March 11, 2014


If you’re not on the RealClearEducation’s daily email list, this morning’s is below. And you can sign up (free) here.

It’s March 11, 2014. Welcome to the inaugural morning update from RealClearEducation. Below you will find just a handful of the news stories, commentaries, and reports leading our site this morning. But the best content lives on our site – there’s plenty more at, and we’ll update with more throughout the day. Also on our front page this morning: the first column by RealClearEducation columnist Dan Willingham and a Morning Commute interview with Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), where he talks Bill de Blasio and New York.  All week we’ll post video from that interview on a range of issues.

RealClearEducation officially launches tomorrow morning at an event in Washington, D.C. featuring a great lineup of panelists to discuss key issues. It’s not too late to RSVP if you’d like to join us, but space is limited. 

If you’re not sure what we’re up to, here’s a short editor’s note describing more about what you can expect from RealClearEducation. 

It’s a fitting day to launch this newsletter, which will preview the day each weekday. On this date 191 years ago, Samuel Read Hall opened the first teacher training school in the United States. Hall had agreed to come to Concord, Vt. to serve as a pastor but only with an agreement that he could launch such a school. 

Almost two centuries later, how to train teachers is a hotbed of controversy. It’s just one of many debates in education that frequently give off more heat than light. That probably wouldn’t make sense to Hall.  He was homeschooled, but later taught at a private school, and obviously believed in teacher training.  In other words, he cut across various parts of this sector.

We’ll try to do that, too.

Guestpost – Silas Kulkarni, Can Common Core Revive Professional Development?

After this post showing people who teach children being treated like children, Silas Kulkarni of Student Achievement Partners reached out to discuss whether the Common Core might be good for teacher professional development. He made some interesting points, I asked for a guest post, and here it is:

“Repeat after me:  ‘I will…think…critically.’”  Sounds like a joke, unless you’ve watched this video (recently posted by this blog). In an image reminiscent of the satirical PD scene from The Wire, Season 4, teachers in a Chicago “PD” session are asked to parrot the presenter in unison. What might not be immediately apparent in the Chicago video is that the words that the teachers are repeating are taken from the Common Core State Standards.  The irony is that the Common Core asks students to be critical thinkers, who can read complex texts, write analytically, and understand math both conceptually and fluently.  Despite the fact that we are asking more of our students than ever before, rote and superficial methods of PD are still all too common for our teachers. Why?

First and foremost, old habits die hard. We are used to treating teachers more like factory workers than entrepreneurs. But there is a fundamental disjuncture between the idea of teachers as automatons and students as independent thinkers.  Second, even those who understand this, struggle to make time for teachers to think, collaborate, and learn. To succeed with the Common Core, we need a new form of PD.

The hopeful news is that many teachers are already experiencing a better approach. Listen to these teachers from Washoe County (Reno, NV) talk about their teacher-driven PD initiative, known as the Core Task Project. The Core Task Project gives teachers the opportunity to pilot Common Core-aligned lesson plans with their students, reflect collaboratively on what worked (or didn’t), and receive feedback and training throughout the year. The initiative was recently featured in an EdWeek article and a  Fordham Foundation report, and has grown from 18 teachers to nearly 1500 (roughly half the district). According to the Fordham report, 89% of the 1000 teachers surveyed reported that the PD helped deepen their understanding of the Common Core instructional shifts. Through their training, participating teachers have created a bank of Common Core-aligned curricular resources available freely via the web.

Around the country numerous strong professional learning models are springing up to meet the challenge of the Common Core, including LearnZillion’s TeachFest, New York City’s iPD initiative, the DC Common Core Collaborative, and the Basal Alignment Project (BAP). The Common Core did not create the demand for effective professional learning, but it does highlight how much we need it.  In contrast to traditional PD, which often elicits groans and foot-dragging from teachers, teachers flock to real professional learning; LearnZillion had over 3000 applicants for its Dream Team and BAP has become one of the biggest Edmodo groups with over 35,000 members.  Teachers are hungry for the opportunity to reflect on content, collaborate with peers, receive expert feedback, and practice the skills they are trying to learn.  All of these models engage teachers deeply with the Common Core by asking them to think and create.

Thinking and creating are the practices we want to develop in our students. Why don’t we start by developing them in our teachers?

Silas Kulkarni works on the Literacy team at Student Achievement Partners, and previously taught in Harlem, New York, and SE Washington, DC.

March 10, 2014

Charter Next Steps In Gotham

New York City Mayor de Blasio went on Morning Joe today and seemed to be signaling that he gets that he’s beaten on the charter school issue already. As one wag put it, Eva Moskowitz has now successfully co-located her heel in Mr. de Blasio’s backside. His remarks come on the heels of his school chancellor’s change in position last week with regard to one co-location. Maybe he was just trying to dial back the rhetoric but if indeed the budget and colocation issues can be addressed then it’s time to reset this conversation.  A couple of things to keep in mind.

First, colocations are necessary in an urban environment like New York City but it’s not self-evident it’s anything approaching a sustainable policy and they do cause friction that you don’t see in other cities. So a broader conversation about getting equitable facilities aid for charters and ensuring that school suitable space in the city is begin used as efficiently as possible seems fruitful.

De Blasio’s statements about charters and position toward them is/was pretty retrograde (and his remark’s about Eva Moskowtiz surprisingly personal to boot) especially considering the strong performance of the charter sector there, which is well documented across multiple analyses. But, that doesn’t mean there are not real issues here.  As charters grow it it is legitimate to ask how to balance student needs across the entire education sector.  Holding every school accountable for the percentage of special education students it serves is not a sensible policy (and is not how traditional public schools handle special ed) but it is reasonable to look at that percentage across the charter sector.  If no charters want to backflll seats after the start of school or only add students grade-by-grade that does create problems that land in the laps of the traditional public schools. So what’s the obligation of the charter sector there? Many charter advocates respond that these schools are autonomous, so leave them alone. That’s an OK answer when charters are on the margins but not satisfactory as their popularity and market share grows.

Perhaps, then, instead of charging rent based on what resources charter network has, which basically punishes success (no pun intended) it would make sense to start levying taxes for city space based on operational norms. If you don’t want to accept additional students after the start of school, that’s fine, but there will be a cost in terms of the space subsidy. If the sector overall isn’t proportionally serving ELL students or special education students then perhaps that should factor into sector wide facilities subsidies. Conversely, of course, access to facilities where there is space would have to increase as would equitable funding for facilities.

Many in the charter sector hate any ideas like this and these ideas raise their own complications. But, the point is to start having a conversation that’s not punitive toward charters or existing public schools but about how to modernize both sectors to ensure more students are well served. And within the charter sector there are plenty of leaders who think that a conversation about reciprocal obligations for charters is an important one as charter grow.  Frankly, if de Blasio really wanted to cause problems in the charter school community he would put forward reasonable ideas that split the charter coalition rather than pursuing this vindictive campaign against successful schools, which simply unites everyone.

Of course, it’s possible de Blasio, facing plummeting approval ratings and a torrent of criticism over his charter moves, is just posturing until the attention goes away again.  But if he’s not his schools chancellor could start a conversation that helps the charter sector and the traditional public schools grow stronger – and most importantly improves the situation for New York City’s kids.  The opportunity is there Mr. Mayor.


RealClearEducation launching this week, here’s an editors note on what we’re up to.  The launch is Wednesday morning, it’s in D.C. if you are in town and want to come by.

In terms of this blog, I’ll continue to write it, if you visit the site you can see how what we’re doing there is different than Eduwonk.

March 7, 2014

Real Clear Education Launch 3/12 In Washington, D.C.

Real Clear Education formally launching next week. Wednesday morning in Washington, D.C., click for more information and to RSVP.

New York Cheat Sheet – 7 On Moskowitz v. de Blasio

A lot of back and forth in New York City about the Moskowitz v. de Blasio charter school showdown. A few thoughts:

1) On the big question, Success Academy’s Moskowitz is clearly winning at this point.  School chancellor Farina’s softening of tone is an indication that there is political pain being felt. The mayor’s approval ratings are barely higher than Derek Jeter’s spring training batting average – taking a hit to 39 percent (for a bunch of reasons, some with nothing to do with education).

2) Farina’s saying “charters are on their own” is being used to show she has an inner Cruella de Vil. Except the quote is being taken out of context. If you listen to the interview she clearly means the schools independent not that those kids are on their own.

3) This new argument that the choice in one of the colocations is Moskowitz v. special ed kids is great politics and being sold to reporters but ignores the facts.  No students are being displaced, it’s about future students, and the impact analysis for the colocation in question (pdf) indicates that there is suitable space elsewhere for those programs.

4) Mayor de Blasio is creating two new political forces in education over this – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Moskowitz.  Their strategists couldn’t have wished for such fat pitch right across the plate.

5) In real terms it is hard to characterize the de Blasio administration’s specific decisions on colocation as an all out war on charter schools. But it’s the context that matters – budget decisions, the rhetoric during the campaign and subsequently (including the stunningly personal and vindictive rhetoric about Moskowitz), and the fact that all the schools involved are in Moskowitz’s network that is turing this debate into one that people are watching. And, it’s the most visible hot war in the the education cold war happening within the Democratic Party.

6) Moskowitz’s closing schools and taking students to Albany to protest against the de Blasio policies is emerging as a flashpoint. Reasonable people can disagree about such a move but neither “side” in the education debate has clean hands here. The people now denouncing Moskowitz were silent or applauding when schools in WI and MI closed because everyone was off protesting, for instance. The AFT gave the leader of one MI protest an award for getting so many teachers to skip work. On Twitter someone remarked that Wisconsin was a once in a lifetime thing so it’s excusable. OK, sure, but if you’re a desperate New York City parent betting on one of these schools as your child’s ticket to a quality education you probably feel the same way about your child’s school being at risk.

7) Hottest thing written about this yet? Peggy Noonan’s WSJ column today. Yikes!

New SAT – 5 Questions For Kathleen Porter-Magee

At RealClearEducation Emmeline Zhao talks with College Board’s Kathleen Porter-Magee about the new test and the intersection between the new test and Common Core.

March 6, 2014

Pahara Next Gen Leaders

New initiative from Pahara Insitute – fellowship for next generation leaders.  First class announced today.

Edujob – CAO At See Forever Foundation

See Forever Foundation runs the Maya Angelou Public Charter Schools in DC and the Maya Angelou Academy at New Beginnings in Maryland – an innovative secure facility for incarcerated youth.  They are seeking a Chief Academic Officer, which is a great chance to be involved with two pathbreaking programs.

South By South Silo

 SXSW#edu is quickly becoming a major stop on the education conference scene.  In the spirit of SXSW it’s a gathering without a clear theme.  To a large extent that’s great and can foster creativity and fresh thinking. But the oddest thing about SXSW this year was that it was really two conferences happening parallel to one another. You had ed tech types, reformers, innovators having one conversation. For a taste of that follow Tom Vander Ark on Twitter. The anti-reform crowd having another. Follow Diane Ravitch or Randi Weingarten. And even though everyone was in Austin – which is a great town – there was little cross-pollination. Instead it was mostly two armed camps united only in affection for Starbucks.

Perhaps over time it will become a conference associated with one strand or camp or another.  But I hope not. It seemed a microcosm of the larger state of play right now. If all you read is Twitter or some of the blogs and media you hear this conversation of anger and venom. Yet when you get out around the country with different kinds of people there are all sorts of interesting things happening – many of which defy the stereotypes or “sides” and some of are likely to drive progress for kids. A conference that could bring people together, not only in the same city but actually together to engage*, would be a major addition to the annual calendar.

*And yes, I get that there are too many people on both extremes impervious to evidence and all that but there is some good space in between.

Five Thoughts On The New SAT

The big education news yesterday was the revised SAT announced by College Board President David Coleman. Underneath all the jokes about vocabulary words you don’t have to know anymore it’s a serious shift. How serious? Five thoughts:

1) The underlying story seems to be how much the SAT is changing in response to the Common Core – which Coleman was a key architect of.  It’s traditionally been a test that by design wasn’t tied to high school standards or curricula. That’s changing and shows that the College Board thinks those issues are where the action is going to be – not the traditional ACT – SAT rivalry (although the ACT test is more oriented in that direction now).

2) The focus on the SAT does highlight the east coast/west coast bias in our national conversation colleges.  More students take the ACT than the SAT but most people in influential positions in media took the SAT.  The SAT matters and the signaling effects of this change are enormous, but the educational sun in this country doesn’t rise and set on ‘board scores’  alone.

3) David’s commitment to equity is as deep as it is admirable and the steps the College Board is taking to try to level the test prep playing field are sound ones. But the parental anxiety industry may be second only to the porn industry in terms of persistent and insatiable demand.  Affluent parents will continue to take whatever steps they think might help their children gain an edge.  It’s an old story.

4) You’re hard-pressed to find people with deep affection the SAT even within higher education.  But it’s an efficient tool for college admissions, that’s what accounts for its “popularity.” The predictive power isn’t great, but it’s there. Grades can predict, too, but the SAT is efficient.  So this isn’t a love affair, it’s a marriage neither side can afford to end.

5) Back to 1600. Your old score suddenly sounds good again!

Disc – I’ve known David for a long time in a few capacities and Bellwether consults for ACT – on public policy issues and analysis unrelated to the college admissions test.

Three In Four Education Insiders Think Companies Are Operating Illegally In Education Data Space

There are a lot of interesting items in this new batch of Whiteboard Education Insider data released today (pdf). But the big story is privacy: 73 percent of the Education Insiders surveyed believe there are companies operating in the education sector in violation of federal privacy laws (83 percent see data privacy in education as a serious issue).  In addition to several more questions about privacy issues there are also survey results on Common Core and the pending Common Core bills/resolutions in Congress, New York and Governor Cuomo, and the regular tracking questions.

March 5, 2014

Cerf V. NJEA On Common Core & Eval

From New Jersey, this letter from outgoing state education Commissioner Chris Cerf is a doozy. He goes public with the behind the scenes back and forth playing out in a lot states (pdf).

A few highlights:

…We have consistently clarified these facts with the NJEA, which often they concede in private, only to then make baseless accusations in public….

…how else can you reconcile recent statements below claiming that test scores have no place in evaluation systems after they endorsed a bill that explicitly required test scores as one component of evaluations?…

…I cannot say for certain why the new leadership of the NJEA has decided to engage in a deliberate campaign of misinformation.   I do know that they are personally aware that their statements are false, as I have engaged them directly with the incontrovertible, publicly verifiable facts.  In response, they exhibit what can only be described as reckless indifference to the truth.  When the educational well being of children is at stake, the least we can expect of interest groups is a commitment to honest debate.   One might also hope for a commitment to civil discourse and a pledge to avoid ad hominem attacks.  The NJEA has decided at the very top of the organization to eschew these basic elements of responsible political discussion.  I find that highly regrettable and, frankly, a significant change of direction from the previous leadership of the organization, with whom I personally built a strong and trusting relationship – albeit one marked by spirited disagreements….

Over the past few months the kinds of complaints that have long been aired about the teachers unions in private seem to be coming up in public more.  Whether that’s a lasting shift or something happening now because of the critical point Common Core is at remains to be seen but it’s an unmistakable change.

RealClearEducation Launch Event

edu_logo_homeRealClearEducation is officially launching next week – Wednesday morning in D.C. The event will feature the RealClearPolitics lightning round-style with experts on a range of issues from college finance to Common Core, teacher pensions, choice, and ed tech. Plus a chance to learn more about the project.

If you’re in town you can RSVP to attend here.

Everyone Cares About Education!

GMMB complied a video of political leaders talking about education as part of a session on education politics at SXSW#edu this week. In sum, it’s sort of a case for homeschooling. If you missed the session the Cliff’s notes version is brutal, adult-driven, and not very sophisticated.

March 4, 2014

More New York Charters

Conor Williams takes a look at what’s happening in New York City on charter schools for Daily Beast.

February 28, 2014

Why Teachers Hate PD

People outside education are sometimes baffled about why teachers are so sour about professional development. Here’s a short video that will make it more understandable:

Merriman on NYC Charter Decision

RealClearEd’s Emmeline Zhao talks with James Merriman about what yesterday’s charter school decision in New York City does and doesn’t mean.

Friday Fish Porn – Tim Taylor Warms Up

photoTim Taylor of America Succeeds – the national outgrowth of Colorado EAO Colorado Succeeds – was in Florida recently and did some fishing for the plate. Here he is with a nice sea trout – always fun on the fly. This is Tim’s second Friday Fish Porn appearance.

All past fish porn pics dating back to 2006 via this link.

February 27, 2014

Edujobs – Charter Board Partners

School boards are often a weak link in school quality.  Charter school boards are no exception.  That’s why Charter Board Partners was launched, to try to improve the quality of charter governing boards.  CBP is growing and hiring for multiple roles including, Director of Finance and Operations, Director of Board Support, an Executive Director for their DC team, and some administrative roles. More info through that link.

Democrat v. Democrat

It sure looks like the old splits in the Democratic party on education are reemerging.  That’s not surprising given the timing – open seat presidency in 2016 creates a vacuum  - as well as policy differences and politics.  Richard Whitmire and I take a look at that in USA Today this morning.

Most non-New Yorkers know only two things about Bill de Blasio, the city’s new progressive mayor: Heeats pizza with a knife and fork, and Al Roker attacked him for sending students to school in a snowstorm.

But parents should know a third: He’s waging a Democrat vs. Democrat battle over education issues that could spill into the 2016 Democratic presidential primary and into your community.

Entire op-ed here.

February 26, 2014

Edujobs – National Alliance For Public Charter Schools

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools – based in Washington, D.C. – is hiring for several roles including a Director for Research and Evaluation, a Senior Director for Legal Affairs, a marketing and communications position and also internships.  NACPS is in the middle of charter school policy issues nationally and in some states so impactful roles in that part of the sector.

February 25, 2014

Blue Deviled – Does The Duke Porn Star Really Tell Us Much About College Costs?

The story had the perfect ingredients for an online firestorm – a student at Duke paying her way through college by performing in adult films.  College costs, parental anxiety, and sex. It was only kittens away from having the entire internet covered.  The coverage not surprisingly turned to the sexual aspects — fueled in no small part by the reaction of the some of the young woman’s classmates.  The gender issues are significant but that’s well trod ground – especially at Duke. The college cost issue is fresher. Did this student, “Lauren” (not her real name), have to turn to porn or was it a choice among several paths to a competitive college degree? And what’s the takeaway from all this for those concerned about college costs and access, if there is one at all?

RealClearEducation’s Emmeline Zhao talked with Lauren about that last week in an interview published this morning. It was the kind of interview I prefer, a person in their own words and unfiltered. Readers can draw their own conclusions.

My take: At its core this is a story of an eighteen year old still figuring things out, unfortunately now on the public stage with a story that is impossible to resist.  Lauren had scholarships to other schools but chose Duke instead. So, despite the outrageous cost of attending some colleges, in this instance Lauren made a choice.  That doesn’t mean there is not a problem with college costs, and Lauren’s account reinforces what a lousy job the country does signaling to students about their college and college financing choices (pdf). But her specific story seems more about someone drawn to the adult entertainment industry than it does about college costs.

But read the interview yourself and decide.

February 21, 2014

Edujob – Ed Policy + Buckeyes! Analyst For Fordham Foundation In Ohio

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation is hiring for an education analyst. Based in Columbus this is a research and writing role with some online and event work as well.  Fordham’s Ohio work is interesting, respected by serious players on all sides of the issues there, and in the policy mix.

Shots Fired! Tim Daly Calls Out The Teachers Unions On Common Core

ij61za9TNTP’s Tim  Daly says both major teachers unions are now undermining Common Core.

“This has everything to do with politics and job protection.”  

Strong stuff but he’s giving voice to what a lot of people are saying behind the scenes (and something the Whiteboard Education Insider survey is picking up), which is why this is a must-read.  What’s not clear yet is whether we’re seeing a genuine pivot in how people view the teachers unions and what’s possible or a temporary setback in an ongoing relationship.  Too soon too tell and Tim ascribes a posture to the administration that I’d argue is too strong – especially in an election year. But there is definitely a Lucy and the football quality to how reformers and the Common Core coalition feel about what’s happening.

One irony worth pointing out is that many teachers understandably want to see the current publishing and assessment industry disrupted. Union leaders claim to want that, too, though at the national level they’re a lot more cozy with big commercial interests in education than their rhetoric lets on. But Common Core with both its commonality and curricular flexibility offers arguably* the best chance to reshape that marketplace and allow new and smaller providers to compete.  A lot of Common Core critics seem not to get that Common Core going down isn’t bad for the commercial status quo in education. On the contrary, it would bolster a lot of today’s problems and vested interests.

*School choice proponents would disagree!

Chad Aldeman On Washington State Teacher Eval & NCLB Waiver

Washington State in the news on teacher evaluation.  Chad Aldeman unpacks what it all means now – and going forward. 

Update: Also, depending on your perspective, Chad has good news or bad news for New York City teachers.

February 20, 2014

Guest Post – 50CAN’s Marc Porter Magee on his Education Roadtrip

Marc Porter Magee, president and founder of 50CAN, just launched a national look at what people think about education. In this guest post he describes some of what they found. 50Can is a nonprofit organization advocating for a high-quality education for all kids.

Ever wonder if people in New England think differently about education than people in the South? The West vs. the Midwest?

We did and the result is 50CAN’s Education Roadtrip, an interactive journey through the education views of 6,400 Americans across the eight major regions of the country.

The idea for this project came out of the work we’ve done over the past three years advocating for education policies in seven different states. After running 32 legislative campaigns that have helped enact 28 state policies, we got this sense that Americans are much more united on education issues than we might have thought.

That’s why we decided to conduct this 8-region poll. We needed hard data to help us really understand both the regional nuances and the areas of national consensus.

Here are a few highlights of what we found:

Character is king

Ed reformers love to talk about economic competitiveness. And more often than not, the economy is the first thing we cite when making the case for change. But that’s thinking like a president, not a parent.

When we asked voters to cite the long-term value of education, they chose “building character” over “healthy economy” by a 2 to 1 margin.

This viewpoint does vary a bit by region. For example, twice as many people in the Midwest picked “building character” compared to the mid-Atlantic, just next door. But overall, we see that education matters to people in large part because of the kind of person it helps children become.

Trusting teachers the most

When it comes to who the public trusts to determine how best to improve our schools, no matter what region you’re in, teachers come out on top. Following closely behind this trust in teachers (78%) is trust in parents (68%) and principals (67%).

Now teachers unions aren’t shy about saying they speak for teachers. But regardless of what people think about unions or where they live, it’s clear that voters see a big difference between ordinary teachers and teachers unions, who were trusted by only 40% of voters.

If teachers are tops, which group was trusted the least? Whatever region you’re in the answer is the same: elected officials in D.C. These results underscore why it’s so important for local leaders—particularly teachers, parents and principals—to be the ones pushing for changes in our schools.

And the gold goes to …

The past two weeks we’ve been watching athletes compete for the gold in Sochi and we wondered: which states would win in an education Olympics?

When we asked voters to give states in their region gold, silver and bronze medals for their education system, they jumped at the chance. In fact, despite the deeply rooted localness of American education, most people chose to give the gold to a state other than their own.

What’s particularly exciting is the number of “gold medal” states that have distinguished themselves by enacting the groundbreaking policies. In the Midwest, gold medal winner Minnesota has been a leader on public charter schools. In the Mountain states, Colorado has distinguished itself on its teacher quality laws. In New England, Massachusetts has long championed rigorous standards. In the South, Florida has led the way on accountability systems. One big take away from these results is the tremendous power of local role models to help lead the way for change.

But don’t take my word for it. Go on the roadtrip, explore the data yourself, and then share what you think with us on Twitter and Facebook. I found the geography of American public opinion on education pretty fascinating, and I can’t wait to find out if you do, too.

February 19, 2014

Ethan Gray Guest Post: Kansas City Power Politics

Ethan Gray is CEO of the CEE-Trust and someone I’ve known since he was a graduate student and Ted Sizer told me I should hire him (he was right).  CEE-Trust (an organization that Bellwether provided strategic advice to as it was organizing) is working with the state of Missouri on school improvement work there – with a focus on the Kansas City Schools. Not surprisingly the debate is contentious and below Ethan lays out in a guest post his take on what’s going on:

Earlier this year my organization CEE-Trust was tasked by the Missouri Board of Education to develop a plan to transform failed school districts with a special emphasis on Kansas City Public Schools. For context, KCPS is a system where 70 percent of students are below proficient and the average ACT score is a tick above 16. You can read our executive summary for a detailed overview of the plan.

Earlier this week, we released an open letter to KCPS teachers because, as we say in the letter, “those who benefit by keeping the current system in place have consistently misrepresented our beliefs and what our plan would mean” for the district’s teachers.

During our research phase, our first focus group was with the Kansas City Federation of Teachers. We were surprised when we arrived at union headquarters and saw an inaccurate American Federation of Teachers anti-CEE-Trust flier sitting on the waiting room table.

Around Christmas, before a draft of the plan had even come out, union leaders organized a public event to sing anti-CEE-Trust Christmas carols, falsely accusing us of wanting to privatize the district. Then, when the report draft came out, they put a page on their website with misleading anti-CEE-Trust talking points.

What has genuinely struck me about Kansas City is the extent to which power politics have obscured an honest debate of ideas, despite the common ground between our proposal and what teachers told us they wanted.

For example, teachers told us they wanted more autonomy, better pay, universal pre-k, and the budgetary flexibility to provide wrap around services to better meet the needs of students living in poverty. We were able to address all of those priorities in our plan.

Under our plan, educators run schools and make all key programmatic decisions at the school level, while the system focuses on accountability and a few common services.

Unlike those who want to charter-ize everything, we maintain a central system because it helps guarantee equity and access. Our system sets common enrollment and expulsion policies, ensuring that schools serve all students – especially those who charters have sometimes neglected or counseled out. Our system also provides universal pre-k and citywide transportation.

We preserve collective bargaining rights but shift them to the school level since the district no longer employs teachers directly. Yes, that makes unions work harder to organize. But what is more important, maintaining a one-size-fits-all contract or successfully addressing other important teacher priorities like pay, working conditions, and autonomy?

For example, our plan’s Appendix C shows that a sample elementary school could increase average teacher pay by 20 percent; lower class sizes by 20 percent from state guidelines; hire a full time social worker and part time nurse; hire art, music, and PE teachers; and still have money left over to purchase additional wrap around services. It is possible to meet all of the teachers’ priorities while staying within the budget of the current system.

Take a look at our plan, then take a look at this page from the AFT’s website. We could have put most of that page in the middle of our report and it would have fit right in. Unfortunately, rather then see common ground, interest groups have retreated to their political talking points, even when they don’t fit the actual debate.

We’ve developed a plan for a school system that empowers educators and pays them more, gives parents more meaningful choices, and provides pre-k and wrap around services to address the issues of poverty. We believe that such a school system better meets teachers’ needs and will produce vastly better results for children.

Yet we’ve been opposed at every turn by groups that would benefit under our proposals. Unfortunately, the debate in Kansas City has been shaped more by fear mongering and conspiracy theories than the free exchange of ideas. That’s too bad, because if one thing is clear, it’s that our cities are in desperate need of strategies that can make teaching more attractive and sustainable, while delivering better results for students than the current top-down districts of today.

February 18, 2014

Edujobs -Stand For Children & Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston

Challenging and interesting times for Catholic schools. The Archdiocese of Boston is seeking a new schools leader to navigate through it.

Stand for Children is seeking a national policy director.

February 14, 2014

Friday Fish Porn – It’s Always Summer Somewhere Edition

Fishing may be slow in the east but it’s not down south. Here’s Erin Dillon – formerly of Ed Sector and the Strategic Data Project – with a spectacular king salmon she caught on the Petrohué river in Chile this month. Ben Riley is also tearing it up in New Zealand, pics to come soon.


Eight years of past education fish porn via this link.