May 3, 2019

Sara Mead On Trump And Head Start, Bennet, Integration, More…

Sara Mead on some Head Start policy changes and how fixation on President Trump’s antics on Twitter districts from real policy changes with substantial effects.

Elizabeth Ross on state efforts around teacher quality.

Today in integration news. Lest you think this is an outlier there is a lot of crazy stuff like this that happens around various school recognitions.

Also, a dispatch from Charlottesville. And an issue that’s hardly unique to Charlottesville.

Colorado Senator Michael Bennet is running for President. You don’t see a lot of former school superintendents do that – I believe Strom Thurmond was the last one. That’s pretty much where the comparisons end but it’s interesting trivia. In that vein, I remember when Bennet was superintendent in Denver and you’d go to schools with him both the teachers and the students were often quite familiar with him. He clearly got out there a lot and was keenly interested in student work, what goes on in classrooms, and used student work to drive conversations about quality. It was impressive and not the norm.

New superintendent in Boston.

And to glory I will go.


Friday Fish Porn – Class In Session

Parker Baxter is Director of the Center for Education Policy Analysis at the School of Public Affairs at CU Denver. More on that below.

He’s also a fisherman, has fished all over the country including for smallmouth bass on Virginia’s Shenandoah. Couple of fish here, including a monster largemouth bass from Florida last weekend.  And a good reminder to take a kid fishing this summer.

More education types (a lot more) with fish can be found by clicking here and here.

Parker also runs a well-regarded summer institute in Denver on education systems work with a national line up of guest inspectors. You can learn more about it here.


May 2, 2019

Good School Leadership Doesn’t Just Appear

It’s a week where the education sector is acknowledging teachers and school leaders. In that spirit here’s a guest post by Anne Wicks, Director of Education Reform at the George W. Bush Institute. 

Think for a minute about the very best boss you ever worked for in the past. What was it about how they “bossed” that made it great?  That person likely had your back, supported and challenged you, and was invested in your success. He or she wanted you to get better and to do well in your role.

That is exactly what great principals do for the adults and students on their campus. They hire and support strong teachers, they bring a focus to high quality instruction, and they set a positive school culture for staff, students, and families. Principals are the leaders closest to the goal of every school: student success.

Ann Clark, former superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and current George W. Bush Institute Education Reform School Leadership Initiative advisor, describes the impact of principals, “The principal is the key lever for transformational change at a school. Everything they do supports the magic that happens in the classroom between a teacher and a student.  Great teachers might be hired by a mediocre principal, but they won’t stay at a school with a mediocre principal.”

As we honor school leaders on National Principals Day, which was yesterday, it is important to remember that great school principals are developed over time. They don’t show up on campus as fully developed leaders on day one, yet most districts operate as if they do. The work of preparation, recruitment, selection, supervision, compensation, incentives, evaluation, and working conditions often function disparately instead of systemically.

Each district has practices and policies in place that impact principals, but few districts ask if what is in place helps to recruit, support, and retain highly effective principals in every school.  Our work is designed to help answer that question – and to share what we learn with our colleagues across the field.

We developed a principal talent management framework to showcase what elements connect to support (or frustrate) principals over their careers.  We selected four districts as research partners to help us test this framework – along with our effective implementation framework – to see if we got it right.

The four districts in our cohort work with a dedicated expert district advisor, created and curated tools and resources, and benefit from a learning community built around three convenings a year. Our goal is for the districts to use the frameworks to explore, amend, and build systems that support their principals – and to tell us what they need to make and sustain change over time. So far everything from very practical management tools to nuanced policy discussions has emerged from our work together.

We started by asking our district teams – which include a combination of district leaders, principal supervisors, and principals – if they shared a commonly held definition of a highly effective principal in their district. They each believed that they did, but reviewing existing frameworks and artifacts together exposed some interesting gaps around norming, assumptions, and applications of that definition in practice.

Do our job descriptions reflect that definition? Do our preparation program partners understand our definition of high quality and embed it into their curriculum? Is our selection process transparent and equitable for both adults and students? Does our evaluation system reflect our definition of a high quality leader – and does our evaluation system inform our professional learning curriculum?

We believe that exploring and addressing questions like these will help districts better recruit, support, and retain great principals over time. Important research around principal talent management is beginning to emerge, notably the Wallace Foundation/Rand Corporation recent report on the positive impact of their principal pipeline work.  Our own early results show that change is possible when implementation capacity and high quality interventions combine.

Systems work is not sexy or exciting. In a field where shiny objects attract a lot of attention and funding, it can feel Sisyphean to get people on board with the critical work of systems. We are nearly halfway through our research project, and I continued to be inspired by the professionals who are eager to learn more, to apply new ideas and tools to their particular context, to make change in service of their students, and to share what they have experienced with other educators.

This work is not easy. We don’t expect it to be. But our district colleagues show us that it is possible, and that it makes a difference. All of our kids need schools led by great principals and classrooms led by strong teachers, and it is OK to acknowledge that strong systems make that possible.

Anne Wicks is Director of Education Reform at the George W. Bush Institute. 


May 1, 2019

Charter Schools, Sports, Chavis x 2, Mergers, Tauscher Was The Real Deal, ESSA, Curriculum…More…

New Century Foundation report on charter schools and integration – don’t agree with all of it but it’s an important issue. Charter schools – especially urban charter schools – serve a lot of poor kids and that’s a good thing given education quality in this country. And urban charters get pretty good results. Here’s data on both demographics and performance. But, economically integrated schools have benefits, too. The problem is that parents – of all races/ethnicities – prioritize school diversity differently relative to other features and in practice there is something of a Maslow’s hierarchy in play. One of the elegant features of a choice system is that parents can articulate these preferences.  Given today’s education inequities we should be careful about any policy that could lead to the gentrification of charter schools that are committed to and effective at serving the most underserved students. But it would be helpful if there were also more explicit support for schools trying to serve an intentionally diverse student body. Seems like a better “and” play than an “or” play in federal policy though. And as with many things in the charter sector the and versus or approach is a tell about whether an idea is about expanding choice and empowerment or expanding a particular view on what schooling should look like.

Related, here’s Conor Williams on English-language learners and charter schools.

The Caster Semenya story is getting a lot of attention today. Even if you don’t follow sports it’s worth paying attention to because some adjacent issues are emerging in the U.S. around youth athletics where hard won gains for women are coming into conflict with efforts to ensure civil rights protections for transgender youth (and other transgender Americans). Martina Navratilova made waves with remarks about that a few months ago. I’d like to see the next President convene a commission with a variety of stakeholders to sort through these issues in a thoughtful way.

When charter school founder Ben Chavis was charged with a bunch of financial crimes it was a big deal, and now the charges have been quietly dropped and I didn’t realize that because there has been zippo in the way of coverage. I learned of it from a WSJ column that caught my eye.

Also, elsewhere in Ben Chavis news, here’s Benjamin Chavis Jr. on race and Title IX and a take you hear a lot talking with people but rarely see on Twitter.

How are states using ESSA’s evidence requirements? How are they doing curriculum adoption?

Don’t report loads of business news around here but this is a big and significant merger.

Ellen Tauscher passed yesterday, very committed public servant, impressive person, and the real deal. When in Congress she was willing to think outside the box on school infrastructure, perhaps given her financial background, and championed infrastructure banks as a way to help schools with facilities – an idea we could still use today.

Student ownership of their learning…

“I’m sorry, I’m not interested in coloring a map,” she told her mother. “Coloring is pointless.”

I fought the law. 


April 30, 2019

Rocketship, Research To Practice, Public Relationists Win Again, High School Rankings…

Cara Jackson continues her discussion of research to practice. Part deux!

In my previous post, I talked about the importance of rigorous research and the need for researchers to engage directly with education stakeholders. Yet some educators remain skeptical about the value of partnering with researchers, even if the research is relevant and rigorous. Why might education agencies fail to see the value of conducting rigorous research in their own settings?

This is a very good analysis of the Windfall Elimination Provision, which affects a lot of teachers, why it exists and some ways it could be improved. Via Urban Institute.

One of my favorite quotes is a Mark Twain one about how few things are more annoying that a good example. Well, a lot of people seem to find Rocketship annoying. (They’ve been a client).

Whitmire v. the media. Round 2.

U.S. News High School rankings are out. (Backstory/disclosure here).

We sometimes talk around here about public relationists versus achievement realists, which are the two basic computing theories of action among public school supporters. But rarely do the public relationists just come out and say that what they’re up to is a marketing campaign. But it’s 2019 and here we are:

The marketing campaign will try to tell the story of recent changes to the state’s high school graduation requirements, accreditation standards and early childhood education. At the announcement Monday inside Richmond’s Patrick Henry Building, Northam — surrounded by superintendents from across the state — said not enough people know about them.

Meanwhile achievement continues to stagnate or decline. But hey, good slogan.

Loose Lucy.


April 26, 2019


Inequality Finds A Way, Cost Of Living For Teachers, Pearson Update, Class For Radicals, Love At Princeton, More…

Radical class:

The students—past and present—seem grateful for this, as well as for their school’s trust that they could handle it.

Here’s an education story you don’t see every day.

Pearson Q1 performance – through the storm?

Cost of living and pensions – Chad Aldeman suggests tying pension to the CPI.

Inequality finds a way…this should be a sobering account. And a reminder that as long as good schools are a scarce resource most policy levers will not be as robust as we might like to think.

Before the Blackwater.


April 25, 2019

Fyre Fest’s Lessons For Schools! First Amendment And Schools, Teacher Of The Year, Landreiu On Charters, Who Lost Panic?, More….

Nick Allen on what school leaders might learn from Fyre Fest. Yes, for real.

Fannie Mae wants your education ideas for work they’re doing at the intersection of affordable housing, education and mobility*

Nice Teacher of the Year nod for a Virginia teacher in a non-traditional setting. At Bellwether we do both policy work and direct advising of agencies serving adjudicated youth – it’s an often overlooked part of the sector so this is great to see.

Mary Landrieu on Dems and charter schools.

Pondiscio on the freedom to teach content.

Serious lack of Title IX compliance in K-12 schools. 

A few weeks ago we talked about the not infrequent “can you force students to say the Pledge of Allegiance?” stories. The answer is no and it’s been settled for decades but it’s nonetheless a fun one to write about especially when administrators overreact.

Another version of this kind of thing is the always popular can school administrators restrict student newspapers angle? This one obviously hold special appeal for journalists. Except here again the answer is largely settled at the SCOTUS (it’s yes) but still we get stories like this one these days often infused with some Trump overtones. This particular story the student journalists are working on seems important and like good journalism but also complicated for administrators given that a student is involved and that students may have accessed porn as part of a school activity and possibly from school computers, in the reporting of it. In any event, each of these instances is not a complete jump ball on First Amendment issues no matter how much people may wish that were so. California not surprisingly has additional law about student expression, but this instance may still be problematic given the nature of the story the students want to publish.

The contest over student press rights is unfolding as President Trump continues to deride journalists as the “Enemy of the People” and as the United States is downgraded to 48th among 180 nations in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

It is within this context that the faculty adviser, Kathi Duffel, has remained resolute in her refusal to seek the district’s approval to run the story. She says the rights of her students are on the line.

“I tell the kids, ‘Free speech isn’t free, is it?’” she said in an interview with The Washington Post. The prospect that she could lose her job — one she has held for more than three decades — brings her to tears, said Duffel, 57.

But there are higher values at stake. One of them, she said, is sheer storytelling.

“This young woman has quite a story to tell,” Duffel said. “She has every right to tell her story, and we have every right to report it.”

Yeah, no. Probably not quite that straightforward here.

By May tenth Richmond…

 *Disc – Bellwether is advising on this work.


April 23, 2019

Bellwether Is A Good Place To Work – Don’t Take Our Word For It…Plus Parkland, Testing, Choice…

Bellwether was named one of Washington’s Best Places To Work by Washingtonian.

Was at a school today that uses Summit but as they were telling me about the various tools they use they made a point of distancing themselves from that one…So, the Times story seems to have accomplished what advocates hoped. What’s ironic, of course, is that personalized learning – done well – requires good teachers and is more of a productivity enhancer than completely new way of doing things and it’s certainly not a teacher replacer.

Catherine Brown on charter schools. Tim Daly on tests.

More choice data, that as is usually the case is more interesting underneath the ‘it works” or “it doesn’t work” battle lines.

Deep dive on Parkland and PROMISE.

Williams is in meltdown!

For what it’s worth.


April 22, 2019

For Charters The Crypt Might Not Be The Safest Place? Moskowitz – Shapiro Debate, Real Estate, Testing Politics, Research To Practice And Caring For Young Children…More…

This Sara Mead piece on care of young children is both fun and deadly serious.

There is a research – practice disconnect, Cara Jackson looks at what can be done. 

Eva Moskowitz keys off this Richard Whitmire column the other day to note that lawsuits involving her school get a lot of ink but when the school prevails it’s crickets. That sparked this response from NY Times’ Eliza Shapiro.

John Fallon remembers a Pearson employee killed in the Sri Lanka attacks this weekend.

Kate Walsh on the human cost of education politics.

Bruno Manno on mobility report cards.

Dale Chu on testing politics in 2019.

Interesting look at the microfinance aspect of teacher pensions.

This is an important story and not limited to California. Housing for teachers in certain really high priced real estate markets (desirable markets or resort areas) is a real problem.

Speaking of California, is the crypt the safest place to be for charters? This commission is worth keeping an eye on. Good faith effort to avert disrupting the education of students in more than 1,000 schools, many of which are very high performing and most of which are popular with parents or a, “well, we gave it a shot, but now…” play? Some prebuttal going on already but will be interesting to see what they come up with it and what a real “compromise” might look like.

Psst guys…people are really into SEL these days.

Social background and school performance.

Chris Stewart takes the helm at Ed Post. 

This is not professional advice, legal advice, or really anything formal at all. Just informal life advice: Do not do any of the things pretty much anyone in this article does.

Hurt.