July 24, 2015

New Education Insider Survey Data

New survey data from the Whiteboard Education Insiders survey – Common Core tests, ESEA prospects, and college ratings and college information. You can get it all here.


Friday Fish Porn AK And CO

It’s hard to beat summer in Alaska. Here’s Bellwether Associate Partner Ali Fuller in Alaska with a fat salmon headed for the plate.  Does this look familiar to you? It’s not Ali’s first time in Friday Fish Porn, here she is last year with another salmon, different trip.

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And here’s Tim Taylor of America Succeeds on the mighty Colorado.

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Kevin Kosar made a strong bid for mayor of Fish Porn but Tim has a good claim, too.

What’s this about? Isn’t this supposed to be an education blog? Here’s the world’s only nine-year compilation of education types with fish they’ve caught.  And you can see some good ones just scrolling down this page.


July 23, 2015

Idaho!

Idaho is a gem. The fishing is off the wall. It’s a hunter’s paradise. It has some of the most remote wilderness in the lower 48. Lots of wolves! Good skiing. And some fun towns and cities. Boise is a funky place with great food, drink, and quick access to the outdoors. Eastern Idaho is lovely. The state also has a quirky, fluid, and energized education culture with a wide variety of schools around the state from hyper-rural to small cities. And, yes, potatoes.

Why am I telling you all this? Because there is a new fellowship aimed at attracting proven educators the state to open and operate new schools there. If you find a mountain view more refreshing than, say, a gastro pub menu in Brooklyn then Idaho might be for you. Check it out and learn more here.


July 22, 2015

Common Core Heat!

The RealClearEducation heat map of Common Core pushback is updated.


July 21, 2015

Lamar Alexander Loves It When A Plan Comes Together?

Whiteboard Education Insiders now a lot more bullish on ESEA happening this Congress. Is Alexander’s momentum play working?


Bud Spillane

Bud Spillane has passed. The legendary superintendent ran school districts large and small – and really big including Northern Virginia’s behemoth and sprawling Fairfax County. His career arced along with some of the most contentious issues to face public schools, for instance desegregation in Boston when he led there and then later merit pay in Fairfax County. In other words, the nation’s educational walk from access to excellence paralleled his own.

He was no-nonsense about things. Once faced with a Fairfax County teacher sexually abusing students and an almost hopelessly dysfunctional process for addressing it Spillane went to work saying, “at the end of the day one of us won’t have a job.” He kept his. Boston was no picnic, he ended the practice of selling principalships via local Democratic committees. This line from The Times’ obit says it all:

As a reformer he displayed a brash zeal that energized supporters and alienated critics, and he earned nicknames like “the Velvet Hammer” and “Six-Gun Spillane” for his willingness to take on entrenched interests.

That’s about right. He loved public schools, so much that he expected much more from them and had little patience for those who didn’t. But I’m biased, he signed my high school diploma and shook my hand when I received it. Getting to work with him later on a few projects was a career treat.

More from The Washington Post on his time in Fairfax County.


July 16, 2015

ESEA Is Our Sector’s Iran Deal, Charters And Pre-K, Teachers And Social Security, Which Candidate Has The Worst Charter Sector? In-N-Out And Teaching, Space Nerds Unite!

It’s ESEApalooza in the Senate. You can look at the various votes here. Final vote coming. [Update: It's in the books now]. They’re already sick of education (Breaking – it’s not the top priority despite all the rhetoric). When Senator McConnell, the majority leader, decided to push for cloture earlier this week that was basically, “OK, enough of this, let’s get on to some real work,” hence the amendment deal and strong vote to move forward.

More interesting was how the accountability vote went down. The Democratic caucus was with just two exceptions unified around an amendment by Chris Murphy of Connecticut to put some minimal accountability back into the law. This is symbolically noteworthy because Connecticut was a serial offender on No Child Left Behind including an unsuccessful lawsuit against the law by then AG now United States Senator Richard Blumenthal (who supported the Murphy amendment) that included NAACP intervention – against the state! Takeaways:

- There is real fatigue around accountability. This amendment was as good as it was going to get and although it was strongly supported by key civil rights groups it was far from their ideal. They’re going to continue the fight they say.

- The NEA – they opposed the amendment  - said they were going to score the vote to hold lawmakers accountable. But that’s hard to do when the Dem caucus stays mostly unified like that. May help explain the outcome. Key civil rights groups were scoring it, too. And a lot of grumbling behind the scenes about the NEA on this one. In other words it may be more illustrative of the politics than where people actually are on the issue.

- But just like Iran this unsatisfying status quo may be the only alternative to a war that no one wants?

More here.

Elsewhere:

I’m a space nerd (and space flight doesn’t hurt our science education). I keep a signed picture of Scott Crossfield and the X-15 that he gave me in my home office, it’s that bad.

Pre-k and charter policy need to align better to serve more kids.  Be sure to check out The 74.  A lot of good stuff there.  With Friedrichs pending before the SCOTUS some survey data about what teachers think about various dues schemes ($).  Whiteboard Advisors is growing! Check out the new additions. The states the presidential candidates come from or have led have some real variance in terms of how good their charter school sector is. Enrolling all teachers in Social Security is good policy for them and good retirement policy more generally. But it costs money and the teachers unions are little help. So states come up with reasons not to do it for the 40 percent of teachers who are not in the system now.

Chad Aldeman, who kind of has that Brad Hamilton thing going on, is heavy on the high school policy beat here and here.

I recently took John Bailey and Mieka Wick to their first In-N-Out Burger. Interesting company in addition to being delicious. They take burger making more seriously than this sector takes teaching quality. Seriously, they do. At Bellwether we fantasize about opening a Tim Horton’s franchise.


July 14, 2015

Pluto! Why Investing In NASA Should Be A Key Part Of Our STEM Strategy

In a new U.S. News & World Report column I take a look at STEM through the lens of today’s big Pluto news.

An American spacecraft flew by Pluto on Tuesday morning to have a look around. That sentence was the stuff of science fiction when most of us were born. And that’s not all. Last November, a European spacecraft landed on a comet. On a comet speeding through space! We’ve also been poking around Mars, and at the end of April a pathbreaking NASA mission to Mercury ended after four years of orbiting that planet.

Meanwhile, here on Earth, there is a lot of head scratching about how to get more American kids interested in science, technology, math and engineering – the vaunted STEM subjects…

Want more than a flyby? Read the entire column here @ U.S. News. It features a cameo by astronaut Ken Mattingly. He flew Apollo and Space Shuttle missions – the latter as a Commander. Gary Sinise played him in the film Apollo 13. Who is your favorite astronaut? Mine might be Pinky Nelson because he was really into education but Alan Shepard was a riot. Hard to choose! In any event, tell me on Twitter or just send funny Pluto jokes @arotherham.


Mind The Gap! New Approaches On HS Accountability

Bellwether’s Chad Aldeman has a new paper looking at new ways to think about and implement high school accountability (pdf). Important resource for state policymakers.


July 10, 2015

What Accountability? Education As A Palliative Treatment. Check Out These Guns! And Is The NEA Out Of Step With The Public, Or Just With Charlie Barone? Sara Mead’s Office Smells Like Rich Mahogany!

It’s been busy the past few weeks, more fish pics than content. But a lot happening!

In D.C.’s elite education community there is this idea that there is a firewall between guns and schools. In practice there is all kinds of overlap. Students bring firearms in cars to school parking lots during hunting season, schools offer shooting or firearm safety, and as Bloomberg reports trap is a popular sport in some parts of the country.

I don’t agree with everything in this column but this is an astute observation – what she’s getting at is the capacity problem that was minimized at the time:

This was the original sin of ed reform: Ordering all of those tests without anticipating that some schools — due to a lack of creativity or a surplus of fear — would take test prep to extremes.

During the Senate debate on the ESEA – NCLB overhaul bill this week Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) said this:

“I run into people periodically who say to me that you can’t fix it unless you fix poverty. You can’t fix the education system unless you fix poverty. Don’t tell kids in my city who are living in poverty that that is true. Outside of every one of our schools it says “school.” It doesn’t say “orphanage.” It says “school.” We need to make sure every one of those schools is delivering for every kid in our community, no matter where they come from. Otherwise, what is left of us? What is left of this land of opportunity?”

“Before No Child Left Behind existed, we had an impression, a vague sense of the inequities in our educational system. Now we understand how deep they are, how rooted they are, and we have to continue to build on the successes we have seen in high-quality schools working in poor neighborhoods that have actually delivered for kids all over the country.”

More please. Among the other unspoken divides in our debate about school is the one between those who see education as a powerful lever for social mobility and those who frankly see it as a palliative experience for kids.

Charlie Barone says the NEA is out of step with the public. I’m not so sure, they may just be out of step with Charlie and his ilk (I’m one of that ilk). The politics of education are fluid right now and the teachers unions are better at politics than the reformers – at least in the short run. Longer term they’re probably check mated. Great tactics, lousy strategy and all that.

But, something I am more sure of is that two big fallacies around the NCLB /ESEA bill are the idea that NCLB still exists and the idea that we’ve had too much accountability. On the former, NCLB was done the moment Secretary Duncan started issuing waivers. Reasonable people can disagree about whether that’s good or bad but it means Congress is reauthorizing a law that is really no longer operational in practice.

And while there was a lot of talk about accountability in practice NCLB ending up being a compliance law. So I get the compliance fatigue, it’s been messy. But the idea that there has been a lot of “accountability” in the common usage of that term isn’t borne out by the facts of how the law was both written and implemented. Start with the dreaded school turnarounds – most places took the easy non-consequential way out. Senator Bennet is right that NCLB has shined a harsh light. But it’s entirely possible what that light showed scared people as much as spurred them to action…hence the retreat that is on now. The people who really bear the accountability are the kids – there are real stakes for them.

A lot of great NCLB/ESEA content on Ahead of the Heard about the substance and the politics of all this.  And writing in USN Sara Mead says the new Head Start regulations are like this.

Productivity in the D.C. office of Bellwether is about to tank.


Friday Fish Porn – In The Salt

Here’s Chad Ratliff – Assistant Superintendent in Virginia’s Albemarle County* Public Schools for instruction and innovation – with a shark he and his son pulled in a few weeks ago (presumably before it could bite anyone).** They let it go.

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And former CRS analyst and current R Street Institute wonk (and actual whiskey expert) Kevin Kosar caught this thing in the Chesapeake Bay over the 4th of July Weekend. It got released, too, although the French cook these and they’re not bad.

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Kosar is basically  becoming the mayor of Fish Porn. For almost a decade’s worth(!) of education people and fish click here.

*Second only to Madison County for pure natural beauty.

**An Albemarle High graduate working as a surf lifeguard saved a shark bite victim last week in North Carolina. She swam to, and pulled him in, after the attack.


July 7, 2015

Teacher Pensions: Eating Their Young

New analysis from Chad Aldeman and Leslie Kan on how changes to teacher pensions are making them increasingly unattractive for newer/younger teachers (pdf). Later this year look for a second analysis on the adverse effect on veteran teachers. You can learn more about the teacher pension issue here.


July 3, 2015

Friday Fish Porn – Freedom Edition

11659509_10206988300808649_5003652713842168198_n (1)Here’s Hailly Korman in the Pacific of the San Diego coast. The Hawaiian born education policy maven is an alum of the schools project at PPI, a former kindergarten teacher in LAUSD, and now an attorney working on behalf of incarcerated youth to improve education options for youth offenders. And she can fish!

Friday fish whaaaat…you say? Here is a one-of-a kind bespoke collection of hundreds of education types with fish.

Happy Independence Day.

 


July 2, 2015

SCOTUS To Hear Friedrichs, Doomsday For Teachers Unions Or A Mixed Bag For Schools? Or Both?

In its next term the Supreme Court will hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers association a cleverly constructed case that threatens to undo today’s agency fee structure and dramatically weaken teachers unions. Simplistic takes of how good or bad this will be – and the unions seem likely to lose – miss how complicated it will be for the operation of schools and education more generally. I look at all that today in a column in U.S. News & World Report:

By this time next year, everyone in the education world cheering the Supreme Court’s progressivism on health care and gay marriage may be singing a different – and sadder – tune. In its next term, the court will hear cases that could end affirmative action in higher education and curtail the power of teachers unions and other public employee unions. This latter case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, could dramatically weaken teachers unions and scramble the education landscape. The prospect of a defanging of the unions has many in education hopeful after the court agreed to take the case earlier this week. In practice, though, the ramifications of Friedrichs are not so straightforward.

You can read the entire piece here – no agency fee required just click here for USN’s Report. Tell me why you think a post-Friedrichs world will be all Eden-like or horrible on Twittter @arotherham.

Also, check out Bellwether’s Kaitlin Pennington with more on why this case matters at Ahead of the Heard.


July 1, 2015

New Pahara-Aspen Class

New class of Pahara-Aspen Fellows announced today, learn more about them here.


June 30, 2015

Pacts Americana

Bellwether’s Chad Aldeman, Kelly Robson, and Andy Smarick propose a way through the federal accountability/flexibility thicket in a new paper.


Three Points On Dems And Education

Earlier this month Third Way hosted an event to discuss education politics and Democrats. Great event and it was good of them to host the discussion. The theme was what’s next but it turned into a more general discussion of education policy and politics. Discussants were former House education committee chair George Miller, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, pollster Jefrey Pollock (who had an unfair advantage because he has his SAG card and the event was held at D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theater), and me.

A wide-ranging discussion on a range of issues. It used to be that education politics seemed like a race to the center. It’s easy to forget, now, the way George Bush used it in 2000 and the gains (short lived) he made with minority voters in states like Ohio with the issue. These days with only a few Republican leaders (including the president’s brother Jeb Bush) standing in the way of a full-on bums rush to the hard right on education policy the dynamics have changed. Today education politics are less about centrist consensus building and more about resisting reactionary pressure from the right and the left to try to ensure that a focus on under-served students isn’t lost. Three points I made were:

It’s exasperating that Democrats can’t embrace a comprehensive and reformist politics around education. Nine percent of low-income students get a bachelor’s degree by the time they are 24, compared to about four in five more affluent students. It seems more than a little crazy that the party that purports to speak for the little guy isn’t all over that and doesn’t have an aggressive plan to take it on. Solving that problem includes tackling education and non-education issues but it unavoidably demands hard look at our educational system. How we finance, staff, organize, and hold schools accountable has to be part of any serious improvement agenda. Part of the problem with a robust and comprehensive agenda is special interest politics, of course, that’s an old story. But it doesn’t explain all of it and people who only focus on the unions are missing an important part of the story.

We need a middle class politics of education, too. What’s been interesting the past few years is the extent to which people who should be allies on reform have become adversaries. Traditionally a middle class politics of education means leaving suburban schools alone to rise or fall as they might. This has led to widespread mediocrity and pockets of excellence. It also creates an enormous problem for underserved students in those schools. Today, these politics increasingly mean neutering accountability systems to mask uncomfortable bad news about school performance – the Common Core debate is in many ways the latest manifestation of this – and take the pressure for improved performance off. In practice that means that the constituencies Democrats claim to speak for the most – minorities, and working class whites, disconnected, at-risk, or special need students are most likely to be overlooked. Democrats need a much more sophisticated middle class politics that is about supports for better schools, more options and customization for parents, sweeteners for middle income and affluent parents and also about the kind of accountability that doesn’t leave traditionally underserved populations out in the cold. It’s increasingly clear, though, that protecting the most underserved students demands more attention to the politics of the middle class to sustain these efforts.

Watch the courts. There is a lot of attention on the Vergara-case (the California court case about personnel policies in schools) and similar cases in other states. I expect to see more of that because traditionally when people cannot get issues addressed in the political arena they turn to the courts (in this case to force legislators to do something). But the case I’m really watching more immediately is another California case: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. (Just today the Supreme Court agreed to hear this case in its next term). Friedrichs could completely scramble education politics and also the operation of school districts. On the politics, while a lot of people, and a lot of Democrats (George Miller made the point that when he’s considered “anti-union” the term has ceased to mean anything), are exasperated with the teachers unions on education – I think they’re more part of the problem than the solution these days in terms of making schools work better for more kids – they also do a lot of helpful things on various social issues. And if you worry about education funding and other social supports a weakening of the unions is a macro-problem there (impact on a broader array of social issues and causes is another, and significant, issue). Democrats should look at Wisconsin to start to get  a sense of what a post-Friedrich world might look like for good and ill in terms of substantive and political effects. (My bet is that if this comes to pass the NEA will fare better than the AFT because it has much more experience operating successfully in right-to-work environments).

In addition, while the union’s positions on some key educations are hard to defend (read the transcript or watch the video of Vergara for a taste of that) on a day -to-day basis they also do a lot of things that are useful to the operation of schools. Politics aside, if the unions decline there will need to be some smart and innovative ideas about how to pick up that slack through policy and practice. You don’t have to be a fan of today’s teacher work rules, for instance, to also realize that educational administration is a slow-motion disaster and many teachers are treated unfairly and in counterproductive ways. Discrimination remains a live issue and some kinds of discrimination are still unprotected in many states. And given the churn of superintendents in larger districts some mid-level union officials end up being the only people in management/leadership with any institutional memory. In other words, while a lot of people are cheering quietly or not-so-quietly for the Supreme Court to move on Freidrichs it’s naive for reformers, union critics, or others to think it’s all cut and dry if the case is decided against the unions.


June 26, 2015

Paul Hill On Rural Education: Final In A Series! Brand Name Reforms And Rural Education

Note: The Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho (ROCI) has published ten papers over the last six months, looking at important issues in rural education. This is the last in a series of four blog posts that examine key themes that have emerged from the work. 

  • The first blog post discusses the need for rural education reformers to reconcile broader national and world standards with the demands of place-based education. 
  • The second blog post addresses the need to increase rural students’ participation and success in college. It is available here. 
  • The third blog post examines the need to lift counter-productive financial and regulatory constraints on rural schools.

The posts are all available below. The final blog, here, considers how brand reforms that have emerged nationally can be thoughtfully applied to the special circumstances of rural K-12 education.

 BRAND NAME REFORMS IN RURAL EDUCATION

By Paul Hill

Brand-name reforms common in urban education reform – e.g. alternative sources of teachers, technology-based instruction, family choice, charter schools – can have promise in rural areas. But these ideas need to be adapted to the circumstances of rural places and subjected to careful trials, not mandated or rushed into implementation.

Reasoning from results in urban areas helps no one: it is no more valid to say “X (e.g.; chartering) worked in big cities therefore it will work in rural areas,” than it is to say, “Y did not work well in a city, therefore it will fail in rural areas.” A much more cogent line of thinking is necessary.

In applying ideas developed elsewhere it is necessary to consider the special attributes of rural areas. Small size and remoteness will affect whether and how brand-name reforms work in rural areas, for example:

Development of new supplies of rural teachers, as by Teach For America, will depend on whether qualified recruits will be willing to accept the low pay and isolation in rural districts, and whether localities can create teacher vacancies.

Increased use of technology-based instruction depends on need – communities are less likely to use online courses in subjects that are already well taught by a local teacher. It also depends on capacity. Communities with one qualified person to teach a subject like physics can increase the numbers of students that person can reach with online materials. But the same materials may be less useful in a locality that has no one who knows the subject.

Localities too small to have more than one class per grade level will have difficulty offering choices to students (e.g. those entitled to options as a remedy under No Child Left Behind). However, localities large enough to host a charter school, or that are near other school districts or a community college, can offer choices. So can a district of any size or degree of remoteness that has a productive relationship with online coursework providers.

The applicability of charter schools is complex and controversial.[1]  Whether some form of charter school might benefit a rural community depends Read the rest of this entry »


Paul Hill On Rural Edu: Third In A Series! Resource Constraints In Rural Education

Note: The Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho (ROCI) has published ten papers over the last six months, looking at important issues in rural education. This is the third in a series of four blog posts that examine key themes that have emerged from our work. Previous posts are available lower on the page. 

Reports from the ROCI task force are available at www.rociidaho.org. Stay up-to-date on future publications by following on Twitter: @ROCIdaho

The final blog post will discuss how reforms that have emerged nationally can be thoughtfully applied to the special circumstances of rural K-12 education.

RESOURCE CONSTRAINTS IN RURAL EDUCATION

By Paul Hill

Rural schools are highly constrained, both in the resources that receive from state and local sources and in the ways they are required to spend money. As a result schools have difficulty recruiting all the teachers they need, especially in science, mathematics, and education for limited-English speaking children. Localities forced to cut spending can be forced to cut instructional time and student services rather than change staffing patterns or cut the costs of compliance and record keeping. Rural schools need much more flexibility in how they staff themselves, use funds, find talent, and experiment with online technology. Regulations and mandates from policymakers and administrators who think they know the answer to rural schools’ problems, e.g. to hire particular people or use particular online courses, are steps in the wrong direction.

Idaho is an example of a state in which the very low rate of spending on K-12 limits what schools can provide. Some efficiencies are possible, but a combination of very low spending levels and continuing cuts in state and local support can be crippling. Wealthier urban areas around Boise can generously supplement school budgets, in ways that poorer rural communities can’t match. This puts rural schools at a disadvantage in the competition for talented educators, consistent with Dan Player’s report.

Moreover, the fact that virtually all the money available to rural districts is tied up in Read the rest of this entry »


June 25, 2015

Paul Hill On Rural Education, Part Deux! College And Career Connections In Rural Schools

Note: The Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho (ROCI) has published ten papers over the last six months, looking at important issues in rural education. This is the second in a series of four blog posts that examine key themes that have emerged from our work.  The first blog post discusses the need for rural education reformers to reconcile broader national and world standards with the demands of place-based education. The second blog post, below, addresses the need to increase rural students’ participation and success in college. Reports from the ROCI task force are available at: www.rociidaho.org. Stay up-to-date on future publications by following on Twitter: @ROCIdaho.

COLLEGE AND CAREER CONNECTIONS IN RURAL SCHOOLS

By Paul Hill

Though rural K-12 education in most places is performing reasonably well on traditional academic instruction, schools need to give young people better linkages, both to further learning and employment close to home, and to higher education and jobs in urban areas. Students who are geographically isolated from institutions of higher education face particularly severe “linkage” problems. The educators who serve them can also be isolated from new ideas about teaching and the demands of the economy.

In Idaho and in many other states, rural schools have reasonable success teaching core courses and keeping students engaged until graduation. However, schools are much more challenged when it comes to preparing children for education and work after high school. Rural students are less likely to apply to college, less likely to enroll if admitted, and less likely to complete a degree if they enroll. Economic and social factors – e.g. rural students’ distance from their families and unfamiliarity with the college environment – work against rural students. But so might their schools — what students are taught, the kinds of work they are assigned in high school, and how they are advised about college choices. Understanding the causes and remedies for rural students’ college difficulties will be a major focus of future task force work.

Rural areas in sparsely populated states are much more isolated than they are in the Midwest and South. In Ohio, for example, the distance between rural towns is seldom more than 5 miles, and no place in the state is more than 20 miles from a college or university. Something like that might be true Read the rest of this entry »


June 24, 2015

Paul Hill On Rural Education, Part One! World Class Standards And Place-Based Education In Rural Schools

I’ve been traveling – apologies for the light posting. Paul Hill is going to pinch hit with some thoughts on rural education for the next few days.  Paul is chair of the Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho (ROCI) task force, which has published ten papers on important issues in rural education, including work by Bellwether analysts. Reports from the ROCI task force are available at www.rociidaho.org. Stay up-to-date on future publications by following on Twitter: @ROCIdaho.

WORLD STANDARDS AND PLACE-BASED EDUCATION IN RURAL SCHOOLS

By Paul Hill

Place-based education is vitally important for rural (as for urban) areas, but it can’t be pursued to the point of denying rural high school graduates a real choice about whether to attend college or do something else. As a country we need to find ways to improve rural students’ options, both in higher education and the world economy, and in their home communities. Unlike some who fear that education to world standards will drain the brains out of rural America, it can give young people the option of living and working where they choose, including returning to and strengthening the communities where they grew up.

Some scholars have created a false dichotomy between place-based education and education to world standards.  These can be complementary, not opposed, both in cities and rural areas. Thoughtfully pursued, place-based education is good education. Children need to understand their home towns – their founding, why and how different groups moved there, how people make a living, cultural assets, political issues, and history of exclusion and inclusion of women and minorities. This is so whether children go on to universities and lead their adult lives elsewhere, or return home. Standards, tests, and university admissions requirements are no excuse for schools becoming ivory towers.

Everyday educators have less trouble with these ideas than some scholars do. In the task force members’ research to date, we met Read the rest of this entry »


June 23, 2015

Edujobs @ EDI

Check out a couple of great edujobs at the Education Delivery Institute.

Good people, important mission to improve implementation and policy fidelity in the sector. They’re looking for an Engagement Manager and an Engagement Associate.  More details on the roles through the links.


June 19, 2015

Edujobs! @ Acelero Learning

Acelero Learning and Shine Early Learning are hiring for multiple roles:

Director of Education, Shine Assist to provide overall support to program leadership throughout the Shine Early Learning Assist network.

Director of Management Systems and Director of Program Design and Management responsible for ensuring data are effectively used to drive decision-making throughout the organization (high travel but these roles have flexibility for geographic base).

Executive Director for Acelero Learning Monmouth/Middelsex County, Inc. -Responsible for coordinating and directing all program and administrative services for this Head Start program.

Learn more about these roles and Acelero here.


Where Are We On Charter Schools?

I take a look at the charter sector in a column for U.S. News and World Report today. A lot of good, plenty of room for improvement, and some hard questions emerging:

Are charter schools – independently operated public schools – at an inflection point? While education advocates fought about Common Core and teacher evaluations charter schools continued to grow and now serve 6 percent of all American public school students. This growth, which is even more pronounced in some cities and states, is highlighting both the promise and challenges of charter schooling. 

At education conferences, among special interest groups and in the media the debate over charter schools is three to five years behind the current state of play. People are arguing about charters version 1.0 while version 2.0 unfolds around the country. The disconnect is bizarre: As public opinion about charters becomes much more favorable the historically bipartisan charter school issue is threatening to become partisan. Pundits question the sustainability of charter schools even as their numbers are poised to top 7,000, public finance in key states is becoming more equitable for charters and many of these institutions operate on public funding alone. And charter school performance is improving even as critics escalate their calls for charter moratoriums, bans or other steps to hobble the movement.

Here’s what is happening today…

You can read the entire thing here via USN’s ”Report.“ Tweet your inflection points to me @arotherham or tell me what’s surprised you most about charter schools.


June 18, 2015

New Whiteboard Advisors Education Insiders Survey Results

Whiteboard Advisors Education Insiders on student data privacy, ESEA and HEA prospects, testing, and debt-free college ideas (pdf).  Interesting forecasting on testing among other issues.


June 15, 2015

Common Core, Pre-K, NOLA, Is College For All A Phantom Menace? It Varies! All That, TFA Vs. Malkin And More…

If pre-K advocates think this is the biggest problem with how pre-K is being rolled out in New York City they’re kidding themselves. I’m worried this whole thing could set the cause of universal pre-k back. But on the economic integration point charter school pre-K programs could play an instrumental role here. (By the way, is there any education issue the Century Foundation doesn’t think more economic integration will fix? Winter is coming, I get it.)

Chad Aldeman on high school graduation rates: Even discounting for the scams, something is happening.

Liz Farmer on the mess that is New Jersey fiscal and pension policy. Also, Paul Volcker on the larger issues at play in states.

David Osborne looks at New Orleans and charter schools.

In the battle you knew would come it’s Michelle Malkin vs. Teach For America in the first round. If there are any TFA alums who vote Republican or perhaps own a gun this might be a good time for the organization to produce them. This push from the right doesn’t balance out the attacks from the left – it doubles down on the organization’s political liabilities and this isn’t going make TFA’s left-leaning critics change their minds.

Mike Petrilli is not on board with the “college for all” movement (but says, sensibly, that schools should prepare more kids for college success). I’m not sure such a movement even exists? There is definitely a post-secondary for all movement – including a variety of post-secondary paths that don’t involve traditional four-year college – that I subscribe to. But I don’t meet too many people who think everyone should go to college. Some of the language may have become sloppy but who thinks everyone should go to college?

Richard Phelps takes no prisoners.

People get sick of hearing you say, “it varies” in response to questions about various educational issues. But that’s the answer more often than not in our decentralized system. Teacher experience? It varies!

Are ESA’s like the Nevada plan the “smartphone of school choice?” Perhaps, or they may turn out to be the iPhone 4 of school choice?

Good overview of the splits on school accountability policy via Emma Brown.

Hard to believe Virginia would try to limit parent choices…keep doing this long enough people notice and don’t like it.

ICYMI it’s Kati Haycock v. Marc Tucker.

TN teacher Joe Ashby on constant feedback via RealClearEducation.

I talked on NPR about Common Core goings on.


June 11, 2015

Pahara NextGen Fellows

New class of Pahara Institute NextGen Fellows just announced. Learn more about them and the fellowship here.


June 5, 2015

Friday Fish Pics- Kosar Returns!

20150523_074447Education analyst and professional whiskey expert Kevin Kosar took his son fishing along with a friend. They hooked into this big (31″) catfish near Fletcher’s Cove on the Potomac.  Also – and Potomac-related –  don’t miss his take on CRS.

Through this link you will find hundreds of pictures of education types with fish. You can also scroll down this page to see a few recent ones. Here and also here are two past Kosar fish pics.


June 4, 2015

Today In Nutty Ideas, Layton Sets A Standard, Nevada Is All Choice, Policy Innovation, Common Core, And Jim Shelton’s New Gig

A lot of news today, it’s all curated here, as every weekday, at RealClearEducation.com

Whatever you think about Success Academy (and it’s especially important to have really strong views if you haven’t spent time there) be sure to read this Lyndsey Layton article in The Washington Post. It discusses (a) actual teaching, a little (b) what frequently happens in schools around feedback and evaluation and (c) has nuance around the “backfill” issue  - actual substance! – as a criticism of Success rather than the usual blather. More, please!

Randi Weingarten seems never to have heard a faddish idea she doesn’t then propose: This time it’s getting rid of cut scores on the new Common Core tests altogether. Al Shanker has left the building. A cut score is the point considered proficient or passing on a standardized test (short primer on the various ways for doing it here (pdf)). Weingarten’s gambit seems to be more about making sure people don’t use results from the more rigorous assessments (and their more rigorous cut scores) to bash schools. That’s a legitimate point but not a reason to jettison cut scores. And, so far in the Common Core rollout I’ve seen a lot more said/written about not using the new tests to bash schools than I’ve actually seen them being used that way. It could be that Weingarten is a living embodiment of that old New Yorker cartoon? Most of the known world is not east of the Hudson and all of it is not east of the Great Lakes…

Nevada is all voucher*! Going to be interesting to see how this plays out. One angle I’m particularly in is what happens in hyper-rural communities. There are some very isolated schools in Nevada.  Is another angle to watch whether this strengthens Nevada Governor Sandoval’s hand in the Republican veepstakes? I’m not close enough to know but it sure seems plausible from the cheap seats. *Update: Or all Education Savings Account. Given how the policy is set up it seems a distinction w/o a difference in this case but advocates are taking exception to what they see as imprecise language. Neerav Kingsland has some good thoughts on all of this here.

Related, the other day Governing ran a piece about the lack of policy diversity among states. In general that’s a real issue. But on education I don’t see it as much. You don’t see this Nevada policy elsewhere! You see a lot of carbon copy RFPs and things like that but on policy the bigger problem is a lack of policy feedback. So, for instance, it’s hard to argue that state charter laws are copies of one another. And that’s why you have disastrous states with charters – e.g. Ohio – and states and cities really doing well – e.g. NJ, MA, NYC , etc…You’re starting to see the same thing with the “Achievement School District” turnaround model. The problem is the enormous gap between the evidence from all of this and ongoing policy design.  Jay Greene has raised this policy diversity issue and competitive federalism as a reason to be concerned about Common Core. I see it playing out a little differently but it’s definitely among the actual serious critiques of the Common Core.

Mike Petrilli on social capital and Putnam.  Robert Pondiscio on Grant Wiggins. Wiggins had plenty of strong views but he wasn’t close minded or a tribalist, something to admire.

Jim Shelton writes why he’s “not head of this foundation or why not raise a fund with these people or why not CEO of this company or why didn’t you ask this person for a few hundred million dollars.” Instead, he’s joining online ed outfit 2U.

Yesterday I wrote about how when most people criticize the Common Core they’re often really talking about something else.  Sandy Kress pushed back here.


June 3, 2015

What We Talk About When We Talk About Common Core (Hint: Not Common Core)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s flip flop on Common Core looked like pretty naked politicking. But that wasn’t as interesting to me as what it seemed to vividly illustrate: These days when people debate “Common Core” they’re not really talking about Common Core at all. I take a look at that in a U.S. News & World Report column today:

In 2013, Christie supported Common Core. “We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey, and we are going to continue. This is one of those areas where I have agreed more with the president than not and with [Education] Secretary [Arne] Duncan,” he said. But last Thursday he changed his tune. “We must reject federal control of our education and return it to parents and teachers,” Christie said. “We need to take it out of the cubicles of Washington, D.C. where it was placed by the Obama administration and return it to the neighborhoods of New Jersey.”

It’s easy to pick on Christie for shameless politicking – he offered little in the way of specific criticisms and the standards are unpopular with conservative primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina where his fledgling presidential campaign is struggling to get traction. He’s hardly the only politician pandering on the issue; calling Common Core the product of federal bureaucrats (it’s not) is a standard Republican talking point. Meanwhile, reasonable people can change their minds or disagree about the standards, which turned five this week. For my part, I think they have promise but their transformative potential has been oversold by many advocates and their adoption and implementation is inadequately supported.

None of that, however, is what makes the New Jersey situation so illustrative. Instead, the saga of Common Core in New Jersey (and elsewhere) highlights how our education debates are often proxies for other issues…
You can click here to read the entire column in U.S. News’ daily “Report.” Follow me on Twitter and share shameless political things you’ve done to woo primary voters or what problem Common Core is a proxy for in your life.