August 11, 2016

An American President’s Voice Matters in Education, Local Leadership Matters More

The post below is by guest blogger, Kira Orange Jones. 

On the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, I spoke at Education Reform Now’s annual Camp Philos, which “convenes an influential group of stakeholders in the education reform movement.” As publicized, some of the most powerful educators, elected officials and thought leaders in education expressed their beliefs on what direction the country should take. But on the actual convention stage, there was very little mention of K-12 education.

As an elected member of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the entity charged with overseeing education in the state, I know the tone set by our next president can put wind at the back of our board’s sails. Like many others, I initially became concerned that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton didn’t offer a comprehensive vision for K-12 education. But before the last red, white and blue streamers were swept away, I became optimistic. The president should provide wind for our sails, but parents, students and local officials should steer the ship.

We must make our voices loud enough for the next president to hear the direction our states will take.

President Barak Obama’s administration put forth an ambitious education agenda the past eight years and pushed for things we all can agree to: great schools that serve all kids, quality teachers and more options for families.

But we can’t forget who moved President Obama to act: we did. Parents of all races, socioeconomic levels as well as of both parties demanded change. We broke through the partisan politics of the past to create a student-centered agenda.

Presidents will change. And the role of the federal government will change along with it. But calls for quality schools should remain constant. Certainly, the bully pulpit of the presidency matters mightily. But the tone set by local leaders matters more. We need a national leader who will listen.

Right now Clinton is hearing the same old tired either/or debates: choice or no choice, accountability or no accountability. But those who work on state boards know that we are always looking for the best way to offer quality options and hold ourselves accountable for setting the highest standards for our children. I believe the passage of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) allows state leaders to continue that work.

What our presidential candidates are not saying shouldn’t add to the political gridlock that keeps us from doing the work that our children, families and communities need. Bemoaning what Clinton or Trump isn’t saying about education isn’t solving the education problems of the day.

After attending Philos, I became even more resolved in what I need to do – advocate on behalf of the children and families of my district in Louisiana. I will continue to push for high standards, quality schools and effective teachers. While we all would certainly welcome one, I don’t need a speech from a presidential candidate as much as I need my constituents’ voices in order to reach our goals.

Kira Orange Jones holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University, a M.Ed. in School Leadership from Harvard University, and is a second term elected member of the statewide education policy making board, the Louisiana Board of Elementary & Secondary Education, representing New Orleans and five other parishes. Kira also sits on the national leadership committee of EdLoc (Education Leaders of Color), an organization comprised of leaders of color committed to ‘third way’ values in education and sits on the New Orleans advisory board of Education Pioneers. Most recently, Kira was recognized by Louisiana Life Magazine as a Louisianan of the Year and in 2015 was named to Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.

August 5, 2016

EdNavigator Insight #5: No “Theory of Change” Will Work If It Doesn’t Work for Families

This week we’re sharing some of the insights we’ve gained through our work at EdNavigator, helping families with schools in New Orleans over the past year. Here’s what we’ve covered so far:

Insight #5: No “theory of change” will work if it doesn’t work for families

We started this week telling you about Maria and her daughter, to illustrate what a little help can do for a family. We’ll end by sharing another parent’s story. We’ll call her Kendra.

Like Maria, Kendra is a housekeeper at a downtown New Orleans hotel, and her employer provides her with support from EdNavigator as a benefit. One day this past school year, she visited the school where her daughter was a fourth grade student.  Kendra was dropping off a note asking her daughter’s homeroom teacher to call her so she could set up a meeting to discuss her daughter’s progress.  Her daughter was two grade levels behind in reading.  Prior to dropping off the note, Kendra had called the school four times to leave messages.  None of the calls had been returned. The teacher didn’t respond to the note either.

This may sound like nothing more than the story of a school that’s unresponsive to parents, the equivalent of a bad customer service experience. But for us, it’s more than that. To us, it shows that theories of how to improve our educational system won’t matter and won’t lead to change unless they work for families on a day-to-day basis.  This is the most important thing we’ve learned at EdNavigator so far.

Let us explain. If you read Eduwonk, you are probably well-versed in the various arguments related to New Orleans schools.  Some people argue the post-Katrina choice-based system has led to large, sustained improvements in performance and should become a model for the rest of the country.  Others say it’s still largely a low performing system and the process of creating it profoundly disrupted its workforce and community.

To be honest with you, most parents don’t care about that stuff.  They really don’t.  Nor do they care about Finland or Race to the Top.  Do you know what they care about?  They care whether schools return their phone calls when they are concerned about their kids.  They care whether schools are well run and welcoming.  They care about their kids’ results and growth, and whether their local schools are part of the solution for their family or yet another problem.  And they make that decision based on lived experience.

Kendra’s story provides a kind of Rorschach test.  Folks with concerns about the changes in New Orleans might immediately assume Kendra’s daughter attends a charter school and that the lack of school responsiveness proves the theory that charters are disengaged from families.

But the school in this case isn’t a charter.  It’s not even in Orleans Parish.  It’s a traditional school in a parish outside the city.  Kendra moved there hoping her daughter would get a better education than she had herself.  So far, she’s been wholly disappointed.

Upon hearing this, charter school supporters might feel that the story has vindicated their views on the post-Katrina reforms.  But that’s not the case either.  You see, before Kendra moved to where she lives now, she lived in Orleans Parish, and her daughter – the one who is two grade levels behind in reading – attended two different Orleans Parish charter schools. Kendra disliked them so much, she sacrificed significantly to leave the city.

Kendra works hard and is never late to her job, despite her commute.  She is a great mom to two girls.  She takes their education very seriously.  But the system is not working for her, whether we are talking about the “new” system or the “old” one.

Parents like Kendra don’t have time for competing theories of educational change.  This is likely why neither education reformers nor critics of education reform can claim much of a constituency in low income communities.  There aren’t that many grassroots rallies springing up in major cities, calling for the replication of the New Orleans system.  Nor do you see the opt-out movement making inroads to recruit families of color to boycott tests.  Those debates get outsized attention among those of us in the wonk-sphere.  But they aren’t what animate families.

All of us, no matter what set of educational priorities we subscribe to, ought to care a lot more about what happens for families when our favorite ideas are implemented. Because it’s a very mixed bag out there, folks.   At the moment, nobody has a monopoly on providing excellent experiences on the ground.  We theorists of all stripes have an awfully long way to go.

This year, our EdNavigator families have dealt with obstacles large and small, from being denied access to their children’s records to special education services that were never delivered to late buses that cost a parent wages because he clocks out from work every day to pick up his daughters at their stop.  Some of these issues were at traditional schools.  Some were at charter schools.  All of them were frustrating for families.

We continue to spend some of our time in the policy world and some of it on direct service.  The juxtaposition is striking.  For one thing, wonks and families draw conclusions differently.  Wonks declare policies successful or unsuccessful based on whether they improve academic outcomes across large populations.  They rarely know whether the process of getting those results also felt better to the families meant to benefit.  Wonks wait, sometimes for years, until “the data” come in.  Families make up their minds about whether changes are worthwhile based on their lived experience much sooner.  They may be dead set in one direction or another before “the data” arrive.

All of this leads us to conclude that we should re-balance our focus.  Systemic change is important and we should not back away from it. There’s no shortage of things that need fixing within our current education system. However, we’ve underinvested when it comes to earning the support of families for these changes—and making sure these changes actually have a positive effect on their lives.  As a result, parents have scant loyalty to any particular educational ideology. They care as much about the process as the results, and will form their opinions accordingly. So the next time a parent like Kendra calls a school four times trying to set up a meeting about her daughter, we ought to make damn sure she gets a call back.

Thanks for reading this week. If you’re interested in our work, subscribe to our blog updates and emails, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook. We try to offer a different perspective. In the coming weeks, we’ll share what we learned from Secretary of Education John King, Jr. and his wife Melissa about parenting (can you guess their daughters’ favorite children’s book?), tips on helping with homework, and more. We look forward to hearing from you.

Ariela Rozman, Timothy Daly and David Keeling are Founding Partners of EdNavigator (@ednavigate), a New Orleans-based nonprofit organization that helps families give their kids a great education.


August 4, 2016

EdNavigator Insight #4: It’s hard for families to discern differences in quality among schools.

This week we’re sharing some of the insights we’ve gained through our work at EdNavigator, helping families with schools in New Orleans over the past year. Here’s what we’ve covered so far:

Insight #4: It’s hard for families to discern differences in quality among schools

One of the reasons we chose New Orleans as our pilot site was because it gives families substantial choice in which school their kids attend. This winter, we supported about 75 parents of rising kindergartners in choosing schools and navigating the OneApp enrollment system, often for the first time. They had at their disposal a pile of information, including school report cards from the state and a 175-page Parent’s Guide to Public Schools with detailed information on local schools.

Even so, we found that parents had a hard time differentiating between their school options. The sheer amount of information can be overwhelming and it isn’t easy to compare schools side-by-side. Although the school grades and performance scores from the state provide useful indicators, they are based primarily on the proportion of students who demonstrate proficiency rather than how much those students grow academically– and our families tend to care more about the latter (growth) than the former.

For them, a C-rated school where many students are growing significantly (just not enough to reach full proficiency) may be preferable to a B-rated school where many students perform at the proficient level, but show little growth. Finally, the data available to families doesn’t tell them much about a school’s culture, discipline philosophy, or responsiveness to parents and the community, all of which are important considerations when choosing a school.

Without support, parents tend to make decisions based on schools’ reputations in the community. That often meant that they’d overlook newer or lesser-known schools with quality programs, or focus narrowly on high-demand schools where they had a slim chance of getting a seat.

With our families, we focused on helping them generate a shortlist of solid choices and getting their application completed by the main deadline. When they get some help, they feel better about the process; on our survey of families this summer, 85% of those who received support from us strongly agreed or agreed that they felt confident choosing a school and using OneApp, compared to 53% of those who did not get support.*

Implications?  For states, don’t use ESSA as an opportunity to pull a California and turn your school report cards into Rubik’s Cubes.  Families, not system insiders, are your most important audience. We’ve shared specific thoughts on how to do this in another post. For communities, don’t build systems predicated on parental choice and neglect to invest in helping parents choose.  It’s like baking bread and leaving out the yeast.  You won’t be happy with the result.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about our biggest lesson learned of all: That no plan for school reform—from the most traditional to the most disruptive—will work if it doesn’t work for families.

* Grain of salt: The survey was small (N=48) and relatively informal. But still.


Ariela Rozman, Timothy Daly and David Keeling are Founding Partners of EdNavigator (@ednavigate), a New Orleans-based nonprofit organization that helps families give their kids a great education.

August 3, 2016

EdNavigator Insight #3: Summer is a massive challenge for working families

This week we’re sharing some of the insights we’ve gained through our work at EdNavigator, helping families with schools in New Orleans over the past year. Here’s what we’ve covered so far:

Insight #3: Summer is a massive challenge.

We have a new appreciation for the annual catastrophe that is summer learning loss—and what a headache summer is for the families we work with in general.

In the summer, all the responsibility for keeping kids occupied, safe and engaged gets thrust back onto parents, most often with zero support. Good camps and summer programs are not always affordable for hourly workers, and the ones that are fill up early and quickly.  Other options might only run for three hours a day, which is simply not realistic for working parents who need full-day care. Some schools offer summer camps or programs, but they too tend to be short-term (e.g., one month only) or part-time. For older students, summer employment and internship opportunities are a possibility, but they are rare and in high demand.

So what happens instead? Most students are left in the care of older siblings, relatives or neighbors, and have enormous amounts of unstructured time on their hands. Whereas more affluent families may have a long list of activities on the agenda for their kids, helping them prevent learning loss, the children of lower-income families have far fewer opportunities. For them, the lack of support makes summer an academic sinkhole.

The out-of-school opportunity gap has received increased attention in recent years – Robert Putnam and Mike Petrilli have written pieces that you should check out – because it is becoming clearer that it is a substantial driver of long term inequality.

At EdNavigator, helping parents plan for summer has shown us that there is an urgent need for better, cheaper, and more accessible resources and summer programs (we ended up creating our own summer learning packets for many of our families). More broadly, it suggests to us that school systems, cities and states need to fundamentally rethink how they support parents and families over the summer, for example by providing stipends or vouchers that ensure every low-income family can send their child to a quality program.

Summer learning loss ought to be a five-alarm fire for everyone concerned with improving educational equity and supporting low-income families and communities. It’s one of the primary reasons for the achievement gap between higher and lower-income students. Why isn’t there more urgency around this problem? One reason may be that, in the summer, kids literally aren’t students anymore. They’re nobody’s responsibility except for their parents. Let’s change that. Let’s take responsibility for the educational development of every child, all year round.


Ariela Rozman, Timothy Daly and David Keeling are Founding Partners of EdNavigator (@ednavigate), a New Orleans-based nonprofit organization that helps families give their kids a great education.

August 2, 2016

EdNavigator Insight #2: Families Are Overwhelmed with Confusing Information

On Monday, we talked about one of the big takeaways from our work helping parents navigate schools in New Orleans: A little help goes a long way. That was reassuring. It’s the whole reason we created EdNavigator.

Spending the year side-by-side with working parents brought plenty of other insights, though, and not all of them were so positive. For example:

Insight #2: Most families don’t have a clear understanding of how their kids are doing in school.

Parents aren’t clueless. They aren’t unengaged or apathetic; the families we work with are eager to do their part in helping their children succeed and pay careful attention to what schools tell them. The problem is that they are overwhelmed with confusing and contradictory information.

Our families have access to an incredible amount of information, but much of it is hard to interpret. For example, some students’ report cards are crammed full of data, including class grades and the results of formative assessments. Don’t get us wrong – data is a good thing.  But when all this information is presented in different ways (e.g., letter grades vs. percentile scores), with different scales (50 percent is a failing grade for a class; 50th percentile is average), and commonly tell different stories (e.g., B and C grades in reading but a bottom decile score in reading on the assessment), it becomes an indecipherable jumble. Comments and explanations usually take the form of very short notes, if they exist at all.

It’s also not uncommon for families to get conflicting information from teachers themselves, who tend to soft-pedal news about students’ struggles. They may downplay a poor grade or test result, leaving parents uncertain about how significant or urgent a problem may be. And when they’re uncertain, they generally take their cues from the teacher.

Put yourself in a parent’s shoes: On one hand, you have a dense test score report from a faceless institution that shows your child is performing significantly below grade level; on the other, you have a teacher you’ve known all year who tells you your child “does all his work” and “is making progress.” Whom do you trust?*

The point is not that one source of information (tests or teacher) is always right; it’s that all parents want to believe their kids are doing well, and will almost always favor sources of information that confirm that belief. They trust what teachers have to say, in the same way you trust your doctor when he says that mole is nothing to worry about. When teachers aren’t clear and direct, parents come away with only a hazy sense of how their kids are doing in school—and most of the time, they believe their children are doing better than the full set of evidence suggests.

Our Navigators sit with families on a regular basis to walk them through academic records. Frequently, these are hard conversations; our Navigators may be sharing news that the student shows signs of substantial challenges that may have gone undiagnosed or unaddressed for years. In those instances, parents are understandably frustrated that no one told them what was happening sooner.

Surely we can do better than this.  Let’s get to work designing simple report cards that communicate information to parents clearly, help teachers be candid as well as kind, and increase engagement rather than multiplying confusion.

* A side-note lesson here: Despite all the rhetoric about over-testing and opt-outs, the frequency and amount of testing has yet to come up as a concern for any of the parents we support. Not one. Like other parents, though, they get frustrated when the results aren’t explained or when no one seems to care about them. When tests are useful — when they provide information that helps teachers and families understand how students are doing and affect what happens in school – our parents support and value them.


Ariela Rozman, Timothy Daly and David Keeling are Founding Partners of EdNavigator (@ednavigate), a New Orleans-based nonprofit organization that helps families give their kids a great education.

August 1, 2016

EdNavigator: For Families, A Little Help Goes a Long Way

First of all, a big thanks to Andy for trusting us with the keys to the Eduwonk Cadillac for a week. We don’t fish and aren’t as witty as he is, so he may come to regret the decision. But we’ll try to keep things interesting.

Longtime readers may know us from our time at TNTP.  We were colleagues there for 14 years before founding a new nonprofit, EdNavigator, about a year ago.  Brief summary: we help families with school. Right now, we’re only working in New Orleans, where we’ve partnered with a number of local hotels to provide personalized educational support as a benefit to their employees. Each participating employee gets paired with one of our Navigators, who helps them choose schools, understand and track their children’s progress, support learning at home, and advocate for their children’s needs. Hard-working employees get help; employers get happier, more engaged employees who are more likely to stay in their jobs. Everybody wins. (At least that’s the idea. Long way to go and lots to learn.)

Working directly with families as they engage with the school system offers a very different view of education policy debates than working inside the system itself, which was our background.  It has been an eye-opening experience.  Our goal here is to use our guest-blogging perch to share a few of our main lessons and how they might be applicable to the wider education landscape.

Lesson #1: A little help goes a long way for families.

We’ll illustrate what we mean through one of the parents we’re working with, whom we’ll call Maria.

Maria is a mom, and a housekeeper at a hotel in New Orleans’ business district. She earns about $10 per hour cleaning rooms. Her daughter is a rising fourth grader with long black hair and a big smile.

Neither Maria nor her husband speak English. Her daughter, Ana, does.  She often plays the role of translator for her mom and dad. Ana does not go to an inner city school.  She goes to one of the higher-performing schools in Jefferson Parish (just outside New Orleans) and generally gets good grades. She almost never misses a day.

Sounds like a success story, right?  Dedicated parents, a prime school, a well-behaved and hard-working little girl. Everything on-track.

But the truth is, Ana’s situation in school is more fragile than it looks. Although her report card showed mostly A’s and B’s when we started working with her, Ana’s test results indicated that she was below grade level in reading. She told us she was having a hard time following her teacher’s fast-paced instructions in class, and had recently gotten a string of C’s in social studies. She’d also developed some worrisome study habits, often falling asleep while doing her reading homework. Maria wasn’t sure how to help, because she couldn’t read English herself. All of this raised concerns among our Navigators, who knew that third-grade reading proficiency is a critical milestone for future academic success.

This is a good example of how we get involved. After reviewing Ana’s academic records with Maria, we helped arrange a meeting at school. Ana’s teacher agreed to slow down when she provided instructions, and to send home translated versions of homework materials so that Maria could help. We asked Maria about Ana’s workspace at home and learned that she often did her reading alone in bed at night, leading her to fall asleep. We suggested that Maria get a small table and chair where her daughter could read instead, to help her stay awake and focused.

Within a week, Maria had done everything we recommended. We followed up by helping her find more books for her daughter to read at home and teaching her how to use flashcards to help Ana practice social studies and science vocabulary, a simple strategy that she told us has been working well. This spring, we gave her a summer learning packet to keep Ana going at a time when many kids fall behind. These sorts of adjustments helped put her daughter back on track in reading by the end of the year—and led to an A in social studies in her last quarter.

For Maria and Ana, a few well-timed interventions went a long way. They had a lot going for them, for sure, but their experience also illustrates the challenges that so many families face in navigating schools: Language and cultural barriers, contradictory information about how students are really doing, uncertainty about how to support learning at home, a tendency among school systems not to respond to learning challenges until they become five-alarm fires. The list goes on and on.

How many families out there are in similar situations?  Too many to count.  Families tend to think that school has everything under control unless they hear otherwise, and schools tend to think that families aren’t concerned about their children unless they show up, in person, to school on a regular basis to ask how things are going.  Meanwhile, little problems with students like Ana become big problems that cost more money and take more time to address.

There isn’t a neat and tidy policy solution.  The solution, ultimately, is to strengthen the social fabric that connects families and schools and empower parents in the educational process. In our view, that starts with making sure that families get the sophisticated support they need to interact successfully with complex systems. Each day this week, we’ll share something we’ve learned about how families experience their interactions with schools and what happens when families speak up to ask the system for help.

Ariela Rozman, Timothy Daly and David Keeling are Founding Partners of EdNavigator (@ednavigate), a New Orleans-based nonprofit organization that helps families give their kids a great education.


July 29, 2016

Edujob: Managing Director of Policy and Research @ TN Charter School Center

Here’s a great edujob in TN: Managing Director of Policy and Research for the Tennessee Charter School Center

The vision of the Tennessee Charter School Center (TCSC) is that Tennessee will boast the best public schools in the nation, and all of our students will have access to a high-quality public education that will prepare them for personal, professional, and social success that will impact generations to come. TCSC is committed to advancing educational outcomes for all students via access to high-quality, public school options.  Our mission is to support quality and cultivate innovation in public education while serving as an advocate on behalf of public charter schools.

You can learn more about the role and how to apply here.

Friday Fish Porn – Spawn Of Big Red, Plus Weeby On The Water

IMG_5072Regular readers of Friday fish porn will fondly recall the run of Big Red – a big redfish caught by James Willcox’s mom in Mobile Bay. James is the former CEO of Aspire Public Schools and has now founded, just this summer, Strategic Growth Parnters, a Public Benefits Corporation focused on helping high-quality CMOs grow by providing comprehensive advice and support to them. At the time we followed Big Red’s journey from the driveway to a permanent home on the mantle. (Although James’ mom is obviously the badass in the family and he aspires to perhaps be her deckhand one day, here’s one he caught). Now, Mrs. Willcox is back with the spawn of Big Red, another Mobile Bay redfish here on the right.

Elsewhere, Bellwether’s Jason Weeby found time to take his son fishing this summer, too. A Walleye!


You should consider taking a kid fishing, too, (and do your part to resist the broification of the outdoors). It’s easier than you might think!

For the entire archives of education people with fish- dating back a decade – you can click here.

July 28, 2016

DNC Blogging, Eduwonk Guestbloggers, Counterintuitive Goings On, College Advice, PC Debate

Bellwether is still blogging the DNC with The 74.  Bloomberg spoke last night. Short version: Doesn’t care for Trump, does care about better schools.

Here at Eduwonk, guestbloggers all of August, great line up.

A few intuitive and counterintuitive things:

Malcolm Gladwell on how America’s elite colleges are awol from the fight for economic mobility. BTW – for all the talk of privilege these days don’t look for anyone to voluntarily give up this one. Classic case of tough medicine being great for others!

On public pensions if you think they are about minimizing risk you’re missing the big picture.

James Merriman asks why the Democrats would weaken on support for charter schools now? William Haft on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s fight against charter schools. 

Interesting Pew data on the PC debate. And a new documentary about comedy includes some campus angles because some comics won’t play campuses anymore.

Stephen Smith with some straight ahead advice on choosing a college.

Sad news: Susan Traiman has passed.

Coming Attractions

I am taking August away from the blog but you will be in great hands with some terrific guestbloggers, here’s the line-up:

Week of August 1st: Ari Rozman, Tim Daly, and David Keeling from EdNavigator

Week of August 8th: Kira Orange Jones of Teach For America and the Louisiana Board of Education.

Week of August 15th: Kevin Kosar of the R Street Institute and fishing and whiskey fame. 

Week of August 22nd: Derrell Bradford of NYCAN.

Week of August 29th: Alex Hernandez of the Charter School Growth Fund.

Just a reminder, Bellwether doesn’t take positions on any policy issues other than those that affect 501(c)3 organizations as a class. So nothing that’s ever on this blog, any of our blogs, or any of our bylined work should be construed to be an organization position or viewpoint.  We’re into ideological heterodoxy and there are lively and productive disagreements about a range of issues across our team.

More content today, fish tomorrow, but for now enjoy these good folks and happy summer.

Susan Traiman

The education world lost a quiet and steely friend this week with the passing of Susan Traiman. In addition to consulting work her career included time at the Department of Education, the Business Roundtable, and the National Governors Association and she was a steady hand behind the scenes on many national school improvement moments of the past four decades. She was also a tireless advocate for the idea that American business could be involved productively in efforts to improve the quality of schools and a fun sparring partner about the limits of that idea. Most importantly she was generous with her time and expertise and patient with people coming into the field. She’ll be missed.

July 26, 2016

Student Loans, Democratic Convention Blogging, More SNS, Pensions And Politics, Dissent, Korman On Title IX, Weeby on Productivity. Plus Party News.

Over at The 74 we’re living blogging the DNC this week (you can also see RNC blogging from last week).  Here’s my take on the Dem strategy, the Dem ticket on ed, and why ed doesn’t really matter to the outcome.

Last week I took a look at the longer term ed game on the Democratic side for U.S. News.

Jason Weeby on education and productivity (with a great lede). Hailly Korman doesn’t want universities out of the sex assault investigation business.

James S. Liebman and Michael Mbikiwa on supplement not supplant in Real Clear Education.

Dissent is good!

School closures, not as bad as you’ve heard?

This Atlantic article is a good take on the student loan issue. The averages frequently bandied about create more hype than sense and the high end is not where the action is. But they also obscure the low-end where there are real problems for non-completers.

Here’s a quirky higher education loan partnership - Amazon and Wells Fargo:

“I don’t think they fully realize what they just stepped in,” says Alexander Holt, a policy analyst at New America’s education policy program. “What’s baffling to me is that Amazon cares a lot about brand reputation, loyalty and customer service. And those are three things that are not synonymous with the private student loan industry in any type of positive way.”

Politics and pension management don’t mix well.

Doug Levin on some new education rules of the road. Reuters says overseas test cheating rampant. Mistaken identity in Nashville school board race. New guidance on students with ADHD.

Second thoughts:

He does regret some aspects of the party, like the dwarfs dressed in red-white-and-blue suits carrying champagne guns. “I would probably not make that decision if I had to do it over,” he said.

Voter registration woes.

July 22, 2016

Bellwether’s Learning Landscape

ICYMI here’s a new resource from Bellwether offering an overview of the education landscape and how it works.

Useful? Yes! But don’t take my word for it:

Make America Bait Again



*Attribution unknown.

Friday Fish Porn: Kosar V. Fuller, It’s On!

unnamedThe battle for mayor of Fish Porn is on. Last week we revealed Kevin Kosar’s doomsday device: His new fishing blog and boating articles. A lock on the mayorship? Not so fast. Bellwether’s Ali Fuller. Well, she was unimpressed. So she sent this. It’s not technically a fish. Or really a fish in any sense. It’s a red stag she took in Argentina! (Apparently with a pretty impressive shot, too, sources say). So it’s also a little more, say, robust?, than a YouTube video about tying on a hook for some perch… We’ll do a reader poll at some point to settle this, but the ante is up. Kevin, your move.

For pictures of education people with actual fish, hundreds of them, click here.

July 20, 2016

Dems And Education Reform

A lot of speculation about the Democrats and education. Here’s my take via U.S. News & World Report:

Are the Democrats done with education reform?

That’s the question a lot of people are asking in the wake of a few recent education events. It’s a question that gets bloggers and insiders fired up for sure to cheer or jeer. But the death of the Democrats on education reform is likely exaggerated.

Want to know why I think that? Well, here are four reasons the trends probably are not what they seem. What issue are you done with? I’m already tired of one party calling for the titular head of the other to be locked up. I’d live somewhere more exotic if I wanted government like that. Tell me what issue you’re done with or who  you want locked up on Twitter @arotherham. Or let me know why you think this is wrong and the Democratic reform wave has crested.

Blogging The Republican Convention, Online O’Keefe, SPLC Explains, Klein & Barber With Ideas, Barone V. Polikoff! Rhode Island With Charter Pushback, PC/Anti-PC and Ghostbusters, Trump Jr., Zernike On Pence, Plus Pike!

A lot of blogging about the Republican convention via The 74 and Bellwether. A lot of good content from a variety of folks. Here’s my take on Donald Trump Jr. and reformers.

Kate Zernike on Governor Pence’s education record. Punchline, he’s moved the ball on some issues, but also shown a real willingness to play politics with education, too. Michael Holzman on the lack of focus on equity given the irony of where the conventions are being held this year.

What a sorry state of affairs when a university has to pass on hosting a presidential debate because of the costs of security.

Bonnie O’Keefe on whether online charters are less outlier problem and more broader indicator of what ails public education. What’s happening on tenure in jobs?

Klein and Barber on nine education policy plays (pdf).

Rhode Island charter bill, from the ProJo:

…it is disappointing that Rhode Island politicians always seem so willing to “compromise” with the future of black and Hispanic children, who have very little political clout at the State House.

…Blackstone Valley Prep has given the lie to the longstanding argument that public education cannot effectively reach many students who come from great poverty and troubled homes. The mayoral academies, a tiny percentage of the state’s public schools, have demonstrated that such students need not be condemned to failure, and that there is a way to inspire and educate them. Their success makes a strong argument that traditional schools must change with the times – which may explain the fierce hostility from some quarters to mayoral academies.

Pragmatism and compromise in politics are important. But some things are worth fighting for. Bringing minority students into the mainstream through public education — our state’s biggest civil rights challenge — is one of them. Rhode Island will never energize its economy until its leaders are willing to fight, and fight again, for education that works best for students.

Barone v. Polikoff on growth. Part 1 here.

Today in finding yourself cross pressured: SPLC says it’s really not trying to close MS charter schools. OK, in that case I’d hate to see what it looks like then when they decide to try close them.

The White House on student debt.

This article about the Ghostbusters/Twitter harassment makes a broader point germane to education:

It speaks, more importantly, to the derailment of the important task of challenging PC. Tragically, for those of us who want to prick PC from a genuinely liberal and pro-autonomy perspective, the anti-PC mantle has in recent months been co-opted by the new right, or the alt-right, as some call them. These lovers of Trump (they call him ‘daddy’) and conspiracy theorists about feminism (whose wicked influence they spy everywhere) have turned being anti-PC from a decent, progressive position into an infantile, pathological, Tourette’s-style desire to scream offensive words out loud, like the seven-year-old who’s just discovered the thrill that comes with saying ‘f**k’.

Their response to new and mad PC rules on how to talk about race and gender is not to criticise them dispassionately, or point out that it’s ironically pretty racist and sexist to suggest black people and women need protection from offensive words; no, it’s to say the offensive words, to say the N-word, as loudly as possible, and ideally to a black person. In the past, serious liberals opposed bans on the right of neo-fascists to march in the streets or distribute their literature by calling for political freedom for all. They didn’t become neo-fascists just to wind up officialdom. Yet bizarrely, that’s what the alt-right does: instead of launching grown-up critiques of the censorship of hate, they embrace hate; they become hateful; they come to personify the hate whose expression is being restricted. People ban Nazis, so they become Nazis. It’s crazy. It’s a temper tantrum, not liberalism.

What is most striking is how much this alt-right shares in common with the lefty SJWs (Social Justice Warriors) it claims to hate. Both are fuelled by the politics of victimhood: SJWs claim a massive culture of misogyny is ruining their lives; alt-righters insist a feminist conspiracy is destroying theirs. Both are mean: peruse the blogs or tweets of any vocal alt-right or SJW and you’ll be struck by their disgust for anyone who disagrees with them. And both are censorious. Don’t be fooled by the alt-right’s freedom-lovin’ postures. They’re just as keen as SJWs to slam and ultimately end culture that offends them, whether it’s Beyonce doing a Black Power dance at the Super Bowl or Ghostbusters with four women in it.

Serious right-wingers and left-wingers should be worried about all this stuff. The alt-right is giving the right a bad name, while SJWs threaten to empty left-wing politics of its love for liberty and its trust in people to govern their own lives without needing official assistance all the time. They’re turning the left-right clash into a spiteful, foul-mouthed, libellous catfight, and people like Ms Jones are being caught in the crossfire in the most disgusting way.

Pike with eyes bigger than stomach.

July 19, 2016

The Learning Landscape, Are The New AP Standards Marxist? Pensions, Ed Politics Everywhere! Turnarounds, ESSA Opportunities, Barnum V. Tough, Prize Pushback, HRC Policy And Politics, LA Equity Data, Plus Attack Pigs & Adventure Cats

New resource from Bellwether: The Learning Landscape. Be sure to check this out. It’s a wide-ranging overview of the landscape and performance of K-12 public schools. So a good resource for anyone who needs a fact-based look at what’s happening. And it’s free so great for students, too.

Chad Aldeman explains why, if we want accountability for teachers, then their retirement system has to be more fair, too. And here’s a really good explainer on how it all works in the first place.  Also, efforts underway to address the uneven teacher licensure rules that complicate things for trailing military spouses who teach. You know what else is a drag on them? Our patchwork pension system, which isn’t portable so forces people to leave a lot of retirement wealth they’ve earned on the table.

Whitmire on the – very political, given the evidence – fight over Massachusetts’ charter school cap.  Jonas on the Democratic platform. Sawchuk parses Secretary Clinton’s AFT speech. If she’s going to throw bouquets for organizing graduate students someone better line up a speech to the UAW, too!

Guys, you will never believe this: Content knowledge important for elementary school teachers. Crazy, right!

Lauren Morando Rhim responds on the question of charter school discipline and the suggestion there isn’t a problem with charters. Who is on what side of the ESSA line-up?

Matt Barnum v. Paul Tough! Paul Hill and Bethany Gross versus history!

From New York, it turns out turning around urban schools is harder than it looks. This line is a beauty:

If it is seen as successful, it will bolster the view, embraced by Mr. de Blasio, that the right approach to ailing urban schools is to reinvest in them. But if the effort ultimately falters, it will give ammunition to those who say that states and cities should focus instead on creating alternatives for parents, like charter schools.

First, why not do both? But also, about those charters, if only there were some evidence about how those charters would fare compared to other options students have in the city….(pdf). I mean, imagine if we knew how they might fare in Harlem or elsewhere in the city, or in reading and math….it’s all so abstract! Related, here’s some data on Colorado’s charters. 

Buried lede:

The premise of The Prize, Cerf says, was that if he, Anderson, and Booker had moved more slowly and worked harder to build local support for their ideas, they would have gotten a warmer reception. But, he says, that analysis is flawed.

“For Dale to criticize Cory and Cami for failing to have overcome political saboteurs, but give a complete pass to the saboteurs themselves, tells only part of the story. There was a vicious campaign of misinformation that was designed to thwart any changes.”

Here’s a Dallas principal on improving schools and some larger societal conditions kids are facing in their communities.

How will Hillary Clinton make sure her college plan doesn’t lead to increases in tuition?  There is also this gem:

Federal wage data shows that the value of a college education is higher than it has ever been.

“Purely from an economic standpoint, it has never been a better investment,” Mr. Nadauld said. “Even though costs are obscene, the returns are obscene, too.”

Here are two takes on the new European history AP frameworks: Not Marxist versus Marxist.

Equity data from LAUSD (pdf), includes charter schools and special needs students.

Large pig emerges from the ocean and attacks beachgoers. Apparently real thing: Adventure cats. Lots of planets.

July 15, 2016

Bellwether And The 74 Live Blogging The Conventions, More Dem Platform News, Education’s Mirth Problem, Fish, McWhorter On Policy, Rosenwald Schools, Rhames on Violence, Pay For Success, And What Are They Doing In Wisconsin Right Now? Plus Bear And Health Care News!

Bellwether and The 74 are teaming up to live blog the conventions, starts now. Let’s talk about education! Also look for a very cool project release from Bellwether on Monday.

It’s Friday, but no fish pics today. Instead, Kevin Kosar who battles with Bellwether’s Alison Fuller for the mayor of fish porn title has launched a fishing blog. That’s a strong move, Ali. He fishes all the damn time and is somehow not unemployed as a result. Plus a magazine lets him write about boats now. What are the rest of us doing wrong?

In the ed world a lot going on, including some Governor Pence overviews, curated for you here at RealClearEducation.

What do education pay for success initiatives look like globally relative to the US? Revisiting Rosenwald schools. Marilyn Rhames looks at the collateral damage from all this violence.

More Dem platform news:

Democrats added a misleading reference to standardized tests to the party platform over the weekend, requiring they meet a reliability standard that doesn’t actually exist.
“[W]e believe that standardized tests must meet American Statistical Association standards for reliability and validity,” the amendment reads, saying this would “strike a better balance on testing, so that it informs, but does not drive, instruction.”
To most people this would seem like common sense; of course tests should follow statistical best practices and who could sound more authoritative on the controversial subject than the American Statistical Association. But there’s a problem: The American Statistical Association (ASA) has never published guidelines pertaining to the reliability and validity of standardized tests.
“There are no such standards,” Jill Talley, a spokesperson for the ASA, told The 74.
OK, then.
Here’s Polikoff on it:

“Action” John McWhorter wants policy not talk:

What if, instead of calling for a conversation, Mrs. Clinton had called for revitalized support for vocational schooling to help get poor black people into solid jobs that don’t require a college degree? Or an end to the war on drugs, which furnishes a black market that tempts underserved black men away from legal work. Or ensuring cheap, universal access to long-acting reversible contraceptives, to help poor women (who praise these devices) control when they start families. Or phonics-based reading programs, which are proved to be the key to teaching poor kids how to read. All poor black kids should have access to them just as they get free breakfasts.

Checker Finn on the education world’s fissures:

There’s reason, alas, to suspect that the center isn’t holding, even among those who have favored charter schools, and certainly among those who have differing views on a host of other items that have been prominent on the reform agenda.

Perhaps this was inevitable, considering what’s been happening in the wider worlds of politics and policy. I don’t know whether it’s fixable, or how much effort either side is prepared to expend trying to reconstruct a centrist ed reform movement. (I worry that each side would rather blame the other for today’s fissiparous tendencies.) I do know, however, that the price of disintegration in education reform will be heavy. We don’t need to worry overmuch about adult reformers paying that price, but we should care quite a lot about what it will exact from the millions of kids who deserve better, and from a society whose future hinges more on how well those kids are educated than on who occupies the Oval Office on January 20, 2017.

Also its lack of humor:

Exacerbating the disagreements on those questions is the self-righteousness that seems to have swamped this field in recent years. Education has never been a mirth-filled realm, but when I first got into it a lot of participants could still smile, occasionally giggle, even tell the odd joke—and the chuckles were, often as not, bipartisan. Today, however, practically nobody seems to have a sense of humor, at least not about anything bearing on ed reform. Is it because of our unfunny national politics? Because social media and 24/7 news mean that even a short chortle can be turned by one’s foes into evidence that one is making light of something? I’m not sure about the cause, but I can attest that it’s hard to make common cause with people who can never share a spoof or jest.

School lotteries create useful natural experiments. But more good schools would be nice! Scarcity understandably doesn’t make people fans of markets, which is an issue with school reform in some communities. That’s not an argument against school choice, and especially not against giving the poor the same kind of choices other Americans have, but it’s a political problem given the uneven educational terrain.

If you’re like me one of the things you wonder about a lot is, ‘how are Wisconsin educators preparing for the new ed law?’ Now you know!  Today in absurdity and IG audits (pdf).

If you drive a Subaru stuff like this is bound to happen. If you haven’t tried a cleanse, they’re very healthy, here’s one.

July 13, 2016

EdLoC Up And Running, Illinois Data, Young People & Politics, Cunningham Trashes The Platform, Polikoff Trashes Proficiency. Spotlight On Exeter, PD & Lessons And More!

EdLoC is live. Website and early efforts here. Impressive team, board, and advisors here. Stay tuned.

Here’s a look at how screwed up (and political) teacher hiring is.

Education workforce data from Illinois. Even if you don’t have a stake in Illinois the method and the trends are interesting. Plus Bellwether can do this for your state! Contact us to learn more. Chad Aldeman on once slice of it here.

Survey of young people and their views on the presidential candidates – some really interesting data (pdf). If you’re worried about their authoritarian tendencies Table 7 won’t help!

Former Obama administration official and Chicagoan Peter Cunningham is not a fan of the revised Democratic platform on education:

The amendments adopted by the Democratic Platform Committee are a step backwards at a time when America can’t afford to stand still, let alone retreat. Improving public education for low-income Black and Hispanic children shouldn’t be a matter of debate or a political football. It’s an economic and a moral imperative…
…Education should be a voting issue but Democrats should at least make sure that we are asking people to vote the right way. Accountability and public school choice are core values of the last two Democratic administrations. The last thing we should do is abandon them. The littlest guys are counting on us.

Morgan Polikoff has a sign-on letter about proficiency rates as the primary measure of school accountability.  We don’t have accountability right, to be sure, but what’s hard here is (a) knowing what we know about the political culture of the education sector the only thing worse than allowing some flexibility to innovate here is probably not allowing it and (b) this does have the ring of taking things that don’t work for kids in practice but coming together to make them work in theory and (c) there are ways to do proficiency that address some of the legitimate concerns, states tend not to do them though, see (a). Not an easy issue.

Vox has an interesting package on life for Olympic involved athletes after the games are over. Here’s a related story with an education angle on it – how Steve Mesler ended up founding Classroom Champions after his bobsled career ended.*

This is not a flattering account for Exeter.

PD versus lesson plans.

Shopping lizard. Today in volcano news.

*I’m on the board.

July 12, 2016

Intramural Democratic Education Fight, In Higher Ed It’s Not Just The For-Profits, Teacher Pensions, Litigation On Title IX And Mississippi Charters, Fryer & Bennet In The News, Common Core, Plus Cocaine Bear.

The focus on for-profit colleges and their problems has obscured the larger problem of higher ed quality.

The bad news: The Democratic platform went sideways on aggressive school improvement for underserved kids. The good news: Platforms don’t matter that much. DFER goes to the videotape here. DFER statement here.

Teacher pension quote of the day:

Edwin T. Burton III, a University of Virginia economics professor who served more than 20 years on the VRS board, suggested that teachers and other public employees don’t get much benefit from the traditional pension system unless they stay for long careers.

“The vast majority of public school teachers in this state get very little benefit out of this system,” Burton said.

More litigation on the Obama Administration Title IX transgender guidance. Even within states suing some disagreement among officials.

Litigation in Mississippi from the Southern Poverty Law Center agains the state’s charter school law. SPLC has done a lot of important work so it’s pretty dismaying to see them effectively blocking poor families from having choices over their schooling.

Nothing to see here, move along…move along….

Noted economist and education researcher Roland Fryer making a dent on the debate over race and policing, too. (Read the whole thing not just the headline, he doesn’t lend himself to soundbites).

Screws tightening on Ohio’s most notorious virtual school.  And don’t call them government schools! Or do. Whatever. Let’s just work to make them better?

Some states are trying to embed the PARCC test as a post-secondary prep tool others going with different options – IL the latter.  Not surprisingly the tests are emerging as the cover for efforts to keep the standards.

On bad academic writing, too many juicy lines to pull quote.

There is plenty to be concerned about in terms of policing of speech and thought on campus right now but outrage about this seems like a caricature and grasping at straws.  Question seems sort of key for the roles, no?

Catching up on some reading – this is a terrific profile of Michael Bennet, United States Senator from Colorado and education aficionado.

For Bennet, the education bill was something of a bittersweet victory. The eight years it took to pass it, he said in yet another speech to an empty chamber in December, revealed a disturbing lack of urgency on the part of too many of his colleagues who were “content to treat America’s children as if they are someone else’s rather than their own.” The same outcome, he told me later, could have been had years earlier if party leaders had simply given their members the green light to compromise.

Cocaine Bear. Big time father – daughter adventures.

*Post revised to add DFER statement.

July 11, 2016

Edujob: ED @ Lynch Leadership Academy At Boston College

Here’s a great edujob in Boston:

Established in 2010 through a generous, multi-year gift from the Lynch Foundation, the Lynch Leadership Academy (the Academy) exists to develop the leadership capacity of school leaders in order to close the achievement gap and ensure all students attend and graduate from college. An initiative of Boston College, and drawing on the expertise of its nationally ranked business and education schools, the Academy is an innovative program that inspires, challenges, and trains urban school leaders to effectively engage and direct impactful school change. Through a yearlong cohort model, and with an emphasis on the principles of equity and social justice, the Academy builds the leadership capacity of school principals across sectors – district, charter, and Catholic – to attain high student achievement and enhance the lives of the children and families who depend on the vitality and excellence of urban schools.

The new ED will serve as the primary liaison with external partners, and ensure the financial and programmatic sustainability of the organization. While s/he will oversee the execution of The Academy’s core program model, responsibility will center on strategic positioning, and strengthening the organization’s capacity to deliver strong outcomes by growing The Academy’s footprint in several regions. The ED must be a seasoned professional, with a track record of leadership in an entrepreneurial setting, and sufficient experience to gain the trust and confidence of colleagues at all levels.

Learn more, apply, and nominate here.

July 8, 2016

Hillary Clinton And Higher Ed, Prisons V. Schools, Buck Up History Advocates – Was It Over When The Germans Bombed Pearl Harbor? School Finance, Teacher Salaries, Demographic Data, And Henderson On DC And What’s Next. Plus Fish Pics And Mothman!

Below are some great fish pictures with Tim Taylor. Fish Porn Mayor Kevin Kosar has some, too, on his Twitter feed. Here and here most recently.

Draft innovative assessment pilot regulations out.  The ambition for new ways of assessment bumps into the reality of assessment capacity. Alyson Klein here.

Hillary Clinton is tuning and emphasizing her college tuition proposal and its similarities with the Senator Sanders’ college proposal. This is interesting – the Clinton proposal is more targeted and not a giveaway to the wealthy as Sanders’ idea was. But it is also not universal, which makes the politics trickier especially if states get to decide whether or not to opt-in. But targeted initiatives worked well in the 1990s, will they in today’s politics?

Max Marchitello on Trump, Christie, and education finance. Kirsten Schmitz on teacher salaries and teacher demographics.

Earlier this week I wrote about all the things school districts have to do before they think about teaching and learning.

Some pushback on the charter school discipline narrative:

It turns out that it matters quite a bit which schools you compare charters to, but it also matters how you compare them. Comparing averages assumes that charters are similar to one another, but some charters might have much lower discipline rates than their neighbors while others have much higher rates.

Joe Siedlecki on growing great schools. EdBuild on little education enclaves.

Fun with percentages and bully pulpits! New analysis from the Department of Education looks at spending on corrections and spending on education (pdf). The growth of the former outpaces the latter. Underlying numbers provide some different context and confirm what anyone who follows policy already knows, we’re spending more on corrections than we used t0 but we spend a lot on education, too. The higher ed numbers are more complicated, see A.9 in the document. Still, count me among those who think we lock too many people up. But, if you really want a state spending pattern pressuring school finance to freak about? Check out Medicaid. When do we get a report on that from ED?

Here’s an important evaluation of Ohio’s voucher program (pdf). New data on the early-childhood workforce. AIR on teacher shortage and policymaker options.  Chiefs for Change on ESSA and evidence (pdf).  ACT on future educator demographics (pdf). Brookings on SNS and fed policy.

Don’t know much about history? You’ve got company. Colleges not requiring a lot of it (pdf).

Interviewing students.

Flashback: Here’s Kaya Henderson discussing what’s happened in DC and what’s next.

Mothman theories and Mothman festivals.

Friday Fish Porn – Taylor Succeeds!

IMG_46841-2 IMG_01581By day, Tim Taylor leads America Succeeds, but he’s also a solid fisherman and accomplished wing shooter.

He’s been featured on Fish Porn before, for instance here and here and here. I’ve been on the water with him, good person to spend a day outside with.

He took his son fishing this summer and there were bent rods and this snapper, which apparently became ceviche.

As good a time as any for our annual PSA: Take a kid fishing!

Want more of this? Here are hundreds of education related people and their families (and kids!) with fish.

July 5, 2016

Strip Down School Districts! Plus Mehlhorn On Adult First Ed Politics, Finn Defends Teachers Unions, Charter Myths And Charter Booing! And Keep Floating!

In U.S. News & World Report today I take a look at all the things we ask of school districts. It really doesn’t make a lot of sense:

School districts around the country are getting ready for the 2017 school year, which for many starts in just a few weeks. Officials are thinking about transporting students to school, what they’ll feed them, health services for them, sports teams and schedules, and all the other things we call on school districts to do. Meanwhile, if you’re lucky, someone might also be focused on who is going to teach your child and what they’re going to teach.

Backward? Yes, of course it is. And like many things in our education system it’s not what we might design but instead what has evolved and embedded itself over time. Teaching and learning, ostensibly the core functions of schools and school districts, are now just one among many important things we expect them to do…

…As a rule the highest quality institutions we see, in all sectors, are ones that focus on being excellent at something. It’s just hard to be outstanding at a lot of things at once. Yet that’s what we ask of school districts year after year even as they struggle, mediocrity is the norm, and high-quality instruction is often an afterthought. So maybe we shouldn’t?

You can read the entire thing there. Tell me your favorite school district activities or tweet me what you’d like to strip down from school district functions @arotherham.


Dmitri Mehlhorn on his old school and the adult-first politics in education.  See if you can figure out what Jay Greene thought of the recent Times piece on Detroit schools. So cryptic!

Checker Finn defends the teachers’ unions: Hey, could be worse, they’re not running around killing people!

Charter schools, boo! Sandy Kress really has a lot of patience!

Student loan sharking in NJ.

Getting hunted by bloodhounds. Just keep floating.

July 1, 2016

Friday Fish Porn – Tarpon!

IMG_3125Adair Bard is on the Bellwether team – and like a few of us here she likes to get out on the water to fish. Here she is on the Fork in Colorado last year. Her husband Daniel is in Florida for work and got out this week for tarpon on the fly – a blast – with his dad. So hard to beat that on a few levels.

More fish pictures coming soon. In the meantime here are hundreds of education related people and their families with fish.  The largest such collection in the world! And, it’s a good weekend to go fishing…Happy 4th of July.

Kaya Henderson On The Move, For-Profit Higher Ed, Accountability Games, Online Earnestness, CTE, Higher Ed, Charters, And Teachers Unions Against Investors! Plus Cheese News.

Happy Independence Day weekend! On this date in 1863 the Army of the Potomac led by George Meade and the Army of Northern Virginia led by Robert E. Lee bumped into each other in the sleepy town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and the course of American history was changed.

Kaya Henderson stepping down in D.C. My take:

Washington Post take here. And of course this.

Breaking: Big setback for Common Core opponents in Massachusetts (pdf).

Whitmire on LA charters.  Vergara fix bill fails in committee. Whiteboard Advisors now has an update on wellness news affecting young people.

Politico looks at the deal to buy the University of Phoenix and the involvement of administration players. If true, it wouldn’t be the first time a stock price for an education stock has been beaten up by public actions for later gain. The article didn’t include a pretty stunning series of related tweets from former administration aide Ben Miller. Chicago Trib reports that Senator Dick Durbin is not pleased but is being circumspect. Third Way’s Tamara Hiler & Lanae Erickson Hatalsky on why it’s not only for-profit colleges scamming students. Also, this is happening on the for-profit front and matters.

Here’s an old trick made new again that a lot of states are using on accountability: Improving schools is difficult, contentious, and all that. Changing rating systems and labels? So much more manageable and doable! Here’s New York. Here’s Virgina. Plenty of others.

If you give students online access to the answers, they’ll use it (earnestly say professors associated with an online company):

Modern online learning materials may include built-in questions that are used for some of a class’ homework points. To encourage learning, question solutions may be easily available to students. We sought to determine to what extent students earnestly attempt to answer questions when solutions are available via a simple button click. An earnest attempt means to try answering a question at least once before viewing the solution. We analyzed data from 550 students in four classes, at a four-year public research university, a four-year public teaching college, and two community colleges. We found average earnestness was a rather high 84%. We also found that 89% of students earnestly attempted 60%-100% of questions, with 73% earnestly attempting 80%-100%. Only 1% of students blatantly “cheat the system” by earnestly less than 20% of questions. Thus, the heartening conclusion is that students will take advantage of a well-designed learning opportunity rather than just quickly earning points.

We noted that earnestness decreased as a course progressed, with analyses indicating the decrease being mostly due to tiredness or some other student factor, rather than increasing difficulty.

OK, then.

IP issues around content are messy and there is a lot of stuff floating around without appropriate rights. Amazon’s new initiative, highlighted blow earlier this week, has run into that via The Times:

Two items — a collection of first-grade math lessons and English literature activity lessons — in the Amazon screen shot were created by authors on, a rival instructional resources site where educators offer lesson plans they have created.

Yes, and TeachersPayTeachers had its own problems with this, too. There is a lot of confusion about what’s allowed under teachers employment agreements and how copyright works. Here’s the NEA on that. And I took a look at some of the issues a few years ago.

The Wall Street Journal looks at Randi Weingarten’s war on professional investors who don’t share her political agenda. Chad Aldeman looks behind the scenes. Chad also takes a look at more evidence on the pension sensitivity question – this time from Oregon.

A bipartisan CTE bill to reauthorize Perkins (pdf). Overview can be found here.  Hillary Clinton higher education proposals.  PolitiFact compiles its education ratings on various candidates.

Campus speech debate. Recommendation #1 for administrators basically amounts to get a backbone. Justin Fox says you can’t have Christmas or a lot of universities without the Chinese.

Texas-based IDEA wins the Broad charter prize.  I don’t agree with all of this Neerav Kingsland post but it points up a deceptively hard question – when is better good enough? The Walton Foundation is doing more to support charter facilities.

Alyson Klein takes a look at the assessment pilot in ESSA. Hispanic students and post-secondary and career readiness (pdf). When parents don’t get that they’re supposed to be against Success Academy, so frustrating!

Here’s a nice story.

Who moved the cheese?

June 28, 2016

Detroit Charters, Remote Reporting, The King And I, Plus Baseball! Also One-L On Evidence, Christie’s School Finance Stunt, Kansas’ Finance Mess, And Barr In The Arena! Slack And Edu, And Snakes On A Grill. Plus More!

If you’re in Nashville John King and I are talking charters today at 2pm. What’s working, what’s not at 25 years? Here’s a preview of what he’ll talk about later in the afternoon. 

The Supreme Court has denied a rehearing of Friedrich’s before a full court (earlier this year it resulted in a 4-4 tie following the death of Justice Scalia).

Kids and baseball – read this.

Kate Zernike on Detroit charters in The Times. Landscape overview. Important story, but in my view it overplays the accounts of school failure while underplaying that there are a lot of good schools – including some in the for-profit sector. That’s important context and one reason (there are others including just plain old politics) it’s been so challenging to clean up Detroit’s charter sector. Blanket approaches carry unintended costs.  Also shows why it’s hard to do a Smart Cap approach to charter quality in a really fluid authorizing environment and a tough political environment for quality advocates (one faction wants all charter schools, one faction wants none, hard to find sensible middle ground).

Michele McLaughlin on evidence and its intermediaries. Sarah Sparks on teacher absenteeism.

This pretty much covers New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s school finance stunt. There is a political logic to this sort of reverse class war but let’s hope it doesn’t catch on because the policy is so stunningly bad.

A pig in every pot or every pig….or something like that…because Steve Barr is running for Mayor of LA! He has an uphill climb but don’t underestimate Steve’s ability to actually talk to people and organize them in a very authentic and organic way.

This NPR story on Rocketship, a California-based non-profit charter school network, is pretty slanted. Rocketship has had its struggles but the NPR story goes in other directions. Rocketship responds here. As it turns out apparently the lead reporter never visited the school and another reporter visited one school. The story didn’t have a dateline but you sort of assume NPR wouldn’t do that and there must have been some visits and in-depth reporting for a story like this. Apparently no. The problem for NPR is that longtime education writer Richard Whitmire literally wrote the book about Rocketship and has spent a lot of time at the network. He took issue with the whole episode. (Rocketship has been a past Bellwether client and we share a board member with them but the two organization are not related).

Amazon’s presence in the education sector is significant but it doesn’t seem to get as much play, and controversy, as others. Perhaps that’s changing, here’s their latest play.

CPR requirement for Missouri students.  Yes schools can’t do everything but basic CPR and the ability to use a defib machine is a good public safety step. A lot of states also used to require swimming – something else that sounds nanny state but can save lives.

Latest chapter in the D.C. Child Find dispute. Kansas school finance dispute.

Slack probably has applications in the education sector. But this is not one of them.  And as if you needed more evidence that promotion ceremonies for little children are out of hand. 

What happens to classroom pets over the summer? (Ask me about anole arbitrage sometime if you want a story).

Snakes on a grill.

June 24, 2016

Edujobs! Project Director Roles @NASBE

A little too excited to see Friday afternoon? Well, NASBE is hiring for two interesting roles. Led by Kris Amundson, NASBE supports state board members and their policymaking around the country.

Project Director: Teaching, Leading, and Learning Policy:

NASBE seeks a talented, dynamic, and experienced project director to work as a collaborative team member to administer a portfolio of grants and projects in the areas of deeper learning, effective teaching, and leadership development as part of the Center for College, Career, and Civic Readiness.  The primary function of the Center is to help state boards of education prepare all students for postsecondary success through effective and impactful policy making and implementation.

Project Director: Standards, Assessment, and Accountability:

NASBE seeks a talented, dynamic, and experienced project director to work as a collaborative team member to administer a portfolio of grants and projects in the areas of learning standards, student assessment, and accountability systems as part of the Center for College, Career, and Civic Readiness. The primary function of the Center is to help state boards of education prepare all students for postsecondary success through effective and impactful policy making and implementation,


June 23, 2016

Affirmative Action Survives Fisher But Justice Kahlenberg Dissents! Former Political Hostage Chris Christie’s School Finance Plan Is Awful, So Is The Emerging CA Teacher Bill. Pensions, Law, School Zoning, And Common Core! 10 Percent Is Good Enough! Jack Coons, Shavar Jefferies, And Smarick Is A Closet Third Wayer. Plus Bears On Two Feet!

Let’s hope that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s new school finance proposal is some sort of opening gambit for a reasoned negotiation, because it’s a terrible idea. New Jersey’s urban districts are a train wreck but this is not how you fix them. Maybe Trump can just take him hostage again? Or maybe that’s how this got started – it sure seems political. Perhaps it was a condition of his release?

California deal on teacher personnel rules is falling apart. Hard to go broke betting on that.  Also from California, turns out teacher turnover is not a big deal (pdf). At least if that’s what you have to say to knock down Chad Aldeman’s analysis about how the current structure of teacher pensions is lousy retirement policy.

Supreme Court ruled today in Fisher (pdf):

The race-conscious admissions program in use at the time of petitioner’s application is lawful under the Equal Protection Clause.

Note the dissent of Justice Kahlenberg, hearing this from a few folks today including Jack Kent Cooke Foundation:

Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and self-described progressive, believes that the decision could hurt the prospects of low-income students, who are underrepresented on the nation’s campuses. By allowing the continued use of race as a factor in admissions, he argues, the court has discouraged colleges from finding other ways to promote diversity — such as through preferences for students who are poor.

Focusing solely on race means that colleges now admit students of many races who are mostly affluent, Kahlenberg said: Students from the richest quarter of the population outnumber students from the poorest quarter by 24 to 1, he said.

“Today’s decision seems to give universities more leeway to simply use race as a way to get racial diversity and ignore economically disadvantaged students,” he said. “If the decision had gone the other way, constraining the use of race, it would have led universities to address racial diversity via economic disadvantage — and now that’s less likely to happen.”

Remember that education should be more like law! People keep saying that anyway. It makes the recovering lawyers who work at Bellwether smile.

Pace this Times story, you should be a lot more concerned about uncertified teachers being hired if there was evidence that traditional certification improved outcomes. There’s not. In fact, there is evidence from New York on that exact point!

When progressives aren’t: School zoning.

Fordham with a survey of teachers about Common Core math.

Here’s an article about whether public schools are broken or not. It argues no. Heckuva job! This is a genre of writing that appeals to big think types and you really can’t go wrong whether you say there is a big crisis or no crisis. Plus, you can argue about it all day. But really? Sure, the narrative of the rise and then fall of American public education doesn’t survive close scrutiny and there is a lot of bad history floating around being weaponized at this conference or that one. And yes, there has been progress and is progress now. Just scroll down this page for some evidence of that with various things. But, right now about one in ten low-income kids get a bachelor’s degree by 24. For their more affluent peers that figure is 6x more. There’s plenty of other data in the same vein. So it does kinda seems like a system that’s not working very well, at least if you care about social and economic mobility. I mean, seriously, that sucks. Who really wants to defend it even if means you get published in The Atlantic? People are working hard, people are well-intentioned, the problems are systemic. But still…surely this country can do better?

But on the other hand, no wait, nevermind.

Democrats for Education Reform’s Shavar Jefferies on Democratic platform priorities.

Jack Coons is remarkable. So read this!  Dan Quisenberry on hope for Detroit schools. Andy Smarick on a third way on choice and governance.

Give Washington, D.C. area parents what they want! Otherwise they will go straight to the feds and the media.

Pedals the bear is back!