January 8, 2021

Exit DeVos

People email, ‘what will you write in a reax piece?’ What is there to say?

Betsy DeVos’ resignation is too little too late given this administration. At the same time it’s also better than doing nothing at this moment and seems like the right thing to do. Everyone saying DeVos should have stuck around to invoke the 25th Amendment seems not to understand either how that works or the political appetite for it among Republicans right now (in the interest of transparency, I’m not a Republican but am in favor of it being invoked, the President is clearly unable to discharge his duties faithfully at this point. You don’t want to turn the cabinet into a political board of directors but this is an extraordinary situation. Absent that I hope he is impeached and removed).

It was not a successful tenure, from the get-go. Some people would never give her a chance on anything, but she made it too easy for them.

She oversaw a lot of policy changes – some that will impact the sector for some time and many that in my view are not good policy. Though questions about the scope of appropriate jurisdiction remain she’ll get some credit for the Title IX due process changes – which is a classic ‘‘of course there’s a back channel‘ issue in terms of the public and private views of many institutions and individuals.

There was an opportunity to put the field’s focus on kids rather than adults, which is sorely needed. Yet she was too ineffective to pull it off and instead turbocharged education’s adult oriented politics. She was staunchly in favor of school choice but arguably set back the cause of giving low-income families more educational power.

Miguel Cardona has a tough job ahead of him, but an easy act to follow.


January 6, 2021



Edujobs – CAO & High School Director STEM Prep Academy, Nashville, TN

STEM Prep Academy, a public charter school located in Nashville, TN for students in grades 5th-12th is looking for a Chief Academic Officer (this is an immediate open role) and High School Director (for the 2021-2022 school year).

The CAO designs and oversees development and implementation of curriculum and data-driven instruction across all schools. S/he leads a curriculum team, including the School Directors and the Network Academic Team and is responsible for designing and delivering high-quality, responsive teacher-facing and leader-facing professional development, as well as the design and facilitation of summer orientation.

The High School Director will set vision and direction for the HS campus, and be responsible for the instructional and cultural outcomes for students and staff. STEM Prep is looking for candidates with successful school leadership experience, a track record of results working with a large population of ELL students, and someone who has equal strengths in coaching academic instruction and enhancing school and staff culture.


January 5, 2021

Chait On Charters

Jon Chait in New York:

…The achievement gap between poor Black and Latino students in cities and rich white students in suburbs represents a sickening waste of human ability and is a rebuke to the American credo of equal opportunity. Its stubborn persistence has tormented generations of educators and social reformers. The rapid progress in producing dramatic learning gains for poor children, and the discovery of models that have proved reliable in their ability to reproduce them, is one of the most exciting breakthroughs in American social policy. For many education specialists, the left’s near abandonment of charter schools has been a bleak spectacle of unlearning — the equivalent of Lincoln promising to rip out municipal water systems or Eisenhower pledging to ban the polio vaccine. Just as the dream is becoming real, the party that helped bring it to life is on the verge of snuffing it out.

In college, I had a brief experience tutoring bright students who’d been taught depressingly little by the public schools of Detroit, which impressed upon me the cruelty of a system that denied so many kids any chance to develop their talent. But it wasn’t until I met my wife that I got interested in charter schools. Robin has devoted her career to education policy: She studied it in graduate school, taught at a low-income school, worked in local and federal education departments, researched for a liberal think tank, did executive-level work for a charter-school network. Her current role is with a nonprofit organization, consulting for and providing technical assistance to schools and state education bodies. Because of Robin, I’ve gained a window into a siloed world of experts who grasp both the state of research on charter schools and its staggering moral implications. Once you have scrutinized a machine that systematically squanders the intellect of an entire caste of citizens before they have reached adulthood, then glimpsed an alternative that reliably does the opposite, it is hard to stop thinking about it…

January 4, 2021

Three Surprising Things In Times Ed Board Don’t Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out Editorial

Three things caught my eye in yesterday’s scalding Times bon voyage Betsy Devos editorial.

First, The Times remains committed to assessment, a position dating to the pre-NCLB days:

However, given a shortage of testing data for Black, Hispanic and poor children, it could well be that these groups have fared worse in the pandemic than their white or more affluent peers. The country needs specific information on how these subgroups are doing so that it can allocate educational resources strategically.

Beyond that, parents need to know where their children stand after such a sustained period without much face-to-face instruction. Given these realities, the new education secretary — whoever he or she turns out to be — should resist calls to put off annual student testing.

(Related, they identify NWEA as a research organization. Yes, they do research and are a non-profit. And, they are also a major assessment vendor. I raise this not to nitpick but because coverage of and advocacy about assessment is often confused on stuff like this. AIR, for instance, was a big assessment player for years but rarely was covered the way other vendors were.)

Second, it’s a muted endorsement of Education Secretary designee Miguel Cardona. Perhaps this is a local thing? He’s popular in Connecticut but behind the scenes people there are raising questions about whether he’s ready fo the 10 things coming at your head at once life of an agency head.*

Third, no mention of the Title IX sexual assault issue. That seems like a noteworthy omission given that the editorial was a laundry list of DeVos moves and it’s a high profile issue. The Times op-ed page has run thoughtful commentary on the issue and the paper has noted the battle lines are not as clear as a casual observer might think.

*In a pre-holiday column for The 74 my take on this was,

If there is a risk, it’s that it’s a big jump from being an assistant superintendent in a small district, which Cardona was less than a year and half ago, to U.S. secretary of education. But that’s a manageable challenge for someone willing to put in the work.

I’d argue that was no small part of DeVos’ problem, tripped her up in the early going and she never recovered.


December 23, 2020



December 22, 2020

Was Cardona Built In A Lab? Plus Obama’s Ed Legacy, Tutoring, More…

If you assembled an education secretary to meet Joe Biden’s needs you’d probably come up with something approximating Miguel Cardona. He’s matched to the moment. That’s my take today in The 74:

Essentially, Cardona is a Biden offer of a detente in the education wars, and especially in the intra-Democratic education battles — at least, until some hard questions of policy emerge. It’s a deft pick. Particularly at a time when political fights should be secondary to an unfolding disaster for millions of American students.

Elsewhere:

President Obama in a recent interview:

Obama was questioned about possible signs of daylight between the two men on education policy in a recent interview with New York magazine. When asked whether Biden seemed intent on rolling back his “education-reform legacy,” Obama demurred, “Ah, we’ll see.”

It’s a weird construct. President Trump has already basically rolled back Obama’s ed legacy. And on issues like for-profit higher ed, Title IX, transgender students, and student discipline, for instance, Biden has said he wants to bring those policies back. That’s because, despite the perception she was a do-nothing secretary, Betsy DeVos was actually quite busy rolling back Obama-era policies. ESSA’s still the law of the land, for what that’s worth, and the Common Core improvements in standards are still there (despite all the posturing) but it’s Trump not Biden who is Obama’s legacy problem.

The obvious exception, and what Chait was getting at in the interview, is charter schools. That’s a party splitting issue for Democrats Biden will have to figure out a way through. And Obama’s legacy there is pretty good, even if reformers drew the wrong lesson from it. 

Here’s a good post from Bob Slavin about tutoring risks and solutions. And ICYMI Mike Goldstein has been looking at the same question.

Tracy Chapman O’Holy Night. 


December 18, 2020