January 19, 2017

U.S. News: Put Kids First

You may have noticed that education reformers have become pretty focused on adult issues – and that was before this election and all the complexity it brings. It’s not left or right, on a host of issues it’s everyone. Rough times ahead? I take a look at that in U.S. News & World Report today:

Give the school reform world credit: In the 1990s, reformers promised efficiency and they have more than delivered. It took the education establishment more than a century to build norms and politics focused overwhelmingly on what mattered to adults rather than what was good for kids. The reform world pulled it off in less than a quarter century.

Congratulations everyone!

….The next few years will be rocky ones for an education reform community that now has more in common than it likes to think with the norms and culture it set out to disrupt not all that long ago.

You can read the entire column right here. Tweet me your biggest adult concerns @arotherham, or tell me about your favorite kids (or adults).

January 18, 2017

DeVos Hearing Recap

Betsy DeVos hearing short version:

- Some of the questions were gotchas, some were softballs, but still, she is out of her depth on policy and will need a strong team. The Department oversees a lot of issues not just school choice advocacy.

- It was a rocky performance on policy specifics – the IDEA issue in particular – but barring something new that doesn’t matter to this process and she’ll get through. In the weird ways of Washington the hearing was a success for everyone. The Dems got to rough her up and make some points and get some media, the Rs will deliver a nominee for the new president (albeit on what looks like a tight vote). It seems like there are bigger fish to fry though – I work in this sector but honestly am a lot more concerned about the possibility of the nation’s chief diplomat having undisclosed financial ties to our global adversaries than about Betsy DeVos not knowing the ins and outs of growth models (and most of the people attacking her about it don’t either).

- This issue of guns and bears attacks on schools that DeVos raised is an easy punch line but turns out it’s a real problem. (Other examples here.)

January 17, 2017

DeVos Takes, Johnston Running In CO, Mead On Obama Early Ed, Hill On Rural, Higher Ed Outcomes, Higher Ed Coauthoring, Swamp Draining, And More!

Sara Mead on the Obama early education legacy. Five questions for Betsy DeVos.

Michael Johnston running for governor in Colorado.

Emma Brown takes a look at the Ed Department and what’s next. This John King quote is pretty succinct and to the point:

“States’ rights and civil rights have not generally traveled together in the history of the United States,” [Secretary of Education John] King said. “That’s not a partisan point, that’s a fact.”

The article also dances around the idea that Obama undermined the Department of Education through an aggressive federal role. It’s bad history. More than a few people hated the 1994 Clinton law and fought efforts to enforce it, and you may recall that No Child Left Behind wasn’t beloved by the establishment (it was the first ESEA law that key groups took a non-portion or opposed). So while some of the Obama polices weren’t popular with the establishment that disdain was not unprecedented. Perhaps the key issue is that any education policy with teeth on accountability and related issues splits the Democratic coalition between civil rights groups, reformers, and the education establishment in various ways. Happily for Democrats, the President-elect seems likely to paper all that over for a while.

Speaking of the incoming administration, a Long Betsy DeVos profile in Politico. A bit of context. Part of the DeVos / Engler disagreement the story highlights owed to differing views about how much Republicans should respond to urban concerns given voting patterns in Michigan (and more generally). DeVos believed then, and apparently now, in an all-kids approach whether or not they vote Republican. Given the reality of choice politics in Congress, especially where federal categorical programs are involved, costs and debates over means-testing and all the rest, that’s an important issue to watch and a place where misalignment seems likely among various Republican players. Second, the article states that it’s basically love/hate her in Michigan. That may give her some chance of a D.C. reset if she gets out of the shadow of her boss because here in D.C. when you get outside of the professional advocates a lot of people are taking a wait and see approach and want to see what she has to say at her hearings – although there is universal agreement she needs a strong #2 at the Department to be successful given its sprawling scope of authority and operations. Third, from the article:

If Engler thought he had anointed a rubber stamp, he quickly learned otherwise. In January 1997, DeVos cleared house, unilaterally firing all of the party’s top directors and pausing all contracts with vendors, blaming them for the party’s losses months earlier. “Betsy regarded the governor’s input as good advice, not an order,” Greg McNeilly, a close associate of Betsy DeVos, told an Engler biographer years later. “That’s when the problems started.”

Apparently DeVos made this clear to the President-elect in their interview and he responded well to it. But given their different views on some things and the political constraints he will soon be under that’s a dynamic to watch, too.

Paul Hill on rural.

The Obama Administration opened itself up to criticism by focusing on for-profit colleges, which have plenty of problems but are hardly the only problematic part of the higher education sector in terms of value for money. Kevin Carey on why that’s coming up again as they head out the door:

The fact that [Harvard] was caught in a regulatory net devised to protect students from exploitative trade schools suggests that even the most prestigious colleges may not be paying enough attention to whether their degrees are worth the price of admission.

Came across this paper the other day, does co-authoring disadvantage women more than men?

DC-area swamp draining.

January 16, 2017

January 13, 2017

DeVos Takes! Kaplan On Head Start And Zip Codes, Whiteboard Insiders On Student Loans, Maryland, MA, BIE, And Rugged Individualism And Edu. Plus Conrad Anker, Commencement Speaker And More…

At the top: Betsy DeVos still likes vouchers. But her finances are a more complicated issue. Also, Betsy DeVos is a breath of fresh air says her hometown paper. Betsy DeVos will destroy all that is good says Newsweek. LGBT issues remain questions a lot of people want answers on.

Here’s a sign that DeVos/Trump are sucking up a lot of oxygen: A state is considering dropping a Common Core test and there is no circus.


Marnie Kaplan on Head Start and residency.

Native students suing the BIE. It’s startling how few equity conversations include native students. Enormous oversight and another sign of the myopia that even the reform world suffers from around equity.

Whiteboard’s Education Insiders on possible changes and fixes on student loans (pdf).

There has been some interesting innovation happening quietly in Springfield, MA. Not so quiet anymore! (pdf).

Can donors help improve the free speech climate on campus? For Maryland schools Buzzy Hettleman says it might be war!

Is rugged individualism dead, and what does that mean for education?

The Jefferson Education Accelerator at UVA is partnering with Branching Minds. The Koch Foundation is teaming up with HBCU’s around criminal justice and education.

Today in graduation speeches I’d like to hear.

January 12, 2017

Betsy DeVos Is Good At Politics And There Are A Lot Of Politics About Betsy DeVos, Plus Pensions, Personalized Learning, Vouchers, Spec Ed At The High Court, Race & Student Debt, Texas, Ed Tech, And More!

Betsy DeVos confirmation hearing pushed back a week. Earlier this week I wrote in USN about five questions I’d like to see aired out. 

Pensions and bears in CA. Kirsten Schmitz has more. Make a New Year’s talent strategy resolution.

Mike Petrilli says you should rethink your voucher position. Julie Squire says conservatives should slow down and think through their voucher position.

Just a friendly reminder that while there is a lot of almost religious – pun not intended – fervor around the idea of public money going to private schools it’s actually at this point more of a policy question. Private and parochial schools participate in a variety of federal programs under a legal theory dating to the 60s and the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of parochial school vouchers if they are part of a larger choice system intended to benefit kids not religious schools. Plenty of room for disagreement about all of this and some ideas floating around (Title I “portability” for instance is one of those ideas that works better in theory than practice) but the choice conversation that is breaking out relative to the incoming administration and Betsy DeVos is oddly divorced from some of the underlying facts and context.

Big special education case at the Supreme Court yesterday. Argument recap here.

This Louisiana charter case matters, too. NACPS statement here.

It’s entirely possible the HR practices of K-12 school districts are not state of the art. The indispensable Matt Barnum on that.

The told ya so’s are easy. New York’s mayor deserves credit for changing course here rather than doubling down on a talking point that doesn’t work. That happens too infrequently.

Smart take on ed tech and research.  Stan Litow on reclaiming America’s educational edge. Sandy Kress with a dispatch from the front lines in Texas!

NASBE on charter schools. And is it Common Core versus personalized learning, or not?

Race and student debt.

Department of Education OCR with new resource guide, dear colleague, and Q and As on special education, discipline and also special education and charters. And resources on intentionally diverse charter schools from National Charter School Resource Center.

Betsy DeVos is good at politics.

January 10, 2017

Edujob: Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Charter School Action Fund Director @ NACPS

Given the coming policy debates this seems like a pretty interesting edujob:

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (National Alliance) is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter movement.

The Senior Vice President will lead the federal advocacy efforts of NAPCS – a 501(c)(3) – and the Charter School Action Fund (CSAF) – a nascent 501(c)(4). S/he will be responsible for the design and implementation of strategies to: (1) increase the advocacy capacity of the nationwide charter school community and (2) drive the success of federal legislative initiatives defined by NAPCS and CSAF.

Learn more and learn about how to apply here.

January 9, 2017

5 Questions For Betsy DeVos

The education news this week is all DeVos, all the time. Good enough but I’d like to hear a lot more about her than how much she likes vouchers. For instance her views on LGBT students, what she thinks about accountability for all schools, and her ideas on the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education. I take a look at five questions in U.S. News & World Report:

Hearings are planned this week on President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of philanthropist and activist Betsy DeVos to be the next secretary of education. The usual suspects are lining up to unflinchingly support or oppose her nomination – even as many can’t even pronounce her name.

For the education establishment, DeVos’ support for school vouchers ranks her among history’s greatest monsters. School choice supporters seem to have forgotten that the Department of Education has responsibilities beyond just school choice. And from the press you’d think she’s the first cabinet nominee ever to have made political donations.

Yet even if you’re someone who thinks a president should get wide latitude on his or her nominees, it’s never a bad idea to ask some questions – especially of someone like DeVos, who has a thin public record and has never held a job like this.

Here are five that will be squarely in her wheelhouse and matter more than just how much DeVos likes school vouchers, where her kids went to school or who her brother is…

You can read all five right here. And tell me on Twitter what would you like to ask her?

January 6, 2017

Happy 2017, Your Pension Problem is Still Here. John King Exits, Dynarski Markets, Lilla Pushes, Sanchez Predicts, Clinton MS And GNR Jazz. Plus More!

Bellwether’s Max Marchitello on why CALSTERS doesn’t work for most teachers. Chad Aldeman on how you can fix your pension debt problem. Emmeline Zhao and I are taking our media curation work to The 74where we’ll do that among other things.

John King exit memo (pdf).

Quality Counts. Alabama report cards, look for more of this.

Susan Dynarksi on why the reality of “free markets” in education is more complicated than the rhetoric.

A lot of attention understandably focused on Washington, but there will be a lot of action in the states on education worth watching.

Here are six possibly consensus ideas from Robin Lake. And 10 education ideas from New America.

Claudio Sanchez education predictions for 2017.

Marc Lilla interview:

…you argue for a liberalism that works “quietly, sensitively, and with a proper sense of scale” when it comes to highly charged issues like sexuality and religion. Is there a campus corollary to that?

Yes, because there has been a radicalization of student demands and also a loss of a sense of proportion. Our campuses are not Aleppo. And to witness the rage around some of these issues — whether it’s the naming of buildings, the transgender-bathroom issue, or the pronoun issue — we’re an evangelical country, and we tend toward fanaticism whenever we try to reform ourselves. It’s unfortunate to see the university become a place where this kind of self-induced hysteria is drawing in students who should be thinking more outside of themselves. College administrators and professors have stood by and not resisted that very strongly.

It has created a spectacle that is very damaging — and here I speak as a liberal — to the liberal cause. A fact of our political lives as liberals is that everything we do and say is filtered through conservative media. To constantly feed the beast the way these identity theatrics do only harms the liberal cause when it comes to reaching out to voters. It’s an enormous distraction and an enormous loss of energy — energy that could be directed outward, toward common political goals in the real world. Instead it’s directed inward, toward the self and the little utopic communities we try to create for ourselves on our campuses.

Atlantic deep-dive on Clinton, Mississippi and the schools there.

I’m going to miss most of these can’t miss education conferences, but a few look good.

Instagram rules.

Guns and Roses as you haven’t heard them before.

December 23, 2016

Big News From RCE, DeVos Confirmation Prospects, BW In 2016, And More!

Rumor mill: The mood among some insiders on Betsy DeVos is changing and there is some concern/hope (depending who you ask obviously) that her nomination could go down if Democrats really focus their efforts on it and pressure moderate Republicans. That’s a shift from a few weeks ago when even her staunchest critics were resigned to her confirmation.

Breaking News: Emmeline Zhao and I are moving the work we’ve been doing at RealClear Education to The 74. That will start early 2017, with news curation and original content. RCE will also continue to produce a newsletter and aggregation as well.

Bellwether: Marnie Kaplan on starting early and starting strong. Kirsten Schmitz with top teacher pension stories! Kaitlin Pennington starts a conversation on the purpose of teacher evaluation.

Yesterday I looked at our fraying norms around rights and decency.

Burning question: What are the top 10 blog posts and top 10 analyses Bellwether released in 2016? Here’s a handy list!

What I’m reading:

Here’s some good advice on charter policy from Alex Medler, Paul O’Neill & Suzie Kim. And here’ s a paper looking at new ideas on learning to employment training and education (pdf).

New class of Pahara – Aspen fellows.

Gopher Joe Nathan says fire the football coach at Minnesota. Public Prep’s (a Fordham fellow) Ian Rowe on family structure. Ken Wagner comes out for more choices via AF in Rhode Island. 

Here are 13 takes on how to address teach shortages.

Mike Rowe went to Meet the Press and talked education among other issues.  Mike Petrilli on what 2016 might mean for education down the road.

Happy Holidays and best wishes for 2017! Back in January if not sooner.

December 22, 2016

December 21, 2016

International Assessments, China, Estonia! Plus Ed Navigator Parenting Advice!

Adam Minter notes that some of the China hype is not all it’s cracked up to be.

In 2009, Shanghai students did so well — beating the world in math, science and reading — that President Barack Obama declared it a “Sputnik moment,” requiring immediate action. A similar panic broke out in 2012. But this year proved to be a surprise. The results from the 2015 tests, released this month, showed Chinese students ranked sixth in math, 10th in science and 27th in reading. What happened?

On one hand, the answer is simple. Instead of merely testing Shanghai’s elite, the 2015 exams included a broader selection of students across China, which dragged down scores. But the results also highlighted an important problem: China’s much-lauded education system remains riven by inequality, with far-reaching consequences for schools, students and, ultimately, the economy.

I wrote about this a few years ago for TIME  and got tagged as an apologist for failing schools (although the part about Russia hasn’t held up too well….). But these international compressions often carry a lot of important context that matters to how one thinks about them.

Ed Navigator with an interesting take on this.

In other news, Estonia!

December 20, 2016

Eduwonk Holiday Book List!

If you’re like me you might not be entirely on top of your holiday shopping. And you might have some readers on your list. Here’s a few recent (and not so recent) books from the past few months that I’d highly recommend:

Hillbilly Elegy.  JD Vance’s memoir is a poignant reminder that the ‘who has it worse’ sweepstakes divides Americans when our politics should bring them together so solve the very real problems too many Americans face. There is a reason so many people are reading it.

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. C’mon, of course.

The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency. Great story.  LeHand is one of those people history buffs and Washington types remember but who get lost to the winds of popular history. Kathryn Smith’s work brings her back.

Hidden Computers: The Black Women Of NASA is a bit tricky to find but worth the hunt. I was fortunate enough to see some galleys earlier this year. Great piece of NASA history and more general history. Great book for young adults, in particular.

The Sellout: A Novel. If irony or acid writing is not your thing then stay away. Or, more bluntly, if you don’t get why Chris Rock doesn’t want to play campuses stay away. Otherwise, the Eduwife and I argue about American fiction but this book is a big strong point in her favor about its vibrancy. Won a Booker Prize.

The Righteous Mind. Pahara’s Kim Smith was on me to read more Jonathan Haidt. Good advice.

America Ascendant is a book I missed when it came out. Even though the country is taking a political turn Stan Greenberg’s ideas are still relevant – especially if Trump unleashes constructive political chaos that shuffles the two-party alignment.

Why Knowledge Matters. Agree with him or not if you work in education you have to engage with Don Hirsch’s ideas and the powerful ideas he raises about why liberalism and knowledge need each other and what that means.

Braving It: A Father, a Daughter, and an Unforgettable Journey into the Alaskan Wild. Devotees of The Last Alaskans TV show or people who spend time up around Fairbanks know of the legendary Heimo and Edna Korth and their uncompromising lifestyle in the Alaskan bush. Turns out their cousin is a great writer and this book explores he and his daughter’s adventures in the bush with the Korths and on a hiking/canoe trip in remote country. Great non-traditional parenting book and a great story in one.

Meat Eater. Steve Rinella’s writing is circulating more so I picked up his 2012 book. Good reminder where your food comes from and how some of the non-vegans amongst us see things. Bonus: perhaps a few good tips if things go badly in the Trump years.

The Iron Heel. Yeah, me too.

PS – a colleague and friend just sent me Evicted. I read the author’s New Yorker article and am interested to read the book but haven’t tucked in. Looks strong though. Obvious links between housing and school policy.

December 19, 2016

Is Education Kind Of Insulated? Minnesota Boycott, School Segregation, Making Charter Schools Work, Early Education News, Sanford Johnson, NMSI, John King, And Rham! Grading College Work, More…

Here’s an idea: This pushing and shoving in the South China Sea could get us all killed.  School vouchers are an education policy reasonable people can disagree about. In the education world these days you’d think those were inverted.

Sara Mead with some Head Start news. Richard Whitmire on Appletree and early ed and charter schools.

Here is a big education bet from New Schools. PARCC RFP for new assessment strategies for states is out (pdf).

Rahm Emanuel on the ed reform debate and Betsy DeVos. This John King speech is well worth your time. Here are education ideas from Brookings for the Trump administration. And here’s a Brookings look at pre-K. Meanwhile here’s an inside look at the Trump transition on education so far.

The Arlington, VA student we discussed earlier this month who took on his school board over redistricting decisions is amping up the fight.

Minnesota football players boycotting over a Title IX sexual assault case there involving players:

The gap between a law enforcement agency’s decision to prosecute and a school’s decision to discipline hinges on the different evidentiary standards and burdens of proof. While the criminal justice system requires a high certainty of guilt — “beyond a reasonable doubt” — the Education Department has argued that Title IX regulations call for a “preponderance of the evidence standard.”

This will be a fight during the Trump Administration around the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education regardless of this Minnesota episode. Keep an eye on the lawsuit from the University of Virginia student referenced in the article. Also, don’t miss Sally Jenkins with more on all this here. And once the players learned all the details they ended the boycott.

This is a great article, but could have the unintended consequence of creating the misperception that elite colleges are crawling with low-income students. They’re not and it’s a huge (and solvable) problem.

Again, a front line educator has to battle a non-educator about misperceptions: Steven Wilson on Diane Ravitch. Let educators do their work! (I know, no one likes a wise ass, but c’mon…)

Is the yes choice/no choice split in education as pronounced as people think? I wrote about choice this summer for the Wash Post, still relevant with the debate that’s coming:

You wouldn’t know it from how our politicians talk about school choice, but we actually know quite a bit about what works and what doesn’t. Broadly speaking, vouchers have at best a modest effect on student achievement but seem to improve certain other outcomes of interest, such as parental satisfaction and graduation rates. Charter schools, for their part, outperform on standardized tests in urban areas, show mixed but positive results elsewhere, and have pockets of serious underperformance. There is some evidence that choice helps spur the overall school system to improve, but not as much as free market adherents might think. In other words, the zealots on all sides are wrong: If you want to see a more equitable American education system, choice is a key ingredient but not by itself transformative…

…The Obama administration has helped support the replication of high-quality charter schools, a valuable federal role. But the next administration can do a lot more. It can help support pilot initiatives to incorporate more radical uses of technology and different labor models. That could include, for instance, the teacher-run charter schools emerging in Minnesota; schools such as the West Coast-based Summit Public Schools that flip the traditional notion of the role of student in school; or schools that are now still just an idea in an educator’s head somewhere. The next president can also pilot better strategies to ensure that the charter sector in a city or state serves an equitable share of students with special needs — an emerging problem as the charter sector grows. There are also subtler steps around data and accountability that would encourage better practices.

Here’s a handy overview of what’s happening on charters. Here’s a great push on choice questions from Ashley Berner.

Sanford Johnson recognized for his education work. And here’s what NMSI’s been up to.

You can watch some Ken Robinson pushback here. And here’s a new grading rubric for college papers.

December 17, 2016

Edujob: Chief Of Staff At Bellwether

Bellwether’s hiring a Chief of Staff. Here’s a bit more about the role, a lot more context through the link:

The Chief of Staff is a senior level position that provides direct support to the Managing Partner and the partner team to ensure that Bellwether achieves its strategic objectives at the organizational level. The Chief of Staff will work closely with the partner team to lead the annual planning process, ensure the Bellwether Board is engaged appropriately and functioning well, and lead strategic initiatives and special projects determined by the partners as critical to Bellwether’s long-term success.

The Chief of Staff will also guide the planning and strategic implementation of operations, finance, HR, technology, and knowledge management. S/he will supervise the Knowledge Manager and direct the knowledge management function.

Click here to learn a lot more and how to be considered.

December 15, 2016

Three Reform Takes On Trump….Plus O’Keefe On Turnover, Aldeman On Pension Coasters, Anderson’s Open Letter, Plus Kanye And Trump Talked Edu, Warren V. Tilson, PPI Goes Back To Indy, Edu Spending, More….

Bonnie O’Keefe on leadership turnover. Pennsylvania has a lot of roller coasters, Chad Aldeman on the one you don’t want to ride. Cami Anderson with an open edu letter to the Trump team.

The education reform sector seems to be breaking into three factions over Donald Trump’s presidency:

1) Don’t do anything with Trump’s administration. No matter how good any policy idea is in isolation, it’s tainted because of its association with Trump. Besides, your friends will never speak to you again.

2) Let’s see what Trump does. Legitimizing him as president is not the same as normalizing everything his campaign was about. If some proposals are reasonable ideas that might improve outcomes for kids, then that’s good and people have to work together even across disagreement. Besides, you can’t just put the freeze on things that might help kids for four years, or longer.

3) Yeehah! Biggest opportunity for choice ever! Besides, Yeehah! Biggest opportunity for choice ever!

Related, ICYMI, my take on Trump’s possible paths on choice.

Sol Stern at war. Making colleges more economically diverse.

Primary document: Kanye West and Trump talked education issues in their Trump Tower meeting.

Progressive Policy Institute goes back to Indy (pdf).

Spending money on schools can make a difference. Key line,

Mr. Rothstein cautioned that the idea that states could erase the achievement gap between poor and middle class students by simply cutting a few checks was unrealistic. “There has been a tendency to expect magic from these reforms,” he said.

Perhaps naive, but you would like to think there is a politics to be built right there with the broad swath of people in the education world who believe money matters and how it’s spent matters, too?

Here’s Myles Mendoza, Marty West, Shavar Jefferies, and Karen Nussle talking education politics in the Trump era.  Great panelists make any moderator look good – couple of great audience questions, too. Who does Betsy DeVos listen to? Maybe not Cory Booker these days?

California and the feds are still arguing over testing like it matters. RAND and Wallace on school leadership, evidence, and ESSA.

Whitney Tilson versus Elizabeth Warren. Sorta. And Whitney got his apology. Peace in our time!

Schools wrestling with anti-racist works of art and fiction that aren’t anti-racist enough.

This article is a brutal and a frustrating reminder that we can’t come together to balance rights, responsibility, and common sense on the gun issue.

December 12, 2016

Screen Time! Segregation In Schools, Rural Education, Ending The “Federal” Common Core, Fenty On Race (And Not The One You Think), Brown On Choice, CAP On Accty, Outward Bound, To Be Clear…

Scroll down the page for several edujobs.

Marnie Kaplan on screen time and little kids:

You walk by an outdoor restaurant and see a toddler watching a movie on an iPad while his parents eat dinner. Your first thought is:

  • a) those parents deserve a break
  • b) screens don’t belong at meal time
  • c) is the video educational?
  • d) alert: bad parenting

Is there an app to help us decide how to respond? No. But a quorum of pediatricians might be able to help…

Matt Barnum on school segregation. Actual nuance!

President-elect Trump wants to end the “federal” Common Core. His choice for Secretary of Education is on board. But there really isn’t much of a federal role in Common Core. The funding that was used to create incentives for states to adopt Common Core or similar standards is done. The new ESSA law goes in a new direction. States are making their own decisions here anyway about standards and tests. The assessment consortia are doing their own thing. So, doesn’t that leave Trump two choices: (a) Take some fake actions against what is at this point a fake problem and put the politics behind him (e.g. “on my first day in office I issued an executive order ending the federal Common Core)” or (b) taking actual steps to do something on Common Core that would inadvertently entangle the federal government further in curricular decisions?

Two interesting looks at rural America. Here’s a look at some demographic information from Atlantic City Lab. One thing that jumps out is housing ownership. This strikes me as an overlooked/under-leveraged tool for teacher recruiting and retention to rural areas. Housing tax-credits or other incentives are one way to leverage rural aspects and encourage people to build a life and teach in communities that are struggling to attract or keep teachers. Also here’s a look at how Google rolls in heavy to one Oklahoma town. And ICYMI here’s a Bellwether analysis released last week about charter facilities in Idaho – rural impact.

These are interesting times for the school reform community (you can define them loosely as all the people who don’t think that nine percent of low-income kids getting through college by age 24 is an OK outcome). President-elect Trump might do school choice, he might also do a lot of things that divide people. Here’s the tendentious and reductionist take on what’s going on, and here’s Emma Brown with some texture on a complicated basket of issues and questions.

Michelle Fenty on her sons, race, and policing. I am really starting to think that Catherine Brown doesn’t like Betsy DeVos. CAP on new accountability indicators.

Cops, kids, and a ropes course. You’ll never believe what happened next…

People are earning less than their parents, that’s a problem.

“To be clear” statement of the day: “To be clear, there is no indication that the bear in the video is the one that ate a dog, or that the dog in the video is the dog that was eaten.”

Edujob: Executive Director, Education Matters

Here’s a unique California-based edujob:

Located in the East San Francisco Bay Area, West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) is a racially and socioeconomically diverse public school district. Its 30,000 students identify as 52% Hispanic/Latino, 18% African American, 10% White, and 10% Asian American. English Language Learners comprise 35% of the student population, and more than 70% of students qualify for free or reduced-priced school meals. The need for vastly improved educational outcomes is clear: only 16% of 11th-graders are proficient in math, and 40% are proficient in reading, leaving too many of our young people unprepared for college or career. On a state school district report card generated by Ed Trust West, WCCUSD received a D-, making it one of the lowest achieving school districts in California in terms of equity, proficiency, achievement gaps, and more…

…With that in mind, in 2014 Susan and Steve Chamberlin launched Education Matters (EM), a not-for-profit 501(c)(4) established to advance highly effective leaders, especially at the School Board and District, who are informed, aligned around, and accountable for excellent public schools for all students in West Contra Costa County. They recognized this as an ambitious mission, and one that must be accomplished in partnership with an empowered community. The organization strives to provide reliable information to support families, and to ensure educationally and fiscally sound decisions for WCCUSD students. This also means supporting elected leaders – and holding them accountable – for exceptional student growth and outcomes. To help achieve these objectives, EM has an associated PAC that supports candidates for local office who will be bold, independent champions for students and families.

Learn more about the Chamberlin work in West Contra Costa County dating back to 2006 and more about this role and how to nominate someone or be considered yourself by clicking here. 

December 9, 2016

Edujob: Communications Associate @NASBE

Are you a bit too happy it’s Friday? If so, NASBE is hiring for a Communications Associate. You get to work with the great Renee Rybak among other benefits!

The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) seeks a creative, energetic associate to support its communications and publishing work, with an emphasis on digital and social media. The communications associate will work closely with the communications director to support NASBE’s media relations and member outreach efforts, online presence, and social media strategy. S/he may also occasionally support NASBE’s editorial director in producing NASBE’s popular policy briefs and award-winning journal, The State Education Standard.

To quote the great Ben Stiller in Starsky and Hutch, “Do it.” You can learn more about how to do that here. 

December 8, 2016

Student Voice! Aldeman On Pensions, Biddle On Reform, Plus Idaho Charters, The Ones Who Leave Chris Christie, DeVos, Dreamers, ESSA Testing, Yale Investing, Sam Gleaves, And More!

Here’s a new analysis by Kelly Robson and Julie Squire on charter school facilities in Idaho.

Currently, about 6,000 Idaho students are on waitlists for charter schools. And the state is expected to add nearly 22,000 new prek-12 students by fall 2022. The charter sector can help ensure these students have access to a high-quality school, but only if it is able to grow and expand. Unfortunately, future growth in the charter sector is stymied by its limited access to facilities financing…

…we use survey data we collected from Idaho’s charter school leaders to quantify the stark discrepancy in access to state and local facilities funding sources between district and charter schools: On average, districts have access to approximately $1,445 per pupil of state and local funding. Charter schools get less than one-quarter this amount on average: $347.

Heroes walk amongst us. Watch a high school student undress their school board for the kind of redistricting decisions that happen all the time even in communities that consider themselves delightfully progressive:

Although you claim to “value all students, staff and families in our diverse, inclusive school community,” when given the opportunity to help free and reduced lunch students, you consciously chose to do the exact opposite. Your stated mission is to prepare students to “be responsible and productive global citizens.” Surely part of becoming a “global citizen” includes knowing how to interact with people that don’t look like you.  Yet, this move in four years according to your own data will remove 27 percent of black students at Washington-Lee and send them to Wakefield, despite the fact that Wakefield’s a black population is already larger (20.7 percent to Washington-Lee’s 9.0). After this move, according to your data, Wakefield will have twice as many black students as Washington-Lee and Yorktown combined. Additionally, if your projections for this move are correct, Yorktown will pass James Madison and Langley to host the highest concentration of whites in one high school inside the beltway. Arlington is only 26 square miles but through negligence you’ve managed to become more racially segregated than all 406 square miles of Fairfax.

Give that kid a column!

Chad Aldeman takes a look at a missed opportunity to improve teacher pensions in Michigan:

How would closing a pension plan be good for teachers?

First, Michigan teachers would have been eligible for retirement benefits much earlier in their careers. Right now, Michigan teachers have to stay 10 years before they qualify for even a minimal pension. According to the state’s own financial models, 57 percent of new teachers won’t make it that far. Under the new plan, teachers would have been eligible for half of their employer’s contribution after just two years, and 100 percent after four years. That would have meant more Michigan teachers had access to retirement benefits earlier in their careers.

Second, the new plan would have been more generous for teachers. According to the official fiscal analysis conducted on the bill, Michigan teachers currently receive retirement benefits worth just 4 percent of their salary. Under the proposed legislation, teachers would have received retirement benefits worth 7 percent of their salary. That would cost the state a bit more money, true, but Michigan teachers would have gotten more in the way of retirement benefits.

Third, the state would have stopped accruing the large unfunded liabilities that are eating into school budgets. In response to those debts, the state has already raised contribution rates and cut benefits for new teachers. Today, Michigan employers are contributing not just the four percent for benefits; they’re actually contributing more than 22 percent of each teacher’s salary toward the pension plan. That is now set to continue for the foreseeable future.

RiShawn Biddle on Walter Scott and school reform.

One of the most-interesting aspects of the criminal justice reform movement is that it has been as championed by many conservatives and libertarians (including Radley Balko of the Washington Post, Jonathan Blanks of the Cato Institute, Congressman Justin Amash, and Atlantic Monthly‘s Conor Friedensdorf) as it has been by progressives and Black Lives Matter activists. Cato, in particular, is holding a conference this week tackling such issues as mass incarceration and militarization of police departments (including those harming children in our schools).

I’m starting to think Chris Christie is Ursula Le Guin’s wretched Omelas child in the basement for President-elect Donald Trump. He must suffer so Trump can thrive. Passed over for VP, pushed off of the transition, no AG, no DHS, and now apparently he won’t lead the RNC. But don’t forget Christie’s awful school finance proposal a few months ago. It basically pitted middle class and affluent communities against poor ones by telling the former they were getting ripped off and that everyone should just get the same funding allocations. The whole plan seemed to me an effort to step into the slipstream of Trumpist politics. Even without Christie that kind of inverse class warfare on education could be one way Trumpism moves depending on 2018 and 2020 politics.

The PISA data this week was covered top-line and is certainly not all great news but there is also some really interesting stuff buried in it. And I would like to assume this means we can stop fetishizing Finland. But that’s probably wrong given the cargo cult approach to things in the education sector. Bob Rothman says Estonia is now open for business. Don’t miss Amanda Ripley on this.

ESSA testing rules. Dan Quisenberry on the DeVos record in Michigan. Is the President-elect softening on immigration policy for Dreamers? Is the Yale investment model busted?

Wait, I read on Twitter that this was a big scandal…wump wump wump….NCTQ is out with a new analysis and rating of elementary education programs.

The President-elect called out a local union leader – by name – on Twitter last night. That is not behavior becoming a United States president (and in the current climate it’s dangerous). It also should terrify the teachers union. They are looking at bigger problems than a school choice policy they don’t like. For instance today Randi Weingarten called the Secretary of Labor-designee “slime.” That about sums up where they are.

Slightly off-edu: My wife and I host a concert series for folk/roots style music at a place in Arlington, VA. We partner with a non-profit Spread Music Now on some of it – they help expose low-income kids to music. Next show is 4/29/17, Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes are coming. Here’s NPR on Sam. Here’s No Depression with an article and song.  Here’s both of them. Sam’s message is a good one for the times. Save date if you’re interested. All are welcome, contact me for details.

December 7, 2016

Edjuob: High School Leader Blackstone Valley Prep (Includes Referral Bonus)

Blackstone Valley Prep is seeking a new leader. Great opportunity, among other things:

-Part of a network of diverse by design public charter schools that serve 2 urban and 2 suburban Rhode Island communities

-Part of the first Summit Basecamp and using a self-paced personalized model

- Part of innovative new school initiative in Rhode Island.


They are also offering a $5K referral bonus for anyone who refers a candidate who accepts the position.

You can learn more about how to apply or nominate here.

December 6, 2016

Bellwether Better Blogging Seminar – February 2017!

Next Bellwether blogging training is in February 22-23, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Application is open now, you can learn more here. We will do another one in the summer of 2017 with a schedule more friendly to working teachers. Couple of things to keep in mind. This training is always at least 4 – 5x oversubscribed so don’t delay in applying. This training is strictly viewpoint neutral and selection is based on opportunity to benefit not any particular point of view. Our coaches are fantastic and at the top of the game in their various areas of expertise. Here is what some past participants say about the training:

“It was an extremely enriching professional development opportunity that I have been and will continue to be incorporating into my work. As a result of the training, I am now writing a memo and preparing to hold a meeting with colleagues about how we can refine our blogging and social media strategy. “ –Zachary Malter, American Youth Policy Forum

“The Better Blogging training should be required professional development not only for education bloggers but also communications professionals. While the training covered what I expected, like tips on topics ranging from headline writing to social media promotion, it also offered me strategic advising on how to completely rethink my organization’s blogging fellowship and guest blogging program, as well as our approach to communications more broadly. Since I attended the training, we have become much more thoughtful about the voices and ideas we elevate–on our blog and beyond.” – Ari Kiener, MinnCAN

“The Bellwether Better Blogging conference was a great opportunity to meet influential professionals engaged in promoting their voices and perspectives online, and to learn from them how to better promote and refine my own classroom-based perspectives on education reform.” – Mark Anderson, New York City middle school teacher and blogger

“The Better Blogging seminar greatly improved my writing. I am blogging more concise, poignant pieces and my voice as a teacher has gained greater confidence. I am now starting to network online and build a loyal readership.” – Marilyn Rhames, blogger at Education Post and alumni support manager at a Chicago charter school

“I left feeling inspired and equipped to implement new strategies for getting my voice out there. I appreciated the quality of the presenters, the diversity and expertise of the other attendees, and the time that each of you took to make sure that everybody was getting what they needed out of the conference.” – Luke Foley, 2014 Vermont Teacher of the Year

“Was some of the best training/professional development I’ve ever received…and in such a short amount of time!” – Brianna Crowley, high school English teacher, Hershey, PA, and blogger

“The training gave me the tools to make my organization’s blog stand out from the crowd. The presenters offered insights into not only creating content that jumps off the page, but also marketing it so that it attracts the widest audience and has the biggest impact. I go back to tips from the training on a daily basis, as I’m creating headlines, promoting our blog on social media, and talking to teachers about how to tell their stories most effectively.” – Kate McGovern, Teach Plus

December 5, 2016

Trump’s School Choice

In U.S. News & World Report I take a look at the opportunity Donald Trump has on school choice – and all the ways it could go off the rails:

Donald Trump didn’t say a lot about education during the presidential campaign, but he did make clear he favored school choice. His selection of Betsy DeVos, a longtime choice advocate and funder, to be secretary of education seems to indicate this is a policy area where we should, at least for now, take the president-elect both literally and seriously.

A Trump school choice push could be as disruptive as the rest of his unconventional approach to politics. Let’s be honest, there is a comfortable class of education mandarins living in exclusive suburbs enrolling their kids at so-called “public privates,” working out arrangements to send their kids to that one special school that allows them to claim public school parentage while sidestepping the problems other parents face, or taking advantage of private schools while nonetheless fighting tooth and nail to deny poor parents the same options. It’s gross, considered rude to talk about and widely normalized in an education world focused on what’s OK for other people’s kids.

On the other hand, all choice is not good choice. A quarter-century of school choice initiatives show pretty clearly the design of choice programs matters as much as their availability. DeVos should face some tough questions about her role in Michigan’s uneven charter school sector and her views on choice and accountability regulations more generally. If confirmed, she’ll then confront tough choices about how to design a school choice initiative that can both get through Capitol Hill and do some good for parents desperate for better schooling options.

This is where things get interesting…

Click here to read the possible upsides and the risk. 

Kaya Henderson Is A Model Citizen, Plus Bellwether’s Position, Coal Country, Michigan, Virgina (Foxx), PARCC Items, Biddle On Teachers Union Charter Spending, Davis On SEL, And More!

I’ve received a few emails in the past week asking about Bellwether’s “positioning” because of various things our analysts have written or said lately. Here’s the deal:  We take no organizational positions, on anything other than issues affecting all 501c3 organizations like ours as a class. Instead, our analysts enjoy editorial freedom. It’s how we attract the best people and such an exceptional team of analysts. So we’re serious about quality control but there is not editorial control, at all, and it doesn’t matter whenever I or Sara Mead or anyone else at Bellwether agrees with this point or that one as long it’s well argued. Unusual, yes. but we think (hope!) there is a place for it. Our grant funded work allows us to support a variety of perspectives and points of view – because we believe less of this is settled than most people seem to. It’s also what makes our client work strong, you’re not getting whatever the tired truism or fashion of the moment is, we stress test our work by filtering it through genuinely different and informed viewpoints and perspectives.

Some takes the past week. Here’s a new Bellwether analysis by Kate Pennington and Sara Mead on teacher evaluation in the ESSA era. 

Here’s Mead on school choice. Hailly Korman on the new federalists in the education world. Kate Pennington and Max Marchitello on charter schools and unions. Max on why urban and rural communities have more in common than not when it comes to school finance - important political implications if Democrats play their cards right. Allison Davis on SEL. Kirsten Schmitz on gender gaps and pensions. And here’s Pennington in U.S. News about teacher evaluation.

New resource from ED about helping students in secure facilities transition back to school. We do a lot of work on this issue at Bellwether. Overlooked but very important.

The new regime in D.C. Welcome to western Michigan…. And here’s a Virginia Foxx profile. 

New PARCC items released so  you can play along at home. Free press on campus. Chicago education funding plan vetoed. Thoughtful discussion on vouchers from Marquette Law.

Coal jobs, school finance, and school closings.

Conor Sen wants a pension bailout for Rust Belt cities. Some merit to the idea but a restructuring of pensions should accompany any aid. Teacher pensions really only work for about one in five teachers right now. It’s important that cities meet existing obligations to retirees and workers but this is not a system that should be extended in its current form.

Department of winning battles and losing wars: RiShawn Biddle looks at teachers union spending against the expansion of Massachusetts charter schools.

This is fantastic!  Kaya Henderson is moonlighting as a model.  After the World Series Cubs (and former Red Sox) executive Theo Epstein was asked his secret. His response,

 “All that business school leadership stuff is bullshit,” he tells me. If there’s a secret, it’s to “keep deflecting credit, keep from blaming. Live your fucking life and be nice to people.”

Kaya seems to live that as much as anyone in this sector.

December 1, 2016

Edujob: Program Director, Character and K12 Education Program @ Kern Family Foundation

Here’s a dynamic role at a foundation committed to thinking about character education:

The Kern Family Foundation operates on the belief that the United States’ flourishing depends on the ability of its communities to form citizens of good character, while also instilling the technical abilities that allow young people to support themselves with meaningful work in well-paying, high-demand jobs.

The Character and K12 Education Program teams are dedicated to restoring these two objectives—character formation and technical aptitude – to educational institutions. In the area of academic achievement, the Foundation places emphasis in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – disciplines that will allow young people to adapt to an increasingly technological world.

The Character and K12 Education Program Director will work closely with the Program’s team leader on the creation, implementation, assessment, and evaluation of strategies for the Character and K12 program. The Program Director is responsible for managing day-to-day grant making activities in keeping with the Foundation’s current policies and procedures, developing and maintaining strong relationships with regional organizations and peer foundations, and articulating Foundation goals and programs to the community.

You can learn more and apply via this link.

November 30, 2016

Trump, DeVos, Whiteboard Insiders On DeVos, Choice And Accountability. Plus: Steve Fleishman With The Eduwonkiest Non-Eduwonk Post Ever, Wisconsin News And Ravitch Could Have Stopped Trump And Chose Not To! Student Speech, When Does McWhorter Sleep? Also Data On TIMSS, Fordham Authorizing, EdTPA And More…

Another Bellwether Education blog training coming in February. Applications due in December. More here.

Last week I offered some thoughts in U.S. News & World Report on lecturing Trump voters that were really about the rampant assumption of monocausality since the election. I voted for Clinton. I’m no fan of Trump. But all of his supporters are not odious and castigating all of them doesn’t hold up intellectually (and even if  for some reason you believe it, it’s counter-productive politically and actually empowers the actually odious ones). Of course, you could write the same piece the other way because some of the truisms among Trump supporters are just as absurd. But the basic point is that it’s a sprawling and diverse country and we could all – urban, suburban, exurban, rural, whatever – do a bit better engaging with that.

DeVos twitter cards.001We asked the Whiteboard Advisors Education Insider panel (balanced politically) about approval or disapproval of Betsy DeVos. 57-43 approve/disapprove of the choice.

Related, within the education world (among those who didn’t support Trump for President, which is a majority) people seem to be breaking into two factions. One are the Never Trumps who just refuse to work with him and instead prefer to carry on the arguments from the campaign. These range from the folks calling out anyone who seeks to serve in the administration to folks just quietly planning to do politics rather than policy for a few years. On the other side are the folks who are saying, basically, ‘oh well, this is the world for the next few years let’s see how we can adapt to it and get something done for kids.’ They’re not coming over to Trump’s way of looking at the world but are talking about how to operate in this new environment. So a lot of operators, especially those deeply integrated with federal policy are less about castigating the incoming administration right now than trying to figure out who the deputy assistant secretary they will be dealing with might be.  I’m not arguing that there is a right or wrong answer. Trump is not a normal political event so there is no template or tradition for the proper response. But, organizations that need to work with Congress and the administration will have some tough choices to make about pragmatism versus political idealism in the Trump era.

Also related, is it me or has the incoming Trump administration done a really poor job defending Betsy DeVos after they nominated her? Some of her friends, political allies, and related groups have come forward but overall they’ve sort of left her hanging out there. Not even much of an argument from the transition about why she’s a good choice. For the record, I think she’s (a) an acceptable nominee in the category of presidents deserving a fair degree of discretion about who they choose to serve in their administrations and the context of the ed debate and (b) I think no one really has any idea what kind of secretary she will be. A lot hinges on the deputy and subcabinet picks who will oversee operational and line roles and I can see her being effective in a bully pulpit/leadership role or getting eaten alive by the scope of the job, the politics, and what could be a pretty impromptu style of governing across the administration. Too soon to know. Here’s an interview with DeVos about choice from last year, a bit vague but some flavor. Also here’s (BW board member) Paul Reville in TES on DeVos and the moment.

DeVos must have an answer for some hard questions about her views on regulations and quality in the choice sector – not just in confirmation but as the new administration designs policy. Expect to hear a lot about stuff like this as well as the authorizing problems in Michigan. Reality check though: None of this is as simple as you are hearing on Twitter. In Michigan, for instance, some of the worst actors are for-profit but also so are some of the best. The anti-choice types will make a bunch of noise but that ship has sailed and parents are speaking. This does, however, set up an interesting - and important – debate among people who support choice about the role of regulation and quality measures in choice systems. That debate was muted during the Obama years but should burst into full view now.

Think I am kidding? Just today here’s Shavar Jefferies and Peter Cunningham on that today. And here’s Mike Petrilli responding.


Oh my. This post by Steve Fleishman touches all the right points for me. Dry fly fishing and evidence in education…plus drift boats.

From Wisconsin two non-recount articles worth paying attention to. First, the DeVos pick is energizing school choice supporters there. That will have some political implications going forward.  Second, a deep dive on the fortunes of organized labor there since Act 10. Warning signs for teachers unions elsewhere that are not just about people who oppose unions:

Dave Weiland, an Oconomowoc school district teacher and local union leader, thinks the state union was stuck in a 1920s mentality.

“The gravy train was running, and they didn’t see the curve,” he said.

RiShawn Biddle unpacks NEA political spending.

Looking for someone to blame about the election?  Start with Diane Ravitch, apparently she could have delivered some rust belt states if she had wanted to. Also, is Ravitch honoring Fidel Castro with this post? It’s that long and all over the place. And Kevin Carey responds.

Is John McWhorter on Adderal? He’s everywhere after this election. CNN here. Democracy here. More down the page.

The ESSA regs are out. This matters but now a bit TBD because of the election.

Thoughtful pushback on anti-standardized testing ideas.

Annual Fordham charter sponsorship report.

New TIMSS data. A lot to look at but pay attention to the gender gaps. And here’s some EdTPA data. 

Student voice: This is a pretty good speech. And here’s a rural student talking about college.

November 28, 2016

Betsy Devos – Ed Sec Designee

It’s Betsy DeVos. Turns out President-elect Trump’s choice for education secretary was hidden in plain sight. You say you want to do a big push for choice so you pick a prominent school choice booster (she’s flirted with Common Core and for the types that approach anti-Common Core with religious fervor she’s suspect, but that’s already being mopped up). The Free Press lays out the stark good versus evil takes most people seem to have about her.

I wrote last Wednesday that:

This riled some people up, of course. But bear in mind a few things. First, the standard is not who you would have picked or I might have picked. Donald Trump won the election and DeVos is within the mainstream of Republican thought on education. People are acting as though the choice was DeVos or maybe Pedro Noguera or Jonathan Kozol instead. Second, given some of the alternatives were reportedly folks like Jerry Falwell Jr. and given the President-elect’s apparently fast and loose style with nominations DeVos doesn’t seem so bad! Also, seriously, does Michelle Rhee look so bad now? Education’s mandarins couldn’t stomach her aggressive reform style, so now they get DeVos. (By the way, one knock on DeVos is that she never attended public schools, worked in them, or sent her kids to them. Yet many reformers (including Rhee) are public school products, have worked in them, and send their kids to them. Many prominent reform critics are more like DeVos. So what’s the point exactly? It’s almost like this is a bunch of bullshit?)

Of course, on Twitter there is a fake DeVos Twitter account. Disappointing. Huge potential for entertainment but so far pretty lame and interchangeable with a bunch of other fake accounts by the same folks.

Basic test of seriousness for DeVos critiques is, are they DeVos critiques? There is plenty in her record that warrants scrutiny and a bunch go-forward questions about federal policy, as with anyone set for a role like this. Or, are they generic critiques that would be raised about any Trump education nominee? For instance, it’s barely newsworthy she’s for school choice. But it is worth asking how her ideas about school choice comport with several decades of research and evidence.

In The Times Doug Harris does just that and offers a critique of Detroit arguing DeVos would support weakly regulated choice contrary to the experience of places like New Orleans. It’s a good point, but here we are. Just last week the president of the NEA was attacking New Orleans as a total scam and now it’s going to be the gold standard! And here you thought turnarounds were impossible in K-12 education. New education establishment posture: “Why can’t we just have choice like New Orleans….it’s so good there!”

Also, worth noting, too early to tell but DeVos may end up being one of the Trump picks with the fewest conflicts of interest? After all, she just believes in school choice she doesn’t stand to make any money off of it.* Questions about her view of the role of public schools in her confirmation hearings should be interesting, though (as well as the Office of Civil Rights, role, scope, and size of the Department of Education overall, and some other pretty significant issues).

Two things to bear in mind going forward. First, pay attention to the subcabinet roles. That’s where a lot of the action is – especially for an incoming secretary unfamiliar with many of the policy domains the agency works in. Second, and related, the role can evolve in unexpected ways. For instance, people think of Margaret Spellings as the No Child Left Behind architect. But she spent much of her last two years as Secretary focused on student loan problems. That kind of unpredictability is par for the course with cabinet roles.

Other takes: Campbell Brown on DeVos.  Greg Forester sees risk for school choice because of Trump in this really smart piece. Mike Petrilli has twenty questions. RiShawn Biddle says you can’t detach any Trump pick from larger concerns about Trump. Kevin Carey argues she won’t get as far as people think on choice. Kevin assumes a restraint not to wreak havoc on federal policy that I’m not sure is there.

I hope by this point people might have learned the basic lesson that, at least so far with Trump, anything is possible. Just yesterday he was claiming, with no evidence, that he would have won the popular vote but for fraud. This is not normal in American politics. So I’d avoid certainty.

*Update: Politico says she may or may not have an investment position in a for-profit education company (K12). If true, she’d have to divest.

November 23, 2016

Edujob: CEO Teach Plus

Here’s a pretty big edujob, Teach Plus is looking for a new CEO. Interesting organization that plays on policy and practice and a pretty fluid time in the sector.

The mission of Teach Plus is to empower excellent, experienced teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ success. The organization recruits and selects expert teachers to advance policy changes and improve instructional leadership and teacher supports; trains and coaches teacher leaders to successfully mobilize and lead teacher teams; and empowers teacher leaders to be change agents among their peers and policy makers.  Since 2009, Teach Plus has trained thousands of teacher leaders across the country who are driving policy changes to create a more performance-based teaching profession, and improving the instructional practices of teachers to better serve all urban students.

You can learn more and find out how to be considered via this link.

It’s DeVos! Lecture Your Relatives, Donate To Your School, Pearson! Spec Ed, NC Chief Race, Trump’s MO? Happy Thanksgiving!

In U.S. News I offer a Thanksgiving thought counter to the ‘go lecture your backwards relatives or ignore them altogether’ sentiment swirling on social media. People vote for lots of reasons, a lot of people are frustrated and hurting, so maybe go easy? And for all the talk of checking privilege, check yours. Besides, politics is core to how we organize ourselves but there is still so much more to life than politics. Still want to lecture your relatives? OK, do what you want, I offer talking points.

An Opportunity Culture teacher reflects on personalized learning.

Personnel Department: Antwan Wilson coming to DC to be schools CEO. Leaves a big hole in Oakland. Betsy DeVos is very pro-school choice so it’s going to make everyone bonkers but in the big scheme of things pretty establishment pick if she becomes Secretary of Education - as is being reported. I was hoping for Nina Rees, both because she’s talented and because it would be fun to watch the alt-right lose their minds over it. But they might meltdown a bit over DeVos anyway. (Update: DeVos already tamping down the Common Core stuff. She may not have formal political experience but clearly a fast learner!)  More Secretary of Ed news further down.

And we still have a current Secretary of Education! On many issues I can get multiple perspectives and various arguments but honestly one I don’t is corporal punishment in school. I simply cannot wrap my head around willingly consenting for someone else to lay a hand on my child. Yet here we are. John King tries to prod action on that issue with a letter this week. I’m sure this is just more Obama overreach or something…but seriously, hitting kids?

David Leonhardt on Delaware Governor Jack Markell and education.

In some communities “voluntary” school donations are in practice not all that voluntary. The voluntary nature is mentioned just in passing before the request goes out or you get a yard sign or other signal when you contribute. The NYT Ethicist looks at that question. These donations stem from a few causes, including force of habit and poorly designed school finance schemes that underfund schools, cause workarounds in some communities, or leave too little discretionary dollars for teachers or principals. But it’s worth pausing and reflecting on how various approaches to this might be experienced by families struggling to make ends meet – either temporarily because of a life event or as an ongoing situation.

This story conflates standards and test but overall is a pretty straightforward look at Pearson and its North American situation, challenges, opportunities. Not sure why it’s being hailed as a hit piece, pretty pedestrian business story.

This story tries to make sense of Donald Trump’s education plans. Ha ha ha ha ha. It’s just too soon to tell beyond some broad directional signals (pdf).

Here’s an interesting amicus brief (pdf) in the upcoming special education case. North Carolina schools chief election fallout.

Two things are true at once: Better integration of schools is an important goal, but it’s complicated and the idea that parents are just clamoring for it is misleading of the complicated realities.

“Corporate education reformer” is a term that makes no sense when you unpack it but has sort of stuck. Welcome to the age of Trump, I guess. Here CNN just deploys it like an official title when discussing Michelle Rhee. Could make for a fun correction, “the previous version of this story referred to Rhee as corporate education reformer. There is no such thing…”

Conor Wililams is worried about Donald Trump. A big debate has broken out in the Democratic part of the education world about the rightness or wrongness of working for the administration of Donald Trump. DFER came down hard in the “no” camp but Michelle Rhee said that while she wasn’t pursuing a role “wishing for [Trump's] failure is wanting for the failure of millions of American children.”

It seems like two ideas are getting conflated in this debate:

1) Arguing against the President-elect’s policies or rhetoric, or any presidents proposals or rhetoric, is patriotic. Dissent and debate is core to the American political tradition. It might be especially important now.

2) Wishing the president’s failure though, which has become something of the norm the past few decades as politics has become more of a rooting sport than battle of ideas, seems decidedly less patriotic. The speculation about what possible policy debacle might be most advantageous for Democrats in the next few years (“let’s hope he privatizes Medicaid!”) has the same sour flavor as Republican jubilation about how health care might get all screwed up under President Obama. In all these cases actual people are hurt as Washington’s factions vie for an edge. Should’t we want all our presidents to succeed – in the create shared progress way – regardless of our personal taste for them and however vigorously we might oppose some of their various policies and ideas?

In other words, if you’re not a Trump supporter then perhaps skepticism or deep concern about Trump should be balanced with a quiet hope to be genuinely surprised.

So should Democrats go work in a Trump Administration? That’s not so straightforward. Seems like everyone has to decide for themselves and different conclusions are justifiable. (The arguments are pretty obvious on both sides and will change few minds.) On education, it is hard to square some of what Trump has suggested he wants to do related to education with progressivism or liberalism. On the other hand, per above, who knows? My basic sense is that Trump is a real estate developer, many real estate developers fly by the seat of the pants, Trump flies by the seat of his pants in politics so far, too. Earlier this month Trump’s supporters were chanting “look her up” now they’re going after him for protecting Secretary Clinton. It’s a weird time.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 21, 2016

Eduwonk: The Divisiveness Issue! Is It Identity Politics, Campus Culture, Or….The SAT? Pensions And Beer, DC Charter Performance, Coal Country School Finance, Grit, Hansel On Reading, Hess On EDSec, Oscar The Grouch Gets 2 And 20, Pavel Datsyuk Gets His Degree! And More…

Let’s start with some catastrophic pension news that should have everyone on edge about an age of austerity:

For a half-century, retired Labatt employees have been entitled to as much as a 12-pack of free beer every week, an unusual perk that Anheuser-Busch InBev — the brewery’s owner for the last 21 of those years — has now made the “reluctant decision” to end in an effort to save costs.

We do seem a bit divided lately, why?

Justin Fox blames the SAT:

I’ve been puzzling over this meritocracy problem for a while now, and I don’t have any brilliant answers. But it does seem like we’d be better off if we dispensed with the notion that a “meritocracy” or “aristocracy of the intellect” is really something to strive for. Yes, it’s good to have competent people in important jobs! But admitting only one style of competence, or assuming that skill at one narrow activity (taking standardized tests, for example) implies competence in other areas, seems like a sure-fire way of sorting society into classes of people who neither understand nor trust one another.

George Will blames college campus culture these days:

Many undergraduates, their fawn-like eyes wide with astonishment, are wondering: Why didn’t the dean of students prevent the election from disrupting the serenity to which my school has taught me that I am entitled? Campuses create “safe spaces” where students can shelter from discombobulating thoughts and receive spiritual balm for the trauma of microaggressions. Yet the presidential election came without trigger warnings?

The morning after the election, normal people rose — some elated, some despondent — and went off to actual work. But at Yale University, that incubator of late-adolescent infants, a professor responded to “heartfelt notes” from students “in shock” by making that day’s exam optional.

There may be something to this. You save and spend a fortune to send your kid off to college so they can come home, at best, a half-educated marxist and lecture you about the errors of your ways – that might piss you off (unless you’re a half educated marxist yourself so given what we know about college going patterns this might take care of itself over time). But, I’m having trouble seeing what in the Will column he wouldn’t have written regardless of the election outcome? On both the right and the left a lot of the post-election commentary has an old wine, new bottles flavor to it. On the other hand….there is this, which while not new is new again in its prominence in our national politics and is disturbing. Where is everyone who couldn’t shut up about Jeremiah Wright?

Speaking of colleges, there is definitely donor influenced affirmative action for the rich that goes on and is gross, of course. But, in fairness, there are also instances where colleges do the right thing and turn down unqualified children of large donors. Harder to write about because it’s handled discreetly and is a dog that didn’t bark kind of thing. But it happens, too. Also, it turns out pretty much everyone at Harvard graduates with honors.

And Mark Lilla set off a debate with his essay about identity politics in The Times. It has an education angle:

But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good. In large part this is because of high school history curriculums, which anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country. (The achievements of women’s rights movements, for instance, were real and important, but you cannot understand them if you do not first understand the founding fathers’ achievement in establishing a system of government based on the guarantee of rights.)

When young people arrive at college they are encouraged to keep this focus on themselves by student groups, faculty members and also administrators whose full-time job is to deal with — and heighten the significance of — “diversity issues.” Fox News and other conservative media outlets make great sport of mocking the “campus craziness” that surrounds such issues, and more often than not they are right to. Which only plays into the hands of populist demagogues who want to delegitimize learning in the eyes of those who have never set foot on a campus. How to explain to the average voter the supposed moral urgency of giving college students the right to choose the designated gender pronouns to be used when addressing them? How not to laugh along with those voters at the story of a University of Michigan prankster who wrote in “His Majesty”?


If you followed the Pence/Trump/Hamilton debate over the weekend and didn’t see Stevie Van Zandt’s Twitter feed you’re missing out. Also education’s own Robert Pondiscio took to the Daily News about this, too.  This, of course, diverted attention from the settlement in the Trump U case. 

Did you know that Oscar the Grouch is a hedge fund guy in his free time?*

Don’t miss Lisa Hansel on reading and equity. Rick Hess has a hard core of top ten attributes for a new education secretary - he doesn’t want your Common Core or early education ideas!

The 74 continues to track bullying incidents in schools following the election.

New DC charter school performance rankings.* In coal country depopulation is complicating school finance formulas.

Apparently Pavel Datsyuk just finished his bachelor’s degree.

Today in grit: Donkey becomes running partner.

*Bellwether has worked with Sesame Workshop as a client.  Bellwether’s Sara Mead is on the DC Charter School Board.