blogger

Veterans and pensions.  More Bellwether on veterans here: Their role in our conversations about diversity.

Higher ed reading list: A piece of football activism history on campus.  A look at how illiberal efforts to address genuine issues can quickly become.  Chait on the same issue.

Third Way asks if Teach Strong can unite Democrats? Pennington frames the questions in USN. More value add debate. Pennington wants nuance!

Charters are controversial in Los Angeles. But calling this the “Broad” plan doesn’t seem quite right, others are involved. But it does create a nice target for opponents.

Ben Wallerstein and Bart Epstein on EQUIP. Checker Finn urges caution on NAEP revisions.

Mark Zuckerberg is two-thirds of the way to being an education blogger. He takes a look at personalized learning in this installment. Also Gates and RAND on personalized learning. A look at what teachers want.


Veterans Day

You break over me, cover me;

I shudder at the contact;

Yet I pierce through you

And stand up, torn, dripping, shaken,

But whole and fierce

- Richard Aldington


November 9, 2015

Sneak Preview: Special Education And Charter Schools

Important new report coming tomorrow from the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools. You can check out a sneak preview here (pdf). A really granular look at the data.


This Field Is Undisciplined! And, Elect The Missouri Football Team To Something…

Apparently there are some educational challenges in LA. Word is Democrats are dodging the thorny K-12 education issues on the campaign trail. Really? They must want to win or something.

Randi Weingarten goes mea culpa on zero tolerance discipline policies. Stay tuned for how that lands with actual teachers (and parents). Pondiscio on the same issue here.

Free speech at Yale. Actual issues, strategy, and action at Missouri. University president now resigning. There is a juxtaposition here between these two episodes and it’s not a flattering one for the elite institutions (though in fairness, there is also football “If we were 9-0, this wouldn’t be happening.”)  Still, to borrow from William Buckley I think I might prefer being ruled by the first names on the Mizzou football team roster than…Anyway…the Missouri football team seems to have a better sense of how to  operate the levers of power than the Yalies who are presumably bound for positions of power…

Matt Barnum sticks up for SIG. Zuckerberg on Newark. Here is Doug Harris on NOLA education via a recent talk at UVA.

Bucking up middle schools.


November 5, 2015

Barber On Data, Problems With Goldman’s Early Ed Data? Smarick On RTT, Whitmire’s Grand Tour, Teacher Pensions, The Long Game In MA, Joint Ventures In Higher Ed

Michael Barber on why data matters in education and elsewhere. Training, or lack of, for school resource officers.

Are the assumptions underlying the Goldman social impact bond program in Utah faulty? Whitmire on a New York stop on education’s grand tour. In the wake of some accidents new science experiment standards! Petrilli on discipline. Paul Toner on the long game in Massachusetts. Smarick is turning on RTT.

Good news! Teacher pension funding levels improving. Bad news, design still a barrier to retirement security for teachers.

I wrote about how gender bias in clothing is more than a fashion issue.

Higher education indeed.


November 4, 2015

Gender Stereotyping & Education

In U.S. News I take a look at something that is seemingly trivial but actually points up a broader issue and problem around gender and education: Why can’t I find good quality outdoor clothing for girls?

It happened again last fall. My fast-growing daughter wanted a new flannel shirt for chillier fall days. We went to a national chain store known for quality and affordable kids’ clothing, and she happily bounded to the girls’ section. Then the resigned look I’d seen before came over her, because she knew we were off to the boys’ part of the store next. There were no flannel shirts for girls…

…I get that there are more important things in the world than whether my daughter can find a pair of Carhartt pants she likes, but clothing choices are a powerful signal, and the availability of choices sends a message to girls about what they should and should not be doing. In practice, it’s not so far in our gendered society from “girls’” activities on the playground or what’s on their backs to the sense that math, science and engineering are not for girls either. After all, while clothing may seem trivial, what we choose to cloak our bodies in says a lot about who we are, our values and our preferences…

REI is closing the day after Thanksgiving to give its employees the day off to get outside. Before you make plans click here and you can read the entire column. I include a few tips on outlets trying to do better – send me yours on Twitter @arotherham.


November 3, 2015

CAP On Teachers, WISE Survey Results, Kress, Hettleman, & Aldeman! Counterfactuals? We Don’t Need No Stinking Counterfactuals!

Survey data on global takes on school quality via the WISE Summit happening now.

Important report on charters and special education finance. Some really good expertise brought together on this one. I was really excited about this new analysis of Common Core costs but then, “The analysis didn’t account for what would have been spent anyway.” Seems like relevant information, no?

CAP on building a better teaching profession.

Sandy Kress is not happy about Texas NAEP scores! Kalman Hettleman is not happy about the state of leadership in our sector.Non-monetary Incentives! Chad Aldeman on teacher retention and the economy (Tar Heel – two words! – edition). Teacher strike in Chicago?

Where do young people get their ideas about drinking? Oh right. Alaska farming.


November 2, 2015

Huffman Tests Reason, Can NCLB Reauthorization Happen?, Hechinger On First Gen, Post On Backfill, And Girls Latin

It’s November 2nd. Trigger warning: On this date in 1960 a British court found Penguin Books not guilty of obscenity for publishing D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover.

In education Kevin Huffman on all this testing debate from last week:

The White House announcement, then, dives into the gulf between perception and reality. Essentially, Obama has promised that we will no longer do the things activists claimed we were doing but we actually weren’t.

Also this seems a little awkward. The Obama Administration cited the Council of Great City School’s work on this testing gambit but the council’s ED wrote this in The Washington Post over the weekend:

The Obama administration, for its part, has taken an important step by acknowledging its role in the proliferation of tests. It has also made several thoughtful proposals to reduce the amount of testing. One of its proposals, however, stands out as a singularly bad idea: a blanket cap on the amount of testing time. This strikes us as a classic example of Washington trying to solve a political problem instead of the real problem. The limitation doesn’t address the underlying fact that tests aren’t well coordinated or aligned. It wouldn’t solve the considerable redundancy of testing. And it doesn’t address issues of test quality or the inappropriate use of tests.

“Singularly bad idea” doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room.

This is a great and granular Hechinger article about challenges facing first-gen college students. A lot of these important conversations going on, here’s a public one. Policy considerations for boot camps and student aid. A look at Girls Latin. Wash Post looks at backfilling.

My working theory on ESEA/NCLB reauthorization basically assumed it wasn’t going to happen because for Congress to reauthorize the law and the President to sign it a lot of  things had to go right – and for that not to happen only one of them had to go wrong.  But, a new theory might be that since education became so polarized the only ESEA reauthorization happened as the result of external stimulus (Congress’ desire to get some bipartisan work done in the wake of the September 11 attacks). Now we’ve got a new House Speaker and a President who both want to show they can get things done , an ESEA proposal that, let’s face it, at this point is basically a negotiation between the 40 yard lines, and a lot of activity behind the scenes to iron it all out. So don’t be too fast to bet against it happening. A lot of work happening behind the scenes so it could fall into place fast if incentives line up.


October 30, 2015

Friday Fish!

IMG_6300Bellwether’s Alison Fuller is already Mayor of all things fish here at Eduwonk. But here’s her daughter again, this time with a catfish.

Too great a picture not to share. Send me your fish pics! Here and here  are hundreds to help you get inspired.


October 29, 2015

AFT President Defends Eva Moskowitz! Amazon’s Edge In Edu? And Can You Insider Trade On Charter School Studies?

How much of an edge, formal or informal, does Amazon get from this Department of Education open source initiative? I’d say it can’t hurt except these guys at Dep’t Ed don’t exactly have the Midas touch these days…But it does seem to give Amazon pole position going forward.

So earlier this week an interesting thing happened. A set of research studies came out showing that online charter schools were not doing very well – and the stock of one company that runs such schools dropped a lot. That points to an interesting question: If you are a researcher or journalist or someone who is not an employee of one of these companies and you had access to this study in advance and traded on that information, is that a legal issue? It’s obviously unethical if you’re say, a journalist or someone working on the research team, but is it actually illegal? And under what conditions? Seems like a great opportunity for short sellers…I’m not a lawyer and I don’t deal in education stocks precisely because of the work I do, but it’s an interesting question if you happen to be either. All thoughts or actual legal insights on this welcome…One PR person told me that at different firms he’d been told this was illegal or that it wasn’t.

Meanwhile, another funny thing happened this week. The New York Times published a big story on discipline at Success Academy charter schools in New York City – the controversial charter network founded and operated by Eva Moskowitz – and then the president of the American Federation of Teachers rushed to defend the schools.

“By refusing alternative placement for disruptive students, they are denying them the help and special attention they need and can rarely get in a regular classroom.”

The AFT president also said, ”Recently we’ve seen a number of media stories about students being suspended or expelled for what looked like silly, little infractions of school rules.” But, the AFT president then went on to write that discipline codes need to be carefully written but must also be consequential and consistent because discipline is essential.  Then the AFT president went onto praise a zero tolerance law in Texas and say that,

We talk a lot about improving the educational performance of all our students. Many states are busy setting academic standards, and some are even talking about tying assessments to these standards. But the truth of the matter is none of these changes will achieve what we want unless schools are safe and orderly places where teachers can teach and students can learn.

The AFT president was adamant that not every kid could be served in every school.

Okay, actually the current AFT President wasted no time in attacking Success Academy. Because, well, you know. All those other statements are from former AFT President (and prior to to that New York United Federation of Teachers President) Al Shanker.

The point here is straightforward: Outside of outrageous stuff like this recent incident in South Carolina student discipline is a complicated balancing act of competing priorities and we don’t do teachers, students, or parents any favors when we pretend otherwise or turn it into gotcha moments. Reasonable people can also disagree. And if you send your kid to a private school – you might want to think twice about jumping all over this school and the parents who are choosing it, you know?  Parents want discipline – balancing that want with the rights and needs of students overall is not simple or straightforward. That’s why as staunch as Al Shanker was on discipline he was equally strong in his support for quality alternative options for students.

On the story itself, The Times’ fishing expedition here makes me uncomfortable (I’m old enough to remember when reporters actually reported rather than put up ads on the web asking people to send them accounts, what could possibly be skewed about what you perceive by doing that? But who knows maybe Woodward and Bernstein would have just sent some tweets asking Nixon aides to meet them in garages if they could have….?) but other than the headline the story is pretty balanced if you read the entire thing and also shows that schools are complicated human institutions. A Times story talking to parents about why they choose schools with strict discipline codes might be helpful context, too.

My take on Success? Their methods undoubtably influence their performance. That seems obvious. But they’re also doing a bunch of other things that seem to matter, too. So ascribing it all to this issue misses the point. But that won’t stop anyone.


October 28, 2015

Online Schools, NAEP, And Other Problems! Plus Gates, TFA, And NHL Hockey! Kaya Henderson Live!

NHL player Eric Fehr wrote a childrens’ book on bullying. The PBS Ombudsman weighs-in on Merrow-Moskowitz. Interesting take on TFA and race. In U.S. News I take a look at the Every Kid In A Park Initiative.*

At the National Press Club on 11/10 I’m going to host a discussion with Kaya Henderson about her tenure in Washington, D.C. and broader career. Keep an eye out for more details.

As a class online charter schools aren’t very good. CRPE here. CREDO here. ‘But we’re serving hard-to-serve kids!’ their supporters protest. Okay, fair enough. But not very well. So in no small way what this new Mathematica-CREDO-CRPE report points up is just how bad the infrastructure and support is for students who struggle in more traditional schools. Not enough options and while online -when done well – can fill an important niche other solutions are sorely needed. On online specifically Robin Lake* has some good ideas.

Here’s the Walton Family Foundation’s* statement on the collected studies:

“We support research on difficult questions because we want to know what is working for kids — and what is not. Innovation in education takes time, and we must test whether new ideas are working and make changes when we learn that ideas with potential are falling short.

“We supported The National Study of Online Charter Schools to learn more about virtual charter schools, and we’re grateful that CRPE, Mathematica and CREDO have studied these schools and are sharing their findings today.  Knowing the facts helps parents, educators, policymakers and funders make smarter, more informed decisions that benefit children.

“Going forward, we will be evaluating these schools with added rigor, and will need to see that providers are addressing the significant issues this study raises before even considering an investment.

“We urge charter school authorizers and state-level policymakers to carefully review these findings as well and learn from them. Holding schools accountable for results is vitally important to students. Policymakers cannot ignore students who are lagging a full year behind their peers in math and nearly a half a school year in reading. Policymakers should intervene to ensue that children are well served, and authorizers should not enable such low-quality schools to continue operating unchecked.”

It’s pretty standard and unoriginal in education to go after Walton but I’m trying to think when I’ve seen such a forthright statement on an issue like this from any of the groups representing pretty much anyone in the education sector when the evidence didn’t break their way…

NAEP scores not very good either. Actually, probably not as bad as you heard. In any event, here’s a quick crib sheet for possible explanations of the dip that has everyone talking:

A) It’s a blip. Relax.

B) It’s a trend! Common Core is not working. Panic!

C) Common Core is working, implementation is disruptive, and NAEP doesn’t assess all the same domains so this is not surprising. Wonk.

D) Too soon to tell what, if anything, it means. Stay tuned.

I’ll take D. And pay attention to the differences in specific places, a lot of variation. But if you want to speculate wildly about why whatever policy you hate (or the absence of whatever policy you love) is causing this you should feel free. You’ll have plenty of company. Update: Sandy Kress dissents here and in the comments below.

Vicki Phillips is leaving the Gates Foundation* at the end of the year. All sorts of speculation. Ignore. Instead, watch who the successor is. That will say more about future directions for the foundation’s work than whatever rumor you hear.

*Disclosures: I like to take my kids to parks. Walton is a funder/client of Bellwether and I work there. So is Gates. I’m on Robin’s advisory board.


Every Kid In A Park

I’m hoping this U.S. News & World Report column has stumbled on one of the few non-contentious things in the education world? President Obama’s Every Kid In A Park initiative seems hard to argue with:

SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK, Va. – It’s not every day you see a White House initiative play out in real time with everyone happy about it. Actually these days, do you ever? But there it was: High in Virginia’s mountains families hiked, picnicked and played under a cloudless blue sky on a crisp October Sunday. The mountain foliage was already spectacular and for some a fall visit to see it was an annual tradition. But for a surprising number of families the impetus for the trip was the White House’s Every Kid In A Park initiative. In fact, walking around Shenandoah National Park in Virginia’s central mountains I didn’t meet a single family that didn’t know about it from their child’s teacher or Facebook posts by other parents. And I didn’t meet one without good things to say…

What did they say? You can read the entire thing here. Send me tales of your past or future 4th-grade adventures and tweet me your favorite hiking spots @arotherham.


October 26, 2015

Spellings Is A Tar Heel! Too Many Tests, Yes, But Not Enough Solutions, NAEP, Robots, Moskowitz V. PBS News Hour, And Camp Counselors!

Here’s a picture of a honey badger piñata.

Margaret Spellings is the new president of UNC. Long article reviews and previews. Couple of things to keep in mind. First, it’s fun to speculate but no one knows how anyone will do at a job like this. Lots of contingencies. Second, university president jobs are largely about strategic direction and fundraising – especially the latter. And don’t underestimate the donor appeal of someone with her background. That’s the logic to the choice of Margaret. The political climate in North Carolina makes her a smart pick for a school facing some political headwinds in a red state. She’s not going to be discussing the finer points of anthropology with the faculty. She’s going to be raising money, setting direction and handling big problems that come up. Third, she is her own person. The idea that she’s this or that is belied by a complicated record. In Washington she worked well with a variety of people, she’s not a partisan, cares about results. So stay tuned.

Possible Achilles heel? I can’t see Margaret having a lot of patience with this kind of thing that’s all the rage on campus today. If someone like Kathy McCarthy is struggling with it at Smith – after bringing a left-leaning free speech advocate to campus to talk about the importance of literature! – it could be a real landmine for Spellings.

Speaking of Spellings…the Department of Education announced an effort to cut time on standardized tests over the weekend. Spoiler alert: It’s not going to work (or not going to work as least insofar as we care about student learning). There are too many tests – but most are state and local and are misaligned with one another, larger goals, standards, etc…That should be cleaned up but the real problem with testing in schools is not the amount of time spent on tests – that’s actually pretty minimal even with today’s dysfunction in the big scheme of things and given what good assessments can yield. Rather, it’s all the circus around tests, which is the result of two issues. One is poor quality instructional programs where curriculum is not rich, engaging, and aligned with assessments and where teachers are left to scramble on their own. The second is that even where conditions are better too many schools still struggle to really deliver a powerful instructional program. That’s why they drill kids instead of teaching them, it’s all they know how to do. Teaching is not easy work but we approach it as though it is. Pondiscio thinks the whole gambit is a sham. It does have that flavor of ‘let’s look like we’re doing something!’

Substantively, those two issues are hard ones to solve – especially given the limited things the federal government can really do about them. They are, however, solvable. In the meantime, though, we’re left with a bean counting approach.

“What happens if somebody puts a cap on testing, and to meet the cap ends up eliminating tests that could actually be helpful, or leaves the redundancy in the test and gets rid of a test that teachers can use to inform their instruction?” asked Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, an organization that represents about 70 large urban school districts.

Good question!

Mike Magee, CEO of Chiefs for Change, said guidelines are helpful, but “the real solution will come from state officials and school district leaders working together to demand test publishers develop high-quality tests that are informative and efficient. Further, officials at every level must be willing to end any test that does not lead to improved student learning.”

Sense! Yes. (Via Politico Morning Edu). Elsewhere, you could do a lot worse than this set of test principles. Here’s Chad Aldeman on whether the new generation of tests are going to solve some of this problem. I still think one very politically unacceptable solution to this is to have a lot more companies able to offer assessment support to states, districts, and schools rather than the handful that drive the market now. But that takes capital and time because it’s a hard sector. And it’s not much of a political platform.

Back to things that might happen:

If you’ve been living in a cave Eva Moskowitz and John Merrow are sparring over a PBS News Hour story about discipline at Moskowtiz’s schools. PBS issued a clarification and apology for a pretty serious oversight but Moskowtiz wants more. There is also a FERPA issue at play because the dispute centers on a parent’s account of what happened to their child. Big fun. It seems like to understand what’s going on you have to keep a few things in mind all at once. First, the story was unbalanced. Moskowitz has them dead to rights there. Merrow has now said as much. Second, this probably isn’t about this one story, which is why to many observers it all looks disproportionate. Moskowitz is sending a message that if you come after her schools you’d better have your account buttoned up. This isn’t surprising since Eva derangement syndrome is a real malady. Here, Merrow just gave her an easy target to send the signal. Third, the discipline issue is a real one worthy of attention and it goes far beyond this school, charter schools, or any one city. RiShawn Biddle has been all over that. Running schools where students can learn and making sure all kids get a good education are two ideas in tension. Like so many things in education it’s a tension that is being weaponized. But it’s not cut and dry (as both “sides” would like you to believe) and is worthy of discussion. It’s also not as simple as Dewey’s admonition about what parents want – because on this one different parents do want different things and how to balance it all in a choice-driven system is a hard question.

Whitmire on what it’s going to take in LA.

Florida is a mess on assessment policy and it’s understandable everyone is frustrated. But I was absent the day the state’s school superintendents were all on board with the accountability system there, the old test, and all of that. This is a classic education move. Flashback to the 1990s: State tests were never as popular as when Bill Clinton proposed a national one…if Obama really wanted to make sure Common Core standards were embedded he’d propose U.N. education standards…you get the idea…

A robot may take your job. So get a hobby or volunteer more.

Today in pensions are a public finance problem.

Here’s a NAEP prophylactic. I don’t really buy this and it’s unclear the data support it. But then again I don’t live and die on short term NAEP results either. Pay attention to trends. But NAEP is a Rorschach test and people say whatever they want because it’s not causal – so in education you can say it’s any cause you want and get away with it. BTW – A lot of rumors around about these NAEP results, way more than usual based on my impressionistic take…Also check out this serious Matt Chingos paper on NAEP scores.

Nice nod to camp counselors.


October 23, 2015

Mead, Pennington, Gladwell, deLaski, And Teacher Tests! Ditch Paper Not Pre-K, “Wow, This Is Like Hunting In A Zoo…”

Too much going on to have it all here so check out the curated roster of news from around the sector at RealClearEducation. Scroll down this page for edujobs (and fish pictures) and don’t forget we’re hiring for a communications manager at Bellwether.

Kaitlin Pennington with a smart take on 2016 teacher policy debate. School accountability policy may not be as straightforward as you heard at your farmers’ market*. And here’s more uncomfortable data you may not have heard about at the gastro pub. Also this.

Actual edTPA data and analysis. But really, is anything sacred at all? People!

Gladwell on school shooting patterns. Unsettling. And creationism in Maine. Interesting. Kathleen deLaski on university students and well-being.

Sara Mead looks at TN pre-K study. The Mind Trust on charter schools and innovation.

Here’s another example of a venture capitalist out to get children and teachers. For all the noise education isn’t really much of voting issue at the national level outside of special interests. Testing deal afoot in MA.  Old accusations in Sacremento are new again with a big Times treatment.

Getting rid of desks was in the news this week, but what about just getting rid of paper? Via Smarter Schools.

On 10/26 Fordham is hosting a DC event on high achieving students. Good line up of panelists.

Here is a metaphor come to life.

*Original link here, now pulled, was to a forthcoming study in Ed Next. I inadvertently misread the release and broke the embargo. I regret the error. The study will be out next Tuesday – and it’s really interesting as my enthusiasm to post it shows. The basic point stands, school accountability policy is a lot more complicated than your friends are telling you on Facebook.


Friday Fish Porn: Old Dominion Edition

unnamedEva Colen is a Virginia native (a from here not come here) she’s quick to point out. She’s also frustrated with the quality of the commonwealth’s public schools and the lack of attention to those issues. Some are amazing but far too many students, especially but not only low-income students and racial minorities, are being shortchanged. And the state is apparently allergic to accountability that would mean real changes for kids. So she recently won a highly competitive 50CAN advocacy fellowship to work on those issues among others. But, really as importantly, she can fish! Here she is with a nice Virginia bass.

She now joins hundreds of education types who have had their fish featured on this blog. Here and here  they are. Send me yours.


October 22, 2015

Edujob: Great MN Schools Managing General Partner

Minnesota is nice. But you knew that. Even better? The Twin Cities is a hotbed of interesting educational ideas.  As Managing General Partner of Great MN Schools you’d be at the forefront of education in the region and leading impactful work. Learn more and how to apply here.