August 9, 2018

Non-China Midweek Bonus Post

A few wonky tidbits until you return to regularly scheduled USA programming:

Stacy Childress and James Atwood on what they’re learning at NSVF.  Can you guess: what are they learning about growth mindset, and how does it relate to this?  
Matt Kraft and David Blazar on teacher coaching.  Can you guess: what did they find?  (Hint: pertains to scale)
David James taking a shot at professor coaching.  Much needed!  
Jon Baron is all over that scale/evidence question.  Can you guess: what does Jon call the 800 pound gorilla?  
Tom Vander Ark looks at Bridge (disclosure: worked there, love ‘em) for his book, Better Together.  What does he find about scale?  
Patrick Wolf et al with Do Test Scores Really Matter   Must-read.  Pro tip in the tables: ELA gains and high school grad rates modestly predict college grad rates, but math gains didn’t.  CMO problem: much better at math gains than ELA gains.  Hmm.  
What’s an under-used outcome measure?  Net Promoter Score!  Gets at what “customers” really think.  Two great organizations just today shared their NPS: Matt Kramer at Wildflower Montessori micro schools, and Jessica Kiessel at Omidyar Network (grantmaking).  More please!
Guestblogger Mike Goldstein 

August 8, 2018

American Teachers in China

I’m guest-blogging this week about education in China.  Yesterday I described the fast growth of Chinese private schools.

That surge has only worsened the shortage in American and British teachers over there, for which there is high demand.

One headmaster told me he’d attended a particular international recruiting conference in 2017, where 2 Chinese schools were in the mix.  There he made 8 offers and hired 3 teachers.  In 2018, at the same conference, 20 Chinese schools were there.  There he made 0 offers.  Increased demand, lower quality of supply.

Add in teacher visa issues.

Add in competitive alternative employment: that American and British teachers can stay home on their sofas and teach online if they wish.  VIP Kid is just one of the unicorns rapidly adding teachers.

Add in the short stay at these schools.  Often expat teachers stay just 2 years.  Eduwonk readers: what does that remind you of?

You may have said: urban charter and district schools.   After Match’s first year back in 2000, we lost 3 of 6 teachers.  I did a lot wrong.

Rapid turnover makes it hard to build a positive professional culture.  Which in turn drives even faster turnover.

One substitute in China is more Filipino teachers.  Down the road, Chinese parents will probably become more comfortable with Chinese-born English teachers, as another substitute for expat teachers.

What about the core issue?  How could these Chinese schools keep these expat teachers for an average stay of 4 years, instead of 2?  This would halve their hiring, and improve culture.

I asked that in my travels.  Most common answer?

“More training.”  And by that they mean traditional “sit in the room, hear a presentation” type training.  Hey Dan: I suggest TNTP translates The Mirage into Mandarin.

I suggested that America’s top charter schools focus more on improving professional culture.  Alex Hernandez describes this as rowing in the same direction in his excellent June article on The74.

Indeed, in China, I saw bilingual schools where the Chinese teachers were in fact doing that, but the expat teachers were all individuals…”let me close my classroom door and do what I wish.”

To my suggestion, recruiters in China pushed back: “Sounds nice but idealistic. The reality is I’m already coming up short.  If I add another box to check, I’ll be even further behind.”  Again, reminds me of urban district recruiters.

I had to concede that point.  Short term.  My argument was that the “winning” happens in the medium term.  That’s why outlier, high performing schools follow Jim Collins, and absorb 2 types of pain.

  1. Define in plainspoken language what it means to truly row in the same direction – what teachers all need to do, emphasizing not the “cool stuff” (perks) but the hard, more controversial stuff that candidates might like the least (therefore giving them a really easy path to opt out).  Writing that out can be painful.
  2. Get the right people on the bus.  “Right” means aligned with your school’s specific details, not inherently “better.”  If it’s a close call, say “no” – even more pain that can only be overcome with sheer recruiting hustle.

If you get that right, I said, recruiting within a couple years will be WAY easier.

If I manage to help start a school in China, I’ll try that approach, and report back to you on whether it worked.

– Guestblogger Mike Goldstein, cross-posted at

August 7, 2018

Gaokao or SAT?

This week I’m guest-blogging about schools in China.

  1. What is the Gaokao?

From a CNBC story in June:

Nearly 10 million Chinese students have been preparing for this Thursday and Friday since kindergarten.

Gaokao, China’s university entrance exam, directly determines which universities students can go to. To some extent, it determines whether they will become blue-collar or white-collar workers later in their lives. 

Many countries have a similar approach for college admissions.  No GPA.  No essay or recs or interview.  No list of extra curricular activities.

Just the test.

In the USA, we use the expression high-stakes tests, but compared to other places, our “stakes” are perhaps in the 3 out of 10 range, versus 10 out of 10.

So most Chinese parents spend a ton on after-school tutoring centers, way more than Americans spend on the likes of Kumon.

More recently: coding at some of these centers, per the excellent Sixth Tome.

  1. Chinese to America

A growing number of Chinese families hope to bypass Chinese universities altogether, and send their kids to American universities.

It’s estimated to be about 330,000 students now.  So a large number in absolute terms, though low compared to Gaokao takers.

Four thoughts/trends:

a. First, partly because of this aspiration to American colleges, brand new private K-12 schools are cropping up all over China.

School is taught either partially or totally in English.  Overview here.  AP courses, SAT prep, etc.  Lots of Harkness tables.

For Eduwonk readers, of interest is perhaps that BASIS is operating schools in China, as well as Chris Whittle.

I was impressed with the excellent HD schools; their campus in Ningbo just had its first graduating class.  School is taught half in Mandarin, half in English.

Many parents I met in China want Western style teaching.  I’m not sure whether the cause of that is “Western teaching helps you prepare for Western universities” or simply “We’d rather our kids in classrooms with more discussions and less cramming/lecture.”

No charter schools, though.  No Catholic or other lower-cost private schools, either, that I saw (though it’s a big country…so I’m probably wrong about that).

I’ll write more tomorrow about teachers in these new private schools.

b. Second, bumpy Trump/Xi relations will affect things.

Propaganda/spy concerns here and here.  New visa limits for science grad students, with implications here.  The trade war.

c. Third, anxiety/depression/isolation.See NY Times here.

And for Chinese kids attending American private boarding schools, that issue is even worse…according to my decidedly unscientific survey of conversations with prep school teachers and headmasters back here in USA.

In some ways, this reminds me of minority Americans who are first in their families to go to college, where the likes of KIPP and Posse Foundation do great things to support them.

– Everyone wants to celebrate upon admission to the prep school or university, but the sizable risk of failure is swept under the rug.

– The “Do I belong here?” question never quite goes away.

– If you fail, it’s not just a personal setback: you feel like you let your whole family down.

d. Finally, in part because of the bamboo ceiling, more sea turtles are returning to China after graduation from American colleges.

– Guestblogger Mike Goldstein, cross-posted at

August 6, 2018


Greetings Eduwonk readers.  My first guest blogging stint here was 13 years ago.  Plus ca change: Boston needed a new superintendent, etc.  Yet progress too!  A 2005 concern, now progress.  Idea here, actuality here.

I’d founded Match, a small charter high school, and in 2005, we’d just had our first graduating class (+ lots of attrition).  These days Match is K-12 but less tutoring, provides free curriculum to teachers, runs a small grad school, has a tutoring spinoff called Saga, and a higher-ed spinoff called Duet.

More recently, I spent 4 years as CAO of Bridge International Academies.  Bridge has schools in Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, India, and Liberia.  I know: Eduwonk readers usually shy away from “international,” with the possible exception of Chilean sea bass.  I invite you to reconsider!  Bridge operates (way) more schools than awesome CMOs like KIPP, IDEA, Uncommon, and Green Dot combined.  With results, questions about pedagogy, parent motivation, and politics that you’d recognize.  And there are many other fascinating international efforts, like thisthis, and this.

No matter what your policy preference, I submit that working (with appropriate humility) with folks abroad is an amazing way to learn about other cultures and expand your thinking.  Also, not everything is red/blue tribe like here.  It’s way better than reading Twitter all day and feeling jumpy.

My next adventure: China.  Or so I hope.

I’m just back from Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzen.  I’ll share thoughts all week.  Context: one-child policy is over, class size can hit 70 (paging Leonie), there’s a vast migration from the sticks to the cities, private schools are tiny in number but growing fast, and China really wants to do better in World Cup.

Here are impressions from Christi Edwards, a North Carolina math teacher who just visited Nanjing and Chengdu.  “Teenagers are teenagers wherever you go,” she said.  I agree.

– Guestblogger Mike Goldstein, cross-posted at

August 3, 2018

New Ideas!

Our field needs new ideas and this Hanna Skandera initiative to help create them is a good one.

Check out this webinar on how to get your ideas in the mix.

Bellwether is involved in this but we surely don’t have all the answers, neither do any of the partners, that’s why they’re doing a call for proposals to really surface interesting ideas and thinking from all over the sector.

Please consider submitting your ideas. There is literally no downside and plenty of upside.

Coming Attractions! Goldstein’s Gonna Go Wild, Aldeman On Inequality, Phil On Buses, More…

I’m off to Massachusetts for the Pan Mass Challenge, an annual fundraiser that is always a highlight of my summer. I ride 192 miles from Sturbridge to Provincetown and raise funds to support the tremendous and life changing work at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. And then I’m taking a break from the blog for a few weeks.

While I’m gone, Mike Goldstein will be here for a week to go wild. That’s a mostly annual tradition I really enjoy and a lot of readers do, too.

And the second week you will hear from leadership and a principal and a student involved with AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), a non-profit, college readiness system that works to close the opportunity and achievement gaps facing students today. AVID is implemented in over 6,000 schools – training 70,000+ teachers and impacting nearly 2 million students each year. 

ICYMI I talked with Brian Jones about a range of things related to education and life.

Chad Aldeman on income inequality and defined benefit plans. Phil Burgoyne-Allen on why making school buses safer is only part of what policymakers should be looking at.

Paul Reville (disclosure, a wonderful and thoughtful voice on the Bellwether board) lays out the argument for the teachers unions to use Janus to pivot to a kids-first agenda. It’s a solid strategy idea that would serve them and the field well. But, while I suspect you’ll see glimpses of this in various places it’s going to be very hard for organizations that can’t embrace parent choice, consequential accountability, or really any policy that is adverse to their membership embracing an agenda like this. That’s the structural box the teachers unions are in as the face a post-Janus world.

Culturally rich schools via chartering in Native American communities.

George Will on Marshall Tuck.

LeBron James is starting a school. More about it here.

Also this Chad Aldis push on virtual schools is interesting.

Super Pooper update.

Stay tuned for this later in the summer when we finish the work:

August 2, 2018

Burn Camp, Brian Jones On Finding Your Duran Duran, LiBetti On Residencies, Remembering Kubach, More…

Posting is light this week because Emmeline Zhao and I were spending a few days at the Mid-Atlantic Burn Camp with an amazing group of kids who are burn survivors and the fantastic all-volunteer camp staff who put on the annual week-long camp for them. More on that soon via The 74, including video. On the right, a group of campers work together on the high ropes course at Camp Horizons near Harrisonburg, Virginia.

I spent some time with Brian Jones recently discussing his influences and mentors and why everyone needs to find their own Duran Duran. Via The 74.

Ashley LiBetti argues that teacher residencies can give school districts more leverage in the education talent market. Also 74.

Doug Kubach remembrance.

Marc Tucker on education stories.

Here’s a paper that suggests, with an interesting analysis, that perhaps all is not lost for the teachers unions with Janus.

Robert Pondiscio on a forthcoming civics equity lawsuit.

Mike Burke (Mid-Atlantic Burn Camp volunteer)

July 30, 2018

Edujob: Chief Equity And Inclusion Officer @ KIPP Bay Area Schools

Here’s an interesting west coast edujob working on DEI for KIPP. From the JD:

At KIPP Bay Area Schools, we recognize the importance of continued investment in our understanding of how our identities shape our approach to this work, how we experience power and privilege, and that we must continually develop our cultural competence in order to best educate our students and partner with our families. We know the work of equity and inclusion in a diverse, multi-site, student-facing organization is fundamental to our success and takes everyone’s commitment. As such, the Chief Equity & Inclusion Officer shapes our strategy and guides our efforts; they hold up a mirror, and they “hold our hand” while “holding our feet to the fire.” We do not outsource our equity and inclusion efforts to this Chief, but we look to them for leadership, alignment, support, and accountability.

The Chief Equity & Inclusion Officer will report to the CEO and work from our downtown Oakland offices, with frequent travel to our schools and local communities throughout the Bay Area.

Learn more and how to be considered here.

July 27, 2018

The Case Of The Wage Gap, Plus Florida, Illinois, Music, Fish, Scarcity, And Chris Stewart…Dash’s Math And Betsy’s Boat…More…

Evan Coughenour on strategy to execution. Max Marchitello continues to round up and eliminate the usual suspects on the pay gaps in Illinois.

I reviewed a Tedeschi Trucks, Drive By Truckers, and Marcus King Band show for GratefulEd. And Jason Weeby took a kid – his kid – fishing.

Gregory McGinity notes that rather than fight over too few good schools, a city like New York could open new ones. It’s an important point and it’s hard to miss how the fight over New York’s competitive admission high schools might look different absent the backdrop of scarcity or taking scarcity as fixed rather than variable.

Smart analysis of teachers union demographics post-Janus.

Today in pensions and perverse incentives.

Doug Tuthill on Florida.

Today in local control.

Since there seems to be only one for-profit company or assessment company anyone pays attention to, here’s some earnings news from Pearson.

Chris Stewart:

I disagree and find the idea that poor kids with parents who aren’t white and college educated ensure a school cannot have passing test scores insulting, racist, classist, and in breach of anything approximating progressivism.

Incredibles Math. When you have this many yachts something is bound to happen to one of them.