December 22, 2016

December 21, 2016

International Assessments, China, Estonia! Plus Ed Navigator Parenting Advice!

Adam Minter notes that some of the China hype is not all it’s cracked up to be.

In 2009, Shanghai students did so well — beating the world in math, science and reading — that President Barack Obama declared it a “Sputnik moment,” requiring immediate action. A similar panic broke out in 2012. But this year proved to be a surprise. The results from the 2015 tests, released this month, showed Chinese students ranked sixth in math, 10th in science and 27th in reading. What happened?

On one hand, the answer is simple. Instead of merely testing Shanghai’s elite, the 2015 exams included a broader selection of students across China, which dragged down scores. But the results also highlighted an important problem: China’s much-lauded education system remains riven by inequality, with far-reaching consequences for schools, students and, ultimately, the economy.

I wrote about this a few years ago for TIME  and got tagged as an apologist for failing schools (although the part about Russia hasn’t held up too well….). But these international compressions often carry a lot of important context that matters to how one thinks about them.

Ed Navigator with an interesting take on this.

In other news, Estonia!

December 20, 2016

Eduwonk Holiday Book List!

If you’re like me you might not be entirely on top of your holiday shopping. And you might have some readers on your list. Here’s a few recent (and not so recent) books from the past few months that I’d highly recommend:

Hillbilly Elegy.  JD Vance’s memoir is a poignant reminder that the ‘who has it worse’ sweepstakes divides Americans when our politics should bring them together so solve the very real problems too many Americans face. There is a reason so many people are reading it.

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. C’mon, of course.

The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency. Great story.  LeHand is one of those people history buffs and Washington types remember but who get lost to the winds of popular history. Kathryn Smith’s work brings her back.

Hidden Computers: The Black Women Of NASA is a bit tricky to find but worth the hunt. I was fortunate enough to see some galleys earlier this year. Great piece of NASA history and more general history. Great book for young adults, in particular.

The Sellout: A Novel. If irony or acid writing is not your thing then stay away. Or, more bluntly, if you don’t get why Chris Rock doesn’t want to play campuses stay away. Otherwise, the Eduwife and I argue about American fiction but this book is a big strong point in her favor about its vibrancy. Won a Booker Prize.

The Righteous Mind. Pahara’s Kim Smith was on me to read more Jonathan Haidt. Good advice.

America Ascendant is a book I missed when it came out. Even though the country is taking a political turn Stan Greenberg’s ideas are still relevant – especially if Trump unleashes constructive political chaos that shuffles the two-party alignment.

Why Knowledge Matters. Agree with him or not if you work in education you have to engage with Don Hirsch’s ideas and the powerful ideas he raises about why liberalism and knowledge need each other and what that means.

Braving It: A Father, a Daughter, and an Unforgettable Journey into the Alaskan Wild. Devotees of The Last Alaskans TV show or people who spend time up around Fairbanks know of the legendary Heimo and Edna Korth and their uncompromising lifestyle in the Alaskan bush. Turns out their cousin is a great writer and this book explores he and his daughter’s adventures in the bush with the Korths and on a hiking/canoe trip in remote country. Great non-traditional parenting book and a great story in one.

Meat Eater. Steve Rinella’s writing is circulating more so I picked up his 2012 book. Good reminder where your food comes from and how some of the non-vegans amongst us see things. Bonus: perhaps a few good tips if things go badly in the Trump years.

The Iron Heel. Yeah, me too.

PS – a colleague and friend just sent me Evicted. I read the author’s New Yorker article and am interested to read the book but haven’t tucked in. Looks strong though. Obvious links between housing and school policy.

December 19, 2016

Is Education Kind Of Insulated? Minnesota Boycott, School Segregation, Making Charter Schools Work, Early Education News, Sanford Johnson, NMSI, John King, And Rham! Grading College Work, More…

Here’s an idea: This pushing and shoving in the South China Sea could get us all killed.  School vouchers are an education policy reasonable people can disagree about. In the education world these days you’d think those were inverted.

Sara Mead with some Head Start news. Richard Whitmire on Appletree and early ed and charter schools.

Here is a big education bet from New Schools. PARCC RFP for new assessment strategies for states is out (pdf).

Rahm Emanuel on the ed reform debate and Betsy DeVos. This John King speech is well worth your time. Here are education ideas from Brookings for the Trump administration. And here’s a Brookings look at pre-K. Meanwhile here’s an inside look at the Trump transition on education so far.

The Arlington, VA student we discussed earlier this month who took on his school board over redistricting decisions is amping up the fight.

Minnesota football players boycotting over a Title IX sexual assault case there involving players:

The gap between a law enforcement agency’s decision to prosecute and a school’s decision to discipline hinges on the different evidentiary standards and burdens of proof. While the criminal justice system requires a high certainty of guilt — “beyond a reasonable doubt” — the Education Department has argued that Title IX regulations call for a “preponderance of the evidence standard.”

This will be a fight during the Trump Administration around the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education regardless of this Minnesota episode. Keep an eye on the lawsuit from the University of Virginia student referenced in the article. Also, don’t miss Sally Jenkins with more on all this here. And once the players learned all the details they ended the boycott.

This is a great article, but could have the unintended consequence of creating the misperception that elite colleges are crawling with low-income students. They’re not and it’s a huge (and solvable) problem.

Again, a front line educator has to battle a non-educator about misperceptions: Steven Wilson on Diane Ravitch. Let educators do their work! (I know, no one likes a wise ass, but c’mon…)

Is the yes choice/no choice split in education as pronounced as people think? I wrote about choice this summer for the Wash Post, still relevant with the debate that’s coming:

You wouldn’t know it from how our politicians talk about school choice, but we actually know quite a bit about what works and what doesn’t. Broadly speaking, vouchers have at best a modest effect on student achievement but seem to improve certain other outcomes of interest, such as parental satisfaction and graduation rates. Charter schools, for their part, outperform on standardized tests in urban areas, show mixed but positive results elsewhere, and have pockets of serious underperformance. There is some evidence that choice helps spur the overall school system to improve, but not as much as free market adherents might think. In other words, the zealots on all sides are wrong: If you want to see a more equitable American education system, choice is a key ingredient but not by itself transformative…

…The Obama administration has helped support the replication of high-quality charter schools, a valuable federal role. But the next administration can do a lot more. It can help support pilot initiatives to incorporate more radical uses of technology and different labor models. That could include, for instance, the teacher-run charter schools emerging in Minnesota; schools such as the West Coast-based Summit Public Schools that flip the traditional notion of the role of student in school; or schools that are now still just an idea in an educator’s head somewhere. The next president can also pilot better strategies to ensure that the charter sector in a city or state serves an equitable share of students with special needs — an emerging problem as the charter sector grows. There are also subtler steps around data and accountability that would encourage better practices.

Here’s a handy overview of what’s happening on charters. Here’s a great push on choice questions from Ashley Berner.

Sanford Johnson recognized for his education work. And here’s what NMSI’s been up to.

You can watch some Ken Robinson pushback here. And here’s a new grading rubric for college papers.

December 17, 2016

Edujob: Chief Of Staff At Bellwether

Bellwether’s hiring a Chief of Staff. Here’s a bit more about the role, a lot more context through the link:

The Chief of Staff is a senior level position that provides direct support to the Managing Partner and the partner team to ensure that Bellwether achieves its strategic objectives at the organizational level. The Chief of Staff will work closely with the partner team to lead the annual planning process, ensure the Bellwether Board is engaged appropriately and functioning well, and lead strategic initiatives and special projects determined by the partners as critical to Bellwether’s long-term success.

The Chief of Staff will also guide the planning and strategic implementation of operations, finance, HR, technology, and knowledge management. S/he will supervise the Knowledge Manager and direct the knowledge management function.

Click here to learn a lot more and how to be considered.

December 15, 2016

Three Reform Takes On Trump….Plus O’Keefe On Turnover, Aldeman On Pension Coasters, Anderson’s Open Letter, Plus Kanye And Trump Talked Edu, Warren V. Tilson, PPI Goes Back To Indy, Edu Spending, More….

Bonnie O’Keefe on leadership turnover. Pennsylvania has a lot of roller coasters, Chad Aldeman on the one you don’t want to ride. Cami Anderson with an open edu letter to the Trump team.

The education reform sector seems to be breaking into three factions over Donald Trump’s presidency:

1) Don’t do anything with Trump’s administration. No matter how good any policy idea is in isolation, it’s tainted because of its association with Trump. Besides, your friends will never speak to you again.

2) Let’s see what Trump does. Legitimizing him as president is not the same as normalizing everything his campaign was about. If some proposals are reasonable ideas that might improve outcomes for kids, then that’s good and people have to work together even across disagreement. Besides, you can’t just put the freeze on things that might help kids for four years, or longer.

3) Yeehah! Biggest opportunity for choice ever! Besides, Yeehah! Biggest opportunity for choice ever!

Related, ICYMI, my take on Trump’s possible paths on choice.

Sol Stern at war. Making colleges more economically diverse.

Primary document: Kanye West and Trump talked education issues in their Trump Tower meeting.

Progressive Policy Institute goes back to Indy (pdf).

Spending money on schools can make a difference. Key line,

Mr. Rothstein cautioned that the idea that states could erase the achievement gap between poor and middle class students by simply cutting a few checks was unrealistic. “There has been a tendency to expect magic from these reforms,” he said.

Perhaps naive, but you would like to think there is a politics to be built right there with the broad swath of people in the education world who believe money matters and how it’s spent matters, too?

Here’s Myles Mendoza, Marty West, Shavar Jefferies, and Karen Nussle talking education politics in the Trump era.  Great panelists make any moderator look good – couple of great audience questions, too. Who does Betsy DeVos listen to? Maybe not Cory Booker these days?

California and the feds are still arguing over testing like it matters. RAND and Wallace on school leadership, evidence, and ESSA.

Whitney Tilson versus Elizabeth Warren. Sorta. And Whitney got his apology. Peace in our time!

Schools wrestling with anti-racist works of art and fiction that aren’t anti-racist enough.

This article is a brutal and a frustrating reminder that we can’t come together to balance rights, responsibility, and common sense on the gun issue.

December 12, 2016

Screen Time! Segregation In Schools, Rural Education, Ending The “Federal” Common Core, Fenty On Race (And Not The One You Think), Brown On Choice, CAP On Accty, Outward Bound, To Be Clear…

Scroll down the page for several edujobs.

Marnie Kaplan on screen time and little kids:

You walk by an outdoor restaurant and see a toddler watching a movie on an iPad while his parents eat dinner. Your first thought is:

  • a) those parents deserve a break
  • b) screens don’t belong at meal time
  • c) is the video educational?
  • d) alert: bad parenting

Is there an app to help us decide how to respond? No. But a quorum of pediatricians might be able to help…

Matt Barnum on school segregation. Actual nuance!

President-elect Trump wants to end the “federal” Common Core. His choice for Secretary of Education is on board. But there really isn’t much of a federal role in Common Core. The funding that was used to create incentives for states to adopt Common Core or similar standards is done. The new ESSA law goes in a new direction. States are making their own decisions here anyway about standards and tests. The assessment consortia are doing their own thing. So, doesn’t that leave Trump two choices: (a) Take some fake actions against what is at this point a fake problem and put the politics behind him (e.g. “on my first day in office I issued an executive order ending the federal Common Core)” or (b) taking actual steps to do something on Common Core that would inadvertently entangle the federal government further in curricular decisions?

Two interesting looks at rural America. Here’s a look at some demographic information from Atlantic City Lab. One thing that jumps out is housing ownership. This strikes me as an overlooked/under-leveraged tool for teacher recruiting and retention to rural areas. Housing tax-credits or other incentives are one way to leverage rural aspects and encourage people to build a life and teach in communities that are struggling to attract or keep teachers. Also here’s a look at how Google rolls in heavy to one Oklahoma town. And ICYMI here’s a Bellwether analysis released last week about charter facilities in Idaho – rural impact.

These are interesting times for the school reform community (you can define them loosely as all the people who don’t think that nine percent of low-income kids getting through college by age 24 is an OK outcome). President-elect Trump might do school choice, he might also do a lot of things that divide people. Here’s the tendentious and reductionist take on what’s going on, and here’s Emma Brown with some texture on a complicated basket of issues and questions.

Michelle Fenty on her sons, race, and policing. I am really starting to think that Catherine Brown doesn’t like Betsy DeVos. CAP on new accountability indicators.

Cops, kids, and a ropes course. You’ll never believe what happened next…

People are earning less than their parents, that’s a problem.

“To be clear” statement of the day: “To be clear, there is no indication that the bear in the video is the one that ate a dog, or that the dog in the video is the dog that was eaten.”

Edujob: Executive Director, Education Matters

Here’s a unique California-based edujob:

Located in the East San Francisco Bay Area, West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) is a racially and socioeconomically diverse public school district. Its 30,000 students identify as 52% Hispanic/Latino, 18% African American, 10% White, and 10% Asian American. English Language Learners comprise 35% of the student population, and more than 70% of students qualify for free or reduced-priced school meals. The need for vastly improved educational outcomes is clear: only 16% of 11th-graders are proficient in math, and 40% are proficient in reading, leaving too many of our young people unprepared for college or career. On a state school district report card generated by Ed Trust West, WCCUSD received a D-, making it one of the lowest achieving school districts in California in terms of equity, proficiency, achievement gaps, and more…

…With that in mind, in 2014 Susan and Steve Chamberlin launched Education Matters (EM), a not-for-profit 501(c)(4) established to advance highly effective leaders, especially at the School Board and District, who are informed, aligned around, and accountable for excellent public schools for all students in West Contra Costa County. They recognized this as an ambitious mission, and one that must be accomplished in partnership with an empowered community. The organization strives to provide reliable information to support families, and to ensure educationally and fiscally sound decisions for WCCUSD students. This also means supporting elected leaders – and holding them accountable – for exceptional student growth and outcomes. To help achieve these objectives, EM has an associated PAC that supports candidates for local office who will be bold, independent champions for students and families.

Learn more about the Chamberlin work in West Contra Costa County dating back to 2006 and more about this role and how to nominate someone or be considered yourself by clicking here. 

December 9, 2016

Edujob: Communications Associate @NASBE

Are you a bit too happy it’s Friday? If so, NASBE is hiring for a Communications Associate. You get to work with the great Renee Rybak among other benefits!

The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) seeks a creative, energetic associate to support its communications and publishing work, with an emphasis on digital and social media. The communications associate will work closely with the communications director to support NASBE’s media relations and member outreach efforts, online presence, and social media strategy. S/he may also occasionally support NASBE’s editorial director in producing NASBE’s popular policy briefs and award-winning journal, The State Education Standard.

To quote the great Ben Stiller in Starsky and Hutch, “Do it.” You can learn more about how to do that here. 

December 8, 2016

Student Voice! Aldeman On Pensions, Biddle On Reform, Plus Idaho Charters, The Ones Who Leave Chris Christie, DeVos, Dreamers, ESSA Testing, Yale Investing, Sam Gleaves, And More!

Here’s a new analysis by Kelly Robson and Julie Squire on charter school facilities in Idaho.

Currently, about 6,000 Idaho students are on waitlists for charter schools. And the state is expected to add nearly 22,000 new prek-12 students by fall 2022. The charter sector can help ensure these students have access to a high-quality school, but only if it is able to grow and expand. Unfortunately, future growth in the charter sector is stymied by its limited access to facilities financing…

…we use survey data we collected from Idaho’s charter school leaders to quantify the stark discrepancy in access to state and local facilities funding sources between district and charter schools: On average, districts have access to approximately $1,445 per pupil of state and local funding. Charter schools get less than one-quarter this amount on average: $347.

Heroes walk amongst us. Watch a high school student undress their school board for the kind of redistricting decisions that happen all the time even in communities that consider themselves delightfully progressive:

Although you claim to “value all students, staff and families in our diverse, inclusive school community,” when given the opportunity to help free and reduced lunch students, you consciously chose to do the exact opposite. Your stated mission is to prepare students to “be responsible and productive global citizens.” Surely part of becoming a “global citizen” includes knowing how to interact with people that don’t look like you.  Yet, this move in four years according to your own data will remove 27 percent of black students at Washington-Lee and send them to Wakefield, despite the fact that Wakefield’s a black population is already larger (20.7 percent to Washington-Lee’s 9.0). After this move, according to your data, Wakefield will have twice as many black students as Washington-Lee and Yorktown combined. Additionally, if your projections for this move are correct, Yorktown will pass James Madison and Langley to host the highest concentration of whites in one high school inside the beltway. Arlington is only 26 square miles but through negligence you’ve managed to become more racially segregated than all 406 square miles of Fairfax.

Give that kid a column!

Chad Aldeman takes a look at a missed opportunity to improve teacher pensions in Michigan:

How would closing a pension plan be good for teachers?

First, Michigan teachers would have been eligible for retirement benefits much earlier in their careers. Right now, Michigan teachers have to stay 10 years before they qualify for even a minimal pension. According to the state’s own financial models, 57 percent of new teachers won’t make it that far. Under the new plan, teachers would have been eligible for half of their employer’s contribution after just two years, and 100 percent after four years. That would have meant more Michigan teachers had access to retirement benefits earlier in their careers.

Second, the new plan would have been more generous for teachers. According to the official fiscal analysis conducted on the bill, Michigan teachers currently receive retirement benefits worth just 4 percent of their salary. Under the proposed legislation, teachers would have received retirement benefits worth 7 percent of their salary. That would cost the state a bit more money, true, but Michigan teachers would have gotten more in the way of retirement benefits.

Third, the state would have stopped accruing the large unfunded liabilities that are eating into school budgets. In response to those debts, the state has already raised contribution rates and cut benefits for new teachers. Today, Michigan employers are contributing not just the four percent for benefits; they’re actually contributing more than 22 percent of each teacher’s salary toward the pension plan. That is now set to continue for the foreseeable future.

RiShawn Biddle on Walter Scott and school reform.

One of the most-interesting aspects of the criminal justice reform movement is that it has been as championed by many conservatives and libertarians (including Radley Balko of the Washington Post, Jonathan Blanks of the Cato Institute, Congressman Justin Amash, and Atlantic Monthly‘s Conor Friedensdorf) as it has been by progressives and Black Lives Matter activists. Cato, in particular, is holding a conference this week tackling such issues as mass incarceration and militarization of police departments (including those harming children in our schools).

I’m starting to think Chris Christie is Ursula Le Guin’s wretched Omelas child in the basement for President-elect Donald Trump. He must suffer so Trump can thrive. Passed over for VP, pushed off of the transition, no AG, no DHS, and now apparently he won’t lead the RNC. But don’t forget Christie’s awful school finance proposal a few months ago. It basically pitted middle class and affluent communities against poor ones by telling the former they were getting ripped off and that everyone should just get the same funding allocations. The whole plan seemed to me an effort to step into the slipstream of Trumpist politics. Even without Christie that kind of inverse class warfare on education could be one way Trumpism moves depending on 2018 and 2020 politics.

The PISA data this week was covered top-line and is certainly not all great news but there is also some really interesting stuff buried in it. And I would like to assume this means we can stop fetishizing Finland. But that’s probably wrong given the cargo cult approach to things in the education sector. Bob Rothman says Estonia is now open for business. Don’t miss Amanda Ripley on this.

ESSA testing rules. Dan Quisenberry on the DeVos record in Michigan. Is the President-elect softening on immigration policy for Dreamers? Is the Yale investment model busted?

Wait, I read on Twitter that this was a big scandal…wump wump wump….NCTQ is out with a new analysis and rating of elementary education programs.

The President-elect called out a local union leader – by name – on Twitter last night. That is not behavior becoming a United States president (and in the current climate it’s dangerous). It also should terrify the teachers union. They are looking at bigger problems than a school choice policy they don’t like. For instance today Randi Weingarten called the Secretary of Labor-designee “slime.” That about sums up where they are.

Slightly off-edu: My wife and I host a concert series for folk/roots style music at a place in Arlington, VA. We partner with a non-profit Spread Music Now on some of it – they help expose low-income kids to music. Next show is 4/29/17, Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes are coming. Here’s NPR on Sam. Here’s No Depression with an article and song.  Here’s both of them. Sam’s message is a good one for the times. Save date if you’re interested. All are welcome, contact me for details.

December 7, 2016

Edjuob: High School Leader Blackstone Valley Prep (Includes Referral Bonus)

Blackstone Valley Prep is seeking a new leader. Great opportunity, among other things:

-Part of a network of diverse by design public charter schools that serve 2 urban and 2 suburban Rhode Island communities

-Part of the first Summit Basecamp and using a self-paced personalized model

- Part of innovative new school initiative in Rhode Island.


They are also offering a $5K referral bonus for anyone who refers a candidate who accepts the position.

You can learn more about how to apply or nominate here.

Posted on Dec 7, 2016 @ 8:30am

December 6, 2016

Bellwether Better Blogging Seminar – February 2017!

Next Bellwether blogging training is in February 22-23, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Application is open now, you can learn more here. We will do another one in the summer of 2017 with a schedule more friendly to working teachers. Couple of things to keep in mind. This training is always at least 4 – 5x oversubscribed so don’t delay in applying. This training is strictly viewpoint neutral and selection is based on opportunity to benefit not any particular point of view. Our coaches are fantastic and at the top of the game in their various areas of expertise. Here is what some past participants say about the training:

“It was an extremely enriching professional development opportunity that I have been and will continue to be incorporating into my work. As a result of the training, I am now writing a memo and preparing to hold a meeting with colleagues about how we can refine our blogging and social media strategy. “ –Zachary Malter, American Youth Policy Forum

“The Better Blogging training should be required professional development not only for education bloggers but also communications professionals. While the training covered what I expected, like tips on topics ranging from headline writing to social media promotion, it also offered me strategic advising on how to completely rethink my organization’s blogging fellowship and guest blogging program, as well as our approach to communications more broadly. Since I attended the training, we have become much more thoughtful about the voices and ideas we elevate–on our blog and beyond.” – Ari Kiener, MinnCAN

“The Bellwether Better Blogging conference was a great opportunity to meet influential professionals engaged in promoting their voices and perspectives online, and to learn from them how to better promote and refine my own classroom-based perspectives on education reform.” – Mark Anderson, New York City middle school teacher and blogger

“The Better Blogging seminar greatly improved my writing. I am blogging more concise, poignant pieces and my voice as a teacher has gained greater confidence. I am now starting to network online and build a loyal readership.” – Marilyn Rhames, blogger at Education Post and alumni support manager at a Chicago charter school

“I left feeling inspired and equipped to implement new strategies for getting my voice out there. I appreciated the quality of the presenters, the diversity and expertise of the other attendees, and the time that each of you took to make sure that everybody was getting what they needed out of the conference.” – Luke Foley, 2014 Vermont Teacher of the Year

“Was some of the best training/professional development I’ve ever received…and in such a short amount of time!” – Brianna Crowley, high school English teacher, Hershey, PA, and blogger

“The training gave me the tools to make my organization’s blog stand out from the crowd. The presenters offered insights into not only creating content that jumps off the page, but also marketing it so that it attracts the widest audience and has the biggest impact. I go back to tips from the training on a daily basis, as I’m creating headlines, promoting our blog on social media, and talking to teachers about how to tell their stories most effectively.” – Kate McGovern, Teach Plus

December 5, 2016

Trump’s School Choice

In U.S. News & World Report I take a look at the opportunity Donald Trump has on school choice – and all the ways it could go off the rails:

Donald Trump didn’t say a lot about education during the presidential campaign, but he did make clear he favored school choice. His selection of Betsy DeVos, a longtime choice advocate and funder, to be secretary of education seems to indicate this is a policy area where we should, at least for now, take the president-elect both literally and seriously.

A Trump school choice push could be as disruptive as the rest of his unconventional approach to politics. Let’s be honest, there is a comfortable class of education mandarins living in exclusive suburbs enrolling their kids at so-called “public privates,” working out arrangements to send their kids to that one special school that allows them to claim public school parentage while sidestepping the problems other parents face, or taking advantage of private schools while nonetheless fighting tooth and nail to deny poor parents the same options. It’s gross, considered rude to talk about and widely normalized in an education world focused on what’s OK for other people’s kids.

On the other hand, all choice is not good choice. A quarter-century of school choice initiatives show pretty clearly the design of choice programs matters as much as their availability. DeVos should face some tough questions about her role in Michigan’s uneven charter school sector and her views on choice and accountability regulations more generally. If confirmed, she’ll then confront tough choices about how to design a school choice initiative that can both get through Capitol Hill and do some good for parents desperate for better schooling options.

This is where things get interesting…

Click here to read the possible upsides and the risk. 

Posted on Dec 5, 2016 @ 2:15pm

Kaya Henderson Is A Model Citizen, Plus Bellwether’s Position, Coal Country, Michigan, Virgina (Foxx), PARCC Items, Biddle On Teachers Union Charter Spending, Davis On SEL, And More!

I’ve received a few emails in the past week asking about Bellwether’s “positioning” because of various things our analysts have written or said lately. Here’s the deal:  We take no organizational positions, on anything other than issues affecting all 501c3 organizations like ours as a class. Instead, our analysts enjoy editorial freedom. It’s how we attract the best people and such an exceptional team of analysts. So we’re serious about quality control but there is not editorial control, at all, and it doesn’t matter whenever I or Sara Mead or anyone else at Bellwether agrees with this point or that one as long it’s well argued. Unusual, yes. but we think (hope!) there is a place for it. Our grant funded work allows us to support a variety of perspectives and points of view – because we believe less of this is settled than most people seem to. It’s also what makes our client work strong, you’re not getting whatever the tired truism or fashion of the moment is, we stress test our work by filtering it through genuinely different and informed viewpoints and perspectives.

Some takes the past week. Here’s a new Bellwether analysis by Kate Pennington and Sara Mead on teacher evaluation in the ESSA era. 

Here’s Mead on school choice. Hailly Korman on the new federalists in the education world. Kate Pennington and Max Marchitello on charter schools and unions. Max on why urban and rural communities have more in common than not when it comes to school finance - important political implications if Democrats play their cards right. Allison Davis on SEL. Kirsten Schmitz on gender gaps and pensions. And here’s Pennington in U.S. News about teacher evaluation.

New resource from ED about helping students in secure facilities transition back to school. We do a lot of work on this issue at Bellwether. Overlooked but very important.

The new regime in D.C. Welcome to western Michigan…. And here’s a Virginia Foxx profile. 

New PARCC items released so  you can play along at home. Free press on campus. Chicago education funding plan vetoed. Thoughtful discussion on vouchers from Marquette Law.

Coal jobs, school finance, and school closings.

Conor Sen wants a pension bailout for Rust Belt cities. Some merit to the idea but a restructuring of pensions should accompany any aid. Teacher pensions really only work for about one in five teachers right now. It’s important that cities meet existing obligations to retirees and workers but this is not a system that should be extended in its current form.

Department of winning battles and losing wars: RiShawn Biddle looks at teachers union spending against the expansion of Massachusetts charter schools.

This is fantastic!  Kaya Henderson is moonlighting as a model.  After the World Series Cubs (and former Red Sox) executive Theo Epstein was asked his secret. His response,

 “All that business school leadership stuff is bullshit,” he tells me. If there’s a secret, it’s to “keep deflecting credit, keep from blaming. Live your fucking life and be nice to people.”

Kaya seems to live that as much as anyone in this sector.

December 1, 2016

Edujob: Program Director, Character and K12 Education Program @ Kern Family Foundation

Here’s a dynamic role at a foundation committed to thinking about character education:

The Kern Family Foundation operates on the belief that the United States’ flourishing depends on the ability of its communities to form citizens of good character, while also instilling the technical abilities that allow young people to support themselves with meaningful work in well-paying, high-demand jobs.

The Character and K12 Education Program teams are dedicated to restoring these two objectives—character formation and technical aptitude – to educational institutions. In the area of academic achievement, the Foundation places emphasis in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – disciplines that will allow young people to adapt to an increasingly technological world.

The Character and K12 Education Program Director will work closely with the Program’s team leader on the creation, implementation, assessment, and evaluation of strategies for the Character and K12 program. The Program Director is responsible for managing day-to-day grant making activities in keeping with the Foundation’s current policies and procedures, developing and maintaining strong relationships with regional organizations and peer foundations, and articulating Foundation goals and programs to the community.

You can learn more and apply via this link.

November 30, 2016

Trump, DeVos, Whiteboard Insiders On DeVos, Choice And Accountability. Plus: Steve Fleishman With The Eduwonkiest Non-Eduwonk Post Ever, Wisconsin News And Ravitch Could Have Stopped Trump And Chose Not To! Student Speech, When Does McWhorter Sleep? Also Data On TIMSS, Fordham Authorizing, EdTPA And More…

Another Bellwether Education blog training coming in February. Applications due in December. More here.

Last week I offered some thoughts in U.S. News & World Report on lecturing Trump voters that were really about the rampant assumption of monocausality since the election. I voted for Clinton. I’m no fan of Trump. But all of his supporters are not odious and castigating all of them doesn’t hold up intellectually (and even if  for some reason you believe it, it’s counter-productive politically and actually empowers the actually odious ones). Of course, you could write the same piece the other way because some of the truisms among Trump supporters are just as absurd. But the basic point is that it’s a sprawling and diverse country and we could all – urban, suburban, exurban, rural, whatever – do a bit better engaging with that.

DeVos twitter cards.001We asked the Whiteboard Advisors Education Insider panel (balanced politically) about approval or disapproval of Betsy DeVos. 57-43 approve/disapprove of the choice.

Related, within the education world (among those who didn’t support Trump for President, which is a majority) people seem to be breaking into two factions. One are the Never Trumps who just refuse to work with him and instead prefer to carry on the arguments from the campaign. These range from the folks calling out anyone who seeks to serve in the administration to folks just quietly planning to do politics rather than policy for a few years. On the other side are the folks who are saying, basically, ‘oh well, this is the world for the next few years let’s see how we can adapt to it and get something done for kids.’ They’re not coming over to Trump’s way of looking at the world but are talking about how to operate in this new environment. So a lot of operators, especially those deeply integrated with federal policy are less about castigating the incoming administration right now than trying to figure out who the deputy assistant secretary they will be dealing with might be.  I’m not arguing that there is a right or wrong answer. Trump is not a normal political event so there is no template or tradition for the proper response. But, organizations that need to work with Congress and the administration will have some tough choices to make about pragmatism versus political idealism in the Trump era.

Also related, is it me or has the incoming Trump administration done a really poor job defending Betsy DeVos after they nominated her? Some of her friends, political allies, and related groups have come forward but overall they’ve sort of left her hanging out there. Not even much of an argument from the transition about why she’s a good choice. For the record, I think she’s (a) an acceptable nominee in the category of presidents deserving a fair degree of discretion about who they choose to serve in their administrations and the context of the ed debate and (b) I think no one really has any idea what kind of secretary she will be. A lot hinges on the deputy and subcabinet picks who will oversee operational and line roles and I can see her being effective in a bully pulpit/leadership role or getting eaten alive by the scope of the job, the politics, and what could be a pretty impromptu style of governing across the administration. Too soon to know. Here’s an interview with DeVos about choice from last year, a bit vague but some flavor. Also here’s (BW board member) Paul Reville in TES on DeVos and the moment.

DeVos must have an answer for some hard questions about her views on regulations and quality in the choice sector – not just in confirmation but as the new administration designs policy. Expect to hear a lot about stuff like this as well as the authorizing problems in Michigan. Reality check though: None of this is as simple as you are hearing on Twitter. In Michigan, for instance, some of the worst actors are for-profit but also so are some of the best. The anti-choice types will make a bunch of noise but that ship has sailed and parents are speaking. This does, however, set up an interesting - and important – debate among people who support choice about the role of regulation and quality measures in choice systems. That debate was muted during the Obama years but should burst into full view now.

Think I am kidding? Just today here’s Shavar Jefferies and Peter Cunningham on that today. And here’s Mike Petrilli responding.


Oh my. This post by Steve Fleishman touches all the right points for me. Dry fly fishing and evidence in education…plus drift boats.

From Wisconsin two non-recount articles worth paying attention to. First, the DeVos pick is energizing school choice supporters there. That will have some political implications going forward.  Second, a deep dive on the fortunes of organized labor there since Act 10. Warning signs for teachers unions elsewhere that are not just about people who oppose unions:

Dave Weiland, an Oconomowoc school district teacher and local union leader, thinks the state union was stuck in a 1920s mentality.

“The gravy train was running, and they didn’t see the curve,” he said.

RiShawn Biddle unpacks NEA political spending.

Looking for someone to blame about the election?  Start with Diane Ravitch, apparently she could have delivered some rust belt states if she had wanted to. Also, is Ravitch honoring Fidel Castro with this post? It’s that long and all over the place. And Kevin Carey responds.

Is John McWhorter on Adderal? He’s everywhere after this election. CNN here. Democracy here. More down the page.

The ESSA regs are out. This matters but now a bit TBD because of the election.

Thoughtful pushback on anti-standardized testing ideas.

Annual Fordham charter sponsorship report.

New TIMSS data. A lot to look at but pay attention to the gender gaps. And here’s some EdTPA data. 

Student voice: This is a pretty good speech. And here’s a rural student talking about college.

November 28, 2016

Betsy Devos – Ed Sec Designee

It’s Betsy DeVos. Turns out President-elect Trump’s choice for education secretary was hidden in plain sight. You say you want to do a big push for choice so you pick a prominent school choice booster (she’s flirted with Common Core and for the types that approach anti-Common Core with religious fervor she’s suspect, but that’s already being mopped up). The Free Press lays out the stark good versus evil takes most people seem to have about her.

I wrote last Wednesday that:

This riled some people up, of course. But bear in mind a few things. First, the standard is not who you would have picked or I might have picked. Donald Trump won the election and DeVos is within the mainstream of Republican thought on education. People are acting as though the choice was DeVos or maybe Pedro Noguera or Jonathan Kozol instead. Second, given some of the alternatives were reportedly folks like Jerry Falwell Jr. and given the President-elect’s apparently fast and loose style with nominations DeVos doesn’t seem so bad! Also, seriously, does Michelle Rhee look so bad now? Education’s mandarins couldn’t stomach her aggressive reform style, so now they get DeVos. (By the way, one knock on DeVos is that she never attended public schools, worked in them, or sent her kids to them. Yet many reformers (including Rhee) are public school products, have worked in them, and send their kids to them. Many prominent reform critics are more like DeVos. So what’s the point exactly? It’s almost like this is a bunch of bullshit?)

Of course, on Twitter there is a fake DeVos Twitter account. Disappointing. Huge potential for entertainment but so far pretty lame and interchangeable with a bunch of other fake accounts by the same folks.

Basic test of seriousness for DeVos critiques is, are they DeVos critiques? There is plenty in her record that warrants scrutiny and a bunch go-forward questions about federal policy, as with anyone set for a role like this. Or, are they generic critiques that would be raised about any Trump education nominee? For instance, it’s barely newsworthy she’s for school choice. But it is worth asking how her ideas about school choice comport with several decades of research and evidence.

In The Times Doug Harris does just that and offers a critique of Detroit arguing DeVos would support weakly regulated choice contrary to the experience of places like New Orleans. It’s a good point, but here we are. Just last week the president of the NEA was attacking New Orleans as a total scam and now it’s going to be the gold standard! And here you thought turnarounds were impossible in K-12 education. New education establishment posture: “Why can’t we just have choice like New Orleans….it’s so good there!”

Also, worth noting, too early to tell but DeVos may end up being one of the Trump picks with the fewest conflicts of interest? After all, she just believes in school choice she doesn’t stand to make any money off of it.* Questions about her view of the role of public schools in her confirmation hearings should be interesting, though (as well as the Office of Civil Rights, role, scope, and size of the Department of Education overall, and some other pretty significant issues).

Two things to bear in mind going forward. First, pay attention to the subcabinet roles. That’s where a lot of the action is – especially for an incoming secretary unfamiliar with many of the policy domains the agency works in. Second, and related, the role can evolve in unexpected ways. For instance, people think of Margaret Spellings as the No Child Left Behind architect. But she spent much of her last two years as Secretary focused on student loan problems. That kind of unpredictability is par for the course with cabinet roles.

Other takes: Campbell Brown on DeVos.  Greg Forester sees risk for school choice because of Trump in this really smart piece. Mike Petrilli has twenty questions. RiShawn Biddle says you can’t detach any Trump pick from larger concerns about Trump. Kevin Carey argues she won’t get as far as people think on choice. Kevin assumes a restraint not to wreak havoc on federal policy that I’m not sure is there.

I hope by this point people might have learned the basic lesson that, at least so far with Trump, anything is possible. Just yesterday he was claiming, with no evidence, that he would have won the popular vote but for fraud. This is not normal in American politics. So I’d avoid certainty.

*Update: Politico says she may or may not have an investment position in a for-profit education company (K12). If true, she’d have to divest.

November 23, 2016

Edujob: CEO Teach Plus

Here’s a pretty big edujob, Teach Plus is looking for a new CEO. Interesting organization that plays on policy and practice and a pretty fluid time in the sector.

The mission of Teach Plus is to empower excellent, experienced teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ success. The organization recruits and selects expert teachers to advance policy changes and improve instructional leadership and teacher supports; trains and coaches teacher leaders to successfully mobilize and lead teacher teams; and empowers teacher leaders to be change agents among their peers and policy makers.  Since 2009, Teach Plus has trained thousands of teacher leaders across the country who are driving policy changes to create a more performance-based teaching profession, and improving the instructional practices of teachers to better serve all urban students.

You can learn more and find out how to be considered via this link.

It’s DeVos! Lecture Your Relatives, Donate To Your School, Pearson! Spec Ed, NC Chief Race, Trump’s MO? Happy Thanksgiving!

In U.S. News I offer a Thanksgiving thought counter to the ‘go lecture your backwards relatives or ignore them altogether’ sentiment swirling on social media. People vote for lots of reasons, a lot of people are frustrated and hurting, so maybe go easy? And for all the talk of checking privilege, check yours. Besides, politics is core to how we organize ourselves but there is still so much more to life than politics. Still want to lecture your relatives? OK, do what you want, I offer talking points.

An Opportunity Culture teacher reflects on personalized learning.

Personnel Department: Antwan Wilson coming to DC to be schools CEO. Leaves a big hole in Oakland. Betsy DeVos is very pro-school choice so it’s going to make everyone bonkers but in the big scheme of things pretty establishment pick if she becomes Secretary of Education - as is being reported. I was hoping for Nina Rees, both because she’s talented and because it would be fun to watch the alt-right lose their minds over it. But they might meltdown a bit over DeVos anyway. (Update: DeVos already tamping down the Common Core stuff. She may not have formal political experience but clearly a fast learner!)  More Secretary of Ed news further down.

And we still have a current Secretary of Education! On many issues I can get multiple perspectives and various arguments but honestly one I don’t is corporal punishment in school. I simply cannot wrap my head around willingly consenting for someone else to lay a hand on my child. Yet here we are. John King tries to prod action on that issue with a letter this week. I’m sure this is just more Obama overreach or something…but seriously, hitting kids?

David Leonhardt on Delaware Governor Jack Markell and education.

In some communities “voluntary” school donations are in practice not all that voluntary. The voluntary nature is mentioned just in passing before the request goes out or you get a yard sign or other signal when you contribute. The NYT Ethicist looks at that question. These donations stem from a few causes, including force of habit and poorly designed school finance schemes that underfund schools, cause workarounds in some communities, or leave too little discretionary dollars for teachers or principals. But it’s worth pausing and reflecting on how various approaches to this might be experienced by families struggling to make ends meet – either temporarily because of a life event or as an ongoing situation.

This story conflates standards and test but overall is a pretty straightforward look at Pearson and its North American situation, challenges, opportunities. Not sure why it’s being hailed as a hit piece, pretty pedestrian business story.

This story tries to make sense of Donald Trump’s education plans. Ha ha ha ha ha. It’s just too soon to tell beyond some broad directional signals (pdf).

Here’s an interesting amicus brief (pdf) in the upcoming special education case. North Carolina schools chief election fallout.

Two things are true at once: Better integration of schools is an important goal, but it’s complicated and the idea that parents are just clamoring for it is misleading of the complicated realities.

“Corporate education reformer” is a term that makes no sense when you unpack it but has sort of stuck. Welcome to the age of Trump, I guess. Here CNN just deploys it like an official title when discussing Michelle Rhee. Could make for a fun correction, “the previous version of this story referred to Rhee as corporate education reformer. There is no such thing…”

Conor Wililams is worried about Donald Trump. A big debate has broken out in the Democratic part of the education world about the rightness or wrongness of working for the administration of Donald Trump. DFER came down hard in the “no” camp but Michelle Rhee said that while she wasn’t pursuing a role “wishing for [Trump's] failure is wanting for the failure of millions of American children.”

It seems like two ideas are getting conflated in this debate:

1) Arguing against the President-elect’s policies or rhetoric, or any presidents proposals or rhetoric, is patriotic. Dissent and debate is core to the American political tradition. It might be especially important now.

2) Wishing the president’s failure though, which has become something of the norm the past few decades as politics has become more of a rooting sport than battle of ideas, seems decidedly less patriotic. The speculation about what possible policy debacle might be most advantageous for Democrats in the next few years (“let’s hope he privatizes Medicaid!”) has the same sour flavor as Republican jubilation about how health care might get all screwed up under President Obama. In all these cases actual people are hurt as Washington’s factions vie for an edge. Should’t we want all our presidents to succeed – in the create shared progress way – regardless of our personal taste for them and however vigorously we might oppose some of their various policies and ideas?

In other words, if you’re not a Trump supporter then perhaps skepticism or deep concern about Trump should be balanced with a quiet hope to be genuinely surprised.

So should Democrats go work in a Trump Administration? That’s not so straightforward. Seems like everyone has to decide for themselves and different conclusions are justifiable. (The arguments are pretty obvious on both sides and will change few minds.) On education, it is hard to square some of what Trump has suggested he wants to do related to education with progressivism or liberalism. On the other hand, per above, who knows? My basic sense is that Trump is a real estate developer, many real estate developers fly by the seat of the pants, Trump flies by the seat of his pants in politics so far, too. Earlier this month Trump’s supporters were chanting “look her up” now they’re going after him for protecting Secretary Clinton. It’s a weird time.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted on Nov 23, 2016 @ 2:38pm

November 21, 2016

Eduwonk: The Divisiveness Issue! Is It Identity Politics, Campus Culture, Or….The SAT? Pensions And Beer, DC Charter Performance, Coal Country School Finance, Grit, Hansel On Reading, Hess On EDSec, Oscar The Grouch Gets 2 And 20, Pavel Datsyuk Gets His Degree! And More…

Let’s start with some catastrophic pension news that should have everyone on edge about an age of austerity:

For a half-century, retired Labatt employees have been entitled to as much as a 12-pack of free beer every week, an unusual perk that Anheuser-Busch InBev — the brewery’s owner for the last 21 of those years — has now made the “reluctant decision” to end in an effort to save costs.

We do seem a bit divided lately, why?

Justin Fox blames the SAT:

I’ve been puzzling over this meritocracy problem for a while now, and I don’t have any brilliant answers. But it does seem like we’d be better off if we dispensed with the notion that a “meritocracy” or “aristocracy of the intellect” is really something to strive for. Yes, it’s good to have competent people in important jobs! But admitting only one style of competence, or assuming that skill at one narrow activity (taking standardized tests, for example) implies competence in other areas, seems like a sure-fire way of sorting society into classes of people who neither understand nor trust one another.

George Will blames college campus culture these days:

Many undergraduates, their fawn-like eyes wide with astonishment, are wondering: Why didn’t the dean of students prevent the election from disrupting the serenity to which my school has taught me that I am entitled? Campuses create “safe spaces” where students can shelter from discombobulating thoughts and receive spiritual balm for the trauma of microaggressions. Yet the presidential election came without trigger warnings?

The morning after the election, normal people rose — some elated, some despondent — and went off to actual work. But at Yale University, that incubator of late-adolescent infants, a professor responded to “heartfelt notes” from students “in shock” by making that day’s exam optional.

There may be something to this. You save and spend a fortune to send your kid off to college so they can come home, at best, a half-educated marxist and lecture you about the errors of your ways – that might piss you off (unless you’re a half educated marxist yourself so given what we know about college going patterns this might take care of itself over time). But, I’m having trouble seeing what in the Will column he wouldn’t have written regardless of the election outcome? On both the right and the left a lot of the post-election commentary has an old wine, new bottles flavor to it. On the other hand….there is this, which while not new is new again in its prominence in our national politics and is disturbing. Where is everyone who couldn’t shut up about Jeremiah Wright?

Speaking of colleges, there is definitely donor influenced affirmative action for the rich that goes on and is gross, of course. But, in fairness, there are also instances where colleges do the right thing and turn down unqualified children of large donors. Harder to write about because it’s handled discreetly and is a dog that didn’t bark kind of thing. But it happens, too. Also, it turns out pretty much everyone at Harvard graduates with honors.

And Mark Lilla set off a debate with his essay about identity politics in The Times. It has an education angle:

But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good. In large part this is because of high school history curriculums, which anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country. (The achievements of women’s rights movements, for instance, were real and important, but you cannot understand them if you do not first understand the founding fathers’ achievement in establishing a system of government based on the guarantee of rights.)

When young people arrive at college they are encouraged to keep this focus on themselves by student groups, faculty members and also administrators whose full-time job is to deal with — and heighten the significance of — “diversity issues.” Fox News and other conservative media outlets make great sport of mocking the “campus craziness” that surrounds such issues, and more often than not they are right to. Which only plays into the hands of populist demagogues who want to delegitimize learning in the eyes of those who have never set foot on a campus. How to explain to the average voter the supposed moral urgency of giving college students the right to choose the designated gender pronouns to be used when addressing them? How not to laugh along with those voters at the story of a University of Michigan prankster who wrote in “His Majesty”?


If you followed the Pence/Trump/Hamilton debate over the weekend and didn’t see Stevie Van Zandt’s Twitter feed you’re missing out. Also education’s own Robert Pondiscio took to the Daily News about this, too.  This, of course, diverted attention from the settlement in the Trump U case. 

Did you know that Oscar the Grouch is a hedge fund guy in his free time?*

Don’t miss Lisa Hansel on reading and equity. Rick Hess has a hard core of top ten attributes for a new education secretary - he doesn’t want your Common Core or early education ideas!

The 74 continues to track bullying incidents in schools following the election.

New DC charter school performance rankings.* In coal country depopulation is complicating school finance formulas.

Apparently Pavel Datsyuk just finished his bachelor’s degree.

Today in grit: Donkey becomes running partner.

*Bellwether has worked with Sesame Workshop as a client.  Bellwether’s Sara Mead is on the DC Charter School Board.

Posted on Nov 21, 2016 @ 12:01pm

November 17, 2016

Teaching Trump/Scaring The Children!

Bob Weir has a fun act called Scaring The Children. This post, unfortunately, is not about them.

Rick Hess and Checker Finn urge a tamping down of the anti-Trump talk in schools:

We’re no fans of the president-elect, whose behavior has frequently been appalling, whose policy ignorance is vast, and who appears to lack any coherent philosophy of government. That said, we are astonished that so many educators, schools and colleges chose to treat his election as reason to alarm their students and to suggest that only a Democratic victory would have aligned with the nation’s values.

We understand that the country is divided and that some kids share their parents’ fears of potentially being deported or losing their health insurance. We’ve surely no objection to teachers comforting fearful children. That’s a responsibility of all adults who care for them. But we don’t believe that educators are supposed to make kids scared or teach that there is a right outcome and a wrong one to a presidential election. And we’re puzzled to see so many educators – and even education journalists – imagine that Trump’s election can only be understood through the prism of racism and xenophobia.

Kevin Carey says, no, “teachers should tell the truth about Trump

By defining president-elect Trump’s shortcomings in a way that deliberately excludes all of the worst things about him, Hess and Finn are joining the ranks of conservatives and Republicans in Washington, DC who, after eight years out of power and for reasons that range from wishful thinking to much worse, are busily convincing themselves that Donald Trump is redeemable. He is not. His bigotry is bone-deep.

This truth is perfectly obvious to the many educators who spent last week meeting their fundamental obligation to their students: helping them understand the full measure of the world we now live in, and validating their entirely justified fear.

It seems this one is not straightforward. Finn and Hess are clearly right that our national inability to understand each other (as well as some partisanship) penetrates into some schools and classrooms. On the other hand, Carey is certainly correct that Trump (and this election season overall) are not normal or routine events in American politics and some kids have reason to be more alarmed than might otherwise be the case after a more routine election.

Posted on Nov 17, 2016 @ 8:30am

November 14, 2016

Trump Advice: Don’t Call Me Shirley. Trump’s Education Hands, Choice & Charters, Union Infighting, Friedrichs Redux? Massachuetts Charters, Van Jones

This is good advice:

If you ever find yourself writing a sentence in which Donald Trump is the subject, maybe don’t start it with “surely.”

With regard to education that means everyone telling you what a Trump Administration will or won’t do really has no idea about what they’re talking about. President-elect Trump doesn’t either, at this point. Behind the scenes he is bringing in some competent hands, folks like Townsend McNitt and James Manning, but they are just getting their sea legs. Obviously look for choice to be a theme. But, also, The Department of Education has a lot of political appointees, more than most agencies, so if you’re looking to see where the Steve Bannon-types land and establish a power base, keep an eye out there. And obviously, Vice President Elect-Pence is going to have a lot of influence here and has pretty established views on education policy from his time as Indiana’s governor. Also keep an eye on Newt Gingrich. In a minister without a portfolio kind of role he is a recipe for a lot of this.

On choice, everyone might settle down a bit. If Trump mishandles the issue it could end any semblance of bipartisanship on issues like choice and make charter schools completely toxic politically. And plenty of people on both sides want that exact outcome. Choice could be a place for productive bipartisan agreement or it could be a flashpoint depending on both how the incoming administration handles the issue and how people respond – especially people who are favorably disposed toward choice but have little use or love for President-elect Trump

Union leaders are not happy about the election. A lot of complaining about Randi Weingarten on this score behind the scenes, relative to how the Clinton – Sanders endorsement decision went down and so forth. Keep an eye on that, it’s been getting louder the last few days. The teachers’ unions stroke of luck on Friedrichs ended what would have been a lot of recriminations about that case and it could open up again soon (Friedrichs-like cases are on the move in the federal judiciary).

In general terms it seems like Trump is likely to make some sort of play around infrastructure that private sector labor might like. Public sector labor, more closely associated with America’s culture wars and the currently out of fashion elites than its working class, looks to be in for a bumpy ride. But, you know who else is a New Yorker besides the President-elect? Chuck Schumer, the dealmaking incoming Senate Minority Leader. Reports that Randi Weingarten, whose base is also New York, had tried to surgically attach herself to his leg in the wake of the election could not be confirmed….but, per the good advice above, surely there are many twists and turns to come. Here’s one take, that seems rosy to me, on how things could play out.

Also on choice, more evidence the money argument moved votes in Massachusetts.  My early take on this here. History rhymes, repeats, or something.

Clive Crook:

Elite opinion admits of only one answer: People are more stupid and bigoted than we ever imagined. Without denying that there’s plenty of stupidity and bigotry to go around, I think it’s more a matter of elite incompetence. Elite opinion heard the rebels’ complaints, but instead of acknowledging what was valid, it rejected the grievances in every particular and dismissed the complainers as fools or worse.

The elites weren’t deaf. They were dumb.

I’m all for CNN dumping some of its commentators, the assault wave upon assault wave of pundits was hard to take during the entire election. It was like D-Day but for political nerds. But, I hope Van Jones isn’t* shown the door. Check out his post election conversations with voters.

Update: This pretty key word was missing from the version originally pushed live. Next time the publishing template asks me if I want to revert to the earlier version I’ll pay attention.

November 11, 2016

Veterans Day

Never a bad time to thank veterans for their service and sacrifice. And probably not a bad week this year to revisit some of that World War I poetry we post here on Veterans Day from time to time and reflect on how fragile this all is.

Also, as we consider what binds us and separates us as Americans ask yourself if you know anyone in the armed forces, anyone who is enlisted, and anyone who has fired a weapon in anger during their service.

Lauren Schwartze and Jason Weeby take a look at veterans talent in education organizations.

A few years ago Eric Greitens, a former SEAL who launched a non-profit to help veterans, penned a piece for this blog about veterans and education. On Tuesday evening he became governor-elect of Missouri and is someone you might want to keep an eye on politically.

More Post-Election, Rural And Education, Must-Read McWhorter, Blame Trump On Charters, Civic Education Please, Mike Rowe On Cats And The Election (and CTE), Gaulden On Lattimore, Taylor On Sturgill. More!

Sara Mead on five election takeaways for education. Chad Aldeman looks through the education tea leaves as well. Some of these 16 ideas might work in the new politics of Washington.  The 74 has a lot of election round up news.

This John McWhorter essay in the Boston Globe is valuable -  strong pushes that demand engagement even where you disagree. Too much to pull quote but if you read one thing today you can do a lot worse than this. Go to the Globe for McWhorter, stay for the wonderful news about Mookie Betts!

This is also a pretty spectacular read you shouldn’t miss.  And Matt Levine has been very good on all this.


Still reading? OK, then somewhat related, after condescending to rural Americans – and worse – the education reform coalition realizes rural Americans matter to our politics. The superficial enthusiasm for a class-based politics obscures how politically complicated such a project will be. Class exerts enormous leverage in the world view of a lot reformers of all races. We at Bellwether do a lot of work in rural America and I personally spend a lot of my time there. But recently at a meeting with a lot of elite types involved in education and other issues a very influential person remarked matter-of-factly, as if it was the most obvious demographic statement in the world, that the trends were clear and rural was “done” as a significant part of American life. This was met with agreeing nods. OK.

I don’t think it’s by coincidence that people in the education world who spend a lot to time in rural America were actively concerned about this outcome happening or saw it as a real possibility, or both. For my part, I split my time between a community that voted 75-17 for Clinton and one that voted 64-32 for Trump. I wouldn’t want to idealize either place, plenty of pluses and minuses, that’s life, but I have great affection for my friends and neighbors in both communities. I can assure you, though, that if you think rural Americans don’t understand that many in the 75-17 parts of the country quietly or openly hold them in some contempt, see them as a drag on progress, or at best see them and their lives as relics, you’re kidding yourself. And stuff like that transcends “issues”and  is not all about race. And if you double down on it this will happen again. That’s why it’s especially astounding to me that people who can’t shut up at dinner parties and on Facebook about structural inequality (an idea I happen to agree more with than I disagree) don’t realize that millions of Americans they regard as backwards are actually plenty smart and capable but were born in some small community rather than Greenwich and that might have something to do with the jobs and lives they have now. Although as I noted the other day more still binds us than divides us as people (and that’s the big political opportunity waiting for the right leader in 2020), Tuesday night was a big fuck you. And in education for all the talk of listening to communities and all that, well,….check your privilege I guess?

And just so there isn’t confusion because this gets reductionist pretty fast, I think Trump has proven to be a racist and appealed to racists in his campaign in various ways. It just doesn’t follow from there that everyone who voted for him is racist. Our politics are more complicated than that. That said, it does seem to me that Trump voters have a special responsibility to speak up/act about things like this.

Meanwhile, except for the big prize the teachers unions had a decent night on Tuesday and won some state ballot issues and some races that will help them in states, where the balance of power is during the ESSA era. That’s bad news for low-income and minority students whose needs will be obscured in a lot of new accountability systems. ESSA is the kind of bill you sign when you think there is no way a Trump Administration will oversee federal civil rights protections. How’s that going? An interesting political question is whether the teachers unions are now more valuable in state and local politics to Democrats than in national races. I don’t know, but it’s clear that while they produce volunteers and money they can’t reliably deliver the vote.

Here’s a look at the structure of the election and reasons why Clinton got fewer votes where she needed them and Trump got more. Brownstein on that, too – the American demographics of 2050 are really interesting but this election was held in 2016.  All of this has some pretty obvious education implications going forward.

Here’s a new theory on why Trump won:

Rick Kahlenberg says that a lack of civic education (and too many charter schools) are a cause of why Trump won. Seriously.

I guess I’m sort of with him on the first point, but there are a few problems with this analysis – although I’m all for better civic education and wish schools emphasized it more and had better curriculum for it. Enormous area to do better.

First, there is no evidence any one kind of school is better or worse at helping students internalize democratic values. Charter examples like Green Dot in California or Democracy Prep in New York show how powerful charters can be at that. Many traditional public schools show the same. So do many private schools. There is actually literature on this that indicates we should be cautious about ascribing great civic virtue, or lack thereof, to any particular class of schools. What’s more, reasonable can disagree, but it may well be that letting parents choose schools and having various public authorities oversee them can itself encourage good civic habits? In the city where Rick works, Washington D.C., does anyone really want to argue that the D.C. Public Charter Board is less a model of good civic habits than, say, the old D.C. school board?

Second, and actually seriously, Rick’s case suffers from the flaw of many arguments for better civic education: They boil down to ‘if people were more educated then they would vote more like me.’ Perhaps. But it may well be that a lot of Trump voters simply have a different conception about the Supreme Court than Rick and I do or a different set of economic concerns than we do or they just liked or trusted Hillary Clinton less than we do, or were simply mad about their health care bill. Check the exits, Trump voters are all over the place. People disagree! That’s democracy. I have friends who are quite well-versed on civic matters but don’t agree with me on politics and don’t support the candidates I do. In fact, one might argue that the significant share of Trump voters who saw the composition of the Supreme Court as an overriding issue in this election were looking at the world through a particular civic prism that resonated with them.

I certainly agree with Rick that the lack of concern in many quarters about Trump’s indifference to Constitutional issues and constraints as well as his apparent indifference to democratic norms is jarring and serious and real cause for concern. But don’t look too closely at the free speech views of millennials – especially left-leaning ones – if that kind of thing makes you uneasy.  A lot of students and Americans see the authoritarianism of the left modeled for them regularly so it seems somewhat unsurprising they’re not as resistant as they should be to the authoritarianism of the right.

Perhaps we could all use a constitutional refresher, and hopefully it’s not too late for one

Speaking of coming together and millennials. Although I’m not at all happy about the election and would like to say I think this is simply all wrong, there is probably something to it. Around the country people have an admiration but also unsurprising lack of sympathy for students at elite schools. If you went to those schools you might not talk with them very much about it. And think about it, if you’re say a single mom waitressing and working extra shifts to make ends meet and dragging yourself to work even when you feel awful – physically or emotionally or both – then hearing that kids at the nation’s most elite schools don’t want to go to class because they’re upset about the election might just piss you off. On the other hand, people like my fictional waitress and everyone calling these students snowflakes also needs to appreciate that they are still young and it’s understandable how some of the context of this election – not to mention some of what has transpired the last few days – might have someone concerned or freaked out.


Mike Rowe on the election and CTE. Bizarrely fascinating cat analogy. And Mike Petrilli looks at what’s next.

Non-election news: MDRC looks at a texting initiative to help students.

Tim Taylor reviews Sturgill Simpson in Denver (my take on Sturgill’s current tour here). And here’s Jason Gaulden on Kenny Lattimore at an intimate private show.

November 10, 2016

Massachusetts Charters, Trump And Ed, The Election And Bullying, Plus Election Takes

OK, wow. Interesting election. Good reminder that any major party nominee can win, one-in-three odds are not really long odds, and people vote for lots of reasons. Next time you hope the other party nominates someone who can’t possibly win and treat that person as a political gift rather than a real threat, well, something to think about.

On the education front the charter referendum in Massachusetts, probably the most watched education issue on the ballot on Tuesday anywhere, went down. Something interesting on the referendum is that it failed by roughly the same margins (62-28) state voucher referendums in various places often did in the past. And those referendums were fought with a political message about costs, taxes, and the damage that might to do suburban schools. That’s basically the same playbook opponents of raising Massachusetts’ limit on charter schools effectively used there.  The opponents knew they couldn’t win if the debate turned on quality – because everyone pretty much agreed Massachusetts charters are an outlier high on quality – so instead they went after the risk aversion suburban voters feel about their schools. It worked. One impolite question a reasonable person might ask, in the wake of the national election, is how much money did the unions spend in Massachusetts in an effort to basically protect jobs and keep poor black kids bottled up in crappy schools? And might that money and effort have been better spent in, oh I don’t know, Wisconsin or Michigan or Pennsylvania on politics there?

About that election. Voters are frustrated and angry. Shouldn’t be too hard to see why? The moment early this year I began to worry was at a typical Washington dinner with nice food and discussion of various issues when someone – a comfortable dean at an elite college –  literally raised a glass of fine red wine to their lips while saying “I just can’t understand what all these people are so angry about.”

Everyone has a theory about the election but many of them don’t comport with what we see in the exits and seem more about confirmation bias than political analysis. It’ll take a while to sort out. But, Sean Trende is good to read on the possibly fragile coalition Trump put together. This New York Times map of counties and voting is worth paying attention to before you buy into reductionist narratives about the election. It appears, for instance, that about one-third of Hispanic men who voted on Tuesday voted for Trump. Voting behavior is often not as simple as people will have you believe.

This article from a Never Trumper is also worth reading.

More generally this Tucker Carlson piece from early in the year and this Glenn Greenwald from this week offer some explanatory views on what’s going on. Arthur Brooks cites out of work men as a fulcrum. But I’m not sure the data support that. Rather, based on both the demographics of Trump voters and then a bunch of anecdotal evidence I think a driver for some may have been economically anxious Americans who have a job but worry if they lose it they’ll never have one as good again because of actual economic dislocation or their perception of it.

At its core this election seems like a populist revolt from understandably frustrated voters. What makes it unique is that the person it thrust into  the highest office is such an unknown quantity and so non-transparent about his policy preferences and even his own personal business and financial interests. So no one really has any idea what is next.

The President-elect could do a lot worse as an early step than to say a few words in an effort to tamp this sort of thing down. I heard about episodes like this from some teachers yesterday.

This summer I spent five weeks all over the country from the reddest enclaves of Oklahoma and Wyoming to Erie and Toledo in the Rust Belt midwestern states and blue havens like Marin and Cape Cod. I listened to a lot of very different people of various economic means, races, ethnicities, and creeds and I remain firmly convinced that a few things are true. As people Americans have much more in common than what divides us and most are not consumed by our various cultural battles but rather are frustrated with our leaders, don’t like being condescended to by American elites they know sneer at them, and mostly just want to live their lives. But, second, we, and especially politically active Americans, are increasingly isolated in our lives, communities, media and social media choices and so forth and people don’t spend a lot of time talking to people with substantially different views and we’re losing the ability to do that and consequently to understand each other. Rhetoric about America being a failed state is way overblown but we’re certainly failing each other. And that’s why millions were willing to take the risk they did Tuesday. Ignore that at our peril.

For education, we’re likely to see some familiar names in the policy world emerge. I’d keep an eye on Gerard Robinson and on Bill Evers in particular. Probably good news if you favor D.C. vouchers and a larger school choice package, perhaps as part of some sort of urban bill, seems likely. For-profit higher ed types probably woke up happy on Wednesday, too. President Elect-Trump is one of them. I don’t think Trump will abolish the Department of Education or end the federal role in K-12 schools – there are 100 Senators and 435 members of Congress who like that money and are fine with swamps getting drained as long as it is not their own. But we’ll see. Maybe he’ll just end the federal Common Core for the next four years.

*Spellcheck completely failed on this post so it’s been updated with numerous corrections.

November 9, 2016

Edujob: In-Schools Program Coordinator @826LA

Great edujob in LA. 826LA is a non-profit organization that helps students aged 6-18 and their teachers with expository and creative writing. Activities include after-school tutoring, workshops, in-school tutoring, support for ELL’s, and support for student publications.

From the JD (pdf):

826LA is looking for someone to join our hard-working, passionate team as a full-time In-Schools Program Coordinator. Reporting to the Director of In-School Programs and College Access, the In-Schools Coordinator brings 826LA programs to students in West and South LA. e In-Schools Coordinator is responsible for managing the In-Schools program, along with developing strong relationships and delivering quality programming to partner teachers, schools, and community members. e In-Schools Coordinator works primarily out of 826LA’s Mar Vista o ce, but must be able and willing to travel to schools all over Los Angeles, and 826LA’s Echo Park office and satellite site at Manual Arts High School on a regular basis.

Learn more and apply here (pdf). Learn more about 826LA here.

November 8, 2016

More Education In The Election Than You Think?

At U.S. News & World Report I take a look at three ways education mattered in the election and will have some leverage on politics going forward:

With 2016 voting fully upon us today, the education world can now stop complaining about how education really didn’t matter to the presidential race. It’s finally time for education advocates to begin gearing up to complain about how it isn’t really a big issue in the 2020 race for the White House.

But although it was hardly a centerpiece of this year’s campaign, education did actually matter in a few key ways in the 2016 race that have implications going forward.

Here are three…

You can see all three if you click here.

What To Watch On Election Night

The 74 has a nice round up of education issues to watch around the country. They will also be live blogging key education issues and races, including state races, all night and into Wednesday.

And you can cut through the noise. Clinton is ahead based on the overall polling of the race, but as any horse player will tell you a horse with a one in three chance does win sometimes. But forget early exits, polls, or the hype or panic from one side or the other. Just watch how Clinton and Trump perform in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire and you’ll get a pretty good sense of what kind of night it will be. Spoiler alert, if Trump doesn’t win Florida it’s basically over and if Jon Ralston is right about this and Hispanic turnout either in Nevada or more generally, it’s probably cooked for him, too, and a significant moment for the country. On the other hand, it’s 2016 and it’s been unpredictable to an unusual extent. So, along with those states and their exits the Comstock – Bennett race in Virginia, where polls close early, is a good barometer for just how imperiled Trump is among educated white voters who are pivotal in this year’s race given Trump’s strategy. The Gottheimer – Garrett race in New Jersey is another good and early one to watch for a sense of where things are.

Here are a few education votes, from east to west, that are worth watching, are entertaining, or both:

The Massachusetts charter question has big stakes. Most immediately for kids in that state who need better school options. But more generally. If a state with the kind of performance that Massachusetts has turned in can’t raise its cap on charters to allow more for urban students, then charter advocates have to dramatically rethink their political strategy.

The Georgia achievement district vote will be influenced by the national contest but will also say something about the appetite of voters for aggressive education reform right now.

The Indiana state superintendent’s race doesn’t have huge national stakes but is certainly a fun one to watch given the absolutely bonkers education politics there.

The Montana congressional race featuring the state superintendent Denise Juneau as a candidate does have real national implications. She will immediately emerge as a voice in education in Congress if she wins (and be the first American Indian woman in that body). And if she loses the NEA is pushing her hard for a prominent education role in a Clinton Administration.

The California bilingual referendum is interesting. The old bilingual system in California produced atrocious outcomes and was an adult protection racket. Parents want more multilingual options and bilingual advocates have deftly stepped into that slipstream. But can this initiative produce those options without bringing back the worst of the old system?

There are some other issues and some tax and funding issues, The 74 has them for you.

Edujob @NASBE Project Director: Teaching, Leading, and Learning Policy

Want to work with state board of education members as they make policy? Here’s a project director role at NASBE:

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 leadership development, effective teaching, and deeper learning 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.

You can learn more and apply here.