June 24, 2015
I’ve been traveling – apologies for the light posting. Paul Hill is going to pinch hit with some thoughts on rural education for the next few days. Paul is chair of the Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho (ROCI) task force, which has published ten papers on important issues in rural education, including work by Bellwether analysts. Reports from the ROCI task force are available at www.rociidaho.org. Stay up-to-date on future publications by following on Twitter: @ROCIdaho.
WORLD STANDARDS AND PLACE-BASED EDUCATION IN RURAL SCHOOLS
By Paul Hill
Place-based education is vitally important for rural (as for urban) areas, but it can’t be pursued to the point of denying rural high school graduates a real choice about whether to attend college or do something else. As a country we need to find ways to improve rural students’ options, both in higher education and the world economy, and in their home communities. Unlike some who fear that education to world standards will drain the brains out of rural America, it can give young people the option of living and working where they choose, including returning to and strengthening the communities where they grew up.
Some scholars have created a false dichotomy between place-based education and education to world standards. These can be complementary, not opposed, both in cities and rural areas. Thoughtfully pursued, place-based education is good education. Children need to understand their home towns – their founding, why and how different groups moved there, how people make a living, cultural assets, political issues, and history of exclusion and inclusion of women and minorities. This is so whether children go on to universities and lead their adult lives elsewhere, or return home. Standards, tests, and university admissions requirements are no excuse for schools becoming ivory towers.
Everyday educators have less trouble with these ideas than some scholars do. In the task force members’ research to date, we met Read the rest of this entry »
June 23, 2015
Check out a couple of great edujobs at the Education Delivery Institute.
Good people, important mission to improve implementation and policy fidelity in the sector. They’re looking for an Engagement Manager and an Engagement Associate. More details on the roles through the links.
June 19, 2015
Acelero Learning and Shine Early Learning are hiring for multiple roles:
Director of Education, Shine Assist to provide overall support to program leadership throughout the Shine Early Learning Assist network.
Director of Management Systems and Director of Program Design and Management responsible for ensuring data are effectively used to drive decision-making throughout the organization (high travel but these roles have flexibility for geographic base).
Executive Director for Acelero Learning Monmouth/Middelsex County, Inc. -Responsible for coordinating and directing all program and administrative services for this Head Start program.
Learn more about these roles and Acelero here.
I take a look at the charter sector in a column for U.S. News and World Report today. A lot of good, plenty of room for improvement, and some hard questions emerging:
Are charter schools – independently operated public schools – at an inflection point? While education advocates fought about Common Core and teacher evaluations charter schools continued to grow and now serve 6 percent of all American public school students. This growth, which is even more pronounced in some cities and states, is highlighting both the promise and challenges of charter schooling.
At education conferences, among special interest groups and in the media the debate over charter schools is three to five years behind the current state of play. People are arguing about charters version 1.0 while version 2.0 unfolds around the country. The disconnect is bizarre: As public opinion about charters becomes much more favorable the historically bipartisan charter school issue is threatening to become partisan. Pundits question the sustainability of charter schools even as their numbers are poised to top 7,000, public finance in key states is becoming more equitable for charters and many of these institutions operate on public funding alone. And charter school performance is improving even as critics escalate their calls for charter moratoriums, bans or other steps to hobble the movement.
Here’s what is happening today…
You can read the entire thing here via USN’s ”Report.“ Tweet your inflection points to me @arotherham or tell me what’s surprised you most about charter schools.
June 18, 2015
Whiteboard Advisors Education Insiders on student data privacy, ESEA and HEA prospects, testing, and debt-free college ideas (pdf). Interesting forecasting on testing among other issues.
June 15, 2015
If pre-K advocates think this is the biggest problem with how pre-K is being rolled out in New York City they’re kidding themselves. I’m worried this whole thing could set the cause of universal pre-k back. But on the economic integration point charter school pre-K programs could play an instrumental role here. (By the way, is there any education issue the Century Foundation doesn’t think more economic integration will fix? Winter is coming, I get it.)
Chad Aldeman on high school graduation rates: Even discounting for the scams, something is happening.
Liz Farmer on the mess that is New Jersey fiscal and pension policy. Also, Paul Volcker on the larger issues at play in states.
David Osborne looks at New Orleans and charter schools.
In the battle you knew would come it’s Michelle Malkin vs. Teach For America in the first round. If there are any TFA alums who vote Republican or perhaps own a gun this might be a good time for the organization to produce them. This push from the right doesn’t balance out the attacks from the left – it doubles down on the organization’s political liabilities and this isn’t going make TFA’s left-leaning critics change their minds.
Mike Petrilli is not on board with the “college for all” movement (but says, sensibly, that schools should prepare more kids for college success). I’m not sure such a movement even exists? There is definitely a post-secondary for all movement – including a variety of post-secondary paths that don’t involve traditional four-year college – that I subscribe to. But I don’t meet too many people who think everyone should go to college. Some of the language may have become sloppy but who thinks everyone should go to college?
Richard Phelps takes no prisoners.
People get sick of hearing you say, “it varies” in response to questions about various educational issues. But that’s the answer more often than not in our decentralized system. Teacher experience? It varies!
Are ESA’s like the Nevada plan the “smartphone of school choice?” Perhaps, or they may turn out to be the iPhone 4 of school choice?
Good overview of the splits on school accountability policy via Emma Brown.
Hard to believe Virginia would try to limit parent choices…keep doing this long enough people notice and don’t like it.
ICYMI it’s Kati Haycock v. Marc Tucker.
TN teacher Joe Ashby on constant feedback via RealClearEducation.
I talked on NPR about Common Core goings on.
June 11, 2015
New class of Pahara Institute NextGen Fellows just announced. Learn more about them and the fellowship here.
June 5, 2015
Education analyst and professional whiskey expert Kevin Kosar took his son fishing along with a friend. They hooked into this big (31″) catfish near Fletcher’s Cove on the Potomac. Also – and Potomac-related – don’t miss his take on CRS.
Through this link you will find hundreds of pictures of education types with fish. You can also scroll down this page to see a few recent ones. Here and also here are two past Kosar fish pics.
June 4, 2015
A lot of news today, it’s all curated here, as every weekday, at RealClearEducation.com
Whatever you think about Success Academy (and it’s especially important to have really strong views if you haven’t spent time there) be sure to read this Lyndsey Layton article in The Washington Post. It discusses (a) actual teaching, a little (b) what frequently happens in schools around feedback and evaluation and (c) has nuance around the “backfill” issue - actual substance! – as a criticism of Success rather than the usual blather. More, please!
Randi Weingarten seems never to have heard a faddish idea she doesn’t then propose: This time it’s getting rid of cut scores on the new Common Core tests altogether. Al Shanker has left the building. A cut score is the point considered proficient or passing on a standardized test (short primer on the various ways for doing it here (pdf)). Weingarten’s gambit seems to be more about making sure people don’t use results from the more rigorous assessments (and their more rigorous cut scores) to bash schools. That’s a legitimate point but not a reason to jettison cut scores. And, so far in the Common Core rollout I’ve seen a lot more said/written about not using the new tests to bash schools than I’ve actually seen them being used that way. It could be that Weingarten is a living embodiment of that old New Yorker cartoon? Most of the known world is not east of the Hudson and all of it is not east of the Great Lakes…
Nevada is all voucher*! Going to be interesting to see how this plays out. One angle I’m particularly in is what happens in hyper-rural communities. There are some very isolated schools in Nevada. Is another angle to watch whether this strengthens Nevada Governor Sandoval’s hand in the Republican veepstakes? I’m not close enough to know but it sure seems plausible from the cheap seats. *Update: Or all Education Savings Account. Given how the policy is set up it seems a distinction w/o a difference in this case but advocates are taking exception to what they see as imprecise language. Neerav Kingsland has some good thoughts on all of this here.
Related, the other day Governing ran a piece about the lack of policy diversity among states. In general that’s a real issue. But on education I don’t see it as much. You don’t see this Nevada policy elsewhere! You see a lot of carbon copy RFPs and things like that but on policy the bigger problem is a lack of policy feedback. So, for instance, it’s hard to argue that state charter laws are copies of one another. And that’s why you have disastrous states with charters – e.g. Ohio – and states and cities really doing well – e.g. NJ, MA, NYC , etc…You’re starting to see the same thing with the “Achievement School District” turnaround model. The problem is the enormous gap between the evidence from all of this and ongoing policy design. Jay Greene has raised this policy diversity issue and competitive federalism as a reason to be concerned about Common Core. I see it playing out a little differently but it’s definitely among the actual serious critiques of the Common Core.
Mike Petrilli on social capital and Putnam. Robert Pondiscio on Grant Wiggins. Wiggins had plenty of strong views but he wasn’t close minded or a tribalist, something to admire.
Jim Shelton writes why he’s “not head of this foundation or why not raise a fund with these people or why not CEO of this company or why didn’t you ask this person for a few hundred million dollars.” Instead, he’s joining online ed outfit 2U.
Yesterday I wrote about how when most people criticize the Common Core they’re often really talking about something else. Sandy Kress pushed back here.
June 3, 2015
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s flip flop on Common Core looked like pretty naked politicking. But that wasn’t as interesting to me as what it seemed to vividly illustrate: These days when people debate “Common Core” they’re not really talking about Common Core at all. I take a look at that in a U.S. News & World Report column today:
In 2013, Christie supported Common Core. “We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey, and we are going to continue. This is one of those areas where I have agreed more with the president than not and with [Education] Secretary [Arne] Duncan,” he said. But last Thursday he changed his tune. “We must reject federal control of our education and return it to parents and teachers,” Christie said. “We need to take it out of the cubicles of Washington, D.C. where it was placed by the Obama administration and return it to the neighborhoods of New Jersey.”
It’s easy to pick on Christie for shameless politicking – he offered little in the way of specific criticisms and the standards are unpopular with conservative primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina where his fledgling presidential campaign is struggling to get traction. He’s hardly the only politician pandering on the issue; calling Common Core the product of federal bureaucrats (it’s not) is a standard Republican talking point. Meanwhile, reasonable people can change their minds or disagree about the standards, which turned five this week. For my part, I think they have promise but their transformative potential has been oversold by many advocates and their adoption and implementation is inadequately supported.
None of that, however, is what makes the New Jersey situation so illustrative. Instead, the saga of Common Core in New Jersey (and elsewhere) highlights how our education debates are often proxies for other issues…
June 2, 2015
A few years ago when I was concerned about how “parent trigger” might play out and what made it different than past efforts in the same vein, one of the leaders of it told me that it was the threat of the trigger and empowerment of parents that would prove to be the real leverage point rather than actual usage of it. Really starting to look like that may be right.
David Brooks on campus activism.
The actual data on teacher attrition is a lot more interested than the crazy town debate about teacher attrition.
Pension transparency in RI.
Common Core is five today - draw whatever conclusions you wish!
May 29, 2015
The way this Dennis Hastert indictment is written strongly hints at a dark education angle to it.
Weeby on Christie.
Chad Aldeman on high school graduation rates going up. Even discounting for some graduation scams bumping numbers something positive is happening here.
Have been meaning to note the elections last week in California – LAUSD school board and state legislative special. Normally the teachers unions should have run the table – off-cycle elections are favorable for them. But they didn’t. Why? I think three reasons. First, candidate recruitment. Ref Rodriguez, for instance, was a great fit politically and a good candidate. Second, ground game. There was a serious canvas on behalf of reform candidates (SFER deserves some credit here) that matters especially when coupled with high-quality voter data. Money matters in politics but so do committed people on the ground. Third, coordination. The reform side worked together smartly to coordinate efforts, including money. That paid off. Good news for reformers: Those things can all be repeated. Good news for the teachers unions: It’s a real challenge to do so.
Richard Whitmire on New Orleans education and a new normal there:
When schools reopen in New Orleans later this summer, you can expect a steady flow of reporters to document the 10th anniversary of the post-Katrina transformation of schools here. Roughly 95 percent of students here attend charters. Regardless of how you feel about charters, that’s stunning…
Re the fish pics in the item below, here’s three easy steps to get outside and take a kid fishing.
Peter Wehner on confirmation bias.
Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute took his kids, ages seven and five, fishing and it was a success. Look at that catfish (and those smiles)!
More pictures of education types and their fish via this link.
Two takes on what is working in Texas: Politico says Houston, Richard Whitmire says high-performing charters.
You can go home again!
Taking on a big challenge: Emily Esfahani Smith defends fraternities.
The New York Times looks at blacks and middle class public sector jobs – big education overlays.
Public Agenda and the Spencer Foundation are trying to bring some seriousness to the charter school debate.
An interesting indicator of how political our education debates are is that when you change the names of things it suddenly defuses the controversy – more people OK with public money for private school tuition than are on-board with “vouchers” and Common Core-like math in non-Common Core states doesn’t spark the same firestorm. 5-3 takes a look at that issue with science standards.
A lot of grumbling around the education sector from all sides in the ed reform debate about how rich people choose to spend their dollars in education, even where you disagree worth pointing out it’s a good problem to have:
“It’s not inexpensive,” Mr. Rosen said. “You stay until the neighborhood no longer needs you.” But, he added, there are a lot of wealthy people with the resources to do the same thing if they choose.
Clive Crook on our inequality debate -last few grafs have education implications.
ICYMI - Illinois’ pension system is a mess. But this is a story that will make you feel good.
May 21, 2015
It’s easy to blame Arne Duncan or Pearson for some testing policy you don’t like – but the response of schools may be a culprit, too. I take a look at that in a U.S. News & World Report column today:
It was like I was living an anti-testing blog post. My daughters were stressed and anxious about the upcoming state test. But here’s the thing: They were first graders at the time, so they didn’t even have to take the test for two more years. We live in a state where the elementary school tests don’t start until third grade and are not consequential for kids anyway (and in practice carry little consequence for the adults, either). So why were my kids freaked out?
It turns out, surprisingly enough, when adults in a school make tests into a big deal – telling kids they really matter, wearing matching shirts for solidarity, holding pep rallies, emphasizing test prep rather than teaching and launching parent-teacher association campaigns to make sure everyone is fortified with enough snacks – the kids pick up on it. A cynic might think it’s a deliberate effort to sour parents on the tests.
There’s more, including three big problems with tests today and some ideas for ways forward. Get a snack and the right color shirt and you can read the entire thing here via U.S. News’ The Report (which you can, and should, get in your email box for free). Transfer your test stress to me via Twitter or send me tales of ridiculous stuff happening in the name of testing.
May 20, 2015
Smart observations on reasonable Common Core expectations from Mathew DiCarlo. Seems like another benefit of commonality is that it creates a more robust platform for innovation. As with the other issues that, in isolation, won’t boost student learning but it’s a helpful predicate.
It’s hard to choose a college major when you’re young.
Here’s an interesting point:
Especially in an age of informational abundance, getting access to knowledge isn’t the bottleneck, mustering the will to master it is. And there, for good or ill, the main carrot of a college education is the certified degree and transcript, and the main stick is social pressure. Most students are seeking credentials that graduate schools and employers will take seriously and an environment in which they’re prodded to do the work. But neither of these things is cheaply available online.
Great pension headline followed by a sensible pension editorial.
Dems and education event - appropriately enough in a theater - via Third Way.
There were school board elections in LA last night.
I’m re-reading this analysis from Mathematica (pdf).
May 19, 2015
Building Excellent Schools is a national nonprofit organization training leaders to lead high-achieving, college-preparatory urban charter schools. BES focuses on improving the academic achievement of the most underserved students in U.S. cities – 85% of students in BES schools qualify for free/reduced lunch, 50% are Black, and 42% are Hispanic. BES has established 79 schools in 22 cities, educating nearly 22,000 students. BES anticipates there will be nearly 100 BES schools impacting 27,000 students by the fall of 2016.
Sound like something you want to be a part of? They’re searching for a new executive director now. More details via the link.
This East Ramapo situation is a mess. Big NYT story today but surprised it has not received more attention. The Times focuses on process doesn’t begin to get at all the shenanigans going on there. From the usual suspects who go bonkers over a charter school…crickets.
ETS into the breach in Texas or changing horses midstream or some such metaphor. But it doesn’t matter what vendor you ask to meet impossible to meet specs, they won’t meet it.
Via Teacherpensions.org some resources to figure out how your state teacher pension plan stacks up.
This op-ed on who is “college material” implicitly points up an important issue. With undermatching for low-income and minority students as pervasive as it is (in my view) shouldn’t policymakers be focusing on that rather than sorting kids into tracks?
Achievement First, Noble, and IDEA charter schools rocking it for Broad Prize this year (pdf).
Suicide is up in rural communities, including among young people.
Neerav Kingsland on the commonalities between opting out of tests and opting out of a school to attend a charter school.
May 15, 2015
Here’s Victor Reinoso fly fishing in Utah a few years ago.
He and I had a great day on the water outside of Park City after a meeting. A little hiking and we had the river all to ourselves. Victor is a former deputy mayor in Washington, D.C., he’s a senior advisor at Bellwether, and he’s a co-founder of DecisionScience Labs (the other co-founder, Marguerite Roza is no stranger to fish porn either). Enjoy the weekend!
Click here to find an exclusive archive of hundreds of pictures of education figures fishing.
May 8, 2015
Are we heading toward a period of time where we just basically say that wide variance in American schooling is unavoidable or the least bad option? That’s what I ask in a U.S. News & World Report column:
For the past several years, economic inequality grabbed headlines, sparked protests and spurred Americans to ask hard questions about the structure of opportunity in our society. In the wake of Baltimore, North Charleston, Ferguson, Cleveland and other episodes, the conversation and attention of protesters is giving way to an even more immediate concern about disparate treatment of Americans by law enforcement based on their race. That, too, is another kind of structural inequality. Here in the education sector people are quick to identify with the protesters and the issues they raise yet there is an inescapable and uncomfortable dissonance: Attacking inequality is at the forefront of our national conversation, but in American education we are actually becoming more accepting of it as a fact of life.
Read the entire column here – we strike a tiny blow against inequality by making it open access for all. The column today is part of a new weekly USN product called The Report, be sure to check it out while you’re there. Let me know what you think via Twitter.
Simmons Lettre is a co-founder of Charter Board Partners, a smart capacity building non-profit that helps improve the quality of charter school boards through governance training and training for board members.
She found herself in Colorado last week for work and did what anyone should do in that situation – went fishing. In this case on one of my favorite rivers. Here she is with a lovely rainbow from the Frying Pan that she took on a tiny midge. A tailwater known for its truly ridiculous hatches and off-the-wall dry fly fishing, during the summer season the Pan gets crowded and the fish get cynical. But this time of year and in the fall there are few better places to spend a day. Located in an out of the way canyon near Basalt it is home to a lot of fish, and some big ones. The Pan flows into the Roaring Fork and then ultimately into the mighty Colorado.
Friday Fish Porn? Whaaaat? Here’s a nine year running compilation of well more than a hundred education types with fish they’ve caught.
May 7, 2015
New Bellwether analysis takes a look at federal policy and personalized learning – where the friction points are, what can be done.
But as lawmakers, advocates, and analysts dust off old arguments about the nation’s most significant K-12 education law, they run the risk of ignoring the future. Where NCLB was bold in its vision—all students proficient by 2014—the current proposals are remarkably lacking in ambition and new ideas. Innovation has been relegated to the fringes of the debate.
One of these innovations is personalized learning, which involves transforming students’ daily experiences so that they are customized to their individual needs and strengths. Through new kinds of learning environments, new technologies, and new ways for students to demonstrate their knowledge, personalized learning aims to meet students where they are and allow them to advance to more challenging material whenever they are ready.
Entire paper here.
You can also read Bellwether’s playbook for personalized learning quality and expansion here.
May 6, 2015
Two things to read today on this testing debate. Justin Cohen pushes back on the post below (great nsfw line, too) and some of the criticism of the Oliver segment. He makes a good point about the joyfulness issue. But most schools were, and are, joyful places – and we should note that what’s joyful differs for different people. Don’t mistake all the rhetoric for the on the ground reality. And, in the political world, some of the toxicity is a deliberate strategy to shut down debate and change. And it works! That’s why we have this bizarre situation where trying to improve a system that results in nine percent of low-income kids finishing college by the time they are 24 (among other poor or mediocre outcomes) is so controversial.
Also check out the letter from civil rights organizations on the testing issue. I don’t agree on the opt-out issue, seems like public schools have little to gain and a lot to lose by fighting opt-outs. But that’s because it’s ultimately a marginal issue unless people fan the flames. This point, however, is important:
Our commitment to fair, unbiased, and accurate data collection and reporting resonates greatest in our work to improve education. The educational outcomes for the children we represent are unacceptable by almost every measurement. And we rely on the consistent, accurate, and reliable data provided by annual statewide assessments to advocate for better lives and outcomes for our children. These data are critical for understanding whether and where there is equal opportunity.
But except in extreme cases some opt-outs don’t destroy the ability to do that. Their basic point though is an important one. Meanwhile, Jay Greene is almost certainly right about the politics here though. So that’s the puzzle to solve.
May 5, 2015
The idea of a center-to-left coalition focused on broad-based education reform has captivated reformers, including me, like a mirage in the desert. Today Charlie Barone writes about the potential in RealClearEducation.
A lot of people chattering about this John Oliver segment on standardized testing. My take: Yawn. I doubt that too many viewers of that show are really wide open on many issues, seems like a place where people with strong priors go to have them confirmed. But I might be too cynical. Substantively, I guess I’d rather stand with these guys than a TV comedian on an issue that matters to millions of youngsters – especially the most disadvantaged youngsters. But here’s a thought exercise: During this past winter could John Oliver have done the same segment – the same modality – but about global warming instead of testing? Yes, he could. Think Oliver in a park during a snowfall ridiculing those thinking the earth is getting warmer. They’re ridiculous because anyone can see it’s snowing! Look at me, I’m up to my waist in snow here in Boston and these fools say things are getting warmer! (Imagine the accent and some funny pictures). Of course, never mind the body of research about warming and the views of actual experts who study it, he knows better. Here, it’s the same thing on education except the stance on testing is just more politically correct. The story was amusing as an entertainment vehicle but you’ll look in vain for a tether to the actual evidence base around these issues. He just knows better. In other words, just because something has some salty language delivered with a British accent and a blowjob joke sprinkled in doesn’t mean it’s still not herd mentality political correctness rather than actual analysis or subversiveness.
ERS takes a look at Lawrence, MA.
You can quibble with various methodologies for computing the number of families on charter school waiting lists but no matter how you add it up there are a lot of families that want something different.
Ross Douthat on police unions. Almost a mirror image of the teachers union debate on the left.
My U.S. News & World Report column this week – on ESEA – will run end of week in a new USN product.
May 1, 2015
New plan to fix the financial problems at the Detroit Public Schools.
Check out Roadtrip Nation if you haven’t already seen the show, visited the website, or read the book. Started with an actual road trip and has grown into a great initiative about helping young people discover all the myriad ways to find your passion and build a career. If you’re in D.C. their green RV is in front of the Newseum. They stopped by Bellwether earlier in the week, great people and a terrific project.
There is so much good content at the Ahead of the Heard blog, Chad Aldeman on NAEP, Andy Smarick on Detroit, Becky Crowe on talent, and more.
Andrew Kelly and David DeSchryver on learning accelerators via a new General Assembly paper.
Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says the rich can “literally” buy elections. The Washington Post editorial board says his higher ed policy ideas would give them more cash to do so.
More private equity/public pension frenemy action. School finance and performance data from Nashville.
This will just make pretty much everyone (except Dan Weisberg, and probably even him, it’s that sweet) feel good.
April 28, 2015
A few roles open at Acelero Learning: Chief Partnership Officer, Director of Human Resources, and a Vice President for their Shine Implement Initiative. These are high-impact roles at a leading innovative early-childhood education provider with solid results.
More information and how to apply through the links.
April 24, 2015
David Leonhardt on who college is/should be for. Must-reading. Compelling anecdotes and actual data.