February 10, 2016

USN Education Doesn’t Matter To The Election But It Does To Governing, Mead On Poverty And Support, Ed Trust On Struggling Students, Freshman Baby Rabbits

Spoiler Alert: Presidential candidates don’t talk about education a lot. It doesn’t move voters that much. But that doesn’t mean the election doesn’t matter to education. I take a look at that in a U.S. News & World Report column today.

With the primary season upon us everyone in the education world is talking about the presidential candidates. But the presidential candidates are not really talking about education.

This shouldn’t surprise. It happens almost every cycle but is nonetheless treated as novel or curious even though education rarely matters to presidential campaigns. Yes, voters, especially Democratic voters, tell pollsters education is a priority but that’s not the same thing as voting based on a candidate’s education positions…’

…Yet just because the campaign doesn’t turn on education doesn’t mean the outcome won’t impact our sector.

You can read the entire column here. Tell me on Twitter if you’d prefer a giant gold Trump across the Department of Education or the Bush Administration’s little red schoolhouse entrances? I’d choose a door that only lets you in by chance, good metaphor for our current policies and approach to social mobility.

Speaking of which, if you listened to the Democratic candidates last night or are paying attention at all it will come as no surprise that race is about to play a big role in the Democratic primary contest as Clinton tries to grind down Sanders in the upcoming states. Here’s an interesting paradox: That’s coming on the heels of an education bill that dramatically rolled back federal protections for minority students. Hopefully someone will ask about that? But probably not.

Hearing today on implementing the new law.

Elsewhere:

Sara Mead on poverty, support, and children. Stories from struggling students.  Political education money race in New York. Federal education budget request overview.

Baby rabbit killing-gate still unfolding.

Scariest choose your own adventure ever!


February 9, 2016

ESSA Webinar, ESSA Regulations, Cami Anderson @ TFA, Julie Squire, Sara Mead V. Kevin Huffman, Aliens!

Whiteboard Advisors/EdSurge webinar next week on what ESSA is all about. RSVP here.

Cami Anderson made news when she said that education reform has made things worse. Actually, no. What she said was that reform has not put a dent in the school-to-prison pipeline or possibly made that problem worse. Her remarks were taken out of the context of the discussion:

“Here is the inconvenient truth: Education, including education reform, is part of the problem,” said Cami Anderson, the polarizing former schools chief in Newark, N.J., and a 1993 TFA alumna. “We have not made a dent in the problem, and in some cases we’ve made it worse.”

You get it, the “problem” here is school-to-prison, that’s what the discussion she was leading was about and talking about it from a system level perspective. She wasn’t the only one making that point in the discussion either just the catchiest brand apparently. Anyway, Anderson has tried to clarify on social media with little impact because people aren’t trying to have a real conversation here. This is why we can’t have nice things in this sector. If you can’t even talk about problems and challenges without this kind of circus it’s really hard to drive much improvement.

Real issue: How often do you actually hear people talk about adjudicated youth?

If education were cancer research I guess The Washington Post would run a story about some disgruntled guy telling everyone to go to Venezuela for injections of palm oil during a Sloan Kettering conference. I wasn’t everywhere at the TFA conference but I didn’t hear anyone say charters are inherently superior to other public schools. In fact, I never hear that among anyone serious in this debate – including a lot of TFA alums. What you did hear at TFA was more diversity of views than you get at your average education conference.

Elsewhere:

Trend spotting: Julie Squire on mediating institutions. A SWAT team on student loans?

Curriculum standards and politically charged issues.  Also politically charged is the question of how much authority the Department of Education has to regulate under the new ESSA law. Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan didn’t help matters with his ‘our lawyers are smarter’ comment on the way out the door.

Sara Mead and Kevin Huffman thrown down over pre-K.

School choice advocate and author Andrew Coulson has passed.

“No one outside the cockpit has more control over how this flight’s going to go than this pretty little creature with the Hello Kitty backpack.”

The over-under on aliens.


February 5, 2016

Teacher Pensions Sneak Peak, Huffman Heresy, More Mitchel & Aldeman, Online Tests Are Different, Acts Of War, Lots Of Deniers, Alexis Morin, Robin Lake, And Leon Bridges!

Super Bowl ads are fun but here’s a sneak preview of a three minute video that can actually help educators understand their retirement risks. We’re releasing it next week. Send it to teachers you care about to help them understand the architecture of their retirement and what it means.

Not everyone liked Ashley Mitchel and Chad Aldeman’s teacher prep paper. Mitchel has more on the papers here. But Sara Mead says in a few areas we know more than people realize.

Detroit schools emergency manager (who is also a player in the Flint disaster) is out.  One fewer anti-Common Core lawsuits, LA dropping its case using the new federal law as political cover.

War, what is it good for? Rallying your members….Anyway, in Chicago, I get it, the board and the union are at odds. What’s new? But “act of war?” Really? Haven’t we seen enough of those over the last 15 years (and 15 months) to maintain a little perspective? Apparently not.

How to discredit a good  idea – implement it badly. And mental health support is an important and under-appreciated issue.

Co-ed wresting. Where have all the teachers gone? Kevin Huffman with pre-k heresy! Marcus Winters on charter deniers. David Whitman on Common Core deniers. Walton Family Foundation on deniers of problems with online education.

Breaking: Online tests add a new modality to other assessment challenges. The digital divide is more complicated than yes/no on access.

My B-school is too corporate!  (Say some Yale SOM stakeholders). Decide for yourself – their education conference is usually outstanding*. It’s April 7-8 this year.

CRPE’s Robin Lake on thinking systemically. TFA on portable benefits. Updated Brookings Education Choice and Competition Index is out. There is a lot of debate in state legislatures about transgender issues – and some of that impacts schools and youth.

Alexis Morin interview.

New Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation analysis of post-secondary performance indicators (pdf). Next round of ESSA policymaking is underway.

Leon Bridges.

*Disc – I’m on the advisory board for it so I would say that’s probably despite not because of my suggestions.


February 2, 2016

Teacher Preparation Via Aldeman And Mitchel, D.C. Teachers, Atlanta Scholarships, Virginia Charter Support North Of 70%, And The First Road Trip!

Chad Aldeman and Ashley Mitchel with a new Bellwether analysis of teacher preparation policy in two new papers you can read here. In RealClearEducation they write, 

Each year, new teachers collectively spend about $4.85 billion and 302 million hours on their preparation work. But there is no evidence that any of it really matters…

handful of states and the federal government are moving away from using inputs to define quality. They continue to regulate inputs, but they’re shifting their focus toward a teacher’s performance after she leaves the preparation program. These states measure certain outcomes of teacher performance – like impact on student learning, job placement, retention, and evaluation rating – and link those outcomes back to the preparation program…

Six months ago, we started writing a paper looking at these efforts. We were as excited about outcomes as anyone could be. We thought that, with some guidance from states already doing this work and the endorsement of the Department of Education, all states could affect the quality of educator preparation, and consequently of future educators, by holding programs accountable for their completers’ performance. But we were too optimistic.

Instead of overwhelming evidence, we found conflicting research…Instead of state exemplars, we found implementation challenges…

The implication can’t be overstated: If states can’t identify meaningful differences in teacher effectiveness between programs, it’s as good as having no information at all…

They have some ideas about what to do here. U.S. News on the analysis here.

Amanda Ripley:

If more parents understood what serious teaching looked like, what would they do instead? Maybe, at parties, they’d talk to teachers about their craft. They might ask to sit in on classes instead of just coming to concerts and games. And if they understood what their children would miss, they might not want them to be late for school.

The story is about the seismic shifts in Washington, D.C. over the past decade in how teachers are treated. The conflict around that story has garnered plenty of ink, but the results and the transformation not enough:

Partelow, as it happens, was a teacher. And our standard narrative about teachers has long held that they’re underpaid and underappreciated—selfless, perhaps, but not exactly aspiring masters of the universe.

That narrative isn’t true anymore, at least not in the District. Over the past decade, DC Public Schools has radically changed how it rewards teachers—and what it demands in exchange. Teachers who work in low-income public schools and get strong performance reviews can earn more than $125,000 after fewer than ten years. They can buy houses and cars, which is as it should be. Last school year, DC’s median teacher pay was $75,000, which means most teachers earned as much as other college-educated professionals.

It’s more than money. Also more opportunities for professional input, growth, and leadership. The riddle? D.C. arrived here via leaders who did everything that “everybody knows” doesn’t work…

New polling on charter schools in Virginia: Terrance Group poll of  600 likely voters statewide. 72 percent favor having more charter public schools. 22 percent opposed. 6 percent unsure. Big issue facing the state this year. Give parents more choices or keep them bottled up? Virginia took away public school choice rights from parents with almost no resistance so it’s going to be a challenge translating these sentiments into political action.

New scholarship program launching in Atlanta. Part of an effort to increase post-secondary completion there led by former Bellwether Partner Tina Fernandez.  New ACT data on college and career readiness with a look at low-income students and preparedness.

Yesterday Richard Whitmire and I took a look at Bloomberg’s education record and 2016 presidential politics.

Origins of the great American road trip.


February 1, 2016

Bloomberg And 2016 Education Debate, Probably Not! Trump And Unions, In Our Sector? Probably Not! What Parent Rights Is The PTA For? Accountability, Report Cards, Turnaround Videos, Space Fungi!

In The 74 Richard Whitmire and I take a look at a possible Bloomberg presidential candidacy and what it means – or more precisely doesn’t mean – for the education debate:

Education reform enthusiasts might hope that Bloomberg’s commitment to charter schools could allow Clinton to edge back to the political center, perhaps tacking back from her recent anti-charter musings. Or that a Bloomberg candidacy might drag Republicans back from the cliff they’re heading over. But in practice Bloomberg’s education history and credibility is more likely to land with a deafening silence.

Gun safety, Wall Street, the economy and the role of billionaires in American life are the kind of issues that will define a Bloomberg candidacy if one emerges. Sorry education reformers.

In the unlikely chance Bloomberg wins the presidency, all this would change. At that point his core philosophy, that unacceptable schools are no longer acceptable, would shake up Washington’s comfortable political arrangements around education policy. But the path to that catalytic moment runs through an angry electorate and a gauntlet of issues that, unfortunately for Mike Bloomberg, have little to do with one of his strong suits — schools.

Are New York City schools failing to adequately serve disabled students?

I suspect the teachers unions are resisting this trend.

CAP on testing policy going forward.  Hillary Clinton ed policy primer.

National PTA comes out against opt-out. It’s certainly defensible but is an interesting stance for a pro-parent organization. Wait, what? They’re against school choice, too? Nevermind.  New GreatSchools report cards for CA schools. Here’s a (depressing) primer on Detroit.

Mike Petrilli on the finalists in the great Fordham accountability competition.  Alex “Scorsese” Medler with videos about a TN turnaround effort. 

Durable fungi.


January 28, 2016

Barr For Mayor? Remembering Challenger, CAP On Achievement, School Choices, JeffUVA And Agile Mind, Tenure, Cami Anderson On Charters…Today Featuring Sharks!

It was 30 years ago today that the Challenger lifted off from Florida – with New Hampshire teacher Christa McAuliffe aboard as one of the seven astronauts on that mission.

President Reagan:

There’s a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and an historian later said, “He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.” Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake’s, complete.

Peggy Noonan discusses the President’s speech with Carl Cannon here.

For a lot of parents school choice isn’t about ideology, it’s about pragmatism in the face of an inflexible system. Marilyn Rhames:

This is School Choice Week, and undoubtedly there will be blog posts and podcasts championing free-market competition, vouchers for private schools, parents’ rights, yadda, yadda, yadda.

But when I placed my kids in a charter school, I didn’t know much about those arguments. It was all about logistics. I looked specifically for a good school close to my job so I could navigate the kids’ start and end times with more ease.

New Center for American Progress analysis (pdf) on student achievement. Spoiler alert: Probably worse than you thought. I’m always amazed when people argue there isn’t a real problem here (or worse that we’re doing pretty well except for “those” kids). This is a slow motion plane crash.

Today at the French Revolution. Tenure implications from the U of Missouri “muscle” case (and the best footnote you will read today). AP on the status here.

Cami Anderson on charter growth. A lot of her anti-charter critics never understood her nuance on the charter issue (surprise!). Mike Petrilli offers up a school choice typology.

Don’t spend your free college money just yet, WaPo ed board:

Mr. Sanders is a lot like many other politicians. Strong ideological preferences guide his thinking, except when politics does, as it has on gun control. When reality is ideologically or politically inconvenient, he and his campaign talk around it. Mr. Sanders’s success so far does not show that the country is ready for a political revolution. It merely proves that many progressives like being told everything they want to hear.

Steve Barr for Mayor? Virginia transgender bathroom case could be precedent setting. Jefferson Accelerator at UVA partners with Agile Mind. Great interview about teacher effectiveness via AOTH.

Great White sharks are dangerous. Don’t touch.


January 27, 2016

Messing With Success, Common Core Fodder, Roger Murdock On Charters, Hailly Korman On Solitary, Teller On Teaching, School Segregation, Accountability, And Badger Escape Artists!

Common Core debate fodder from Education Next:

In spite of Tea Party criticism, union skepticism, and anti-testing outcries, the campaign to implement Common Core State Standards (otherwise known as Common Core) has achieved phenomenal success in statehouses across the country. Since 2011, 45 states have raised their standards for student proficiency in reading and math, with the greatest gains occurring between 2013 and 2015. Most states set only mediocre expectations for students for nearly 10 years after the passage of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Now, in the wake of the Common Core campaign, a majority of states have made a dramatic move forward.

He may not work hard enough on defense but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wants to shake up elementary and secondary education.

Interesting school improvement story from Atlanta:

In a gamble to fix a dysfunctional school ahead of a potential state takeover, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen merged one of the city’s best high schools with one of its worst.

OK. Let’s assume a few things.

- There is a shortage of high-quality seats in most cities. (Bellwether works with districts, charters, and intermediaries to help solve this problem in locales around the country.)

-We should be trying to create as many high-quality seats as possible as quickly as possible.

-There are not enough high-quality seats in a lot of places to be jeopardizing them through various schemes. So the game should be creating more not putting existing ones at risk.

-While there are exceptions the evidence is pretty clear that while not foolproof, it’s easier/higher probability to open new high quality schools (within district or charter schools) if oversight and quality controls are real than it is to “turnaround” existing ones.

So other than various local political imperatives, the theory of action in this case is really questionable if you start from the place of what’s best for students.

Race and school segregation:

…have changes over time in housing and school attendance patterns reduced the isolation of black children in the public schools? The answer depends on the specific way progress is measured. If we ask whether the average black student is exposed to more white students in public school today than a half century ago, the answer is yes, although fewer than in the 1980s; after rising in the 1970s, the rate of exposure has declined markedly since 1988. Another measure of progress toward integration is the dissimilarity index, which measures how much the racial composition of the schools would have to change for each school to have the same percentage of whites and blacks as these groups constitute in the school-age population as a whole. By this measure, schools are closer to complete integration than ever before, and thus racial composition would have to change less now than when the report was released. How can two questions that seem so similar have such different answers? The explanation is in the changing demographic composition of the schools: the percentage of students who are white has declined dramatically over the past 50 years, while the percentage of students who are black has changed very little.

A lot of sleight of hand around the data on this question, important analysis.

Cool book drive. This is tragic. Bellwether’s Hailly Korman on the President’s prison solitary announcement. Chad Aldeman wants your dashboard accountability off his lawn. Chris Gabrielli wants more than academics measured. The two national parties can’t even agree on what the issues are. But in general education isn’t one!

School discipline is a mess and there are alternatives to the prevailing norms that would work better for some kids (although some just need alternative arrangements). But don’t ever underestimate K-12′s ability to take otherwise good ideas and approaches that can lessen suspensions and screw them up through flaky implementation driven by adult concerns about aesthetics rather than what is good for kids. More background here.

Teller on teaching. Before magic he taught Latin.

Honey badger Alcatraz.


January 26, 2016

Chicago, Detroit, and DC! Lotteries, Discipline, And Rubio On Edu. Harpists.

I did a discussion this morning on NPR’s On Point to discuss the school challenges in Chicago and Detroit. What do they have in common? School districts with too large footprints based on past enrollment, large fiscal overhangs, and tough state – city politics. Not enough? OK, throw in challenging within teachers union politics in the unions in both cities. Also in both cases other issues are clouding the conversation and eroding trust: The mishandling of a police shooting in Chicago and the mess in Flint in Michigan.

The differences? Chicago has a serious pension problem caused by some past decisions and deals. Detroit’s enrollment loss is simply staggering, more than 100,000 kids in the past decade or so. Chicago is losing students (and fell below 400k last year) but nothing on that scale. Charters at 55 percent market share in Detroit, about 15 percent in Chicago. You can see the outlines of a deal in Chicago but Detroit is a lot tougher given the underlying conditions there.

Meanwhile Detroit teachers are right about the conditions there but not sure they’re making a lot of allies with the sickout (and it’s no good for kids). Seems like a classic closed feedback loop.

Great move by Kaya Henderson and DCPS to provide warm food during the storm even though schools were closed. Takes a sting out of snow days.

Again….What has six balls and screws teachers? Lotteries. Pondiscio on charter schools and discipline and creaming. Rundown on Rubio and education (but gives short shrift to his higher education ideas).

Harp twins.


January 22, 2016

NYT Eval Data, Blaines, EdBuild, Bloomberg, Wagner, Whitmire, Bridge And Orszag, Newark, DC Teacher Evals, Charter Laws, Success & OCR, And More…

Snowed in and out of touch? RealClearEducation has all the top education news curated for you right here.

Blaines, baby Blaines and church – state law. Big education implications here. If Bloomberg runs for the presidency that could have big education implications as well.

NYT hed

Over 200 Educators in New York Receive Erroneous Scores Linked to Student Performance

Alt hed:

Half Percent Of Educators in New York Receive Erroneous Scores Linked to Student Performance

I’m not excusing the error (and if it were my job to get people to read articles rather than ensure they understand data in context I’d probably write the headline the same way), the contractor should be held accountable and officials should endeavor to make sure things like this don’t happen. But the context matters to understanding what’s going on and human error is a fact of life in large systems. The article also notes:

It is not the first time there have been errors in test-based ratings. Three years ago, the Washington public school system said that problems in its measurements had led to erroneous ratings for 44 teachers, one of whom was fired as a result of the poor evaluation.

That could also read:

It is not the first time there have been errors in test-based ratings. Three years ago, the Washington public school system said that problems in its measurements had led to erroneous ratings for 44 teachers, one of whom was fired as a result of the poor evaluation. Despite this and other challenges multiple evaluations, including one just out Monday, continue to show the evaluation system is driving substantial improvements in teaching effectiveness in Washington’s schools. 

You get the point, context matters.

Here’s a great rags to riches talking point for public schools:

The youngest of six children born to David Payne and a mother, who was a seamstress, Payne attributes her skills to a solid public school education. “I could travel in Europe as good as I did,” she told me, “because of the knowledge I had of maps.

“I had geography. I had algebra,” she said, waxing poetically about her upbringing. “I had home economics and health classes.”

(Actually the quote is “deceptive skills,” she’s one of the most successful jewel thieves ever. It’s a great article).

Elsewhere:

Poker theory at MIT. The human side of our education debates. The 74 profiles EdBuild.

Ken Wagner looks ahead in RI.  Patrick McGuinn on education politics and Common Core. Bridgeland and Orszag argue it’s the new federal education law’s focus on evidence that is the long game win. Whitmire on new high school models. Unity in Newark. Being low-income on a high-income parents.

New quality ranking of charter laws from NACPS (pdf). More on that here from Ziebarth and Rees.  Charters and alt ed.

Stonewalling parents. Great moments in school administration.

I don’t know the ins and outs of this OCR complaint against Success Academy but if it ends up turning on special education discipline policy it would put some public school interests in an awkward spot. They’ve been for changes in those policies for longer than they’ve been against Success.

Today in poorly chosen education metaphors. Today in obvious studies.


January 20, 2016

Edujob: Executive Director NewOrg Atlanta

A new organization is spinning up in Atlanta to raise the bar for education there and address the pervasive inequities that affect the city’s low-income and minority students. They’re seeking an executive director who will function as a harbor master in this effort. Is that you? Learn more about the new organization and the role here.


January 19, 2016

Esselman Speaks! Evidence, Ed Tech Evolves, Charters, POTUS Politics of Education, Stewart On MLK & Edu

Andy Smarick talks with new Bellwether entrepreneur in residence (EIR) David Esselman about his new project. Esselman is launching an independent non-profit based on the ideas from the Urban School System of the Future work. People have asked why we’re spinning this out and not housing this work at Bellwether. The answer is two-fold. First, we have a good track record of helping establish new organizations via the EIR process so we trust the model (at least as much as we trust anything). Second, Bellwether is an organization that is home to people who think a variety of different things about education, school improvement, and reform. That allows us to work with a wide variety of clients across the ideological and political spectrum. We can do this because we don’t have fixed organizational positions – instead we cultivate ideological diversity and our team members are encouraged to have their own views, theories of change, and ideas. It greatly enriches our work. That means, however, that we can’t be home to a fixed body of work that is premised on a single policy or operational strategy. In the case of urban education, we work with school districts on improvement efforts as well as with operators seeking to transform or replace them. Organizationally we’re open to the promise and the risk associated with both strategies rather than being wed to one or the other as housing this organization inside Bellwether would require us to be.

Lisbeth Schorr on evolving standards of evidence in the social sector. Chris Stewart on MLK and education.

Shael Polakow-Suransky wrote an op-ed in the Times last week and people were like, ‘thoughtful dude…” He is! Here’s the speech he gave at his inauguration as President of Bank Street.

Ed tech and the corporate market. John King speech – first big one – to NAN.

Ideas for Hillary Clinton on education. Jeb Bush releases ideas for education.  These are things that would matter if education were driving the 2016 primary cycle. Rick Hess with some thoughts on why they don’t, but remember, they rarely do.

Charter initiative in LA is evolving (includes action shot of Broad ed lead Gregory McGinity). Charters in Dallas – it’s all about the kids!

Murderous kangaroos.


January 14, 2016

David Cameron On Dan Willingham, White And Wagner On Policy, Buckeye Brawl! Whitmire On Newark’s Strategy, Bain, Textbooks, Friedrichs Unpacked, Eval Long Game, Is Education Really Ever A Presidential Campaign Issue?

John White on Louisiana voucher data and the larger questions of accountability. Ken Wagner of Rhode Island on reimagining schools. You can watch two Buckeyes debate education policy here.

Shael Polakow-Suransky goes all CSN on teacher evaluations. He calls for a professional model, which would require everyone to lay down their arms. We’ll get there eventually, the question is when and after how much acrimony?

David Cameron gave Dan Willingham a shout out in his education speech.

More Newark failure! More Friedrichs post-argument analysis. Portable benefits for teachers, too, please!

Most evergreen education headline ever? Here’s an interesting look at LA Superintendents since 1971.

Seems like there might be a problem with teacher prep? NCTQ looks at textbooks. Bain looks at distributed leadership and performance in schools. Jan. 25 webinar on this here.

Big crocodile. 


January 12, 2016

Heads Up On Head Start, Friedrichs Reax, Trump And Schools, Sanders And Schools, Medler Moderates

Sara Mead and Ashley Mitchel with an important new analysis of how data and evidence can improve Head Start.

Friedrichs reax: Perhaps the best news for the unions coming out of yesterday is that everyone is convinced they’re going to lose. Beware conventional wisdom and consensus? They’d better hope so. The plaintiff’s strategy seemed predicated on the idea that they had the votes they needed, that can be risky. Anyway, here’s the transcript.  Short version: Constitutionally it looks like the unions have a problem – and one in no small part of their own making. Politically, reasonable people can disagree. Veteran court watcher Dahlia Lithwick thinks it’s a done deal.

Here’s Megan McArdle:

That’s why it’s eminently possible to be broadly in favor of expanding union power, and against expanding that power in the government sphere. FDR believed that collective bargaining with the government was impossible; so did George Meany, the head of the AFL-CIO in the 1950s.  Government has no profits to distribute or share with workers; union power can only take more money from taxpayers, or degrade the quality and number of services offered to the constituents.

The argument in favor of public-sector unions often ends up being: “Well, this is what we have, the last redoubt of the labor movement. We can’t afford to lose it.” If that’s what’s left of the labor movement, why strain so hard to protect it? When I look at the history of labor under the Obama administration, I don’t see a lot of evidence that strong public-sector unions have helped workers in general.  Private-sector unions suffered loss after loss, on issues from trade to Obamacare’s Cadillac tax.

So while I don’t know whether the teachers’ union will win this case, I do know that labor advocates should think hard about whether they should win. Stronger public-sector unions are probably good for most of the people in them. But they’re not so great for the rest of us. And the bigger they get, the more their personal issues become our politics.

Garrett Epps in Atlantic:

 I couldn’t count five justices who want to stay with “stability” however. The most likely outcome is a sharply divided 5-4 opinion upending the world of public-employee unions. Less likely is a decision that unions may continue charging fees, but can’t require objectors to “opt out.” Under this modified system, workers would have to fill out an “opt-in” form agreeing to the charges. That result would be no more strongly moored in precedent, and would likely weaken unions—though no one can say how much because, again, there’s no factual record in this case.

Okay, sort of does look like it’s over.

About yesterday’s post.

Bernie Sanders wants the federal government to do more to mitigate the inherent unfairness in property tax based education funding. Great! He’s right. Except I don’t recall him doing a lot to help address the various federal education rules that also drive within state and district inequities…

At last, a Trump education position. Alex Medler with a for-profit charter compromise.

Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall to tie the knot.


January 11, 2016

2016 Previews, Friedrichs Day! NY Principals Speak Out, LA Vouchers, Choosing Schools, Pot And Schools, Admission Preferences, WFF Plans, Loan Fixes, And More…

One of the more interesting 2016 previews you’ll read: Dmitri Mehlhorn on 2016 being the year of education law.  In another interesting one Sara Mead says it could be a big year for -pre-K.

PPI on Summit Public  Schools. Rural ed. President Obama’s domestic policy legacy (includes education).  Admissions preferences for low-income students (pdf). New Walton Family Foundation plan. Dynarski with student loan fix ideas.

Is Powerball a windfall for schools? Not as much as you might think and depends where you live.

Friedrichs being argued today at the Supreme Court. SCOTUSblog previews here. Dan Chamberlin of TNTP urges the unions to get out of the bargaining business. LA Times sides with the unions. Washington Post sees big problems but says it’s a political not constitutional question. Does this case put our democracy at risk? Seems overwrought and romantic given the operational realities. My take on the case and possible implications here.  Update: Transcript from the argument here (pdf).

The complicated intersection of medical marijuana and schools. “This is a situation in which the changing social norms are ahead of the existing operational structure.” Is there really any issue in public education you can’t say that about?

Blogger gets results: New hard-hitting Newark blog about schools – the mayor responds by video.

Missed this good list of advocacy films.  Here’s another look at the Louisiana voucher data.  The ethics of choosing a school.  And the time honored tradition of celebrating “success” and a lack of acrimony that most education leaders would not allow their own children to participate in. Slow and steady, good enough for other people’s kids!

Add the principals union to the list of critics of how schools are being run in New York.

David Bowie writes a young fan.  Bulbous beer glasses.


January 7, 2016

Edujob – Managing Director of Nashville Teacher Residency

Nashville Teacher Residency (NTR) is launching in 2016. NTR will recruit and train recent, non-education major college graduates to become high performing teachers in Nashville’s district and charter schools. The goal is to place 75  residents when NTR is fully up and running. They will work and learn in the classrooms of effective, experienced mentor teachers and take classes at night.

NTR needs a managing director. Is that you? Learn more here. 


January 6, 2016

Huffman – Barnum, Chris Stewart On Bull****, Art Of Policymaking Updated, Agassi Invests, Common Core Nuttiness Continues, Bolick Judges!

Kevin Huffman and Matt Barnum debate education policy and the Department of Education.

John King in his own words.

Chris Stewart:

You’re at a dinner party and the topic of education comes up. Everyone near you is white, college educated, and has 2.5 children. They are on the vanguard of gentrification and appreciate cosmetic diversity. Over the past year they have made a contribution to either Hillary or Bernie.

You know schools are complex and can’t be expressed through shorthand. Congratulations on being a thinking person, but that won’t work in this circle.

Let me help you. Say this….

“We have to stop these Neoliberal corporate reformers from using standardized testing to test and punish our students (and teachers) so that hedge fund billionaires can privatize education by turning a public good into a profitable market.”

Now, you’re brilliant. Everyone shakes their head in agreement because you sound educated.

Except, it’s all bullshit. The number of errors in that trope should make you a subject for psychiatry, not praise.

Clint Bolick – a leading education lawyer and advocate and libertarian leaning thinker appointed to the AZ Supreme Court.

Today in our insane Common Core debate:

SAP’s Jason Zimba, a Common Core architect, makes the common sense points that (a) even if you’re not strong in math (or have a full schedule) you can still make sure your kids are getting their work done and help that way and (b) their teachers are there to, you know, teach:

The most important rule as a parent is to make sure it gets done. I may not have time to do an impromptu lesson on math but I can make sure everything is completed,” said Jason Zimba, one of the three lead writers of Common Core’s math standards and founding partner of Student Achievement Partners, a group that helps teachers with the standards. “It’s about managing work load and learning accountability.”

Although the father of two gives his children, ages 6 and 8, math tutorials on Saturday mornings, he says a parent doesn’t have to be a numbers whiz when it comes to homework.

“The math instruction on the part of parents should be low. The teacher is there to explain the curriculum,” said Zimba.

And then on cue conservative media goes bat. Zimba could voice over a weather forecast and it would be seen by the anti-Common Core folks as some sort of affront.

Art of Policymaking is updated and being re-realeased. This is a very good primer on how it all works. Great for teaching, organizations, or just learning.

Here’s a primer on Friedrichs. This St. George’s situation is a mess. Bill Gates on Kentucky. Also here. Melinda Gates here with students. Hillary Clinton ideas on autism. Are open offices a bad idea? Education implications. (We use open space at Bellwether but couple it with a very flexible work policy so people can be where they need to be in order to be most productive and balance life and work as a way to mitigate some of the issues – which are real in my view).

Andrei Agassi takes a big stake in a learning company aimed at the early learning market.

Rappers on wellness.


January 5, 2016

Edujob – AppleTree Chief of Research And Innovation

Here’s an instrumental role at an organization delivering leading edge pre-k education: Chief of Research and Innovation at AppleTree. Great team, important issue, and a cool role. You can learn more and learn how to apply here.


Friedrichs Is Kind Of A Big Deal, Kingsland Turns The Tables, Coleman, Poker And Ed, A Sex Ed Debate, Remembering Dale Bumpers, Ford Foundation And More…

Friedrichs plaintiffs speak in WSJ. This Friedrichs case is kind of a big deal. The unions hated Abood, now in the face of Friedrichs they love it. Maybe with time they’ll learn to love Friedrichs? In any event, I get the hit it will put on their fiscal model and there isn’t a scenario where a decision against them isn’t a problem for them. But, I’m not convinced on this deterministic point that closed shop unions are always stronger than right to work ones in practice. There is something to be said for an organizational culture that requires convincing people to join. Better organizers and all that. My take on implications here.

Mike Petrilli on IUDs. Jennifer Borgioli Binis says stop, please!

New assessment policy floated in Oregon - some good ideas but also some you can eat cake and lose weight! Overview of upcoming state issues here.

Is anti-Common Core energy waning? New Yorker deep dive on the Ford Foundation. Sally Kilgore on James Coleman. A new Morrill Act for education or training? Ed terms Bellwarians hate. Got to go? Gone.

Aces? Poker and education reform.

Dale Bumpers has passed. Good friend to public schools and children and great public servant.

This Neerav Kingsland post is a good exercise. I am continually astounded at people’s inability to articulate an argument (not agree with, just make real points) against whatever it is they’re for. There is an argument against pretty much everything. Related: You run into a lot of people who are more comfortable telling you what they do than why they do it.

Flashback: My predictions for 2015. (There was some good stuff for rural in the ESSA law).

Skating goat.


December 30, 2015

Aldeman On ESSA And School Choice, Henderson Departs, Hunger, Poverty, And Pension Politics! Graduation Rates. Thank You!

In today’s WSJ Chad Aldeman takes a look at the thunderous bipartisan applause that greeted the ending of school choice rights for a lot of families.

He’s everywhere! Michael Gerson channels Aldeman on the new education law in his WaPo column. The force is strong with this one.

Related: Keep those parents locked down!

This story – the Idaho school lunch worker who was fired for giving a hungry kid a free lunch – is the kind of story that doesn’t quite ring right and makes you wonder what else is happening. This kind of thing, feeding hungry kids who don’t have lunch money, happens all the time  formally or informally – as it should. But, even absent context the account is a good touchstone because it points up an important issue: this country produces plenty of food but that doesn’t mean everyone has enough. More on that here.

‘Tis the most ascriptive time of the year…. State pension politics. 

The Times looks at the high school graduation rate issue. Warning: rates don’t tell you everything! Jenn Schiess and I took at look at that in the rural context in this ROCI paper (pdf).

Education ideas in this AEI – Brookings working group report on poverty. Its title sounds vaguely familiar though…Ed privacy policy change in CA. Student loans versus home loans. Wade Henderson stepping down in 2016 – will leave a big hole for the civil rights oriented part of the education sector.

Panic with a clever round up of articles he wished he’d penned. Is restorative justice another good idea the education sector is about to discredit?

A little weather is good for you – at all ages.

Finally, thank you! Thanks for reading. 2015 was another good year for the blog on traffic, impact, and fun. Best wishes for the new year and see you in 2016.


December 23, 2015

LA Voucher Data, Kress On Texas, Common Core And CEOs, And The Most Read BW Pub Of 2015!

New Lousiana voucher data here, something for everyone on all sides. Sandy Kress sees trouble ahead for Latino students in Texas.

Most read Bellwether publication of 2015? This compendium of data from the charter school sector (pdf). Here is a very long reported look at the CEO jockeying around Common Core. Worth reading.

First, fix the rice. Then fix the world.

Elf on the Shelf terrorism.


December 21, 2015

Sushi Oppression! LGBT On Campus, Income Gaps In Higher Ed, School Closings, WA State Cribbing, NAACP On Testing, And Chocolate Scams

Lindsey Graham is leaving the presidential race. This has absolutely no bearing on education policy.

All the education news links you need curated right here.

Fusion food is now the face of oppression at Oberlin. Aren’t there a lot of working class kids in Ohio would suffer through lousy sushi and steamed General Tso’s chicken for a high-end education? Okay, that’s a little unfair because the Oberlin menu apparently sucks in other ways, too, and the Banh mi sandwich is more or less a war crime because of its crummy bun. So this is a widespread struggle. Basically, this covers it.

Meanwhile, in actual higher ed problems there is an enormous income gap at America’s elite schools that should worry those concerned about social mobility. And the rights of LGBT students at schools that take federal dollars are colliding with religious freedom concerns in ways that may not be transparent to students. This issue, incidentally, would make a hell of a debate question during the general election next year. But isn’t it discouraging to see an accomplished organization like the Human Rights Campaign so focused on LGBT rights at a time when elite students are being forced to eat soggy General Tso’s chicken and sandwiches on bad buns?

Elsewhere, naming problems with Paul Smith’s College (which is one of the most beautifully situated colleges you will ever visit).

Washington State’s supreme court was at least efficient in striking down the state’s charter statute. Why duplicate work? Today in less policy oriented school closing news.

Can Noodle help rationalize and improve ed purchasing? The words innovation and ed tech are becoming synonymous but there are plenty of innovations that can change lives but just require people to get off the dime. NAACP’s Hilary Shelton on testing. Love for Raimondo in RI.

Chocolate problems. Mammoths coming soon?


December 18, 2015

Dems And Reform, Virginia And Islam, LGBT On Campus, Duncan Exit Interview, Fed Policy, For-Profit Charters, Bears.

More intra-Dem pushing and shoving on education reform. This is a live issue for sure. But, is the rich donors for charter schools and reform framing actually all that helpful to the politics here? If I’m the teachers union I read this article and say, ‘more please,’ no? Reformers could do worse than ask, “What would Eva do?” Her NY playbook has proven effective.

Augusta County, Virginia (which I believe is the Virginia county with the most caves in it and is for sure home to one of Virginia’s best trout streams) is now ground zero for the culture wars. Earlier this week a calligraphy lesson involving Islam sparked some backlash. Then came the seemingly school sanctioned prayers, and now to end the week schools are closed. Good thing holiday break is coming. It’s as though a consultant went there and did a workshop on lesson planning that started with, Step 1: Think about how you can get on Fox News.

Balancing religious liberty with rights for LGBT students on campus (pdf). Duncan exit interview. Another is here. A lot better than this one!

Today in stunning, but not surprising. Here’s verbatim on the email to LAUSD that shut the place down.

I thought for-profit charters, and all charters for that matter, were cleaning up? I must spend too much time on Twitter. Anyway, apparently not. This article does miss some school networks that have expanded multi-state and survived – because they (a) condition investors to modest returns and (b) are privately held (I think the shareholder issue creates additional distorted incentives). Not a big fan of the for-profits but the article is a little deterministic for my taste. In any event, wouldn’t a real Slate pitch be about how it’s actually easy to make money in education?

Your first chance to weigh-in on Title I regulations. Who says bipartisanship is dead? Not when spending is involved. Interesting fed policy debate with a predictable ending. Ed research bill moving again in Congress.

Bear under deck gets last word and answers timeless question.


December 17, 2015

Kids First! Always. WA Charters, CA Eval, And A Lot Of Trash Talking On ESSA. Have Fake Common Core Repeals Run Their Course?

It’s all about the kids:

“The accountability conversation sometimes pits two Democratic constituencies against each other,” Murphy told Morning Education. The lawmakers putting the measure together “worked hard to put together an amendment that caused the least amount of antagonism from labor as possible,” but the amendment didn’t garner the National Education Association’s support. Supporters like Murphy were working down to the wire to get Democrats to line up behind their proposal, which they mostly did, and the strong support sent a message that the party was pro-accountability.

WA State campaign to keep charters open. Teacher evaluation is a circus in CA (pdf). Breaking: School turnarounds are hard. Some early trash talking on ESSA regulations. More here. And even more here.

Uh oh. Are people wising up that just adding the state flower and state song to student standards isn’t really a Common Core overhaul? This has been a conspiracy of silence so far in a bunch of states so Common Core critics can claim a victory and raise more money and Common Core proponents are happy to go along with fake overhauls. Is the gig up?

The Times on Success Academy school day. Version 1. Version 2.

Adorable panda.


December 16, 2015

Weeby On Governance, Wapo On NYC, More Affirmative Action Debate, Pensions: Expensive And Interesting! And More…

Jason Weeby is fired up about educational governance.

Karim Ani – Mathalicious founder – has been in Europe working with refugees and photographing. You can follow along here.

Washington Post ed board sees trouble in New York on schools: “That most of them are poor and minorities doesn’t seem to matter to those who profess to be progressive.” Ouch.

Is it better to use class or race for affirmative action? John McWhorter on Scalia and mismatch and the larger affirmative action debate.

Teacher pensions are expensive. But teacher retirement policy is much more interesting than you may have heard! (That, or Leslie Kan is an amazing blogger. Or both!)

Paralysis for reflexive Eva Moskowitz critics. Is it good or bad to have less Success Academy time? Couple of education pieces in the tax extenders bill (pdf). Teacher content knowledge.

Great list of regional music if you’re still gift shopping. Ways to die in a Shakespeare play.


December 15, 2015

LAUSD Threat, NYC School Closures, Affirmative Action, On Federal Ed Policy Is The Issue Smarts or Structure?

Terror coming to U.S. public schools? LAUSD shutting down today in the face of a threat. Reports vary on the nature of the threat. Update: More here.

New York closing some under-enrolled schools. Rumor is the union is not as happy about this as they make out in the Times story. Bigger picture, advocates debating whether this goes far enough but should the mayor send Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein some flowers to thank them for making a set of hard decisions to right size the system before he got on the scene?

Instead of today’s murky affirmative action processes would straight quotas work better?  And Stuart Taylor weighs-in on mismatch. There are lots of preferences that go into college admissions, even at elite schools, including legacy status, institutional ties, athletics, unusual talents, geography as well as race and class. Yet we are fixated on the race angle. Taylor argues that legacy admissions have a smaller mismatch effect. But I’d speculate some of the other murkier ones might have a more pronounced effect. It’s mostly speculation because the data are hard to come by.

Rick Hess cheers the new education law. But he writes,

 In a fairly clever Game of Thrones-inspired column, Andy Rotherham depicted federal involvement in schooling as a “hedge” against inequity. I found that a remarkably telling word choice. It suggests a sophisticated strategy of risk management. In fact, I’d argue that the federal “hedge” is a series of mandates, rules, regulations, and “guidance” that mostly create unintended distortions and fuel a pervasive culture of compliance. It provides “political cover” which pushes state officials to miscalculate, pursue change on a political timeline favored by the U.S. Department of Education, and ignore in-state concerns. It strikes me that those troubled by a reduced federal role seem to imbue federal efforts in this area with a sleekness, modesty, and effectiveness which I don’t recognize. Now, as we return authority to states and districts, no one should imagine that folks in the states are somehow smarter or more informed than their counterparts in Washington (although I’ve never quite understood why Washington-centric reformers are so confident that the obverse is true—that political appointees at the U.S. Department of Education are nobler, smarter, and care more than those yahoos out there in the states. Ah, well). In any event, to my mind, the biggest virtue of state and local control is simple: leaders are responsible for the results of their handiwork.

Perhaps there are people who think policymakers at one level of government or another are smarter or nobler than those at another, but I’m not one of those people. The issue is structural. It’s not by accident (or a surplus of caring) that federal education dollars are more targeted toward poor kids than state dollars or that it was the federal government that pushed the states to clean up their act on special education. Rather, it’s that the politics work better for disadvantaged populations at some levels of government than others.

Bear climbs occupied treestand.


December 14, 2015

School Finance, School Laws, School Tests, Pensions and Ed Consumerism, And Bellwether Personnel News!

New tool from GreatSchools helps parents make heads and tails of test results. CBPP helps make heads or tails of aggregate state ed finance.

Andy Calkins on the post-NCLB world. Bellwether’s Chad Aldeman has a very different take in this Washington Post op-ed.

Here’s something you didn’t hear people talking about last week: The new law means hundreds of thousands of students (who don’t have lobbyists) will lose free tutoring or public school choice.

Public pensions and hedge funds (with actual numbers not just vitriol). What’s the potential for consumerism in ed tech? Smart primer on the standing issues behind the Fisher affirmative action case.

New class of Pahara – Aspen fellows.

Personnel news: Hailly Korman is joining Bellwether in January.

Greatest call center ever?


December 11, 2015

Mismatch And Two Evas, ESSA Dissenters, Achievement Data, Mead On The Little Ones, Angry Tarheels And Hungry Sharks!

John Merrow gets his Ahab back on and goes after Washington more. Matt Barnum says not so fast on the facts.

Baltimore’s Kalman Hettleman dissents from the happy talk about the new education law. Yesterday I dissented as well. LAT not on board either. Biddle is bummed.

Mismatch on mismatch. From where I sit a much more live issue is under matching in no small part as a result of the lack of good college counseling for too many low-income and low-income minority students.

New U.S. Chamber report outlining data on black student achievement.

Sara Mead with a look back/look forward on early learning for this year and next.

Charters gentrifying in DC.  This sure didn’t take long in North Carolina! Morgan Polikoff clearly didn’t get the memo that you’re only supposed to write crazy stuff about Success Academy on blogs. This is a pretty stupid thing to say, but whatever.

ICYMI – Whiteboard Advisors surveyed ed tech elites to get their views on the industry (pdf).

Yesterday or Tomorrow Never Knows?

Speaking of music, Eva Cassidy was amazing. I feel really fortunate to have heard her live during her run and in a small house setting solo. I remember my wife and I were in London a few years after her death and it was cool to see how popular her work was there. It’s good it’s caught up here, too.

Puck juggling. Kangaroo shooting. And in education we approach problems much like suffers approach a rash of shark attacks.


December 10, 2015

The New Education Law And Game Of Thrones

In U.S. News I take a look at the new education law signed this morning:

After years of debate, Congress managed to pass an overhaul of the 2001 No Child Left Behind education act and President Barack Obama signed it into law today. Pundits, advocates, and analysts are furiously debating what the new law means. But to fundamentally understand it you don’t have to be an education policy expert. Instead – and trust me this is a lot more fun – just watch the HBO show “Game of Thrones…”

…So for individual Americans, whether this law represents progress or not depends a lot on what side of our educational wall you happen to live on and where you go to school. That’s exactly the kind of randomness and inequity the federal government has traditionally tried to hedge against in education policy. Now, creating the conditions for it is heralded as a bipartisan breakthrough. And although you’d be excused for thinking otherwise given the craziness of the education debate, it’s not a fantasy show. For American students, especially the most disadvantaged among them, this is real life.

Read the whole thing here…

Tweet me your take on who is who in education policy Game of Thrones @arotherham. I didn’t read the books so I can’t tell if Arne Duncan is Jon Snow or Sansa Stark. David Cleary is Tywin Lannister though, right? Who are the White Walkers?


Ed Tech Investors On The Ed Tech Sector

At Whiteboard Advisors we just applied the Education Insider approach to a group of 50 leading education industry players (pdf) - 50 of the most knowledgeable education technology investors, strategic buyers, and bankers – to get their take on what’s happening around ed tech. Their perceptions about what’s hot, what’s not, is the market working, is there a bubble, and more. It’s all here (pdf).


Extremism When A New Education Bill Is Passed Is No Vice! Do Schools Even Matter To The Economy? Campus Protesting, And Is Camo The New Black?

Thoughtful John McWhorter discussion of what’s happening on campus:

However, something is off about today’s student protests. The protesters may start with valuable observations, but then they drift into a mistaken idea of what a university—and even a society—should be.

Is a lack of teaching about constitutional protections part of the problem on campus?

New ESEA bill signed today. Apparently this is not a time for moderated takes on things. Joanne Weiss is tickled. David Kirp cherry picks to kick NCLB. Sandy Kress seems on the verge of becoming a prepper. I guess the best thing you can say is that if the goal is to pass something then this is a success and genuinely bipartisan. If the goal is to do something to help the least fortunate amongst us, well not so much.  The real linchpin here is how much have education politics changed since 2001. If the answer is a lot, then this will work well. If the answer is not as much as DC’s policy class thinks, then watch out.

Thinking of moving? Here are the best and worst cities for school choice. Evergreen education debate: How much do schools matter to the economy?  Just in time for the new education law – here’s a look at non-cognitive skills (pdf). Big money for a teacher somewhere. TFA talks teacher retirement. This is a problem.

Here’s a pretty solid look at the actual issues undergirding the SCOTUS Affirmative Action debate yesterday.

When I write stuff like this, this, or this I get emails saying ‘more, please.’ Would like to but try this blog on for size in the meantime.