Greetings! Carnival week really gets going in New Orleans this week – they even close the schools, something I support. (But don’t take school attendance advice from me…although I’d argue with longer school year the flexibility for teachers and students would be powerful).
Anyhow, today, below are a few quick items not not long enough for a standalone post and several open edujobs at DSST, Advance Illinois, and Bellwether.
Safetyism. People can hold two ideas in their heads at the same time. Even if they disagree on specifics most everyone seems to generally realize that some of what is done in the name of school discipline is poor practice, perpetuates discriminatory behavior by schools, and is just bad for kids. Yet something else is true as well – people want safe schools, and that very much includes teachers. Some new data from Morning Consult and Ed Choice on that. We have some data on the same issue in this deck.
In the same way disorder undermines civil society, safe and orderly schools are a predicate for learning. People operate under something of a Maslow’s hierarchy here. If schools aren’t safe and orderly, they don’t care about much else. This is a longstanding and completely understandable finding to anyone who has kids (or has been a kid, c’mon). Yet it still often feels like the sector hasn’t gotten the memo. This isn’t the only cause of the exodus we’re seeing from public schools – but it’s a factor. And the narrative approach to talking about it is not helping.
Missing the kids. In other whistling past the graveyard news, a lot of kids left K-12 public schools during the pandemic. The percents seem low but the numbers are enormous against the scale of the system. Thomas Dee keeps pointing this out and did against last week. And we seem to keep ignoring it. This field does not act like an industry scrambling to address a big problem. The other night Biden said the pandemic was in a new phase, which is good news, but didn’t say what we’re going to do to address the damage of the policies in the last phase. More data on enrollment (and achievement) related to pandemic policies in the recent Bellwether Common Ground deck. Does someone want to speculate again on why ESA’s are so popular with parents now?
night week. Despite people in the moment saying it was the best State of the Union of the past 40 years or whatever, it was a fine and effective political speech that did its job but will do little to change our underlying political dynamic. Does seem like Sarah Huckabee Sanders blew a big opportunity. I also think the whole thing should be a written report to Congress so, again, take my views with a grain of salt.
What was most interesting to me, however, was the juxtaposition of two themes. Biden rope-a-doped the Republicans on entitlements, probably his best move of the night. Two things are true. We have an entitlement problem and need reform, and drastic cuts would adversely impact millions of Americans. (I tend to be someone who thinks Social Security should be expanded as part of any reform package – about four in ten teachers do not participate, for example, and that is part of our teacher retirement challenge. And we need to account for differences in different kinds of work in how we think about retirement ages, which is one piece of the solution set.)
But here’s the thing about Social Security: It’s arguably our most effective anti-poverty program. The government is good at writing checks, and those checks keep millions of Americans out of poverty in their old age. It’s not glamorous, but it works and is really important as part of a safety net.
You know what else helps move Americans out of poverty? College. It’s way out of fashion in our sector to say, but if you’re poor going to college is still a good idea. You’re unlikely to end up poor assuming you make some reasonable choices about where you go and what you study (look for some upcoming work from Bellwether on ways to help people better do that). I don’t think many people are against the idea of giving people a path to a solid life whether or not they go to college. Or against improving community colleges and using them as a pathway and a credentialing opportunity. Or generally giving young people more choices. But it seemed liked Biden over-indexed on non-college secondary paths. That’s a disservice to poor kids who we should be encouraging and better supporting to get as much education as they can.
Not normal, or all too normal now? Last week the Virginia Senate voted not to confirm my colleague on the Virginia Board of Education, Suparna Dutta, to a full term. Lots of strong feelings on all sides. Ginni Thomas got involved, which was not helpful. But here’s the thing no one said as far as I know: Suparna, a first-generation American, took time off of work to serve, on her own dime and at the expense of time off for things like family trips. I’ve served with a lot of board members and I’ve never seen one more prepared than her – she read everything, took copious notes ahead of time, asked questions. Did I agree with her on everything? No. Nor her with me. That’s good on a public body because we talked about things. But she cared and was committed, and I do wish everyone serving in public roles took it as seriously as Suparna did. Those in Virginia who want to see standards raised lost an ally.
Something real is forfeited when a parent and first-generation immigrant American who sees the public schools as a ladder of opportunity is deemed unqualified, for reasons that seem either reflexively political or personal. Especially at a time we should be encouraging people to serve, this seems likely to have the opposite effect. The activists are happy she’s gone, I’m not sure how well this will sit with average parents.
Sources and Methods. This survey is getting some of attention – it looks at the recent gender law in Florida and its impact on LGBT families. That’s an important issue even if, contra the survey, the law isn’t “don’t say gay,” which is one reason why it’s more broadly supported in Florida than among the chattering class. But here’s the problem, this self-response survey was open for almost three months, is an intentional non-random sample, and it has 113 responses. In Florida. That’s a pretty big state.
That means it could very well be biased upward, that these were 113 people far more concerned with these policies than the average parent and that’s why they took time to respond. That would skew the results and is an issue with self-response surveys. Or, conversely, it could also be that these results dramatically understate the level of concern or impact because all the families not asked have much higher levels of concern. 113 is a pretty small n. Which is it? Beats me. And based on the actual responses you could make a case either way. We just can’t know because this isn’t reliable or representative data. Modest suggestion: If you want to be an “ally” – do the kind of work that really sheds light on what’s going on. Kind of like this or like this.
President of DSST. If you want a leadership role at a top charter school network focused on STEM this is a terrific opportunity. Operating in Denver DSST is a well-regarded and impactful charter network changing how people think about what’s possible in public educaiton. You can learn more about the role here.
Senior Policy Assoicate at Advance Illinois. The quite obviously Illinois-based Advance Illinois is a long time education advocacy organization with a record of thoughtfully impacting the policy conversation in that state. Great opportunity to get involved in the policy work there if you like managing and leading policy work and are comfortable with state policy. More details here.
Edujobs at Bellwether: We are hiring for multiple jobs at Bellwether including some new roles. We have about 100 people on our team so jobs like finance director are a chance to work with systems in a growing organization. Development and Partnerships Manager is a great way to work across a dynamic organization. We’re also hiring for other roles.
In case you missed it, Bellwether put out a deck on current trends buffeting schools. A lot of data that might be useful. And here’s a look at some state school finance plays and here’s a look at how to improve state finance systems.
Recently here at Eduwonk I wrote about our definitional problem. And Kris Amundson wrote about parents.