June 2, 2016

Bradford On The Panic At The Pondiscio, Panic About TFA, LAT Rips Gates, Pensions! Pearson! Terry Ryan Is A Happy Warrior!, Professorial Hess, Inconvenient DC, Title I In Practice, English Canon In Theory, Third Way Everywhere! Great Ed Navigator Tool, Weeby On Detroit, Urahn On Retirement, Korman Cautions, Bonus: School Transportation And Non-Metaphorical Sinking Ships! Plus More!

4th Circuit won’t hear the VA transgender restroom case again.

Darrell Bradford weighs-in on the Panic at the Pondiscio:

Does and should the conservative or “Market” perspective — one focused on choice, pluralism and opportunity as the prime drivers — continue to have a place in the education reform movement, effort, confab, or whatever you want to call it? The answer has three letters: yes. Competition and innovation are essential, and may be the best way to level the playing field for kids of color. (I write this as a person who is deeply skeptical of government’s ability to organize itself around the creation of schools that liberate low-income black and brown kids from academic outcomes that ensure their economic servitude).

Ironically, the storm that has erupted around Pondiscio’s piece may just prove his larger point about a narrowing field of view: Even as the education reform movement strives to become more ethnically diverse, it could also become less so ideologically. This is important, and worth noting. We do not win with a smaller tent against a unified enemy that has created the conditions we battle against.

But this does not mean that “Equity” doesn’t deserve a place as well. Many education reformers identify themselves as “social justice warriors,” striving to give black and brown kids access to better classrooms — and brighter futures because race matters. Yet as often happens in debates about inclusion, the question of whether one perspective can “belong” is seen as one that must co-opt or exclude another one.

Also, isn’t it hard to miss that as both political parties have vigorous debates about redefining themselves education barely registers at all in those debates? And this on the heels of a national education law that rolled back several decades of hard won protections for poor and minority students in federal education policy. That should sober everyone some you’d think? (Although Jay Greene is surely right that the world marches on regardless of who is on what conference panel where or what reform “leaders” say or do and often independent of what happens in Washington). Terry Ryan is not as dour on where ed reform stands as I am.

Rick Hess does nice job laying out the fundamental left-right split in education and life. Also quietly illustrates why so many centrist reformers are homeless in the current debate because both sides can get reductionist fast.

In terms of this specific debate, though, I think the Pondiscio piece much more revealed a debate than sparked one. I haven’t heard any sentiments, on any side, being shared publicly that were not already circulating privately. So at least good to talk about because the underlying issues do matter.

To the other links!

Big time edujob in the south.

The LA Times editorial board rips the hide off the Gates Foundation. I guess that’ll teach ‘em to fund media projects! Joking…joking…Actually if the knock on the hidebound education system is that it doesn’t change fast enough isn’t the knock on Gates that they change too fast? Their small schools investments were not the disaster everyone thinks they were but they pivoted before the evaluations came in. And now Gates has hired the guy who led some of the most successful small schools as a senior official. They soft peddled the results of their own evaluations of measures of teacher effectiveness. And while the rollout of Common Core has certainly been a political disaster and the assessment scene is something of a garbage fire, the standards themselves are pretty embedded – even in Texas it turns out! (See below). Plenty of room for more support, of course, but the standards are there. What’s more, pretty much everything Gates has done is because they’ve sat with the various sages in our sector who told them to do this or that. They didn’t just conjure this stuff up. So it’s unclear if the problem is that they listened too little or, rather, that they listened too much? They fund some Bellwether projects – though certainly not as much as we’d like! – so disclosure there.

In DC a little pushing and shoving on ESSA timelines. Here’s a thought: Seems like a Clinton Department of Education might change some aspects of this around – they’d  know how to pull the various levers of government to make that happen. A Trump Administration, by contrast, seems like a recipe for the regulations to be in place for a while as they’re likely to have a Department of Education with fewer staffers and appointees with experience on these issues. In other words, the regulations might matter even more, not less,  if Trump wins – at least initially.

Education reform efforts in D.C. are so politically inconvenient! Also, if this attack on pensions is any indication, it seems like Randi Weingarten could get some Peter Thiel money to sue Gawker. Also, here is a pensions mess in CA. And pension risk/reward.

U.S. News and World Report deep dive on Title I. Debate over teacher performance data continues in Virginia. Good for the lawyers. But seems like a little transparency would defuse all of this.

Speaking of, if your school doesn’t use something like this open-source form (pdf) to help with teacher-student assignment each year. Ask why. En Español aquí (pdf).

And EdBuild breaks down the funding structure across the states. Huge resource.

Student voice in CT. Continuing its Zika-like spread Common Core math now in Texas!  Ujifusa breaks down the proposed ESSA regs. Sue Urahn on retirement policy. Jonathan Chait on education’s completely bizarro politics. Son of Michigan Jason Weeby on Detroit. Here’s a pretty cool set of videos with teaching tips via MATCH. Pennington on evaluation backsliding.

Tamara Hiler on teacher licensure. Is there a third way on education in Massachusetts? Third Way on private nonprofit colleges, the problem is not just the for-profits! Recovering attorney Hailly Korman cautions on the limits of suit-based reform. Annie Murphy Paul, Ben Riley, and personalized learning. Should colleges or law-enforcement deal with sexual assault cases on campus?

Yes, I know, Pearson boo boo! But this report is kind of interesting (pdf).  This Medium post by a Pearson official is pretty good, too.

I am struck by how many young people you meet who are well versed in critical this or that but not deep on whatever it is they’re critical of. That debate is breaking out at Yale.  I’m certainly for people reading a variety of material that challenges and engages them from all perspectives but there is certainly value in understanding the content and various meanings of what are generally considered canonical texts because of their staying power even, or perhaps especially, if your project is tearing down that staying power.

Enrollment at teacher prep programs is down nationwide. Teach For America is a teacher prep program. Enrollment is down at Teach For America. But because it’s Teach For America….If you’re really interested check out this paper (pdf) for some additional context and data about all this – including what corps members think.

Remember, the first school person most kids see in the morning is a bus driver or crossing guard.

This is not uphill both ways to school, but it’s pretty damn close.  Today in disastrous field trips.


June 1, 2016

Edujob – CEO At RePublic Schools

Here’s a great CEO opportunity in the education space! RePublic Schools:

In a country that aspires to equality of opportunity as its very foundation, an alarming number of children lack equal access to an excellent education. A child’s race, socioeconomic status, and zip code are currently far greater predictors of his or her ultimate quality of life than talent, drive, or capacity to learn.

This pattern is magnified in the South, where students must navigate particularly deep repercussions of entrenched, systemic, and historic inequity. Children in the South have the lowest odds of transitioning from the bottom fifth of the income distribution to the top, and Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana are ranked in the bottom four states for ACT results nationwide.

RePublic Schools was founded to change this trend, with a mission to reimagine public education for scholars in the South. RePublic operates high-performing public charter schools, and will leverage the success of those schools to change the educational trajectory of all students in the South.

If you want to attack that problem here’s where you can learn more and apply.


May 26, 2016

Panic At The Pondiscio! And Sara Mead Is Everywhere! ESSA Regs, Pensions, Tenure, Discipline, And Some Non-Controversial Stuff, Too. Plus Sharks, Bears And Sprints

Great upcoming event on data and Head Start improvement. Rare live appearance by Bellwether’s Sara Mead! Yes, the same Sara Mead who today is coming for your mortgage tax deduction in US News. Plus she’s great at math!

All your education news curated here, every weekday, 8am and mid-afternoon.

Draft ESSA regs are out (pdf).

Robert Pondiscio has sparked quite the debate with an essay entitled “The Left’s Drive To Push Conservatives Out Of Education Reform.”   Marilyn Rhames responds here. Patrick Riccards is here. And Justin Cohen and a gaggle of folks here. Other stuff around. Update: Stacey Childress here. Jay Greene is here. Greg Richmond via Twitter here.

Hopefully a useful debate but we’ll see. Seems like a few things are true. Education reform won’t succeed without more diversity – of a variety of kinds – in its leadership. Education reform won’t succeed if it becomes a partisan issue or if people on all sides can’t work with those with whom they disagree on some or even a host of other issues. Education reform will not succeed without an effective middle class politics. And the more education reform becomes about a host of other issues the less people will be able to work together. Focus and being able to agree to disagree are vital to coalition building and effectiveness and it’s unclear how much appetite there is for either in many parts of the education world right now.

It’s also a political moment and there are plenty of politics swirling around. That hardly makes things any easier. It is hard to miss, though, on all sides the extent that a movement/effort/whatever originally  about disrupting adult-focused politics has come to organize itself around a new set of adult focused politics. Some would say that’s inevitable and, to be fair, some predicted it.

Elsewhere!

Here’s a new class of Pahara Next Generation leaders.

Mayoral control debate continues in New York. It’s all about the kids! Here’s an analysis of school report cards there.

Pondiscio on the new NACPS report on backfilling at charter schools and the complicated questions about policy design on that issue.  EdBuild has a finance map that is not to be missed – plus context!

The New Yorker takes a look at campus politics.

The FT on pension/hedge fund politics. Includes this gem:

In 2005, the number of times Yale and Harvard were mentioned [as a model for other institutional investors] was incredible,” says Amin Rajan ,chief executive of Create-Research ,and an expert of the fund management industry. “But they had the governance and skills to go after risky asset class. Big pension plans didn’t.”

I mean really, what could go wrong? Also, pensions are crowding school finance. A look at Chicago.

School discipline: End the war says David Griffith. Think creatively says Sarah Yatsko.

Vergara still going (pdf).

Mixed results for the edTPA:

“This is a study where middle-ground findings make it harder to interpret,” said Dan Goldhaber, one of three researchers who conducted the study

Gates Foundation CEO letter includes Common Core. Peter Thiel gave a commencement speech at Hamilton. Thankfully he didn’t start by telling the assembled graduates they had just wasted four years and tens of thousands of dollars. Instead, his advice is pretty good.

Paul Tough has a new book out, here’s a taste via The Atlantic .

New Education Next is on the shelves. Among other things Ladner and Smith discuss ESAs. How long does it take for teachers to get tenure away? NCTQ rolls up the timelines for you, may surprise you!

Marguerite Roza on charters and school finance: 

The situation, however, isn’t hopeless. Districts like LAUSD can escape this downward fiscal spiral.

They can start by restructuring their school budgets to automatically expand and contract with enrollment. Instead of apportioning a fixed number of staff to each school, allocations can be made in per-pupil terms. In dozens of districts including in San Francisco, Denver, Boston and Houston, district money is equitably distributed in per pupil increments across schools, weighting for factors like poverty, homelessness or English-learner status.

The First Lady on youth sports. Am I the only one who thinks a Michelle Obama – Amanda Ripley sports debate would be fantastic?

Really cool travel toiletry case.  Big shark on tour.  Centenarian 100-yard dash champion. Today in bear sex.


May 19, 2016

PARCC In The Open, Aldeman Calls BS On Finance, Telegenic Brown, Click Gets Her Muscle At Last, Chicago, Wolfe Of Wonk Street, Lousy OH Charter, Lousy Choice Rules, Elite Schools And Low-Income Students, Homeschooling, And More. Plus, Llamas and Physics!

New York Times headline on…..May 17th, 2016: Mississippi District Ordered to Desegregate Its Schools.

So a PARCC test got released and everyone is upset. Predictable. But here’s the buried lede: A professor at Columbia Teachers College apparently doesn’t get that you don’t have “Constitutional First Amendment rights” to publish IP you don’t own. Others don’t get this either. Presumably if people started publishing her books online for anyone to read without paying that might bring some clarity? You can criticize the tests all you want – that’s an important First Amendment protected activity – but you’re not allowed to take another’s property, that’s not a free speech right! And if you’re going to do it at least just say, I realize what I’m doing but think it’s too important not to.  Or at least please don’t teach civics.

In any event, PARCC understandably wants to protect their IP and state dollars. There are sample questions around so while I personally think more transparency is better to demystify the tests PARCC is at least making an effort to communicate about the tests in a way you don’t generally see. They’re also a Bellwether client, btw, but on operational issues not on test design or IP.

Elsewhere in bad behavior can we stop referring to Campbell Brown in sexist terms? She is telegenic, sure, and you know what else? She’s also quite competent so you can disagree with her on substance without invoking her looks.

Chad Aldeman on why we can’t have nice things:

The distinction that Weingarten and Garcia are making, but that they’re unable to say publicly, is that they support equitable funding across districts but not within them. These are separate issues, but they both contribute to school funding disparities.

As progressives, it makes sense that union leaders would support equity in general, but there’s no good reason for why that moral impulse should stop at school district borders. Instead, this seeming contradiction can be explained by the fact that fixing within-district disparities would inevitably touch on issues of teacher compensation and teacher placement that are under the purview of locally negotiated teacher labor contracts. Districts could address within-district inequities in lots of ways — they could offer higher salaries to teachers in poorer schools, they could have lower class sizes in poorer schools, or they could expand other services within poorer schools — but local teachers’ union contracts often prohibit all of these policy options.

Sawchuk and Superville are all over Chicago.  History and status quo here. Local color and perspective here. Chicago has been really significant to the education world and its politics over the last few years so keep an eye on all this.

The winner of the Fordham wonk contest, Christy Wolfe, on all the great things states “can” do under ESSA provisions.

What took you so long! The Times discovers one of Ohio’s bad actors in the charter sector. Notice the lack of defenders of the school other than its operator – that’s a key part of the story in Ohio and relates to the reform bill that is mentioned only in passing.

This seems sort of screwed up.   Elsewhere a Nevada judge upholds the state’s new education savings account policy.  And lots of conflict at Central Park East.

Melissa Click is finally getting some muscle over here! From the AAUP.

ACT and UNCF on college and career readiness for African-American students (pdf).  How the transgender bathroom debate is playing out in one VT school.  Nick Anderson looks at low-income students at elite schools.  Boston Globe on the same dynamics from last year.  Republican Hill leaders rattling the cage on ESSA rulemaking (pdf).  Broad charter prize finalists announced.  Pension reform back on the table in PA.  Wisconsin’s Supreme Court rules in state ed chief governance dispute there. Homeschooling is all over the place from really good to really irresponsible.

Llama Llama likes Whitney Houston. Virginia woman dissatisfied with the 2016 candidates. And if you get a bunch of people to send you money, like a million dollars, that you then bury in your backyard while you’re “treating” them for curses with the promise to return it later when they’re cured. Well, that’s OK. If you spend the money instead and don’t return it? That’s fraud. And if you’re a psychic you should know this is what’s going to happen to you.


May 17, 2016

Today In Victory Laps, New NAEP, TNTP Fishman Winners, It’s Always A Waterfront Real Estate Deal…Transportation, Public Impact On Restarts, Opportunity Culture, NASBE Data And Maps!

Really, who amongst us wouldn’t want 32 acres of lakefront property in New England? Jane Sanders apparently did, too, for the college she led but the financing for it seems to have been the final straw in the shaky finances of that school. The conventional wisdom is now that this will be a big problem for her husband – who is running for President of the United States as a Democrat. Maybe, but it’s hard to see voters who apparently didn’t care about his infeasible free college plan now caring that much about the meltdown of a small college his wife parted ways with half a decade ago. Aren’t they as likely to think the opposite? This is exactly why we need free college! It is worth asking why the media didn’t dig into this sooner, the college’s financial struggles are public record and have been for some time. But the race on the Democratic side isn’t about issues like this.

First Daenerys Targaryen and Sansa Stark and now the news that 8th-grade girls outperformed boys on the new Technology and Engineering Literacy NAEP. That’s getting headlines but a lot of interesting information in here  - don’t miss the student experience data.

Today in victory laps: Broader, Bolder says we’re done with all that accountability talk and back to improving schools without all these awkward conversations about teaching and learning. Thank goodness, will be so much more pleasant for everyone! Apparently an agenda of real accountability and choice along with an array of social policy supports remains too much to ask for…Also, the inconvenient evidence from places like Harlem Children’s Zone remains, schools matter, too! Anyhow, the rhetoric is apparently changing:

Ultimately, Clinton’s unadulterated support of teachers unions and improving teaching conditions show just how rapidly the rhetoric is changing on the Democratic side, both in speeches directed at teachers and in the wider public discourse.

Kevin Carey on all the confused politics here. It’s all about the kids!

TNTP Fishman Prize winners! Some short profiles of ideas on fighting inequality with education tools.

DK Foundation on the importance of transportation policy to students. Significant and underdressed issue in many communities.

New resources on school restarts from Public Impact. Also, Opportunity Culture teachers and their views all in one place at RealClearEducation. 

In New York City it’s an enormous struggle to get rid of sex offenders in schools but they apparently can get rid of the readers fast.

New resource on state policy – database of policies –  from NASBE.

USGS Topo maps are tools, art, and more!


May 16, 2016

Willingham On Ed Tech, Race And Gifted Education, Private School Choice Effects, Transgender Bathroom Debate, Internships And Exploitation, TX Finance. Buffaloed!

I posted an edujob this morning and there are more further down the page.

Dan Willingham takes no prisoners:

It’s time to admit we don’t know what we’re doing when it comes to educational technology.

Here’s a new meta analysis on research on private school choice effects (pdf). A multi-classroom teacher looks back.

Dual enrollment and Pell grants.

One media climate thought on the unfolding transgender bathroom debate. Shark attacks are never more prevalent than when the media decides to focus on them. What I mean is that as this debate plays out I suspect we may see the same thing with bathroom assaults. Some intrepid analyst should figure out what the baseline for assaults in public restrooms is, because it does happen (unrelated to any transgender issues), but in the current environment you can bet any new episode will get more and distorted attention. We see this with school violence now, individual episodes are highlights, without context, and create a misleading narrative about what’s actually going (or rather not going) on.

Meanwhile, Ed Kilgore thinks the whole thing is political rope a dope. Ross Douthat not so sure.

In The Washington Post a look at unpaid internships and paid college credit. I took a look at unpaid internships earlier this year in USN.  I’ve been on a few sides of this supervising credit-bearing internships (and independent study projects) among other things. Colleges aren’t wrong when they say it costs money to run oversee programs like this. But they neglect to mention that many of these programs have no real oversight at all. Sometimes someone from the college is involved to make sure the educational components of the internship are real and check in on the student experience. Other times, no contact once the internship starts or even as the student is securing it in the first place. So as with some other internship issues the bright lines are less useful as a marker than the structure of individual programs, which can be good or exploitive.

Ron Ferguson on reducing racial disparities in gifted education.  Evergreen: It’s often hard out there for recent college graduates. Yet somehow they muddle through.  On the recent Texas finance decision Sandy Kress starts with Dostoyevsky and ends with chess. John King on diversity in the teaching force.

On the big education equity question of our age, “whose lawyers are smarter?” here’s CRS with their take (pdf).

Pre-K choice: 

a shocking number of preschools in the area employed teachers who divide their attention between more than one student instead of dedicating all their time to the education, care, and positive mental stimulation of her son

Most successful woman on Everest ever cleans houses in the northeast.

Last week I pointed to a link mocking tourists for getting too close to bison in Yellowstone. Apologies for such a narrow interpretation, apparently they’re actually suitable as house pets. But not this people, please…


Edujob: Director Of Talent At MN Comeback

Here’s an interesting edujob: Director of Talent at MN Comeback.

From the JD:

Compelled to improve educational outcomes and narrow these gaping educational disparities, a coalition of 26 funders and local leaders convened in 2012 to identify the highest-impact levers for transformation. Calling this initiative MN Comeback, the group committed to ensuring that every student – initially focused on Minneapolis ­– would have access to a high-performing school, and set a multi-sector (traditional district, charter, and independent schools) goal of delivering 30,000 rigorous and relevant seats by 2025.

Today, these leaders, donors, and organizational partners are aligned in support of meaningful, systems-level change in Minneapolis. Owing to a seasoned, committed executive director, talented, growing staff, and millions of dollars in existing funding, MN Comeback is well on its way to transform education in Minneapolis.

Learn more and learn how to apply or nominate via this link. 


May 13, 2016

Transgender Restroom Debate And Schools, Pension Costs And Teacher Pay, Harvard’s Club Scene, Campus Speech, Ben Riley Has A Clicker! ESAs, WI English Prof On The Go, Parenting Today, And More!

Chad Aldeman has an important new analysis of how pension debt affects teacher salaries. Here’s the The Atlantic on the new analysis and some of the issues it points up. The entire paper is here (pdf).

So overall expenditures are up, but teacher salaries are actually down slightly over the same period. Today, the average public school teacher earns $56,689 annually, a couple hundred dollars less than the average teacher salary 20 years ago (in constant dollars).

Why is this happening? This puzzle can be explained by three trends eating into teachers’ take- home pay: rising health care costs, declining student/teacher ratios, and rising retirement costs…

It’s counterintuitive, but rising teacher retirement costs have not translated into better teacher retirement bene ts. That’s because 90 percent of public school teachers are enrolled in de ned bene t pension plans where a teacher’s retirement bene t is based on a formula, not on contributions into the plan. In fact, at the same time retirement contributions are at an all-time high, states are actively cutting bene ts, and the majority of contributions into teacher pension plans today are going to pay down existing debt. Today, states are paying an average of 12 percent of each teacher’s salary just for debt costs. If states didn’t face these large debts, they could a ord to give that money back to teachers in the form of higher salaries—an average of $6,801 for every public school teacher in America.

As you may have heard, the Obama Administration issued a guidance letter today on transgender students and restrooms. Hot issue lately. Keep in mind that for the most part the kids seem to be way ahead of the adults on this one. Unfortunately with some of the rhetoric you wouldn’t realize we were talking about a policy affecting kids. And aah Texas…..big issue in Texas.

Ben Riley on the science of learning and cheesy kickers. Whatever you think of ESA’s as a mechanism they seem to single an unbundling trend in education that bears watching.

University of Wisconsin Madison English chair on why she’s leaving the school:

I myself am now leaving the University of Wisconsin after 14 years. At my new university in another state, I will have stronger tenure protections than I now have here. I will earn about 50 percent more than my current salary for the same job. And I will be free from the strange crazy-making double-speak that on one hand demands that higher education deliver value like a business, and on the other hand, methodically prevents it from doing so.

Michael Bloomberg and Charles Koch on free speech on campus:

During college commencement season, it is traditional for speakers to offer words of advice to the graduating class. But this year the two of us—who don’t see eye to eye on every issue—believe that the most urgent advice we can offer is actually to college presidents, boards, administrators and faculty.

Our advice is this: Stop stifling free speech and coddling intolerance for controversial ideas, which are crucial to a college education—as well as to human happiness and progress…

…The continued march of justice and progress depends on free speech, open minds and rational discourse. Colleges and universities—and those who hold their degrees—have helped lead the way for most of this nation’s history. The well-being of future generations of Americans depends on the preservation of that great legacy.

MA high school student on inclusiveness:

 It’s the common things that allow us to have empathy and compassion for others—and these are the emotions that make inclusion easy. If we can look into the eyes of a tiger, a seal, or a gorilla and feel empathy and compassion, it is because we’re noticing how like us they are. So we should all the more be able to look into the eyes of a stranger, a teacher, or a classmate, with consummate compassion, empathy, and human delight.

And yet we are so often unable to do so (as I often am). Why? I want to argue that, ironically, it’s because of a popular rhetoric for inclusion.

In case you missed it,  new Whiteboard Advisors Education Insider survey data (pdf). And in U.S. News I took a look at Harvard’s new single gender policy and whether it’s part of a trend. Interesting conversation about this with a colleague today who made the point that colleges are places that are at the vanguard of values and should make statements and stands on things like this. I think that’s right but the students should take it upon themselves to do that not look to the administration. Freedom of association also carries the freedom to disassociate and to organize – for instance to organize to protest these organizations or, for instance, for Harvard’s athletes to make a stand themselves rather than have one created by the administration. They could hire the University of Missouri’s football players as consultants…Here’s Charles Lane on the same issue.

Parenting today?

Think about it. As a kid, what was your costume for Halloween? If you were really lucky, your mom jabbed a pair of scissors in an old sheet, cut two eye holes, and you were a ghost. If her friend was coming over to frost her hair and showed up early, you got one eye hole cut and spent the next 45 minutes using a sharp stick to jab a second hole that was about two inches lower than its partner. I watched my cousin run directly into a parked car due to this very costume one year. He was still yelling, “Trick or Treat” as he slid down the rear quarter panel of a Buick, mildly concussed. When my son was 3 years old, we had a clown costume made by a seamstress, complete with pointy clown hat, and grease makeup. His grandmother spent more having that costume made than she did on my prom dress.

At some point in the last 25 years, the tide shifted and the parents started getting the marginal cars and the cheap clothes while the kids live like rock stars.


May 12, 2016

New Pre-K Data, Lake On NOLA, Mitchel On PA BS, MA Ed Politics, CRPE On The ‘Burbs, Trumpism Everywhere, Bellwether Anniversary, Bros Attack Guinea Pig.

At U.S. News I take a look at our growing affection for authority to solve our issues or right our wrongs. It’s not just Trump.

If you’re not reading Ahead of the Heard you’re missing some great stuff on adjudicated youth, early education, policy for homeless students, and Ashley Mitchel calling BS on the rhetoric about the pending teacher law in Pennsylvania.

Just in case the charter debate wasn’t nutty enough charter critics are now getting caught up in a debate that is basically about Turkish politics.

Robin Lake on NOLA governance changes. Charlie Baker cross pressured on ed policy in Massachusetts.

Bellwether launched publicly six years ago today. There were around six of us then, now almost 60. Enduring memory: Jane Pauley hosted the discussion portion of the event and wore shoes with red soles (easily visible because she was on a riser). Left an impression with many footwear aficionados there that day at Franklin School. People still mention it!

CRPE on the suburbs.   Catalyst from the Bush Center looks at education in the North American context.

Mathematica getting in the blog game. “Evidence In Action” focuses on what the name suggests.

New annual NIEER report on pre-k out today. A lot of data. Sara Mead with some analysis. Big release event today in New York City. At the risk of being impolitic I’ll just say it: If you want to expand access to high-quality pre-K and convince the skeptics that this is not just a jobs program, having the head of a teachers union that needs this membership growth and Mayor de Blasio headline the event might not be your best strategy. And I say that as someone who supports a robust system of pre-K.

If you haven’t checked in on 4.0Schools lately you should. More than just awesome headbands.

When bros attack: “At least 10 members of a high school lacrosse team in Michigan have been questioned about the possible guinea pig slaying…”


Harvard’s New Single Gender Policy & Trumpism

In U.S. News and World Report  I take a look at the trend toward wanting to make sure that those we disagree with “pay a price” rather than letting the course of human relations sort some of our differences out. Whether it’s Sanders wanting to jail all the bankers – but being unable to say based on what statute, the rising support among young people for governmental controls on speech, or Harvard deciding that if you join a single gender club you can’t have a leadership position in campus life or athletics.

…Harvard’s clubs, fraternities and sororities are not especially sympathetic, but that’s exactly the point. You don’t need to be a fan of private clubs, Greek life, Donald Trump or abhorrent hate speech toward minorities to discern a disturbing pattern here: At a time when Americans of all political stripes are frustrated with our politics, the authoritarian response to the other is increasingly the default one…

…Trump likes to say how those who don’t do things his way will pay a price. It lands like the threat it’s intended to be. But is it really that different than Harvard’s administration telling students if they join a certain club they’ll pay a price in terms of opportunities open to them, or Sanders blurring the lines between what’s gross and what’s illegal? The answer shouldn’t turn on whose name is on the letterhead.

You can read the entire thing here – without paying a price! If you’re a member of a secret club at Harvard  or a Trump supporter in higher education you certainly can’t divulge that! But you can tell me on Twitter why we should ban those clubs and jail all the bankers.


May 11, 2016

Trump And Teacher Shortages. Maybe College Isn’t So Bad? Charter Graduation Rates, NY Eval, Pensions And Young Trucks

The Times takes a look at high school graduates in today’s economy. Not as romantic as you may have heard on the D.C. think tank circuit. Also, keep an eye on the number of young men out of school and the workforce. Big issue.

Arizona testing news. More yardsticks to choose from there. Pretty sweet high school stadium in Texas. And for $62 million it ought to be.

NCTQ turns the knife:

Just like the media handed off most of its airtime and column inches to elevate Donald Trump’s candidacy, so too is the media guilty of announcing a crisis in teacher supply when the facts just don’t support it.

Despite all the noise pensions are sticking with hedge funds. Anyone on any board that has to manage an endowment will understand why, there are only so many places to deploy money right now and it’s an attractive opportunity.

Act as your own lawyer you have a fool for a client they say. But what about acting as your spouse’s lawyer? In a teacher evaluation case? Of course that’s not really the point of this New York court decision tossing out a teacher evaluation based on test scores. It’s largely a moot issue because of policy changes afoot in New York but still interesting.

There is a debate over charter schools and graduation rates in the wake of the new GradNation report. The usual lack of context. There are charter high schools with great rates and awful ones. But the real issue is accountability and oversight. If a school, charter or otherwise, is serving a niche population then it ought to have an accountability plan that reflects that and we should look at the data accordingly. For instance if a school serves 100 percent students who have already dropped out then we should consider its graduation rates with that in mind. And you want to recognize that some schools, virtual and otherwise, are serving students who have been ill-served by the traditional system. But, accountability loopholes create a place for bad actors to hide and “alternative” can mean too many things in today’s environment. For most schools the same rules should apply. High quality charter school oversight offers some lessons here about how to address genuinely niche schools.

Blast from the past, 13-year old plays Layla. Lenny Dykstra is now on Twitter.


May 10, 2016

Obama At Howard, Remediation Everywhere, Lisa Hansel On Knowledge Matters, Trump Philantrhopy, The Study Racket, Teacher Turnover, Charter Grad Rates,

If you have not read President Obama’s remarks at Howard University’s commencement last weekend they are well worth the time. Covers a lot of ground and a few ongoing debates but really interesting take on things and obvious education implications.

So it turns out remedial education is not just for other people’s kids. Are people more likely to be open with you about their sex lives and personal finances than about the mediocre quality of education in many allegedly high-end communities and schools? Kinda seems that way!

Here’s a wonderful LA Times story:

Headline: Union-commissioned report says charter schools are bleeding money from traditional ones

Lede: A teachers union-funded report on charter schools concludes that these largely nonunion campuses are costing traditional schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District millions of dollars in tax money.

Third graf: The union gave The Times the study in advance of its scheduled presentation at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, with the stipulation that the report not be distributed to outside parties.

Last two grafs: The MGT report, which cost $82,000, doesn’t fault charters, saying that the problems have more to do with state and federal policies as well as district decisions.

But in the policy brief, the union takes a more aggressive tone, arguing for changes that include full funding from the federal government for disabled students and equitable distribution of these dollars by the state; more money for charter oversight — either from the state or from charters; and charging higher district fees, where possible, to charters.

If you think your report can withstand methodological scrutiny this is not how you release it*…I get that the reporter is telegraphing to intelligent readers what’s going on but still…it sounds like the report doesn’t even fit the headline.

Lisa Hansel on why knowledge matters and how you can get involved in the effort to improve curriculum. NASBE on data. Nelson Smith on charter school graduation rates.

You should sit down when you read this: Popularity of Ed Tech Not Necessarily Linked to Products’ Impact. I know! No way right?

Today in false choices and reductionist debates. Can’t we fix archaic personnel rules and improve incentives and comp for teachers? And why do we assume great teachers don’t want a performance-oriented work environment? Plenty of evidence they do. Besides, the worst offenders on painting teaching as some dystopian experience are the self-proclaimed advocates for teachers. It’s among the more challenging jobs to do well but the rhetoric is misaligned from the data about career and job satisfaction.

Related, here’s Chad Aldeman with some data on teacher turnover. As a byproduct of our work on pensions we have a lot of good data on teacher workforce trends. Contact me if you want to learn more if it would be useful for your work.

At an EWA discussion last week about the election I suggested that in the absence of clear education policy positions from Donald Trump (sorry, repealing the “federal Common Core” doesn’t count as one) aspects of his record like personal philanthropy might offer some clues. Randi Weingarten of the AFT said that in her time in New York he was AWOL on the ed scene. This media story highlights one Trump Foundation education beneficiary, but it’s a private school in NYC.

Another look at New Orleans changes. NASSP is proposing a policy on transgendered students. Debate over Florida’s tax credit scholarship program.

Bonnie O’Keefe goes looking for stakes.

Buffaloes and tourists.

*At Bellwether, in case you’re wondering, for transparency we release reports immediately when they’re cited in the press so readers can make up their own minds and people can go through them. Many orgs do the same thing.


May 9, 2016

Newark Teacher Tells All! Hedge Funds, Student Loans, Whiteboard Education Insider Data, Private School Sexual Abuse, Grad Data, School Names, Testing & Choice, And Math and Mercury.

New Whiteboard Advisors Education Insider survey out (pdf). Fun look at who the next Secretary of Education might be in a Clinton or Trump administration. Also a lot on higher education policy and testing and a look at what to expect in education attention for the rest of the year.

John Troy on why he works in education.

The changes coming in NOLA.

A Newark teacher tells all:

I have taught in Newark’s district schools for 17 years. Currently, I am in a school that works on behalf of the students. I would love to say that this is a consistent practice; but that is not the case in many schools…

…This is why I am also one of the thousands of Newark’s parents who have chosen to send my child to a Newark public charter school. My son is 13 years old and attends Link Community Charter School…

If you think that hedge funds are the root of all evil you will be happy to see how much education money is going into fighting them. My hypothesis: This debate is like the one that plays out in a lot of dysfunctional states overseas where some external bogeyman (often the U.S.) is constantly trotted out as the real problem basic services can’t be delivered and things are a mess. There’s plenty not to like about finance these days but they’re not to blame for the quality of the schools.

Also, when you read this 74 look at the hedge fund debate it’s impossible to miss how much New York politics drive national education politics these days because of the strong AFT-UFT ties.

New Grad Nation report with data, a look at key challenges, and where the nation is on the 2020 graduation rate goal.

Debate over GMU’s decision to name its law school after the late Justice Scalia. Jay Greene and Mike Petrilli are debating how much test scores should be used to evaluate schools in a choice environment. As I’ve mentioned, among the many ironies in the education conversation today is how it’s school choice that is providing the most robust evidence for critics of test-based accountability.  But they can’t use it because, well, politics.

The Spotlight team is now looking at sexual abuse at private New England boarding schools:

So far this year, at least eight New England private schools have launched or disclosed sexual misconduct investigations. At least five of the probes — at St. George’s School in Rhode Island, Taft School in Connecticut, Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, Thayer Academy in Braintree, and Concord Academy in Concord — have led to staff members being placed on administrative leave or fired.

The troubles go way beyond those institutions. At least 67 private schools in New England have faced accusations since 1991 that staffers sexually abused or harassed more than 200 students, the Spotlight Team found through an examination of court cases, as well as interviews with alumni, relatives, school officials, and attorneys.

Do colleges need more skin in the game on higher ed finance?

This:

In this true parable of 2016 I see another worrisome lesson, albeit one also possibly relevant to Trump’s appeal: That in America today, the only thing more terrifying than foreigners is…math.

Mercury transit today. 


May 6, 2016

Edujob: Vice President & Managing Director of the Education Technology Industry Network (ETIN)

SIIA is hiring for a Vice President & Managing Director of the Education Technology Industry Network (ETIN).

It’s an outfacing role. From the JD:

The ETIN Division’s VP and Managing Director’s mission is to drive strategic direction, programs and initiatives for the company members focused on providing technology products and services to the K20 markets, including managing the activities, including conferences, membership, research, publications, education policy, market and business issues, networking and public relations activities, and to represent the Division at industry events within the SIIA and at affiliated organizations.

Learn more and apply here. 


Centrist Reform, Tenure Lawsuit Joined, Mehlhorn On The Schools You Deserve, New Pahara Fellows, Educator Demographics, Math PD, High School Achievement, Cheerleading Lawsuits, Surveys Of Teachers & Parents, Education R & D, What Did Paterno Know When? Plus Doorbell Ringing Alligators!

It’s a rainy May 6th in the east. On this date in 1968 Neil Armstrong had to punch out of a lunar lander trainer and was almost killed. He was back at his desk an hour later…

New Class of Pahara – Aspen education fellows announced this week. More here.

Cool math PD here. BrightBytes partnering with iKeepSafe on student data privacy.

Department of Education report on educator demographics.

Paul Hill & Ashley Jochim on maintaining centrist education reform. Marilyn Rhames on Walton and Chicago. Dmitri Mehlhorn on raising our aspirations for public schools. President of the Minneapolis NAACP joins the anti-tenure lawsuit there. And Joe Nathan says charters are turning out to be Minnesota nice. Andrew Kelly says the sky is still not falling on student loans.

Blagg and Chingos say pay attention to the NAEP high school results:

The data strongly suggest that stagnant achievement among high school students is a real phenomenon. This result is consistent across different versions of NAEP and with other achievement tests and does not appear to result from changes in who is taking the test (e.g., as a result of rising high school graduation rates), flaws in test design and administration, or declining student effort.

Hunger strike to protest for disability rights at Princeton. Jim Shelton to lead the Zuckerberg – Chan education work. Pension funds should be thanking charter schools.

New NWEA survey of parental views on testing (pdf). Emmeline Zhao takes a look:

Educators working in low-income districts, however, are more likely to worry about too much testing than those who teach in middle- and high-income districts. This difference in perception across teachers and parents in the same communities, researchers say, show that while the potential exists for closing opportunity gaps with tests, the connection between promoting equity through assessments isn’t perfectly linear. And overall, teachers, principals, and superintendents worry far more than parents and students about overtesting.

Here’s a CEP survey of teachers. 

Lifeguard pensions:

….he rescued several people over the years, he said, while maintaining a high level of physical fitness and risking skin cancer from prolonged exposure to the sun. His lifeguard pension should not be viewed any differently from the larger pension he is collecting after 25 years of teaching in public schools.

Harvard is barring members of single gender clubs from student leadership positions. Possible First Amendment violation and controversial. Also means no recommendations for key scholarships and opportunities including Rhodes. Stay tuned.

Here’s a GIF of Illinois teacher workforce data. Mayoral control pushback in New York City. New evidence about what Coach Paterno knew when. The sorry state of education R & D. Alex Medler says don’t forget about authorizing in the charter – district collaboration conversation.

The United States Supreme Court is going to determine if cheerleading uniforms are art. Real money riding on the outcome.

Alligator goes door knocking. Wild turkey apparently looking for Wild Turkey?


May 4, 2016

ESSA Fiscal Battle Joined, Santelises To Baltimore, Fresh Voices, Hindus, NOLA, Daly On Grades, Gap Years, Prom Rules, And Meteors!

A lot of news today at RealClearEducation.

Department of interesting and fresh voices: Kai-leé Berke on the impact of early childhood educators.  And here’s the story of Escuela de la Raza Unida.

The Secretary of Education is in US Weekly.

In a big loss to the D.C. policy scene but big win for Baltimore Sonja Santelises is becoming schools CEO there.

Ed Navigator’s Tim Daly on school grades and what they don’t reveal:

What is a good school?

There’s no simple answer.  Families have different priorities. Children have different needs.  A school that’s perfect for one student may be perfectly awful for another.

This is a real challenge when it comes to rating schools, which aren’t good or bad in an absolute sense, typically.  If we can’t capture everything a family might value, should we not rate schools at all?  We could go that way.  But then how would families make informed choices about where to send their kids?

Write up on the recent DC luncheon for Afghan educator Sakena Yacoobi.

Gap years in the news: Gap year pros and cons. 

California school’s prom king and queen election becoming a flashpoint:

Even though she and her girlfriend were nominated to become this year’s prom king and queen, Lack, who enjoys overwhelming support from fellow students, has been told by school administrators that she’s ineligible, according to the Redding Record Searchlight.

The reason, administrators told the paper, is that having two members of one gender would exclude the other.

“Their argument doesn’t make sense to me,” Lack told the Searchlight. “We don’t need a female on the football team or a male cheerleader to be fair — why do we need a guy when the couple nominated is a female couple?”

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this is the apparent comfort level of the students juxtaposed with the school administration’s response. Hello generational change.

The crime rate in schools is not going up up up up up! Here’s an AEI take on the charter autonomy debate in Louisiana. Here’s EdBuild on resource disparities in education. The Hindu American Foundation has a guide out on common misconceptions you find in school curriculum about Hindus. This is purely anecdotal, but in some public processes I’ve been involved in, officials snap to for the usual panoply of education interest groups but blow stuff like this off when it’s raised.

The ESSA fiscal fight is now joined. Andrew Ujifusa looks at the money at stake.

Meteors tonight.


May 3, 2016

EduJob – Comms Partner At Ed Cities

Ed Cities is hiring a partner to lead communications there. Led by Ethan Gray it’s a virtual org so you can work from anywhere. From the JD:

The Partner, Communications is responsible for developing and executing a sophisticated internal and external communications strategy on behalf of Education Cities. He or she will also advise organizations across the Education Cities network through direct advising projects and by building a community of practice for communications staff at member organizations.

He or she will report to the Founder and CEO and be a member of the Education Cities leadership team.

You can learn more about the organization and how to apply here. 


Teacher Cheating, Teachers Pushing Back On Discipline, Child Care Versus College, AFT Versus Pearson And Hedge Funds, Opt-Out And Race, Census Problems, RAND On Retirement, Lerum Wants His Money Back, Not Free Community College, Plus More! Also, Dog Makes Different Life Choices

Sara Mead asks why we pay so much attention to college costs and so much less to child care costs? Kids get under-counted in the census and the problem is especially acute for Hispanic students.  This matters for a host of reasons, including how federal funds get distributed for educational initiatives and education politics more generally.

Teacher pushback on the discipline reform thrust.

Maggie Thornton prods Virginia to step up its education game.  Cynthia Tucker Haynes on opt-out and race. Common standards and military families. Free, in a way, community college in Boston.

Bloomberg takes on safe spaces.  NPR looks at Words Unlocked, a cool poetry initiative for incarcerated students.

Politics versus economics? Warren Buffet says Trump’s OK.  Andrew Sullivan says  he’s an extinction level event for democracy.

One of public education’s great shibboleths is this idea that all public schools happily take all kids and that’s why we can’t have choice. In practice special education students and others with special needs are concentrated in various programs. That often makes great sense and improves quality. But there is a darker side as well – adjudicated students returning to school, homeless students, and various kinds of migrant students often find themselves unwelcome. AP takes a look at how that’s playing out for migrant students. I remember one “there are no American tanks in Baghdad” style conversation I had with a school official, that occurred within a mile of a migrant camp, and he told me there are no migrant students in his community…This idea of balancing choice and specialization with mass service is going to become an even bigger issue going forward for this sector and we’re not even very good at talking about it let alone designing equitable and effective policies.

Meanwhile, charters and special education.

Here’s a story with the headline saying it’s about the good news behind bad test scores. But then there isn’t really good news? Maybe the good news is that the test score releases allow for stories like this? Good news if you’re a journalist. The article suggests we just can’t ignore achievement gaps any longer. But that’s only good news if you have no sense of educational history or educational politics. The sector really excels at ignoring and minimizing those issues.

Anyway, guess what? the achievement gap is a problem in all communities, including affluent ones? So why did we pass ESSA? Oh, right…Interactive version of the data here.

Here are some findings from a new NBER study on teacher cheating that won’t fit with what you read on Facebook. From open-source summary:

*The urge to nudge scores upward had nothing to do with incentives and penalties, such as those under the No Child Left Behind law, that increase the pressure of schools to deliver better results.  The patterns before and after No Child Left Behind were essentially the same.

*The primary motivation seems to have been “altruistic,” in Dee’s words: many test graders wanted to spare students they knew from the consequences of failing to graduate, particularly those with a prior record of high achievement and good behavior.

*The manipulation of test scores was more prevalent in schools with largely African-American and Latino student populations.  Indeed, it artificially narrowed the black-white gap in graduation rates.  Had there been no manipulation, the researchers estimated, the gap would have been 5 percent wider.

*Two reforms after 2011 – prohibiting teachers from grading students in their own schools, and prohibiting graders from re-scoring tests that of students who came in just below the thresholds – eliminated virtually all of the manipulation.

Also new CALDER paper looks at the impact of cheating on students. (Short version: It’s adverse).

But none of this matters because this idea of making sure kids learn in school is crazy. Here’s Jane Sanders:

 The standardized tests that they do as a marker is one thing. I think the standardized tests that they say: do you know fourth-grade English or fourth-grade history? I think is a disaster and absolutely would not support that.

I guess if you don’t know history you can’t forget it and then repeat it?  And English, c’mon! Who needs that? Especially in grade school…

Matt Levine takes a look at public pensions and political activism. Punchline: No one has any idea what’s going on:

I have never quite understood how you are supposed to run a pension fund, particularly a public pension fund. There are two basic goals:

  1. Advance the political and employment interests of the people whose money you manage (which, for a public pension, means both employees/retirees and also taxpayers/voters).
  2. Make them as much money as you can.

Sometimes those goals conflict, and when they do, they seem sort of incommensurable. Should you do what your beneficiaries (or taxpayers) would want politically, morally, or in their role as public employees? Or should you just keep your head down and make money? I don’t have any great idea of how you balance those things, and I’m not sure the California Public Employees’ Retirement System does either

I’ve asked legal and industry experts about this related to things like the AFT’s enemies list of money managers and whether that crosses lines. Consensus seems to be that it’s all bad for beneficiaries (who presumably should want their money managers only focused on managing their money as effectively as possible) but tricky legally because hedge fund performance in particular is so all over the place you can make a plausible case for dropping just about anyone at any time. Here’s more on the union versus hedgies battle. A lot of complaining about the fees but isn’t the lack of awareness about the fees from pension officials even more worrisome?

Meanwhile Pearson’s earnings are down. But the AFT-led shareholder revolt went pretty much nowhere outside of allies. I have absolutely no idea if that means you should buy or sell Pearson. You can probably argue it either way.

I used to look at the balance sheets and P & Ls for state charter associations and wonder if they were in the education advocacy business or the insurance business. Now, I look at the AFT and wonder if they’re a union representing teachers or some sort of activist investment project. Good thing there are no core educational problems in our sector that need solving.

RAND tries to model retirement policies and teacher retention.

Speaking of money Eric Lerum says you should consider asking for yours back on K-12 in the U.S.

Today in “No this time we really really really mean it!”

Hunting dog chooses a different life.  Chimp gets sick of watching DVDs.


April 29, 2016

Friday Fish Porn – Ben And The Bruiser

IMG_3107Ben Wallerstein runs Whiteboard Advisors and is active and sought after in the education investing world, advising on a variety of deals and transactions.

He also knows his way around a fly rod and has appeared in Fish Porn a few times before. Here he is with a rainbow trout caught just this week.

Every fish picture doesn’t have to be an enormous fish. We also like scenery shots of all kinds and fun settings. Plus small fish good, too. We’ve featured plenty of those. You can scroll the archives for the world’s largest collection of education types with fish and see the variety. Send yours!


April 28, 2016

States And Talent, Less NAEP Means More NAEP? Transparency Means Better Finance? Oakland Charters, Names At Yale, Tenure And Free Speech, Prince And Students!

Christine Campbell on principals and how states think about talent in education.  Phillip Burgoyne-Allen argues for a bit less NAEP, which could mean more NAEP:

If we didn’t have the data above from 2005, 2009, and 2013 – meaning these NAEP tests were only administered every four years – would we really be missing out on much? As the graph below shows, we’d still have the same trend lines and the same idea of how math and reading performance looked over the past decade. The fact is, taking these tests every two years just isn’t very productive.

In Oakland the League of Women voters honors a charter school supporting parent advocacy organization with its Making Democracy Work award.  Either they didn’t get the memo or it’s a bold kids-first call. I think the latter.

Accountability for doing your job may make you more likely to go to work. Marguerite Roza says you can’t turn back the clock on transparency’s impact on school finance.

Noah Feldman defends a quite undesirable Florida professor fired for what looks like some off-the-wall views about the Sandy Hook shootings. Echoes of Ward Churchill. A lot going on here. The university did fire the professor but not, officially anyway, for his views but rather for paperwork issues. That seems, as Feldman points out, a troubling backdoor way to do this.

It’s certainly not cut and dry, but what about the front door? It seems central to free inquiry that you should be able to say what you want in your areas of expertise and research no matter how shocking or offensive it might be to many or to some or just a few (especially a powerful few). But it’s unclear why academic freedom should in practice be some sort of get out of jail free card to just say whatever the hell you want about anything you want? You teach rhetoric and composition, for instance, is running around saying that Israel and the U.S. were behind the 9-11 attacks integral to your academic work? Maybe so, yes, but it’s certainly not cut and dry.

I’m a strong supporter of free speech rights and protecting professors from political pressure is vital – especially in today’s climate (in higher ed tenure has other benefits, too). But, it’s worth at least asking if there are any reasonable lines here? Feldman says that when you’re teaching incorrect facts that’s one line. But the obvious question of whose facts takes you down a troublesome path pretty fast. And this is an especially complicated question when, as in this case, you’re dealing with a discipline that covers a lot of ground and issues – he was a professor of communications. A field like rhetoric or law presents the same challenge. Whether you can cloak yourself in an official state role to say anything you want about anything or whether your absolute protections should be related to your field of academic work seems like a something at least worth discussing?

In other words, I tend to agree with Feldman but the case would be stronger if higher education leaders made it with more nuance than just saying free speech and academic freedom. There is a “why” question that’s not unreasonable to ask and ought to be answered around an expansive approach here.

Elsewhere, try to figure this one out: Despite protests Yale is keeping a building named for notorious slavery advocate because that helps everyone remember or something but is also dropping a term with an etymology that long predates slavery. Critics say it’s donor pressure.

When Prince rocked LA – but just for special need students.

Elon Musk is going to Mars.


April 27, 2016

NAEPanic! Warm Milk And Cold Showers, Stipe On Campus Guns, College Signaling, Ted Cruz On Showers, Perry On NOLA, The Schools Case For Boaty!

“This is U.S. History, I see the globe right there.”

I know I’m supposed to freak out today about 12th-grade NAEP results. They’re certainly not great. 5-3 has your breakdown here. I don’t pay a great deal of attention to the 12th-grade test. All else equal would be better if scores were up but the sky is not falling any more than it was or wasn’t yesterday and this is mostly an exercise in confirmation bias and talking points. But, 5-3 points out a few under the topline things worth watching including the drop for low-achievers and a bump for ELL students. Everyone wants a referendum on Common Core but that means comparing non-CCSS states with strong implementers not overall scores.

Anyway, for fun there are really a few possible things happening here:

1)    The recent drops or stalling on various NAEP tests are just random and we should be leery of reading much of anything into them. Forward!

2)    The recent results indicate a problem and Common Core is the culprit. Course correct!

3)    The recent results are real and it means standards-based reform is reaching its substantive and/or political limits and we need to discuss other strategies – technology, far more student choice, some combination of the two. Panic! Or rejoice! (Depending on your perspective).

I lean toward 3 though. Update: Here’s the Ed Trust’s take:

“Simply put, high schools are treating graduation as the end goal for too many low-income students and students of color, rather than ensuring that all students have access to learning opportunities that will prepare them for college and the workplace,” said Daria Hall, vice president for Government Affairs and Communications at The Education Trust. “These results create a real urgency to build strong high schools that meet with students’ and parents’ future goal. Let’s not waste it.”

Might not be the end of the world as we know it, but having students carrying guns around campuses doesn’t seem like a very good idea. Here’s Michael Stipe on that. A lot of booze, young adults, new and sometimes stressful situations, and firearms, what could possibly go wrong?

The evidence on merit pay is not as cut and dry as you probably heard on Twitter.

Here’s one of these education articles that feels like a warm milk bath for true believers but actually makes little sense:

Want Your Kids to Get a Good Education? Support Their Teachers’ Workplace Rights

I do, I do! C’mon, who can be against that? Except the lawsuit in question, Vergara, turns on whether a specific set of policies that are almost universally regarded as problematic are, in fact, unconstitutional. Even striking them down still leaves teachers with workplace rights. At issue are specific tenure and dismissal rules around performance.

But would you go for an article that said, “If you want your money to grow fast, leave bankers alone?” Sensible personnel policies in education are no more at odds with good education as sensible financial regulation is with economic growth. (By the way, if the teachers unions in California were so concerned about stability for students and all that why did they fight the Reed case in LA to help prevent poor kids from having too much teacher turnover because of LIFO laws?)

Ted Cruz and the shower scene.

Howard University is giving students 50 percent of final semester’s tuition back if they graduate on time or early.

Andre Perry on the unfolding debate about local input and New Orleans schools. Should young farmers get enhanced loan forgiveness?

Nuance on college debt and signaling:

America’s astronomical student loan debt makes headlines regularly, but most of this debt is held by students who hold degrees and have the means to pay the debt back. Much less well-known are the many borrowers who haven’t completed their credential. Even under income-based repayment and eventual forgiveness, these borrowers can be saddled with debt for decades, diminishing take home pay, marring credit, and otherwise restricting their options. Arming prospective college students with better information about the likelihood of success can help families and policymakers better allocate resources while safeguarding open access to higher education.

The education case for Boaty McBoatface: It will get kids interested in science!


April 26, 2016

Barth Challenges Higher Ed, VA Teacher Data Lawsuit, Pensions Challenge IL, Cruz On Edu, Richmond On Equity, Today In Education Political Counterfactuals, And More. Plus Free Willie!

This video might teach you something about pensions - and it’s must-watch for teachers. New DQC report on student data.

Richard Barth calls on colleges to get serious about helping low-income students get a leg up:

Imagine if leaders at 40 of the most selective colleges in the country stepped up, with a commitment to create 100 new spots at each of their schools and combined that with a significant effort to expose talented low-income students to their institutions. That’s the equivalent of adding two Harvard or Yale freshman classes.

Seats for 4,000 new students might not seem like a lot, on a national scale. But the echo effect in low-income communities, among other colleges, and on the makeup of the nation’s future leadership, would be tremendous.

Parent suing in Virginia over data transparency for teacher performance information prevails.  It’s very easy to misuse data like this so now comes the hard part. But, Virginia officials wouldn’t be in this position if the state were more transparent and parent-friendly with regard to education to begin with. If you think this is a wound, then it’s at least in part self-inflicted.

There seems to be a problem with pensions in Illinois? Emily Richmond on equity and equality. Ted Cruz’s education views. Hailly Korman on a new toolkit to help adjudicated students transition.

Counterfactual of the day: LAT’s Howard Blume looks at Network for Public Education’s decision to hold a meeting in North Carolina rather than boycott over the state’s recent anti-LGBT law. There are ironies on top of ironies with this whole NC episode in terms of corporate behavior individual choices and all the rest and reasonable people can disagree about whether boycotting or not is the best or most effective approach to addressing the new law. But, I can’t help but wonder if all the people ratifying the decision to hold an education meeting there would be as forgiving or giving of cover if it was, say, DFER or Students First or for that matter Pearson or some other unpopular for-profit player who decided to hold a meeting in NC?

In terms of this specific decision my take is more pedestrian: It’s a real hassle to reschedule a conference, scheduling, hotel deposits, non-refundable travel and all, so this is a pretty handy ex-post facto justification to sidestep all that and still have your meeting  - ‘We’re the real heroes here! We were going to the belly of the beast!’

Don’t let the public name anything? The Austin School Board has final say in renaming Robert E. Lee Elementary there but they asked for public input and here is what they got. Trump won in a landslide but there were some inspired choices including Schooly McScoolerson and Willie Nelson Elementary. Boaty McBoatface got a vote, too. Willie is overdue for a school, I could get behind that. Don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys is as useful as anything you’re going to get from many ed schools…

Chesapeake Bay whale.


April 25, 2016

The Pope & School Choice, One-L McLaughlin And Research, Aldeman & FAFSA, Opt-Outs, POTUS Ed Policy, Newark, Charter Authorizing, Swing Voters And Edu, When Prince Rocked Gallaudet…Plus Edu Duck Feet.

Education news all over the sector curated here, as it is each weekday, at RealClearEducation.

Pope Francis is a school choice supporter.

In Amoris Laetitia, the pontiff reiterates the church’s teaching that choice in education is a fundamental right of parents who are “called to defend and of which no one may claim to deprive them,” meaning the state must not deny parents the right to select their child’s educational path, be it public or private, regardless of their financial means.

Here’s a really interesting interview with Michele McLaughlin about education research and policy.  And here’s an awful teaching story from Alaska:

When Jennifer moved to Alaska to teach in a rural village, she didn’t know the state has the highest rate of reported rape in the country. Then, men started banging on her door at night.

Gosh, if only there were actual data on the opt-out movement we wouldn’t have to speculate about demographics. Anecdotes more fun though.

Chad Aldeman has your state-by-state FAFSA data here.  The 74 looks at what’s happening in Buffalo.  Denver school board appointment resolution.

On Friday I took a look at all these education lawsuits in USN.

When it comes to Sanders’ free-college plan is it the wealthy feeling the bern? Bloomberg View says both Dem candidates walking away from K-12:

Neither Bernie Sanders nor Hillary Clinton is defending one of President Barack Obama’s most important legacies: education reform. Instead of taking on the teachers’ unions, as the president did, both candidates offer an agenda that amounts to spending more and demanding less. It’s not a winning combination.

In Newark, unity or machine politics? Or a new era for charters there?

Perspectives on charter school authorizing and special education.  Survey on swing voters and policy preferences from PPI. Includes education angles.

Here’s some information about adjudicated students in California – that points the need for more information to improve quality for them.

When Prince rocked Gallaudet.

Return of free debate to college campuses.

Teacher 3D prints duck feet. Really.


April 22, 2016

I’ll See You In Court! Why To Expect More Education Lawsuits Via U.S. News

Hoping for fewer education policy lawsuits? I have some bad news. Expect more. I look at why in a new U.S. News & World Report column:

….To some extent, legal battles over schools are nothing new. Special education alone is responsible for the second homes and college educations of the families of education lawyers across the country. Court cases integrated schools, paved the way for federal special education law and sorted out complicated issues like student busing assignments and student free speech and Fourth Amendment rights. Lawsuits about school finance are a full employment program for education attorneys. The current United States Secretary of Education is a lawyer!

Yet today’s lawsuits are something of an evolution. These new suits are not only about fundamental rights but also about sorting out complicated and hotly debated policy questions.

This leads to cries of foul. Some conservatives don’t want courts involved in anything that smacks of policymaking. The teachers’ unions – although themselves not shy about rushing into court – find themselves disproportionately on the receiving end of this latest round of lawsuits. Suddenly judicial restraint sounds better!

Critics are likely to be disappointed. Although it’s a strategy with political and practical risks, look for more, not fewer, lawsuits as education reform evolves. Here’s why…

You can read the entire column here. Who is your favorite eduction attorney? Someone should really market education lawsuit trading cards. You could have a whole pack these days…In the meantime tell me on Twitter who you’d like to sue over schools @arotherham.

Friday Fish Porn – Weather Warming Up, Kosar’s Already On The Water, It’s Back!

It’s warming up, that can only mean one thing around here….fish pictures. That, and the shad run is on in the east. Here’s Kevin Kosar (education analyst, whiskey expert, father extraordinaire, and perennial candidate for mayor of Fish Porn) with a nice one from the Potomac River.

Shad are an amazing fish. Here’s John McPhee’s engaging book about them and their history – and ours.  And a shorter New Yorker article. They are not much for eating, there is an old joke about wood planking them that ends with eating the smoked plank rather than the fish. But for anglers they’re a blast. Strong hard fighting anadromous fish on light tackle, or even better a fly rod. Spring weather. Hard to beat.

So send pictures of you with your fish or in the pursuit of fish. They don’t have to be as literary as the shad. We take all types. And then you’ll be added to the world’s only collection of hundreds of education types with fish they have caught.

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April 21, 2016

No Bard! Shakespeare Is Out At America’s Top Colleges, ACT V. SAT, New York Progress On LGBT, Prince In HS, Pension Problems, Nuance With Mitchel, School Board Meetings, Teaching Challenges, Bear Insults.

Here’s a bit on Prince’s high school days. He was more than just a phenomenally talented musician.

Ladies and gentleman: Your fourth largest school system.

Happy birthday William!

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni issued “The Unkindest Cut: Shakespeare in Exile 2015” a year ago this month which documented the extent to which the Bard has been barred from the priority list for English majors—both at the top 25 U.S. colleges and universities and at the top 25 U.S. colleges and universities for liberal arts, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. A scant 8 percent of the top institutions nationally require a dedicated Shakespeare course for English majors. Some of these Shakespeare-impaired English majors will eventually teach high school English, and no one seems to care that they will be doing so undereducated and underprepared.

Harvard and UC–Berkeley were the only two among the top 25 schools overall to require Shakespeare for English majors; Wellesley and the U.S. Naval Academy, the only two among the top 25 liberal arts schools.

New York is appointing an LGBT liaison for the school district.

Like a couple of hockey players you knew this ACT/SAT fight was coming.

Here’s an argument for why the volatility associated with public sector pensions is the biggest challenge. It’s an issue, to be sure. But here in education I’d argue instead that the biggest problem is that a retirement system that works for only about 20 percent of the people it touches is just not a very good retirement scheme from a design perspective. Related: Leslie Kan with some good questions on pension finance.

Ashley Mitchel looks at a complicated pre-K/charter issue in New Jersey:

The decision here isn’t obvious. And it shouldn’t be, unless you’re mindlessly pro- or anti-charter.

The idea of charters supporting students in college isn’t a new one but it’s now getting some attention.

Trigger warning for parents: Your kid may not be doing as well in school as you think.  Great moments in school board meetings.  Rick Hess is very upset with Arne Duncan.

OK, here’s a classroom management challenge you don’t see every day.

How to properly insult a bear. 


April 20, 2016

Today: Featuring Lawyers Arguing About Vergara! Plus Engaging Veteran Teachers, Petrilli V. Duncan, Barnum On LA Charters, Character Labs Edujobs, Better Blogging, And Is Boaty McBoatface Already On A Shoal?

I encourage you to show a bit of grit and check out the edujobs at Character Labs below.  Application window for the next Bellwether Better Blogging training is open.

Sharon Archer on engaging veteran teachers. Here’s Matt Barnum on charters in LA. Ignore though, it’s nothing but evidence. Mike Petrilli v. Arne Duncan. Bard debaters win again.

Chiefs for Change on Direct Student Services in ESSA.

Lawyers, arguing about Vergara:

Dmitri Mehlhorn:

Justice Boren’s understanding of the term “inevitably” appears to be sharply different from the Court’s holdings in Serrano. After all, it was conceptually possible for low-income neighborhoods to spend substantially higher portions of their incomes on property taxes. To be sure, they would “tend to” avoid doing so because of the costs and consequences, but it would have been conceptually possible for them to do so. By Justice Boren’s logic, their failure to do so was their local failure, not the failure of the California public treasury to equalize local property taxes. Justice Boren thus ignored the clear meaning of the term “inevitably” from Serrano as “inevitably given the evidence, and given a realistic and fact-based understanding of human behavior.”

Hailly Korman:

When the plaintiffs made the decision to advance a facial challenge, they took on the burden of proving that “no application of the statute would be constitutional.” In order to do so, they would have to prove that the operation of these teacher tenure laws inevitably led to the harms shown.  Proving that the harms occurred and that students suffered isn’t sufficient.  And proving that the laws contributed to them, or created the circumstances for them to occur, or made it difficult to have any other outcome also isn’t enough.

But when this court repeatedly signaled their disappointment with the high bar that plaintiffs set for themselves in choosing this approach, they may have been suggesting that they would be more sympathetic to an “as applied” challenge to the same laws.  Smart plaintiffs will take note.

Go ahead, just dial a Swede.  Boaty McBoatface is already sailing in treacherous waters.


Edujobs – @TheCharacterLab

Character Lab is growing and they’re hiring, five really interesting roles open now:
  • Director of Communications
  • Director of Design
  • Director of Education
  • Director of Research
  • Operations Coordinator

This is a great chance to be right in the middle of some of the most interesting work in education right now especially as policymakers are paying more attention to non-academic aspects of learning and, more specifically, to Angela Duckworth’s work.

About the Character Lab:

The mission of the Character Lab is to advance the science and practice of character development so that all children develop to their fullest potential.  To more fully realize our interdisciplinary vision, the Character Lab moved its physical headquarters from New York City to Philadelphia. Coincident with this move, Angela Duckworth assumed her current leadership role as Scientific Director and Donald Kamentz, a two-decade education veteran most recently with the YES Prep public charter school system in Houston, is the new Executive Director.

We have an ambitious new strategic plan, through which we will radically increase the quantity of applied research on character development, create innovative measures of character for use by both researchers and educators, and create effective and easy-to-use character development tools for educators, among other important initiatives.

You can learn more about these roles and the Character Lab here. 


April 19, 2016

Better Blogging Applications Open Now! Combative CREDO, Rhode Island, Duncan At G’Town, Ed Tech On The Inside, Forced Marriage And Pensions In Charters, Evidence And Federal Agencies, Rhames On Chicago, Lead, KIPP, 100K in 10, Cub Reporters And Big Cats!

Applications are open for the next Bellwether blog training – it’s in July.  Application deadline 5/2.  Apply ASAP, this is always over-subscribed by a substantial margin.

Marilyn Rhames is all over what’s happening in Chicago. She asks who the kids belong to anyway? And calls for a bit of political disarmament.

CREDO pushing back on misuse of its data and findings. They haven’t always done this as their results have been widely and wildly abused. And this one went out in an email blast as well.

Here’s a user-friendly guide to talking about standards via 100k in 10.  Who is using evidence? Federal What Works Index from Results For America. KIPP results.

Hailly Korman on how ed tech can help adjudicated youth. NSNO on equity and quality in the next generation of school improvement work in NOLA.  Again, the overseas student scam. Mike Petrilli says education improvement is not just about policy! Paddling still happens in schools.

Yesterday Arne Duncan and I talked school finance and education more generally at Georgetown.

Anyela Aquino can play volleyball. And a New York judge just said she can play volleyball with the boys. Broader implications than just this instance.

It’s easy to see this as just a charter – district flashpoint story.  But it’s really a story about how a pension system designed for one era is a bad fit for today.

This would never happen in Grosse Point! Actually, lead in Grosse Point. There is certainly a class and race angle to environmental issues in many communities but you’re missing the story of what a mess we’ve made if you think that is all there is to it. Check out how close you probably live to a Superfund site…

Things quieting down in Rhode Island:

Ken Wagner, the state’s new education commissioner, has also adopted a more conciliatory tone, which, superintendents say, has had a calming effect on families and educators alike. Wagner this winter said his agency isn’t going to get into “coercive battles” with families over refusal to take the test. If a student refuses, then that child should be given another activity that doesn’t feel punitive.

“We’re not giving permission to opt out. Last year, we did,” said Chariho Supt. Barry Ricci. “We planned all of these alternative activities. It was chaotic. This year, if students refuse, they sit in the testing environment and read.”

Someone give this kid a contract!

This is odd:

Auditors questioned, for example, the use of school funds to pay a $566,803 settlement to a former teacher who sued the organization for wrongful termination after she was directed by Okonkwo to travel with her to Nigeria to marry Okonkwo’s brother-in-law for the purpose of making him a United States citizen.

Great big kitty visits high school.


April 15, 2016

Vergara Down! Can We Even Know What Tenure Is? Edujobs, Board Appointments, Hansel/Pondiscio On Literacy, CTE, TFA, Closures, Parental Involvement, And What Boycott? Another Animal On The Run!

At Bellwether we work to put out and organize a lot of information for you. Our own publications can be found here, a lot of information on teacher pensions can be found here, and we work with RealClearPolitics and curate education news from around the sector two times each weekday here at RealClearEducation. And look for a new site soon…

Some new edujobs here.

Vergara overturned on appeal. Underneath all the rhetoric about the Vergara case the legal question was whether the California laws in question violate California’s constitution. The plaintiff’s argument would have extended a line of legal analysis about how courts should interpret those statutes. At the original trial a judge ruled for the plaintiffs. Yesterday an appellate court said they hadn’t met that burden. The appellate court said that the plaintiffs had failed to show the statutes specifically impact certain groups of students and instead that the problem was how school administrators implement them. Somewhat ironically, if you want to see a more expansive interpretation of due process rights – as many on the political left do –  the ruling is a setback. But because this is education we’re talking about, and teachers unions in particular, the politics instead break in politically predictable ways.  The case now goes to California’s Supreme Court.

From the decision (pdf):

Although the statutes may lead to the hiring and retention of more ineffective teachers than a hypothetical alternative system would, the statutes do not address the assignment of teachers; instead, administrators—not the statutes—ultimately determine where teachers within a district are assigned to teach. Critically, plaintiffs failed to show that the statutes themselves make any certain group of students more likely to be taught by ineffective teachers than any other group of students.

With no proper showing of a constitutional violation, the court is without power to strike down the challenged statutes. The court’s job is merely to determine whether the statutes are constitutional, not if they are “a good idea.” (McHugh v. Santa Monica Rent Control Bd. (1989) 49 Cal.3d 348, 388.) Additionally, our review is limited to the particular constitutional challenge that plaintiffs decided to bring. Plaintiffs brought a facial equal protection challenge, meaning they challenged the statutes themselves, not how the statutes are implemented in particular school districts. Since plaintiffs did not demonstrate that the statutes violate equal protection on their face, the judgment cannot be affirmed.

More analysis – with some really key insights –  from Bellwether’s Hailly Korman – who litigated the Reed case in LA back in her days as a barrister.

A similar lawsuit filed in Minnesota this week. But this one is sparking an outbreak of Campbell Brown derangement syndrome:

Campbell Brown “continues to do the bidding of her monied donors,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said in a statement Wednesday. “Tenure doesn’t give anyone a job for life; it’s about ensuring fairness and due process in the workplace,” Weingarten said. “Stripping teachers of workplace protections will harm, not help, those students most at risk.”

Yet here’s Weingarten herself on tenure:

“It has effectively become in some places a job for life, which is wrong,” said Weingarten.

OK, then. Maybe it’s a metaphysical question? Really, what is tenure anyway… ? People say education is too slow to change. When it comes to the politics I feel like if you take a day off you’re suddenly behind the game. In any event, if you just want to focus on how adult politics drive American education, well, that’s your job for life. Why are we even talking about Campbell Brown here? This is about laws in Minnesota not people in New York!

John King’s curriculum speech sparks this from Hansel and Pondiscio on curriculum broadening and literacy. Teach For America CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard on the challenges of recruiting.  New analysis on the effects of school closures in New York.  Parental involvement may hurt rather than  help!

A lot of people and organizations boycotting North Carolina in the wake of its recent anti-LGBT law – but school reform critics not amongst them.

It seems there is a consensus around the importance of CTE and existence of good post-secondary opportunities that are not just four-year colleges. Here’s a Times op-ed today on exactly that. But less discussed is the question of how you let young people make genuine choices about different paths but then also leave the door open for them to reconsider those choices a few years later.  That’s where CTE programs that also maintain an academic focus are key. They have good outcomes and account for the reality that many young people don’t yet have a clear sense of how they want to spend their lives (and the decisions run both ways, plenty of people subsequently decide college isn’t the right path, too).

Interesting situation in Denver around a board appointment.

This animal escapee looks a lot less adorable and quite a bit more dangerous than the Finding Nemo-like Octopus from earlier this week.