September 15, 2020


Via The New Yorker:

Though returning to school is a project of a scale vastly larger than the one Taveras and other supervisors pulled off this summer, Goldmark says she has learned a lot about room capacity and building flow, lessons that she will apply over the next year as more children return to school. Goldmark talked to Department of Health officials every day, and kept fine-tuning the enrichment centers as new guidance arose. She discovered the best way to begin the school year is to admit that she doesn’t have every answer yet. “We did not say upfront, ‘We have figured everything out,’ because we didn’t have time, and nobody knew anything,” she said. “We said, ‘You’re going to have a thousand questions. Just ask the questions.’ Just having a way to take the question as it comes up, and answer it really quickly, and share that answer with everybody, is one of the best ways to develop policy when you’re in this setting, where you can’t anticipate everything. If you wait until you anticipate everything to actually go, you’re not going to go.”

September 14, 2020

“Yes, you’re reading that right: studies that replicate are cited at the same rate as studies that do not.”

Whoo boy…

Over the past year, I have skimmed through 2578 social science papers, spending about 2.5 minutes on each one. This was due to my participation in Replication Markets, a part of DARPA’s SCORE program, whose goal is to evaluate the reliability of social science research. 3000 studies were split up into 10 rounds of ~300 studies each…

Interesting take on research production, including RCT’s in education. 

September 11, 2020

Virginia Homeschooling

Interesting analysis on homeschooling in Virginia – makes the point that homeschoolers would be the 7th largest school division if they were a contiguous group.

And Covid is going to have an effect. Homeschooling will rise regardless, and may especially in the wake of the pandemic.

Here’s the thing, the public school establishment and homeschoolers don’t get on all that well. There is some local option policy so individual divisions have better or worse relationships but overall it’s not great. Sports are a big – and in my view needless – flash point. Some mutual contempt, too, if we’re being honest.

But in an increasingly constrained resource environment – which is the forward looking view given budget pressures – you want all the allies you can get when it comes time to finance education. So a little less antagonism and a little more cooperation might be the smart long term play?

Put differently, if the 7th largest school district in Virginia was totally at odds with the state, we’d pay more attention right?

September 10, 2020

September 8, 2020

September 4, 2020

Friday Fish Porn – Funder Fish!

Here’s Marc Sternberg of the Walton Family Foundation* with a lively New England brown trout on what looks like an A+  day on a lovely river.

The summer is winding down sure, but you can still see hundreds of education types with fish by clicking here and here. Tips on how take a kid fishing here. Send me yours (pics not kids please although I have taken a few kids of readers fishing, it can be arranged).

*BW funder.

Posted on Sep 4, 2020 @ 12:14pm

September 3, 2020

The For-Profit Problem

Fordham’s Jessica Poiner takes a look at Biden and charter school policy But it seems like there is a more basic puzzle everyone dances around – Biden wants to ban for-profit charter schools, that sounds sensible but like many policies the specifics are more tricky.*

A few things are true.

  1. Overall for-profit charter schools underperform the sector. Some data on that in this Bellwether deck.
  2. These schools are concentrated in a few places and not representative of the sector overall.
  3. Not every for-profit school is lousy, some are quite good. Ecological fallacy in how various actors talk about this.

And of course, different kids need different things and thrive in different environments.

So, banning for-profit charters would undoubtably clean up some bottom feeders (even accounting for the point just above about school diversity, it’s a messy part of the sector). But it would also sweep up some schools that are working for kids and families right now. Here’s a look at that from a few years ago. To some extent it is also at odds with an ethos of being just for good schools and against bad ones.

That means one option is saying, sure, that harm is outweighed by the benefits. Defensible. Another is saying, the way through here is better charter authorizing rather than banning broad categories of schools. Clean up the bad actors but leave space for the good ones. Also defensible, if politically tricky, though it can be done. What’s the role of choices parents are making? And what does either approach mean for various factions that claim to put kids and families first before adult politics?

Not a straightforward problem, but let’s have that conversation.

*There are multiple for-profit configurations, some that different states allow or don’t, so the specifics of any ban in terms of how broad it could be – would it include management organizations that work for non-profit schools, for instance  – remains to be seen.