Odds & Ends: Rocket Launch? Down On The Bayou, And, Almost Heaven…For Debaters?

Rocketship Education* taking off in California: Approval for 20 new schools in and around San Jose. It’s an interesting venture so keep an eye on how they manage all the usual challenges of growth but also what this does to the politics of education in the area.

In Louisiana Stand For Children* is launching a new chapter – and heavy-hitter Rayne Martin is leaving the LDOE to run it.

Public Impact just released an overview of ideas about different school models* – part of this whole project on expanding the reach of great teachers.  Good food for thought.

And speaking of rockets, this initiative in McDowell County is terrific if it comes to fruition – The link? Homer Hickman, think “October Sky,” is from Coalwood in McDowell County.  Places like McDowell are too often overlooked in the conversations about key educational issues, in particular human capital and ed tech.  The framing in this morning’s Washington Post story is unfortunate, however.  Apparently looking for friction or finding friction offered to them they pitch this as some sort of referendum or proof point on the what schools can do versus how much poverty matters debate. For starters the people in McDowell deserve better than to be used in that way.  But substantively the initiative isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be, framed that way to begin with.  Based on what’s known, now, the initiative is clearly going to address the sorry state of the schools there as well as the various community challenges in McDowell.  And that’s great.  Why? Because both are sorely needed and because the data are already pretty clear about this strategy – for all the breathless talk about the Harlem Children’s Zone the evidence from Harlem indicates that good schools, even more than the services, are the linchpin to improving student outcomes there. You see that in the data on the zone and on other schools operating in Harlem.  Admittedly it’s a crazy idea that good teaching is what matters most to good teaching, but it’s true! The services matter in a variety of ways but if you want great educational outcomes you need great educational institutions, too.  Anyway, everyone should be pulling for McDowell (and other similar too often ignored places throughout Appalachia), and for the American Federation of Teachers to pull this off.

*Couple of discs on this morning’s items. My BW colleague Kim Smith is on the Rocketship Board, BW works with Stand and has a hand in this Public Impact project.  And despite their best efforts to ruin it by blasting the tops of the mountains I still adore West Virginia and love spending time there, so partisan in that way.

One Reply to “Odds & Ends: Rocket Launch? Down On The Bayou, And, Almost Heaven…For Debaters?”

  1. “I’ve gotten so angry in the last couple of years when people who are new to our field decide that they alone, just by exhorting, will help ensure that geography does not become destiny for some kids,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, the nation’s second-largest teachers union. It represents educators in the District, New York City and elsewhere, including McDowell. “A lot of the factors that confront kids — poverty, divorce, health care — are real obstacles. People can pretend to ignore them elsewhere, but no one can ignore those factors in McDowell.”

    Looking forward to what can be achieved with this initiative, but come on, Weingarten: it’s “ignoring [poverty]” to say that teachers can have a big impact on educational trajectories? Schools can do nothing to “help ensure geography does not become destiny”? I hope the initiative does not strain under the weight of that claptrap.

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