July 21, 2017

Edujob: VP Of Authorizer Development @ NACSA

Here’s an interesting edujob with a lot of leverage on a key issue in the education sector: Vice President of Authorizer Development at the National Assocation of Charter School Authorizers:

NACSA is launching a new, five-year strategic plan, designed to use data and evidence to ensure that authorizing practices and policies lead to better student outcomes. This vision for the future of the organization, and the field, represents an exciting opportunity for the Vice President of Authorizer Development to lead a top-notch team, and work directly with authorizers to improve practices. The Vice President will work across the organization to leverage learnings and disseminate best practices across the country. In so doing, s/he will advance NACSA’s mission to improve the quality of charter schools, and provide better educational opportunities for thousands of children throughout the country.

Learn more and be considered here. 

July 20, 2017

Rig To Flip

As humans we’re conditioned to alleviate rather than cause anxiety. It’s a good instinct. But it might be hurting us in higher education with big downstream effects. I take a look that in U.S. News & World Report today:

Tap Tapley, the legendary Outward Bound instructor, is said to have described the crux of the experiential outdoor experiential learning school’s approach as “inducing anxiety and then releasing it in a constructive manner.”

And for a half century, Outward Bound courses have done just that – putting students in challenging and uncomfortable situations with real and immediate consequences. Students find themselves climbing mountains, paddling rivers, exploring remote canyons, traveling in the wilderness in winter conditions or sailing. Students learn skills to survive and thrive in these settings. But more importantly they learn about themselves; compassion and empathy for others; their capabilities; and tenacity and resiliency in pursuit of challenging goals.

But this model is pretty much the exact opposite of the scene at many residential colleges today, especially our most elite ones…

You don’t need a lot of resiliency to read the entire piece, just click to read it all here.

July 19, 2017

Edujobs: Communications Strategy Associate @AYPF

The American Youth Policy Forum is hiring for a communications strategy associate. Longstanding organization with a storied history the sector. From the JD:

The Associate will develop the overall communications strategies both for AYPF overall and for specific projects, with input from other staff as appropriate. This will entail developing a plan for assessing and refining our current communications and outreach strategies. Additionally, the Associate will work to disseminate different types of print, video, and web-based materials for specific projects, such as invitations to AYPF events, descriptions of events or publications, tweets, press releases, blogs, op-eds, infographics, and articles. The Associate will also create and send out press kits on AYPF publications and certain events. The Associate will be entrepreneurial and take initiative in identifying strategies to ensure placement of AYPF materials before key audiences and will tailor the medium and delivery to key audiences.

You can learn more and apply via this link.

July 18, 2017

Are The Robots Coming? Is The K-12 Sector Allergic To Accountability? Cheating In DC, College Access, David Harris Goes TEDx, Claudio Sanchez On ESSA, Jeff Walker On Systems Entrepreneurs, Curbing Eliteness, Cow Horse, More!

Scroll down this page for a lot of great content thanks to some guestblogging last week on a range of issues including school transportation, DeVos and ESSA accountability, The Learning Landscape, early childhood education, pensions, and more.


So, once upon a time a brilliant and innovative American thought the phonograph would replace teachers. Why have the mixed quality of lessons, he asked, when you can have the best one and everyone can get it? Edison missed on that one but his idea still echoes in the MOOC movement and other educational trends. Admiral Rickover thought the same thing about filmstrips. When did you last see one? Then it was computers and laptops. So it’s not surprising that today people think robots can can teach kids.

Maybe this is the breakthrough. Like a mutual find past performance doesn’t always predict go-forward outcomes. But I’m skeptical. Human interaction has been part of education since the beginning – people telling stories of hunts and adventures, Plato sitting at the knee of Socrates, and up through the present. We’re hard-wired for it. And generally we respond to it. I also worry that we’re slowly evolving toward a system where the affluent get that kind of education and the poor get automated schooling. The equity challenges here loom large and threaten to reinforce our social structures rather than expand opportunity.

That said, the Wonder Workshop folks sent me a Dash robot (disclosure, a free one) and my kids enjoyed it. It’s a pretty cool tool. And some quasi-”automated” approaches like New Classrooms (disclosure, former BW client) are getting results. So there is promise here, just tempered promise if history is any guide.

Related: Personalized learning has promise but it is not turn-key.


Every time we have a cheating scandal with student testing we get a Greek chorus ready to ditch any testing or accountability. It corrupts the system they say. It’s a ludicrous argument that no one applies to other walks of life – finance, sports, and so forth – but it has great staying power in the education sector. Today’s Washington Post story about schools cheating/fuzzying up on reporting suspensions points up the problem with this argument. The city started tracking suspension better, schools started evading the reporting. I guess now we should stop holding schools accountable for not suspending kids? Or just stop taking attendance altogether? Or we could get serious about the nature of this system, any system at scale really, and work toward addressing that.


Like many, I’m for making sure everyone who wants to go to college has the chance to pursue that if they do the work. It’s an opportunity pathway we should open not constrict for young people. But this article is a sobering look at the structural problems now and the mess many students (though mostly not those who end up making decisions about schooling)  encounter post-high school.

In that same vein David Leonhardt asks some sensible questions about the rush to vocational education as a remedy.


Claudio Sanchez on the states’ moment in education. Mind Trust’s David Harris on education innovation in Indianapolis. 

Education politics are funny. NJEA supporting a Trumpist over a warm-to-reform Dem.  Same vein, this CA situation pretty much speaks for itself.

Meanwhile, again!, the field continues to be allergic to accountability and people continue to try to engineer around that rather than address it.

As we’ve discussed in the past, the action on transgender students and their rights is going to be determined more by the courts than the Department of Education. 

New Profit’s Jeff Walker on “systems entrepreneurs” and non-profit leadership.

Breaking: Elite institution seeks to curb eliteness.

This NY high school graduation issue seems like a place that charter school authorizing offers some lessons. 

Here’s a list of education Twitter accounts to follow. I’d also suggest this account if you want to learn some crazy and cool stuff daily.

Grade inflation, of course.  It’s a broader issue, just try getting an honest reference on someone…

11-year-old’s parents said no to a horse. So she trained up her cow.

July 14, 2017

Three Ways States Can Innovate School Transportation

This week Eduwonk features guest posts from different members of Bellwether’s Policy and Thought Leadership team who lead some of our most impactful work. The post below is by Jennifer O’Neal Schiess and Phillip Burgoyne-Allen.

Since its passage in December of 2015, much attention has been paid to the flexibility that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) returns to states. However, as we describe in our recent report, “Miles to Go: Bringing School Transportation into the 21st Century,” one area where states have always had tremendous latitude is school transportation.

School buses by Flickr user Zemlinki

Federal policy determines some school transportation decisions, like setting safety standards for school bus manufacturing and establishing school transportation rights for homeless students and certain students with disabilities. Federal “tripper” regulations also limit the extent to which public transit systems and school districts can collaborate to provide service specifically for students. But for the general education population, states control the structure and function of school transportation operations. States largely determine what types of vehicles may be used to transport students, which students are eligible for transportation services, and how those services are funded. State policy also governs other areas of education policy that in turn have school transportation implications, such as school calendars and schedules and school choice policies that allow students to choose schools outside of their neighborhood attendance zone.

And yet, despite rising per-pupil costs and annual spending totaling more than $20 billion, most states have failed to reimagine student transportation systems since the rise of the yellow bus nearly 80 years ago. With their broad authority to shape school transportation systems, states have great potential to drive improvement to systems that are too often inefficient, costly, and out of synch with the way schools operate for many communities.

Here are three ways states can influence better and more innovative school transportation systems:

States can provide targeted programs to convert school bus fleets to greener options. School transportation systems lag behind other mass transit systems in mitigating environmental impact. More than 35 percent of public transit buses operate on cleaner-running alternative fuels. But as recently as 2012, less than 6 percent of school buses purchased in the U.S. and Canada combined ran on cleaner fuels. Although alternatively-fueled buses yield environmental and student health dividends and can be less expensive to operate over their lifespan, higher upfront costs both for vehicles and the infrastructure to maintain them present a significant barrier for many districts.

Some states offer targeted assistance to districts to transition to cleaner buses, but more could be done. For example, California’s Lower-Emission School Bus Program provides grant funding for replacing older school buses and purchasing air pollution control equipment for buses already in use. Mississippi’s Revolving Loan Program, meanwhile, provides zero-interest loans for public school districts to cover the incremental cost of purchasing new school buses powered by non-diesel fuels, converting older buses to non-diesel fuel systems, and installing the necessary fueling stations.

States can revise funding structures to encourage efficiency and good system management practices. Most school transportation funding structures do little to promote efficiency. The dominant funding models depend either on reimbursement for local transportation costs, set per-student funding levels, or calculations of the number of miles that buses or students travel.  But states could build bonus structures into their formulas for efficiency. Florida provides a model with a funding adjustment based on average bus occupancy, but other benchmarks like average cost per rider could also be used.

States could also subsidize one-time investments in infrastructure and technology. Districts could mitigate some challenges to inefficiency by implementing practices that are more commonplace in other parts of the transportation sector. For example, few districts collect data on actual ridership, leaving the route-planning process blind to the actual behavior of its student customers. Technology that could improve efficiency — GPS technology and systems that could track bus progress, help pinpoint problem areas along routes, and provide information to families — is rare. However, districts facing major cost pressures in transportation operations have little incentive to absorb upfront costs in things like technology infrastructure, data systems, and updated routing software that will yield long-term efficiency gains.

And states could also decouple funding for transportation operations and capital expenditures in places where it is combined into a single funding stream. Lumping funding that pays for buses and equipment and funding for operations into one pot creates incentives for districts to delay capital investments when more volatile operational costs, such as fuel costs or driver wages, increase and strain budgets. These delays can result in less efficient, or even less safe, transportation services.

States can allow for local flexibility in system design that allows for transportation solutions that best match local needs and conditions. While states must balance the need for regulations that protect students’ safety and educational rights, providing some flexibility allows districts to implement tailored approaches to school transportation that meet the needs of individual communities. For example, many rural districts transport a small number of students across long distances. Using a large school bus designed to seat 50 or more children can be a costly burden, and operating fewer large buses drives lengthy ride times for students when buses must cover expansive geographic areas. But only eight states allow passenger vans to be used for school transportation service. Allowing local communities flexibility in things like vehicle choice could improve efficiency and cost effectiveness. Proponents of ESSA argue that states are better equipped to design education policies that reflect their unique contexts and needs. The same logic suggests that one-size-fits-all school transportation systems fail to recognize significant differences in local needs and realities.

For more about current state of school transportation, read Bellwether’s report: “Miles to Go: Bringing School Transportation into the 21st Century.”

July 13, 2017

Should We Take Betsy DeVos Seriously or Literally?

Betsy DeVos photo by Flickr user Michael Vadon

DeVos by Michael Vadon on Flickr

This week Eduwonk features guest posts from different members of Bellwether’s Policy and Thought Leadership team who lead some of our most impactful work. The post below is by Chad Aldeman.

During last year’s presidential campaign, there was an intellectual debate about whether we should take then-candidate Trump at his literal word, or if he should be taken seriously but not literally. We now face the same dilemma with his Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

To understand why, start with DeVos’ statement in March about how her department would implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA):

My philosophy is simple: I trust parents, I trust teachers, and I trust local school leaders to do what’s right for the children they serve. ESSA was passed with broad bipartisan support to move power away from Washington, D.C., and into the hands of those who are closest to serving our nation’s students.

States, along with local educators and parents, are on the frontlines of ensuring every child has access to a quality education. The plans each state develops under the streamlined ESSA template will promote innovation, flexibility and accountability to ensure every child has a chance to learn and succeed.

Flexibility, local control, power away from Washington. Got it. States know what to do with that.

But wait. DeVos is also on the record on multiple occasions, in multiple contexts, declaring that she will follow federal law as written. Similarly, Jason Botel, her Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, is holding states specifically to what’s in the ESSA statute.

There is an inherent conflict here between flexibility and rigidity. And we’re starting to see the consequences of that tension. Although ESSA provides states wide latitude in a number of areas, there are portions that are both clear and strict. Here are four examples where this tension may play out:

  1. ESSA doesn’t qualify science or social studies as “academic achievement” measures for the purposes of accountability. Those measures may be included in other areas of a state’s accountability system, but a literal interpretation of ESSA suggests that states can only count English and math toward the state’s achievement indicator.
  2. ESSA requires states to measure proficiency as their academic achievement indicator. Several states are attempting to shift from the NCLB-era focus on one proficiency threshold toward a more continuous measure of performance, and a number of academics have spoken out in favor of this idea. But a strict interpretation of ESSA says states must include proficiency.
  3. ESSA, like No Child Left Behind before it, requires states to identify any school where any subgroup of students is consistently underperforming. States have wide discretion in how they define “consistently underperforming,” but ESSA does not allow states the flexibility to narrow their approach to focus only on certain historically low-performing groups or to combine groups in any way. Any means any.
  4. ESSA imposes a strict rule on how states should identify schools with low-performing subgroups. The law says states must identify any school with any subgroup performing, by itself, as low as the bottom five percent of schools overall. Although I haven’t seen any state game this out publicly — which is saying something in the first place — my sense from several private conversations is that this definition, applied strictly, could capture 40-60 percent of schools in a given state. That’s a lot! States don’t want to identify that many schools and are instead proposing a number of approaches to cap how many schools they identify.

DeVos has put herself in a tight spot with her Department’s “letter of the law” rhetoric, because it will force her to apply rigid rules like these on states, regardless of their policy merits or her stated desire for flexibility and local control. Worse, if she picks and chooses where to strictly hew to the law and where not to, she’ll open herself up for charges of hypocrisy.

This conundrum is a big reason why I have personally advocated for a different style of accountability that hinges on results, not rules. It’s also why we convened an independent review of ESSA state plans that looks beyond mere compliance with the law. But without guidance from Secretary DeVos, states are left wondering whether they should take her seriously or literally. It’s a question that has big implications for the field.

July 12, 2017

Summer Reading List: Bellwether’s Early Childhood Work

This week Eduwonk features guest posts from different members of Bellwether’s Policy and Thought Leadership team who lead some of our most impactful work. The post below is by Ashley LiBetti Mitchel.

ICYMI: Bellwether’s early childhood team does really interesting work. Since I last wrote for this blog, we’ve further explored the potential alignment between charter schools and pre-k; developed a large (and growing) body of research on Head Start; and are currently working on a range of early childhood topics, such as coaching as teacher professional development and improving teacher preparation for early childhood professionals.

Our pre-k charter work started with a national survey of how hospitable state policy environments are for charter schools to serve preschoolers. Through that survey, we found that most states create barriers to charter pre-k programs — sometimes inadvertently — but in nearly every state, charters have managed to find a way to serve preschoolers anyway. To better understand what charter pre-k looks like in practice, we visited several charter pre-k programs across the country and shared what we learned in an article for Education Next. There’s also a podcast episode and a C-SPAN interview that review some of our research findings.black-and-white photo of a child in glasses reading a book

On Head Start, some of our work pushes for using quality data to improve grantee performance and better serve children and families. “Renewing Head Start’s Promise” highlights recent efforts to improve the oversight of Head Start grantees and recommends changes to further this type of progress. In “Moneyball for Head Start,” Bellwether worked with several other organizations to develop a vision for using data, evidence, and evaluation to improve Head Start outcomes. Similar to “Renewing Head Start’s Promise,” we make recommendations for improving federal oversight, but also recommend changes at the local grantee level and for researchers, philanthropists, and the private sector. We further explore a promising recommendation for local grantees – developing networked learning communities — in Chapter 7 of “16 for 2016: 16 Education Policy Ideas for the Next President.”

Another recent Head Start piece is on the Head Start workforce. “The Best Teachers for Our Littlest Learners” traces the evolution of Head Start workforce policies over 50 years and details how shifts in the broader early childhood landscape, especially state-funded pre-k programs, have influenced these policies. The piece finds that while there have been increases in education and credential requirements for Head Start teachers, these requirements did not alleviate — and in fact may have exacerbated — other challenges related to recruiting, retaining, and compensating a high-quality Head Start workforce.

Finally, Bellwether’s early childhood team have capitalized on this deep knowledge base by exploring other factors that affect Head Start quality. Analyses of the Head Start performance standards — the rules that govern the operation of Head Start programs — are here and here. And in the Journal of Behavioral Science and Policy, we review the effect of policy initiatives that have sought to improve the quality of Head Start programs and make our own recommendations for doing so, including giving grantees the flexibility to “triage” services to the highest need children, shifting performance measures to focus on outcomes rather than compliance, and changing federal policies so grantees can more easily integrate with local and state early childhood initiatives.

In the coming months, our team will publish a number of other early childhood pieces. We partnered with the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes to develop a birth-through-3rd grade toolkit (available later this summer) to help state education agencies bring early grades into ESSA school improvement conversations. For a preview of that work, see here and here. We’re also doing more work on the early childhood workforce, extended beyond just Head Start to preparation pathways and research for all early childhood teachers. Our Head Start work is also continuing, with forthcoming publications on teacher coaching and an analysis of Head Start exemplars (grantees with evidence that they produce better-than-average impact on children’s learning outcomes).

And if that’s not enough early childhood reading, Sara Mead regularly writes on early childhood issues for US News and World Report — most recently, about how policymakers should be open to change in the early childhood space — and there’s always great early childhood-related content on the Bellwether blog, Ahead of the Heard.

July 11, 2017

Happy Birthday to The Learning Landscape — What’s Next?

This week Eduwonk features guest posts from different members of Bellwether’s Policy and Thought Leadership team who lead some of our most impactful work. The post below is by Jennifer Schiess.

The education sector is plagued by binary thinking that labels possible solutions as either heroic or evil. Too often we see advocates relying on a narrow selection of evidence that supports a particular point of view, rather than acknowledging that evidence is often murky, sometimes contradictory, and nearly always complex.

At Bellwether, we wanted to help paint a fuller picture of what we know — and don’t know — in education. So in August 2016, we launched The Learning Landscape to provide an even-handed presentation of the history, trends, and evidence on six core issues in education:

  • Student Achievement
  • Accountability, Standards, and Assessment
  • School Finance
  • Teacher Effectiveness
  • Charter Schools
  • Philanthropy

This dynamic website has been a resource for the field, the media, and in the public, adding the complexity lacking in many debates today. Here’s a small sampling of what people have been saying on Twitter:

NSVF ChiefsforChange EduPost CharlesBarone

We heard from college professors at Georgetown University, Texas A&M University, and the University of Virginia, who are using the site as course material in undergraduate and graduate level courses in public policy and education. And we’ve gotten numerous pieces of anecdotal feedback reinforcing the quality of the content and the presentation.

As we approach The Learning Landscape’s first birthday, we are contemplating what is next. We are currently seeking funding to maintain the site and grow version 2.0 as a resource to inform the critical debates shaping schooling for millions of American students. Our wish list includes:

  1. Covering more topics. The Learning Landscape covers a lot, but there’s a lot more it could include. We’re imagining new chapters on early childhood education, innovation and personalized learning, special education, rural education, and more, plus a broader, more comprehensive treatment of school choice policies.

  2. Increasing interactivity. We want to upgrade visuals and data presentations and add dynamic features to make the data and information even more accessible, engaging, and useful.

  3. Adding new features. In addition to providing current and vetted information on critical topics in the education landscape, we’re thinking of ways to provide a portal to more real-time conversations and perspectives. We could highlight the publication of new research in the field, connect users to recent news on the topics covered, or to track major policy movements at the federal and state level. We could also create audio or video content, such as podcasts or interviews to showcase policy discussions among leaders in the field.

We welcome feedback on the site and insight on what you’d like to see next. Send us your thoughts and ideas! Email contactus@bellwethereducation.org, Tweet to @bellwethered, or follow us on Facebook.

July 10, 2017

Pensions Are Expensive But Not Generous

This week Eduwonk features guest posts from different members of Bellwether’s Policy and Thought Leadership team who lead some of our most impactful work. The post below is by Chad Aldeman.

In our work on teacher pensions, we spend a lot of time explaining one major contradiction: Teacher pension plans today are tremendously expensive, but they’re not that generous for the average teacher.

Nationally, states and districts are contributing about five percent of each teacher’s salary toward actual retirement benefits. For most workers, that would be the equivalent of a five percent match into their 401(k) plan. That’s slightly better than a typical private sector 401(k), but it’s certainly not an outrageously generous contribution.

But teacher pensions have three unique features that distort this reality. One is that 90 percent of teachers are enrolled in defined benefit pension plans where contributions are not strictly tied to benefits. That is, the plans make promises to pay out benefits in the future, but if the plans fail to save enough to pay for those promises, or if the plan’s assumptions about how much they need to save turn out to be flawed, the plan will take on “unfunded liabilities” that function like debt. These debt costs have soared in recent years; in response, teacher pension contribution rates have risen dramatically even as the value of teacher benefits have gone down.

The graph below shows total state and district contributions toward teacher retirement plans, broken down by whether they’re going toward actual retirement benefits or debt costs (these don’t include teacher contributions, which have also risen in recent years). In the average state, employers are contributing about 16 percent of teacher salaries toward pension plans, but less than a third of that (five percent out of the 16) is going toward actual benefits.

The second reason pensions are often perceived as generous is because the five percent going toward benefits is not distributed evenly. Unlike an employer match into a 401(k) plan, where everyone gets the same percentage of their salary matched into their own account, in pension plans the five percent is the average across all different workers. Those who stay in the same plan for a full career will earn benefits far above that amount, while the many teachers who only serve for five or ten or 20 years earn far less than average.

Third, the five percent contribution today represents an average across all employees, regardless of when they started, but states have cut benefits significantly for new workers.

As the graph above helps illustrate, multiple things can be true at once: States are contributing a lot of money toward teacher retirement costs, but teacher retirement plans, on average, are not that generous. Alternative plan designs could be more portable, more equitably distributed, and no less generous.

For more on how well state pensions plans serve the unique needs of their teachers, check out our recent rankings here.

Posted on Jul 10, 2017 @ 8:00am

July 7, 2017

GuestBloggers All Next Week, Aldeman Talks Learning With Boser, Charter Stunts And Charter Deals, More!

Coming attractions: I’m taking next week off the blog, look for guest posts from a variety of people at Bellwether on different issues and showcasing some work you may not know we do.

Chad Aldeman talks with Ulrich Boser about learning.

A lot of cross pressures on school transportation.

This NEA charter school stunt pretty much speaks for itself. Charters are hardly perfect but it’s ironic that as the sector’s performance improves – and in particular as urban charters continue to turn in overall impressive results – the resistance gets more intense. Pretty much tells you what you need to know. But, the ratcheting up of pressure by the NEA is going to put pressure on the AFT’s leadership to become more strident, too. So it’s not a meaningless development either.

Yawn. Other than the idea of “zombie charters,” which is the best education policy term in a long time (and probably what charter haters secretly feared all along), this side deal stuff in New York is par for the course. It would be newsy if there were not a side deal with anything political having to do with the schools there.

Good attendance strategy: Tell everyone you got the award but then don’t accept it!

June 30, 2017

Off-Edu – Pan Mass Challenge 2017

002_PMC_Highlights_2016A break from our regular programming:

In the summer (along with a few others from the education world) I raise money for cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston by riding in the Pan Mass Challenge.

DFCI is an amazing place on the very leading edge of efforts to bring down these diseases. This matters whether or not you live in Massachusetts because he pathbreaking work they are doing there helps fight cancer everywhere. Treatment protocols travel so good research anywhere has the potential to help people everywhere. 

I ride my bike from Sturbridge to Provincetown, about 192 miles, the first weekend of August and my terrific sponsors help raise part of the $48 million the PMC will send to Dana-Farber this year. 100 percent of what I raise (not “proceeds or whatever weasel words some fundraisers use, 100 percent of donations I receive) goes to Dana, overhead is paid for other ways. Donations are, of course, tax-deductible.

Here’s former Dana-Farber President Edward J. Benz, Jr.,

 “The PMC has made what we do at Dana-Farber possible. When they write the history of how cancer was conquered, the PMC will be in chapter one.”

If you’d like to learn more about my ride, this effort, or become a sponsor, you can via this link. Thanks for your consideration.

June 29, 2017

Make America Grateful Again?

Via the terrific education and music infused America Succeeds GratefulEd blog, here’s a lightly education-flavored review of a Dead & Company show last week in Virginia. It does feature a math teacher and a high school student so that’s good enough for around here. Bonus cameo by the Eduwife.

Bottom line, perhaps they’re not a band beyond description any longer but they can still bring it.

You can read all of it right here.

June 28, 2017

Mitch Chester Will Be Missed. Education Surveys, Polls, ESSA Plans, Hernandez On CTE, Rural Education, ESSA Jargon, Read Finn Murphy, More.

Mitch Chester has passed. The outpouring of condolences speaks to how well-liked and well-regarded he was in the education sector. And he really was genuinely committed and genuinely fun to work with and could disagree without being disagreeable. “He will be missed” is a cliche, but he really will be missed. Rick Hess with a nice remembrance here.

Chad Aldeman on expanding early ed via ESSA plans. Yesterday, Bellwether and the Collaborative for Student Success released reviews of the first 17 ESSA plans.

Alex Hernandez on the promise of CTE.

Marty West rounds up the status quo on Blaine Amendments post-Monday’s court decision.

Fordham surveyed teenagers about school. Georgetown surveyed adults about perceptions of childhood, or more precisely adulthood, by race. I wish the methods were a little more robust but the findings intuitively make sense in the context of how schools operate.

So here’s a new poll that shows that, on average, Trump supporters don’t like the President’s education agenda. OK, that’s true enough especially given the proposed budget cuts. But, at the same time, groups that on average are not Trump supporters disproportionately support some key aspects of Trump’s education agenda, specially school choice. The AFT, who sponsored the new poll, and wants to position itself as a champion of social justice ought to be careful about how far down this road they want to go given their own education positions. In other words, again, education politics don’t line-up cleanly with partisan politics and that’s both interesting and exasperating in roughly equal measure.

Also, here’s a well-done poll from Brown with some interesting overlays of various populations and some education questions.

An education play, in two acts:

Weighed down by resistance from education advocates and some council and School Board members, the latest draft drops any mention of specific academic goals, metrics for success and funding plans.

Instead, it lays out a framework for more meetings, including four joint sessions a year between the City Council and School Board, the creation of an “education compact team” and a “children’s cabinet.”

Teachers have to live everywhere because there are kids and schools pretty much everywhere – even really expensive places to live. Here’s a look at ways to ease the housing costs.

Rural education, attainment, and place.

Are the muggles revolting and what’s the role of elite education?

ESSA jargon is everywhere. So, apparently, are book virgins.

This debut book by Finn Murphy is a great summer book. It’s superficially about life as a trucker in the moving industry but it’s really about the structure of American life.

Jake the turkey chases cops.

June 27, 2017

The Reviews Are In! ESSA State Plan Review Results

Today Bellwether and the Collaborative for Student Success are releasing reviews of the first round of state plans under the new ESSA law. That’s 16 states plus DC and these are reviews of the actual plans states submitted to ED for approval. Our process involved practitioners and policy leaders from around the country to take an independent look at what states were proposing to do on accountability.

The 74 writes-up the results, here’s more information on the project, the reviewers, and the results from Bellwether. And here is more from the Collaborative and an interactive site on the results. Jim Cowen here.

Other media around.

Pensions & Politics

In The 74 Max Marchitello and I take a look at pension politics and the red state/blue state problem:

…The truth is that pension reform is a must, for states and for teachers. The debate isn’t just about whether teachers should have 401(k)s or today’s pensions — there are a variety of reforms between those poles that would work better for teachers and also address the fiscal challenges of today’s approach. But just as education has managed to politicize its way into creating Democratic and Republican models of teaching kids to read, pension reform is becoming a hot political mess…

…For Republican lawmakers, that means doing more than just curbing benefits. For example, it’s counterproductive to solve yesterday’s pension problems on the backs of tomorrow’s teachers by further cutting benefits. In many states, actual benefit costs are not even all that high and the idea of “gold plated” teacher pensions is mostly a myth. Policymakers should focus on limiting future debt costs, not cutting benefits for teachers.

Democrats, for their part, must summon the political courage to deal with this problem at all. They must do more than ask the state to pony up more funding to pay for pension liabilities. Addressing debts will help improve the solvency in the short term, but it won’t do anything to stop the teacher pension system from continuing to dig a massive financial hole.

Entire article right here.

June 22, 2017

ESSA Mapped, Districts Segregated, OCR Debated, Is All Teaching Local? Pointed On Ed Tech, Vague On Privilege, School Transportation, Toe News, More!

Max Marchitello on teacher pensions and California’s fiscal shell game.

Solid inside analysis on New York’s education politics here. 

Here’s a new map tracking ESSA activity from The 74:

Important EdBuild on school district secessions and their impact. The Education Equality Index is out from Education Cities and Great Schools. 

CRPE on school transportation and choice and equity. ICYMI, here’s Bellwether’s recent analysis of school transpiration policy.

The other day we talked about changes in OCR policy at the Department of Education. Here’s more on that from Shep Melnick and also Mike Petrilli. And here’s an interesting debate/discussion about race and the constitution.

Dana Goldstein on student diversity in Dallas.

All teaching is local?

This idea that Betsy DeVos is the worst cabinet official is ludicrous and cheap. She may have the best/worst name recognition, but while I’ve been pretty critical of her I’m having a hard time thinking that thus far she’s the “worst.” EPA, the mess at Justice, a total failure on infrastructure and  a laughable budget, just for starters? Besides, I suspect most people can’t name most cabinet officials anyway.

Audrey, what do you think about  the ed tech hype?

CCSSO principles to inform school improvement systems.

Checker Finn has been vocal lately. Here he pushes back on SEL. And here on some new charter school ideas.  Also check out Charlie Barone on Finn and the SEL issue.

Here’s some cold water on the hot apprenticeship issue. And some pushback on the keep kids clean and indoors ethos.

Hess on parents.

Here’s an awkward question:

Ultimately, a meritocracy divided against itself cannot stand. An educational system can either subvert existing hierarchies or fortify them, but not both.

What’s the matter with Kansas?

“Toes are very hard to come by.” Beware squirrel attacks.

June 19, 2017

Acela Bias! Michigan Teacher Pensions, Teacher Retirement Transparency, Trump Admin & OCR/Civil Rights, FL Law, More!

Sara Mead on Acela Corridor bias and charter schools. Here’s a video explaining the Michigan teacher pension situation.

This discussion tomorrow featuring Mike Feinberg and KIPP alums should be an interesting and atypical DC education event. RSVP via the link.

As expected, the Trump Administration is taking steps to change the federal approach on education civil rights. Not surprisingly, with those words – Trump, civil rights, federal – in the same sentence people are alarmed. And this administration certainly warrants skepticism. But there is actually a basket of different issues here that are best considered individually. For instance, on school discipline the evidence seems to point toward racial disparities of the kind that are germane to federal civil rights protections – though there is room for disagreement about specific policies to remedy that.

On campus sexual assault, the Obama administration lowered the standard of proof for what sexual assault claims on campus to more likely than not. Even for those concerned about the prevalence of sexual assault on campus, it’s a standard that raises legitimate concerns about due process and federal courts are sorting through the issue now. Again, room for disagreement on the best policies. That issue is especially complicated because in many instances the alleged perpetrator, victim, and the witnesses were all impaired at the time of the incident and college administrators are often not well equipped to address these sorts of incidents. (One solution that has been proposed – and should alarm anyone concerned about civil liberties – is to lower the standard of proof for all campus offenses to “more likely than not” so that sexual assaults are not treated differently from a procedural point of view.)

And then OCR does a bunch of other work on behalf of parents, often low-profile but often quite important.

Bottom line: This is important stuff, so important that thoughtful people should disaggregate and approach each issue independently.

This should be standard practice to give teachers more information about retirement.

Here’s a trend worth watching. This new Florida law bears watching, too.

Here’s Ian Rowe on family structure and a long running debate.

The NEA is inadvertently debating personalized learning.

The charter politics in Massachusetts didn’t stop with November’s vote.

And here’s a teacher picture you might have missed. 

132 year old lobster turned loose. And ‘little did they know” is an underused literary device: “Little did she know she was about to be attacked by a rabid raccoon she would end up killing with her bare hands.”

June 15, 2017

Teacher Pensions Are Failing Teachers, Customized High School, Yeats Day, CCR Transparency, Correctional Ed, Ed Navigator, Alex Rigsby And Edu, More!

Here’s an idea: A new customized “senior” year of high school and expanded pre-K education. The feds can invest to make it happen.

Chad Aldeman and Kristen Schmitz explain why teacher pension plans don’t work for teachers. Full analysis here. And a NY Daily News op-ed here. 74 write-up here.

Also Chad revisits the Pension Pac-Man issue – it’s not a game and it’s more acute for teachers than some other workers.

Hailly Korman on correctional education.

Yesterday was Yeats day, to honor the poet. He wrote, that “things fall apart, the center cannot hold.” Has always struck me as useful for understanding education politics. But the education quote most commonly attributed to Yeats, you can find it on posters adorning classroom walls across the country, is “education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Powerful! Except it’s not Yeats. It’s Plutarch. I’m sympathetic here, I once decided to improv and mangled a Einstein quote by juxtaposing and mashing it with a Jack Kennedy quote – I was giving a talk at Harvard and was nervous. But I’m not in the poster printing business.

Achieve says there is too little transparency about college and career readiness. Hard to argue with that. The problem with air conditioning.  Teacher debt is not simple to address.  The WH focusing on skills and apprenticeships. Here’s the Department of Education letter to Delaware everyone is up in arms about (pdf). The real story seems to be that this is more business as usual than people expected.

Matt Barnum on for-profit charter schools. My take, yes, most are awful, but a ban is too blunt. It’s hard to miss the overlay between states with a lot of low-quality for-profits and with charter school quality problems more generally. It might be that authorizing polices and practices are the real culprit?

Ed Navigator in action.

Testing is not cut and dry these days:

However, Colorado will likely keep using some PARCC questions in the math and English tests given to students in grades three through eight, said Joyce Zurkowski, the Colorado Department of Education’s executive director of assessment. Doing so would ensure the state could track student academic growth data and continue rating schools without pause.

I’m on the board for Classroom Champions, here’s one of our athletes, U.S. women’s hockey goaltender Alex Rigsby, at a school in Alexandria, VA.

Teacher fired.

Space objects you can see in the daytime!

Three Year High School?

In U.S. News & World Report I propose an idea to finance pre-K education for four-year olds, give high school students more options in their final year, and help with equity. Sound too good to be true? It might be, but let’s debate it and other ideas:

What we think of as the core of high school could be accomplished in three years. (You don’t want to dwell too much on how much time young people waste in school.) Doing so offers one way to help address the equity concerns with forcing students to choose between vocational or academic paths early in their lives – a three-year approach can help delay that decision until students are at least a little older. The added benefit of getting kids off to a stronger start early on their educational path will obviously help, too.

The federal government shouldn’t mandate any of this, but it can be an investor to help with the substantial transition costs for states that choose to go big, as this approach is not cost-neutral. Providing real paths and supports for 17- and 18-year-olds will cost money, even if some of those paths are financed from nonpublic sources and parents. Given the problems we have today, there is a clear case that federal resources here are in the national interest. Opening up the senior year like this also doesn’t interfere with other ongoing reforming efforts – including policies to foster greater choice in education and make college more financially accessible for Americans. Rather, it compliments them.

You can read the entire idea here. Tweet me @arotherham about all the ways you wasted time your senior year of high school. And if you like the senior year just how it is, don’t hold back with your financing suggestions for better educational access for four-year-olds.

Posted on Jun 15, 2017 @ 8:22am

June 13, 2017

Max McConkey And Art, New Charter Data, Voucher Debate, Free Speech Or Orwellian Paternalism? DeVos Profile, DeVos On The Stump, Melvoin Profile, Gig Economy And Edu, More!

Free speech on campus and beyond. And here’s Larry Summers saying it’s “Orwellian Paternalism.”

Jim Blew is a great get for the Department of Education if they can pull this off – and another Democrat, which is interesting though as we discussed the other day largely inconsequential in this circus. But, despite that, I’d like to see him serving the country so if it helps his case more  then that first sentence is wrong and he’s not a good pick!

I made a Western Michigan quip a while ago on the blog and got some, “what do you mean?” emails. The Times unpacks more of that for you with a DeVos profile that points out that she’s not some sort of robot and has her own take on some things. She got some good reviews this morning – even from skeptics and critics –  at the National Charter Schools Conference.

Interesting charter school story. Weird political times for charter schools.

New CREDO data on charter school performance by management/operational structure. The action is in the appendix, read that. A lot of cherry picking going on, the thing with a report like this is you can’t only like the method for the outcomes you like.

Randi Weingarten and Steve Perry debate vouchers and choice. Lively!

Don’t miss this honest piece by Robin Lake on school vouchers.

And this pre-K and charter story from NY got lost in all the political chaos last week. More on it here. Success also won the charter school prize this week – that’s not a metaphor, they won a real prize. And they are going to start sharing curriculum.

NCTQs Kate Walsh on recent moves to jettison teacher tests and credentialing requirements:

While there is good research describing the benefits of matching teacher and student race, let’s remember that those benefits are based on studies involving black and white teachers of otherwise comparable ability. Any benefits from matching race are erased when we no longer make our first priority the effectiveness of a teacher or our best estimates about who will be effective. While it’s uncomfortable to push back for fear of appearing insensitive to real problems of educational inequity, we must insist on prioritizing what’s best for students—having the most skilled teacher.

Nick Melvoin on the issues.

A lot of people know Max McConkey from his work at WestEd, but you might not know he’s an accomplished artist.

Interesting article on benefits for “gig” economy workers. More work in the education field is 1099 work than you might think – and gig economy style workers seem likely to increase as education starts to unbundle more.

A song for every station on the DC Metro, and apparently they are not all the blues.

June 9, 2017

Friday Fish! Candlers On The Water

unnamed-1Matt Candler founded 4.0 Schools to help create innovative school models. It’s working.

Candler’s not unknown around here. He’s known for being against the “sucks less” approach to school quality and in a Kevin Bacon-like way he’s one degree removed from Big Red.

Here’s his dad and his son out for a day fishing earlier this spring. That’s working, too.

This is just one of hundreds of pictures of education figures with fish. You can view this collection of fish porn, the largest in the world, as it happens, by clicking here.

June 8, 2017

Eduwonk, 100 Percent Comey Free Today! Skandera Leaving NM, Pension Problems In PA, Choice In OH, DeVos On The Hill, NCTQ On ESSA & Teachers, Tidal Wave For Teachers Unions, Summit, Fast Kids, More!

Publishing snafu had tomorrow’s fish pictures up today, sorry about that. They’ll be up for good tomorrow.  Today:

Bonnie O’Keefe on student teacher interactions in ECE and policy.

Hanna Skandera did a good job in New Mexico. It’s too bad the Trump team was too dysfunctional to figure out how to get her aboard. She’s what’s good for students first.

More on that and other education news at TopSheet.

Pension problems are educational problems. More background and detail here.

Here’s a Nevada ESA tick tock and information on what happened and what it means.

Betsy DeVos went back to the Hill for a Senate hearing on the President’s budget request. For her team, the good news: She was more confident, in command of the issues, and presented better than past appearances. The bad news: Even the Republicans think the budget request is a disaster and DOA.

NCTQ on ESSA plans and teachers.

We don’t do PR at Bellwether, but here’s an easy and DIY way to get featured in The New York Times.

Efforts to better integrate schools in New York City show how these ideas tend to bounce off the reality of the system. Pretty acid quote from newly minted realist Bill de Blasio. But, the city did set goals, and that’s something that could pay dividends later. This is an interesting move, too.

With Gorsuch on the Supreme Court the teachers unions have a huge problem again. And here’s a really interesting interview about the unions and what might be next. 

Joanne Jacobs on Summit. Chiefs for Change on elevating the teaching profession.

If you’re like me you spend a lot of time wondering, what exactly is happening on interdistrict school choice in Ohio. Thankfully, Fordham has us covered!

The kids are alright. The kids are fast! Here’s a great story about two young people off to higher education. 

Kings in the cockpit.

June 5, 2017

The Rock And Tough Love, Purdue And Kaplan, Title I Inequity, Impact Aid Ideas, Grocery Stores And Schools, Stephen Carter On Reading, Campus Politics, CMO Growth, Music Reviews, More!

At The 74, Hailly Korman and I warm to the idea of Mr. President The Rock. We also like his genuine interest in helping adjudicated youth but in an open letter we urge him to make sure there is as much love as tough in his tough love approach.

Off-edu, I review some musical acts, large and small, including Tedeschi Trucks, Stevie Nicks, Tracy Grammer, Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes, and more here at Grateful Ed. Last week I wrote about how Trump doesn’t have a climate policy but he does have an economic politics with more resonance than people assume.

Really interesting David Cantor look at young people, relationships, sex, more.

Here’s a look at Purdue and Kaplan – an interesting situation and creative move by a college president.

School transportation: Here come the libertarians!

This article looks at college-readiness in Texas. Buried at the bottom is an issue that doesn’t get the attention it should: switching costs for students. My bias is that this is because most of the people working on these issues didn’t have to think about switching costs themselves. But in any event, we need to argue a little less about what path is best (for other people’s kids, natch) and more about how to increase fluidity and integration between them.

Title I and inequity via Ed Build’s Stadler.

This Washington Post story on grocery stories in Washington, D.C. is a good reminder of why not everyone sees or experiences “markets” or experiences the same way. Education implications for choice advocates.

Always good to pay attention to the non-conformists.

Who lost Frank Bruni?

Like plenty of adults across the political spectrum, they use slurs in lieu of arguments, looking for catharsis rather than constructive engagement. They ratchet up their language to a degree that weakens its currency for direr circumstances. And they undermine their goals — our goals — by pushing away good-hearted allies and handing ammunition to the very people who itch to dismiss them.

This is a depressing take on higher education. Despite a splashy Times story this seems like an issue in search of a controversy - these kind of events have been around for a while. Has a ‘go find a fresh angle on campus politics’ meets ‘Harvard!’ flavor. Yes, in today’s context it’s symbolic of how we’re pulling apart and individualism and all that, but given all the issues in higher education from economics and lack of economic opportunity to campus climate this seems an odd one to get worked up about.

Also, Harvard rescinding admissions offers for several students over online behavior.

This Heritage Foundation proposal to convert the federal Impact Aid program into a education savings account program for military dependents is interesting on two levels. In terms of school choice,  the issue of low quality schools near some military bases is a real one. But this proposal is bonkers because Impact Aid exists to compensate school districts for federally owned land they can’t tax. In fact, a cynic might wonder if it has more to do with undermining federally owned lands, a priority of a lot of Republicans these days, than it does with schools.

Is a compromise on the horizon in the teacher policy debate in California?

STRIVE in Denver and next generation issues for charter schooling.

This is what happens when you look too closely:

Thus the conclusion Connecticut was supposed to draw from Judge Moukawsher’s indictment of the city schools, an indictment prompted in large part by the East Hartford superintendent and the CEA themselves and so similar to the indictment by Mrs. DeVos, was instantly amended. Now it goes this way: If being terrible will get them more money, as sought by the school financing lawsuit, city schools are indeed terrible, but if being terrible will get them less money, as under the Trump budget, city schools are not so bad after all.

Nice missive from Stephen Carter on teachers who taught him to read. I can think of two teachers who did this for me, Flossie Zar and Dottie Gwynn (who I was lucky enough to have twice, one in middle school and then later in high school). I can also think of an English teacher, who will remain nameless here, who did this inadvertently. She made literature so deadly I set out on my own to read other stuff on the contrarian assumption that it can’t possibly be this bad.

New material on personalized learning in rural Maine from the National Charter School Resource Center – with videos! Bellwether took a look at this last year, but with lobsters! Broader look at personalized and rural via a Bellwether report here.

Coming attractions. Next Monday, the 12th, from 4-5pm Mary Wells of Bellwether, Daryl Cobb of CSGF, Dolores Gonzalez of IDEA Public Schools, Vanessa Rodriguez of Citizens of the World Charter School, and James Willcox of Strategic Growth Partners (and fishing fame) will be discussing the last decade of CMO growth. Great chance to hear from people doing the work about lessons learned.

This is a very odd French story about bilingual education in the U.S.

Mike Petrilli and Liz King debate accountability. Minnesota measles outbreak. Are we about to see an age of science in policymaking? Crack a history book and you’ll see why that can be a mixed blessing.

Here’s your chance to adopt a dog that can’t get a clearance. Although some see it differently. Also kids on leashes.

Music Reviews

America Succeeds runs a music-themed blog GratefulEd. Jason Gaulden is the mastermind behind what’s fun mashup of education and music. I have a post there today reviewing some shows from the past few months. It’s a mashup, too, but includes Stevie Nicks, Tedeschi Trucks, Angaleena Presley, Dry Branch Fire Squad, Tracy Grammer, Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes, and more. Includes a bit of educational color in a couple of places.

You can click through here.

Posted on Jun 5, 2017 @ 9:26am

June 2, 2017

Paris & Politics

Off of edu, but in U.S. News & World Report today I take a look at President Trump’s Paris Accord gambit. I don’t like it on the merits, but politically he continues to be a clever carny barker:

Here we go again. You can’t find a single person at Whole Foods who thinks it’s a good idea for President Donald Trump to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord! Substantively, they’re probably right. But on the politics? There, Trump is winning.

Why? Pittsburgh, not Paris. Democrats confuse the two at their political peril…

…Democrats can reasonably argue that Trump’s creating a false choice and that the Paris accord is good for America, too, and that climate is a real issue, and that there are more jobs in solar than coal, and Tesla, etc. But politically it was already over at putting America first. Yes, Trump is dysfunctional and no one will ever accuse him of being a policy maven. What he is, though, is a carny barker with few peers…

Does It Matter Who DeVos Hires? Tucker V Finn, Allen On Choice Privilege, New Paharans, Campus Politics, Pizza Essay, Bear Punching, More!

Here is an education PSA campaign like no other. Seriously. It’s barely SFW.

Department of Agriculture analysis on rural education attainment. Here’s The 74 with more on that and the context.

Jeanne Allen argues that the real schism in education is between the haves and have nots on choices and options.

Marc Tucker responds to Checker Finn on the value international comparisons.

Department of short memories: The Times breathlessly reports today that some of the Trump Administration’s education hires are not from the hardcore Trump fold. Great.

But just a few months ago (yes it does feel like longer) Education Secretary Betsy DeVos went up against Attorney General Jeff Sessions over what the administration’s position on the Obama Administration transgender policy should be. She lost. In no uncertain terms. That will happen again every time the Department of Education goes up against the Department of Justice, or Treasury (happening now on choice), or State or DOD if that ever happened, OMB, and certainly against the key players in the West Wing. Also the Hill. It matters more what David Cleary – Senator Alexander’s COS – thinks than what any DeVos staffers do at this point.

That’s all well-established by now via issues around the budget, personnel, the transgender guidance, and more. In fact, there is no counter-example on anything of any consequence. So around the edges this is probably good news, and it’s certainly interesting. But, in terms of the big picture and any key policy issues and anything that actually matters it’s academic at this point who Betsy DeVos appoints given how this administration is operating and the situation DeVos herself is in politically. They could bring John Dewey back from the dead, slap a MAGA hat on him, give him one of the myriad open roles, and he’d still get rolled.

Of course, we are talking about Trump here, so all this comes with a huge caveat given that things are always in motion with him. Betsy DeVos could be White House Chief of Staff at this time next week…

Anyway, elsewhere:

Authentic project-based learning increasingly popular.

Evergreen State situation heating up. School closed today, too. Meanwhile, back at Middlebury. Today in college essays.

New class of Pahara Next Gen fellows.

Bear punching.

Friday Fish Porn: Back To Alaska

image1-2When James Willcox appears on this blog with a fish – it’s usually a redfish. And as often a redfish his mom, who is almost certainly a better angler than you, caught. She’s below with one caught just this week.

But to mix things up he went to Alaska and caught some salmon – including this beauty. Fresh salmon, hours caught, is something that will change how you think about eating fish.

The former CEO of Aspire Public Schools, Willcox is now helping charter schools finance facilities with Strategic Growth Partners applying lessons from the housing sector.

Want more pictures of education types with fish? Here’s the largest collection in the world. Send me yours!

Mrs. Willcox is better at fishing than you:


June 1, 2017

The Teachers Unions Are Preparing For A SCOTUS Caused Rainy Day, Dogs In Schools, Whitmire On LA, Pensions, Math Crime, Bellwether Case Study, Tony Jack Profile, Remote Work And Online Schools, Defending Trump’s Higher Ed Plan, Voucher Confusion, Malls To Schools? More!

People ask, what does Bellwether do? Good question! A bunch of things to build capacity in the field including policy research and analysis, talent strategies, and strategic advising - here’s an example of that. 

With the court back at nine justices, the teachers unions are preparing for an adverse Supreme Court ruling along the lines of the Friedrichs case, which ended 4-4 after the death of Justice Scalia. My shorthand is that if you want to see how this is likely to play out then Wisconsin offers some real clues. Doom and gloom and elation from different quarters but isn’t it more likely the ruling will create opportunities and challenges for the sector? Seems this issue and the Chicago strike will be remembered as the two instrumental moments for the teachers unions this decade. The rest is noise.

I can get behind a trend of dogs in schools.

Whitmire gets behind the LA election. I think the narrative is more straightforward: Reformers did politics in LA – really did it, the blocking and tackling, money, messaging, all of it. And generally when they do that they win. Which is why the teachers unions spend an awful lot of effort trying to scare people off of that strategy.

Donald Trump and his team are being investigated by committees on Capitol Hill, the FBI, and a special prosecutor. It may all amount to nothing or may be truly historic, but it’s a huge headwind regardless. Other than narrow base pandering there is no political logic to the President’s budget request sufficient to get it through Congress and his economic policy is stalled. He’s causing chaos wherever he goes. And his health care plan, no small thing, is a political and substantive disaster. Yet somehow the education world remains panicked that the perennial boogeyman of school vouchers is just around the corner – even as voucher supporters themselves can’t even agree on a way forward. Here’s a headline that understates the situation.

Also, another reminder that most of what you’ve heard about vouchers (and 100 percent of the absolute it’s this or it’s that kind of statements) is probably wrong. Complicated issue with a lot of nuance and gray.

Meanwhile, here’s Jason Delisle and Alexander Holt with the case for the President’s student loan proposal.

Speaking about baseball, Joaquin Andujar who pitched for the Oakland A’s, Houston Astros, and the St. Louis Cardinals once remarked that, “There is one word in America that says it all, and that one word is, ‘You never know.’” Relevant today, because Jeb Bush is out of baseball.

“DeVos watch” begs the obvious question, “do I have to?”

Retail is under a lot of pressure but it seems like an opportunity for more space for charter schools, boot camps, training facilities and other educational functions at a time we need them.

Here’s a story about bribing officials to get business. It happens. Don’t do it. What makes this story interesting is that it’s about bribing officials at a pension fund – in New York as it happens. So it’s a reminder of two things that get lost in all the sloganeering about pensions. First, the bribes were from people at an investment fund. All the talk about how pension funds keep workers away from these awful capitalists obscures the fact that these funds invest – and pay fees to invest – with actual capitalists.  And that’s the second point. Pensions have pluses and minuses as a retirement vehicle – so do cash balance plans and 401(k)s. But it’s important to look at them and analyze them like that – as a retirement vehicle – rather than wrap them in all sorts of aspirational ideas they don’t (and can’t) live up to.

Also, via Matt Levine who tracks financial crimes so you don’t have to, here’s a math teacher who got heavy into fraud – using math:

“The reports that you showed us in the return, it was all fake?” the executive asked, referring to a batch of Hamilton tickets, according to the filing.

“No. Some of it was real and some of it was fake,” Nissen was quoted as saying. “The numbers are just all multiplied. It’s the real numbers, but multiplied.”

Thanks Common Core.

Here’s a look at political correctness – includes polling on the attitudes of college students and young people. This is a real issue and it’s unfortunate that Donald Trump with his reverse Midas touch and the “alt-right” has bastardized this conversation from an important one about liberal pluralism and individual rights into God knows what – essentially an ethos that saying racist and/or offensive things as frequently as possible for no real reason at all is somehow a pillar of free speech or something.

Megan McArdle seems right about what you lose if you work entirely remotely (full disclosure I work remotely some but I am writing this fully dressed at a desk). And there are some obvious parallels to the discussion about online schooling. But I’m not sure why this is so binary? A lot of offices – Bellwether amongst them – offers flexible scheduling but still maintains an office and encourages/requires live interaction with other humans. That, too, seems a parallel for a more flexible way of delivering education to some families who want something different.

Wallace on SEL and the infrastructure that is needed to make it real.

Tony Jack profile:

What he found is that colleges and universities, and society in general, tend to treat all low-income students the same. While reading articles for his Ph.D. in Harvard’s sociology department, Jack says the story — whether it was written by an anthropologist, economist, or sociologist — was always the same.

“If you’re poor and black, if you’re poor and Latino, if you’re poor and anything in college, you’ll have this experience. Period,” he says. “There was so little variation in talking about the experience of poor students. I didn’t see in the research what I saw at Amherst.”

So Jack did what made the most sense: He set out to change the research — and the national conversation around diversity in higher education.

Little spellerLong Train.