October 7, 2015

CRPE Data, Gates Live, Mead On The Hill, Tavenner Gets Personal, Accountability Games, MacArthur Spins Out, Great Moments In Higher Education

CRPE rolls up the education data on 50 large and mid-size cities. Not beach reading.

Here’s some inside baseball for you: Wayback machine to when the current NEA President was calling on President Clinton to resign and agreeing with impeachment proponents. And what that might might have to do with politics today.

Hillary Clinton is tugging at a weak spot in Bernie Sander’s higher ed plan. Shows another fault line in the Democratic Party, one that plays out more on higher ed than K-12: working class and middle class Dems versus Farmers Market Dems.

Big Gates Foundation confab in Seattle today. You can watch here live.

Bob Shireman looks at formerly for-profit colleges that he argues still in effect operate that way. Laureate is going public again. Collaborative For Student Success on Florida standards debate. Freedom of religion still doesn’t extend to vaccination policies in schools. And state proficiency levels still vary. Things are messy in Albuquerque. Not a lot of flattering things to say about the student loan industry.

Sara Mead’s congressional testimony on Head Start (pdf). Great line-up of speakers for this PPI event 10/15 about D.C. schools.

Let’s say you’re a state where fewer than one in five of your poor kids and minority kids are proficient in reading and math by 8th-grade according to national post-secondary ready standards but you’ve consistently told people almost all your schools are pretty good. Your accountability system – which doesn’t consider racial or economic disparities – shows that and performance awards are given out like door prizes. So when you modestly raise standards in a well-intentioned effort to raise the bar and better prepare students for life suddenly a lot more schools don’t look so good on the accountability acceptability system. Uh oh. What do you do? You change it of course and create a bunch of new categories.

Brett Peiser on John King.

Kaitlin Pennington weighs in on Smarick v. Weisberg on PD and evaluation. Diane Tavenner on personalized learning. Charter-like schools in New Zealand.

MacArthur* is spinning out a $25 million ed tech play. More efforts to diversify higher ed student aid. Pension liabilities by state. Teacher pensions don’t work very well for most teachers.

This column makes some good points on youth sports but I don’t know about this line:

That approach doesn’t cut it with some dads, especially the ones who also played football in high school or college. For them, playing on a field for two hours simply isn’t intense enough for their future RG3s.

In my admittedly unscientific sample I find the more success that someone enjoyed in sports the more chill they are about it. Friends who played professionally or at an elite level are pretty OK with sports, it’s the ones who missed it but aren’t okay with that who run around living through their kids.

If you work in higher ed, in any capacity, use some common sense about emails you send to students. Really. Good intentions don’t cut it.

Not everyone likes A Girl With A Watering Can. This punk did not get mac and cheese.

*Disc - I was paid to write a paper for them years ago on this issue. I predicted ed tech would over-promise and under-deliver in the classroom and that there was real room for innovation with data and analytics to transform the operation of schools instead. I think they hated it.

October 6, 2015

Edujob: ED For Nevada Achievement School District

Nevada is launching an achievement school district. They’re looking for an ED, which would put you at ground zero for change and impact in the state. Interesting governor with a real interest in education, resources, and a state with a variety of challenges and opportunities. Learn more and learn how to apply here.

October 5, 2015

Mike Petrilli’s Sudden Confirmation Concern! (Please Send Us A Piñata Mr. President!)

Mike Petrilli is all bent out shape that the administration is not going to send John King to the Hill for a formal confirmation process but instead leave him running the Department of Education in an acting capacity.

I don’t know exactly what I think about this, but I do think Mike’s being transparently political. And I guess I must have taken the day off to fish when Mike took Senate Republicans to task for not moving nominations along…I had no idea he was so concerned about the confirmation issue! Good people have passed on jobs or left the administration over the broken confirmation process and I regret taking time off when Mike jumped all over his Senate Republican friends about that (or even the Democrats for that matter).

In this King* instance, while it would be terrific if the process worked like it’s supposed to (and I tend to be one who thinks that respecting the process rather than constantly testing it is a virtue in a governmental system like ours) isn’t it a point in the administration’s favor that they’re at least being transparent about their intentions? The Washington way to do this, which would leave Petrilli with nothing to write about, would be to announce an intent to nominate and then slow walk it for the reminder of the administration. Duncan’s not leaving for a while anyway so it would at most be an 11 month walk. Then you look like you’re respecting the process while you’re actually subverting it.

Instead, rather than play games the President seems to be acknowledging what everyone (including January Mike Petrilli) already gets – the confirmation process is a trainwreck right now. I guess at least give them some credit for candor and for focusing energy on things that matter. Because at no American dinner table, ever, did the confirmation status of a federal education official come up before things like, “what did you do at school today…?” if it ever came up at all.

*Standing disclosure: His wife works at Bellwether. She’s great, someone should nominate her for something.

Sports, Being Sport For Chad Aldeman, Bad Charters, Suburban Charters, And Duncan Transition. Ranch To Do Lists…

If you are going to take on Chad Aldeman over some issue, at least do your homework first.

RiShawn Biddle says the AFT is slowly going broke. If he’s right about this pre-Fredrich’s, then they’ll have a huge problem on their hands if that ruling doesn’t go their way. Whitmire says bad charters could derail education reform so I guess they can hope for that.

Also, today in unsurprising but nonetheless important education news.

Laura McKenna on charters the suburbs. Jay Greene on regulation and school choice.

There is a lot to this issue of the distortion of youth sports. It’s hard to miss how countries with more of a “play as you can” culture around youth sports have a healthier adult culture around sports.

Teachers disproportionately teach close to home. Turns out you want bond analysts who are homers, too  (h/t Money Stuff).

On Friday I discussed some takeaways from Arne Duncan’s transition. Guess what? What people think about it largely mirrors what bunker they’re in! Lemons and lemonade, or stopping the bleeding, or some metaphor: Randi Weingarten Friday, “disappointed” in John King pick for Ed Secretary. This morning, “King could surprise us all” by being a different leader than Duncan. “There’s a lot of people around him that have said they trust he’s going to do something different.”

There are a lot of things to do on a ranch.

October 2, 2015

Five No Spin Takeaways On Department of Education Transition

Via U.S. News & World Report here’s my take on five takeaways on the Department of Education leadership transition:

The education world reacted with surprise to this afternoon’s announcement that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is stepping down, and former New York education commissioner and current acting Deputy Secretary John King Jr. is stepping into the role at the end of the year. As with any political transition, there’s plenty of spin and speculation, but here are few things we can know for sure…

What are they? Well, you don’t need to quit your job or get a new one to read the whole thing. Click to read for free right here.

A King Is Born! MacArthur Ed Winner, Teachers Union Bread Winners, Graduation Rate Data. Is College Over?

Some news at the Dep’t of Education today. Duncan’s leaving at a low-point media wise but to judge his tenure you have to look back the entire sweep and he was definitely a consequential secretary and put in place some work that should pay dividends for kids down the road. Big loser here is the teachers’ union. They wanted Duncan gone. But be careful what you ask for…Now they get John King who has less patience for the games than Duncan did.

Virtual student exchanges. Education related MacArthur Fellowship winner. Is college over?

Is this the future of unionism? Long term seems cheaper and maybe more effective than pay to play? Sometimes teachers unions want privatization? All that data out there now makes people ask questions. Don’t become one of these jerks who can’t acknowledge success, but you should ask questions!

Good essay if you want some weekend reading.

There are a lot of goats in the news. Bears, too.

Scroll down this page for fish pictures and edujobs. Did you know Politico’s Caitlin Emma has an ill-tempered betta?

Friday Fish Pictures! More Alaska, This Time W/ Kids!

Bill Tucker is senior advisor at the Gates Foundation working on the U.S. Program’s College Ready work.  This summer he and his family took an Alaska trip. And they did this:


And that involved this…


..and this…


…and some of this!


You know what’s coming…take a kid fishing! It doesn’t have to be in Alaska to be a blast for everyone. Want some education flavored inspiration? Here are hundreds of pictures of education types, and many kids, out fishing.

September 30, 2015

Rodriguez Revisited, Duncan On Prisons, Carrying On About Carried Interest, Quality Problems With Ohio Charters And NCLB Reporting, ISAs and Bus Elevators!

The Rodriguez case might be the most important SCOTUS education case you’ve never learned about. This new HEP book revisits the case and its implications – that still matter a great deal today.

Arne Duncan is wading into a complicated issue here. Not sure this framing is going to help. But the issue of discipline and police in schools is something leaders should talk about and it’s good that he’s putting it on the table. Not sure how much we’ll hear about this line from critics:

There are lots of ways to go about this, and ultimately, local leaders and educators will know what’s best for their community.

LA charter school expansion plan picks up a key backer.

“Carried interest” gets play in our sector because it has something to do with hedge fund managers, and we like to argue about hedge fund managers. So much, actually, that lots of finance types who aren’t even actually hedge fund managers have that label applied to them. But while carried interest might be lousy tax policy and could be fixed in a future tax bill, it’s basically a sideshow. There are some other big tax issues that have a lot more consequence for education policy over the long term.

Lisa Hansel with a crucial personalized learning caution. Ohio’s charter sector sucks. So their recent federal award is getting some scrutiny. More on that here. As with most of these, the review process could come with a Surgeon General’s warning…Apparently there is confirmation bias in NCLB reporting. Who knew? Common Core is a three-ring political circus. Income-share agreements have some problems.

Going to the woods, but not like Thoreau. Bus elevators are happening.

September 29, 2015

Arne Duncan: Talking Points Writer, NEA: HRC Endorser, Charters, Camden, And The Teacher Evaluation Canard?

It was beautiful with a multitude of branches and no teacher evaluations…

I’m eager to visit the untouched world where if there just hadn’t been teacher evaluations the education sector would have been fine with real accountability attached to more ambitious standards in the Common Core era. I’ve heard tell of such a place…Isn’t it possible that teacher evaluations are the thing we’re fighting about now but absent that issue it would just be another one? History sure suggests that’s the case…Because, you know, I’m sure those people who were yelling racist things at John King at open meetings were actually just concerned that the weights in the new teacher evaluation system didn’t comport with their view of what matters most to effective teaching…

Meanwhile, let’s not forget that there was/is a real issue here. The policy might be messy and in some cases wanting for some fixes but this isn’t some trumped up problem. The quality of instruction seems kinda central to what we’re supposed to be doing in this sector?

The NEA leadership is not feeling the Bern. If they need help spinning this Arne Duncan is probably their guy. Turns out he helped the NEA write the talking points they used to condemn him at their national meeting. (If you view this as a rooting sport please don’t look behind the curtain, it will ruin things for you).

Here’s a new tool for aspiring teachers.

Do college students even know how to fight for what they want anymore? Charter love from the Department of Education. Virtual reality seems redundant in this sector. More Camden: “Many of the people inside the building weren’t from Camden. Neither were half of the protesters who gathered outside.” Education is not the only field with some intergenerational tension going on.

Here’s a lot of education news all in one place.

September 28, 2015

Edujob – Communications At PARCC Inc.

PARCC Inc., a D.C.-based non-profit that supports the PARCC assessment, various tools, interim assessments, other work related to the test, and states that are using the test is seeking a Communications Manager. Information on how to start that conversation via this link.

Skirmishing On Obama’s Education Legacy, Charter Outrage and Charter Results, High Schools And Special Education In New York, ESEA Post Boehner, Plus Insiders Opt-Out & Merrill Field

The outrage over this new charter school ad in New York seems a little forced, no? It’s unclear how pointing out the statistically well-documented racial disparities in educational outcomes is racist – on the contrary one could reasonably argue that a system that perpetuates that is at least classist if not racist. And making people uncomfortable about these issues – which do not visit Americans equally by race and class – hardly seems like the worst thing an advocacy group could do. On the contrary, kind of seems like the point? And isn’t that especially true when there are actually better options possible within the traditional public sector and the public charter sector in a place like New York City? Small schools and choice are not the only answer – or in my view the only policy changes needed in a place like New York – but they ought to set a standard for ambitiousness against which to judge other proposals. (Here’s Derrell Bradford on the ad.)

Speaking of New York this New Yorker look at high schools in New York and social mobility is so well worth your time. Surfaces some of the values tensions that are always present but too little discussed around the school closure/reconstitution issue. (Yes, I do realize it came out almost a month ago but with young kids I consider getting through New Yorkers within four weeks of publication a personal victory of sorts).

Also New York: Josh Max reflects on special education.

Rick Hess channeled the conservative case against President Obama on education, now here’s the pushback. In the later years of the Bush Administration and afterwards Bush hands and Democratic education policy types were still able to work together on a range of issues both high and low-profile. That sort of common ground seems less likely when the next administration transitions?

Chad Aldeman on Boehner’s departure from Congress and ESEA. I wouldn’t say this absolutely means ESEA isn’t going to happen but it sure does make it harder (and in my view the odds were long to begin with). A few months ago on a panel handicapping ESEA policy and politics for a group of school administrators we discussed the known challenges and then the often unknown ones emerge, too. While they’re by definition know knowable in their specifics you can usually bet on external events interceding. This certainly counts.

But at this point we’re not talking about really reauthorizing the ESEA law because there basically is no ESEA law. It’s unclear, short of Washington State-style outright defiance of the law what can actually cost someone a waiver from federal education law these days.

The LA Times looks at the debate over charter performance in Los Angeles. Comparing charter schools to magnet schools is absurd. But comparing charters to entire district sectors can be problematic, too, depending on the point of comparison and without some controls. But the LA Times article leaves readers wondering what ‘o what the world might be like if there were actually methodologically rigorous apples to apples analyses of charter performance in Los Angeles…

Here’s an analysis of different kinds of charter schools.  Charters as true innovators has never panned out at scale (although low-income families clamoring for better options understandably consider a good school they can attend an innovation). That points up an interesting policy puzzle around accountability and innovation. We want both but that’s a tall order.

Hechinger Report on the recent Whiteboard Advisors Insider survey on opt-out impact and prospects. New CEO at Washington’s E.L. Haynes*. This SCOTUS Fredrichs case is a BFD. More discussion of “The Prize.” That Common Core check stunt wasn’t pretty even if it got a lot of clicks (and going and talking with your kid’s teacher is pretty sound advice).

Not education related but this is a great article about Alaska aviation.

*Bellwether did this search.

September 25, 2015

How Not To Give Money To Charity, Not Everyone Is In It For The Kids, Catholic Ed, & Boehner

The Boehner retirement means a loss of a member who actually really cared about education. Possible NCLB overhaul impacts?

In that vein, Rick Hess makes an important point that people on all sides of various education issues care about kids – and it’s politically dangerous for Arne Duncan’s fans to try to use this argument as a trump card. But, Rick’s argument can also be taken too far and it’s also naive to think there are also not people who put various adult interests, politics, and issues first as well. That’s not a left-right issue, you see plenty of that in public and private on all sides. (And while issues like the unions and some common work rules are easy targets here, the problem is a lot more far reaching – rules about when schools can open in states with tourist dependent industries, Ohio’s approach to for-profit charters, the list is long…)

Today in charitable donations that won’t be made. 

With the Pope visiting the United States (and a school) here is a round up of some recent Bellwether work on Catholic schools. A lot of education news here.

Slash and burn approaches to education apparently a problem elsewhere, too.

Friday Fish!

M fishingBellwether’s Ali Fuller has a strong candidacy for mayor of fish porn. In addition to knowing her way around a fly rod she is also a competent wing shooter and very handy with a rifle. If it turns out the doomsday types are right you’ll want to head to Ali’s place if you’re hungry. Those skills, though, may run in the family. Here’s her daughter with a fish she caught.

A good reminder to take a kid fishing before it gets too cold.

Here’s another one of Ali (with a salmon). Want more fish pics? Here’s the world’s only nine-year compilation of education types with fish they’ve caught.

September 24, 2015

Clever, Duncan In Politico, Teacher Pensions, Moskowitz Is Agile, Whitman Is Barbed, Camden, Trump Hits Homecoming. Plus A D.C. Visit!

Via Eduardo Porter a pretty good summation of the problem a lot of people are trying to solve.

Everyone is chattering about the Arne Duncan profile in PolitcoRare bit of truth here:

…National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen Garcia, whose union has called for Duncan to resign. “But his reforms are so ridiculous, he’s uniting teachers, PTA’s, principals, everyone. We’re writing each other’s talking points!”

The NEA does actually write talking points for these groups and has for years! Wait, what? Oh right, probably not what she meant…

Anyway, on Duncan, things have gotten sort of ridiculous. All these people in DC and around the country told him to do all these things. And he did. Sometimes that meant spitting the difference where that might not have been the best course. So sure, Randi Weingarten is correct when she says that federal education policy is a “mess.” But a lot of people besides Duncan share some blame for that and most of them are just distancing themselves from Duncan at this point. Also, if you do this work long enough there will be a bunch of disaffected people who are happy to chat with reporters about their disaffection. (And Congress, for their part, did give Duncan the authority they’re now so frustrated with).

In a few ways all this reminds me of the Gates Foundation and small schools. The foundation asked what to do. People in the education sector said small schools. They did it. And then the same people started mouthing off about what a bad idea it was so the foundation changed course (even though over time the results bore out what the foundation was trying to do in the first place). On at least some issues Duncan can reasonably hope for a similar trajectory.

In a lot of ways Duncan gives as good as he gets in that article. But Congress is an easier target than some of the politics that have created the mousetrap Duncan’s in. All the crying is a little worrisome though…

Duel enrollment: This is a clever move by higher ed in MN. They’re protecting turf against encroachment from K-12. Sucks for the students but they are doing it very nicely. Nice pushback here.

Eva Moskowitz promised agility. So far she’s delivering on that. Los Angeles charters are delivering results, so not surprisingly people want more. They tell me economic integration is so easy! Better than choice! But then stuff like this keeps happening.

Yesterday via USN I took a look at some bananas financial advice for people in their 20s but how young teachers are going to take a hit whether they follow it or not. Lots of information about teacher retirement policies here.  And playing from behind at the big pension casino is always tough.

So now people are discovering Clever:

Clever’s success stands in marked contrast to a similar enterprise, called inBloom, a company that several years ago proposed to act as a data conduit for schools.

Indeed! And one of those contrasts might be that, until now, there were not big splashy articles about Clever…

Speaking of discoveries, wasn’t Paymon Rouhanifard supposed to be the community activist whisperer? I could barely get any work done with all the incoming emails about how he was so different than Cami Anderson in Newark. Maybe, and Paymon is impressive, but an alternative hypothesis is that the organized resistance just hadn’t ramped up in Camden yet? This work is hard and some conflict is unavoidable. See Duncan, Arne above.

In New York City Mayor de Blasio’s education agenda has some things to admire, as did his earlier emphasis on pre-k education. But this line:

Yet these ambitious initiatives will fail or fall short if the quality of reading instruction is mediocre or if the program becomes a patronage boondoggle in which well-connected people are hired regardless of talent.

from The Times editorial board seems like a vital caution that applies pretty much across the board with his education policy initiatives. Panic sees a lot of problems.

A research agenda on school discipline.  Is student data the lockbox of 2016? David Whitman is throwing more Common Core darts at conservatives. Donald Trump visits a school dance and offers kids some good advice – which makes the rest of what he’s doing seem even that much more cynical…

There is a visitor to Washington this week. He’s bringing people together. Building community. And spreading a message of peace. You can learn more here.

September 23, 2015

Teachers And Savings

In U.S. News & World Report I take a look at the hurdles today’s teachers face in saving for retirement:

Last week, everyone had a good time mocking an article in Elite Daily (yes, it’s real) about why saving money in your 20s won’t let you live a meaningful life of self-discovery. The author poignantly noted, ”When you have something to bank on, you have nothing to reach for.”

Precious. There really are so many ridiculous lines throughout the article that this entire column could just be pull quotes from it – and you’d laugh all the way through..

…Saving for retirement, though, is no joke. Especially for America’s teachers, who are being sold a retirement idea that is just as misleading as the idea – espoused by Elite Daily – that partying is some sort of human capital investment that will pay off in big raises down the road.

Teachers – who are America’s largest group of college-educated workers – are told they are trading lower salary today for retirement benefits that are more generous than most workers enjoy tomorrow. In practice, teacher pay varies widely, so it’s best to ignore sweeping statements about how teachers are paid. But it’s pretty clear the retirement side of that bargain is not working for most teachers…

No stock tips, sorry, (although you might want to steer clear of rare coins) but you can read more on how teacher pensions do and don’t work right now.  Tweet your retirement savings tips to me @arotherham.

September 21, 2015

Edujob Director of Development @ Charter Board Partners.

logo-charter-board-partnersIf you’re into:

a)  innovative educational projects

b) development work

c) charter schools

Then this role might be just for you: Director of Development at Charter Board Partners. CBP is a non-profit professional services firmhelping improve the quality of charter school board governance. High leverage issue and a chance for bit impact. More details and how to apply here. 

September 18, 2015

Tupac On Education, Pennington On WA, Planes & Subways, Sara Mead Will Get You A Charter School Date This Weekend! Plus Student Tied Flies…

Sound smart this weekend by working these seven charter school facts into your game, thanks to Sara Mead.

Who ate what? When? $200,000 is a lot of Subway. This is an easy target. But I’d be interested in some comparable data, Chicago Public Schools are a labor-heavy $5.7 billion concern (and that’s just operating budget). What do similar ventures pay for employee food? I don’t expect my employees to brown bag their professional development sessions…and when we do workshops with teachers we spring for lunch. All that said, there really are a lot of healthier options in Chicago than this…

Economist, Clark medal winner, McArthur fellow, and serious empiricist Roland Fryer is going to be a board of education member – so good. He’s the real deal. Also, seems like pay-per-view revenue opportunities now abound for Massachusetts around its board meetings? MA has a tradition of serious and iconoclastic board members, this guy would explode heads in most states…

Kaitlin Pennington on teacher evaluation and Seattle – and implications. Whitmire and I take a look at WA charter implications.

There is a student at Western Albemarle High School in Crozet, Virginia (Go Warriors!) who has launched his own fly fishing business. Email me offline if you want to be connected.

Via Bellwether, here’s Tupac on education.

This whole charter debate is so much less bonkers with evidence.  Obvious solution to spice it up? More airplanes!

People are now talking about this…Washington Post attention today, too…Seems like there is some bad history here (at this school, not just in general…) and the school administrators are on the right side of Tinker so far.

Scroll down this page for some edujobs and for Dan Weisberg, Adair Bard, Patrick McGuinn, and others with fish.

Friday Fish Porn – The New Fish Project

BluefishHere’s a little something for a lingering summer Friday morning:

One fish,

two fish,

TNTP’s Dan Weisberg with a bluefish.

Dan Weisberg is CEO at TNTP. He did a little fishing with some relatives this summer and they got into the bluefish (smoked bluefish is among the very top fish/game dishes I know).  Those are some nice bluefish.

Wondering where you can find pictures of education people with fish? Got you covered: Hundreds via this link and more via this one.

September 17, 2015

Sorry WA, The Never Was Common School Is Changing With Or Without You, Teacher Pensions, Kathleen Porter-Magee And Francis, Camino Nuevo And The White House, KIPP Eval, Missing Shanker, Suspending Confederates In VA, And Suspending Common Sense In TX…

At The 74 Richard Whitmire and I take a look at the broader issues surrounding the charter school ruling in Washington State. It is disruptive for the students, educators, and families involved, sure, but in the big scheme of things it’s a speed bump because how we think about the “common school” is evolving:

Whether or not the Washington court decision survives (Washington’s attorney general wants it changed because the precedent jeopardizes a host of public initiatives that do not strictly adhere to the old common school definition), the legal victory is illusory for charter opponents. There is no endgame where parents, especially poor parents, decide that, actually, they don’t want more options.

Meanwhile, as it has throughout our history, the definition of the common school is evolving once again. That’s why regardless of the outcome in Washington, the question with charter schools is not if or whether but rather when, how, and how fast.

Atlantic on the new Bellwether/Urban Institute teacher pension analysis. Bonus, not boring. Good article!

The Pope and Kathleen Porter-Magee.

Press releases like this remind you just how far the AFT has moved from its Al Shaker roots. Sandy Kress on a Texas ed policy two-step. Nice recognition for Camino Nuevo from The White House. This new KIPP evaluation from Mathematica is interesting. Middle school is such a weak link in the educational chain and KIPP seems to have figured some things out. Evidence speaks! But does anyone listen?

Take a break from work and all the cynicism and watch this video. Harlem Village Academies back to school.

Instructional platforms still exciting investors.  U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants better schools. Reformers, there is a party that RiShawn Biddle wants you to attend. This law student in Iowa is excited to welcome a corporate executive as a college president. Big point of debate but it might all turn on the particular exec rather than execs as a class? Too boring, I know. “What 10 puppies think about nontraditional college presidents…”

The story of Ahmed Mohamed, the high schooler who got clocked blocked at school earlier this week, seemed too buttoned up. You figured there had to be something more. Apparently turns out, no, just a sweet inquisitive kid and a clip for the ‘great moments in school management’ file. Still, when school officials drop the ball on things like this – and it happens, they fail to act, – they get clobbered as well. The administrators and police involved handled this poorly, to be sure, and it escalated way out of control. That’s on them. But we’ve also created something of a no-win environment for school administrators around things like this.

Along those lines, I remain surprised this has not received more attention.

September 16, 2015

DREAMERS, Teachers, Insiders, Pensions, Parents, Coders, And New Social Media!

On this date in 1620 the Mayflower set sail (Little known fact: it was one of the first efforts to get a jump on legacy admissions at northeastern schools).

There is new data from the Whiteboard Advisors Education Insider survey (pdf) including new questions about opt-outs, higher ed on the campaign trail, higher ed policy more generally, ESEA prospects, and more.

Teacher pensions, as they’re set up today, don’t work very well for early-career teachers (pdf) or for teachers who stay for a while (pdf). They do, however, work pretty well for people who manage teacher pensions.

Please read this before you run around touting neighborhood schools as one of our great democratic institutions. They have their pluses, sure, but egalitarianism ain’t one of them.

Charter parents in Washington State are pissed off. But this seems pretty alarmist, the Washington State decision applies to Washington State and won’t travel well.

The demographics of the teacher force are an issue. This is one of those things that makes this sector at once fascinating and exasperating because of how it’s discussed. As long as a focus on standardized tests as a gateway to teaching continues these issues will keep coming up.  Yet when efforts come along to move away from that toward a broader set of attributes and skills they get politicized. For instance the new more practice-based teacher test ran into a political buzz saw because it was developed in part by Valdemort Pearson. Can’t have that! Meanwhile, know where the most diverse cohort of teachers comes from? Teach For America. [But wait! That's not what they taught me at ed school?] And Teach For America focuses on more than scores in how they recruit but they also recruit and screen in a robust way that, literally, no school district in the country does right now. Content mastery is key but it’s possible to do effective teacher hiring differently than it’s mostly done now.

A few years ago I wrote about Quinn Cummings and her adventures in homeschooling. Check out what her daughter is up to now (and a good Kickstarter if you’re into that).

Another day, another messy education state supreme court decision. And again messiness around elected judges.

High schools, once more unto the breach! And too many ed tech bells and whistles? So bad or good timing for coding for all?

At RealClearEducation, in advance of the debate tonight former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa challenges Republican presidential candidates on the DREAM Act to allow undocumented immigrants to attend college with financial aid.

September 15, 2015

At Least Slavin Buys You Dinner! More Seattle, Pensions, UnCommon Core, Opportunity Culture, And More

This is one hell of a story and gets at some of the on-the-ground stuff that rarely penetrates the media conversation:

The union tactics at McKinley included requiring parents to show up at the school during the workday with a photo ID—a good way to scare off illegal immigrants—to verify their signatures.

Chad Aldeman on a Common Core workaround. Paul Hill and Ashley Jochim on another aspect of collateral damage from the WA State charter ruling. There are people with questions about teacher pension craziness.

People are also all worked up about teacher evaluations. But a lot of the debate about that issue is nuts. I don’t agree with all of this but here’s what a serious set of concerns look like via Denis Newman.

White, Educators Discuss Common Core Results. Commas sure do matter!

If you have dinner with Bob Slavin he may bust you for your educational privilege. Conor Williams will do the same and you won’t even get a dinner out of it. And more nuance on privilege via an interesting Times op-ed.

Go Bucks!

North Carolina teacher Romain Bertrand writes in RealClearEducation about reforming teacher pay. This is part of a series of teacher posts from Public Impact’s Opportunity Culture that RCE is publishing.

There are edujobs below, scroll down, and email me if you want to post one. Generally gets good results.

WSJ: De Blasio to Tie Education Agenda to Economic Inequality.  And…on that point his critics and supporters in the education world can agree…

September 14, 2015

Edujob: Education Policy and Programs Manager @SIIA

Here’s an edujob on the ed tech side of things: Education Policy and Programs Manager at the Software Information Industry Association (SIIA). It’s an interesting role that lives at the intersection between industry and policy on education technology and digital learning. You can learn more about the role and how to be considered here. 

Charters Everywhere, Education On The Campaign Trail Almost Nowhere, New High Schools, Old Debates…New Partners!

Three new partners at Bellwether: Rebecca Gifford GoldbergSara Mead, and Xiomara Padamsee, are joining the partner team. Sara and Rebecca started at Bellwether in 2010 as associate partners and Xiomara came to us in 2014 from Deloitte. In addition, James Willcox is joining Bellwether as a senior advisor. As CEO of nationally recognized charter management organization Aspire Public Schools, Willcox led a high growth period where Aspire expanded from serving just under 6,000 students to over 15,000.

It’s the anniversary of the death of James Fenimore Cooper. Probably best known for Last of the Mohicans, Cooper was also a Navy man. Originally a sailor, he enlisted after getting tossed out of Yale. Thomas Jefferson later made him an officer.

Here’s Malcolm Gladwell describing the KIPP experience in New Orleans post-Katrina:

“It has been tough,” said Rhonda Kalifey-Aluise, the C.E.O. of KIPP New Orleans Schools, part of a national educational network that has played a major role in the city’s educational experiment. “We’ve had fourteen different moves of our schools from year to year, as renovations are happening. The kids have had to get on buses and ride all across town. I think that if we had thought too much about what we were doing we probably wouldn’t have done it. There were lots of risks.”

Kalifey-Aluise and several of her colleagues then began to spell out just what she meant by “tough.” Two weeks before the storm, KIPP had opened its first school in New Orleans, KIPP Phillips College Prep—a middle school in Gentilly, with a hundred and twenty students. Katrina scattered everyone. Jonathan Bertsch, who was an administrator at that first school, recalls, “We started getting phone calls from our students—because, of course, it’s a KIPP school, and they have our numbers—from Atlanta, Chicago, and a lot from Houston, from the Astrodome. So we said, ‘We should go to Houston and find our students.’ I drove there, and I remember I picked everybody up at the airport, and we got the last room that was open in the Astrodome Holiday Inn, which was the executive suite at the top. There were forty of us staying in that room.”

Bertsch and his colleagues spent a week walking through the shelters with signs: “Do you know anyone who went to KIPP Phillips?” Bertsch went on, “We found about twelve or fourteen of our original students, which out of a class of a hundred and twenty is pretty significant, because we’re five hours away.” They teamed with people from KIPP’s Houston schools, rounded up twenty-nine teachers (twenty-six of whom had been with the Teach for America program in New Orleans), and on October 3rd—just over a month after Katrina—opened New Orleans West College Prep, kindergarten through eighth grade.

“For our families, the typical experience was we would meet them in shelters like the Astrodome and they would maybe transition toward a church shelter or be doubled up with a family,” Bertsch said. “Then maybe they would get a hotel voucher, and then maybe find a permanent apartment. A lot of our families were dealing with just trying to get their lives straight. The amount of trust and belief that families had in us was overwhelming. Because I would talk to families, and I’d be looking at a map and say, ‘You need to walk your child two blocks this way and two blocks this way and the bus will come’—and they had never met me, they don’t know who I am, and they’d never seen our school.” A year later, the KIPP organization moved back to New Orleans and started over, and, along with dozens of other groups, began the long task of rebuilding the city’s public-school system from the ground up.

People are debating the takeaways of Gladwell’s article but isn’t one that while we’re not going to have a system of schools where each one operates like this we should welcome some that do and make sure there is space in policy and practice to accommodate them? Here’s a guy now who wants to start some different (bonus Panic at the Pondiscio cameo in this one). Hard to see how a system resists this kind of thing and achieves the goals we expect of schools today.

LA Times weighs-in on the proposed charter expansion there. This David Whitman account of Common Core history is nothing but research and evidence! Nick Rodriguez on life after NCLB. Kevin Carey parses the new higher education data the Department of Education is putting out. Washington State’s AG wants the state supreme court to clean up its messy charter school ruling because of other programs it jeopardizes. Elsewhere in Seattle…no school! Senator Portman is courting students in his reelection effort. So much more news and analysis curated for you this morning, as every weekday morning, at RealClearEducation.com.

The Pioneer Institute thinks that the Fordham Institute is on the take for its Common Core position. Whatever. This is a now long-running and by now uninteresting spat. But here they make one point that makes no sense. They write,

Much of Fordham’s work has focused on Ohio’s charter schools. But Macke Raymond, director of Stanford University’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes, which studies the performance of charters across the country, said “Year over year, [Ohio charter students] are actually falling further behind.” During Fordham’s tenure, Ohio has among the worst performing charter schools in the country.

Seriously? First, this would be like pinning Massachusetts ongoing charter cap on Pioneer despite their efforts to change it. Fordham spent an awful lot of time, effort, and money trying to improve the charter sector in Ohio. They authorize schools there, and are transparent about that work so judge their performance for yourself. But it’s a dishonest cheap shot to pin the quality of Ohio’s charter sector on them and disrespects some hard work involved in trying to clean that mess up. Why do I care? Because we’re trying to clean that sector up, too. Surely there are more serious things to argue about?

Other than attacking Common Core so far it’s been mostly Hillary Clinton putting out education ideas on the campaign trail. Now, in his own way, Scott Walker is injecting education into the presidential race. Primary document here. Laurene Powell Jobs is campaigning for better high schools and ponying up some resources to try and make that happen.

I cleaned out my basement this weekend.

September 11, 2015

Friday Fish Porn – Bellwether On The Fork

IMG_0100Adair Bard, who is part of Bellwether’s Policy and Thought Leadership Team, was in Colorado earlier this month. The Mississippi native decided to try cold water fishing and took a day on the Roaring Fork. Here she is with a nice rainbow trout. There are big browns (really big) and rainbow trout in that water along with other species and while you can wade in some places it’s worth a float to hit some seams and pockets that are only fishable that way. It’s one of my favorite rivers and walking it further up is a great way to spend a day. For more local 411 you can’t go wrong with these guys.

The Roaring Fork starts as a high mountain stream and grows as it flows through its valley, fed by other rivers including the Frying Pan (another world class river) until it joins the Colorado.

It’s OK if you like to kill time looking at pictures of education people with fish. Hundreds via this link and more via this one.

September 10, 2015

State Of The Charter School Movement Via @ Bellwether

At Bellwether we do a lot of work with charter schools and school districts. Today we’re releasing a status update on the charter school sector based on a lot of research and analysis we’ve pulled together in the course of all that. Charters are growing, and they’re not going away, but how the charter story plays out for students and communities remains an open question. In the meantime there is a lot of mythology and misinformation on all sides of the debate. This deck is an effort to cut through that and take a look at where things stand. In particular, we look at quality, growth, trends where there is evidence, challenges, opportunities, and the variance around the country today (those slides are especially interesting in my view) as charters play out differently in different places. Read it here.

September 9, 2015

Back To School, Science Talent Search Jilted, Everything Is Not New, Especially Pension Problems, Pennington V. Willingham, And Did You Know Common Core Confuses People?

It’s a bummer Intel is pulling its sponsorship of the annual Science Talent Search.  This is one of the education events (OK, actually the DC education event) I look forward to most each year and I’m always frustrated if travel has me elsewhere when it happens. The students are amazing, their work is unbelievable, and having dinner with them makes you feel pretty confident about the prospects for improving the human condition.

I had a similar reaction as this to the recent Linda Darling Hammond essay announcing her new policy center. This field really is remarkably self-indulgent about just how revolutionary the times we live in are and what it means. And while the volume of information is increasing (and something may be happening structurally that should concern us) it’s unclear the economy is changing as fast as people assume or like to say it is. Among some economists a lot of concern about that.

All Apologies? In Seattle today the city’s charter schools are apparently open despite facing closure because of last Friday’s court ruling but the traditional public schools are closed because of a teachers’ strike.

You may not have heard, Common Core confuses people. So does teacher preparation: Kaitlin Pennington responds to Daniel Willingham.

Social Security, pensions, and the lived experience of teachers via Teacherpensions.org. Risk, lower-returns, and gambling. The lived experience of pension managers. And this is just bananas.

Richard Whitmire on closing lousy charter schools in The 74. He’s right about the quality point (although the overall quality point is more complicated, look for some data from Bellwether on that very soon) but doesn’t suddenly closing a bunch of charter schools complicate support for charter schools at least as much as it helps? The parents in those school might not think it’s such a great idea? I’m making a political rather than substantive point here, of course, and this isn’t a reason not to move on low-performing charters. We should. But the politics matter. Seems like this could launch a two-front war against charter schools if it’s not handled deftly. Also at The 74, here’s some straight ahead Eva Moskowitz.

I proposed a compromise on the Confederate school naming controversy. Crazy, I know..but what happens inside schools matters, too.

This should be a back to school staple. Every year. Period.

Confederate Heroes And School Names

In a U.S. News & World Report column today I take a look at the school naming controversy involving Confederate heroes (includes a bit of bonus Civil War history at no extra charge):

FALLS CHURCH, Virginia – All else equal, can we at least stipulate that it’s hardly ideal to send black students to schools named for Confederate heroes? OK, maybe we can’t. That’s still a pretty controversial point for some. What about sending them to schools that are both named for Confederates and doing a poor job educating students of color? That happens every day in too many public schools. Now, one of them, Fairfax County’s Stuart High School, is getting some national attention and pushback. (For the name, of course, not the academic results.)…

…Earlier this year some Stuart alumni reignited the controversy when they started a petition to change the name. They didn’t get too far, attracting only about 1,200 signatures. But then Oscar-winning actress Julianne Moore and producer Bruce Cohen got involved with a new petition. They have more than 32,000 signatures. Turns out even Jeb Stuart, veteran of several conflicts in addition to the Civil War, is no match for modern celebrity…

…in 2015, asking black students to attend schools named after people who fought for slavery seems more than a little awkward, too. Asking them to attend those schools when they’re not even getting a great education? C’mon.

Is Jeb Stuart really a most-favored Confederate anyway? Click here to read the whole thing and learn more about why Stuart is an odd choice to fight over, plus a modest compromise for a way out of this naming thicket. There are a bunch of Twitter handles with Confederate names, but @arotherham isn’t one of them. Tweet me your school naming compromise ideas there.

September 8, 2015

Whitmire With Russakoff, Great Leaders, California Test Data, Teacher Prep, and Models Amongst Us!

Richard Whitmire talks with Dale Russakof about “The Prize” and the issues the story raises in a RealClearEducation exclusive.

Dan Willingham wants better teacher preparation. His argument is fundamentally about scale. How do you design effective teacher preparation programs that pitch at the average – because, by definition, in a four million plus workforce that’s what a lot of people will be. Although what he calls for is happening in some ed schools, it’s not happening at anything near scale anywhere. The problems with teacher preparation he identifies? Turns out they’re really scalable!

This Washington State charter school ruling (pdf) is a mess and potentially disruptive for students. And it shows the folly of elected judges (stuff like this just makes people cynical about government). But, elected judges are a problem that extends far beyond this particular case and isn’t really a novel problem either…

California officials are right, don’t panic about the new test scores coming out this fall (Wait, did you say fall? Weren’t the new tests supposed to give faster more usable and actionable feedback for teachers?). Anyhow, what you might want to panic about, at least a little, Californians, is that your education officials thought it was OK to try to hide the ball on school performance and pulled this clown car stunt.

Ted Sizer was one of the great ones in this sector. Ron Matus points out his support for school choice. Sizer wasn’t a big fan of much of what goes on with standardized testing (though he wasn’t hostile to good tests (the MCAS for instance in his state of Massachusetts) but he realized if you weren’t going to have testing you had to have an alternative, which leads you to choice. He also was keenly aware of trade-offs and understood every approach had obvious problems and drawbacks. Too little of that around.  I talked with him about some of this a decade ago for an ES interview.

Speaking of impactful leaders, Thomas Sobol has passed. The Times on his life and work here. (And it turns out Diane Ravitch can even politicize an obit these days. I’d insert a joke here but, well, anyway she has a skill or something…)

The Limited is using leaders rather than models in its new campaign. There is at least one education leader in the mix, Nitzan Pelman, at the top, 4th from left.

September 4, 2015

Friday Fish Porn – Alaska!

IMG_4182Here’s Patrick McGuinn, professor of political science and author of education books, with his family and some fish they caught in Alaska earlier this summer.

A few years ago he wrote a great analysis of No Child Left Behind politics. Want to know something even more interesting than that? Hundreds of pictures of education people with their fish. You can see some via this link and still more via this one.

September 3, 2015

Declining Enrollment With A Side of Duck Fat Fries and Head Cheese! Today In Crazy Ledes, When Free Teaching Becomes A Free Pass, And We Don’t Need No Data!

This Libby Nelson article on Senator Marco Rubio and higher education is really interesting. Solid take on New Orleans from Pondiscio. In Philly they’re turning schools into bars. Sorry, I mean gastropubs.

Speaking of Philly, when your story includes the line,

“School officials said year-to-year comparisons were “not appropriate” because of the changes”

about year-over-year test scores because the underlying test changed significantly, then your story should not have a lede that reads:

Student performance on state exams dropped significantly in the Philadelphia School District, according to results released Wednesday.

Nor should it have the headline:

Major drops in city test scores

Speaking of ledes that shouldn’t be: First a Washington Post reporter writes this as a lede to a story in the paper’s news section:

Many public school teachers today are evaluated in part by something called a “growth score” — a number obtained through a complicated (and often nonsensical) formula that purports to show how much a teacher has contributed to the “growth” in their students’ academic performance as measured through a narrow (and often nonsensical) standardized test score.

It gets better. The underlying story is about a school superintendent who sent a letter to teachers in his district saying that he “does not care” what teacher’s student growth scores are. Not that he doesn’t think it fully defines their work, or that he’ll consider the data in a broader context, or even that the district has a different evaluation scheme that he thinks is better and here’s why…No, just that he doesn’t care. He said it more than once and in all CAPS to make sure that idea was clear. Yes, we celebrate that in this sector. Maybe he wrote it after getting off the phone with his stockbroker who also doesn’t need any stinkin’ data to make decisions, or his doctor who just goes with his gut! Anyway, it’s pandering, sure, but the message about quality is corrosive. Remember, a voucher supporter gets their wings every time something like this happens…

By the way, in practice, this guy is no more a hero than the teacher who says they won’t teach evolution. I look forward to all the articles and cheering about that…

No free lunch. Everyone is focusing on the teachers who are working for free in Chester-Upland because the district is broke. They’re not really working for free, they’ll be paid when this is settled but it’s an important gesture and about the only high note in a pretty grim story (and I think Pennsylvania case law doesn’t require them to work in this situation, PA attorneys is that correct?). But, there is so much more going on around that district and its charter schools that reporters should really dig in on. The “free” work is becoming a smokescreen to a lot of problems there that deserve attention.

And this could be bonkers before it’s done: This rescind Common Core petition (pdf)  is going to be on the Massachusetts ballot for voters to consider.

Here’s a crowd sourcing of reasons consuming news exclusively via social media is making our education conversations dumb.

Three stages of being a big city superintendent: First, I’m not the last person! That usually gives way to ‘conditions here are really hard,’ and is followed by ‘let’s get someone new.’