Mike Timpane passed away last week. Among roles in the sector he was a Carter Administration education official, a local school board member in Virginia, influenced education policy in the Clinton Administration, was Dean and President of Teachers College, and worked for RAND. We were introduced by mutual friends, I didn’t know him really well but lunches with him were educational and we worked on a few projects. He was knowledgable, thoughtful, and kind and gentle.
Happy School Choice Week to those who celebrate.
Not sure what’s left to say about Jonathan Chait’s article about the lack of reckoning with the mishandling of Covid. I do think we’re paying a price for that now in the sense that public patience with any kind of closure – even when it might be warranted – is exhausted. And more importantly the impact on kids. Everyone seemed happy when Mike Bloomberg called out the idea that 2020 and 2021 offered kids wonderful chances to learn as nonsense.
Teachers understand the severity of the problem, and many are doing heroic work, yet some of their union representatives are denying reality. “There is no such thing as learning loss,” said Cecily Myart-Cruz, head of the Los Angeles teachers union, in an interview with Los Angeles Magazine this past summer. “Our kids didn’t lose anything. It’s OK that our babies may not have learned all their times tables. They learned resilience.”
What nonsense. How about reading, writing and arithmetic, the critical skills we are funding schools to teach?
Except, if you think it’s only Paleolithic teachers’ union leaders pushing this sentiment, I have some bad news for you. I’ve heard it from leaders in various parts of the sector. And whether it’s a genuine belief or an effort to shape the narrative, it’s another one of those things that makes parents think everyone is feeding them BS or thinks they’re idiots. And people don’t react well to that as we saw in the Virginia election (more on Youngkin below). It reminds me of this.
Related, Christine Pitts put together a great discussion about the challenges of virtual learning – Bellwether played a role. CRPE has the write-up here.
Here’s Alex Medler on the evolving relationship of charter school authorizers to charter schools and the complicated question of whether they should just be regulators – or offer support as well.
“One of the dangers facing American higher education—and American civic culture in general,” Montas cautions toward the end of Rescuing Socrates, “is a return to a time when liberal education was the exclusive province of a social elite.” The most prestigious liberal-arts colleges and programs that are written off today as vectors of “white supremacy culture,” he argues, are likely to survive, “if not unscathed, at least not fundamentally transformed.” This is because “many well-to-do families from the US and abroad will continue to seek—and pay for—a traditional liberal arts experience for their children,” he continues. “Moreover, alumni are not likely to turn their backs on their alma maters.” But the non-elite and the nonwhite may find themselves driven back to the “technical, vocational, and professional” tracks, or to the whims of merely faddish thinking, to our collective impoverishment.
This is, of course, one bitter paradox of what flies under the banner of the new anti-racism: Few among the elite—of any color—would consent in practice to the abandonment of cultural heritage deemed appropriate for less advantaged, mostly Black and brown students. Whether or not the nation’s classics departments continue to shrink, the winners of the meritocracy will not be sacrificing fluency in the shorthand of the educated classes—which is to say, cultural capital—anytime soon.
So, how’s Glenn Youngkin doing on education in Virginia?
Well, it’s early. First the masks. Masks seems like one of these issues where it looks like a big fight but really everyone is getting what they want and the fight they want, at least for now. School boards that want to oppose the governor can do that, Governor Youngkin can say he kept his mask promise and move on.The courts will sort it out.
It’s obviously an inversion of the idea of local control but as we’ve discussed in the past ‘local control’ is one of those things like ‘community voice’ that people tend to be into when it aligns with their priors. And as Republicans make another run at the education issue the tension between what they want to do and local control will emerge again.
The situation is a little tense, a woman was arrested for threatening officials in one county over masking, which is, of course, insane. It’s to Youngkin’s credit that he said on Friday, “I am confident that the Virginia Supreme Court will rule in the favor of parents,” he said. “In the meantime, I urge all parents to listen to their principal, and trust the legal process.”
That’s the right posture, lower the temperature and make America sue again.
And that brings us to CRT. I’m not a fan of these various bans. And tend to think the way through this is good teacher training and curriculum rather than legislators and governors reacting to every twist and turn in our Kulturkampf or whatever freaks out some Fox host.
All that said, and I’m not just being a Virgina homer here, the Youngkin executive order here is generally not as it’s being portrayed. This is not Indiana. And the most interesting part – there is a lot about standards in there – may be summed up by Virginia Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera’s testimony to the legislature the other day,
Speaking to the House education panel last week, Youngkin’s pick for education secretary, Aimee Guidera, said the department will also review its own internal policies and materials, and suggested the state will move to train teachers on racism and other “uncomfortable” topics.
“This is about looking at curriculum, looking at teacher training … making sure that teachers know how to teach topics that can be controversial and uncomfortable, but also what is age-appropriate,” Guidera said. “We have failed our teachers in terms of preparing them to have these conversations.”
That seems about right. And if we continue to just have teachers bootstrap themselves it will be a never ending drumbeat of outliers. Last week it was a “privilege bingo” game in one Northern Virginia county. It seems weird to me that this would be the one place we don’t think teachers need training and support rather than a place they’d especially need. it.
And Virginia’s standards could use some work. When I was on the state board I was struck at how often some constituency would raise an issue about the standards – and have a point even if that point wasn’t always heeded. Whether world religions or historical events there was room for improvement.
Guidera also talked about declining accountability measures and the need to turn that around. As school performance has collided with various measures there has been a shell game around accountability measures and despite all the talk about equity the last few years student outcomes haven’t improved and the achievement gap grew. That’s a pre-pandemic issue as well. Keep an eye on all that.
For the purposes of this Executive order “inherently divisive concepts” means advancing any ideas in violation of Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including, but not limited to of the following concepts (i) one race, skin color, ethnicity, sex, or faith is inherently superior to another race, skin color, ethnicity, sex, or faith; (ii) an individual, by virtue of his or her race, skin color, ethnicity, sex or faith, is racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously, (iii) an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race, skin color, ethnicity, sex or faith, (iv) members of one race, ethnicity, sex or faith cannot and should not attempt to treat others as individuals without respect to race, sex or faith, (v) an individual’s moral character is inherently determined by his or her race, skin color, ethnicity, sex, or faith, (vi) an individual, by virtue of his or her race, skin color, ethnicity, sex, or faith, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, ethnicity, sex or faith, (vii) meritocracy or traits, such as a hard work ethic, are racist or sexist or were created by a particular race to oppress another race.
Democrats should ask themselves if this is really a hill to die on? Seems like you can still teach honest history and not run afoul of that. And opposing this seems like a tough case to voters? Of all races. The polling on a lot of this is probably not what you think it is.
But the whole debate is pretty reactionary. ‘We must not ban this thing that we’re not teaching in school!’ Yeah, anyway…
As this all plays out it’s going to be interesting how the circle, or I guess triangle, of Guidera, new state superintendent Jillian Ballow, and assistant superintendent Elizabeth Shultz squares on all this.
Still, Youngkin may find enough support from other Democrats in the Senate. In an interview Thursday, Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City, said he is open to the idea of charter schools. He said he supports giving parents more choices, and taking away localities’ power to “veto” new schools.
“A lot of people in the Democratic caucus may be a hard no. But that’s not me,” Petersen said. “Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, there is some degree of dissatisfaction with the public schools system, driven in part by how it reacted to the pandemic.
“We need to give parents an option.”