June 30, 2017

Off-Edu – Pan Mass Challenge 2017

002_PMC_Highlights_2016A break from our regular programming:

In the summer (along with a few others from the education world) I raise money for cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston by riding in the Pan Mass Challenge.

DFCI is an amazing place on the very leading edge of efforts to bring down these diseases. This matters whether or not you live in Massachusetts because he pathbreaking work they are doing there helps fight cancer everywhere. Treatment protocols travel so good research anywhere has the potential to help people everywhere. 

I ride my bike from Sturbridge to Provincetown, about 192 miles, the first weekend of August and my terrific sponsors help raise part of the $48 million the PMC will send to Dana-Farber this year. 100 percent of what I raise (not “proceeds or whatever weasel words some fundraisers use, 100 percent of donations I receive) goes to Dana, overhead is paid for other ways. Donations are, of course, tax-deductible.

Here’s former Dana-Farber President Edward J. Benz, Jr.,

 “The PMC has made what we do at Dana-Farber possible. When they write the history of how cancer was conquered, the PMC will be in chapter one.”

If you’d like to learn more about my ride, this effort, or become a sponsor, you can via this link. Thanks for your consideration.



June 29, 2017

Make America Grateful Again?

Via the terrific education and music infused America Succeeds GratefulEd blog, here’s a lightly education-flavored review of a Dead & Company show last week in Virginia. It does feature a math teacher and a high school student so that’s good enough for around here. Bonus cameo by the Eduwife.

Bottom line, perhaps they’re not a band beyond description any longer but they can still bring it.

You can read all of it right here.


June 28, 2017

Mitch Chester Will Be Missed. Education Surveys, Polls, ESSA Plans, Hernandez On CTE, Rural Education, ESSA Jargon, Read Finn Murphy, More.

Mitch Chester has passed. The outpouring of condolences speaks to how well-liked and well-regarded he was in the education sector. And he really was genuinely committed and genuinely fun to work with and could disagree without being disagreeable. “He will be missed” is a cliche, but he really will be missed. Rick Hess with a nice remembrance here.

Chad Aldeman on expanding early ed via ESSA plans. Yesterday, Bellwether and the Collaborative for Student Success released reviews of the first 17 ESSA plans.

Alex Hernandez on the promise of CTE.

Marty West rounds up the status quo on Blaine Amendments post-Monday’s court decision.

Fordham surveyed teenagers about school. Georgetown surveyed adults about perceptions of childhood, or more precisely adulthood, by race. I wish the methods were a little more robust but the findings intuitively make sense in the context of how schools operate.

So here’s a new poll that shows that, on average, Trump supporters don’t like the President’s education agenda. OK, that’s true enough especially given the proposed budget cuts. But, at the same time, groups that on average are not Trump supporters disproportionately support some key aspects of Trump’s education agenda, specially school choice. The AFT, who sponsored the new poll, and wants to position itself as a champion of social justice ought to be careful about how far down this road they want to go given their own education positions. In other words, again, education politics don’t line-up cleanly with partisan politics and that’s both interesting and exasperating in roughly equal measure.

Also, here’s a well-done poll from Brown with some interesting overlays of various populations and some education questions.

An education play, in two acts:

Weighed down by resistance from education advocates and some council and School Board members, the latest draft drops any mention of specific academic goals, metrics for success and funding plans.

Instead, it lays out a framework for more meetings, including four joint sessions a year between the City Council and School Board, the creation of an “education compact team” and a “children’s cabinet.”

Teachers have to live everywhere because there are kids and schools pretty much everywhere – even really expensive places to live. Here’s a look at ways to ease the housing costs.

Rural education, attainment, and place.

Are the muggles revolting and what’s the role of elite education?

ESSA jargon is everywhere. So, apparently, are book virgins.

This debut book by Finn Murphy is a great summer book. It’s superficially about life as a trucker in the moving industry but it’s really about the structure of American life.

Jake the turkey chases cops.


June 27, 2017

The Reviews Are In! ESSA State Plan Review Results

Today Bellwether and the Collaborative for Student Success are releasing reviews of the first round of state plans under the new ESSA law. That’s 16 states plus DC and these are reviews of the actual plans states submitted to ED for approval. Our process involved practitioners and policy leaders from around the country to take an independent look at what states were proposing to do on accountability.

The 74 writes-up the results, here’s more information on the project, the reviewers, and the results from Bellwether. And here is more from the Collaborative and an interactive site on the results. Jim Cowen here.

Other media around.


Pensions & Politics

In The 74 Max Marchitello and I take a look at pension politics and the red state/blue state problem:

…The truth is that pension reform is a must, for states and for teachers. The debate isn’t just about whether teachers should have 401(k)s or today’s pensions — there are a variety of reforms between those poles that would work better for teachers and also address the fiscal challenges of today’s approach. But just as education has managed to politicize its way into creating Democratic and Republican models of teaching kids to read, pension reform is becoming a hot political mess…

…For Republican lawmakers, that means doing more than just curbing benefits. For example, it’s counterproductive to solve yesterday’s pension problems on the backs of tomorrow’s teachers by further cutting benefits. In many states, actual benefit costs are not even all that high and the idea of “gold plated” teacher pensions is mostly a myth. Policymakers should focus on limiting future debt costs, not cutting benefits for teachers.

Democrats, for their part, must summon the political courage to deal with this problem at all. They must do more than ask the state to pony up more funding to pay for pension liabilities. Addressing debts will help improve the solvency in the short term, but it won’t do anything to stop the teacher pension system from continuing to dig a massive financial hole.

Entire article right here.


June 22, 2017

ESSA Mapped, Districts Segregated, OCR Debated, Is All Teaching Local? Pointed On Ed Tech, Vague On Privilege, School Transportation, Toe News, More!

Max Marchitello on teacher pensions and California’s fiscal shell game.

Solid inside analysis on New York’s education politics here. 

Here’s a new map tracking ESSA activity from The 74:

Important EdBuild on school district secessions and their impact. The Education Equality Index is out from Education Cities and Great Schools. 

CRPE on school transportation and choice and equity. ICYMI, here’s Bellwether’s recent analysis of school transpiration policy.

The other day we talked about changes in OCR policy at the Department of Education. Here’s more on that from Shep Melnick and also Mike Petrilli. And here’s an interesting debate/discussion about race and the constitution.

Dana Goldstein on student diversity in Dallas.

All teaching is local?

This idea that Betsy DeVos is the worst cabinet official is ludicrous and cheap. She may have the best/worst name recognition, but while I’ve been pretty critical of her I’m having a hard time thinking that thus far she’s the “worst.” EPA, the mess at Justice, a total failure on infrastructure and  a laughable budget, just for starters? Besides, I suspect most people can’t name most cabinet officials anyway.

Audrey, what do you think about  the ed tech hype?

CCSSO principles to inform school improvement systems.

Checker Finn has been vocal lately. Here he pushes back on SEL. And here on some new charter school ideas.  Also check out Charlie Barone on Finn and the SEL issue.

Here’s some cold water on the hot apprenticeship issue. And some pushback on the keep kids clean and indoors ethos.

Hess on parents.

Here’s an awkward question:

Ultimately, a meritocracy divided against itself cannot stand. An educational system can either subvert existing hierarchies or fortify them, but not both.

What’s the matter with Kansas?

“Toes are very hard to come by.” Beware squirrel attacks.


June 19, 2017

Acela Bias! Michigan Teacher Pensions, Teacher Retirement Transparency, Trump Admin & OCR/Civil Rights, FL Law, More!

Sara Mead on Acela Corridor bias and charter schools. Here’s a video explaining the Michigan teacher pension situation.

This discussion tomorrow featuring Mike Feinberg and KIPP alums should be an interesting and atypical DC education event. RSVP via the link.

As expected, the Trump Administration is taking steps to change the federal approach on education civil rights. Not surprisingly, with those words – Trump, civil rights, federal – in the same sentence people are alarmed. And this administration certainly warrants skepticism. But there is actually a basket of different issues here that are best considered individually. For instance, on school discipline the evidence seems to point toward racial disparities of the kind that are germane to federal civil rights protections – though there is room for disagreement about specific policies to remedy that.

On campus sexual assault, the Obama administration lowered the standard of proof for what sexual assault claims on campus to more likely than not. Even for those concerned about the prevalence of sexual assault on campus, it’s a standard that raises legitimate concerns about due process and federal courts are sorting through the issue now. Again, room for disagreement on the best policies. That issue is especially complicated because in many instances the alleged perpetrator, victim, and the witnesses were all impaired at the time of the incident and college administrators are often not well equipped to address these sorts of incidents. (One solution that has been proposed – and should alarm anyone concerned about civil liberties – is to lower the standard of proof for all campus offenses to “more likely than not” so that sexual assaults are not treated differently from a procedural point of view.)

And then OCR does a bunch of other work on behalf of parents, often low-profile but often quite important.

Bottom line: This is important stuff, so important that thoughtful people should disaggregate and approach each issue independently.

This should be standard practice to give teachers more information about retirement.

Here’s a trend worth watching. This new Florida law bears watching, too.

Here’s Ian Rowe on family structure and a long running debate.

The NEA is inadvertently debating personalized learning.

The charter politics in Massachusetts didn’t stop with November’s vote.

And here’s a teacher picture you might have missed. 

132 year old lobster turned loose. And ‘little did they know” is an underused literary device: “Little did she know she was about to be attacked by a rabid raccoon she would end up killing with her bare hands.”


June 15, 2017

Teacher Pensions Are Failing Teachers, Customized High School, Yeats Day, CCR Transparency, Correctional Ed, Ed Navigator, Alex Rigsby And Edu, More!

Here’s an idea: A new customized “senior” year of high school and expanded pre-K education. The feds can invest to make it happen.

Chad Aldeman and Kristen Schmitz explain why teacher pension plans don’t work for teachers. Full analysis here. And a NY Daily News op-ed here. 74 write-up here.

Also Chad revisits the Pension Pac-Man issue – it’s not a game and it’s more acute for teachers than some other workers.

Hailly Korman on correctional education.

Yesterday was Yeats day, to honor the poet. He wrote, that “things fall apart, the center cannot hold.” Has always struck me as useful for understanding education politics. But the education quote most commonly attributed to Yeats, you can find it on posters adorning classroom walls across the country, is “education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Powerful! Except it’s not Yeats. It’s Plutarch. I’m sympathetic here, I once decided to improv and mangled a Einstein quote by juxtaposing and mashing it with a Jack Kennedy quote – I was giving a talk at Harvard and was nervous. But I’m not in the poster printing business.

Achieve says there is too little transparency about college and career readiness. Hard to argue with that. The problem with air conditioning.  Teacher debt is not simple to address.  The WH focusing on skills and apprenticeships. Here’s the Department of Education letter to Delaware everyone is up in arms about (pdf). The real story seems to be that this is more business as usual than people expected.

Matt Barnum on for-profit charter schools. My take, yes, most are awful, but a ban is too blunt. It’s hard to miss the overlay between states with a lot of low-quality for-profits and with charter school quality problems more generally. It might be that authorizing polices and practices are the real culprit?

Ed Navigator in action.

Testing is not cut and dry these days:

However, Colorado will likely keep using some PARCC questions in the math and English tests given to students in grades three through eight, said Joyce Zurkowski, the Colorado Department of Education’s executive director of assessment. Doing so would ensure the state could track student academic growth data and continue rating schools without pause.

I’m on the board for Classroom Champions, here’s one of our athletes, U.S. women’s hockey goaltender Alex Rigsby, at a school in Alexandria, VA.

Teacher fired.

Space objects you can see in the daytime!


Three Year High School?

In U.S. News & World Report I propose an idea to finance pre-K education for four-year olds, give high school students more options in their final year, and help with equity. Sound too good to be true? It might be, but let’s debate it and other ideas:

What we think of as the core of high school could be accomplished in three years. (You don’t want to dwell too much on how much time young people waste in school.) Doing so offers one way to help address the equity concerns with forcing students to choose between vocational or academic paths early in their lives – a three-year approach can help delay that decision until students are at least a little older. The added benefit of getting kids off to a stronger start early on their educational path will obviously help, too.

The federal government shouldn’t mandate any of this, but it can be an investor to help with the substantial transition costs for states that choose to go big, as this approach is not cost-neutral. Providing real paths and supports for 17- and 18-year-olds will cost money, even if some of those paths are financed from nonpublic sources and parents. Given the problems we have today, there is a clear case that federal resources here are in the national interest. Opening up the senior year like this also doesn’t interfere with other ongoing reforming efforts – including policies to foster greater choice in education and make college more financially accessible for Americans. Rather, it compliments them.

You can read the entire idea here. Tweet me @arotherham about all the ways you wasted time your senior year of high school. And if you like the senior year just how it is, don’t hold back with your financing suggestions for better educational access for four-year-olds.

Posted on Jun 15, 2017 @ 8:22am

June 13, 2017

Max McConkey And Art, New Charter Data, Voucher Debate, Free Speech Or Orwellian Paternalism? DeVos Profile, DeVos On The Stump, Melvoin Profile, Gig Economy And Edu, More!

Free speech on campus and beyond. And here’s Larry Summers saying it’s “Orwellian Paternalism.”

Jim Blew is a great get for the Department of Education if they can pull this off – and another Democrat, which is interesting though as we discussed the other day largely inconsequential in this circus. But, despite that, I’d like to see him serving the country so if it helps his case more  then that first sentence is wrong and he’s not a good pick!

I made a Western Michigan quip a while ago on the blog and got some, “what do you mean?” emails. The Times unpacks more of that for you with a DeVos profile that points out that she’s not some sort of robot and has her own take on some things. She got some good reviews this morning – even from skeptics and critics –  at the National Charter Schools Conference.

Interesting charter school story. Weird political times for charter schools.

New CREDO data on charter school performance by management/operational structure. The action is in the appendix, read that. A lot of cherry picking going on, the thing with a report like this is you can’t only like the method for the outcomes you like.

Randi Weingarten and Steve Perry debate vouchers and choice. Lively!

Don’t miss this honest piece by Robin Lake on school vouchers.

And this pre-K and charter story from NY got lost in all the political chaos last week. More on it here. Success also won the charter school prize this week – that’s not a metaphor, they won a real prize. And they are going to start sharing curriculum.

NCTQs Kate Walsh on recent moves to jettison teacher tests and credentialing requirements:

While there is good research describing the benefits of matching teacher and student race, let’s remember that those benefits are based on studies involving black and white teachers of otherwise comparable ability. Any benefits from matching race are erased when we no longer make our first priority the effectiveness of a teacher or our best estimates about who will be effective. While it’s uncomfortable to push back for fear of appearing insensitive to real problems of educational inequity, we must insist on prioritizing what’s best for students—having the most skilled teacher.

Nick Melvoin on the issues.

A lot of people know Max McConkey from his work at WestEd, but you might not know he’s an accomplished artist.

Interesting article on benefits for “gig” economy workers. More work in the education field is 1099 work than you might think – and gig economy style workers seem likely to increase as education starts to unbundle more.

A song for every station on the DC Metro, and apparently they are not all the blues.


June 9, 2017

Friday Fish! Candlers On The Water

unnamed-1Matt Candler founded 4.0 Schools to help create innovative school models. It’s working.

Candler’s not unknown around here. He’s known for being against the “sucks less” approach to school quality and in a Kevin Bacon-like way he’s one degree removed from Big Red.

Here’s his dad and his son out for a day fishing earlier this spring. That’s working, too.

This is just one of hundreds of pictures of education figures with fish. You can view this collection of fish porn, the largest in the world, as it happens, by clicking here.


June 8, 2017

Eduwonk, 100 Percent Comey Free Today! Skandera Leaving NM, Pension Problems In PA, Choice In OH, DeVos On The Hill, NCTQ On ESSA & Teachers, Tidal Wave For Teachers Unions, Summit, Fast Kids, More!

Publishing snafu had tomorrow’s fish pictures up today, sorry about that. They’ll be up for good tomorrow.  Today:

Bonnie O’Keefe on student teacher interactions in ECE and policy.

Hanna Skandera did a good job in New Mexico. It’s too bad the Trump team was too dysfunctional to figure out how to get her aboard. She’s what’s good for students first.

More on that and other education news at TopSheet.

Pension problems are educational problems. More background and detail here.

Here’s a Nevada ESA tick tock and information on what happened and what it means.

Betsy DeVos went back to the Hill for a Senate hearing on the President’s budget request. For her team, the good news: She was more confident, in command of the issues, and presented better than past appearances. The bad news: Even the Republicans think the budget request is a disaster and DOA.

NCTQ on ESSA plans and teachers.

We don’t do PR at Bellwether, but here’s an easy and DIY way to get featured in The New York Times.

Efforts to better integrate schools in New York City show how these ideas tend to bounce off the reality of the system. Pretty acid quote from newly minted realist Bill de Blasio. But, the city did set goals, and that’s something that could pay dividends later. This is an interesting move, too.

With Gorsuch on the Supreme Court the teachers unions have a huge problem again. And here’s a really interesting interview about the unions and what might be next. 

Joanne Jacobs on Summit. Chiefs for Change on elevating the teaching profession.

If you’re like me you spend a lot of time wondering, what exactly is happening on interdistrict school choice in Ohio. Thankfully, Fordham has us covered!

The kids are alright. The kids are fast! Here’s a great story about two young people off to higher education. 

Kings in the cockpit.


June 5, 2017

The Rock And Tough Love, Purdue And Kaplan, Title I Inequity, Impact Aid Ideas, Grocery Stores And Schools, Stephen Carter On Reading, Campus Politics, CMO Growth, Music Reviews, More!

At The 74, Hailly Korman and I warm to the idea of Mr. President The Rock. We also like his genuine interest in helping adjudicated youth but in an open letter we urge him to make sure there is as much love as tough in his tough love approach.

Off-edu, I review some musical acts, large and small, including Tedeschi Trucks, Stevie Nicks, Tracy Grammer, Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes, and more here at Grateful Ed. Last week I wrote about how Trump doesn’t have a climate policy but he does have an economic politics with more resonance than people assume.

Really interesting David Cantor look at young people, relationships, sex, more.

Here’s a look at Purdue and Kaplan – an interesting situation and creative move by a college president.

School transportation: Here come the libertarians!

This article looks at college-readiness in Texas. Buried at the bottom is an issue that doesn’t get the attention it should: switching costs for students. My bias is that this is because most of the people working on these issues didn’t have to think about switching costs themselves. But in any event, we need to argue a little less about what path is best (for other people’s kids, natch) and more about how to increase fluidity and integration between them.

Title I and inequity via Ed Build’s Stadler.

This Washington Post story on grocery stories in Washington, D.C. is a good reminder of why not everyone sees or experiences “markets” or experiences the same way. Education implications for choice advocates.

Always good to pay attention to the non-conformists.

Who lost Frank Bruni?

Like plenty of adults across the political spectrum, they use slurs in lieu of arguments, looking for catharsis rather than constructive engagement. They ratchet up their language to a degree that weakens its currency for direr circumstances. And they undermine their goals — our goals — by pushing away good-hearted allies and handing ammunition to the very people who itch to dismiss them.

This is a depressing take on higher education. Despite a splashy Times story this seems like an issue in search of a controversy - these kind of events have been around for a while. Has a ‘go find a fresh angle on campus politics’ meets ‘Harvard!’ flavor. Yes, in today’s context it’s symbolic of how we’re pulling apart and individualism and all that, but given all the issues in higher education from economics and lack of economic opportunity to campus climate this seems an odd one to get worked up about.

Also, Harvard rescinding admissions offers for several students over online behavior.

This Heritage Foundation proposal to convert the federal Impact Aid program into a education savings account program for military dependents is interesting on two levels. In terms of school choice,  the issue of low quality schools near some military bases is a real one. But this proposal is bonkers because Impact Aid exists to compensate school districts for federally owned land they can’t tax. In fact, a cynic might wonder if it has more to do with undermining federally owned lands, a priority of a lot of Republicans these days, than it does with schools.

Is a compromise on the horizon in the teacher policy debate in California?

STRIVE in Denver and next generation issues for charter schooling.

This is what happens when you look too closely:

Thus the conclusion Connecticut was supposed to draw from Judge Moukawsher’s indictment of the city schools, an indictment prompted in large part by the East Hartford superintendent and the CEA themselves and so similar to the indictment by Mrs. DeVos, was instantly amended. Now it goes this way: If being terrible will get them more money, as sought by the school financing lawsuit, city schools are indeed terrible, but if being terrible will get them less money, as under the Trump budget, city schools are not so bad after all.

Nice missive from Stephen Carter on teachers who taught him to read. I can think of two teachers who did this for me, Flossie Zar and Dottie Gwynn (who I was lucky enough to have twice, one in middle school and then later in high school). I can also think of an English teacher, who will remain nameless here, who did this inadvertently. She made literature so deadly I set out on my own to read other stuff on the contrarian assumption that it can’t possibly be this bad.

New material on personalized learning in rural Maine from the National Charter School Resource Center – with videos! Bellwether took a look at this last year, but with lobsters! Broader look at personalized and rural via a Bellwether report here.

Coming attractions. Next Monday, the 12th, from 4-5pm Mary Wells of Bellwether, Daryl Cobb of CSGF, Dolores Gonzalez of IDEA Public Schools, Vanessa Rodriguez of Citizens of the World Charter School, and James Willcox of Strategic Growth Partners (and fishing fame) will be discussing the last decade of CMO growth. Great chance to hear from people doing the work about lessons learned.

This is a very odd French story about bilingual education in the U.S.

Mike Petrilli and Liz King debate accountability. Minnesota measles outbreak. Are we about to see an age of science in policymaking? Crack a history book and you’ll see why that can be a mixed blessing.

Here’s your chance to adopt a dog that can’t get a clearance. Although some see it differently. Also kids on leashes.


Music Reviews

America Succeeds runs a music-themed blog GratefulEd. Jason Gaulden is the mastermind behind what’s fun mashup of education and music. I have a post there today reviewing some shows from the past few months. It’s a mashup, too, but includes Stevie Nicks, Tedeschi Trucks, Angaleena Presley, Dry Branch Fire Squad, Tracy Grammer, Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes, and more. Includes a bit of educational color in a couple of places.

You can click through here.

Posted on Jun 5, 2017 @ 9:26am


June 2, 2017

Paris & Politics

Off of edu, but in U.S. News & World Report today I take a look at President Trump’s Paris Accord gambit. I don’t like it on the merits, but politically he continues to be a clever carny barker:

Here we go again. You can’t find a single person at Whole Foods who thinks it’s a good idea for President Donald Trump to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord! Substantively, they’re probably right. But on the politics? There, Trump is winning.

Why? Pittsburgh, not Paris. Democrats confuse the two at their political peril…

…Democrats can reasonably argue that Trump’s creating a false choice and that the Paris accord is good for America, too, and that climate is a real issue, and that there are more jobs in solar than coal, and Tesla, etc. But politically it was already over at putting America first. Yes, Trump is dysfunctional and no one will ever accuse him of being a policy maven. What he is, though, is a carny barker with few peers…


Does It Matter Who DeVos Hires? Tucker V Finn, Allen On Choice Privilege, New Paharans, Campus Politics, Pizza Essay, Bear Punching, More!

Here is an education PSA campaign like no other. Seriously. It’s barely SFW.

Department of Agriculture analysis on rural education attainment. Here’s The 74 with more on that and the context.

Jeanne Allen argues that the real schism in education is between the haves and have nots on choices and options.

Marc Tucker responds to Checker Finn on the value international comparisons.

Department of short memories: The Times breathlessly reports today that some of the Trump Administration’s education hires are not from the hardcore Trump fold. Great.

But just a few months ago (yes it does feel like longer) Education Secretary Betsy DeVos went up against Attorney General Jeff Sessions over what the administration’s position on the Obama Administration transgender policy should be. She lost. In no uncertain terms. That will happen again every time the Department of Education goes up against the Department of Justice, or Treasury (happening now on choice), or State or DOD if that ever happened, OMB, and certainly against the key players in the West Wing. Also the Hill. It matters more what David Cleary – Senator Alexander’s COS – thinks than what any DeVos staffers do at this point.

That’s all well-established by now via issues around the budget, personnel, the transgender guidance, and more. In fact, there is no counter-example on anything of any consequence. So around the edges this is probably good news, and it’s certainly interesting. But, in terms of the big picture and any key policy issues and anything that actually matters it’s academic at this point who Betsy DeVos appoints given how this administration is operating and the situation DeVos herself is in politically. They could bring John Dewey back from the dead, slap a MAGA hat on him, give him one of the myriad open roles, and he’d still get rolled.

Of course, we are talking about Trump here, so all this comes with a huge caveat given that things are always in motion with him. Betsy DeVos could be White House Chief of Staff at this time next week…

Anyway, elsewhere:

Authentic project-based learning increasingly popular.

Evergreen State situation heating up. School closed today, too. Meanwhile, back at Middlebury. Today in college essays.

New class of Pahara Next Gen fellows.

Bear punching.


Friday Fish Porn: Back To Alaska

image1-2When James Willcox appears on this blog with a fish – it’s usually a redfish. And as often a redfish his mom, who is almost certainly a better angler than you, caught. She’s below with one caught just this week.

But to mix things up he went to Alaska and caught some salmon – including this beauty. Fresh salmon, hours caught, is something that will change how you think about eating fish.

The former CEO of Aspire Public Schools, Willcox is now helping charter schools finance facilities with Strategic Growth Partners applying lessons from the housing sector.

Want more pictures of education types with fish? Here’s the largest collection in the world. Send me yours!

Mrs. Willcox is better at fishing than you:

IMAG1401


June 1, 2017

The Teachers Unions Are Preparing For A SCOTUS Caused Rainy Day, Dogs In Schools, Whitmire On LA, Pensions, Math Crime, Bellwether Case Study, Tony Jack Profile, Remote Work And Online Schools, Defending Trump’s Higher Ed Plan, Voucher Confusion, Malls To Schools? More!

People ask, what does Bellwether do? Good question! A bunch of things to build capacity in the field including policy research and analysis, talent strategies, and strategic advising - here’s an example of that. 

With the court back at nine justices, the teachers unions are preparing for an adverse Supreme Court ruling along the lines of the Friedrichs case, which ended 4-4 after the death of Justice Scalia. My shorthand is that if you want to see how this is likely to play out then Wisconsin offers some real clues. Doom and gloom and elation from different quarters but isn’t it more likely the ruling will create opportunities and challenges for the sector? Seems this issue and the Chicago strike will be remembered as the two instrumental moments for the teachers unions this decade. The rest is noise.

I can get behind a trend of dogs in schools.

Whitmire gets behind the LA election. I think the narrative is more straightforward: Reformers did politics in LA – really did it, the blocking and tackling, money, messaging, all of it. And generally when they do that they win. Which is why the teachers unions spend an awful lot of effort trying to scare people off of that strategy.

Donald Trump and his team are being investigated by committees on Capitol Hill, the FBI, and a special prosecutor. It may all amount to nothing or may be truly historic, but it’s a huge headwind regardless. Other than narrow base pandering there is no political logic to the President’s budget request sufficient to get it through Congress and his economic policy is stalled. He’s causing chaos wherever he goes. And his health care plan, no small thing, is a political and substantive disaster. Yet somehow the education world remains panicked that the perennial boogeyman of school vouchers is just around the corner – even as voucher supporters themselves can’t even agree on a way forward. Here’s a headline that understates the situation.

Also, another reminder that most of what you’ve heard about vouchers (and 100 percent of the absolute it’s this or it’s that kind of statements) is probably wrong. Complicated issue with a lot of nuance and gray.

Meanwhile, here’s Jason Delisle and Alexander Holt with the case for the President’s student loan proposal.

Speaking about baseball, Joaquin Andujar who pitched for the Oakland A’s, Houston Astros, and the St. Louis Cardinals once remarked that, “There is one word in America that says it all, and that one word is, ‘You never know.’” Relevant today, because Jeb Bush is out of baseball.

“DeVos watch” begs the obvious question, “do I have to?”

Retail is under a lot of pressure but it seems like an opportunity for more space for charter schools, boot camps, training facilities and other educational functions at a time we need them.

Here’s a story about bribing officials to get business. It happens. Don’t do it. What makes this story interesting is that it’s about bribing officials at a pension fund – in New York as it happens. So it’s a reminder of two things that get lost in all the sloganeering about pensions. First, the bribes were from people at an investment fund. All the talk about how pension funds keep workers away from these awful capitalists obscures the fact that these funds invest – and pay fees to invest – with actual capitalists.  And that’s the second point. Pensions have pluses and minuses as a retirement vehicle – so do cash balance plans and 401(k)s. But it’s important to look at them and analyze them like that – as a retirement vehicle – rather than wrap them in all sorts of aspirational ideas they don’t (and can’t) live up to.

Also, via Matt Levine who tracks financial crimes so you don’t have to, here’s a math teacher who got heavy into fraud – using math:

“The reports that you showed us in the return, it was all fake?” the executive asked, referring to a batch of Hamilton tickets, according to the filing.

“No. Some of it was real and some of it was fake,” Nissen was quoted as saying. “The numbers are just all multiplied. It’s the real numbers, but multiplied.”

Thanks Common Core.

Here’s a look at political correctness – includes polling on the attitudes of college students and young people. This is a real issue and it’s unfortunate that Donald Trump with his reverse Midas touch and the “alt-right” has bastardized this conversation from an important one about liberal pluralism and individual rights into God knows what – essentially an ethos that saying racist and/or offensive things as frequently as possible for no real reason at all is somehow a pillar of free speech or something.

Megan McArdle seems right about what you lose if you work entirely remotely (full disclosure I work remotely some but I am writing this fully dressed at a desk). And there are some obvious parallels to the discussion about online schooling. But I’m not sure why this is so binary? A lot of offices – Bellwether amongst them – offers flexible scheduling but still maintains an office and encourages/requires live interaction with other humans. That, too, seems a parallel for a more flexible way of delivering education to some families who want something different.

Wallace on SEL and the infrastructure that is needed to make it real.

Tony Jack profile:

What he found is that colleges and universities, and society in general, tend to treat all low-income students the same. While reading articles for his Ph.D. in Harvard’s sociology department, Jack says the story — whether it was written by an anthropologist, economist, or sociologist — was always the same.

“If you’re poor and black, if you’re poor and Latino, if you’re poor and anything in college, you’ll have this experience. Period,” he says. “There was so little variation in talking about the experience of poor students. I didn’t see in the research what I saw at Amherst.”

So Jack did what made the most sense: He set out to change the research — and the national conversation around diversity in higher education.

Little spellerLong Train.


May 31, 2017

School Choice In Theory And Classrooms, Leaving Teaching, SFER Survey, Odd Couples On Vouchers, Transgender Court Win, Losing Teachers, Gaining Home Value, Cami Anderson, Raj Chetty, More!

Lynne Graziano on the hard choices about leaving or staying in the classroom.

Make sure to start your day at TopSheet to get a jump on the key education news around the sector.

CRPE on school choice markets in theory and in practice.

Department of odd couples: Jonah Edelman and Randi Weingarten on vouchers and the Trump Administration.

When the Trump Administration rescinded the Obama Administration’s transgender guidance many assumed it was the end on that issue for a while. In practice, however, it didn’t change the facts on the ground a great deal. States and/or districts are free to set their own policies and this is an issue, as the President is learning on a few issues, that will end up settled in the courts. Yesterday transgender advocates won a big victory in the federal courts. 

SFER surveyed first generation college students. Well worth checking out.

What are states doing to attract teachers? AIR takes a look at early ESSA plans. Do charter schools bump property values? Georgia State’s Center for State and Local Finance on that (pdf).

David Leonhardt on leaders and laggards on expanding higher education access for low-income students.

Tyler Cowen talks with Raj Chetty. Chalkbeat checks-in on Cami Anderson’s new project.

Sandy Kress recaps the Texas legislative session on schools – and is cautiously optimistic.

Emma Brown on the four-day school week in OK. ExcelinEd takes a look at the finance implications with more competency-based learning. 

This is an important piece by Marc Dunkleman that also makes you think about how we approach our schools is an age of disconnectedness and efficiency.

“There’s a shark in me boat!”


May 26, 2017

The Future Of America is Nonwhite, But Are Our Schools Ready? Good Work At Goodwill, Must-Read Leondhart On College Diversity, Charter Snubs In Massachusetts, Pension Problems Everywhere, Billionaires And Advocacy, ESSA Debate, Sorta Fish, More!

It’s Friday, and again no fish pictures! There are some in the queue but it’s been busy around here. One link at the bottom and whiskey/education/congress expert Kevin Kosar goes fishing all the time.

If you’re going to come after Chad Aldeman, especially on pension policy, get your facts straight first.

Underneath the current craziness, I think this is something I think most people get – the future of America is nonwhite and that’s a good thing for our shared prosperity. But good public schools will play a key role in what this looks like and so far we’re not there yet.

Stay classy Boston! Massachusetts Teachers Association refuses to congratulate the national teacher of the year because she teaches in a public charter school. You don’t have to go to a museum to see a dinosaur.

Harold Meyerson asks why billionaires care about public charter schools. At one level this is the same old, billionaires reforming criminal justice policy, addressing climate change, and advocating better health care policy = enlightened, noble even. Billionaires trying to help families have better schooling options = misguided, or worse. Yet many of us – non-billionaires, of course – support all of those things.

Worth a read, and the question Meyerson raises is what’s the best way to attack the various problems of American life. It’s certainly a fair one, but hard to argue education isn’t a contributor to our structural problems when you look at how the system work. And hard to argue there aren’t multiple problems causing structural inequality today so it’s easy to criticize people for choosing the “wrong” one (usually the one your friends are on the other side of). But the question of Walmart is a more complicated one than people generally acknowledge. Here’s Jason Furman, President Obama’s former top economic aide, on that (pdf).

In The Times David Leondhart on economic diversity – or the lack of it – in higher education. Important column.

Here’s Tom Kane and Randi Weingarten on ESSA policy. And here’s Paul Hill and Terry Ryan on rural charter schools. The summer issue of Education Next is out now.

A lot of people are unaware of the interesting work Goodwill does on education. NPR takes a look here.

Check out Angaleena Presley’s “High School.” Fat fish from Idaho.


May 25, 2017

Betsy DeVos On The Hill, Finn On Finland, Teacher Pension Debate, Betting On Pearson, Whiteboard Insider Data And Forum, Donut Bear, More!

Betsy DeVos’ appearance on the Hill being panned by the critics.  Here’s an account of it, particularly the debates about choice. By the way, don’t tell anyone because it will spoil all the fun, but private K-12 schools with a variety of policies in place already get a lot of federal money now…

If you want to learn something about teacher pensions this back and forth is a good way.

Here are some Education Insider higher education survey results on a variety of issues

I’ve never quite understood the appeal of being knee-jerk against reform. We have an education system that results in 9 percent of low-income and minority kids getting college degrees by the time they are 24, and you sign up to not only defend that but somehow argue it’s not a crisis. And if that is not miserable enough, there are few opportunities to gamble, which at least passes the time. In England, on the other hand, you can bet on things like whether Pearson’s CEO might lose his job.  Seems like that would make the entire enterprise a lot more palatable.

Speaking of Pearson, here’s a good overview of the evolving U.S. assessment landscape.

Here’s a cool Whiteboard forum if you want to engage with some policy and industry leaders.

Checker Finn calls the question on all the international causation-correlation and context blustering. 

This bear acts on behalf of millions.

Posted on May 25, 2017 @ 3:37pm

May 24, 2017

Aldeman V. Weingarten On Pension Policy Barely Goes Past Round 1, Pink Eagles Rule, School Transportation, Personalized Cautions, Tenure Debates, Early Childhood Hiring, Interesting Lawsuits, Knuckleballers And More!

The American Federation of Teachers responded to Chad Aldeman and Kelly Robson’s recent pension analysis. Their response, with Chad’s annotated response to it, can be found here. It’s worth reading if you follow this debate and worth reflecting on why the AFT is so out of alignment with what’s best for teachers here? They are – literally as the kids say – supporting policies that make it harder for teachers to earn retirement benefits. Also worth pointing out that if you come after Chad you probably want to have your facts straight first, but you probably already knew this. Somehow the AFT staff didn’t.

Andrew Rayner on a Chicago firing and his own experience at a Chicago private school. 

School Transportation News takes a look at the recent Bellwether school transportation analysis. Also, school buses and school attendance.

Go Pink Eagles!

Cynthia Tucker on the charter school debate. Trigger warning: If you’re good with magnets for your kids but down on charters for others don’t read this, it will make you feel all awkward.  Or it probably won’t but should.

Credit where it’s due. President Trump has united much of the education community – in opposition to his budget request for the next fiscal year. Betsy DeVos will be on the Hill defending it today in what should be an interesting hearing. A lot of organized pushback already. Thankfully, even with unified Republican control of Congress and the executive branch you’re more likely to get hit by a meteor than see that budget enacted. But it still matters because there are a lot of important government services on the block and it shows that Trump is pivoting from a broad based populist appeal to a more narrow focus on what’s good for America’s super-wealthy. That will have implications.

Smart caution on personalized learning from Matt Barnum that includes this gem:

“What I see … is people imagining that if we just design the school with new models we will be able to satisfy the needs of the future,” said Ben Riley, head of the group Deans for Impact and former New Schools staff member. “The graveyard of people thinking they could successfully predict the future and then finding out that they were wrong about that has a lot of tombstones.”

Personalized has a lot of promise but it’s hard to miss some of the same problems (lack of focus on what it means for equity, capacity of the system to deliver quality at scale, what we actually know about learning, etc..etc…) being wished away here. And the really good providers are very intentional about how they do things. What’s different this time, it seems to me, is even more people urging caution. It’s unclear though the difference that will make.

Chester Finn says teacher tenure is on its way out in higher education and K-12. It does seem that K-12 could use some reform to how it approaches tenure – and human resources / human capital more generally. But I’m more skeptical of jettisoning it for higher education where academic freedom is a much greater concern (K-12 teachers don’t have the same academic freedom and operate in a more directed environment) and is being threatened in some cases today. Yes, it would be helpful if professors didn’t use academic freedom as a get out of jail free card to say whatever crazy thing you want – e.g. holocaust denying – but it’s an important safeguard and I’ll trade some inefficiency for free inquiry.

Interesting though not entirely surprising findings on experience and early-childhood hiring. Racial bias but also adverse effects of experience.

Today in interesting lawsuits.   2017 Fishman Prize winners. Urban Institute relaunching its education program.

Can this knuckleballer follow in the footsteps of Jacoby Ellsbury and Chris Davis?


May 22, 2017

Must-Read Bradford, Pension Data And Pension Practice, Williams Gets Personal, How We Don’t Learn, School Debates, Prison Ed Reform, Private School Transcripts, Snakes, More!

Last week Chad Aldeman and Kelly Robson published an analysis showing that teacher pensions don’t work very well for teachers. How could they tell? They actual data from the pension funds themselves – as Chad explains more here.  And using pension data Chad also takes a look at salary bumps and teacher retention in this blog post.

Marnie Kaplan dissents on the idea that parental satisfaction is a good enough indicator for the effectiveness of school choice plans.

President Trump’s budget lands tomorrow. It may actually be as bad as you’ve heard.

Cindi Wiliams (and her husband Tony) get personal about their educational experience and a higher ed opportunity. 

This is must-reading, especially for anyone under 30. Derrell Bradford calls out the ed scene on its politics and social-first approach and makes the key point that if you like the Obama-era on education then you can’t ignore what brought it about.

Education reform isn’t about how you may or may not feel at cocktail parties or your own political or personal proclivities. It is about kids dying civic and physical deaths in schools that don’t work for them. Progress, real progress, never feels good. And it’s always uncomfortable, because change is uncomfortable, even when it’s for the better.

The role of charter policy in the recent LA School Board election.

College Advising Corps in The Times.

Recently we discussed the new idea for a private high school transcripts. Checker Finn, not a fan, takes deeper look at that here.

Kevin Carey on William Sanders and his impact.  RCE’s Jessica Towhey on Hanna Skandera and her’s.

The leader of education reform efforts at the Bureau of Prisons is out.

ExcelInEd with a handy landscape maps of competency-based initiatives.

Dan Willingham pushes back on the idea that Google means we don’t have to learn things. It is obviously deeply ironic how in love with workarounds to education the education field is in love with – doubly so when those workarounds are at odds with research evidence about how people learn. Related: Five myths from Ulrich Boser’s new book on learning.

It’s going to be easier to find room in that lazy river at the University of Missouri ($).

Here’s a deep dive on one school situation in Marin, CA. And here’s a dress-code debate from Massachusetts.

Florida man, large snake.


May 18, 2017

Head Start, Chicago Finance, Scholarship Tax Credits, DeVos Debate, Bradford On The Suburban Strategy, BASIS, Deer, More!

Sara Mead on 50 years of Head Start. Max Marchitello thinks Illinois Governor Rauner’s Chicago school finance strategy isn’t cricket. Jason Weeby wants more innovation talk from Betsy DeVos.

I wrote in U.S. News that while the for-profit charter sector isn’t going to win any awards for excellence right now banning those schools is not the solution. Earlier this week in The 74 I asked why Betsy DeVos was avoiding real questions.  And here’s a defense of Betsy DeVos.

Kate Stringer on BASIS – the successful and controversial school operator. It’s definitely not a model for everyone – kids or adults – and points up some hard but essential questions about how to balance school diversity, excellence, and equity.

Derrell Bradford on whether the charter sector needs a suburban strategy to add some ballast to its politics. I asked a similar question recently. It’s an issue worth discussing both on the merit but also to ensure that charters don’t lose an equity focus.

More concern that personalized learning may be on a path to being anything but.

Not confirmed, but apparently the Trump administration is cutting education programs on the discretionary side of the budget while putting forward a tax-credit proposal on vouchers as soon as next week. Sure, why stop at one bad policy idea when two will do? Worth reflecting on this quote in The Times story about the problems with poorly-designed scholarship tax credit programs:

“We wouldn’t be having this discussion if we just funded kids to go wherever works for them,” said Robert Enlow, the president of EdChoice, a group that supports private school choice. “This is just trying to keep a basic power structure that doesn’t work best for them.”

Don’t miss Willard Fair on school choice and why he’s been a supporter for so long.

Low prices, and deer tackling, all the time.


May 17, 2017

Should We Ban For-Profit Charter Schools?

Should we ban for-profit charter schools? Proponents and opponents are quick with a yes or no.   And a lot of them really are lousy. But it’s a more complicated question than it seems. I look at that in U.S. News & World Report today:

Marshall Tuck, a candidate for state superintendent in California, grabbed headlines in late April when he announced his opposition to for-profit charter schools. The move cut against type because Tuck made his name as the successful operator of a well-regarded network of nonprofit charter schools. It’s a smart political move – for-profit charter schools are barely more popular than cancer among the education crowd. So it will be at least a little harder to paint Tuck as a zealot – though that won’t stop his detractors from trying. But is it good policy? That’s a more complicated question.

While only about 16 percent of charter schools across the country are operated by for-profit entities that figure is higher in a few states…

Profit or not, you can read the entire thing for free by clicking here. Rather than reading you can skip right to telling me why I’m wrong on Twitter @arotherham.


Crying Wolf On Public Ed Threats, DeVos In The Desert, LA School Board Election, Public Pressuring Private, Equity Data, Long Cats, More!

I’m not sold on social impact bonds but Phil Burgoyne-Allen makes a good case for a school transportation application. Max Marchitello on how Rodriguez is the air school finance debates breathe.

Scroll down main page for edujobs.

Here’s a write-up on DeVos in the desert. My take on the Betsy Bunker here.

This GreatSchools report is sobering but must-reading. The equity problems are real and too often minimized in the public and political debate about schools.

The pro-charter side won the slugfest in Los Angeles. Make no mistake, both sides had enough resources to get their messages out. The takeaway here (a) is that the reform side played hardball in a way they usually don’t (and if you think the teachers unions don’t play hardball, get real) and (b) the clout of the unions is declining in cities like LA. We’ll see what that portends on the politics but the kicker of the LAT account sets up what’s next on the issues:

Whatever their allegiance, the winners of the board seats will confront an ocean of challenges, including the seemingly inevitable growth of charters and the strain that places on the district’s budget and its ability to serve students at its own schools.

Here’s an interesting take on one dynamic in LA.

Today at Yale, it’s Yelp. On the Hill, actual legislation! Is CTE rolling again? Nuance and debate about school vouchers in Milwaukee.  A look at pre-K leadership.

OK, it turns out all those times people said public education was facing a mortal threat that wasn’t really true. They were just trying to scare us. Also, Trump makes advocacy complicated and might actually be a threat to public education (among many other things).

Here’s an interesting tension – public charter schools, which are free, are pressuring Catholic schools in a lot of cities. Now, small private colleges are speaking up saying the free tuition ideas increasingly popular with state policymakers will harm them.

More on the CZI – College Board personalized pathways project the previous post here mentioned.

Really long cat.


May 16, 2017

Edujob: Director of Human Resources And Operations @ National Alliance For Public Charter Schools

Here’s a great job for an ops/hr person at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Good way to apply those skills to an education mission. From the job posting:

Reporting to the Sr. Director of Operations, and working closely with the Chief of Staff and CEO, the Director will direct the organization’s operation functions including HR, IT, and office operations and design and implement new processes to further increase staff satisfaction, collaboration, and productivity.

You can learn more and learn how to apply here.

Posted on May 16, 2017 @ 2:48pm

Teacher Pensions- Behind The Rhetoric, In The Betsy Bunker, Rhames On The Year Since The Panic, CZI & College Board Collaborate, More!

The hot debate over teacher pensions centers on phony issues – “gold-plated” pensions versus taxpayers or greedy hedge fund managers versus teachers. In fact, the real problem is that today’s teacher pensions don’t work very well for actual teachers. Chad Aldeman and Kelly Robson with more on that.

In The 74 I took a look at the Betsy DeVos bunker approach to engagement with the field she is now helping to lead.

Marilyn Rhames on a year since last year’s New Schools Panic at the Pondiscio.

Chan-Zuckerburg collaborating with College Board on personalized learning pathways for post-secondary prep. A few reasons this matters. Big bet from CZI, first really big one I’m aware of. And, it further rounds out the College Board’s pivot from just being a test provider to being an organization that is “clearing a path” for young people as its CEO David Coleman likes to say.

Angaleena Presley’s new album, “Wrangled” is out. Too good for radio so check her out.