September 19, 2018

Burn Camp

One of the perks of my job is that I get to work on some pretty interesting and cool projects and get to learn all the time. But now and then one is particularly special and this package coming from The 74 today is one of those.

Emmeline Zhao and I spent time this summer at the Mid-Atlantic Burn Camp, which is a camp for burn survivors in the Shenandoah Valley. It’s a magical place, incredible adults and kids driving toward a shared goal. And it’s hard to describe, but Emmeline and I tried to do just that.

We have video, I wrote about the camp, and pictures. You can see it all via this link. Video embedded below.

A raptor expert from the U.S. Forest Service is explaining to a group of summer campers how the birds she cares for are stronger than their wild counterparts because of various injuries they have overcome. It’s a subtle point that might sail over the heads of a lot of people, especially while they are focused on a majestic bald eagle perched on her arm just 10 feet away — so close it blows their hair back when it moves its powerful wings.

Yet these kids get it immediately…

Entire column here.

Posted on Sep 19, 2018 @ 8:00am

September 18, 2018

Health Care Costs, Civic Education, McKee Wins, Boser Learns, California Dreamin’, Widespread, More!

Last night we released “Rigged” a new game from Bellwether.

Chad Aldeman takes a look at teacher retirement benefits and health care.

Phil Burgoyne-Allen on civics education and why it’s about both content and engagement.

Rhode Island’s Dan McKee, a champion of charter schools and education innovation, survives a primary challenge.

I suspect Mike Petrilli and I have a different take on where to set the bar for standards from a standpoint of equity and giving kids real choices about their lives. But, this essay is a thoughtful way to think about that question.

This California project is worth checking out for its implications there but also more generally as a great approach to thinking about complicated problems in other states.

Dale Chu asks what it will take to improve education in America – bonus goat rodeo reference.

Ulrich Boser’s* TEDx talk on learning.

Widespread Panic “Hard Rain”

*BW client.


Yesterday evening Bellwether released our new video game, “Rigged.” It’s also our first video game, and we haven’t seen a lot of games based on education issues.

To build it we went around the country listening to the stories of kids who are involved in the system. The game is not reflective of any one story, but is built from these real life examples and as you play you’ll get a sense for the choices kids sometimes face and how sometimes the “right” choice nonetheless carries adverse consequences.

It’s one piece of a broader body of work we do for disconnected youth.

You can learn more and play Rigged here.

September 14, 2018

Pensions & Pension Politics, Groff Goes 21st Century, Data Privacy And Education Data, Janus, More!

Chad Aldeman on the trouble with vesting periods when it comes to retirement saving – and what that means for teachers.

Here’s a deep dive on teacher pensions in Arkansas. Also, Chad Aldeman on how in the bizarro world of pension politics politicians sometimes pushback on their own plan’s assumptions creating a hall of mirrors policymaking environment. 

Hailly Korman on the lack of data on educating adjudicated students.

The FBI is starting to pay more attention to data privacy issues in K-12. It’s a real issue that warrants attention. But here’s an awkward reality: Despite the hacks, your data is probably safer with high quality education vendors, to the extent they retain it during use, than it is with local school districts – that have notoriously poor IT security capacity. Everyone should do better but some perspective is important here.

Peter Groff lays out a map for a 21st Century school system. The NAACP is still walking through a political minefield on charters. 

For the last several years theaters unions, especially the AFT, have sought to politicize teachers pension funds. It always seemed like a risky strategy and now conservatives have picked up the fight.

We’ve talked some about why you should expect some second wave litigation after the Janus ruling as it’s implemented in different places. Here’s an example of why.

People are apparently surprised that education data is often not reliable. I thought this was sort of common knowledge, along with culture and a lack of common definitions it seems like one of the big barriers to this idea that we’re going to “moneyball” education.

Alarming statistics on suicide and transgender youth.

REM: First We Take Manhattan

Posted on Sep 14, 2018 @ 10:53am

Friday Fish Porn: Cousin Of Big Red

Longtime readers know that the Willcox family are not strangers to fish porn. There is the legend of Big Red, of course. We’ve featured James and also his mom (more than once), his daughter, and some of Big Red’s better known offspring.

Today we’ve got Big Red’s cousins courtesy of James’ wife and daughter. These two were caught this summer in Texas near Corpus Christi.









James has done a variety of things in education and is currently President and CEO of Strategic Growth Partners.

Big Red making you nostalgic? Click here for hundreds of education fish pictures dating back to 2006. And here are more.

September 12, 2018

New On Disconnected Youth

We’re launching a new game to help people understand the challenges – and sometimes impossible choices – disconnected students face when trying to navigate multiple systems. It’s one piece of a broader thrust of work we do on this issue that involves policy work, design work, and some next gen solutions for these students.

The launch is in DC next Monday, click here for more information and if you’d like to attend.

September 10, 2018

Strategic Growth, Kids On Bikes, Big Kicks, WWC, FL Charter Debate, More!

Listen to people talk about Bellwether’s Strategic Growth Institute:

Learn more here.

Florida charter question taken off ballot by state supreme court. Complicated issue. If you describe charters but don’t name them is that good or bad? Transparency matters, but your answer also probably depends to some extent on how much money you’ve invested to drive up the negatives on the term “charter school.” In general, ballot language is a political fever swamp.

This is an important evolution not only on What Works Clearinghouse but more generally, worth paying attention to. Not the kind of thing that gets everyone worked up on Twitter but the kind that could matter long term.

Are adolescents missing out on big life transitions?

Homecoming queen kicks winning points in homecoming game. Bikes and focus.

Louisiana 1927.

September 7, 2018

Jersey, Mass, And VA, Plus Will Marshall’s Advice, And You Should Be Listening To Peter Cunningham’s Daughter. More…

Scroll down for fish pics, and a fish story.

Don’t miss Cory Booker on Newark ed reform. It’s an interesting take and some new positioning as he’s arguing for success that the common narrative overlooks (and the evidence supports). But, look under the headline. I didn’t know it was all dudes doing Newark reform, but I must be misremembering…

Elsewhere in the Garden State…

Pretty efficient take on DC schools and the two ideas a lot of people seem to have trouble balancing – improving but hardly there yet.

Good check in on the ever evolving conception of student rights.

Rick Hess on Betsy DeVos:  ““She’s certainly not a very effective lobbyist” for her cause…”

From Mass, a look at Janus impact. Two big takeaways, it’s early and look for litigation.

Virginia’s got some serious educational inequities. The commonwealth has also walked back educational accountability for a decade – and yet people are still wondering why achievement results are disappointing. 

Will Marshall, with some advice with eduimplications:

“Go West, young man,” New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley famously urged soldiers coming home from the Civil War and wondering what to do with the rest of their lives. In that spirit, here’s my politically corrected advice to millennials who want to change the world: “Go local, young gender-unspecified person.”

Don’t look to Washington to remake American society from the top down.  And don’t assume that real political change can only come through massive expansions of federal power.

Peter Cunningham’s daughter Sima is in a band and they’re on tour right now – and well worth checking out.

Friday Fish Pics: Take A Kid Fishing, Kid Fish Stories, One Of Edu’s Great Athletes…

Here’s David DeSchryver of Whiteboard Advisors with some fantastic fish pics from a day of fishing on Lake George in the Adirondacks late this summer.

David’s one of the savviest analysts of ed policy around and also a very good cyclist, which is unusual because he’s also a fantastic triathlete.

Big smiles are a good reason why it’s a blast to take a kid fishing.

True fish story: We were camping in the Adirondacks and one of my daughters, who was about 5 at the time, was really into the idea of catching a fish and eating it. My wife and I less so, not because we don’t catch and kill some species sometimes, but because most of the fish there are not great eating. So we told her they had to be at least as long as her arm to be worth eating, thinking that was a clever cover story to get us out the jam. She went back to fishing hard, and, as luck would have it, her little yellow rod with the Zebeco-style reel starting peeling off line with a shriek about 20 minutes later. After a long battle with her backing up to put pressure on the fish because it was too much for that little reel, she brought in one of the biggest smallmouth bass I’ve ever seen brought to hand. The kind you measure in pounds not inches. Lesson learned.

Want more pictures of kids with fish – lots here. And hundreds of pics of education types with fish here.