The Honesty Gap

In Virginia today Governor Glenn Youngkin released the analysis of achievement and accountability in Virginia that was part of his executive order package when he took office. It was an open secret this was coming – it was right there in the EO – yet there is still some surprise. Here’s the RTD.

The surprise is because it’s pretty comprehensive. It’s reflexively getting framed as Youngkin versus Northam – the previous governor – but the problems the report outlines are more longstanding.

If you live in the commonwealth you should read it because it’s an important and relatively unsparing look at achievement gaps that are too rarely discussed in Virginia. And it has information about overall achievement that is sobering as well. There is a lot of work to do to crate a genuinely inclusive school system.

If you are not fortunate enough to be a Virginian, there is still something here for you.

First, the report is a good look at the tension between looking good and doing well or as we sometimes call it around here, achievement realists versus public relationists. Every state should think about an analysis like this that gets beneath the puffery and reflexive tendency to focus on silver linings disproportionately to clouds.

Second, it’s a good test of where we are politically in education. Is there a bipartisan center to set aside various disagreements and political issues and work on this particular issue? I don’t know the answer to that but I hope so.

Third, if you like to argue about NAEP you will have fun with this report. But focusing on various point estimates misses the forest for the trees. The gaps in this report are substantial and run in one direction. We have to do better. In particular, the #s for 8th-graders, when the paths that will be open to students really come into focus, should shock. About one in five Black students proficient and less than one in five low-income students.

That means getting serious on accountability, doing more to support teachers, more choices for families and a more equitable finance system. It’s a tall order and one with something for everyone to oppose. That’s the challenge, and the opportunity.

Are We Turning The Corner Toward Good Political Tension In Education? Plus, Show Them The Money And Where Are The Kids?

It’s now political lore how a backbencher from Georgia started going to the well of the House of Representatives after the day’s business was concluded and howled at the moon – with only C-Span cameras as his immediate audience.

Newt Gingrich parlayed this strategy into real political power in 1994, but for a long time he was barking in an empty room, so many people understandably paid him little mind. Gingrich, for his part, realized his audience wasn’t the political class in D.C., it was people watching at home. I’m not a Gingrich fan, the opposite really, but you can’t deny he had an eye for change and opportunity.

I thought of that history when I saw this story in local Northern Virginia media the other day. Hang around certain places in education and there is a narrative you’ll hear again and again. In essence the serious people are sure that the future of education reform is largely a power struggle between “people of color” and white, largely Republican people and that if you just listen right you can discern community voice on a host of issues. It’s a comforting narrative, but out in the world something else more complicated is happening.

After Saigon fell to Communist forces in April 1975, Hung Cao’s family fled to nearby Reston, to make a new home for themselves in a low-income apartment housing complex, Cao, then a toddler, later learned English by watching the “A-Team.”

This week, Cao joined about 100 local Asian American business and education leaders who packed Cafe V, a local Korean coffee shop off Little River Turnpike, for a conversation with Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin and Education Secretary Aimee Guidera.

A subtle but real shift is showing up in the data like this this and this – Democrats are losing ground with non-white voters. It’s also showing up in some real political behavior – in Virginia but also Texas and elsewhere. It’s not baked. Politically education seems like a jump ball. Voters are willing to have a look at Republicans after the pandemic experience and some of the culture wars but Republicans have a lot of work to do to close the sale. Some of that work is retail efforts like the one that Asra Nomani chronicles in the article above.

If the Republicans can get their act together (I shouldn’t have to tell you that ‘if’ is doing an awful lot of work in that sentence) it’s an opportunity for them and something Democrats ought to pay attention to with an education agenda more robust than today’s lest it become another political tale of flat footedness. If it creates more healthy political tension and a more robust debate about how to improve schools that’s good for everyone.

Related to all this, we have a new tool out at Bellwether: A barometer on parent opinion.

And also related, there sure are a lot of kids not in public schools anymore. Nat Malkus’ return to learn tracker is a great tool.

“This has been a seismic hit to public education,” said Marguerite Roza, director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University. “Student outcomes are low. Habits have been broken. School finances are really shaken. We shouldn’t think that this is going to be like a rubber band that bounces back to where it was before.”

After the school shooting in Michigan last year I wrote about how there are usually signs, and sometimes they are ignored. At The 74 Beth Hawkins looks into the school backstory of the person arrested in this ghastly Buffalo massacre.

Over at Fordham Daniel Buck comes out against financial education.

Honestly, though, whether financial literacy classes are effective is the wrong question to ask. Even if research found them increasing rates of saving or decreasing the rate of loan defaults, I’d still be skeptical of their inclusion in schools. The proper question to ask about any educational practice isn’t if it works, but how it compares to other interventions—and uses of the schools’ limited time and leverage.

I disagree, for a few reasons. First, sending students into the world equipped to understand it  (and have choices in it) is a key function of schools. Just because some places do financial literacy badly is not a reason to not want schools to do it well.

Second, while Buck is right it will take scarce time (that we should make less scarce), the thing about financial literacy is that it can also augment and reinforce math, literacy, civics and other subjects. As with many things curriculum matters as well as making sure it’s a relevant set of issues not abstract ones matters, too. Helping students understand some basic aspects of the financial world that will be thrust upon them while they are still teenagers is a good survival skill.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a parent or other adult who teaches you these things, that’s great. For everyone else, this is a small thing we can do to shave a few rough edges off of life for people. We make a point of giving student athletes and elite athletes counseling like this. Everyone can probably benefit.

Then again, I’m someone who thinks we should also make sure all kids can swim before they leave school, too.

Billy Strings & Bob Weir at the Ryman.

Are You Being Told Everything About The Charter School Fight?

I promise I will write about something besides the proposed charter regulations soon. But they are important as a political matter and sign of where we are in the sector. And it’s a David and Goliath sort of thing. So, it’s interesting! I kind of want to write about this amazing compilation of life advice (and fashion) from Mr. T. that I recently found. Mr. T. and his show was SEL before it was cool.

But last week everyone was abuzz….Erica Green is writing a story on the charter regulations…Erica Green is on it…and so forth. Among insiders Erica’s widely respected. Non-ideological, a legit shoe leather reporting background, saw an urban system up close in Baltimore so appreciates both how screwed up these situations are for kids and also the challenges of changing that and that beleaguered systems are often doing the best they can – even as it’s not enough. A pro in the old school sense.

Her story came this weekend. Definitely a good overview and the kind of Times story that can still impact the narrative even in today’s media environment. Here’s a similarly good overview from U.S. News with a little less process and a little more about the policy effects.

While the story is solid, this part did jump out:

[Network for Public Education] joined dozens of others — including the National Education Association, which is the nation’s largest teachers union, and the Southern Poverty Law Center — in praising the department for “thoughtful and well-reasoned regulations.”

To a civilian reading this article this sounds like a clash of interest groups on either side. And at one level it is. But all of these groups mentioned and many if not all on the sign on letter have also received funding from the National Education Association or its affiliates. Readers should know that!

I don’t think these groups take these positions because they get money – though some seem astroturf-like. As we’ve discussed here over the years, people confuse the causal chain on those claims. People and organizations give money to groups that think like them on issues, the groups don’t start thinking that way because of the cash. Like finds like more than it creates like. I am aware of some payola like that and groups that will work for the highest bidder, but it’s relatively rare. Rather, it’s a symbiotic sort of relationship, a network with network effects, not a straight up payoff kind of thing. Still, it should be disclosed and explained because it’s important context. These groups are not just free agents who saw this issue and decided to act and lo and behold everyone else was, as well. Rather, these are networks and coalitions working together and there are broader issues in play. That’s also obviously true of team charter, as well, although the increasingly broad footprint of charters increasingly creates a different dynamic.

Anyway, readers deserve to know that kind of thing, who is working together, why, how, especially when the dynamics on these issues are an open secret in Washington. It would help explain why a public official would think nothing of just saying, go ask the interest groups about a federal regulation under consideration. These networks become hermetically sealed over time, that’s bad for policymaking – and politics.

It’s also context on observations like this from the article,

Naomi N. Shelton, the chief executive of the National Charter Collaborative, which supports charter school leaders of color, said she hoped the Education Department listened to the concerns of those who might question that judgment.

“The people who are fighting for this don’t even look like the folks who would be impacted,” Ms. Shelton said. “And the students who come to us are not students they’re even engaging with.”

And, it’s particularly germane here because the Network for Public Education crowd has made an unhinged, loud, and dishonest career arguing everyone else is on the take. Here’s Jon Chait in his newsletter, a few highlights:

Speaking of, this week I wrote about the Biden administration’s regulations on the Federal Charter Schools program, which appeared designed to strangle the program. In particular, I was astonished that the Department of Education refused even to explain the rationale to reporters, instead referring them to the Network for Public Education, a left-wing, rabidly anti-reform group that has received funding from teachers unions.

This naturally triggered another hyperbolic response from Carol Burris and Diane Ravitch, two of the Network’s founders, who are among the most influential progressive activists in the education space. Their response claims to “uncover” nefarious details about my wife’s work as an education policy analyst for a non-profit.

This is part of a years-long effort they have undertaken to create the appearance of a conflict of interest where none exists. To begin with, many journalists have spouses who work in politics or government, and whose work would be impacted in some way by changes to policy. Those roles are essentially never disclosed. Whatever you think the standard should be – and one could argue for a much stricter standard – it simply is not part of how opinion journalism operates. If there was a norm for opinion journalists to disclose whenever they opined on a subject that in some way touched on their spouse’s field, you would see an enormous number of these disclosures.

I mentioned in my column that the Network for Public Education is regularly cited in stories that do not mention its funding by teachers unions. I know by happenstance of a columnist that wrote a laudatory column about a teachers union leader whose group funds that columnist’s spouse. I don’t believe in the logic of the sins of one side justifying the other. My point is that my wife’s work is not a conflict of interest at all. But it is revealing that Ravitch and her allies have managed to sustain this fake conflict angle for years without ever having to account for a much more direct conflict of interest they are themselves undertaking. I think that does give a sense of the utter bad faith at work.

These accusations are only coherent within the world they’ve created, in which anybody who disagrees with teachers unions on policies can only be acting out of nefarious secret financial interests. The degree to which they have managed to create the illusion of an ethical issue is a measure of the delusional ideological paranoia that pervades their worldview. 

Accusations against me are not your problem, but the Democratic party allowing its education policy to be influenced by crazy people is

I will note, in the interest of transparency, I know Chait and his spouse, Robin, professionally. She’s great. She should have the newsletter! The idea she’s a charter hack is preposterous, especially given where she works now – WestEd – a group we work with at times here at Bellwether. They are not some sort of pro-charter outfit. And over the years she’s worked at places that get teachers union money and ones that don’t. Among the adults that’s how it works. Despite the simplicity hacks ascribe to them, these issues are complicated. There is a lot of good and bad on charters and many other issues.

All of this, of course, might lead you ask, well what about Bellwether, my day job? We work with charter schools for sure, and orgs that support them, and we also work with school districts, and intermediaries that support them. There is impactful work that can help improve conditions and context for kids in all those places. We also disclose all of our clients on our website, always. We don’t do that because we’re boy scouts, although transparency is embedded in our organizations’ core values, rather it’s precisely because of all this nonsense. You can look for yourself and see who we work for – and as far as I know it’s the ideologically broadest array of any organization or firm in the sector.

What’s probably more interesting is we’ve fired, and been fired by, clients because we value a variety of viewpoints around our team. We are fine with dissent and don’t squelch it even when we’re pressured to do so. Debate and expression of ideas is instrumental to progress from where we sit. And we won’t toe anyone’s party line. I don’t know that we have any reflexive or rabid charter haters, they wouldn’t fit in here for other reasons around how we do our work. But we certainly have serious charter skeptics and people who see the cost – benefits around charters and choice differently than say I do. We also have people more bullish about choice than me. That diversity exists on most questions.That’s what makes our work valuable for our clients, we’re not Kool-Aid drinkers.

Unfortunately, like many issues in American politics ed reform / anti-reform is now like a team sport.* Everyone must pick a side. And the amount of backchannel chatter about how no one can say what they actually think about this or that or how the field is now stuck Ice Nine-like around various fads or fashions is astonishing. That’s too bad, but for our purposes here reporters ought to help readers understand how it all works because it’s impacting the experience of their kids.

The story here is that even though the Biden Administration is drowning politically and Democrats are desperate to throw them life lines wherever they can given the potential consequences of the next couple of elections, on this charter question you have a genuine split in the party. It’s producers versus consumers, special interests against reformers, deregulation, all the big ones. It’s not a new story. But an important one.

*Assignment editor desk: An interesting article might be a look at the complicated relationship and politics between voucher/tax credit advocates and charter school advocates about how to balance those issues, lanes, windows of opportunity, “don’t get in my way,” all of that! Another good one would be a look at the role of school districts in chartering, authorizing and taking federal charter school dollars and then closing schools in short order or not opening them. Districts are the modal authorizer of charters.

A Weekend At Bernie’s Charter Policy? Why Is Joe Biden Parroting Sanders On Charters?

From The New York Times

The 2016 Democratic primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton was pretty tight. The 2020 Sanders re-run, not so much. Joe Biden surged to victory on the strength of the Black Democratic vote in South Carolina, winnowed the field, and never looked back. You surely remember who he ultimately beat? Bernie Sanders.

But you might not know that if you only followed charter school policy. It’s Sanders’ view of the world not Delaware Joe Biden – who represented a pretty good charter state in the Senate – driving policy now at the Department of Education. That’s a problem because it’s a view of the world out of step with the evidence and arguably with the politics.

So one of the more interesting political questions around the proposed charter school regulations might be, why is Biden sucking Sanders’ fumes on charter policy?*

If you recall the Biden – Sanders Unity document, and if you’re a normal person I’m sure you try not to, it included language on charter schools that is basically a distillation of the ideas behind these proposed regs:

It wasn’t a ban per se but it was a de facto war on chartering. It was a bone to throw in the context of how much Biden could move left and still remain a viable generation election candidate.

There has been a lot of focus on the kamikaze mission of the teachers’ unions cat’s paws. Jon Chait has more on that today. But that’s par for the course. And their job as a special interest is to advocate for their interest when the window is open to do so. It’s not to reflexively do what’s politically sensible for Democrats or what’s the best policy for kids. Why the Biden White House is going along with this is a better question. No one expected a big push for charter schools given the politics, but these regs are something different.

Yes, in the 2020 race Biden was hostile to charter schools. But he hasn’t been a doctrinaire anti-choice type. In the 1990s, as the D.C. voucher bill was hotly debated he said he was reconsidering his opposition to that program. That’s another reason this fight is so strange. It’s one thing to throw some anti-charter red meat on the campaign trail or even have a policy of benign neglect once in office. That’s politics. It’s another to use the regulatory process to curtail charters. That’s policy.

You don’t need the Obama position on charter schools. Just what about a Joe Biden position? It should go without saying, as with some other Sanders positions, the charter one plays better on Twitter than towns around the country.

And of course, it would be bad for kids, including in ways that cut against priorities of this administration.

The President talks a lot about understanding the anxiety and stress that Americans feel around the kitchen table trying to make ends meet. He gets intuitively why joblessness or rampant inflation is terrifying for working class Americans. Another stress and hard situation is what to do for your child’s schooling when the school you are assigned to is not working for your family. If you have means there is one way to solve that problem. If you don’t then you need government to ensure you have some choices – especially because, as they say, one size doesn’t fit all.

Sanders, too, has spoken eloquently about the loneliness and isolation a lot of Americans feel – in ways you don’t often hear from political candidates. School can’t singularly solve that, but not being able to have your children in a school that works for them surely doesn’t help anyone feel more connected to their community.

That’s why expanding choice is part and parcel of an agenda that aimed at a more inclusive America not at odds with it. If the politics of the moment don’t allow for expanding that agenda, at least don’t curtail it.

In other words, Mr. President, you won. Please act like it. 

*The obvious answer is that while everyone was happily greeting Miguel Cardona as a consensus pick the Biden Administration was stacking the Department with teachers union alums and allies and folks who wouldn’t politically rock the boat. Except you can do that and still not do things like this regulation, which is basically a political unforced error at a moment there is little margin for one.

The Charter School David Is Landing A Few Rocks Against The Anti-Charter Goliath

It’s been wild. A team of Goliaths stunned by a scrappy David. Few expected it. And it’s exciting to watch because it’s a little unpredictable even if Goliath has an edge.

But enough about the Capitals – Panthers first round contest in the Stanley Cup. I want to talk about public charter schools and the regulation aimed at slowing their growth.

Plenty of pixels have been spilled about the problems with the proposed regulation. It’s an assault on charters. Or it’s Cold Harbor, bloody and pointless. In some ways what’s more interesting is the politics. Often interest groups will decide to fight over something that’s not such a big deal because it’s a “Washington issue” or an important symbolic place to take a stand.

That’s not the case with these regulations, they’re just bad news if you think that providing parents with more public alternatives to traditional public school district schools is a good idea. In a nutshell, key parts boil down to letting Starbucks decide if anyone else can run a  coffee shop in various communities. They’re a real test of the politics of education right now. And charter schools are putting up more of a fight than many expected.

Jared Polis, the Democratic Governor of Colorado has spoken up about the regulations. Democratic Senators Bennet, Booker and Feinstein, too. That’s not enough opposition, but it’s not nothing.

We’ll see how much more charters will turn up the heat on the administration and Congress. The lines of attack are pretty obvious.

You can’t claim to “center” marginalized communities and do this regulation.

You can’t claim to follow the science or the evidence and do this regulation. Yes, there is a problem with the for-profits but it’s, in my view, best handled by better authorizing and state policy than blunt regulations. The for-profits have not created a sympathetic situation though.

And you can’t really claim to be for innovation, parent empowerment, or any of the rest and do this regulation. Whether because he’s a nice guy and ed writers are far too cozy with the establishment or because his team is picking his media spots carefully, no one seems to have really put any of this directly and strongly to Secretary Cardona who continues to say in the same breath that he supports charters and supports this regulation. We’ll see what happens.

The department has a few choices.

They can decide that the original calculus that organized special interests are more potent than disorganized parents remains and basically drive this through.

They could pull the regulations and start again. That’s not going to happen.

They could substantially modify the regulations in response to the feedback, the public comments were not helpful to the anti-charter side.

Or they could kick the can down the road through negotiated rulemaking and other process to delay it until after the election or longer.

I’d prefer that last option. I don’t think abortion will be the political get out of jail free card some think it will be for Democrats and the electoral map is daunting and the atmospherics  (inflation, the stock markets, crime, and culture wars) are all headwinds for Democrats. So, given the stakes, it seems like an incredibly ill-considered time to take the side of special interests against parents on an issue like this where a majority of Black and Hispanic parents support charter schools and independents positively associate with reform. I’ve seen some polling here and the school choice issue isn’t a slam dunk at the ballot box. But this position surely doesn’t help the broader frame around the Biden Administration right now, which is pretty soft, especially among Black and Hispanic Americans. If nothing else, why risk it?

What’s clear is the teachers’ unions and their fellow travelers appreciate the timing and the urgency. We’ll find out soon if the Biden team does.

What Do You Do When The Supreme Court Is Wrong?

Photo via Ed Post.

I was taking some time off this week, the shad are running among other things. But it’s not every day a draft Supreme Court case leaks. Juicy Supreme Court leaks, at least historically, are once a decade kind of things.

Unless you live in a cave you certainly heard about the leak of a draft opinion in the Mississippi abortion case that would overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

I’m not going to try to change your mind one way or another about abortion. That’s a fool’s errand and as Caitlin Flanagan recently pointed out it’s basically an unreconcilable issue.

Instead, I will point you to a few education angles. Not in the ironic, there’s always an education angle kind of way, this is too serious. There are, though, some parallels.

For starters, there is a lot of confusion in the moment. If the draft is the way the Supreme Court goes (an actual “if” it should be noted) it would not ban abortion. Rather, it would return the issue to the states and the political process – and some of them have laws that would immediately ban it, many don’t. So as with a lot of education policy questions Twitter is probably not the best place to get your information.

The practical effect would be, according to experts, roughly a 13 percent decline in legal abortions. It’s hard to square that with some of the sky is falling rhetoric except that the burden will fall heaviest on those least able to evade the consequences because they lack financial means and other resources.

In other words, that 13 percent is not equitably distributed across the population, it’s concentrated among women who lack money and power. That, of course, sounds an awful lot like the school choice debate: A hothouse political question where the consequences are most acute and immediate for those with the least political power because everyone else can figure out workarounds. Except, obviously, overall the political positions are reversed on the two issues.

Finally, if you’re pro-choice and wondering what now, there is an essay by the late Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “What do you do when the Supreme Court is Wrong” that is an excellent look at the question the title implies. Even better, it’s in part about education with fascinating education history.

Three Gold Medalists, Panic On SEL, Boston Disaster, And Rare Collectible Willingham Fish Porn! More…

Photo: Jen Mull-Brooks

It’s SEL Week here at Eduwonk!

On Wednesday we talked about how SEL is not inherently crazy political and to the extent people try to make it that way SEL leaders should push back.

Today, there is a new essay from Panic at the Pondiscio arguing SEL is not a Trojan Horse for CRT while also repeating his argument that some SEL activity does cross some lines from educational to therapeutic. Both are  important points that will at once antagonize right and left for different reasons. I don’t agree with the full scope of Robert’s SEL critique, though I think the blurred boundaries issue is one that is not getting enough attention in this hot house moment. Recommend the essay.

Also on Wednesday I mentioned this discussion I did with Kelly Pannek and Nicole Hensley from the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team. They won Gold in 2018 and Silver in 2022. We talked about coaching, teaching, relationships, drive, and why addressing gender inequity in sports is good for everyone. You can watch it here via the BARR Center’s feed.

The BARR agenda was a really thoughtful compilation of mind, body, culture and art. Great arc for a meeting. One final random note from the BARR conference. After the evening events ended Wednesday night I was walking across the hotel property to a friend’s room for a little party she was throwing. It was hard to miss that every few patios or so there was a group of teachers partying. The pools had teachers in them hanging out and partying. And it was not early evening, it was late. After two years of off-again and on-again interaction it’s so clear a lot of people want to be together and are ready to have a good time with others.

Here’s Steve Mesler, also a Gold Medalist, also has contributed Fish Porn, everything on Eduwonk today ties together, on SEL and touching on the same issues. Steve is the co-founder of Classroom Champions, an organization that uses mentors and the mindset of elite athletes to mentor students. About 4:20 in, but watch the whole thing:

(And disclosures, so many. BARR is a client, Steve Mesler is a personal friend and I’m on his board at Classroom Champions).

The Boston Schools Fund puts out a terrific weekly round-up on what’s happening in education there. Today’s is must-read with regard to the Mission Hill situation. Surprised there is not more attention on this. OK not surprised, but still…c’mon.

This Noah Smith column is interesting and weirdly made me a little happier:

This morning I noticed that the New York Times blamed rising imports for the fall in U.S. GDP in the first quarter of 2022:

“The ballooning trade deficit, meanwhile, took more than three percentage points away from G.D.P. growth in the first quarter. Imports, which are subtracted from gross domestic product because they are produced abroad, have soared in recent months as U.S. consumers have kept spending. But exports, which add to G.D.P., have lagged in part because of weaker economic growth abroad.:” (emphasis mine)

The part in bold is not right. In fact, it’s the most common mistake in economics journalism. And it’s a mistake that helped to fuel Donald Trump’s misguided trade policies.

There is a tendency, I know I am sometimes guilty, to think that misconceptions in the media about your field are uniquely sloppy, common, or bad. Grass is greener, expertise bias, or whatever. There are certainly some issues with education coverage but in practice all fields have gaps of various kinds and commonly repeated mistakes or misconceptions that find their way into the political debate. It’s not good, nor helpful, but it’s a thing in life. And it’s not unique to education. Sometimes it’s ideological or biased, but sometimes people are just doing the best they can, reporting well is not an easy job, and things are confusing. Anyhow, a good reminder.

It’s Friday, where is the fish porn?

People ask! I have been awfully busy lately and the pics have been piling up. I have Katie Rouse, Jonathan Harber, Chad Ratliff, Simmons Lettre, Ben Wallerstein, and more! I will get to them. For now, here’s a pic Dan Willingham sent. It’s a nice one to end the week. And because the past few weeks have been a little rough for a lot of people Dan’s the perfect fisherman to highlight. He doesn’t even fish. He sent me this note:

I don’t fish, so I never thought I’d get to participate in fish porn. And in truth the attached hardly qualifies as porn of any sort. But here I am posing with a lightning whelk, probably 12-14 inches, which is likely as close as I’m going to get.

That is close enough for what we do here. Especially because Dan is one of the nicest, most caring, and most committed people you will run across in this sector. Genuinely lovely human. And his work (at least the stuff he and I don’t collaborate on) is really valuable for the field and will push your thinking. All of which is why it’s a great pic to feature even if Dan didn’t actually catch the fish.

Finally, for the real Dan nerds, here’s a track from the archives. An article Dan and I did together was recently traducido al español y publicado en Chile. Puedes leerlo aquí. Originales aquí.

Have a warm, in all senses of the word, weekend.

Let’s Not “CRT” And “Groomer” SEL. Plus, What’s Old Is New On Sloppy Poll Trends? Fake Vax Cards, Northern Reads…More!

I’m in California for the BARR Center annual conference – first time in-person in a few years. BARR does – shhhhh – SEL work for teachers. Great results from independent evaluations. And they’re a client so all the usual disclosures and disclaimers. But, if you needed a reminder that our culture wars are dumb this is it. 700 teachers here and they are interested in helping kids learn a full panoply of skills to succeed in school and life, not in brainwashing them. This is not controversial stuff with parents or teachers. You hear nothing about any of the culture war stuff that animates the SEL debate on social media and in some communities.

That said, to the extent SEL is being used in some instances as a cover to smuggle political things into curriculum – and in some cases it is – the SEL community should stand up and call BS. Otherwise one more worthwhile thing will be steamrolled by culture war theatrics.

At 2:45PT/5:45ET this afternoon I’m doing a discussion with Kelly Pannek and Nicole Hensley from the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team. Both women won gold in 2018 and silver in 2022.  We’ll talk about teachers, mentors, coaches, and what they’ve learned on their path to the pinnacle of their sport. It’ll be available after the fact on video, too.

This from an interview I did with The 74 following the 2021 Virginia election:

I’m wondering what you make of the fact that Glenn Youngkin can win a blue state in part due to outrage about school governance even as activists in Idaho Falls can’t get rid of a few board members?

This is an important point. It doesn’t seem like there was a unidirectional wave around the country where it all went one way in board races. Parents are frustrated, people disagree, but in general, people don’t gamble with their schools. There is a real chance the Republicans will misread this and overreach.

From the overreach beat:

Republican lawmakers around the country are pushing an array of bills that limit the discussion of gay rights in schools under the auspices of parental rights, leading some party strategists to worry that the initiatives may backfire with moderate voters by making the party seem anti-gay.

Hateful and politically stupid is no way to go through life son.

You generally have a broad consensus in this country arounds greater inclusion for LGBT individuals. It’s why in relatively short order you had Lawrence, Obergefell, and Bostock (6-3!) at the Supreme Court. The modal voter is now broadly supportive of what used to be called gay rights. From where I sit that’s a very good thing. The issues we fight about, sports, bathrooms, are not trivial issues, but at the same time show how far we’ve come. And we’re talking about kids, and that creates some sympathy, too. So the Republicans are playing with fire if they extend and conflate efforts to restrict sex and gender education in the early grades and parental rights, which enjoys broad support, with things like not allowing gay teachers to acknowledge their families and eroding tolerance and acceptance more generally.

Rick Hess points out that politically the Democrats are struggling on education but the Republicans are not cleaning up. This may be in part why.

Eroding confidence in Democrats has not yet, however, translated into substantial Republican gains. When it comes to education, confidence in the GOP hovered between 32 and 40 percent in all but two years between 2003 and 2019, and it remains firmly planted in that same range now (though it has recovered from Trump-era lows).

When it comes to education, the share of voters rejecting both parties has jumped sharply in the past five years. A substantial chunk of voters (nearly one in five) currently expresses confidence in neither party.

On the other hand, a school could go full realist and adopt this Freddie deBoer passage as its DEI statement. (It would also make a fantastic wedding or graduation card):

I don’t mean to be a bummer here. But it’s important to point out that we’re born in terror, we exist for no reason, we experience confusion and shame as children, we busily prepare ourselves for lives we don’t want or can’t have, we are forced to take on the burdens of adult responsibility, we compromise relentlessly on what life we’ll pursue, we settle and settle and settle, we fear death and ponder our meaninglessness, we experience the horrors of aging, and when we die the only comfort we have is that we aren’t conscious to learn that there was never any heaven or God to give it all meaning. This is the inevitable reality of human life and it can never change. That condition has a way of spilling out into our quotidian day-to-day concerns of being desirable or important.

Here we go again. A few years ago I noticed something weird in the MetLife teacher survey and realized they were cooking the books by conflating two seemingly similar but actually different questions.

When asked about career satisfaction in 2009, 59 percent of teachers said they were “very satisfied.” The next time the satisfaction question was asked, in 2011 —  this time focused on about jobsatisfaction — only 44 percent said so. Perhaps things got bad; you can’t know. But in 1985 and 1986, the question was also changed — again from asking about career to asking about job. What happened? Those saying they were “very satisfied” fell 11 points. It’s reasonable to infer, both as a matter of survey methodology and also common sense, that the wording does matter.

In other words, asking about job satisfaction and career satisfaction are two different things. One is more temporal. You can’t build a trend if you conflate those questions.

The other day Robert Pondiscio wrote excitedly that this survey is being resurrected. But it appears the new survey, now by Education Week and Merrimack College is doing the same thing and conflating the job and career numbers to build a trend line.

On the most current data, what the new survey finds (online survey, usual caveats apply) is that 66% of teachers are “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their job. Only 12% said “very satisfied” and only 15% “very unsatisfied.” Look, it’s a tough time for teachers. It’s a challenging job normally. The pandemic was not normally. And now many teachers are unwilling combatants in our stupid culture fights. So maybe 66% is actually pretty remarkable? And compared to some other fields it is. I don’t know, but we rarely talk about these numbers in context.

Now the bad faith reading of what I’m saying is that I’m somehow oblivious to the realities teachers face and the challenges today. That’s obviously not the point I’m making. But we can overstate the problems, God knows this field loves a crisis. So this is merely a plea to play the data straight and put it all in context. Things aren’t great, but also aren’t so bad!

We talked about NCTE’s novel position on reading the other day. Amber Northern does not want to decenter books!

If that weren’t enough, they make a feeble attempt to prove that “research evidence amply shows the need to move beyond the exclusive focus on traditional reading and writing competencies.” Where’s this evidence, you say? Well, they cite two studies—one of which is published in a journal about the “cultural politics of education” and takes place in England and Northern Ireland. It finds that “when students are empowered to critically examine popular culture texts in the classroom, the process can productively disrupt classroom hierarchies.” That hardly qualifies as a bounty of research justifying the “decentering” of traditional reading and writing.

Department of pandemic absurdity: The UFT and fake vax card teachers are squaring off against New York City.

The teachers union is planning to sue the NYC Department of Education after dozens of staffers were placed on unpaid leave for allegedly submitting fake vaccination cards.