Let Kids Look Up…Join Bellwether In San Diego!

Totally Incredible

Greetings from Ohio. I’m out here with family in the path of totality because eclipses are an amazing thing to experience and I’ll go out of my way to experience one. Totality and standing inside of Stonehenge one evening at sunset are the two experiences I’ve had where time does feel like it’s moving differently. I hope you are somewhere you can experience it. (I also visited Neil Armstrong’s childhood home, which was cool to see. I’m a nerd).

Alas, not everyone feels that way and some schools are doing the hide the kids thing again. I wrote about this back in 2017 for U.S. News & World Report. It’s understandable why schools in the path of totality are going to make some changes given the time of day, there are traffic and other logistical concerns. But it’s not understandable for some schools to just keep kids inside out of “an abundance of caution.”

There is no world where we’re not better off exposing young people to science and natural phenomena. It’s how we get them engaged for the future. This still holds:

It’s understandable that the ancients were terrified of eclipses. Professional educators in 2017? There is no excuse.


Joe Lieberman fell, and then passed away at the end of March. He was a controversial politician but you could see the respect many of his peers had for him in their tributes.

I had the privilege of working with him some, when I was in government and in the think tank world. He was decent, not a hater, and did what he thought was right (even if you didn’t agree, and at times I certainly didn’t). He was also funny. And he wasn’t a partisan, which as it turns out presaged much of our polarization and negative polarization now.

You can’t ask for more than that, and we need more people in government, whether you agree or disagree with them, who do what they think is right rather than just running in the worn grooves of a broken politics.


Join us for this event in San Diego next week:

Or, we’re hiring at Bellwether – so just join us.

Nota Bene

Jim Traub on books and phones:

A study by the American Psychological Association found that while in the late 1970s, 60 percent of twelfth-graders reported reading a book or a magazine every day, the figure had plummeted to 16 percent by 2016. It’s almost certainly fallen further since then.

Tyler Austin Harper on White Rural Rage:

Instead of reckoning with the ugly fact that a threat to our democracy is emerging from right-wing extremists in suburban and urban areas, the authors of White Rural Rage contorted studies and called unambiguously metro areas “rural” so that they could tell an all-too-familiar story about scary hillbillies. Perhaps this was easier than confronting the truth: that the call is coming from inside the house.

Alex Grodd, formerly of BetterLesson, has a smart new podcast on disagreeing better.

Outside on kids , schools, and BMI.

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See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil On FAFSA? Plus Join BW In San Diego, History, And Fish

If A Form Fails In the Forest And No One Hears About It…

Imagine for a moment that hackers attacked Harvard’s computer systems, or someone dragged a huge magnet through Cambridge, and suddenly we had no record of who had attended and graduated for the past 40 years. Would it get a lot of media attention? I suspect so. Especially from The Times and other outfits that are essentially Harvard’s outposts across the realm. We’d hear non-stop about the disruption and downstream consequences for now unverifiable Harvard graduates, even as most people never darken the door of Harvard. We’d hear about fake Harvard grads. We’d get think pieces on, ‘what really is a Harvard degree anyway?’

Yet the ongoing FAFSA disaster? The one that affects millions of poor kids because it involves the federal financial aid form that is determinative for their aid? Not so much. And it’s not just The Times.

Yes, The Times did do one FAFSA deep dive where we got to see who might take the political hit. It led with the revelation that 70,000 emails from students had turned up unopened in an inbox.

So here’s another counterfactual: Imagine if the Trump Administration stumbled on 70,000 emails from students. In an inbox! All hell would break loose and Twitter/X would be nothing but a river of stupid GIFs. And rightly so. It would be a mess and unacceptable.

Or, imagine if the Trump Administration and Betsy DeVos just bumbled the rollout of a revised FAFSA, something that was in the works for years (and was a rare glimmer of bipartisanship.) You’d never hear the end of that either. Rachel Maddow would be in high dudgeon. Every night. All right thinking people would be appalled at the incompetence. Education Zoom calls would open with ritualistic head shaking (and probably a little finger snapping) at the badness of it all. And that would all be correct. It wouldn’t be acceptable because this stuff matters.

Yet the actual FAFSA disaster we’re living through? The real one you don’t have to imagine because it’s happening right now? A lot of crickets.

It’s hard to miss that the people who write and think about FAFSA for a living are far less impacted by this trainwreck than the people FAFSA is aimed at.

And obviously, no one wants to criticize Joe Biden because he’s running for a second term against Donald Trump and the election is somehow far closer than it should be.

Still, at some point…c’mon. Democrats are supposed to be about a couple of things. One is opportunity for the less fortunate. That’s kinda the point of FAFSA. Democrats are also supposed to be about improving people’s material conditions and showing that government can be a force for good by making government credible. How? By making government work.

The FAFSA disaster manages to fail on all counts. At once.

Look, I don’t want Donald Trump back in The White House either. But two things are true at once here. Donald Trump shouldn’t be anywhere near the levers of governmental power in this country. And this is a big and consequential screw up. Negative polarization and how that’s impacted media coverage is certainly a factor here. But if this problem affected a more politically potent demographic or a demographic more present in elite media we’d probably hear a whole lot more about it than the low rumble of background noise we get now.


This graf in an article about school district segregation is interesting:

Despite the imbalance in school resources, Cournoyer notes that students on the reservation benefit from cultural and language support — something they could miss if they attended schools in Custer, even with its “nicer facilities and more advanced technology.” The city and its school district were named for George Armstrong Custer, a U.S. commander who fought and killed Indigenous people on the Great Plains before his defeat at Little Bighorn. 

This is all true.

You know what else you could write?

The city and its school district were named for George Armstrong Custer, a U.S. commander who fought and killed Indigenous people in the East during the U.S. Civil War and later on the Great Plains before his defeat at Little Bighorn.

I don’t carry any brief for Custer. He played a role in keeping Charlottesville and UVA from being destroyed during the Civil War, sure, but he was generally pretty reckless. It did him in.

He does illustrate a larger point. The general assumption is that the whitewashing of history only runs one way. In fact, it runs in all directions. The problem is not that we don’t do a good job teaching about the history of X, whatever X matters most to you. Rather, we don’t do a good job teaching about history. In no small part because of the politics of the present. The Smithsonian National Museum of The American Indian does a noteworthy job discussing the complicated history of Native Americans during the Civil War. Custer, Sheridan, and others brought a history with them to the west.

Like so many historical figures, Custer is an example of how the good guy/bad guy frame fails us. Was he a good guy or a bad guy? Liberator or oppressor? Depends on the conflict? We don’t do messiness well.

Living History

If you’re going to be in San Diego for ASU-GSV it would be great to connect. One way is this discussion Bellwether is hosting on AI and schools Tuesday late afternoon the 16th. It’s at a local bar, so food and drink as well as great conversation about a complicated set of questions around AI and K-12 education.

Fish Porn

One of the discussants at the Bellwether event is Ben Riley, who is doing work to help link learning science to the AI conversation.

Here he is last year in Michigan. Nick Adams country.

Check out this unique archive of hundreds of pictures of education types with fish. Send me yours!

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Don Shalvey

As I’m sure many readers have already heard, Don Shalvey passed away this weekend from cancer at 79. Jed Wallace recounts his role in charter schooling here. EdSource’s John Fensterwald here.

The EdSource remembrance headlines that Don was “fearless,” riffing off a quote from Steve Barr, another early charter school pioneer. But I’m not sure that is the right word. Fearlessness indicates a degree of recklessness or more charitably unawareness. Don wasn’t that. What he was, in my experience, was brave.

I first met him in the 1990s when he was launching charter schools in California and what became Aspire Public Schools. He had been a school superintendent with a comfortable career in that role ahead of him. Instead, he decided to become a maverick and open charters with an eye toward dramatic economic mobility for graduates. He talked about the social and professional isolation that decision created from his former colleagues, role, and path. He knew the risk and the price. He did it anyway.

That’s what struck me, this guy is brave. (He was also a hell of a lot of fun, good energy). His north star was more important to him than all the stuff people generally get wrapped up in.

Don was also a connector, he brought people together in different ways. He, and we, may not know the full scale of his impact, because of ideas, projects, and initiatives set in motion through the randomness of connections. And, of course, the young people he helped will send ripples into the world through their lives.

There was a California surfer named Jay Moriarity who died tragically young in 2001. The film Chasing Mavericks is about his life and growth as a surfer. His life spawned a “Live Like Jay” movement because he packed a lot of life into just a few years. Don was blessed with a long and full life, people are mourning as much for us as for him. Yet that bravery of his was rare in the 1990s, it’s still far too rare now.

This field, and work to genuinely improve the condition and experience of kids, would be further along if more people lived like Don. He certainly did his part and we’re better for it.

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New WonkyFolk – Live From Arizona!

What’s something the world might not need? How about a live recording of WonkyFolk where Jed and I do it as a keynote and take questions? Probably. We did it anyway.

Last month we went to Phoenix and helped keynote a Charter School Growth fund summit with a great group from across the country. You can listen below.

We had an audio issue the first few minutes. There is a bit of cross talk/music with the techs, but it’s only for the first minute or so.

Otherwise the meat of the discussion is there. We screwed up a question at the end from a fantastic New Orleans charter school leader because we could not hear it well. We’ll get to that on a later episode with guests in a month or two. It was our first live one, so be gentle. But we covered a lot of ground on politics, policy, school choice, and why the Dems are so out of position on an issue that should be a layup. Jed was throwing Aristotle references like darts. More notes below.

You can listen or read a transcript here, below or wherever you get your podcasts:

Notes and key points:
  • At 3:15, Jed responds to a question from Andy about school choice and how we break the link between place of residence and access to educational opportunity.
  • At 5:38, Andy provides some historical context about where the left and right used to be on matters related to school choice and attendance zones.
  • At 7:54, Jed talks about what Aristotle teaches us about how to drive a narrative for charter schools across a landscape as vast as the State of California.
  • At 10:05, Andy talks about how counter-productive it can be for some education reform advocates to embrace conflict for conflict’s sake.
  • At 14:26, Jed describes the two great forces that support and defend the public education status quo.
  • At 17:11, Jed asks Andy whether he had overstated the charter school momentum story in his recent article at Education Next.
  • At 20:46, Jed shares his view that charter schools’ standing varies greatly by states, even across red states.
  • At 27:37, Andy shares thoughts about how charter schools can best navigate the red/blue divide happening across the country.
  • At 32:16, Andy responds to a question from the audience about prospects for school choice in Virginia.
  • At 38:30, Jed answers a question about where the charter school movement should be coming together to develop a shared agenda for the future.
  • At 44:00, Andy and Jed take a question about school choice and charter school developments happening in Florida.
  • At 50:38, an audience member asks Jed and Andy to share thoughts about what are the kinds of school choice that we should be embracing.
  • At 58:48, Andy and Jed take a question about what we need to do to improve the charter school narrative in Black communities across the U.S.
  • At 105:38, an audience member asks a final question about what advocacy organizations need to do to increase the number of charter school parents who are voting.
Show Notes:
Previous episodes of WonkyFolk can be accessed here.

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Dems, Dial It Back A Few Clicks. Please. It Matters. Down With Dress Codes! And Probably The Sweetest Fish Pic Ever.

ICYMI earlier in the week I wrote about why, despite the stridency about non-profit and for-profit status, tax status actually doesn’t matter a lot in key ways.

Last week I took a look at AI and suggested that while bias is an issue given how these models work, we shouldn’t over-index on it. Google over-indexed on it. Nellie Bowles has a good take on that.

If you missed our Science of Reading webinar based on this new Bellwether report, it’s here:

My team, really working hard to get the most awkward screen grabs.

Read The Room

Also last week, I sat down with Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Sonja Santelises to discuss Black History month and history teaching and why it’s so hard. The pressure from the right is amply documented, but Sonja also got into the pressure from the left in some pretty candid ways.

I can’t embed it but you can watch and listen to that here.

This is not a minor thing, the 2024 election will be close and while it won’t turn on education as an issue, education will matter as a frame. People seem to be noticing that things are a little, well, weird. Just this week Joe Klein (the journalist, not Joel Klein, calm down haters) pointed this out:

Now this may just be one school. Let’s hope so. I fear not. And I’m certain of this: It will make a killer negative ad for Republicans next fall. Oh, you say: Only a minuscule number of Dems actually believe this crap. Remember, Defund The Police? Very few Democrats, outside AOC’s Suicide Squad, believed that either. The Republicans are still using it.

It’s not just one school. Here (as Sonja also pointed out) is more or less what normies think:

Furthermore, she said, the coloring book presents controversial ideas “as fact.” But, “it’s not necessarily true. It’s not like every black person believes in these principles.” 

Shufutinsky agrees: “There is nothing in these principles that talks about honoring greats in black American history. There is nothing in here that is actual scholarship. It doesn’t speak to education. It speaks to ideology.”

Ruy Teixeira who has been documenting this trend went deep on education for Education Next. Why Education Next? Well, AEI’s Rick Hess is a senior editor there, Ruy, despite a long Democratic pedigree, now works at AEI…because… (Note Klein’s critique of Teixeira as well.)

Cat Power was in DC this week to play the setlist from Dylan’s “Royal Albert Hall” concert at the Lincoln Theater. As Bob himself might say, “something is happening here and you don’t know what it is.”

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that this is all more nuanced than you’ve heard (and in some cases than they told you) and, as Klein notes, many perceived views are not so broadly held. We did a deep dive on all that last year at Bellwether. I point it out around here a lot, obviously to no avail. And the non-profit sector is no help because it’s so elite and left that centrists and moderates appear to be conservatives.

This coalition of the shrilling would all be sort of amusing in its way if the stakes were not so high in November with the real prospect that Donald Trump could return to The White House. The thing for Dems is this is fixable, and fixable without compromising the party’s core values. People want merit, choices, and opportunity in public schools. Those are, or were, Democratic values. The idea that Black lives matter as an inclusive organizing principle, don’t comprise. The political agenda of Black Lives Matter? Well, have you read it? Freedom to live your life as you want and be free from discrimination is a core commitment that should not be compromised. Playing whatever sport you want regardless of fairness or safety, teaching kindergarten students that doctors make mistakes when it comes to the sex and gender of babies, luxury beliefs about family structure, are those postmodern fads really the hills to die on? In 2024?

Are they really in any way helpful to public schools?

Hair And Dress

In the 2022 Eduwonk In and Out list I said keep an eye on the CROWN Act. A lot of people were like the what? Well, after this week in Texas now you know. But here’s the thing. I don’t doubt race is an issue with this school district, the comments about how this relates to affirmative action are just bizarre. But it’s also a broader issue of dress codes. The ruling may be technically correct in terms of what the Texas legislation doesn’t include. But outside of court, so what? Broaden the aperture. Why does it really matter how this young person wants to wear their hair? There are some health and safety reasons to regulate hair, which CROWN policies allow for. But that’s for specialized occupations and situations. It really should not matter in school day to day and it hardly falls under the kinds of expression schools can appropriately regulate. In the 2024 In and Out list I said dress codes would be in the dock. It’s about time. (They’re often also sexist.)

Coming Attractions

I was in Arizona this week to take in some 9U baseball. Actually, I was there because Jed Wallace and I were invited by the Charter School Growth Fund to record WonkyFolk live in front of their convening there. We had never done that, it was fun and the audience added a lot. Former Arizona Governor Doug Ducey was the opening act before us. I did not know he was an ice cream baron before running for elected office. His take on that part of his career was interesting and reminded me of what schools and coffee have in common. We’ll put the show up next week.

It’s Friday, So Fish:

Chi Kim is one of those people in our sector who when you learn a few things about them you can still be surprised by the next one. She teaches at UVA, is on several important boards in the sector, and is CEO of her own venture. Earlier in her career she was a principal. Follow her on Twitter/X here.

She’s also on the board of an organization in Costa Rica, FECOP, focused on sustainable fishing. She sent me a wonderful fishing lure from that work a few months ago. And she sent a few pictures. The room was dusty when she sent this lovely one fishing with her father in California:

Here’s a more recent one:

Chi is the latest entry in this unique archive of hundreds of pictures of education types with fish. Whether fish pics or fish porn (that second fish is pretty nice) send me yours!

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How The IRS Treats Entities Is Pretty Irrelevant To How You Should Think About Them

There is a sort of truism in the education world that non-profit means white hat* and for-profit means you should be skeptical or something stronger. And because Bellwether is a non-profit it would be in my interest to perpetuate that notion. Except it’s wrong and not at all useful.

Not-for-profit and for-profit are just corporate structures. Those structures matter, for instance, legally, to some aspects of operations, to compensation, and to taxes related to various activities. (And there are different classifications of non-profits, churches, unions, political organizations, charities, etc…for our purposes here think about the generic non-profit research, service, or advocacy group, the kind you might check out on Charity Navigator).

What tax status doesn’t matter much to are two key things:

– Whether or not an entity is actually profitable; and

– Whether or not an entity adds any real value to the world.

In practice, there are plenty of for-profits education ventures that are effectively non-profit in terms of their actual returns to investors. Education can be a challenging marketplace, it’s hard to sell to school districts, the system is decentralized, people make mistakes with business plans and models, etc…etc…Meanwhile, there are plenty of non-profits with eight and even nine figure reserve funds – which in some cases are large even accounting for their ongoing run rates. They’re not paying out profit because of their corporate structure, but they are certainly making money and effectively have an EBITDA that would excite any investor. (A trend I’d keep an eye on is non-profits being acquired and becoming for-profit).

At the same time, there are plenty of for-profit organizations, and many non-profits of course, that are adding a lot of value to the world through what they do. And, there are many in both sectors that are not. This is why the ways various ventures interact with the IRS doesn’t tell you a lot about whether or how you should interact with them as a buyer.

Finally, there is a lot of talk about “sustainability” in the non-profit world. I have some bad news for you – nothing is inherently sustainable, even life itself. A little more immediately, it’s worth noting, especially in a time of philanthropic contraction in our sector, that a good business model is the most sustainable model out there. Most of Bellwether’s revenue is fee-for service and that value for value transaction and the accountability that comes with it is vital to our model. People being willing to pay you for work is sustainable, and more sustainable and a stronger signal than philanthropic activity alone. It means that when your funders decide they care more about climate change than schools or are just sick of education politics that you don’t have a financial crisis on your hands.

What does this mean for you? First, look beneath the label and worry less about tax status than actual impact and value. Second, I get asked a lot to help start up ventures think through questions about how to organize. There are benefits to being a non-profit. Despite the point this post is trying to make there are and will continue to be reputational benefits in many quarters. There is also access to philanthropic capital, and the ability run at leaner margins because you don’t have to return financial value to investors. Where you see capital coming from, the part of the sector you operate in, and whether or not the possibility for a real exit exists if you are successful are all factors to consider.

But the core thing is this: The next time someone ID’s an org first by its tax status ask, but what do they do or offer, and are they any good at it or is it quality for what we need? That matters more than the forms any entity sends to the IRS and will make you a more savvy consumer of goods and services. It would also improve signaling in our sector.

*Ironically, one of the most-notoriously low-quality for-profit charter school operators was actually called White Hat. And yet even though their overall quality was poor, they did some some programs that were OK. (There is a whole post to be done on names.) Another reminder this is all more complicated subsurface.

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AI Did Not Write This

I haven’t written a lot about AI here at Eduwonk. And where I have it’s more questions than answers. That’s where we are on the tech right now. And I haven’t done that thing where I have AI write the post and that’s the big reveal. AI did not write this. My colleagues Amy Chen Kulesa and Alex Spurrier recently wrote a great piece -again, actually wrote it about AI and schools for Fordham.

AI will impact the education sector, as it will most walks of life, and it will over-promise and under-deliver. That’s always a safe bet. Yet the velocity around AI is intense right now. Here are a few things to pay attention to:

1) I’m old school around teaching and learning, and so is the human mind. At some level the core technology of teaching and learning has not changed that much since Plato sat with Socrates, no matter how much we might wish otherwise or tech enthusiasts might try to convince us. Deeper learning, 21st Century Skills, etc…etc…the teacher learner relationship and content and knowledge are what matters. AI is already setting off a new round of people of people putting “mere” in front of “facts,” (which is truly astounding given the times we live in). Don’t fall for it.

As with previous versions of ed tech, the most transformative applications may be around support and tools for teachers, students, and families and embedding AI in existing tools. PowerSchool just rolled out their AI embedded product. Look for more of that rather than blue sky ideas.

Yet when you made this point about ed tech – that the biggest impacts might not be instructional applications – it upset the enthusiasts. Seems like the same thing is happening again. Lesson planning, data, system analytics and predictive analytics, coaching, tutoring, those seem like promising applications more than letting an AI app just teach the kids. And of course the basic equity question remains – the affluent will make sure their kids get the richest instruction. The job of policymakers and education leaders is to ensure everyone has access to that kind of instruction.

I get asked a lot, will AI result in fewer teachers? Yeah, seems like it might result in fewer adults overall, including some instructional roles. You can certainly see some productivity enhancements. But teachers aren’t going anywhere, for good instructional reasons and because they’re powerful in the political process.

2) Similar to the point above, Technology can enhance teaching and learning and the personalized applications of AI are exciting. And it can make teachers jobs easier. But AI doesn’t fundamentally change how we learn. Shoutout to Ben Riley who is trying to put a dent in this problem and increase understanding on the consumer side but the bottom line is you should listen as much to Dan Willingham as you do Sal Khan about what’s desirable here or how it fits with what we know about learning.

3) Yes, of course there is a gold rush. And that’s not all bad. Innovation costs money, and at the end of the day a lot of these solutions will, of course, come from the private sector. But it’s not as much of a gold rush as it might seem. The last big ed tech bubble it was astounding what was getting funded. It doesn’t seem that frothy now. Investors say they are hearing a lot of pitches, but they are moving deliberately. Rather than bubbles, again innovation costs money, if you want to complain about something complain about schools not being savvy consumers – that’s the real problem. A few years ago Curriculum Associates CEO Rob Waldron literally made a video for districts saying don’t do these things. People still do them. AI can create a nice image of leading a horse to water but…

Also pay attention to the role of free and open products. In general this part of the sector underwhelms, this technology could be different given the nature of it as a platform for enhancements. And keep an eye on policymakers, speaking of gold rushes there is one on for jurisdiction. The White House it taking a more aggressive stance via its executive orders, led by staff who think policy was behind the ball on social media and other tech, and the Trump Administration had a reasonably well-regarded AI policy. The Hill and regulatory bodies are all trying to carve out influence.

4) Don’t confuse policy and regulatory fights with land grabs. For years you had big companies battling for market share in schools but doing it via various claims about privacy and data. A lot of folks were happy to join in, perhaps not even realizing they were picking sides in a larger fight for market share. You’re starting to see the same thing with AI as various vendors, especially large incumbents, try to figure out how to use regulatory power or policy to fence off competition. Parse claims beneath the label, figure out what’s really at stake.

5) Bias is a problem with AI, address it but don’t over-index on it. AI learns from data and if those data have problems then it will show up in AI. And some of the data does have issues, many things are keyed to medians that exclude a lot of users – this shows up around gender a lot but is also an issue with race. One need not be a woke scold to realize that there is bias all around us. As with the regulatory point above, some of these issues will be used in bad faith and weaponized ways to score points rather than solve problems. AI adherents must be attentive to addressing bias – and the good news is there are increasingly tools and practices for doing so – but it can’t be conversation stopper and the education sector has not been particularly sophisticated when it comes to thinking about bias.

6) Prepare to be surprised. This is a novel technology that even its boosters don’t entirely understand. There are some broad contours, sure, but anyone telling you they know exactly how this will or won’t go is selling you something. It’s still dancing baby time in terms of where this technology might go. Pay attention, consume information broadly, and enjoy the ride.

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Don’t Teacher Eval The Science of Reading, WonkyFolk On Higher Ed, Finance, and Trades, Plus VA History Standards In The Standard

ICYMI last Friday, North Dakota’s Kirsten Baesler and I discussed teacher shortages and education politics on a Linkedin video chat.

Don’t Teacher Eval Science of Reading

Out today from Bellwether here’s a look at some Science of Reading pitfalls and opportunities. Basically, my colleagues and I look at how can SOR advocates learn from rather than repeat past reform missteps. Also includes a lot of history on reading instruction and reading politics.

Key points:

  • Reading is vital for academic and life outcomes — and early reading is especially important. 
  • The evidence base on what it takes to read is strong, but trends in teaching have diverged for decades. 
  • Advocates for the Science of Reading seek to close this gap in order to achieve better reading outcomes. 
  • States and localities are trying to improve outcomes through policies to support better reading instruction. 
  • But politicization and implementation could threaten otherwise promising progress. 

Read the report here.

Join us for our webinar, What’s Next for the Science of Reading? on Monday, January 29 at 3pm ET. 

WonkyFolk Takes On The Hairy Stuff

Jed Wallace and I have a new WonkyFolk podcast up today. We discuss finance, higher education, the trades and education, and, of course, the Furry Wars in Oklahoma. And we preview our first live episode, which against better judgement someone has invited us to do.

You can get it here or below or wherever you get your podcasts. Most people choose to listen rather than watch, and that’s understandable! But you can do either below.

Recent History

NASBE asked me to reflect on the history standards process in Virginia. Also today in the new State Standard I do that and offer a few lessons learned. It’s part of this broader package on curriculum.

If you want to get Eduwonk.com in your inbox when it’s published  you can sign up for free here.

They’re Furious In Oklahoma. Plus, Baesler Chat Friday, Science Of Reading Implementation

ICYMI – the 2024 Eduwonk In and Out list is here. Something for everyone to love and hate.

Tim Daly is going deep on the whole Finland education marketing play. We’ve discussed that a few times around here. And don’t say you were not warned.

Coming Attractions

In spring 1997, the Red River flooded in North Dakota (as well as parts of Canada and Minnesota). The devastation was particularly intense in Grand Forks. Prom was out of the question for area high schools until they decided to host a joint prom in a hanger at the Air Force base there. Soul Asylum showed up to play! They played a great set with some ed specific covers – including “To Sir, With Love,” “Tracks of My Tears,” and “Schools Out.” I’ve heard they also played a CCR cover that didn’t make the album that came out of it. On Friday, we’ll get to the bottom of that because I’ll ask North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler (she’s also a former CCSSO president) about it in a LinkedIn chat we’re doing at 12p ET. She was there.

We’re also going to talk about teacher shortages and teacher policy. There is a reason Baesler’s been in that job for more than a decade and it should be a good conversation you can join on LinkedIn.

Last summer I noted that Science of Reading advocates were not going to do themselves any favors by salting the earth in their wake and risked creating the conditions for backlash. That’s one of the issues a new Bellwether publication looks at about the history of the reading debate and what advocates can learn from other high-profile reform issues. Look for that and a webinar with leaders on that issue later this month.

In the meantime, NCTQ has a publication out this week on Science of Reading implementation.

Paws for Effect

There is some sort of infurection happening in Oklahoma. That state has some characters who seem to be furiously auditioning to be Secretary of Education if there is a second Trump administration. On tap now, this bill below. Which, rather than try to describe to you, I will just post here verbatim because you would not believe me otherwise especially about one claws at the end. I don’t know under Oklahoma law if the bill has to be purrfected.

On the upside, I guess if you want your identity codified and respected then calling animal control is not nothing. Not sure the bill’s sponsor thought that through.

For what it’s worth, I’m not one or part of that community, but I’m basically pro-furry. I mean, who cares? Seems to fall pretty squarely in the do whatever you want if it doesn’t harm others bucket. If you profess to love freedom it sort of follows you are pro or tolerant of a lot of things, furries included. These people may have the right bumper stickers or tee shirts but they don’t love freedom or personal liberty. And no, kids aren’t getting litter boxes in schools. Take a break from the internet and go volunteer or something.

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2024 Eduwonk In & Out List

It’s the first week of January so here’s the In and Out list (2023 here and 2022 here). It’s unscientific, it’s impressionistic, and it’s informed by your emails so keep sending them.

Happy New Year.

Dress CodesGender stereotypes
Philanthropic dollars in educationPhilanthropic commitment to education
Race-based affirmative actionEssays and supplemental questions
Covid dollarsFiscal cliffs
Ed tech will transform how we learnAI will transform how we learn
MiddlemenBrandon Johnson
Substantive teacher strikesPerformative teacher strikes
Standardized testsAristocracy
Nina ReesNina Rees
SafetyismCalls for violence
Democrats as ed reformersDemocrats
DEI JacobinsChris Rufo as Robespierre
PrivacyPrivate schools
IntersectionalityMelting pot
One-time spendingHysterics about budget cuts
DeSantis with outsized coattails in school board racesDeSantis with outsized boots
Gender questioningGender policy questioning
Claudine GayRoland Fryer
Multiple causes of the U.S. Civil WarRepublican Civil War
Republican xenophobiaBipartisan xenophobia
Ibram X. KendiRuy Teixeira
Great booksGreat passages
Going to schoolChronic absenteeism and teacher strikes
DEITeam building
Advanced classesMaking equity toxic
TransparencyStreet Data
Second AmendmentFirst Amendment
PortlandNew Orleans
Restorative justiceSROs
Education policyEducation politics
Education politicsAbortion politics

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