Is It Too Late On Recovery Dollars? Plus,Times Tanks Loudoun, Ed Finance, And Assessment Access…

States and school districts don’t do a great job communicating about, or even being transparent about, student assessments. A cynic might say that’s by design. Recovering psychometrician and Bellwether analyst Michelle Croft on the parent side of that.

In last week’s fish porn post, I was remiss in not pointing out that if things like Alaska make you smile, then you might like Filson. I’ve had a relationship with them for some time, the gear is great and the clothes durable and functional. Some products available via Amazon for faster shipping.

One line of thought is that education reformers are not very good at doing politics. Probably something to that. But a slightly different line of thought that doesn’t get as much airtime might be that reformers are not good at sustaining politics. And the latter is a different skill set. There have been some wins. Then, advocates move on, funders change or “refresh” strategy or decide “mission accomplished,” the media loses interest. Meanwhile, opponents of reform are still there – and still funded. Denver has some of these elements and Parker Baxter and Alan Gottlieb take a look at the trajectory through the last election. 

In his Times op-ed chiding the Biden Administration on inflation, Steven Rattner concludes,

The White House needs to inject some real fiscal discipline into its thinking. Given the importance of Mr. Biden’s spending initiatives, the right move would be to add significant revenue sources. Yes, that means tax increases. We can’t get back money badly spent. But we can build this economic plan back better.

In the case of education is “we can’t get back money badly spent” absolutely true? There is a lot of pandemic relief money still unspent in the pipeline. Remember, about $200 billion went to schools since March 2020, much of it on the assumption that like the last downturn budgets would crater. In fact, states mostly weathered the pandemic OK fiscally. You can’t get this money back per se, but through collective action, incentives, state leadership, and other steps  there is an opportunity to use it more constructively than essentially leaving it on a stump under cover of night, which is how the spending bills were largely constructed. In other words, the badly part is not yet fait accompli.

On finance, here’s Bellwether’s Alex Spurrier writing for AASA:

Here’s BW’s Bonnie O’Keefe talking with TN’s Erika Berry about finance and the recent Bellwether Splitting The Bill analysis.

If you want more Alex here he is in today’s CT Post on the inequity of school boundaries.

New York Times dives into Loudoun County, but not the deep end. A lot of it is blow by blow on stuff that’s already public record, but it reads like a narrative confirming or prophylactic effort by local folks and one that won’t age well on a few dimensions. A few things I was surprised it did not get into more.

First, there is a history of racism in Loudoun County schools, and not only a 1950s kind of recent history, the district was not out of line to apologize for that. There is also plenty of data around this. The Times had a few anecdotes and seems to assume racism is self-evident to everyone, always, but there is a lot more there to paint a picture that makes some of what the district is trying to do, however illiberal, clumsy, etc…more understandable.

Second, if you’re going to use former school board member Beth Barts as a source, you’ve also got to look at things like the secret Facebook group targeting dissenting parents, threats of doxing, and issues like that. There was a lot going on around LCPS… And not a few Loudoun parents were like, “I’m not on board with the anti-“CRT” stuff but what I also don’t like is any kind of targeting of dissent and the anti-anti-CRT stuff is bad news, too.” Barts resigned in the face of both public and formal scrutiny.

Third, the school district administration did apologize for mishandling the sexual assault issue – and the same student is accused of re-offending at their new school a few months later. None of that context was shared with readers and that’s all public record and readers might view that episode differently with more context. This article has the most charitable gloss you can put on that whole situation via some omission.

Also, are we really debating now whether it’s the “Norman Conquest” or the “Norman invasion?”

In other Loudoun news, the district settled a lawsuit with a teacher who was punished for speaking against the county’s proposed policy on transgender students. Not surprisingly, the teacher won. A second suit, about whether teachers have to follow the policy is ongoing and has larger implications.

Is the choice really time off for teachers or student learning? Seems like we can accomplish both? I am all for more schedule flexibility for teachers, but what school districts are doing now with short notice shut downs and random mental health days is just further antagonizing parents. Which, given the mood, is remarkably ill-considered.

“Parents are frustrated because of our lousy virtual option and the slow return to live instruction.”

“Oh I have an idea, random unpredictable days off…”