October 29, 2018

Ed Tech & Equity, Plus Korman And Pilnik, Pimentel, Pensions In CA, Tomorrow’s CA Fallout Today, Hess/Addison, GAO, More…

Hailly Korman and Lisa Pilnik on why education for adjudicated students doesn’t measure up, in more ways than one.

Keep an eye on this California pension case – a lot going on here. Don’t miss Jerry Brown taking the case from the AG…says a lot about the politics here.

Lauren Camera gets international.

Sue Pimental on the vital blocking and tackling to improve reading instruction. 

GAO on equity and college-going.

A lot of money being spent on the Marshall Tuck race in California. (Full disclosure I think he’d make a great state chief there.) In politics winning forgives a lot, but if Tuck doesn’t win it’s worth asking (a) what the effect will be on how funders think about education politics and (b) how other politicians (and African-American politicians in particular) will perceive education reform funders, especially given the political landscape this cycle?

Elsewhere in politics, Betsy DeVos’ family gives a lot of money to political candidates and causes. When she took office she pledged that she and her husband would not make political donations. I didn’t quite get that, her pledging for herself is one thing, but I’ve never gotten far telling my spouse what to do...Anyway, he/she doesn’t seem to be keeping the deal. 

Ed Tech and Equity.

A fundamental question in ed tech is whether the ability to scale quality is the one thing that might drive equity across zip codes or whether it’s going to just result in a new kind of inequity. Given how these things usually play out I’m more concerned about the latter than excited by the former. But people can disagree and I hope to be surprised. This article in The Times takes a look at that question.

Also this: 

“This is scar tissue talking. We’ve made every mistake in the book, and I think we got it wrong with some of my kids,” Mr. Anderson said. “We glimpsed into the chasm of addiction, and there were some lost years, which we feel bad about.”

I know a lot of parents who feel that way, I do, too.

This Hess – Addison article is sparking debate, discussion, outrage (and some Common Core craziness, because of course).

Someday we’ll be together.


October 26, 2018

The Big Fail In Gotham, Schmitz On GA, Nevertheless, WA Charters, Janus Hitting, Southern Races, Harvard’s Options, Common App For The Win…More!

Kirsten Schmitz on Georgia’s teacher pension system. Spoiler alert: Not a great retirement scheme!

This Times story is at one level not shocking – people knew this was the deal – but also shocking in terms of just how blasé too many people are about using kids as pawns in a political fight. For all the talk about conservative privatizers and whatever, it’s these stunts that do more to undercut public schools than anything the most strident critics can cook up. Public ed’s biggest problem isn’t its opponents – it’s its friends.

This Nevertheless podcast is terrific and this episode is really powerful.

Can Harvard maintain racial diversity absent its current approach?

Southern Education Foundation has candidate comparisons for gubernatorial races in southern states.

Janus impact: NEA loses 17K members and 87K fee payers.

Washington State charters win at the state supreme court. Still plenty of work to do but Bruno Manno on how some charters are making strides on college going and completion. 

Bold Common App essay.


Friday Fish Porn – Ontario Salmon

Taylor Bard is on the team here at Bellwether – and she and her husband fish.

Here he is in late summer with his dad and a few friends on Lake Ontario targeting King Salmon. That’s him on the right two-fisting.

So spouses and fathers-in-law are fair game here. Send your pics.

If you want to see hundreds of pictures of education types – or their relatives – with fish (and really, who would not?) then click here and here.

Closer to home a few Bellwarians fished lake-run salmon on the Betsie River in Northern Michigan in September. They look a little less hardy once they head up the rivers to spawn.


October 25, 2018


October 24, 2018

Are Double Majors Really Bad? Plus Rogue School Buses, Eight Cities, The Full Rhode Island, Pensions, And More!

Bellwether took a look at the stories of eight cities innovating with what’s often called the “portfolio model” of schools and built a website to tell those stories.

Max Marchitello on Arizona pensions. Spoiler alert, not an optimal retirement plan! (That’s not financial advice, just common sense based on how it works and how life works).

While the Red Sox were breaking through the Dodgers’ pitching, Chad Aldeman stayed focused and live tweeted the PBS pension special.

David Leonhardt suggests that people don’t double-major in college. I’m not sure this is good advice or at least not good advice too broadly applied.

When you look at the number of courses and credit hours it takes to major relative to the number it takes to earn a four-year degree you see a pretty substantial gap at most schools. This is the cleavage that varies boot camps and other non-traditional approaches are trying to leverage open.

On campus, at its strongest, that gap is filled by taking a wide range of courses that give someone a broad education so when they hear a reference to a foundational idea or event they get it and they know a little about the world beyond the end of their nose. That short of shared knowledge is out of fashion in our tribal and exhausting first person times, but it’s nonetheless pretty vital to a country that celebrates both the pluribus and the unum. And it does. The overall political landscape is thankfully not as radicalized as media, social media, and our political class make it out to be.

Yet at its worst, and largely the norm in higher ed, students take a bunch of classes that don’t really hang together or study an awful lot of critical this and critical that without ever engaging in the underlying content and ideas they are supposed to be critical of. So it’s sort of a mish mash. Up against that, and the number of courses you have to take, a second major can make a lot of sense. You can learn more about something that interests you (full disclosure this is what I did). You can also do this and still take some of the random electives that make college interesting and fun and expose you to ideas and areas of learning you might otherwise not know about.

For sure, a second major should be a passion or interest project, not a credentialing one. Leonhardt is absolutely right that the credentialing arms race and its side effects are out of hand. But when hiring, I find the resume from the person who studied both a hard science and English or engineering and history an appealing one. While not dispositive at all, they are at least slightly more likely to be able to think about the world with a bit more texture and have interesting analogies to bring to bear on the problems we’re trying to solve.

Elsewhere:

This would have an impact on schools.

This could have an impact on your car, driverless school buses being surreptitiously tested.

Inequities in course taking.

“Maine schools quickly faced hurdles…

Some education implications to this election, so you should pay attention to the “Full Rhode Island.”

Our times. 

Education work at San Quentin.

Bears and Timbits don’t mix.

Posted on Oct 24, 2018 @ 11:04am

October 19, 2018

Friday Fish Pics: Student Art

Pennsylvania’s Charles Zogby was at an art fair at an Erie high school when he saw this gem by Reilly Yonkers, a senior at Erie’s NW PA Collegiate Academy.

Fearing that it is as close as he’ll ever come to being featured with a fish on Eduwonk he snapped it up, and you can imagine how delighted I was when it showed up bubble wrapped in Bellwether’s DC office.

I believe this is the first fish art we’ve ever featured, and Reilly’s creation really is a lovely piece I feel fortunate to have. If you want lots of pictures of education people with actual fish (though not Charles) click here and here.


October 18, 2018

Wash Your Sheets! Plus Rolling Study Halls, Tribes, SEL And More!

Lina Bankert on lessons from Bellwether’s strategic growth institute.

Chad Aldeman looks into teacher health care benefits, are they really “Cadillac?” Phil Burgoyne- Allen on civics education.

Tom Kane looks back and forward on philanthropy and policy innovation.

OK, I had thought that the best way to communicate about SEL was to deploy an elaborate word salad that most people would be too insecure to say they didn’t understand. Turns out there is more to it. DQC has a brief out that is all about how to communicate about SEL and data.

Today in oh please…Last we heard from the conference planning department of the Network for Public Education they were backpedaling and over-explaining their decision to hold their annual conference in North Carolina despite a boycott of that state because of its anti-LGBT positions. The real reason was hard to release room blocks, of course, but we got treated to a whole song and dance routine about values.

Flash forward and now this year they’re in Indianapolis (great town, don’t miss St. Elmo’s and some fun live music venues). But, there is some concern that they might be holding their conference at a hotel where workers are on strike. That would obviously be awkward. Diane Ravitch writes about how relieved she is to learn there is no strike because, well, they surely don’t want to cross a picket line and people are very concerned…Fear not! There is no chance of a strike at this hotel because it’s NOT union. Again, thanks for living your values guys! (Don’t miss the comments about labor solidarity…)

The network is now apparently also going to ask attendees not to participate in Marriott’s “green” program. You’re probably familiar with these hotel initiatives, less washing of sheets and towels if you have an extended stay. And they help with, you know, clean water in a small but not insignificant way given the commercial washing process is more intense than what you probably do at home. The reasoning behind this is sort of indecipherable, but Randi Weingarten opposes these initiatives. Maybe the conference swag will be branded disposable plastic water bottles? Or little branded packets of bleach or industrial detergent you can take home?

Rolling study halls.

This Hidden Tribes report everyone is chattering about has some echoes in the ed debate.

Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard.


October 17, 2018


October 16, 2018

Janus Part Deux! 21st Century Skills, Chu, Mead, GLSEN Data, Accountability Games, More!

Sara Mead on what it takes to build a profession – more than saying so – and what that means for early ed.

We’ve talked before about the next round of litigation coming post-Janus. It’s starting. The retroactive dues case seems hard to square – if you can’t operate under an existing Supreme Court precedent on something, even one some justices have signaled they’d like to overturn, then what rules exactly should you use? A lot of legal experts say it’s a long shot but one union lawyer I know said they were quite concerned the retroactive cases could prevail. And the unions seem concerned about it, too, because they’ve been trying to settle some of these as one-offs.

Speaking of legal experts, they seem skeptical on the exclusive representation argument. I’m not a lawyer, though I’ve taken just enough con law and ed law to be dangerous, and I don’t get why this wouldn’t be a winnable case. If five justices found a free speech right to overturn agency fees it seems more than plausible this court can find a free association rationale around exclusive representation doesn’t it?

A lot of people have warned – for instance here’s a warning from the AFT – that teaching “21st Century Skills or for that matter 3rd Century BC skills is a bigger challenge that most of the boosters allow. This new paper from CRPE gets at that and has some ideas for how to do better.

Annual GLSEN data about school climate for LGBT students.

Here is someone with some fortitude or a lot of time on their hands to dig through all the games about school accountability ratings. The case here is VA, but it applies in many states and is one reason a lot of people support letter grades even with all the problems a simplified system can’t account for.

Dale Chu on big system leadership.

Student with ADHD launches company – with revenue – to help others.

Crowd sourced work or micro tasks are going to become a feature in the education world, too. Here’s some generalized data and challenges.

This report couldn’t have a sleepier title but it’s an interesting look at knowledge sharing globally in education.

#25 talks race, hockey, and kids.

Glen Campbell.


October 10, 2018

Video Games, Student Mobility, Learning Styles, Field Trips, Tree News, More!

We recently built a video game at Bellwether. Here’s a look behind the scenes at how we did that.

President Trump writes today in USA Today that:

The truth is that the centrist Democratic Party is dead. The new Democrats are radical socialists who want to model America’s economy after Venezuela.

What’s going to make the country economically like Venezuela – and a lot of other countries around the world – is a vanishing middle class, stagnant social mobility, and a secessionist upper class that lives walled off, literally, from its fellow citizens. A key piece of that puzzle, though not the only one, is schools and how educational opportunity is distributed.

I’m biased, but this 74 look at San Antonio is terrific. And so is this deep dive on student mobility by Erin Richards of the MJS.

Ted Kolderie with some ideas to get the education world unstuck and focused on progress.

Here’s a round up of state tax code changes in response to the tax bill’s change to 529s and private schools. Flashback here.

Chad Aldeman pines for stories like this.

This is an interesting argument: More spatial reasoning needed.

Willingham throws cold water on learning styles.

John White on education politics.

Good Jay Greene interview.

What’s going on with homework?

Around here we used to talk about the education love that couldn’t speak its name in Dem circles. Was reminded of that when reading this, it makes me like Beto O’Rourke more but I suspect it may make some of education’s anti-charter jihadis like him less. By the way, this ad against O’Rourke’s opponent is hilarious.

Did you know that Mathematica is employee owned? Good reminder that ownership and operating structures are often more interesting than just whether they’re for profit or not for profit.

Here’s more and yet more on the Sokal redux episode.

Have You Ever Seen The Rain?

Posted on Oct 10, 2018 @ 10:29am