April 13, 2016

Clinton’s Education Comments Not As Crazy As You Heard On Twitter, Go Denver, Success Academy Jackpot, Semantics, Some Antics, Pensions, Trump Bro’s, Happy Birthday TJ!

Tomorrow’s news today: Kaitlin Pennington previews teacher quality in HEA. Betsy Arons looks at why HR matters.

Educated citizenry: It’s Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. He was born on this date in 1743 in Shadwell, Virginia. To Sir, With Love: On this date in 1964 Sidney Poitier won a Best Actor Academy Award. His first and the first for a black man.

I heard a strange sound last night, then I realized it was heads exploding. First more than 20K parents want their kids to go to Success Academy next year and then someone gives them $25 million! It must feel like a terrible acid trip for poor Kate Taylor. A giant teacher dressed like Eva Moskowitz chasing her down the street with a video camera and a huge check…

Chad Aldeman on the lousy deal of Illinois teacher pensions and some options for improvement. What’s the average teacher pension in your state? We can tell you but it’s not very useful information.

Massachusetts teachers’ union president in exquisite limbo.  Another merger: EIA joining with SIIA. People are frustrated with student loans.  No way! There is pushing and shoving and theater on ESSA implementation?  Denver is a quiet success story on charters that seems to have largely escaped notice by the chattering class.

Today in ‘maybe consider private school….’

“We, as a board, must move away from what was the so-called … reform movement,” Rosa said shortly after the regents elected her chancellor. “I say, welcome the transformers.

Who knew America’s education problem was semantics? So much easier to solve!

There is a problem with political correctness on campus but Donald Trump has hijacked the issue in some not helpful ways. Don’t believe me? Meet the Trump Bro’s.

Hillary Clinton and education policy*: Rinse, Repeat. Another round of freaking out about Hillary Clinton and education policy. Then the campaign says, no, no, not what you think, she’s a reformer. Then everyone waits for the next time. In this round here’s Matt Barnum looking at the push-off from Obama’s Education Secretary over Common Core. Here’s Jonathan Chait in NY Mag on testingAnd here’s Laura Waters. You can Google for more.

I’ve been as dismayed as anyone by some of what the Clinton campaign has said (and not said) on education policy but the ritualistic quality of these regular dust-ups is obscuring some nuance. In this case, when asked about opt-out Clinton said she wouldn’t want her granddaughter opt-ed out. If you’re just knee-jerk anti-testing person or in full pander mode you don’t say that – especially in New York right now. And is anyone really going to argue that the Common Core rollout was not a mess politically and substantively. It doesn’t undercut the merit of the standards or the argument for improving schools more generally but Secretary Clinton making that point is hardly from left field. As of now it’s unclear if reformers have learned the lessons of all that yet. The opponents were outrageous but there were plenty of unforced errors, too.

Meanwhile, President Clinton’s comments on testing are complicated. He’s not correct about accountability and measuring growth absent annual testing. You need annual testing for these kinds of systems to be implemented in a rigorous way and the analytic leverage they provide for educators, parents, and policymakers is hard to overstate. But more fundamentally what he seemed to be basically saying is that while today’s tests help students at the bottom of the achievement gap they are creating something of a ceiling for higher achieving students. It was clumsy how he said it but Clinton is a former Commander in Chief not a former school superintendent. Where there is room for legitimate disagreement is whether that ceiling problem is inherent to tests or just what’s going to happen in a low-capacity system where a lot of teachers are struggling to deliver the kind of instruction students need. (All the great teachers who get strong results and don’t just teach to the test and drill suggest it’s more the latter as does some research.)

Because low-achieving students (and racial, economic, and ethnic achievement gaps) are scattered throughout the system and not just concentrated in a subset of schools getting rid of testing or even paring it back a great deal is not a satisfactory answer if you are concerned about equity. And it’s worth remembering that most of the tests and state and local not federal. The problem is, of course, especially politically complicated because suburban parents who paid a lot for their houses don’t want to hear that their schools are not as good as they think. But there is a puzzle here. And President Clinton was on firm footing suggesting better teacher training might help solve it.

Seems like one byproduct of the episodic treatment of education in the campaign is that it sets the stage for these kind of flash fire moments because the candidates are not pressed to really explain their views and asked probing follow-up questions the way they are on some other issues. The 74‘s candidate forum was revealing in this way and it’s unfortunate the Democratic candidates didn’t participate in the one in Iowa with the Des Moines Register and The 74. Who knows, a real debate and conversation about education might be useful!

Big not fish.

*Relevant disclosures: I worked at the White House for President Clinton, supported Secretary Clinton in 2008 and think she’s clearly the most qualified candidate this time around. And I’m on the board of The 74. I also think Jon Chait says a lot of smart stuff about education even though I’ve heard on Twitter that his wife works in this sector or is a privatizer so I shouldn’t listen to him or he’s her cat’s paw or something.


April 11, 2016

Happy Birthday Spelman! Massachusetts Charters Tell Us Something, Survey Data, Restorative Justice, Credit Recovery, Feminist Sororities, Rural Teachers, Rescue Wolverines & Hockey Playing Dogs

It’s April 11. Two impactful education anniversaries to note. On this date in 1881 Spelman was founded in Atlanta, initially as a seminary.  The Apple I computer was released on this date forty years ago. Today is also the Red Sox’s home opener in Boston.

Speaking of Massachusetts, the next time you hear someone say they just ‘follow the evidence’ or ‘it’s all about the kids,’ ask them about charter schools in the Bay State. The sector gets strong results, there is strong parental demand, and yet the very same political opposition remains.  You’d be hard pressed to find a better example of the ethos that holds this sector back.

Online credit recovery evaluated. Trigger warning if you love online credit recovery.

Backdrop to the Success Academy/charter debate:

More than 20,000 students have applied for the 3,228 available spots, according to data from the network of charter schools.

In various ways, that are inconvenient for all sides in the charter debate, the issues play out on the ground differently than they do on Twitter.

New survey data from The Leadership Conference Fund on African American and Latino parents and education (pdf). Beth Hawkins iUSN on Restorative justice.

Different strategies for enticing teachers to rural areas. Loan forgiveness is fine, but other initiatives around housing might help as well?

Interesting Motoko Rich take on the portrayal of teachers in the media: great or goat. But is that really surprising? No one is making a musical about William Crawford…it’s human nature. The real complaint seems to be that shows about teachers don’t actually portray teachers teaching. Yes, but that seems true across the board for television? And who would watch teaching anyway? After all, do you really watch Deadliest Catch to see pot after pot of crab get unloaded or do you tune-in for the human drama, the weather, arguments, and all the other things that happen on a commercial fishing boat? Or a show like Road to the Winter Classic profiling teams getting ready for the NHL’s marquee New Year’s Day match-up. You’re more likely to learn how a team’s Sweedish players celebrate the holidays than to see set plays or drills during practice. I might misremember but I don’t think George Clooney did a whole lot of surgery on ER?  The point is that even reality shows, never mind other shows, don’t show a lot of reality. Besides, unless you’re into the craft of it actually watching teaching (or crab catching, hockey practice, or surgery) isn’t a path to ratings.

Feminists flocking to sororities?

Avalanche rescue wolverines. Dachshunds playing hockey.


April 8, 2016

Who Advises Trump On Education? Plus Reform Movement “Officials” Revealed, Must-Read Dynarski, Opt-Outs, Raimondo Rocks, Ed Research, WA Charters, Teacher Pensions And Social Security, Charters, Farmers, False Klansmen, And It’s Time For Fish Pics!

This July there will be another Bellwether Better Blogging training.

Important Susan Dynarski column looking at racial disparities in gifted education.

Apparently the education reform movement has “officials.” Who knew? Do they get uniforms and insignia and stuff? I hope so.

Officials involved with what has become known as the education reform movement expressed concern over a statement this week by former President Bill Clinton about his wife’s view of mandatory testing.

Maybe at least there are 1980s vintage dictator hats? Otherwise, seems like a waste.

Donald Trump has secret health care advisors who,

Instead, Mr. Clovis said in an interview, Mr. Trump is receiving advice on health care policy from at least a half-dozen “very prominent people,” but he declined to name them. “They are not ready to have their support of the Trump campaign known,” Mr. Clovis said.

Trump says an education speech is coming, is the same thing happening?

Think education research doesn’t matter? Pushback from Ruth Curran Neild. But Rick Hess jumps on AERA just in time for the annual meeting!

Gina Raimondo continues to flash real spine.

Evergreen: Federal teacher prep regs delayed again.  Sawchuk here. Politics K-12 with running updates on the ESSA regulation negotiations.

If you are concerned about having skills that are marketable long term in a rapidly changing economy I might suggest litigating charter school laws in Washington State as something you’d want to look into.

A look at the real teacher pension problems in Illinois.  Because 40 percent of teachers do not participate in Social Security polices like the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset affect them. Leslie Kan with a plain English look at those.  Really just another reason to work to ensure everyone is enrolled in Social Security.

Estimated Prophet: Don Shalvey on why he’s still betting on California. Karin Chenoweth goes personal on opt-outs. Patrick Riccards does, too. Christine Campbell on education and community engagement in Baton Rouge. More on Massachusetts charters debate. Some of what you get rewarded for in school may not help you later. 

Are adult hobbies impacting kids?

It’s time to start sending fish pictures for this blog but please handle ‘em gently!  Here’s a benefit play about farmers and benefiting farmers.

Dude just wanted some frozen yogurt. 


Next Bellwether Better Blogging Training – July 2016

Next Bellwether blogging training is July 5-6 in Washington, D.C. Starts afternoon 5th. We try to do a summer one to ensure access for teacher bloggers because it’s hard to put them together logistically for weekends. So hold those dates if you’re interested and look for application materials later this month. This training is always at least 4x oversubscribed so don’t delay in applying. This training is strictly viewpoint neutral and selection is based on opportunity to benefit. Here are what some past participants say about the training:

“It was an extremely enriching professional development opportunity that I have been and will continue to be incorporating into my work. As a result of the training, I am now writing a memo and preparing to hold a meeting with colleagues about how we can refine our blogging and social media strategy. “ –Zachary Malter, American Youth Policy Forum

“The Better Blogging training should be required professional development not only for education bloggers but also communications professionals. While the training covered what I expected, like tips on topics ranging from headline writing to social media promotion, it also offered me strategic advising on how to completely rethink my organization’s blogging fellowship and guest blogging program, as well as our approach to communications more broadly. Since I attended the training, we have become much more thoughtful about the voices and ideas we elevate–on our blog and beyond.” – Ari Kiener, MinnCAN

“The Bellwether Better Blogging conference was a great opportunity to meet influential professionals engaged in promoting their voices and perspectives online, and to learn from them how to better promote and refine my own classroom-based perspectives on education reform.” – Mark Anderson, New York City middle school teacher and blogger

“The Better Blogging seminar greatly improved my writing. I am blogging more concise, poignant pieces and my voice as a teacher has gained greater confidence. I am now starting to network online and build a loyal readership.” – Marilyn Rhames, blogger at Education Post and alumni support manager at a Chicago charter school

“I left feeling inspired and equipped to implement new strategies for getting my voice out there. I appreciated the quality of the presenters, the diversity and expertise of the other attendees, and the time that each of you took to make sure that everybody was getting what they needed out of the conference.” – Luke Foley, 2014 Vermont Teacher of the Year

“Was some of the best training/professional development I’ve ever received…and in such a short amount of time!” – Brianna Crowley, high school English teacher, Hershey, PA, and blogger

“The training gave me the tools to make my organization’s blog stand out from the crowd. The presenters offered insights into not only creating content that jumps off the page, but also marketing it so that it attracts the widest audience and has the biggest impact. I go back to tips from the training on a daily basis, as I’m creating headlines, promoting our blog on social media, and talking to teachers about how to tell their stories most effectively.” – Kate McGovern, Teach Plus


April 7, 2016

PostSecondary And Higher Ed, Free Edits, Opt-Outs, Charters Stranger Than Fiction, Mathematica Evaluates Everything, ACT/SAT, Plus Commercial Fishing

A lot of higher education news today, it’s curated for you at RealClearEducation. It’s cold and rainy in D.C. and doesn’t feel like baseball weather but it’s also the Nationals home opener. And it’s Bobby Doerr’s birthday. He is 98 today. In birthday news closer to the education world today’s the birthday of a terrific education public servant who we won’t name here but who also moonlights as a race car driver. Happy birthday to her!

Everyone knows there was a golden age of retirement security for workers, right? Actually it’s a myth. Chad Aldeman explains here.

Before that are you sprinting, wandering, or straggling into a career? Jeff Selingo with a really interesting look at all that in 2016.

Tim Daly with a measured take on opt-outs. Strong opt-out pushback here highlighting the inescapable race/class dimensions. Marc Magee and Vallay Varro on what’s next in ed advocacy. Checker Finn says Trump is putting education reform at risk.

Post-secondary: Ed Trust looks at what happens to students after high school. Ed Week on that here. Ed Post: Remediation is expensive. Mathematica looks at college attainment and early career earnings of charter school graduates.  Charters have hardly solved the college going and college graduation problems facing low-income Americans. But some are making a dent. There is something to learn there if everyone would take a break from the stale debates.

Also today in ‘if you’re a hammer everything is a nail:’ HBO’s “Togetherness” as a charter school propaganda vehicle. I like the show well enough, but if it’s supposed to be charter propaganda it’s not good at it. But who needs fiction? Charter quality in Massachusetts very good, parents want more charters, yet it’s a big political circus.

I heard a household name Silicon Valley leader say recently how great it was that we’d solved the broadband problem. That will be news to a lot of rural educators.

Newtown teacher arrested on gun charge at school.  Mathematica with education results for girls in Africa.

SAT and ACT heading to high school market more:

“The testing companies are making a land grab,” said Scott Marion, the executive director of the Center for Assessment, a nonprofit that helps states design and evaluate tests.

Department of Education struggles to hold sham universities accountable, meanwhile Department of Homeland Security is setting them up.

This is awesome. Diane Ravitch writes:

Whitney Tilson and I don’t usually exchange emails. He is one of those hedge fund managers whom I often complain about; he is a big supporter of KIPP, TFA, and charters, and he frequently lambastes me (I never speak ill of him). But Whitney reaches out once in a while to tell me we have found common ground. For example, I complimented him when he publicly acknowledged that the online charter chain K12 does not offer good education. I liked that.

The context here is Whitney’s strong opposition (which I share) to the recent rash of discriminatory laws being passed in the south around the LGBT community. But really…so here at no charge is an edit of that graf to make things a little more clear if you’re scoring at home:

Whitney Tilson and I don’t usually exchange emails. He is one of those hedge fund managers whom I often complain about; he is a big supporter of KIPP, TFA, and charters, and he frequently lambastes me (I never speak ill of him but I do allow people to use my blog to call TFA murderers, say all manner of outrageous things about KIPP and charters, and use “hedge fund” as a pejorative. But anyway that’s them not me….But Whitney reaches out once in a while to tell me we have found common ground. For example, I complimented him when he publicly acknowledged that the online charter chain K12 does not offer good education  he was making a killing exploiting K12′s mistakes and short selling the company’s stock! I liked that.

How sweet.

Earlier this week in USN I took a look at internships, quality, and equity. 

Commercial fishing today. The Times on Sturgill Simpson. The entire audio and film of the Apollo 17 trip to the moon.


April 4, 2016

When The Narrative Doesn’t Fit: Trump And Education Reform Or CIA Dogs And Discipline, Internships, Karim Ani On OER And Bryce Harper, Magee, Kingsland, Chalking News, Bears And Unicorns

At U.S. News I take a look at internships, should they all be paid in all sectors of the economy?

Interesting! New Mexico calling out AFT on PARCC ties.* (This does seem like the kind of story the financial press would have a field day with.)

Karim Kai Ani is writing letters to friends on various issues and questions. This one (to me) is about how philanthropy could help get free and open resources to where they need to be on the quality side. Also features Bryce Harper!

Hey kids! No college degree? No problem! Get badged or boot camped or something and head to Silicon Valley. Gates, Zuckerberg, and Jobs didn’t have one! Or, well, maybe that’s not such a hot idea. Turns out they like degrees there, too. Again, when people  start telling  you not to do something that worked for them, at least be suspicious.

Michael Magee on the conversation we should be having in education. (Problem is, you could have basically written this same op-ed in 2006. This isn’t a divorce, it’s the Hundred Years’ War). Neerav Kingsland on his first nine months as a grant maker. At Emory most communication now apparently via chalk. All this can be yours for just $50k a year! We’re not good at teaching sex ed.

Here’s a story about authentic assessment for dogs:

That was one reason the school, which educates nearly 1,700 students in Ashburn, played host to a CIA dog team for a training exercise while students were away for spring break last week, according to the Loudoun County school system. But the choice to go to a public school for the quiet exercise has led to an only-in-Washington embarrassment for the elite spy agency, which left explosive material behind in the engine compartment of a school bus that then shuttled special-needs schoolchildren for two days this week.

A mechanic discovered and removed the explosive putty — which county Supervisor Koran Saines (D-Sterling) said was the demolition explosive C-4 — during a routine bus maintenance check Wednesday.

OK, bonkers. But there is more!

It is unclear what, if any, sanction a CIA employee would face for leaving the explosives behind, and a Loudoun fire department spokeswoman said officials determined that there was no crime involved. But having explosive materials on a school bus or on school grounds normally would lead to serious consequences for a student ora teacher, even if it was an accident, advocates for reforming school discipline policies said.

“If this had been a young person, they probably would have been arrested and most certainly would have been suspended from school — and they would have had their education disrupted substantially,” said Thena Robinson-Mock, a lawyer for the Advancement Project, a national organization that advocates for an end to harsh school discipline policies.

Robinson-Mock pointed to incidents in which students have been arrested even though no crime was committed and no one was in danger, such as when Texas teen Ahmed Mohamed brought a homemade clock to his high school. Other students have been suspended, expelled or arrested for chewing a pastry into the shape of a gun, having a toy gun on a bus and having a knife in a gym bag that was used for equipment maintenance.

“We’re holding young people, particularly children of color, to a very different standard,” Robinson-Mock said.

Yeah, right! Wait, no, what?  Yes, school discipline lacks nuance, needs reform, and there are serious racial disparities in how students are treated. But this is about CIA explosives. If you’re trying to convince a skeptical public about the merits of ideas like restorative justice then you don’t want your ideas and “explosives” in the same sentence. The same paragraph. Really the same article if you can avoid it. We’re talking here about C-4. C-4! In a situation like that yes law enforcement, yes discipline! (Sometimes it’s OK to tell a reporter, “that really isn’t a good example of what I’m talking about” rather than trying to fit the narrative).

And, by the way, shouldn’t the dog be held accountable here too? Supposed to smell that stuff, right?

Robert Pondiscio with an interesting look at education reform in the age of Trump.

But it’s well past time to start thinking seriously about education reform in the Trump era. Even if 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue becomes the one piece of real estate destined never to be festooned with the candidate’s surname, the restive 2016 campaign should serve as a wake-up call. Broad swaths of Americans feel disconnected from public institutions and are convinced policymakers don’t understand or much care about them.

Education policy has done little to bridge that divide. When downwardly mobile white, working-class Americans hear us talking about education reform, it’s a fair bet they don’t think we’re talking about them and their children. And they’re not mistaken. The priorities and language of reformers – achievement gaps, no-excuses schools, social justice and the “civil rights issue of our generation” – betrays a focus on fixing schools attended by urban, low-income families of color.

Cynthia Tucker makes some of the same points.

Sure, I’m all for clever education policy ideas from national candidates. But is this the real issue with Trump voters – or more specifically the swath of Trump voters who are concerned about stagnating wages, dislocation from trade, and that vein of issues? Those people are concerned with effects of various polices now, they’re not interested in what our education system should look like in 10 years, what choices they might have made, or a debate about who should go to college. This has been a problem for years that is now coming to the surface. Policies that carry generalized benefits, for instance trade and immigration, also carry acute costs for some. There has been inattention to those costs, especially from those benefiting most, and the political effect of that is not going to be addressed through a better education reform policy. It’s going to be addressed by dealing with those pain points. Put more bluntly, if your factory moved to Mexico and turned your life upside down you don’t want someone telling you that better education or better policies might have made things different for you – you want some help now.  Again, sometimes the narrative doesn’t fit!

Bears playing in water. My kids really want one of these unicorns.

*BW has consulted for PARCC.


Internships! Education Or Exploitation?

Should internships be paid? In the private sector it seems pretty obvious but the issue is working its way through the courts. The non-profit and government world is a more complicated question. It’s work, there is an inequality angle, but well structured internships can also be educational. Not straightforward. I take a look at all that in U.S. News & World Report today.

Washington’s cherry blossoms and spring break tourism just peaked. So the next onslaught of visitors to the nation’s capital is just around the corner – interns. Each summer, D.C.’s cadre of nonprofits, advocacy groups, Congress and various federal agencies welcome an army of summer interns seeking free work in exchange for experience. The resulting rite of passage is often fun and sometimes scandalous, but it’s presumed to be educational, too.

That supposed educational component is one reason unpaid internships persist. Otherwise it’s just work and should be paid like any other job.

In the private sector, internships operate under a set of requirements to differentiate them from actual paid work…

You can read it all here. We all know famous intern stories, but I’ve had some great ones who go on to do terrific things. There are occasionally great anonymous intern Twitter feeds. Share those and spare us the intern jokes but tweet me your intern stories @arotherham.


April 1, 2016

100% April Fools Free! Jimmy Carter On Hufstedler, Are Vergara And Friedrichs So Different? School Choice, Higher Ed, Hard Realities On Teacher Evaluation, School Infrastructure, Pensions, Parenting Choices, And Panthers!

Exclusive: RealClearEducation talked with President Jimmy Carter about the passing of Shirley Hufstedler.  Sara Mead gets under the hood on TFA restructuring. 

Hillsborough teacher evaluation not going so well.* Theory of action is that if you just do this “well” everyone will come along. Alternative theory: Places like D.C. are outliers and we should talk honestly about why.

Rick Hess on why he likes Friedrichs but not Vergara:

 …there are inevitable comparisons and linkages to California’s famed Vergara lawsuit. In that case, the plaintiffs are asserting that they have a right to “effective teachers” under the terms of the California constitution, and that policies relating to tenure, dismissal, and LIFO (“last in, first out” termination) are unconstitutional. Both suits represent a profound challenge to teacher unions. The big difference, to my eye, is that Friedrichs is a simpler determination of whether state compulsion is trampling fundamental rights, while Vergara requires the courts to tell the legislature how to organize particular elements of educational policy. I’m quite comfortable with Friedrichs, which strikes me as precisely the kind of case that we expect the courts to adjudicate. On the other hand, for reasons I’ve previously explained, I have real concerns with Vergara—even though, on substance, I wholly support the plaintiffs. I think would-be reformers are asking the courts to wade into areas that are beyond judicial expertise, where rulings are more likely to yield paralysis and bureaucracy-inducing compliance, and want the courts to substitute their policy determinations for those of legislators.

Regardless of the merits of the two cases I don’t get the distinction Rick is making? The Vergara plaintiffs are not asking the court to make policy – and the court explicitly said it wasn’t going to do that. They were arguing that under California’s constitution the current laws violated the rights of students. Their claim requires a specific reading of how the constitutional provisions apply – and that’s being debated on appeal right now. But they just asked for a (non-specific) policy that wouldn’t violate those rights –  hardly a crazy thing to ask a court for. I think Rick and I would agree that the courts are sometimes inappropriately dragged into policymaking but that doesn’t seem like the issue in either of these cases. Agree with the plaintiffs or not, both are basic state or federal constitutional claims.

More interesting to me in Friedrichs is the question of whether there is inherently a First Amendment issue here or whether the way teachers unions and public sector unions more generally operate has in practice created one. Yes, Abood is a political compromise that doesn’t make a lot of sense at First Amendment law but would it be a better/more workable/less acrimonious compromise if unions didn’t make the agency process so painful for people? Possibly not given the politics. But seems like he polarizing nature of the case obscured some questions (I did hear some behind the scenes grumbling about this).

For a change of pace you can watch Rick and Mike Petrilli get drunk on video. Really…

Surprise! If you live in a country where wealth and power follow racial contours and you have a sector of schools you have to pay to attend then those schools will be disproportionately white. New Southern Education Foundation report finds exactly that (you can quibble with some of the methodological choices but it seems directionally right). School choice advocates have not adequately wrestled with the ugly legacy of choice in the south, where it was used to overtly to create segregated academies as part of the massive resistance strategy (it had the same effect elsewhere but was just more subtle). But choice critics have not adequately wrestled with a more basic question – what to do now?

Private schools are not going away. Calls to outlaw them make make periodic cameos as thought pieces but that’s not going to happen – it’s not constitutional anyway. The school choice programs that are springing up probably aren’t going anywhere either. In case you didn’t notice this is a country that likes choice. So where does that leave you except supporting much more aggressive strategies to give low-income Americans more choice in their schooling? Yet the people who seem most concerned about this power imbalance seem to be the same ones least interested in radical steps to upset the apple cart. Kevin Chavous on the study here.

Ron Matus gets his Dutch on pointing out the embrace of school choice there. I’m basically with Ron on the need for more choice here but you can’t look at The Netherlands without considering both history and also cultural norms. It’s a different place than the U.S.

If you build it they will come? We’re back to talking school facilities. It feels so 1996! I’d like to see the federal government get in the infrastructure game with some creative and sustainable strategies like infrastructure banks for revolving loan funds. Could support school renovation and also construction of new schools do address population growth or parental demand. Or, alternatively, we can do what hasn’t worked politically for 20 years.

Speaking of the wayback machine, new playbook of education ideas from the National League of Cities. Some interesting ideas but striking how input oriented it all is, very little on structural change to help improve outcomes for urban youth. Especially striking against the backdrop of some of the data on various reforms.

Tom Loveless on Common Core politics. NASBE on balancing privacy and progress with student data. State of the state of education in Rhode Island (pdf). Worth reading. Here is a crib sheet on i3 evaluations.

Sad news from NOLA.

A new look at rural charter schools. I get the idea, and there are some great rural charters, but I’m also struck by how much rural schools in general often operate like charters – for good and ill. The upsides and downsides of autonomy are frequently present.

Turnover at BIE. C’mon….

This point on higher education gets made a lot but given how the field is covered you really can’t say it enough: It’s not about elite schools.

Conservatives on campus:

To the contrary, most of those interviewed expressed what the authors call a “Madisonian” political philosophy: “It is a political vision that values the discovery of common ground over ideological purity, learned elites over charismatic leaders, and reasoned appeals over passionate exhortations.” If institutions of higher learning refuse to make a place for scholars who share this vision, they will not only stifle inquiry. They will also deprive themselves of vital allies when the inevitable backlash comes to pull them down.

Chicago pensions. Chad Aldeman on the pension numbers in Chicago.

You knew this was coming: Here’s your chance to weigh in on Adam LaRoche’s parenting decisions! So far the White Sox are winning.

Exciting ice bridge collapse. Boardwalk panther.

*Update: Originally this item had a bad link, that’s fixed. But the actual link is still a few months old. I got a news alert on it, clicked, read, but didn’t notice date and thought it was an update on what’s happening. In any event, here’s a more recent one about the changes the article described, which are undoing a lot of the things Hillsborough was lauded for. Apologies for both errors.


March 30, 2016

“A Little Bit Unethical,” Plus Friedrichs Fallout, Sakena Yacoobi, Mergers, Methods, CMO Growth, Evidence, And Bears!

I moderated a small luncheon discussion yesterday with Sakena Yacoobi, an education leader in Afghanistan. She won the 2015 WISE Prize for her efforts to improve education in that country. Inspiring leader and an interesting conversation. Challenging context she operates in but she’s getting results. You can learn more about her life and work here. She’s appearing at Harvard tomorrow.

The Times on Friedrichs. Noah Feldman on the teachers union’s good fortune. Here’s the Department of Education’s statement on yesterday’s 4-4 Friedrichs decision:

Statement from U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

 Labor unions have helped to build our nation’s middle class, playing a critical role in increasing workers’ wages and ensuring there are workplace protections. Today’s announcement that the appeals court ruling in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association will stand means educators will continue to be able to focus on what is most important—helping students learn and prepare for success in school and in life.

Some reformers are grumbling it’s a weak statement, but what exactly do you expect from a Democratic administration in an election year?  I’m sure a secret ballot vote on it at 400 Maryland Avenue would be interesting but that’s not the point. In any case, the teachers’ unions are running around claiming this decision, which affirms the lower court’s ruling, is a big rejection of Friedrichs. In fact it’s an 11th hour reprieve for them because of the passing of Justice Scalia. It’s more noteworthy that King didn’t parrot their talking points (and they didn’t love the statement either!). Now, for the teachers unions, a lot riding on whether the Republican blockade in the Senate holds or whether a new justice is appointed before the election.

In Detroit, corruption charges:

At the heart of the alleged scheme is businessman Norman Shy, 74, of Franklin,  who is accused of paying $908,500 in kickbacks and bribes to at least 12 Detroit Public Schools principals who used him as a school supply vendor in exchange for money — some for as little as $4,000, another for $324,000. He secretly did this for 13 years, scamming school after school to the tune of $2.7 million with the help of principals who benefited along the way, prosecutors allege…

…”It’s pitiful that they’re going after principals who are probably just doing what they need to do even if it might be a little bit unethical in order to provide the students in their schools with the supplies and materials that they need that district and the state should be providing us,” teacher Cathy Brackett said. “They should be going after the big thieves who have come into the district under the guise of emergency managers and consultants who have skimmed not just thousands of dollars but millions of dollars away from our students and just move on to their next gig, seemingly without repercussions.”

So, you want to recruit a CMO to your region? Here’s a new report from NACPS with some information about how to do that.

Methodological pushback on the Education Equality Index. 50CAN and StudentsFirst are merging.

Achieve on post-secondary remediation and readiness state by state. Results for American on local governments and evidence-based policymaking (pdf). And a compendium of blog posts on evidence and policy (pdf).

Bears playing on a hammock.


March 29, 2016

Friedrichs’ 4-4 Split, Is Giving The Poor Choice A Bridge Too Far For Today’s Facebook Social Justice Warriors? Emory Chalking, ACT, SAT, And Native Ed, Catholic School Comeback? Charters, Diddy’s Charter, School Boundaries, Grade Inflation, Volcanoes!

As expected ruling just came down, Friedrichs is a 4-4 split (pdf). Stay tuned for new justice…

Kelly Robson and Andy Smarick on a renaissance for Catholic schools:

But over the last decade or so, some corners of Catholic education—a field long wedded to traditional ways—have embraced a series of innovative reforms. New approaches to instruction, governance, and technology, combined with the utilization of burgeoning public-voucher and tax-credit programs, are helping to revitalize the sector. Although much remains true to form, Catholic primary and secondary schooling is also exhibiting more entrepreneurialism and energy than it has in decades while at the same time preserving its commitment to the religious formation of boys and girls.

Yesterday it was Duckworth, today Karin Chenoweth: Please don’t use my work to justify segregated school boundaries.

And it is true that I have spent the last decade of my life documenting that schools with large concentrations of students of color and students from low-income families can achieve at high levels. I have written two books, co-written a third, and written many columns with evidence from actual schools.

But the idea that any high-poverty school is doing well because it has a high concentration of children from low-income families is a big leap of logic. [Bold from original]

Gail Collins and Arthur Brooks discuss education, it’s a little painful:

Gail: Obviously there are some good charter schools. As long as they operate within the regular school system and don’t get any advantage in public funding, I don’t have any problem with them — even though I do think a lot of the success stories are due to the fact that the students tend to have motivated parents. Some disadvantaged kids get a big boost and succeed; those who don’t do so well often get nudged out the door.

But my real concern is the charters run by for-profit companies. The whole idea of mixing profit and public education is terrible.

Obviously, she hasn’t heard,  two things can be true at once! Yes, there is some informal and formal skimming that happens (and charter leaders and policymakers should address) but charters are also getting impressive results despite that. There’s, you know, research! And the success isn’t random, there are a few – very politically inconvenient – things the top performing ones do when it comes to governance and management. That’s old news though and at this point a political problem not a substantive one, except apparently in Manhattan. On the for-profit issue, it’s a small fraction of charters, many charter leaders are concerned about them, I have my reservations, but the fact is we mix public interest and private good all the time – with mixed results — inside the education sector and around the public sector more generally. Not as simple as you may have heard!

Jim Ryan, ed school dean at Harvard, on the tension in progressive circles around education – ‘I care about social mobility and inequality but school choice? No way, I’d get thrown off the mom’s list!’

But notice that most debates about choice are really only about limiting or expanding the choices of poorer families.  No one is suggesting that we outlaw private schools or tell people where they can and cannot live.  (Can you imagine the latter?  Or even the former?)  Which means that, regardless of the outcome of myriad debates about expanding or contracting formal school choice plans, families who can choose where to live or who can afford private schools will always have school choice.  When these families choose to leave a school or a district, or to never enter into one in the first place, they too are depriving the school and district of resources.  But no one is forcing, or even really asking, them to stay in particular schools or districts that they dislike in order to make those schools or districts better for everyone else.

The only group currently asked to shoulder this burden are poorer families who, absent a school choice plan, have no options.  Why we would single out this group, and this group alone, is hard for me to understand.  Which is why, again, to me, the key question in school choice debates is simple:  Are you comfortable denying school choice solely to poorer families? [Bold from original]

Emory chalking is still going. Glenn Reynolds wants more Winklevoss but ignores that Larry Summer’s ideas of what the academy should be cost him his job! College presidents don’t get those jobs by being stupid about the politics. Connor Friedersdorf gets at the nub of why this is all ultimately counterproductive to its avowed goals:

Already, other damage has been done. Earlier this week, I noted that a black student at UC Davis suffered a hate crime near campus. Three men were later arrested for the assault. Previously, I’ve highlighted the horrifying affects of NYPD spying on innocent Muslim students and the UC Berkeley riot police that turned batons on students. There is sometimes good reason for college students to be concerned about their physical safety on campus, and there are incidents of racism that do not threaten physical safety but are nevertheless abhorrent and understandably upsetting. When students react like this to the mere appearance of the name of a leading candidate in the middle of a presidential-election year, treating the most commonplace political advocacy as if it makes them unsafe, they create perverse incentives for invoking victimhood and deflate the currency of claimed trauma and offense.

The Cav Daily editors at UVA make the same point. I’d add that more immediately when everyone is talking about the food at Oberlin or Trump written in chalk at Emory they’re not talking about these more serious issues…

Marilyn Rhames on charters and discipline.  Asia College Board security problems. ACT looks at college readiness for Native American students (pdf). College grade inflation is probably worse than you thought. Three new education ideas from the Hamilton Project. Diddy’s charter opening in NYC.

Sturgill Simpson covers Nirvana. Crowdfunding meets science. Alaska volcano.


March 28, 2016

No More High Stakes For Character Education? Still Plenty Of Security. Jason Weeby, Leslie Kan, Chad Aldeman, Whitmire, Kane, And Reville. Student Voice And Teen Robots! Plus More…

More security officers than counselors in a lot of school districts.

Now you tell us! Angela Duckworth says the field is abusing her ideas:

As a social scientist researching the importance of character, I was heartened. It seemed that the narrow focus on standardized achievement test scores from the years I taught in public schools was giving way to a broader, more enlightened perspective.

These days, however, I worry I’ve contributed, inadvertently, to an idea I vigorously oppose: high-stakes character assessment. New federal legislation can be interpreted as encouraging states and schools to incorporate measures of character into their accountability systems. This year, nine California school districts will begin doing this.

File under: those awful tests and that controversial school choice…still the worst way to do accountability – except for all the others.

Student voice from TNTP. Paul Reville on using the third semester to combat rather than exacerbate inequality.

Jason Weeby asks if there is a God. Actually, he just wonders what is innovation? Bellwether pension analysts on California’s back-loaded teacher retirement system. Chad Aldeman on ESSA accountability rhetoric and reality. Chad also talks with Christy Hovanetz about designing rating systems for schools.

And Chad and Leslie Kan on teacher pension inequities. 

New Dep’t of Education report on college and low-income students (pdf). Hamilton Project looks at education context and some key issues (pdf).

Whitmire: What makes Brooke tick? Tom Kane on how common assessments can empower rather than contain state leaders.

Here’s some interesting information on Ohio Governor Kasich’s education record that will have no bearing on the election.

Although I’m not sure just mocking anti-Common Core types is the best strategy – this video is pretty funny.

If you want to understand consumer trends – and they influence education, too – you can do worse than look at coffee.  Mass and standardized are out, boutiquey and authentic feeling are in. Sound familiar?

Judges knock controversial desegregation policy proposal in MN. Lead is a problem in places beyond Flint and Newark. Chicago teachers’ strike plan b. With bonus furloughs!  State chiefs and early childhood education. The battle over algebra! Ah the neighborhood school….so romantic….or not says Century Foundation.

Apropos of nothing this is a lovely op-ed.

AI is coming to education. What could possibly go wrong?


March 23, 2016

Who Trumps On Campus? Ed Trust, Detroit, Revisiting Bowling, Korman On Data, Fish Health Care

The authoritarians on the left and the right find each other on college campuses…In a really invertebrate display of leadership Emory officials say they will use surveillance footage to ID who wrote “Trump 2016″ around the campus….Jesse Singal:

A college using using security-camera footage to track down and possibly punish students who expressed political speech? The only way to fairly describe that is, well, the only way to fairly describe the spectacle of a Trump rally delivered to a deliriously cheering crowd: extremely creepy, and a sign that something has gone seriously wrong.

Meanwhile, Ed Trust reports on racial disparities and college completion.

The data vacuum on education and justice involved youth.

Revisiting Nate Bowling’s “conversation” post.  Kati Haycock on putting kids at the center of new ESSA policies.

Restructuring Detroit.

Some interesting stuff here, caught between two eras.  Orthodontics. 


March 22, 2016

Pearson – AFT Absurdity, Student Data And Research, SEA’s Lack Capacity, Education Equality Index, Climbing Kids

Pearson and the AFT continue to battle. Union investors don’t think they’re getting their money’s worth from a company they loathe and attack non-stop. Really. Ed Week here.  (Gotta give credit where it is due on tactics, this is distracting from some more fundamental questions about these relationships).

House Education and Workforce Committee looking at student data privacy and research. Obviously some legitimate issues here worthy of concern, but also some zealotry and mixed agendas (some of this is a not so subtle anti-accountability push, all that data is inconvenient). I recently reviewed a forthcoming study looking at toxins and student outcomes. Issues around students at birth are pretty well-established but this is groundbreaking because it looks at later life outcomes for students but would not be possible with some of the restrictions being proposed – and all the data was anonymized so the privacy issues in that case are minimal. This is an important balance to get right – easy to get wrong.

On the same issue this panel on the 29th at Urban looks outstanding.

Post secondary choices in Alaska. Should be a reality show. Here’s an evergreen issue: State education agencies lack capacity.

Education Equality Index from Education Cities.

These kids are climbers. 


March 20, 2016

Higher Ed Free Speech And Protests, The Tutoring Credential, Help Wanted On NJ School Boards, John King, Sally Jewell, The P Fetish. And Crazy Vacations.

Strife in Montclair! It’s like Mogadishu but with tests! Merrick Garland, SCOTUS nominee and tutor (are we going to now politicize tutoring?)

Want to be on a school board? Move to New Jersey.

Campus free speech balancing act:

You might think that the First Amendment applies with full force on state campuses. State universities are a branch of the government, which can’t suppress free speech under the Constitution. They’re not like elementary or high schools, where students’ free-speech rights are balanced against the school’s interest in maintaining discipline and order.

Yet the law as it now stands treats universities not like public forums, but more like workplaces, where anti-discrimination laws can restrict certain forms of speech. Pursuant to those laws, universities adopt conduct codes that can punish speech that would almost certainly be protected if uttered in public forums like streets or parks.

Meanwhile, it’s brutal in Providence:

Other students expressed similar frustration with the university’s expectation that they keep up with their schoolwork during the protests, saying that some professors refused to grant extensions on homework and tests.

It’s also hard to figure out who can speak where at Brown. Ted Gup says we’ll have to rename everything or we can focus on structural issues instead:

There is no end to Harvard’s offenders — or Yale’s or Princeton’s or, for that matter, most American institutions with a history. Few entities can withstand the scrutiny of the modern conscience, and physically disassembling the artifacts of the past, attacking its symbols and its ghosts, is a fool’s errand — no matter how lofty the cause. It illuminates little and is a feel-good distraction that comes at the expense of today’s very real crises. And picking and choosing which ancient offenses warrant purging creates the danger of prioritizing one historically disadvantaged group over another, inadvertently importing into our own age the very toxins of bigotry that activists now seek to condemn.

We can endlessly denounce the long-departed and disavow the already-discredited, but to what end? What we should do instead is devote ourselves to living our lives in a way that allows our descendants to take pride in the history we leave behind.

Chad Aldeman on ending Common Core:

Chad Aldeman, an associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners, says this notion that the federal government “must stop” Common Core runs contrary to the long-held Republican position that governance of public schools is a state issue.

“It’s a little bit ironic that they’ve been sounding the alarm about federal control and now the leading Republican presidential candidates all want to take federal action against a state initiative,” Aldeman said in an interview. “There’s really nothing that they could do to stop Common Core other than using the bully pulpit to try to convince states to back out of their own commitments.”

Do we worship too much at the altar of p values? Sally Jewell wants to get kids outside. What to do about struggling schools? Lost in all the political back and forth about John King is his remarkable life story.

When vacations go awry.


March 18, 2016

Pensions! One Out Of Five Isn’t So Bad? Area Man Bewildered By Charter Schools, Chris Stewart V. The Academy, Guns, Duncan, LaRoche, Fired Missouri Prof Speaks,Teacher Evaluation, Bears!

BREAKING: Area man confused about charter schools. And that man is running for President of the United States. Sara Mead takes a look at USN. At The 74′s Cynthia Tucker with a harder edge:

Bernie Sanders isn’t the only progressive who is confused about charter schools. On the left, misunderstandings and mischaracterizations about non-traditional public schools abound, many of them spread by an educational establishment that fiercely guards its turf.

Via Brookings here’s a map of charter school access.

Are teacher pensions part of the fiscal pressure on urban school districts? Well duh. The fiscal overhang created by pension obligations is a big deal. In the debate about who is at fault everyone is sort of right. Bad/irresponsible decisions by state legislatures are a problem – so is the bad design of teacher retirement policies relative to today’s teacher labor market. Hard for the various factions to say all of that though – everyone has their preferred cause. You know who doesn’t and plays it straight? Chad Aldeman. He’s in the story.

More generally, there are more than four million teachers. Only one in 5 can expect to get a full pension because of all the various barriers. That’s the design problem here that doesn’t get a lot of attention in the back in forth. Why is anyone hell bent on perpetuating a system that only works for one in five workers? What’s more, 40 percent of teachers are not in Social Security, creating additional retirement insecurity. These are addressable problems  - and the solutions are more complicated than just moving to 401ks – but it will take leadership and so far that’s mostly lacking.

A lot of guns find their way to school. More accountability for securing firearms seems like something most people could get behind? With rights there are responsibilities and all that…

New report on teacher evaluation with some design principles from the Aspen Institute.  Congress gets rid of the teacher evaluation requirements in federal law and tons of reports follow! Who says government can’t positively affect the lives of ordinary wonks?

Fired Missouri media professor speaks out in WaPo. Asks a profound question: Do you really want to live in a world where media studies professors are too afraid of public scorn to trample First Amendment rights?

Arne Duncan is going back to Chicago. Adam LaRoche is not.

Michelle Obama on global education and girls.  Patrick Riccards is speechwriting for Trump.

Chris Stewart on the attack:

It is one thing to speak from a vaulted perch where you are not responsible for a single kid, and preach the paleoliberal gospel of the one-best-system; to write missives against school reform as you cash under-the-table paychecks from reform funders; to sit on panels sponsored by education labor cartels and interrogate the motives of school reformers while never interrogating the motives of labor cartels; to put your own kids in private schools and then assail school choice as a misguided gift to the ignorant poor who won’t make decisions as well as you have; and to basically fill the world with useless pablum about thinking broader, bolder, more holistically, without focusing intensely on developing, administrating, delivering, and measuring the effectiveness of instruction and learning in the most important place, the classroom.

It’s something much different to do what the leaders of new schools do, which is to design, establish, and operate schools that fight the nihilistic, racist, and classist mantra that demography affixes melanated people without money to academic failure.

Dr. Darling Hammond and Stanford University gave it the college try. They started a school. It was intended to showcase all of their research in an applied setting with real children. In 2005 Sanford’s dean for the School of Education, Deborah Stipek, said the university “wanted to be a partner [to the local school district] rather than just preach from the Ivy tower.”

The school did terribly.

Even with extensive resources, including $3,000 more in per student funding, and a direct connection to all of the conceivable knowledge produced by one of the world’s most renowned institutions of higher learning, the school struggled to break out of the bottom 5% of schools in the state of California.

When the school failed Diane Ravitch said ”Maybe this demonstrates that schools alone cannot solve the very deep problems kids bring to school…You cannot assume that schools alone can raise achievement scores without addressing the issues of poverty, of homelessness and shattered families.”

That’s absolutely the wrong message, and the fact that so many “educated” people from our community never confront her system-preserving, elitist nonsense makes them as suspect with me as my support of reform has made me with them.

Curious polar bear.


March 17, 2016

Don’t Bring Your Child To Work Day, No Discipline In The Ed Debate, Where Are The Progressives? Finance In NOLA, Mudrooms Of Higher Ed, Kids And Clubhouses, Eval, SEAs, Horses In Tweed

New report on school discipline and charter schools from UCLA’s Civil Rights Project. The Times here, of course. Not so fast says CRPE.* They make some important points and raise some serious questions. Read it if you follow this issue.

In the end, this looks a lot like anti-charter advocacy masquerading as concern about discipline. Actually, seems like that’s exactly what it is. It’s 2004 again! There is a problem with school discipline – in all types of schools. But this is exactly the way to make sure people go to their bunkers instead of  getting anything done.

Elsewhere on this issue, Eva Moskowitz responds to her critics:

We are hardly perfect and are, like all institutions, a work in progress. Yet the expenditure of such a disproportionate amount of investigative resources on one network of schools that educates just 1% of New York City’s students is curious, given the dire failures of the district schools. In Central Harlem’s district schools, for example, just 15% of students scored proficient on the state’s math exams in 2015. The budget at one Harlem district school, P.S. 241, amounted to $2 million for each of its two students who tested proficient in math. By contrast, 90% of the students at Success’s Central Harlem schools scored proficient in math in 2015.

Many education professors are also critical of strict charter schools. But there is at least one group that strongly supports our schools: parents. For the current school year, Success Academies received 22,000 applications for 2,300 spots. Another network in New York City with a similar approach, Achievement First, received 21,000 applications for 1,000 spots. Meanwhile, most district schools with which we compete are massively under-enrolled.

This raises an important question: Why are the views of parents about discipline so different than those of Times reporters and education professors? The answer, I believe, is that parents know from personal experience that when schools have lax discipline, particularly in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities, children are bullied, robbed of educational opportunities by unruly behavior and even subjected to violence.

Also in New York, the mayor and the teachers union president are getting along! Robert Bellafiore wonders where the progressives are?

And more fights on NYC charters - this time about equitably serving all students. This idea of making sure the charter sector serves students equitably once it reached a significant share of the student population in a city is vital. But doing it school by school makes no sense. Traditional public schools don’t serve every kind of student in every school. It’s a sector issue. Authorizers should be on top of this (D.C. is a leader here*) but clumsy regulations are aimed more at hamstringing charters than solving this problem.

Interesting finance fix in New Orleans. Significant. Big fight over expansion of for-profit online higher ed (bonus, features what looks like a picture of Bob Shireman’s mudroom). CAP looks at teacher evaluation in Massachusetts. Can SEA’s operate as portfolio managers?

Today in unschooling: 

“We’re not big on school,” Adam LaRoche said in 2013. “I told my wife, ‘He’s going to learn a lot more useful information in the clubhouse than he will in the classroom, as far as life lessons.’ ”

The Ethicist is all about school questions this week.

Kristin Soltis Anderson – who is a bit of an alum of the education world – gets a nice nod from Elle (and some cool clothes). NCLR’s Janet Murguia, whose work also touches education in a big way featured in new duds, too.

Tweed wearing horse.

*Relevant disclosures: I’m on the CRPE advisory board but wasn’t involved in this. My colleague Sara Mead is on the DC charter board. My daughters love horses, regular ones, not ones in three piece suits.


March 16, 2016

Upward Mobility, College Costs, Grading Parents, Harvard And Vouchers, Badgers And Music!

Mike Petrilli is trying to make education policy great again. OK, he’s trying to figure out a conservative education agenda. New book out and an event today about it.  On education “If Donald Trump is President you’re going to be very happy.” Or perhaps not.

Breakdown of the Sanders higher education plan. What the candidates are saying about Social Security.

New America analyzes college costs and low-income students.  Meanwhile, there is $253 billion in 529 accounts…more here (pdf).

Rick Hess on bias in the academy. Are New York City’s charter schools working? Are they working more generally? Marcus Winters takes a look at RCE. Grading Mississippi’s parent grading idea.

Ginsburg and Smith on RCT shortcomings.  STEM and wages. Big tax credits! Back in the day when Harvard was a school voucher hotbed.

Marilyn Rhames:

While prayer and faith are not typically on white, liberal ed reformers’ radars, it is a significant pathway to reach African-American and Latino communities that reformers seek to help.

Long New Yorker look at the bad fit between sex offender registries and youthful “offenders.”

Big shark. (With an education angle). Badger music.


March 14, 2016

Give The People What They Want! Bryce Harper’s Education Lesson, Education And The White House Race, Boom And Bust In School Finance, Blacklists, Fried Potatoes, And SEL Gold!

We are growing and  hiring at Bellwether, great roles on all of our teams.

The Times on Oakland and Broad:

While the teachers’ union and some parent groups worry that district-run public schools will ultimately be eviscerated by competition from charters, other parents are voting with their feet, sending their children to the newer schools.

This is really the problem facing public schools in a nutshell. In the short term you can bottle those parents up politically. In the long-run you can’t. Listening to them and giving them what they want is key to keeping public education robust. In other words, the people who think they’re saving public education are slowly killing it.

It’s Spring Training, lots of dreams, so please stop saying stuff like this!

Career day, Harney Middle School, Las Vegas. A nice lady stands in front of a sixth-grade classroom to discuss professions with the boys and girls seated in front of her. Each student is asked to declare a career, and it’s a rundown of the usual suspects: firefighter, doctor, veterinarian. The nice lady’s enthusiastic reaction to those last two answers triggers a chain reaction; even the kids who didn’t have the slightest clue what they want to be figure they can’t go wrong with one of those. Around the room it goes. Doctor. Veterinarian. Sure, why not?

When it winds around to the biggest kid in the room, Bryce Harper says, “I want to be a professional baseball player.”

“Well,” the lady says, a jagged shard of disapproval seeping into her tone, “I think maybe you should pick a new profession. You know that doesn’t happen very often.”

Harper looks at her with a stony silence. The words he wants to say are right there – You’ve got no clue teed up in his mind like a BP fastball — but instead he says, “Yeah, well, that’s just my dream.”

Chauncey, seated a desk away from Harper, can’t let it end there. This woman needs to know. It’s an act of kindness, even mercy, on his part.

“No, you don’t understand,” Chauncey says. “He really is going to be a professional baseball player. He’s the best 12-year-old in the country.”

As you probably know, Harper became the youngest unanimous MVP last year. I know a woman who was told she should maybe try community college but not four-year college. Today, she manages a high-end professional services firm. Another guy who was told his best path was going to be GED and entry-level work. He commanded a Navy ship. Many people have stories like that. Perhaps let people set their own limits?

The other day I made an observation on dropouts and the discount rate on information they get. Reader Mike G. makes an interesting observation about it here.

Campbell Brown on education and the 2016 White House race. Hillary Clinton and education in The New Yorker. Fact checking Trump and Senator Cruz on education. Education pieces in Trump demographics. And it can always be worse…

Mass market version of To Kill A Mockingbird in jeopardy. Price point implications for schools. The boom and bust world of fossil fuel based school finance schemes. Michelle Obama versus a deep fried Texas potato!

Today in why we can’t have nice things in this sector: Call for enrolling all teachers in Social Security and point out that only about one in five teachers actually get a full pension and you wind up on a “blacklist.”

There’s gold in them SEL hills!

This person has a bright future in the education debate. Lumbersexual political ecology.


March 11, 2016

Ben Carson On Education, Charter School Data, Smarick Speechwrites, Cami Anderson Interviews, Hess On Evaluation, New Brookings Reports, Higher Education, South Dakota On The Move, Is Evidence? Plus Penguins & Fish!

So apparently Ben Carson will run education for Donald Trump? Well, when Campbell Brown of The 74 asked him about education he said,  ”Campbell, I think no child should be left behind.” OK then…

Meanwhile, in actual school improvement goings on, a lot on charters: Here’s a new NACPS report on the health of the charter movement. A lot of data.

Don’t agree with everything Greg Richmond is saying here, but a lot of it and it’s an important read and challenge to the charter school world and education world more generally:

….we need to change. We cannot do better tomorrow by continuing the ways of yesterday. We need to improve. One way that we are changing public education is through charter schools. Charters are not the only way we will improve public education, but they can be one powerful way.

The charter school movement is 25 years old; 6,800 charter schools in America serve nearly 3 million students. Many of these schools are achieving extraordinary results. But then again, some of them are not. The outcomes have been mixed, both here in Philadelphia and nationally.

So when we examine how well we are doing for the next generation, if we are honest, we have to acknowledge that all charter schools are not fully delivering on their promise. We need to do better.

Unfortunately, progress in charter schooling has been difficult and frustrating. In recent years, we seem trapped inside policies and practices that prevent progress, as charter school proponents and opponents wage a never-ending war.

Also on charters, Andy Smarick wrote a speech for DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. And here’s a Bellwether deep dive on the charter movement and where things stand and what new challenges are (pdf).

New Brookings analysis on dropping out and income inequality.

The data are consistent with this prediction: low-income youth are more likely to drop out of school if they live in a place with a greater gap between the bottom and middle of the income distribution.

Related, anyone who works or has worked with young people gets that the discount rate is pretty high on anything you tell them. So dropping out can be an interesting phenomena. We tell kids non-stop it’s a terrible choice – and it’s not a good one in the long term for sure. But, in the near-term the adverse effects are not always visible. In fact, dropping out can lead in the near term to more freedom, more disposable cash, and previously out of reach lifestyle choices. That’s not so bad! And that’s what young people see immediately with regard to their peers rather than the persistent effects that last a lifetime even if their in a community with those effects around them.  Seems like a solvable problem in terms of reaching kids before they make bad choices and one we could do more on.

Rick Hess on the teacher evaluation status quo.

Back in the 1990s, there was a sense that reforms failed when advocates got bogged down in efforts to change “professional practice” while ignoring the role of policy. Reformers learned the lesson, but they may have learned it too well. While past reformers tried to change educational culture without changing policy, today’s frequently seem intent on changing policy without changing culture. The resulting policies are overmatched by the incentives embedded in professional and political culture, and the fact that most school leaders and district officials are neither inclined nor equipped to translate these policy dictates into practice.

New cost adjustment tools from EdBuild.  Evidence and education. South Dakota on the move! Breaking! We can do a better job with teacher hiring. It’s all about relationships.

Cami Anderson talks teachers and Newark and the payoffs.

Employer sponsored quality assurance in higher education? Income share agreements for financing higher education.

Yesterday I wrote about how if school sucks or alienates parents then kids and families won’t want to be there.

Interesting parallels between this column and some of our education debate. Justin Fox notes some positive trends on key issues and asks why people are upset  about the status quo in America. Well, it’s great that the trade deficit is declining but if you’re in a place adversely impacted by trade or globalization you can’t feed your family trendlines. In the same way, people who say that public schools are doing great – when you separate out the poor kids – ignore the concentrated costs of our school problems on some Americans.  In addition, trade and school reform probably share the trait of being overall drivers of progress and improved standards of living but disruptive and creators of acute costs for particular constituencies.

Homer penguin. Fish swimming across the road.


March 10, 2016

Talking With Kids About Trump, The Case For Hooky, Ed Trust On Higher Ed, Tisch on NY, Kingsland On Listening, Hettleman On Baltimore, Whitman And Ostriches, Plus More!

The Times looks at how to talk to kids about Trump. It’s a real issue. One of my daughters asked me last night if a Trump win meant some of her friends would be forced to leave the country – and she’s right to worry if you take what he’s said at face value. The Times looks at some of the rhetoric and the inappropriate tenor of the debate but there is another issue: I don’t want my kids to be scared of their president.

In a lot of circles (but be careful of over-generalizations or assumptions about who Trump voters are) people can’t stop talking about the awfulness of Trump etc…and kids are hearing that at social events, various conversations, and at school.  Trump’s surely not my cup of tea but, should he win, I also don’t want my kids to be scared of their president. Yes, I think a Trump win would be the wrong direction for the country, but maybe check some of the stronger rhetoric in the presence of little people? It’s a balancing act if you don’t want to countenance what he’s saying but also don’t want young kids stressed about who might be their next president. Operative word is “their,” that’s what you sign up for in our system of government. I’d also like for them to have some reasonableness and lack of stridency in how they think about politics. Not an easy balancing act for parents…

Also today I wrote about absenteeism for USN.  I get the importance of getting kids into school but am not sure getting them out of school isn’t actually more important:

So rather than just fret over absenteeism, let’s encourage it. But in a more structured way that works for all kids and changes rather than buttresses our current educational arrangements. All the kids missing school – whatever the reason and whatever they’re doing – they’re telling us something if we stop to listen.

Education Trust launching a new network to improve minority college graduation rates. Pushing and shoving on online tests. Tisch reflects on New York education.  Kalman Hettleman on the elected/appointed board debate in Baltimore. Neerav Kingsland on the importance of listeningEsquire with a parent’s eye view of a troubled teen.  Employer sponsored quality assurance in higher education? Is AP American education’s biggest success story? This Chicago news seems like a problem. Censorship in Virginia.

Heather Wilhelm:

Unfortunately, in its earnest quest for female empowerment, America—never quite good at moderation, and always quite good at fighting the last battle—is quietly and methodically marginalizing boys.

“I always encourage the men to write, and promptly write for them,”  And ostrich chases cyclists.


Who Can Be Against Absenteeism? A Lot Of Reasons To Be, But Maybe Hack School Instead?

The Obama Administration is launching a commendable effort to address absenteeism. But what if absenteeism isn’t the core problem but rather a symptom? I look at that in U.S. News & World Report today:

SUN VALLEY, Idaho – The Obama administration is rolling out an initiative to combat absenteeism in schools. My kids? They are supposed to be in school but are in ski school instead. The administration’s initiative is targeting a real issue and a big problem in American education, so I certainly don’t mean to trivialize it. Teacher absenteeism, too, is another problem. But, honestly, for someone who works in education, when it comes to students, I’m surprisingly pro-hooky…

…The conventional wisdom is that tight-fisted politicians or standardized tests are the barriers to more field trips or authentic experiences. (Just look at your Facebook News Feed.) Fundamentally, though, it’s a lack of imagination and our adherence to traditional models of schooling.

Educators know there are opportunities all around them – at museums, civic institutions, local businesses and, yes, at the river. In addition to common sense, there is some evidence that these experiences are not only engaging but enriching for students when they’re done well (and help, not hinder, on tests). But choices we make about time, efficiency and resources block the door. Some schools do this but we hold them up as interesting outliers or conversation pieces, rather than ideas for what should be more the norm.

So rather than just fret over absenteeism, let’s encourage it. But in a more structured way that works for all kids and changes rather than buttresses our current educational arrangements. All the kids missing school – whatever the reason and whatever they’re doing – they’re telling us something if we stop to listen.

You can read the entire thing, including more on the administration’s effort here.  Tweet me your school skipping stories or castigate me for my lax parenting style @arotherham.


March 9, 2016

The Education Angle In The Election, Robson On ESSA’s Homeless Highlight, Horn On Districts, Lifestyles Of The Rich And Higher Ed, Discipline, Taxes, AltSchool, And Pudding!

At the elections: 

PPI’s David Osborne and Will Marshall pen an open letter to the presidential candidates about education:

Given the glaring inequities in our public schools, we are mystified by the absence of K-12 reform from your campaigns. Frankly, this appears to reflect what is worst about each party. Republicans, in blind obedience to the ideology of local control, seem more upset by the prospect of “federal meddling” in public schools than by their endemic failure to give low-income students a quality education. Democrats tolerate failure for another reason, namely fear of alienating teachers’ unions. None of you, it seems, is prepared to stand up for poor children trapped in poor public schools.

So…about last night…there is some education here after all. Michigan exits and voting patterns show that, surprise, free college works in college towns! Unfortunately for Clinton there are a lot of them around the country. Her bigger immediate education-related problem though seems to be trade. Of the more than half of Democratic voters who believe trade kill jobs, almost six in ten broke for Sanders. That points up an interesting dynamic in education: The unions, especially the teachers unions and public sector unions, were supposed to be Clinton’s firewall but in union heavy states they’ve been unable to deliver big wins for her.  Sanders, in fact, narrowly won union households in Michigan. That’s sure to also reignite the frustration about the teachers union endorsement process within the ranks of both teachers unions but especially among AFT members.

Also about trade, the soothing balm many are applying to ease Trump angst is that the Trump phenomenon is all about race. There certainly seems to be an element of that but as Thomas Frank points out Trump also has an anti-trade message. Reducing it entirely to race misses the entirety of what’s happening and what matters politically regardless of what happens to Trump. Trump handily won the more than half of Republican voters who think trade costs jobs. He also performs well among voters most likely to be dislocated in today’s economy. The clock is not going to be turned back on globalizing trends but there are obvious education and training implications to all this on both sides of the aisle that should create opportunities for political and practice innovation to help Americans who are understandably frustrated and should be supported.

Kevin Carey notes, though, that Trump doesn’t get the Common Core (actually, he probably does but it’s a great issue for him…it’s all about the kids!).

Elsewhere:

Kelly Robson with an important point on ESSA, even if you are not a fan there are some highlights and progress. She points out some gains for homeless students in the new law. 

Michael Horn says reformers should look within districts for opportunities to expand blended learning:

All of this adds up to an education reform movement that, on the whole, often doesn’t embrace the change blended learning is making within the district schools where there are willing partners to innovate. It means that many districts often innovate without the benefits in dollars, ideas, talent and lessons learned those reformers could bring. Even as sound theory suggests that these innovations—imperfect and as hard to understand as they may be—represent the most likely path for blended learning to scale and transform schooling, it means society could capitalize more on the opportunity before us.

Higher ed lifestyle choices are a part of the higher education cost conversation that doesn’t get enough attention.  Elizabeth Green takes a long look at the debate over the “No Excuses” models of schooling. Taxing non-wage income is not as easy as it sounds. The New Yorker discovers AltSchool.

Some great advice here from Principal Gerry Brooks.


March 8, 2016

Diversity In School Leadership, Social Security And Teachers, Teacher Tests, Banking News!

New Bellwether policy brief takes a look at pensions and Social Security (pdf). Big implications for teachers:

For the majority of retirees today, Social Security makes up the largest portion of their retirement income. Yet despite Social Security’s importance, and its prominence as a political issue, most Americans aren’t aware that not all workers enjoy the benefits of Social Security. In fact, 6.5 million state and local government workers, including 1.2 million public school teachers, lack the protection of Social Security.
The IRS has a formula for testing whether state and local government retirement plans provide sufficient retirement benefits to their workers. If a retirement plan fails the IRS test, the state or local government must offer its workers Social Security instead. In theory, this “safe harbor” provision sets a base floor for the retirement plans offered by state and local governments. Even in the worst economic times, state and local policymakers know that they can’t cut benefits by too much, or they risk being forced into Social Security and into paying the taxes that come with participation.
In practice, however, this safe harbor provision fails to protect the majority of workers who aren’t covered by Social Security.

More (a lot more) Bellwether work on teacher retirement here.

Peter Sipe just took a teaching test (bonus gratuitous Yankees slam):

Having been credentialed as an elementary teacher already—years ago, in a neighboring state I will identify only by indicating that it has the most loathsome baseball team imaginable—I figured that doing so here would be an annoyance, but not especially challenging. Truth be told, I felt kind of like one of those drivers obliged, through some bureaucratic misfortune, to retake the road test.

My stars, was I wrong. And you know what else I was wrong about? About half the answers on my first practice math test. I was expecting “Pick out the rhombus!” and “Do the times tables up to thirteen!” Nope. See for yourself. Questions 20 and 36, for example, gave me a bit of a workout.

Michael Magee on diversity in school leadership:

Diversifying education leadership—and retaining those leaders—will not happen on the wings of our good intentions. We need to take a closer look at districts where people of color hold and keep leadership positions. And then we have to make a plan to model those districts. It will take a diverse body of educators, both those who lead America’s public schools today and those who want to lead them tomorrow. Hollywood is waking up to its diversity crisis. It’s time to disrupt the status quo in education as well.

For context (pdf), education doctorates make up nine percent of all doctorates earned in the U.S. and are also the largest concentration of earned doctorates for black Americans. So something is going on more than supply.

It seems ill-considered for law schools to mislead their students given what they train them to do.

Banking and porn beats: The NEA’s credit union has failed. Porn actress in Cruz commercials endorses Trump.


March 7, 2016

Bradford V. de Blasio, Panorama Education, Discipline, Spending, Squirrel!

From New York we have Derrell Bradford on de Blasio’s schooling approach:

What if I told you there is a city in America where an all-out war is being waged on public schools that effectively educate low-income black and Latino children? That there is an effort to deprive these children of the funding they require and deserve? And that the assault is legal, legislative — and spearheaded by a series of white-led organizations?

Chad Aldeman:

 There aren’t that many national politicians who are going to go on the record praising school boards.

Panorama Education has created a new school genome tool. Check out your school here.

Pondiscio and Hansel with reading ideas. Surprised this hasn’t received more attention.  NASBE on the state role in addressing discipline problems.

Education cameo in the presidential debate.  Apparently it’s conventional wisdom in education circles that money doesn’t matter.

American student still held in North Korea. In other hostage news: Sometimes, at night, do you still hear them, Clarice? The screaming of the Christies?

Lou Cannon on Nancy Reagan.

Jupiter is close. WTF is a Chinese downhill?


March 4, 2016

Weekend Viewing – Teacher Pensions

The media is focused on the large numbers around teacher pensions. That misses the real story: Most teachers won’t even qualify for any pension and only one in five will get a full one.

Learn more about why, what can be done, and share with teachers you know via this video (and it’s only 2 minutes so doesn’t even qualify as weekend binge watching):

You can learn more about teacher pensions issues via our website on the issue.


Sara Mead On Abolishing The Department of Education, Kane On Text Books, Korman On JJ, Surveys, Innovation, Self-Interest, And Hamilton! Céspedes’ Pig

Sara Mead wants a new cabinet department:

Critics will argue that the last thing America’s children and families need is more government. And a new federal agency is admittedly a hard sell in the current political climate. But a new Department of Children and Families could actually reduce the amount of bureaucracy in federal programs serving children and families. Currently, these programs are subject to the same administrative rules that govern all Department of Health and Human Services programs, including those designed to do radically different things. Those rules impose additional layers of bureaucracy that undermine the transparency, flexibility, and effectiveness of federal early childhood and anti-poverty programs.

Tom Kane wants to evaluate textbooks:

A focused effort to evaluate curricula and shift demand toward more effective options would yield a higher return on investment than more resource-intensive measures. For instance, Krueger (1999) estimated that small classes in the Tennessee classroom size experiment generated a 5 percentile point increase in performance in early grades. But that required reducing class size from 23 to 16 students per teacher. Using an average teacher salary of $55,000, the class size reduction would have a minimum cost across the PARCC and SBAC states of $3.1 billion or $1,046 per student—1,561 times the cost of the annual textbook study, for a slightly larger benefit! (And that does not include the cost of the extra classroom space that would be needed.)

Hailly Korman wants to know what successful program for juvenile justice involved youth look like:

We all know where this is going and the question lurking around the corner should be obvious: what does it mean for one of these education programs to be “successful”? We haven’t even created a shared definition of success yet. It’s lowering recidivism, it’s raising student achievement, it’s creating paths to employment, it’s a welcoming school climate, it’s deep engagement, it’s increased college enrollment, it’s improved family relationships, it’s all of these, it’s something else. What are the real indicators of consistent and meaningful impact for justice-involved kids – and which stories are just nice to hear?

Teaching Strategies with a new survey on tech and early childhood. Higher education innovation. Stone cold self interest.  And here you thought the big problem at Oberlin was lousy chicken. Today in don’t keep naked pictures of yourself on your phone. Today in pension calculations.

Pondiscio is a Hamiltonian.

Pig news.


March 2, 2016

South Dakota Transgender Veto, Carter On Optical Reform, No Secrets! Dep’t Of Edu IG On Loans, Wallace On Collective Action, EdFuel On Human Cap, MDRC On Disconnected Youth, CCSSO Principles For Principals! 6th-Grade Econ, Offbeat Marathons…

I assume Donald Trump is going to rename Head Start as Trump Start. It’s going to be awesome!

South Dakota’s governor flashing some actual conservatism on a complicated social issue.  SCOTUS passes on NJ pension case.

Stephen Carter on our growing taste for aesthetic rather than real social justice.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Harvard has made some horrible mistake, or that colleges that follow suit will somehow have turned their backs on a noble tradition that must be preserved if the academy is to remain a citadel of knowledge. But I worry about our growing tendency to meet protest by leaping for the nearest cosmetic change, rather than asking more fundamental questions whose answers might prove more costly. These quick and easy acts of verbal substitution allow us to pat ourselves on the back without actually making progress.

Gosh, why can’t Congress get something done about sexual abuse in schools? And in the 21st Century there really isn’t any such thing as a secret government letter…

Dep’t of Ed IG says student loan problems mishandled.

Reports: EdFuel on leadership development in education. MDRC on disconnected youth (pdf). Principles on teacher evaluation (pdf). No, it’s not a pun, it’s a new report from CCSSO.  Wallace Foundation on collective impact.

Elementary school economics.

The San Quentin Marathon.


March 1, 2016

Should Your Kid Go To College? Mike Petrilli, European! Tomorrow’s Testing Trainwreck Today, Whitmire On The Pet Market, Principals No On Opt-Out, Walton Yes On Giving, ESSA, John King’s Scalia Dividend, Awesome Baristas!

Mike Petrilli continues to be bothered and concerned that your child might go to college even if they’re not ready.  He’s looking out for your best interests!

Look, at one level he’s obviously right. People go to college who are not ready. We know that from the remediation data and you also know it if you spend any time on college campuses. For some of them, who don’t finish, it can be worse than not going at all. But Petrilli’s point fundamentally falls in that large bucket of things that are true but useless. That’s because:

1) We’re not very good at identifying who is “college material” unless you believe that poor kids and kids of color are, as a class, less likely to be college material. Schools track kids in various ways, resource and opportunity disparities abound, and gaps in expectations lead to a two-tiered education system where economically better off Americans are on a conveyor to college while poor Americans struggle to get there. 9 percent of low-income Americans get a bachelors degree by age 24. That’s a fraction of the rate for more affluent Americans. Is that choice or a structural problem?

2) Our system is a heterogeneous second chance one. It seems Petrilli would be happier in a country with high stakes tests that help set your life path. Who knew he is so European! The beauty of the American system – for all its problems – is that we don’t formally set limits on people. Even if your course is nontraditional you can keep going back. That’s one reason why community colleges are inspiring places. Even if you were late to figuring out what you wanted to do, or if you were failed by the K-12 system, you can still keep going.

So rather than debates (mostly among people who take it for granted that their own kids will go to college, natch) shouldn’t we be working to ensure kids are exposed to a variety of choices and life paths? There are plenty of wonderful ways to go through life that don’t involve college but it’s a credential that on balance does more good than harm. And more importantly, shouldn’t we be trying to make sure that elementary and secondary experiences are robust enough so students can change their minds regardless of what they think they might want to do at 18 years of age – whether that’s choosing college or not?

Right now we have the worst of both worlds, a system that is informally full of structural barriers without any formal logic to it. Working for quality and freedom seems to be a better path than the sort of planning or limit setting Petrilli is implicitly arguing for.

On the other hand, you don’t need college for Ernst and Young.

Elsewhere:

It would be easier to talk to your NYC teacher about a whole bunch of things if there were not such short time limits for parent-teacher conferences.

Higher ed trends.

Matt Barnum v. Linda Darling-Hammond on education evidence. Vergara part deux.  Richard Whitmire with dogs and cats news. Time marches on at the Walton Family Foundation. Here are ESSA FAQs. And here are some questions for the presidential candidates about education. Illinois teacher pensions are a mess. So are the Detroit schools.

Is the education establishment waking up to the threat opt-out proposes to their vision of public schools?  Pearson says we’re undervaluing artificial intelligence in education. And after completely letting politics and capacity problems screw up education assessment the education sector is now setting its sights on even more complicated and politically contentious assessment ideas. 

Make your teenage kids read this.

Looks like John King is going to get through the Senate without too much trouble. Call it a Scalia dividend. Republicans need to present their opposition to a SCOTUS nominee in the best light and that means probably releasing other high-profile nominees. Last week’s hearing was a win for the Administration and the Senate. Rare!

Last week for U.S. News  I wrote a think piece about a midlevel band struggling with their own limitations in the harsh face of stardom.  You’ll wet yourself. Actually, no, it’s just about education ideas and how big becomes too big to nail or when is boldness needed to change how people think?

Here’s a great story.


February 24, 2016

Education Ideas: Too Big To Be Useful, Or Not Bold Enough?

In U.S. News & World Report I take a look at ideas, opportunity, and practicality (Overton Window cameo):

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who was buried last weekend, changed how many people think about the Constitution. He did it by vigorously advocating an originalist interpretation method so uncompromising Scalia himself had to deviate from it when it was a poor match for a problem. Just ask Al Gore! Even his conservative colleagues occasionally needled him. Justice Samuel Alito once remarked during oral arguments, “I think what Justice Scalia wants to know is what James Madison thought about video games. Did he enjoy them?” Agree with him or not, Scalia had a big idea.

But when we think about ideas – especially policy ideas – how big is too big? Or at least too big to be useful? When does the ambition of an idea outstrip its utility or when is audaciousness exactly what’s needed to raise our aspirations and bring ideas into practice? How do we know?

There’s more! I can’t answer that question for you, but have an idea about how to think about it. You can read the entire thing here. Tweet me your big ideas @arotherham.


February 23, 2016

Opt-Out Pushback, Young Voters, New Normal In Education, Teacher Prep, Kane On Research, Kids On Twitter, Assembly Pranks

What are recent products of the school system thinking about politics (pdf)? (Hint: They feel the Bern, worry about education costs, and they’re not too high on bankers…).

Deans for Impact offers their ideas for a way through on teacher prep policy. Third Way on the new normal in education. Brand new Bigger Bolder* effort (Spoiler alert: It looks different but feels a lot like the old one…).

Charles Coleman Jr. with pushback on opt-out:

This is one of the more obvious examples of the sort of “double bonus” that privilege can create. The ability to opt out of standardized testing without serious concern for the consequences on parents’ school districts is only buttressed by the notion of having greater availability of alternative options. Choice in quality education, unfortunately, remains elusive for inner-city families for several reasons. For example, if a particular school zone is lacking in options for good schools, picking up and moving to an area with more choices is often not an option many can afford, information about school quality can be difficult to access, and with the rising-costs of high-quality private school education further out of reach it can make things even more difficult. Simply put, opting out hits the hardest on families that can absorb it the least.

Hard to disagree, but for opt-out opponents I’m not sure ‘you’re hurting other kids’ strategy is the best strategy. If people really cared about that we wouldn’t have many of the problems we do. Instead, isn’t self-interest a more effective appeal? A third party check-up isn’t a bad idea with your health care, for Wall Street, or with education. The middle class politics of school improvement suck and one way to change that is to start appealing to self-interest (and stop pussyfooting around questions of school quality).

This is just too ridiculous.

Tax increase for schools in South Dakota. Tom Kane on rethinking education research.  Student voice on Twitter.  Structural inequality issues. Louisiana voucher data (by the way, everyone who says Patrick Wolf* cooks the data on vouchers, now would be a good time to apologize). Yesterday we previewed an interesting conflict of interest case in New Jersey, a court has now ruled.

The kids are alright: Teen impersonates state senator, gives speech to assembly.

*Relevant Disclosures: One of BW’s board members is a co-chair but we have editorial freedom around here.  I’ve been on review boards for previous evaluations by Wolf.