Vallas Slays, As The Kids Say. Plus Mesler & Horn On Sports, More Choice, Thinking About Polling…More…

I was on a Zoom a few months ago, Paul Vallas was on as well. It wasn’t political or Chicago focused, more about education policy in general. But of course someone asked him how he saw his race. At this point he wasn’t a front runner but Vallas laid out how he saw things and his odds, which he forecasted as pretty good for making the runoff. A few people privately discounted that. But obviously turns out Paul was right. More here.

Say what you want about Vallas who has led schools in Chicago and Louisiana among other roles – and people say plenty – he does not check his brain or fall in with education’s various shibboleths or narratives, or political myths more generally. People care about crime and schools. He ran on crime and schools. His long shot campaign succeeded because he learns and makes up his own mind and is pretty pragmatic. In our sector that’s always made him suspect because he doesn’t fit cleanly with any faction, but that’s our problem not his. Who knows what will happen now in the runoff where he faces Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson. I’m far from an expert on Chicago’s tribal politics (I thought Lightfoot was a breath of fresh air). But I do know this, what Vallas pulled off last night is impressive, and he did it his own way.

Last year we talked about Tobias Reed and education reformers, Vallas might fall in the same bucket.

I wasn’t sure about art for this post so here’s a pic of Mesler (item below) and one of my daughters on an outrageous powder day earlier this winter. It was that or a headshot of Vallas.

A few things I’ve been up to lately:

Steve Mesler and I sat down with Michael Horn to talk youth sports on his podcast. We talked about Classroom Champions, the organization Steve and his sister Leigh launched after Steve retired as an athlete (disc – I’m on the board) and how mentoring grounded in sports can help students. But also youth sports more generally – how can we foster a culture that gets more kids moving and playing and keeps them doing that as adults. And we discussed a few other adjacent issues.

In this brief primer my colleagues Alex Spurier, Biko McMillan, Julie Squire and I took a look at public opinion and considerations about using and contextualizing polling data in education work.

Opportunity America convened a group to discuss new paths in education. Essays here. I wrote about why reformers need to move from thinking about school choice as separate prong of reform (or crazy uncle in the attic) to part of a broader strategy to make schools more responsive and accountable. Tamar Jacoby, who runs Opportunity America, is launching a new Ukraine initiative at the Progressive Policy Institute.

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