“…a report by Grantmakers for Education released earlier this year, revealed a precipitous decline in the areas of education funding that were dominant across the prior decade. Grants for issues related to the academic core of schooling—teacher quality, accountability, standards and assessment, for example— all saw deep cuts.” That’s from this excellent piece by Celine Coggins on the state of edu-philanthropy.
A new study out of Texas finds that more years of schooling is related to higher earnings, even for people who don’t complete a college degree and ultimately drop out.
Check out the video here about Bellwether’s work to end the fragmentation of supports for high-need students in Utah.
Care about teacher shortages? Read Phillip Burgoyne-Allen on the school bus driver shortage, and what districts can do about it.
Tom Toch interviews Brian Pick about curriculum and instruction in the District of Columbia Public Schools.
I got a chuckle out of a tweet from the Pennsylvania Treasurer account asking why pension plans chase after active investments rather than being passive investors. While current Treasurer Joe Torsella has used his power to transition other state funds to index-based investments, and the Pennsylvania Treasurer does not control the investments made by the Pennsylvania Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS), Pennsylvania teachers are investing 17.1 percent of their money in hedge funds, 16.5 percent in private equity, and another 17 percent in commodities and real estate. Those are, ahem, not exactly passive investments!
This long New Yorker piece on “The Day the Dinosaurs Died” came out earlier this year, but I strongly recommend it. It’s a fascinating story of geology, paleontology, and history.
–Guest post by Chad Aldeman
Like other nonprofit sectors, the education reform space is tearing itself apart over whether it should take money from billionaires. There are all sorts of questions mixed up here, including which billionaires, how they earned their money, and how long ago it was, not to mention existential questions about how we feel about whether there should be any billionaires at all.
This essay by Scott Alexander for Slate Star Codex captures my thoughts on the matter. For education reform in particular, this is the point that I find myself coming back to:
Two of the billionaires whose philanthropy I most respect, Dustin Moskovitz and Cari Tuna, have done a lot of work on the criminal justice reform. The organizations they fund determined that many innocent people are languishing in jail for months because they don’t have enough money to pay bail; others are pleading guilty to crimes they didn’t commit because they have to get out of jail in time to get to work or care for their children, even if it gives them a criminal record. They funded a short-term effort to help these people afford bail, and a long-term effort to reform the bail system. One of the charities they donate to, The Bronx Freedom Fund, found that 92% of suspects without bail assistance will plead guilty and get a criminal record. But if given enough bail assistance to make it to trial, over half would have all charges dropped. This is exactly the kind of fighting-mass-incarceration and stopping-the-cycle-of-poverty work everyone says we need, and it works really well. I have donated to this charity myself, but obviously I can only give a tiny fraction of what Moskovitz and Tuna manage.
If Moskovitz and Tuna’s money instead flowed to the government, would it accomplish the same goal in some kind of more democratic, more publically-guided way? No. It would go to locking these people up, paying for more prosecutors to trick them into pleading guilty, more prison guards to abuse and harass them. The government already spends $100 billion – seven times Tuna and Moskovitz’s combined fortunes – on maintaining the carceral state each year. This utterly dwarfs any trickle of money it spends on undoing the harms of the carceral state, even supposing such a trickle exists. Kicking Tuna and Moskovitz out of the picture isn’t going to cause bail reform to happen in some civically-responsible manner. It’s just going to ensure that all the money goes to making the problem worse, instead of the overwhelming majority going to making the problem worse but a tiny amount also going to making it better.
In full disclosure, the Bellwether team’s work to improve America’s educational system would not be possible without the investments of billionaires and the foundations they created. So I’m biased, but if we didn’t have philanthropy in education, I think we’d just get more of the same. If you’re dissatisfied with the results of our current education system, if you think it can do better, if you think our educational system should be more equitable or more efficient, or both, philanthropy can help provide the external resources for change.
–Guest post by Chad Aldeman
“…any movement serious about improving education for low-income, rural, and minority students has to look outside of cities — especially in the South, where a majority of students live outside of city centers.” That’s Kelly Robson about the need for philanthropies to invest beyond urban areas.
“…the children of Perry Preschool participants — most of whom are now in their mid-20s — were less likely to be suspended from school, more likely to complete high school, and more likely to be employed full-time with some college experience. Children of participants were also more likely to be employed and to not be involved with the criminal justice system.” Read Marnie Kaplan on the latest research on the Perry Preschool project, which suggests the program had inter-generational effects.
California has been requiring prospective teachers to take a reading test with “no evidence that it contributes to more effective instruction.” Oh, and this same test is disproportionately keeping out black and Hispanic teachers. I suppose it’s good the state is considering dropping it now, but why did California start using this test in the first place?
“There is usually more variation in earnings results between programs within colleges than between colleges.” That’s Kevin Carey on what we can learn and do with program-level outcome data.
David Leonhardt and Sunil Choy partnered with the Urban Institute on this cool data visualization project on college dropouts.
The Pension Pac-Man must be fed.
–Guest post by Chad Aldeman