November 21, 2016

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

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

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

We do seem a bit divided lately, why?

Justin Fox blames the SAT:

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

George Will blames college campus culture these days:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere:

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

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

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

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

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

Apparently Pavel Datsyuk just finished his bachelor’s degree.

Today in grit: Donkey becomes running partner.

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


November 17, 2016


Teaching Trump/Scaring The Children!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


November 14, 2016

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

This is good advice:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clive Crook:

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

The elites weren’t deaf. They were dumb.

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

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


November 11, 2016

Veterans Day

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Rural:

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a new theory on why Trump won:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere:

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

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

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


November 10, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

This article from a Never Trumper is also worth reading.

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

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

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

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

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

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


November 9, 2016

Edujob: In-Schools Program Coordinator @826LA

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

From the JD (pdf):

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

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


November 8, 2016

More Education In The Election Than You Think?

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

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

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

Here are three…

You can see all three if you click here.


What To Watch On Election Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

NASBE seeks a talented, dynamic, and experienced Project Director to work as a collaborative team member to administer a portfolio of grants and projects in the areas of leadership development, effective teaching, and deeper learning as part of the Center for College, Career, and Civic Readiness.  The primary function of the Center is to help state boards of education prepare all students for postsecondary success through effective and impactful policy making and implementation.

You can learn more and apply here.


November 7, 2016

Edujob: CEO ReNEW Schools In New Orleans

 Here’s an edujob in one of America’s great cities:

ReNEW is driven by its mission to ensure that students are academically and emotionally prepared to access the full range of life choices that are the fundamental right of every child in the city. Focused on results, ReNEW uses data to measure progress toward ambitious academic goals, and find solutions to overcome obstacles. ReNEW’s dedicated and talented team collaborates to serve students and assumes shared responsibility for their success. Reflective and committed to continuous improvement, ReNEW team members proactively offer and solicit feedback, maximize strengths, develop themselves professionally, and learn from their mistakes to give students the best education possible. They invent, refine, and imagine practices and policies to successfully meet students’ needs, and they establish schools as safe and exciting places of learning. Fueled by the promise that all children can learn, team members approach their work with joy and enthusiasm for the impact ReNEW Schools can make on the community and in recognition of their students’ achievements.

ReNEW Schools is proud to operate six distinct schools in New Orleans.

You can learn more and apply through this link.


Slow News Day – A Few Links, But Massachusetts Charters A Pitched Battle! Plus, Kosar’s Navy

Everyone is holding their breath for tomorrow, refreshing their favorite political sites. Not a lot happening.

Politico looks at the student loan debt relief issue – it’s an important issue by itself and then also illustrative of a range of things that will be caught up in transition between administrations.

The Times looks at the stakes in Massachusetts with the charter referendum. Here’s a Massachusetts pol explaining their change of views on this issue. And here’s Nat Malkus in RealClearEducation on what’s going on with Massachusetts charters.

Here is a New Jersey parent on the LIFO suit there.

Penn on the run from the Trumps:

Recently, Huntsman attended a Board of Trustees meeting, where he ventured a joke: “I remember sitting in this meeting twenty years ago, and the great lament was: We don’t have enough Penn people running for politics at the highest level!”

Kevin Kosar now has a boat. Does Ali Fuller need to step up her game?


November 4, 2016

Massachusetts Charters On The Ballot, Virginia Transgender Case On The Docket, Child Care, Reading Science, New Jersey LIFO & School Finance, Paul Quinn Goes Field To Farm, The Chiefs On SNS, Turnarounds, Petrilli On Campaign Finance…Headwear, And Raccoons, Adorable But Dangerous!

Sara Mead on child care deserts. Not desserts, deserts. This is not an article about sliced apples. More on SNS below but do not miss Bellwether’s Max and Chad on the issue here. 

Do you want the process-oriented argument around administrative authority and the transgender guidance from USDOE? That’s it! The 74 looks at the stakes.

In MA here’s a look at Question 2, the charter referendum and some of the complicated issues around it.

There is not a science of many things in education, for instance a science of how to be a great 10th-grade history teacher. But, there is science around reading. And we ignore it. Here’s an interview about some aspects of that. Unfortunately, we’ve politicized reading so much – it’s not an overstatement to say there are Democratic and Republican ways to teach reading and think back to Reading First – that the state of play in the field remains poor.

And one more time into the breach! A rich curriculum and good teaching and these reading tests sort of take care of themselves…

New Jersey parents seeking to end last in, first out layoffs there also want to put the brakes on Chris Christie’s school terrible finance ideas.

The state chiefs on supplement not supplant. Tennessee Senator and HELP chair Alexander likes it! CRPE looks at turnarounds and consideration for states in the ESSA era.

Ed Trust report looks at the perspectives of black teachers. NACPS looks at what’s happening with charters where they are dense. New Classrooms asks students about tech.

Mike Petrilli wants Elizabeth Warren to return her union money because of her stance on donations. Aaron Churchill wants plain language on school finance ballot questions. Low odds on both.

Kudos to CATO for an event that really brings together genuinely diverse perspectives on a question. If your event doesn’t feature this much dissonance of viewpoint, ask yourself why.

Is anyone reading your stuff?

Paul Quinn decided to ditch football and open a farm instead.

This is a very fine item. This raccoon was implicated in a shooting.


November 2, 2016

On Charters, Nevermind The Evidence! Dr. Ravitch On Pain Meds, Trump’s NEA Support, EdTPA, Risk And School Innovation, Shelton On Personalized’s Promise, Talent, Discipline, Warm Showers…

Phillip Burgoyne-Allen on graduation rates and learning. Bellwether kids in their Halloween costumes.

Here’s what education’s leading intellectuals are up to these days. Diane Ravitch:

Oxycontin has made the Sackler family of Connecticut very rich. Forbes says they have a net worth of $15 billion. A fortune built on death and ruined lives. Pharmacists have been murdered by opiod addicts in search of the pills.

Jonathan Sackler is a major donor to the charter movement. He launched ConnCAN and 50CAN to sell privatization. Killing public schools too.

OK. Reasonable people can disagree about charter policy. Charter supporters disagree about charter policy. Here at Bellwether we disagree about charter policy. But that’s all pretty irrelevant in this instance. In writing this I have to assume Ravitch, and I’m glad for this, has never seen someone fighting serious pain close up? Opioid addiction is a huge problem but so is pain management and poor pain management for seriously ill people. So forget the charter politics or the hyperbole, this is just offensive on a human level.

Here’s the beginning of a pretty revealing education op-ed:

SOME CHARTER schools do an excellent job with the students they enroll. Many come up with better test scores than do their public counterparts. It does not mitigate the victories these schools may have achieved to state the clear and simple fact that, on average nationwide, charter schools are not running circles around the public schools that serve the vast majority of children. Some do better. Some do worse. Some have been consistent disappointments. The pattern here in Massachusetts may, for now, appear to be a rare exception to the norm, but as charter schools proliferate, their record seems to be increasingly uneven.

In other words, charters in Massachusetts are really good – this is something basically everyone agrees on and the evidence convincingly supports – but because some other states have a mixed record kids in Massachusetts shouldn’t have more of them. There are then hundreds more words about charters elsewhere and adult politics.

Also in MA, Senator Sanders (I-VT) comes out against the charter cap raise there:

“Wall Street must not be allowed to hijack public education in Massachusetts,” Sanders said in a statement. “This is Wall Street’s attempt to line their own pockets while draining resources away from public education at the expense of low-income, special education students and English language learners.”

There are plenty of reasons to be for or against charter schools but Wall Street really has nothing to do with it. More generally, this seems like a pretty suburban populism. If you care about social mobility and inequality then how can you be against schools with results like this (pdf) for urban students in Massachusetts?

And here’s Richard Whitmire on the Denver charter model and its promise – and what it takes.

This Noah Smith column on risk and entrepreneurialism has an interesting education parallel. When you talk to mid-career educators, teachers, administrators, superintendents, you at times hear a desire to start or join new things but a reticence because of the realities of life for most people – mortgages, pension contributions and participation timelines, college costs on the horizon, and other mundane but important considerations for most people at that point in life. I certainly wouldn’t want to over-romanticize it and say there are thousands of Don Shalveys or Jamar Mckneelys just waiting out there. But there are certainly dozens, if not hundreds, and the multiplier effect from even those numbers would be substantial. But a risk aversion that may not make sense to someone in Silicon Valley but resonates with most Americans understandably impacts their decision-making. This issue is even more compounded for educators from lower income backgrounds, obviously. Perverse incentives abound but it seems like an issue philanthropy could help tackle.

LIFO lawsuit filed in New Jersey.

Will personalized learning ameliorate or exacerbate equity issues? Here’s Jim Shelton of CZI with the positive case.

Here’s an old story made new: Teacher tests tend to have disparate impact issues. The new and vaunted EdTPA is a teacher test. The new EdTPA has disparate impact issues.

And here’s an interesting item on support for Trump within the NEA.

Teacher talent pipelines in AZ with an assist from the Chamber of Commerce. Teacher race and discipline from Ed Next.

Seriously, who doesn’t enjoy wood fired showers?


October 31, 2016

Dog Stories, Campus Climate, Mass Charter Parents, ESSA Accountability, CS Pipeline, Richmond Schools, And More!

Here are two dog stories.

Ehlena, a child with cerebral palsy and her service dog, Wonder, navigate the school day together. Wonder, who Ehlena got after friends and family raised money, is quite a dog according to NPR:

Wonder was trained to hit handicapped buttons for her, to open and close doors, to pick up items she dropped, and perhaps most importantly, to stabilize her so that she could make transfers from a chair to a walker, or from a walker to a toilet seat.

And, not surprisingly with skills like those, Wonder is pretty popular at school:

He went to class with Ehlena and to lunch. He was in the staff section of the yearbook. He had his own ID card. He was in the class picture. And, says Ehlena’s mother, the relationship between dog and kid was integrated into the school seamlessly.

But here’s a similar situation in a different school district with a special-needs child and a service dog:

the dog was not permitted to sit with [the child] in class or to go with her to the lunchroom.

[the family] were even required to demonstrate a toilet transfer with adults from the school watching, an experience that [the parent] says was devastating and traumatic for her daughter.

After the 30-day trial, the school returned to its no-dog policy. Although [the dog] is a hypoallergenic breed, the school said among other things that two children and one teacher were allergic to dogs, and that one child had a dog phobia because he had previously been attacked by a dog.

OK, perhaps not everyone is a dog person? Actually, as you can no doubt tell, they are the same dog story. Same child. Same dog. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in this case today (link goes to a great Mark Walsh scene setter). The issue turns on what actions parents can bring under federal disabilities statutes and where the Individuals With Disabilities Act and state processes fit into that scheme. That’s a legal question that reasonable people can disagree about especially in the context of the litigation-heavy IDEA. But the underlying facts and that ethos might be more important in the long run for public education. There are a lot of districts like that second one and they turn parents who could be allies into adversaries. We might ask why? (By the way, it takes cases a while to find their way to the high court, in case you’re wondering Wonder is now apparently enjoying retirement though he will be at the court today).

Erika Christakis, the early childhood expert and former Yale professor speaks out – on the eve of Halloween of course – about her experience at Yale last year.

“I don’t wish to trivialize genuine concerns about cultural and personal representation,” I wrote, in part. “I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students.”

Some called my email tone-deaf or even racist, but it came from a conviction that young people are more capable than we realize and that the growing tendency to cultivate vulnerability in students carries unacknowledged costs.

There is a lively debate about this idea. I was at a dinner recently with faculty and students of a prominent east coast school and a student affairs dean made the point that declining participation in formal student activities on their campus owes in part to a culture where the 3.3 student who does a bunch of activities feels like they are losing out to the 3.9 student who just keeps their head down and focuses on grades. It’s an interesting point and a real one for some post-graduate paths. So I wonder if what Christakis is talking about is another cost, a lot of students just want to keep their heads down because they feel less agency in today’s statist climate regardless of what they think about the various issues?

Whitmire on Massachusetts charter parents:

Barbara Madeloni, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, takes a more philosophical approach to wait-listed parents. Rather than denying that there are thousands of parents on those lists, she suggested in a radio interview that those parents need to sacrifice their personal desires for what she sees as a greater good: high-performing traditional public schools in all neighborhoods.
“I would ask that person to join us in thinking beyond just your child,” said Madeloni in an interview on WBUR’s Radio Bostonshow. “We are stronger as a community when we think beyond our circle. … As a community together, are we going to be interested in the common good, or are we going to be invested in our individual needs?

This is basically the debate. Except it’s not in practice. That’s because the charter parents and want-to-be charter parents aren’t stupid. They get that parents with means have already exited. Those parents live in places they can afford to live with good public schools or they send their kid to private options. So they – the people who most need good public schools as a matter of social mobility and opportunity for their kids but can’t move to a tony neighborhood or pay for a private school – are being asked to ‘think beyond their circle’ when no one else is. Maybe flip that on its head and ask all the comfortable suburban voters who are against creating more charter schools for underserved Massachusetts kids to think beyond their circle?

This paper looks at the 5th indicator for ESSA accountability systems. First, it should go without saying that 5th Indicator is a fantastic band name, especially for a band that had education players in it. The author thinks chronic absenteeism is a place to go. It’s a key indicator – for adults and kids – in terms of climate.

Google and Gallup look at the computer science pipeline. Buzzy Hettleman on tutoring. James Dyke and Gerard Robinson on the long overdue but hard choices for Richmond, Virginia schools. Jamar Mckneely on a NOLA turnaround.

Homecoming news: Here’s a sweet story. Here’s a story that I can’t help but think occasioned a lot of, “Honey, who did you say our sculpture is by?” conversations over the weekend.


October 28, 2016


Clinton On Bullying, John Legend On Charters, Marc Tucker On Finance Scams, Teachers And Retirement Scams, Key Charter Endorsements In Massachusetts, Conflicting Education Data In VA, Mathematica Evals, NAEP, And Stoner Moms!

Scroll down this page for a picture of Steve Mesler with a fish and some open edujobs.

Hillary Clinton released an anti-bullying initiative yesterday. If ever there was an issue that screamed for national attention but local solutions this is it. Her plan walks that line. This is an issue that easy to dismiss as hyperbole or kids today are snowflakes but it’s real.

The other day I chided the teachers unions for playing and profiting in a part of the financial world that sells people – in this case teachers – suboptimal retirement products. The Times revisited the issue and Matt Levine offers some smart context that argues that maybe what the teachers unions are up to isn’t so bad:

If you were on your way to Vanguard to buy index funds when [the salesperson for these vehicles] waylaid you, he has moved you from option 1 to option 2, and made you poorer in retirement. If you were on your way to blow your paycheck on lattes at Starbucks, he has moved you from option 3 to option 2, and made you richer in retirement. The context is key.

It’s a reasonable point in general. Sub-optimally saving for retirement is arguably better than not saving at all. But in the case of teachers that’s not the choice. Their unions and associations could choose to set up partnerships with vendors who offer the best quality vehicles (the unions have a lot of purchasing power in the marketplace) and eschew ones that are suboptimal or worse. Remember, these vendors are paying handsomely for access and endorsements. Instead, the unions are putting poor choices in front of their members – and being compensated for it. That’s the bottom line here.

Oh, and the unions also love to hammer hedge funds and others for having high cost structures. I’ll leave it to you to square that circle.

And also remember all this is in the context of a retirement system for teachers that’s pretty broken to start with and hamstrings their retirement saving out of the gate.

Strong John Legend on the NAACP charter school moratorium:

Charter public schools are not the solution to every problem that’s plaguing public education. The NAACP is right to raise some questions over the practices of some individual charter schools. There are schools of all models – district, charter, magnet, private – that are failing to educate our kids properly and accountably.  States and districts should hold all of these school types to high standards of accountability.

What’s shortsighted about the NAACP’s decision is that it’s ignoring the many successful charter schools that are delivering results for many communities. In New York City, third grade charter school students outscored students at district schools in math and in English. Charters here are closing the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged Black students and their more affluent white peers.

The NAACP understands that where you live, your skin color, your income level and zip code shouldn’t determine what kind of education you can get in this country but unfortunately, in far too many places, it does.

It does seem the NAACP situation is a classic two things are true at once situation – and we’ve discussed on this blog how bad the education sector is at dealing with those kinds of issues. Not all the concerns the NAACP is raising are off-base or unfounded. But a moratorium doesn’t logically follow from them. That piece is politics.

Speaking of two things being true at once, something I like even less than Donald Trump and that brand of politics is stifling dissent and speech. This situation with a Virginia school board is worth watching. The illiberalism of the right meets the illiberalism of the left. Also, the idea that school boards, especially this one!, are non-partisan…well, adorable.

Also in Virgina. Here you go through all this work to muddy up the state’s already weak accreditation and accountability system to mask the mediocre performance of a lot of schools. And then all these schools still don’t meet the bar! So frustrating! This is like a company cutting costs to make budget when revenue is down. You can only do so much of that. Also on VA, shouldn’t the shocking last graf of this article be the lede? Speaks volumes about how people think about these issues. By the way, a reasonable person might ask how so many schools can even be succeeding on the accountability system with outcomes like that. But please don’t ask that, it’s rude.

David Tyack has passed. He was thoughtful. And when your work becomes part of the grammar of schooling, well that’s something.

Arne Duncan comes out strong for ballot measure lifting the charter cap in Massachusetts. Boston Globe editorial board comes out in favor, too:

But a goal of an equal, quality education for all continues to elude Massachusetts public education. The families affected are those who don’t live in the suburbs, don’t have the resources to shop for the best school district, and haven’t been lucky enough to win the lottery for a seat at the state’s existing charter schools. Charter schools exist because all parents deserve the same thing for their children: enough choices to ensure their kids get a quality education.

The vote there looks to be tightening some.

Marc Tucker on the contextual issues here:

The root cause of the enormous and shocking difference in performance between Connecticut’s inner cities and its wealthy suburbs is the local control of education finance.  It is this system of education finance that is responsible for the housing segregation that produces in turn the social class and racial segregation underlying the enormous disparities in student performance that outraged Judge Moukawsher.  The solution—easy to say but very hard to implement for political reasons—is an approach to the financing of local schools in which the state would collect the funds for the schools with a statewide tax and distribute those funds to each school based on student need, not local property wealth.  That is how school finance works in most of the top-performing countries. And it is the system we need, but, while we are waiting, maybe we should take another look at Ruth Batson’s rather practical idea.

Mathematica’s RTT evaluation is out. Something for everyone in here. New NAEP data – something here for everyone, too. Also, newly released and  quite interesting Mathematica analysis of teacher effectiveness.*

Juneau – Zinke MT race poll.

Stoner moms.

*Disclosure: I was on the advisory board.


Friday Fish Porn: Bull Session With Steve Mesler

P1010956.Steve Mesler is, among other things, a Bellwether author, three-time Olympian, member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and founder of Classroom Champions (it’s entirely possible he doesn’t introduce himself in that order very much). He can also fish.

Here he is earlier this month in Alberta with a bull trout. Bull trout, an aggressive hard fighting fish, are threatened in the U.S. and an illegal target species in a lot of places. But in remote Western Canada it’s a different story and big fun.

Mesler is hardly the only education personality who fishes. Here are pictures of hundreds of education types since 2006 showcasing their angling adventures.


October 27, 2016

Edujob: Director, Nashville Rise

Here’s an edujob in Nashville!

Nashville Rise, a program of Project Renaissance, seeks to educate and empower parents and community members to advocate for high quality public schools. We envision a Nashville where all children receive the schooling and support they need to live successful, fulfilling lives. We pursue our vision by educating and empowering parents, educators, and community to influence, support, and hold accountable our city’s educational leadership. We also support our network to work with community and leaders to implement policies that put students first.

You can learn more about the role and apply via this link.


Edujob: Einhorn Family Charitable Trust

Here’s an edujob in philanthropy Director Organizational Learning and Impact:

EFCT purposefully engages a select number of high-performing nonprofit partners and makes large, long-term investments with a hands-on, relationship-based approach.  The Trust works proactively and in close collaboration with each partner grantee, acting as strategic thought-partners, providing assistance and support, as well as networking across and beyond its portfolio to achieve impact.

EFCT seeks an experienced and creative individual to build upon and deepen its strong foundation in organizational learning and impact measurement. This is an exciting opportunity for an innovative professional with a passion for continuous learning, data-driven decision-making, and social impact. In addition to working with the Trust’s partners on increasing their impact, this person will collaborate with the EFCT team on its internal tracking systems, identifying opportunities for growth, scale and improvement.

Learn more and be considered via this link.


October 26, 2016

Pianta On Teacher Prep Regs, 16 Ideas, Charter Book, Charter Data, Charter Arguments, College Choice. Plus Crime Scenes.

Just a reminder, you can always find me on Twitter with education content and various other things.  Did you see this 16 ideas for education policy? From food to blockchain, charters, hiring, alt schools, and pre-k. And more!

Very solid new book on charter schools, what’s worked, what’s not working, and what do we know? Max Eden on the charter debate in Massachusetts. And charter school demographic data.

Bob Pianta, Dean of the Curry School of Education at UVA*, on the new teacher prep regulations:

Recently U.S. Secretary of Education John King announced the Department’s new regulations for a teacher preparation program accountability system. This is the Department’s final rule concerning the Federal role in regulating teacher preparation under Title II of the Higher Education Act, with provisions very similar to prior versions. On cue, Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, rejected the rules out of hand.

Will other professional groups, also opposed to prior version of these regulations, break ranks and stand down from obstructing requirements that student learning be an outcome for which teacher preparation programs should be held accountable? Instead, will they stand up and lead the profession, to ensure these regulations are implemented with rigor? If both major teachers’ unions and the association of colleges of teacher education again line up in opposition, painting these as another instance of over-valuing high stakes testing, they will have secured their position as obstructing the long-term improvement of the profession they claim to represent.

Interesting look at young people on the cusp of big decisions. Broader frame than you often see on these pieces – not everyone is choosing between Amherst, Yale, and Princeton…

Plan your crime spree now.

*I am on the board and teach there.


October 25, 2016

Teacher Prep, Teacher Data, Teacher Retirement! Thanks Goldstein! Education Politics, Charters, Student Privacy, MT Politics With National Implications, Latino Supt’s, And More. Plus Finland!

Michael Goldstein did a great job here guestblogging last week, he went wild, scroll below to see all that.

Last week Bellwether released a new analysis on teacher prep (pdf).  Ashley Mitchel and I looked at the new regulations in U.S. News. More from Mitchel on this here.

Chad Aldeman on why education advocates have to care about pensions, too. Here’s Aldeman on retention/turnover data for teachers and why it’s often a confused conversation. Chad’s also been on the teacher shortage data lately and why some of the analytic perspectives on that issue have methods problems. That doesn’t mean there are not shortages, rather that it’s not an overall problem but instead concentrated by subject and geography. That matters in terms of getting the policy remedies right.

Marilyn Rhames wants change, not your job. Here’s a quick primer on the education landscape.

LA School Report, a media property of The 74, is now publishing in Spanish.

The letters responding to the recent Times editorial on the teacher prep regs are a great caricature. Except they’re real. Don’t miss them: NCTQ is awful. Finland! Teacher Bashing! Finland! Best and brightest. Salaries. Sober reasoned James Cibulka take. Finland!

The Times looks at a popular retirement scam that preys on teachers – optional high fee retirement vehicles.  So here’s the deal: teachers get pension plans that most won’t ever fully qualify for (pdf), 40 percent of teachers are not covered by Social Security, and then for good measure they get peddled these lousy investment options. But this doesn’t happen by accident, buried at the bottom of The Times’ account:

The New Jersey teachers also turned to their local union for help, hoping they could find a better program to put their money in. The union representative recommended a sales agent affiliated with the retirement program run by the National Education Association, a union with three million members.

But the union’s products weren’t much different from what the teachers already had.

The N.E.A.’s Member Benefits group, a subsidiary, exclusively endorses a set of products from Security Benefit, a financial services company with nearly $32 billion in total assets that creates fixed and variable annuities and offers mutual funds. (The union’s program for teachers receives at least $2.7 million from Security Benefit each year, according to regulatory filings, which it said it paid to operate the program.)

The products include an array of mutual funds, various annuities — and one lower-cost option in which investors can choose inexpensive index funds without a broker’s assistance. But most new money from school employees is invested in the mutual funds sold by brokers, according to Gary Phoebus, chief executive of N.E.A. Member Benefits.

Fees in that program range from 0.35 to 1.25 percent. But that doesn’t include another layer of expenses for the underlying investments, which run from 0.59 to 2.11 percent, according to Security Benefit, and in some cases additional sales or surrender charges

For comparison, total costs at a typical large 401(k) generally fall under 0.5 percent.

Mr. Phoebus defended the program, saying it offered a wide variety of options “to meet the diverse needs and comfort levels of members.” The goal, he explained, was to balance fees while providing access to advice.

However, some employees of the union itself, as opposed to its subsidiary, do receive a better deal. Many are offered a 401(k) retirement planmanaged by Vanguard, a mutual fund company known for its low costs.

A lot going on in this George Packer look at Hillary Clinton and today’s populist mood but two passages are key to education:

Hillary Clinton spoke of the limits of an “educationalist” mind-set, which she called a “peculiar form of élitism.” Educationalists, she noted, say they “want to lift everybody up”—they “don’t want to tell anybody that they can’t go as high as their ambition will take them.” The problem was that “we’re going to have a lot of jobs in this economy” that require blue-collar skills, not B.A.s. “We need to do something that is really important, and this is to just go right after the denigration of jobs and skills that are not college-connected.” A four-year degree isn’t for everyone, she said; vocational education should be brought back to high schools.

She’s right, of course. But although there is an important social mobility aspect to this for low-income students overall it’s less an issue of “as high” than just figuring out what you want to do. There are lots of fulfilling and economically viable ways to make a living. But, because at 18, or younger, we don’t really know who can do what or who even really wants to do what, the ground here is tricky. If you’re going to err in policy is it better to err on the side of  ’you can go as high as you want’ or is better to err on the side of ‘you can’t?’ The cheap answer is “both.” But that’s not how it works in practice and policy will drive practice.

The moral superiority of élites comes cheap. Recently, Murray has done demographic research on “Super Zips”—the Zip Codes of the most privileged residents of New York, Washington, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. “Super Zips are integrated in only one way—Asians,” he said. “Blacks and Latinos are about as scarce in the Super Zips as they were in the nineteen-fifties.” Multiethnic America, with its tensions and resentments, poses no problem for élites, who can buy their way out. “This translates into a whole variety of liberal positions”—Murray mentioned being pro-immigration and anti-school choice—“in which the élite has not borne any of the costs.”

The lack of school choice among those who exercise it through their choice of where to live (if not actual school choice via private schools) seems a stunning feature of our politics. It wasn’t always like this, in the 60s many on the left were for school choice for this exact reason. Once it became associated with Milton Friedman and markets the political bottom fell out and is still not really there today as we’re seeing in Massachusetts and its charter referendum as well as the more general politics of charter schools.

Gerard Robinson on education for the incarcerated. Helicopter parenting interrupted. NASBE looks at school surveillance and privacy. Brookings analysis on charters and segregation. DFER on charter schools. Kansas school finance not getting any easier. Latino Supt’s in Texas. The Denise Juneau race in Montana will impact education policy whether she wins or loses. Here’s a poll on parents and tech. 

Interesting article on fly fishing, criminal defense, and the good and bad of informal bonds.

This guy is dressed like a tree.


October 24, 2016


October 21, 2016

Implementation Versus Idea

Guest blogger Mike Goldstein writes:

1. Rick Hess once wrote “Life is an implementation problem.”

Yes, it’s true some strategies/ideas are better than others.  But what’s universally (okay, mostly) true is all advocates — whether for curricula like Core Knowledge or Success For All, pedagogy like project-based learning or Doug Lemov’s taxonomy, expenditures/time whether universal pre-K or longer school days, governance efforts like choice or socioeconomic integration, teacher residencies or peer evaluation — would say “Yes, bad execution would kill X instance of this idea I cherish.”

I’m not sure I agree anymore.  I now wonder if anything less than excellent execution “works.

What if….even pretty good implementation of a good idea is not enough to help many kids?

2. My favorite intervention

I like high-dosage tutoring, as described here in Ed Next.

Because the team at Saga Innovations has had such incredible results in the Chicago Public Schools (and elsewhere), Brookings released a thoughtful paper calling for a massive expansion of the work (also see Matt Kraft here).

“Specifically, we propose that all school districts receiving schoolwide Title I funds provide individualized daily tutorials to all third through tenth grade students who are at least two grades behind grade level in math.”

Some years ago, I would have kvelled!  Scaling an idea I love.

Now, I wonder.

Saga’s Alan, Antonio, Ashley….they execute magnificently.  But Alan and I tracked a counterexample as well.  It turned out, at the same time he launched the Chicago work with the district, an unrelated, similar effort was launched by a Chicago charter network.  It lasted a year before dying.  They just didn’t get the details right.  We know of other similar stories.  You assuredly do as well.

It reminds me of Bill Belichick.  His ideas work!  When he does them.  In an organization that embraces them whole-heartedly.

But when his assistant coaches try those ideas elsewhere, with an inherited base of players, scouts, owners, and other staff that do not fully buy-in, it hasn’t worked so well.

High-dosage tutoring remains my favorite intervention (trying a version now with older kids helping younger kids), but I increasingly believe it’s like….all the other interventions, where even “decent” implementation doesn’t help kids.

3. Where does that leave us?

It’s obvious that almost any strategy is a waste of time if buy-in is, say, 3 out of 10.

But, more provocatively, is that true if buy-in is, say, 6 out of 10?

If so, two thoughts.

a. Upfront is the best way to secure buy-in.  If you’re going to do a particular pedagogy, best to surface during application process, freeing teachers to choose to apply (or not).

b. Qualitative feedback loops become more important.  You need to expect process failure (instead of hoping for the best), then invest heavily in daily tinkering.  You can win over many practical educators by attending to little details, and steadily pushing the implementation rock up the mountain.  But, perhaps, only if your starting point is that you need to Fail Fast, even with a favorite, “research-proven” idea.


October 20, 2016

A Different Kind of Diversity: Too Many Introverts?

Guest blogger Mike Goldstein, sharing only his personal views, writes: 

Let me try out an idea.  Good chance I’m off target here.

1. Per this very provocative series, I wonder about a different type of diversity among ed reform leaders:

a. Are they mostly data-and-technology-loving introverts?

b. If yes, does that matter?

2. I am a data-and-tech-loving introvert.  My charter application in 1998 (rejected) and 1999 (approved) sounded a lot like this $10 million XQ winner, described in an excellent NY Mag piece this week.

Students choose interest areas and within them, they think up projects, which they execute themselves. So, for example, in “Signs of Life,” one kid might choose to learn about embryonic development and stage an abortion debate. Another might study the philosophy of science and write a one-act play about a Frankenstein monster. Another might learn “evolutionary design,” a cutting-edge approach to coding.

When Match opened in 2000, pretty much all my nerdy tech ideas failed.  (Hopefully this new Powderhouse school will do better!).

What succeeded, however, was the late Charlie Sposato, our founding principal.  He built positive relationships with kids and parents, through sheer effort and dedication.  Before and after school, weekends and nights on the phone.  Those authentic connections often GAVE the extroverted Charlie emotional energy, rather than depleting it.  That culture became the school’s true foundation.

3. Today’s Globe has a profile of Janelle Smith, on topic of charter school ballot question.  [Dissenting view here from Boston's mayor].

I remember Janelle as a newly admitted 8th grader in 1999.  She’s now mom to Alorah, on some charter waiting lists.

Janelle enrolled at Northeastern University and excelled early. While 37% of students graduate ready for college, according to national assessments, Smith earned mostly As and Bs in her first two years — success she attributed to the “drive” she found at MATCH, and the constant pushing from teachers she’s still in touch with 12 years later.  But halfway through college, Smith got pregnant. When Alorah was born, Smith left school, vowing to return.

Janelle went back and graduated in May.

Her time at MATCH, she said, was “what propelled me to go back.”  She’d like Alorah to find that same strength.

4. I wonder if nerdy ed reform leaders don’t talk so much about the emotional terrain that Janelle is referring to.  Data-driven instruction, for example, is a more comfortable topic.  Or a longer school day – it’s easily countable.  And perhaps that stuff sits better with nerdy reporters and philanthropists as well.

Has a confluence of introverted leaders affected the message of what reform is all about?


October 19, 2016

NOLA Unification

The post below is by guest blogger Mike Goldstein.

Background here.  AEI here.  Kira Orange Jones here.  Andy Smarick concern here.
 
“NOLA had been leading the nation on the two essential elements of systemic reform. First, most of the city’s public education space was defined by the separation of operation and authorization; in the RSD, no entity was performing both functions. 
 
Second, nearly every city public school was on a performance contract with a non-district authorizer. That meant that most public schools were overseen by a body whose accountability judgment could be trusted because it wasn’t simultaneously running schools in competition with those it authorized.”
 
Today’s news from Los Angeles goes directly to Andy S’s point.  
 
I asked 3 NOLA insiders for their views.  
 
Person 1: 
 
“There’s a lot of hyperventilating about unification.  But I think the concern is mostly misplaced.  Yes, it could make some operators a little bananas.  But the new approach keeps pressure on the district to make progress, and has some amount of old school educators and reformers working together.  The looming threat is actually that mediocre establishment CMOs would fight to keep the status quo.  The test will be whether or not the local board has the fortitude to keep closing and opening in a saturated market.”
 
Person 2: 
 
“I’m quite concerned about unification.  Closing bad schools will, in fact, get harder.  Approving new schools become harder — if you’re a school operator struggling to hit your existing enrollment targets, why wouldn’t you try to influence things.  Consider appointed judges versus elected judges.  Both make mistakes, sure.  But appointed judges tend to stick with the merits.   Elected judges consider “how things look” as well.  Who will get elected to school board, now and over time?  People with aspirations for higher office, at least some of them.  Somehow NOLA will need to educate everyone on what a school board’s function should and should not be — that will be a mighty challenge.”  
 
Person 3 (a school operator)
 
“Quite honestly, unification doesn’t affect our schools much at all. A few months ago, I had two concerns: 1) that the district would not allow us to receive differentiated funding for our students with significant needs, and 2) that the board would not be supportive of the continued progress of reforms in the city.  #1 concern was eliminated as a concern a few months ago by a vote. #2 concern was reduced by our board elections a few weeks ago, wherein a majority of reform types were elected.” 
 
“That said, we could call that impermanent and shaky support.  But that’s no different from our current situation, in which the RSD is just as affected by the elections on our state board.”  

October 18, 2016

Yearning for Earnings

The post below is by guest blogger, Mike Goldstein.

1. Let’s briefly revisit Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer’s excellent July 2016 paper.  They found (among other things) that kids who attended No Excuses charter schools in Texas didn’t have appreciably higher earnings later in life.

Those of us who support these schools should ”wrestle” with that result.

2. The paper led to good online discussion.

The 74 here, for example, and Inside Philanthropy here.

I was struck in particular by Neerav’s two blogs over at Relinquishment.

First he wrote this.

But a week later he wrote this.

When a study tells you what you don’t want to hear, the first reaction is often to not deal with it (in some ways I did this in my previous post).

So everyone in education reform needs to deal with this potential reality: there is some possibility that the best that education reform has to offer can only, on average, move a student from 16K to 18K a year.  

Of course, this is only one study of one state. We don’t yet know if these numbers will hold under different contexts, methodologies, or timeframes.

But, at the very least, your belief that a great school can radically increase wages should be a little lower after reading this study.

It’s rare that any of us manage to notice how our brains automatically spin news to fit our beliefs.  I know I struggle with that.  So: zen move by Neerav to overcome that heuristic, and rethink.

3. I’ve recently spoken to a few researchers in early stages of more such studies.  Yay.  Faster please!

4. You may recall that KIPP laudably began to publish it’s college graduation rate some years ago.  Currently 44%.  That was a bold move.  Until then most charters, including the one where I worked, only put out % of kids heading off to college.

That data point led to KIPP inventing new ways to boost college success.    See here for Picayune series last week (hat tip Joanne Jacobs).

5. Match Charter High in Boston (*I’m on board) stumbled into the earnings issue this way:

a. A red-headed founding teacher from 2000, Bob Hill, became college counselor circa 2011.  (He’d taught every single grad til then).

b. At that time, something like 54% of Match grads had earned college degrees.  Bob stayed in touch with the “other 46%.”

The Boston Globe caught up with Bob earlier this year.

“College wasn’t always a good fit,” Hill says. “The Monday through Friday, the set schedule. That got me thinking, what are our other options? Is there a way to be more flexible?”

c. The result was a new program, called Match Beyond.  It’s an effort to take an existing option (the online, inexpensive College For America); make it more accessible for someone in mid-20s and older to “restart” via tutoring; then helping them re-enter the labor market with a higher-paying job.

6. My modest proposal: that CMOs band together to measure their grads’ earnings.  (And maybe other stuff.  Voting.  Happiness.  Health.  Net Worth [including college loans]).

Top CMOs, in particular, react to data.

Transparent earnings data would steer these CMOs towards some healthy introspection, and then innovation, helping more of their students grow up to escape poverty.


October 17, 2016

Nerd Unity?

The post below is by guest blogger, Mike Goldstein. 

Hi folks -

Greetings from Boston.

I am terrible at predictions.

But it seems safe to predict that after this election, there will be calls for unity.

My question:

Is there some sort of quickie “unity” federal research agenda among competing ed advocates that can be fashioned in December 2016?

I.e., still leave plenty of room to battle what needs to be battled, yet carve out some sort of “We agree on 20 studies that should be done; we agree on who should do them; we agree how they should be framed; and bonus we even agree on the methodologies.”  Is that plausible?  Silly?

I’m in no way suggesting a “Be all and end all” agenda.  A quick $50 million that “supplements but does not supplant,” to use the feds’ term.  Just a mutual agreement about something.  Yes, I’m increasingly a sucker for “My esteemed colleague on the other side of the aisle” type language.  But also to show “There’s a lot we don’t know” about education (which I admit is a debatable proposition; a lot of people believe we know what to do, we just don’t have the will to do it).

I would think 10 influential people in a room, 5 on “each side”, could get this agenda done and enacted.

For example, I could easily imagine, 5 years ago, competing advocates agreeing to study the earnings effect on Texas charter school students, in the way that Roland Fryer and Will Dobbie recently published.  I.e., the research at the outset seems to have a decent chance of benefitting either side of the charter debate.

(More on that paper tomorrow).

Related:

Would/could friendly edu-journalists with sharply different views ever pair up?

My idea is they interview the same sources together, see the same schools together, and then write a story about the same thing —  with competing perspectives, including a nod to what they agree on?

 


Goldstein’s Gonna Go Wild!

Long time readers know that among the myriad fantastic guest bloggers we’ve been fortunate to host here one stands apart for having the most history – Michael Goldstein. Back in the day we’d check in on Goldstein Gone Wild around the absurdities and the nuance of education policymaking. He  founded MATCH, led a variety of other projects there, and most recently has worked internationally with Bridge International Academies.

And now he’s coming back this week to share, inform, and provoke. Have fun!