School Transportation – A Legit Crisis? Designer Genes, NCLB Tropes, More…

Some odds and ends:

We do know how to teach kids to read, so it’s worth asking why we often don’t?  Everyone loves to hate on Success Academy but it’s hard to argue with this kind of agility – and they have more than 20k kids so it’s not about size. Mark Twain remarked that nothing is more annoying to put up with than a good example…

When my wife lived for a few years in a remote part of Kyrgyzstan she’d have everyone she knew mail extra eyeglasses, it was an easy thing that changed lives. We can take similar steps for kids here in the states, too. It has benefits.

There is a lot of subsurface discussion of genetics, here are two articles you might check out: Laurence Holt in Education Next on one path. Freddie deBoer on another.

Even when you don’t agree with him deBoer is usually a penetrating writer but this piece extending the argument to No Child misses the mark. What’s with everyone on Substack suddenly deciding that Common Core and No Child are of a piece? A Bari Weiss post did the same thing this week. Common Core was intended in no small part as a corrective to parts of NCLB. Also this,

NCLB essentially mandated perpetual improvement in student scores and in effect demanded 100% compliance with state standards. Schools that failed to meet these requirements faced harsh sanctions. This resulted in both states and the feds devising workarounds for what was the law of the land – states set standards that were so low it strained the very definition of a standard, and the Obama Department of Education issued exemptions by the bushel.

One of the laziest tropes about NCLB is that it required 100 percent proficiency from students. Yes, sure, that was the political rhetoric from some quarters and would have been the effect if the law ran for like 25 years, but it’s not remotely how the policy actually worked. And repeating political rhetoric isn’t really what writers are supposed to do. Also state standards often sucked before NCLB, just called the question on that. Finally, states setting standards really low was the problem with the precursor law to NCLB, IASA. But everyone knows what they know.

You’ve probably heard about the school bus driver shortage crisis. If not Google. Except unlike a lot of education crises du jour, it’s a real problem.

There are a few reasons for the current shortage, some that get attention and some that don’t and some that predate Covid and some that don’t. There are more attractive opportunities for CDL holders, drivers can be older and more Covid-concerned as a result, the hours are weird and don’t work for some schedules or people seeking full time work. And a lot of folks fail drug tests these days because we’ve created a mess with opiates.

One solution, though not a comprehensive one but for higher density areas, would be to get school districts out of the business of transportation. They’re not great at it and it’s inefficient (there is a reason there are consulting firms that specialize in cost savings from transportation efficiency, it’s low-hanging fruit). The legacy of rules governing municipal transportation and school transportation include some noxious elements and racism dating to the busing and integration era – namely that municipal routes can’t really be modified to accommodate students.

This is all fixable. And it’s not hard to envision a regional solution that integrated transportation to better serve young people  (and old people), reduced some inefficiencies, and generally met community needs better. There are some unique aspects of school transportation, especially for little kids and special needs students, but a more comprehensive system could address these, too.

Yes, the idea of the bus driver is going to be antiquated at some point with self-driving vehicles but that’s not here yet, and the core transportation issue of getting people from point A to point B will remain.

Bellwether has done some work on transportation, it’s a fascinating and under-leveraged issue. If you are concerned about the environment, school choice, or efficiency there is something for you in it.

Watch an Elk.