November 2, 2018

Eight Cities Backstory, Bellwether Is Hiring, P2T Winners, Title IX, Teacher Policy, WeWork Goes Dry!

We are hiring a senior policy analyst at Bellwether – join us.

Eight Cities project backstory.

Do all teachers get a pension? Seems like an easy question but the answer is actually complicated.

Speaking of it depends, Kelly Robson takes a look at breadth versus depth of impact and levels of government for interventions.

First round Pathway to Tomorrow winners announced, glad Bellwether among them.

Your periodic reminder that a lot of the Washington debate about Title IX sexual assault, while important, is ultimately cosmetic because the courts are going to have a lot to say here and probably the final word. Also, here’s US News on Title IX and the culture wars.

It’s almost like there is a huge problem with a really foundational aspect of the education sector: teacher prep. But, not as consequential as you might think because:

Currently, fewer than half of all states explicitly require their districts to use effectiveness data when making dismissal decisions (22) or deciding which teachers to lay off (19).

That’s from an NCTQ analysis out this week.

WeWork cutting rations to four beers a day.

Friday Fish Porn – CA Bugs!

Austin Dannhaus has been around the education scene for a while but came to fishing late. Now, he’s making up for lost time. Here he is fishing the caddis hatch on the McLeod River in California.

Caddis are pretty ubiquitous bugs that trout at times go bananas for. They come up through the water column and then live in vegetation along water features – but not for that long. Trout will dial in on them in various stages of their life cycle and when they’re really keyed into something the fishing can be crazy.

Also, including a pretty nice dog pic.

Want more pictures of education people with fish or fishing? Click here and here

October 31, 2018

Virginia’s Sweet And Bitter Fruit, DC Charter Performance, ROI On Ed Philantrhopy, Happy Halloween!

The other day I noted that Betsy DeVos’ husband was still giving to politics despite her pledge that wouldn’t happen. I’m sympathetic, who can get their spouse to do anything they don’t want to do? In any event, I double linked a Detroit News article rather than linking to the peg for that, this new CAP report.

Haven’t written about this Times story on Charlottesville and schools because while I get the conceit of using C’ville to make the point given recent history, it’s really a story you could write about all manner of education issues in Virginia (and many other places). In the case of the Old Dominion, racial gaps of various kids have persisted – and been swept under the rug – for a long time. The whole state accountability and accreditation regime is politically designed to stay ahead of this rather than confront the hard truths and the public relationists not the achievement realists run the show. So the ratio of  happy talk to serious instructional improvement is less than ideal. When is the last time you really heard attention to the appalling gaps in Virginia – and not just on NAEP or the state’s tests but on measures like Advanced Studies Diplomas and other outcomes? And even in 2018 people still say some crazy stuff about why that is…That’s not to minimize anything in Charlottesville, but rather to say it’s a much broader problem that doesn’t get a lot of attention – and especially not in a polarized time because it doesn’t align neatly with left – right divides.

Related: Jason Kamras profile.

Even if you’re not a DC resident a lot to learn from the performance framework the DC Public Charter School Board uses and its impact on parent behavior. Not a perfect system, nothing is, but a lot of strengths.

I’d argue a bigger problem in the ed sector is politics – we do know some things that work far better than the status quo but they run afoul of politics and fecklessness, but regardless, if the ROI of ed philanthropy doesn’t keep you up at night, it should.

We might focus on instruction more?

More push on the unions.

Newsflash: Education usually doesn’t matter a lot to federal races, so this is kind of an evergreen (though not wrong) take. 

Quintron And Miss Pussycat.

Posted on Oct 31, 2018 @ 3:40pm

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.


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.