November 3, 2014

Nazaryan On Klein’s Hope

Joel Klein’s book, “Lessons of Hope,” comes out this week. There will be plenty of chatter about the parts dealing with Diane Ravitch but there is a lot more to it than that (and Klein wisely gets that out of the way in the early going). In Newsweek Alexander Nazaryan turns in a long review with some nuance including a passage that sums up the cause of a lot of the intergenerational education tension today.

Missed Opportunity: The Teachers Unions Lost The Media, Now They’re Losing Everyone?

I try to make a habit of going back to op-eds and columns after a few years to see how they stood up (for instance this one does, I think this one doesthis one I’m not sure). Recently Richard Whitmire reminded me of an October 2009 op-ed we wrote for the Wall Street Journal about the changing media climate facing the teachers unions.  We revisit it today in a RealClearEducation commentary pegged to the California state education chief race.

October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween! Peter Cunningham Says ‘Boo!’ To Randi Weingarten

Former Arne Duncan hand and current EdPost leader Peter Cunningham pens (pixels?) an open letter to AFT President Randi Weingarten in Ed Week. It comes on the heels of a similar piece by TNTP’s Ari Rozman earlier in the week. 

Too much to pull quote, it covers a lot of ground. And it’s worth reading whether you agree or not because it more or less sums up what everyone in the ed policy world who is not professionally vested in the union is saying (and that includes reform skeptics who are nonetheless dismayed by the climate).  More to the point: The kabuki will continue but it seems doubtful that Arne Duncan’s former comms director would make a statement like this without clearing it with his former boss.

Also worth thinking about audience. It’s easy to forget that union leaders are elected officials, too, and so they play in different ways for different audiences. Weingarten, in particular, is very good at code-switching between strident unionist for her members while positioning herself as open-minded on reform for the nation’s elites (remember when ‘everything except vouchers is on the table’ for a DC audience?). But in today’s tech heavy environment where everything is recorded, reported, and lives online there may be a half life to that strategy. Or perhaps not. We’ll see. In any event, only the members vote so the bottom line is clearer than it was a few years ago.

October 30, 2014

Public Opinion

Morgan Polikoff with some tough (but much needed) medicine on public opinion research in education.

October 28, 2014

RealClearEducation Common Core Assessment Map

The RealClearEducation Common Core assessment map – it’s interactive and shows who is doing what – is updated to reflect recent changes. You can view it here.

October 24, 2014

Friday Fish Porn – More Bellwether!

IMG_0045Last week it was Bellwether’s Sarah Kramer with a rainbow trout. This week it’s Bellwether Associate Partner Alison Fuller with an Alaskan salmon.

Not enough fish? Then click here for an archive of Fish Porn pictures back to 2006 with an array of education figures.

October 23, 2014

In Their Own Words: First Generation College Going

First Generation is an insightful film about the challenges of being the first in your family to go to college. Earlier this year I moderated a screening of the film in Washington with a great discussion – including students in the film – of the obvious and subtle barriers to post-secondary success facing these students.  Now, this week,  RealClearEducation is featuring interviews with students in the film.  There is an overview of the issues and the film, then interviews with Cecilia Lopez, and today Soma Leio. More to come tomorrow at RealClearEducation.

October 21, 2014

Proceed with Caution—What the Fordham Institute’s School Spending Data Can’t Tell Us…Guest Post By Jennifer Schiess

Guest post by Jennifer Schiess. Schiess is an associate partner at Bellwether. If you enjoyed this summer’s guest blogging and the recent guest posts then you’ll want to watch for the launch of Bellwether’s new blog the first week of November. 

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Metro DC School Spending Explorer is custom-made for data junkies. It’s fun to click around the school and community information, particularly as a recently arrived DC metro area resident.

Others have already piled on with methodological questions—most vocally about the treatment of charter schools in the analysis. Setting those questions aside, Fordham’s companion analysis points out some sizeable disparities in spending among schools, even among schools in the same district serving very similar student populations. But while these data points may prove headline generating, ultimately what conclusions can we draw? I would argue none.

As a measure of school quality, spending is at best limited and at worst invalid. Research does link higher spending with higher achievement, particularly for some students, but with all sorts of caveats. And those caveats matter. As it turns out, the context of spending matters greatly. How schools spend money and on whom matters, and spending data without that context doesn’t tell you much.

Should we conclude that Jamestown Elementary is “better” than Spring Hill Elementary because it spent $2,300 more per student in 2011-12 serving a similar demographic? It may be better (Go, Jaguars!), but you can’t tell that from spending alone. And including some metric of student achievement with this data would provoke the kind of blunt analysis that does more harm than good. Smart people spend careers trying to answer questions about the relationship between education spending and student achievement. This tool doesn’t answer those questions.

As a measure of funding equity, the data fail to provide a valid picture as well. The site provides a snapshot of a single year’s spending which may not be reflective of any kind of pattern, particularly at the school level. Is the disparity between school A and school B a single year blip or a multi-year trend? Maybe school A’s scheduled refresh of its computer lab occurred that year, or maybe school B is offering enrichment opportunities directly leading to improved educational outcomes for its students. Those are two very different circumstances raising very different questions. Read the rest of this entry »

October 17, 2014

Teacher Rhetoric Meets Teacher Pension Reality

Education is awash in rhetoric and sloganeering – often wildly divorced from the evidence. An interesting aspect of the teacher pension issue is how much these large and complicated retirement systems bump up against much of the rhetoric we commonly hear in the teacher quality debate. Here are three ways and some basic ideas about fixes.

Turnover is bad! Teacher turnover is an evergreen concern. You, of course, want some turnover in any high-performing organization but too much is disruptive and costly. But while we hear a lot of concern about turnover – especially from the teachers unions – no one bothers to mention that today’s teacher pension systems are dependent on turnover to survive.  The basic math of pension systems is that a lot of small losers (people who leave before vesting or collecting end of career benefits) pay for the benefits of those few who survive (pdf).* At the extreme in states like Colorado only 13 percent of teachers earn full benefits. Nationwide only about one in five teachers achieves that mark. If a lot more teachers persisted these pension plans would crack financially.  They need the turnover to survive. They count on it. To be clear, I’m not saying they encourage it, just that they need a fair amount of turnover to function.

Veteran teachers are best! There is a lot of rhetoric about veteran teachers but the data show that while the returns to experience are important to a teacher’s growth they level off after a few years. Nonetheless, the wisdom and experience that 25 and 30 year veterans can bring to schools is very valuable and schools should cultivate effective veterans – especially those who want to continue giving to kids. Yet because of the way teacher pension systems work once someone earns full benefits it becomes economically against their interest to remain in the system. The data show that people respond to this incentive and retire. In other words, despite all the rhetoric about valuing veteran teachers today’s teacher retirement schemes are largely set up to push them out after a certain period of service – and despite whether they still want to teach or their school or district wants them to stay on.

Social Security is sacrosanct! Social Security demagoguery is a pretty effective political tactic and teachers union leaders are pretty good at it. But rarely is it mentioned that 40 percent of America’s teachers are not covered by Social Security. Adding to the retirement insecurity that today’s pension systems create for teachers, teachers in states or districts that do not participate also lose out on this portable and progressive social insurance program. Adding to the perversity, the reason some places don’t participate is because doing so is a bad deal for high-income earners (which teachers are not). I was talking with a state teachers pension fund leader recently who said they were against participating because their state would be sending more money to Washington than it gets back because it has so many high-income earners.  OK, but that progressively is part of what makes Social Security important and it would still be good for their members, and whatever happened to all this concern over the middle class working class Americans? Read the rest of this entry »

Friday Fish Porn – Bellwether Edition

IMG_2364Sarah Kramer is an analyst at Bellwether. She’s west coast based and decided to try her hand at fly fishing. That’s how she ended up on Oregon’s Crooked River couple of weeks ago.  Here she is with a nice rainbow trout, her very first one.

On rainbow isn’t enough for you? Of course it’s not. Click here for more than 100 pictures of education types with fish. Includes vintage images from 2006!

October 16, 2014

Small But Mighty! More Evidence Small Schools Are A Better Strategy Than You Think

New and solid MDRC evaluation of small schools in New York City. “Everybody knows” small schools were a debacle. Except the evidence keeps showing otherwise in places it was down well.  The study and five questions with a key researcher via this link.

Guestpost By Anne Hyslop: Reformers, Annual Testing is not Enough, It Must Be Statewide

Guestpost by Anne Hyslop

The ed policy world has finally agreed on something: there is too much testing. Now it may not win me any Twitter followers, but this consensus makes me nervous. Mostly because it makes hasty, extreme solutions to “over-testing” seem tenable, giving them credibility as a logical response because “this is a crisis.” Is it? Teach Plus has shown that, on average, less than 2 percent of class time is spent on mandated testing. While there are outliers, it looks like the excess is coming from the local level, not state tests. And like my colleague Andy Smarick, I see the virtues in our current testing regime, and the consequences in eliminating it without understanding what could be lost.

So I was glad that large urban districts and chief state school officers are working together to tackle issues of assessment quantity, and quality, while maintaining a commitment to annual testing. Same goes for the Center for American Progress’ work on “better, fewer, and fairer tests.” All common sense responses to the over-testing meme. And given growing numbers, especially on the political left, calling for grade-span testing (see: teachers unions, members of Congress, former President Clinton), it is welcome to see a defense of annual testing–with support from Arne Duncan, and even President Obama.

But are they really defending them? On second glance, I’m not so sure. Even the staunchest supporters of grade-span testing, like Randi Weingarten and Linda Darling-Hammond, would support giving students tests each year, just with a caveat: local assessments without consequences, not statewide. As Darling-Hammond, Gene Wilhoit, and Linda Pittenger describe in a new brief, statewide, grade-span testing merely serves to “validate” the results of the annual local tests–while eviscerating most meaningful accountability systems in the process (not a coincidence).

In other words, the right question to ask is not, “do you support annual testing?” but rather, “do you support annual statewide testing?” And despite outward appearances, CCSSO’s and CAP’s support is more tenuous. That’s because both seem ready to embrace district flexibility (read: opt-outs) of state tests, especially in “districts of innovation.” Their new report “Next-Generation Accountability Systems: An Overview of Current State Policies and Practices” includes multiple examples of district opt-out plans, from New York to Kentucky to New Hampshire, and holds them up as models for the future.

Districts of innovation” is code for districts that are exploring competency-based learning, or project-based learning, or some other (usually) technology-enabled reform to personalize students’ experiences. All good ideas, in theory. But that’s often what they are: just theories. We don’t actually know if they work yet to improve student outcomes. And in order to find out, we must evaluate them. So let’s take the Darling-Hammond approach and use statewide tests as a “validator” of what’s happening at the local level in one of these innovation hotspots.

Located in Danville, Kentucky, Bate Middle School was profiled by NPR’s Anya Kamenetz this year in a piece originally titled “In Kentucky, Students Succeed Without Tests.” Kamenetz paints the picture of an academic renaissance at Bate, which had been slapped with the “needs improvement” label by the state’s accountability system. This renaissance was possible all because Bate chose to forego administering state tests and, instead, tapped into students’ interests with project-based learning and performance-based assessments that were evaluated locally. Except, Bate didn’t get a waiver to skip the standardized tests, as first reported. Read the rest of this entry »

Rural Charter Schooling – Boon Or Bust?

Can charter schools transform rural education? Depends who you ask.

My colleague Andy Smarick sees charter schooling as a boon for rural communities. Matt Richmond thinks pretty much the opposite. It’s a good debate to have because it points up some issues that have implications outside the rural context.  And while I think Andy oversells the possibility of charters in the rural context, the responses to his argument were mostly predictable charter talking points from the usual suspects rather than any real analysis. So I’m grateful to Matt for his seriousness.

My take is that while chartering schooling does have promise for rural schools it’s probably limited in its impact and those limits point up important challenges for rural education.  This is an issue that’s especially important to me. I’ve been fortunate to live full time in rural communities for more than a decade of my life and be involved with rural schools to see the good and the challenges (plenty of both). Rural education should be important to everyone in education rather than the backwater it is. According to federal data 24 percent of American students attend rural schools, while 32 percent of American public schools and 57 percent of school districts are rural

As to chartering, some of the barriers to rural chartering are obvious. Lower-population density mutes the potential for a broad array of brick and mortar schools. Technology can help with this to some extent (although while everyone in the Acela corridor and Bay area seems to think the broadband problem is solved access remains a big issue in many rural communities). But even if the technical problems are addressed not every parent (rural and otherwise) wants this style of education for their child. In addition, even more than their urban and suburban counterparts rural schools often serve multiple roles in a community and people seek attachment to them for reasons beyond academics.

Of course, as with all schools the mainstream rural public schools do not work well for some percentage of students who want or need something different. And it makes sense to ensure that there are mechanisms, and charter schooling is a powerful one, to enable the creation of different and alternative high-quality options for them.  School districts can and should also do more to create cooperative alternative and specialty options for students than they do now. The Virginia virtual Governor’s school is a good example of an option like this. And, of course, there is too much knee-jerk resistance to chartering in the rural sector as there is across much of the education sector.

But the larger issue is the challenge of capacity.  One can argue that rather than more charters, what we have in rural education is too many charter-like schools now. Because of aspects of policy and benign neglect many rural schools enjoy a fairly high degree of flexibility, and by necessity autonomy, today.  Bootstrapping is common because there is more work than personnel to do it. So while the best charter schools increasingly leverage the power of network – basically becoming high-performing but not geographically contiguous school districts – rural schools are left on their own. It’s the romantic ideal of American education and it doesn’t work very well in too many cases.

That’s why a theory of action that posits that what these schools and communities need is more autonomy and flexibility raises some questions.  Several Bellwether colleagues and I recently surveyed rural superintendents in Idaho and while paperwork complaints and funding were common, most of the challenges the superintendents cited had to do with capacity issues and lack of network and support rather than a need for more autonomy. For instance, 58 percent said the biggest obstacle they face in firing a low-performing teacher is finding a suitable replacement.  Meanwhile, two-thirds of these superintendents are involved in service-sharing agreements between districts and more than 9 in 10 saw benefit to such arrangements.

Yes in more urbanized communities creating running room for innovative schooling options seems likely to release a great deal of pent up demand. We are seeing that in communities around the country. A few weeks ago there was a rally in New York to call attention to the potential of charter schools to help students stuck in persistently lousy schools. Just today there is a powerful new study on charter-like small schools in New York City. In cities around the country educators want to do things differently, parents want more options, and entire sectors of promising schools have emerged as a result. Only the paid advocates think that penning up this energy is a good idea.  The recent CREDO report on Los Angeles is an outlier on the high side but New York City, Washington, Boston, Indianapolis, Houston, Denver, and other cities offer compelling examples as well. (That’s why many charter school critics are fast becoming education’s birthers in their inability to engage with any evidence that doesn’t comport with a preconceived worldview). Yet for rural schools the scale of that pent of demand and capacity to meet it are less. There are simply fewer people in play to begin with. There is less demand. And there are fewer resources.

So that brings us back to Matt’s argument that rural charter schools are a bad idea. I don’t think that’s the case. He overstates the issue in the other direction. Besides, many things that were considered impossible in education have proved quite possible so we should be careful about limiting our aspirations. Andy’s encouragement to think boldly  on this and other issues is a valuable push toward bold ambitions. But I do think charters, while playing a role in all this, are just an idea with a lot less applicability in many rural communities. In other words, an idea should be used as much as possible but that at the same time shouldn’t distract us from the core task of improving the effectiveness of today’s rural schools, which by necessity means improving today’s rural schools.

October 15, 2014

Education Insiders On Common Core, Elections, Vergara Spread, And More

New data from the Whiteboard Advisors Education Insider survey. Includes Common Core, election implications, Vergara and more. You can read the deck here (pdf).

Tuck – Torlakson

It’s looking like the money race in the heavily-watched race for California state ed chief may be closer than it looked like it would be earlier this year. Tight race overall, too.

Teacher Voice Via @ TNTP Fishman Winners

Great set of essays from the winners of TNTP’s Fishman Prizes.

October 13, 2014

Teacher Prep

Interesting and long look at one kind of teacher prep in The Times. Features Aspire Public Schools.

October 6, 2014

Anne Hyslop On What NYT No Child Left Behind Story Missed – Updated

Guest post by Anne Hyslop:

In 12 years of No Child Left Behind there is probably not a better example of the discord between how school accountability policies are perceived and how they actually work than this weekend’s New York Times story about Lakeridge Elementary School, just outside of Seattle, WA. In interviews with teachers, administrators, and parents, Motoko Rich gives a vivid picture of the on-the-ground reality this year in Washington state. Educators are confused,demoralized, and frustrated with changing accountability targets and strategies now that the state lost its federal waiver and must again fully comply with No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Yes federal policy is complicated, particularly as NCLB and waiver accountability systems collide in the Evergreen state. But it’s not too much to expect the nation’s premier newspaper to get key features right. So while Rich’s account is worth reading, it needs some important clarifications.

1. Lakeridge wasn’t suddenly “declared a failing school under federal education law” once the waiver expired. First, NCLB doesn’t label schools as “failing”–it labels them as “failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP) based on whether certain student groups (for instance minority, low income, special education students, or English Language Learners) met academic targets in reading and math, or made sufficient progress toward those targets based on prior performance (safe harbor). So it’s a fun turn of phrase, but there is no “federal blacklist of failure,” as Rich claims.

Nor is there an “impossible” 100 percent proficiency requirement that schools must meet, and that’s no small detail in how the policy works. NCLB does not require 100 percent of students to be proficient, because of technical features in AYP calculations (e.g. exclusions of special education students, n-size requirements, the application of confidence intervals for test scores results, how many students must be assessed at each school, and more). And because of safe harbor, the deadline for reaching the mythical 100 percent target isn’t even 2014, but rather several years away.

But those are minor problems compared to the fact that, as DFER’s Charlie Barone noted, Lakeridge actually made AYP last year due to safe harbor. I’ll repeat: Lakeridge made AYP. In other words, NCLB worked, in its complicated way, and recognized that the school had made progress since its last NCLB checkup (taken after spring 2011 test scores, before the waiver). Oops.

2. Rich’s article describes Lakeridge’s progress and the hard work of its leadership and staff, spurred by a $3 million federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) in 2011. The school got a new principal, replaced teaching staff, increased instructional time, and began a partnership with the University of Washington’s School of Education to offer their staff richer, research-based professional development. And while there’s no definitive link between the two, test scores at Lakeridge have improved significantly since that last NCLB checkup in 2011. In other words, the SIG program is working, or at least appears to be, with positive changes in the school’s culture and student performance.

3. Rich’s article does not, however, mention that these improvement efforts were reinforced by Lakeridge being named a priority school in 2012-13 and 2013-14 under the state’s NCLB waiver. Lakeridge isn’t one of those schools that was “let off the hook” because its state got a waiver and could now identify fewer low-performing schools. If anything, Lakeridge was under more scrutiny as a priority school (and SIG school) than it was as one of many Title I schools in improvement under NCLB. And the interventions Lakeridge had to implement as a priority school were much more rigorous than those expected by NCLB. Plus, Lakeridge received significant resources to implement these strategies and build its capacity to do so effectively, both through SIG and through the Title I funding flexibility Washington received as a waiver state. In other words, maybe the waiver accountability system was working pretty well too.

In short, the story of Lakeridge shows how complicated the No Child Left Behind policy debate actually is when you get under the rhetoric. In different ways, and to different degrees, the school was helped by policies of both President Bush and President Obama.

So why did Rich single out this school as the poster child for all of NCLB’s absurdities? Probably because Lakeridge only made AYP for one year (it missed AYP based on 2011 tests, but made it based on 2014 tests)–and the school needs to make AYP for two years before fully exiting improvement status according to NCLB rules. So Lakeridge remains in corrective action, its pre-waiver status, and must set-aside 20 percent of its Title I funds to support school choice and tutoring programs this year instead of using that money to continue its waiver turnaround activities. Reasonable people can disagree on the efficacy of that tradeoff based on the mixed evidence on turnarounds, public school choice, and tutoring, but there’s no doubt that local educators are frustrated both by the school’s new label and their loss of control over Lakeridge’s improvement plan and Title I funding.

Somehow being labeled “failing” by NCLB is much worse than being a priority school under waivers, even though the priority label is reserved for only 5 percent of Title I schools and comes with comprehensive turnaround efforts (similar to those Lakeridge adopted). On the other hand NCLB’s , most severe penalty includes a loophole that allows schools to dodge significant restructuring. The key difference is that waivers trust districts–and low-performing schools–to set the terms of their improvement and allow them to align and leverage federal dollars to support that plan. Some of this trust was misplaced (take a look at the waiver monitoring reports from various states, and the numerous issues flagged with priority schools). But in some places with strong local leadership and commitment, it appears to not only produce a more friendly accountability system, but also one that produces results.

So, no, Lakeridge isn’t a “failing” school, even by NCLB’s “impossible” benchmarks (when we pretend those things are not a fiction). But for the educators at the school its return to its NCLB status surely still feels like a punishment for two years of hard work. There is a lot of nuance in all this, but Rich’s take merely, and wrongly, reinforces NCLB’s reputation as a much more severe form of accountability than any required by waivers.

I get the desire for a clean break from NCLB’s bad reputation and the ever-changing, ever-more-complicated NCLB waivers. And it’s easy to see how Rich went in with some preconceived notions based on all the rhetoric. But before we rush to adopt a “new accountability,” let’s first make sure we understand the policies we have. For all the talk about unreasonable standards, that hardly seems one.

Anne Hyslop is a senior policy analyst at Bellwether Education.

Update: Editors note. The Times updates the story with a correction per some of the issues above but persists with the “failing label” language. When you talk about NCLB the difference between “failing” and “needs improvement” is not a small one or semantics.


American Educator takes a look at CTE. Important issue as the gap between potential and reality of CTE is real but there are   plenty of promising models out there. Timely given the Common Core debate and post-secondary debate more generally. Update: (Link fixed)

Mystery Shopping

Parker Baxter on a housing policy approach that also can work in education: Mystery Shopping.

October 3, 2014


Governing is taking a deep dive on Memphis, here’s first installment.

What Do Teachers Think About Common Core Implementation?

Scholastic – Gates Foundation teacher polling project out with new data today. Trend data and check-in on Common Core implementation.

Big Money Education Politics – Enjoy It While It Lasts?

Dmitri Melhorn rolls up all the political spending by the teachers unions to make the case that they’re a big force in education politics. That’s undeniably true and over the past decade they’re among the very biggest spenders in federal races. Big Oil, Big Tobacco, Big Telecom, and Big Teacher. Their state spending and support for all manner of groups and organizations in and around the education sector is also a powerful leverage play.

But there is an interesting disconnect here, in the two things are true at once sense.  Yes, the political largesse gives teacher union officials and lobbyists a great deal of access. A level of access most lobbies envy. Yet at the same time when the average teacher says they don’t feel heard by their elected officials you can see why the feel that way. Elected officials and their staff talk to teachers union representatives constantly, actual teachers much less often. And responding to the needs of one is not always the same as responding to the needs of the other.

More generally, my sense is that we’re seeing the high water mark of this kind of spending. This could certainly be wrong but three trends are ominous for the teachers unions in their current form over the longer term.

First, the courts may prove their undoing. While everyone is talking about Vergara , the California work rules case, the long term cases to watch are the ones concerning collection of dues in the public sector that are now winding their way through the federal courts. It seems likely that in the next few years the Supreme Court will decide that at a minimum collecting dues for political purposes must be an opt-in rather than opt-out activity. Some analysts think they will go further on public sector dues rules. A restrictive decision would be a political game-changer in terms of funding.

Second, the sector’s demographics are simply not in the unions’ favor. What Vergara really showed, regardless of what happens on appeal with the legal issue underpinning the case, was just how archaic the work-rules in education are and the disconnect between those rules and norms and the more dynamic and performance-oriented parts of the American economy – especially in the professional services sector. To be brutally blunt about it, people going into teaching increasingly don’t want to be treated like DMV clerks. Fix that problem and the unions either evolve to genuine professional organizations or they go away. Don’t fix that and prepare for the decline of public schools as a broad-based American institution and in increase in various kinds of non-unionized schooling options. Either way, the widespread industrial-era approach to organziing and managing schools is done except for the politics.

Third, politics are not running in their favor over the long haul either. Who knows what will happen in this year’s statehouse races, it’s a tough year to be on the ballot in either party. Yet governors who have taken on the teachers unions, most notably Scott Walker in Wisconsin, have survived efforts to punish them. Most immediately, what Walker did has dramatically changed the public employee landscape in Wisconsin. In terms of the politics Walker’s political base is the conservative exurban counties, yes, but the exit polling from the effort to recall him showed that even private sector union households were split on their position on his recall – which failed. In this year’s Rhode Island Democratic primary for Governor pension-reformer Gina Riamando beat back an onslaught from the teachers union – again in a primary.

Polling consistently shows (as does even a casual look at the nation’s editorial pages) that the teachers unions have a brand problem. Over time the political relationship between hard hat private sector labor and the public employee unions is an untenable one. If Republicans (and Democrats) truly wanted to marginalize the teachers unions they’d be moving heaven and earth to help private sector labor get back on its feet and become a force again. Don’t hold your breath for that though.

More generally, a subtle indication of the political problem occurred earlier this week. Marshall Tuck, running for state ed chief in California released a funny campaign ad with a bunch of celebrities. His opponent, the incumbent Tom Torlakson, responded with a video with the state teachers union head. That’s what they call a market signal. Related, something Melhorn didn’t get into is just how much of the positive visibility the teachers unions enjoy within elite media is pay-to-play rather than earned.  The lack of earned goodwill, too, is a market signal.

There was a sense in the late part of the last decade that there was a chance for a shift toward a different kind of teacher unionism, I saw the opportunity as did others – that hasn’t happened. And the price for it will be real. That’s why these spending numbers are interesting as a window into current politics but ultimately seem more likely to be interesting as a high water marker of an era that’s heading toward its end.

Cameron On Education

There is some back and forth cross-pollination between political parties in the United States and the U.K. That’s why the education part of this recent David Cameron speech, the positioning, is worth noting heading into 2016 as the ideas primary heats up next year here at home.

Pensions And Scale

In a guestpost at Chris Lozier puts some perspective on the teacher pension funding shortfall numbers that are frequently tossed around.

Friday Fish Pic – Take A Kid Fishing

IMG_0776Here’s a lovely picture of the daughter of Ellevation’s Jordan Meranus enjoying a day on the Colorado River near its headwaters last month. It’s not her first time on the blog, here’s one from 2007.

If you want to browse the world’s largest collection of education types with fish, more than 100 pictures, including – John Merrow, Jane Hannaway, Tim Taylor, Jim Griffin, Jim Ryan, Mark Medema, Paul Herdman, Kim Farris-Berg, Jamie Jo MacMillan, Rob Snowhite, Richard Whitmire, Joe Siedlecki, Renee Rybak, Josh Reibel, Ben Wallerstein, Van Schoales, David Whitman, Nicola Allen, James Willcox’s mom, and many more – then click here.

Got a picture? Email it to me.

October 1, 2014

Edujob: Office Of CO State Sen. Mike Johnston

Here’s an opportunity that doesn’t come along very often -working on policy in one of the most beautiful states in the country. Not enough? Well it’s also working for someone widely regarded as one of the most dynamic young elected officials in the country, too. Colorado State Senator Mike Johnston is hiring, you can learn more here (pdf).

School Of One At Five

The School of One initiative in New York City schools (since spun out nationally from the school district as New Classrooms*) was always an initiative to watch for a few reasons. It was bold and leading edge and it was happening inside a school district. At five it offers some lessons and two of the players behind it are reflecting on them. You can follow along here.

*New Classrooms funded Bellwether to analyze policy plays to expand and improve the quality of personalized learning initiatives (pdf).

ELLs In Action

Conor Williams takes a look at issues affecting ELLs around the country and in Minnesotta.

September 30, 2014

Edujob – COO @ Ewing Marion Kauffman Schools

The Royals aren’t the only thing that’s hot in KC. The Kauffman Foundation supports a charter school network there. They are searching for a COO. More details on the role and how to be considered via this link.