March 20, 2019

Vesting Periods Matter – A Lot. And Financial Models Are More Fun Than You Thought! Plus Rebecca Kantar, Haslam & Markell, Code.org PD, IDEA In Texas, More!

Tanya Skubiak on why financial models are so much cooler than you think!

Chad Aldeman on why teacher vesting periods matter – a lot.

More on Bellwether’s recent MSI report.

There are definitely political benefits to universal programs in terms of durability and support, but free college, as it’s generally proposed, is a giveaway to the wealthy. Surprised this dynamic isn’t discussed more.

This profile starts to capture the crazy genius of Rebecca Kantar and why you should pay attention to what she’s up to.

Via The 74, Bill Haslam and Jack Markell in conversation about education.

Code.org has PD opportunities for teachers. K-5 courses and middle and high school. Scholarships available.

Here’s a profile of IDEA Public Schools in Texas.*

Money.

*Bellwether client. GIF via Giphy


March 18, 2019

Pension Backloading, History In Georgia, College Scams And K-12’s Unremarkable Unfairness, Is The Opportunity Gap Closing? More…

Everyone appreciates that teacher pensions are backloaded – and some backloading arguably makes sense. But, I’d hazard a guess most people are unaware of the intensity of the backloading and what that means for retirement security for teachers. Chad Aldeman and Marisa Vong take a look at that in a new analysis. Here’s Ed Week on the analysis.

Bellwether’s Brandon Lewis on his history making friend:

We were all there to witness history in the making as my long-time friend Everton Blair was sworn in as the youngest school board member in Gwinnett County history. That night, he also became the first Black person to serve on the County’s board.

I talked with Matt Lewis about the college admissions scam and the education scene more generally for his Matt Lewis and the News podcast.

Derrell Bradford:

All of which brings up the question: If this behavior is so reprehensible at the college level, why is it completely acceptable in K-12 education across this country?

Rick Hess with a modest proposal for college admissions. Seems people don’t want to reckon with not only the unfairness of college admissions but also the pure randomness. Does anyone really think the next quartile of people who don’t get into a selective college wouldn’t probably be OK there, or thrive there?

Here’s Rick Hanushek and others with a deep dive on the opportunity gap:

Contrary to recent perceptions, we find the opportunity gap—that is, the relationship between socioeconomic status and achievement—has not grown over the past 50 years. But neither has it closed. Instead, the gap between the haves and have-nots has persisted.

Well regarded and well liked economist Alan Krueger has passed. Among impactful work on a range of issues he produced important education research, including work on this elite college question in the news now. Update: More here on a very tragic event.

Blair Braverman’s book was on the 2018 book list here, this story about how her Twitter followers are funding school projects in support of her Iditarod race is a good one:

This Nat’l Geo story…

In her notebook entry, Yelena Shevel, 10, reported that she likes going to the swimming pool and the shooting range equally. Mykhailo Deinikov, 8, wrote that he believes “it’s important to defend the homeland because it can be captured by the enemy very easily and we can be taken hostage and killed.” Yet he also wrote about his peacetime dream of becoming a fish researcher: “I do not want to become a soldier because it’s scary. I dream that there will be no more wars in the world.”

License to Kill.


Matt Lewis And The News

Matt Lewis is an interesting polymath journalist (we use him for some media trainings we do at Bellwether to increase the diversity of voices in the education conversation). He also has a fun podcast and now video. I sat down with him last week to discuss the college cheating scandal and the K-12 education scene.


March 15, 2019

Ocean State Governance, College Admission Scam, Birch Bayh, More!

Allison Crean Davis and Jason Weeby on education governance lessons from Rhode Island. 

Backstory on the FBI’s admissions investigation. And it’s useful to remember that there are poor parents in jail for committing fraud to get their children into better public school options – because they couldn’t afford to move to the neighborhoods with good schools and did not have choice options. In other words, yes the higher ed game is rigged in myriad ways, but the K-12 system is, too, it’s just done in such plain sight we’ve come to think of it as unremarkable. So unremarkable, in fact, that it’s some of the loudest voices against wealth inequality most vocally defending the education status quo on parent choice.

Are the teachers unions behind the recent protests? It depends.

And here’s what happens in a broken relationship. it’s suboptimal for schools to close for protests, it’s suboptimal to intimidate teachers for exercising their voice. But when everyone wants to amp stuff up instead of working it out here its where we are.

Even the mob questions U.S. education quality now:

Mr. Cali’s contacts with Italy were part of a broader trend in the 21st century of crime families importing Italian-born men, the law enforcement official said.

“They have what they believe are the old values, because the American-born kids don’t have the right stuff anymore,” the official said.

Birch Bayh has passed, played a role on Title IX among other issues.

Shame. 


Friday Fish Porn – Mr. Commodore

Fewer fish pictures in the winter but you can still get out, I had a good day on a river a few weeks ago.

Scott Roza, Marguerite Roza’s husband, was on the Provo River in Utah this week. If you don’t know her work, you should, amazing contributor in the sector.

For his part, Scott’s a great person to spend a day on the water with, I have, he fishes hard and is a lot of fun.

That’s true of the whole family. The Roza family are past Fish Porn fixtures. More of them here and here.

If you want a broader array of education types and education connected types with fish then click here and here.


March 14, 2019

POTUS Politics And Education, Education Lawsuits To Watch, Discipline, Cheating, More!

Jason Weeby on Indianapolis and Eight Nine? Cities.

New today: Really interesting work here from NACSA on charter authorizing.*

Laura Smith is an FBI agent by day, but she’s written one of the most interesting things on higher education and society to come along in a while. 

Keep an eye on this Montana Blaine case, significant no matter what action the SCOTUS takes. And keep an eye on this NYC lawsuit about high school admissions as well. 

Interesting op-ed on school discipline from a Queens politician. You hear a lot of this anecdotally but not a lot of space in the middle right now.’

What happened in Newark and what does it mean for Cory Booker? Dylan Scott of Vox on that. Joe Biden and busing, Jason Riley on that.

New TFA research.

Get your goat.

Who’s cheating who?

*My BW colleague Sara Mead is on their board, I’m on an advisory board, we’ve done consulting for them, so lots of overlap. Read it yourself to decide if it’s as interesting as I claim!


March 12, 2019

Bias! And Lessons From MSIs. Plus Charters, Teachers, And Hipsters All Look Alike…More!

Sara Mead on why curriculum and teacher quality are not either/ors. Max Marchitello and Justin Trinidad with a new analysis about lessons MSI’s can teach more generally about training teachers to work with diverse populations. Here’s Justin on the ed school faculty piece of that conversation.

Meanwhile, Brookings asks if the teaching force is becoming more diverse?

This college admissions scam is something. Good reminder that even schools that claim not to care about athletics do.  Good reminder about…well about a lot of things.

Rick Hess returns to a familiar topic for him, the education sector is biased left. This time it’s with Jay Greene and looks a political giving from ed types. You probably already heard about it on Twitter.

The study design has some serious limitations – it’s only federal giving, which is only tracked above certain amount thresholds, it looks at that giving over time but only a snapshot of who foundations support, doesn’t look at for-profit educational firms and companies, doesn’t look comprehensively at state based organizations  (which are more ideologically diverse) and business groups and others, and most importantly the heterodoxy/amount of viewpoint diversity of various organization is probably not well represented by political giving because people choose to give or not give for all sorts of reasons. In addition, there is no reason to assume that education types are any more likely to be single issue voters than others. So for instance someone could think that the Jeb Bushs, Brian Sandovals, and Bill Haslams of the world are good to work with on education policy but nonetheless not support them for office financially or otherwise for other reasons. This is the position a lot of Democratic education reformers find themselves in. On that note, it’s also impossible not to note the irony that many reformers who are quite left leaning in their politics – Don Hirsch, Howard Fuller for instance – are nonetheless constantly identified as right wing. The politics of this sector are bananas. 

All that said, while this study seems set up to provide the bleakest possible take, it’s silly to deny that this issue of ideological homogeneity is a real phenomenon in our sector. Of course it is. It profoundly affects how we think about the range of available policy choices among other things – and is one reason a Hirsch or Fuller can seem right wing, to a hammer everything’s a nail. Even accounting for the limits of the analysis the figures in the report are startling. Likewise, even accounting for some curious methodological choices that excluded some groups that have received Gates money and that seem likely to lean more R, I’d be amazed if there is even rough parity with broader demographics. It’s a problem and while on the one hand schools are inherently political creations and always have been (just ask Socrates) to the extent partisanship and inflexible ideologies infuse the sector it is an issue given the diversity of the public pubic schools serve, and as on other issues of diversity one the sector, should seek to do better on.

On this particular aspect of diversity Bellwether does more than most, has some internal systems to try to check this, and we are generally somewhat unique in our approach and priority on this – it was refreshing to see some folks point that out unsolicited on Twitter last week given that our approach to this carries also real costs because it’s such a polarized time – but we have work to do, too. In any event, when the dust settles I assume that this will result in some new grant money for some right-leaning groups and genuine heterodoxy will continue to remain homeless because it’s out of fashion right now on the left and on the right. 

Bottom line: Two things true at once, some problems with this analysis but also some problems with ideological diversity in the education sector and the ed reform part of that sector.

Here’s Beth Hawkins on the report.

Elsewhere in Rick Hess, he wants an executive order from the president on campus free speech and makes the case here. Free speech and academic freedom are real issues, but an EO seems like a deliberately politically charged way to get at it and exactly the kind of executive overreach/potential for unintended consequences people were concerned about with the previous president.

“It’s all about the kids” is a throwaway line but Tim Daly stops to ask some hard questions about New York. 

If you’re not in Austin here’s an interesting discussion on school choice and race and how wokeness seems to stop at the schoolhouse realtor’s door. Some history, too.

Steve Lopez on charter schools in LA. 

A Detroit principal on school improvement:

My children were in private school. I pulled my children from private school because I felt DEA could match any private school education.

Wondering what’s working and what’s not in Denver? Start here. 

Cami Anderson talks with Christy Coleman.

Guys, you are not going to believe this. Turns out it’s not just curriculum.

Guns in schools – and probably not what you think.

Today in teacher voice. 

Colleges don’t recruit as much in rural communities, and it shows. You hear compelling stories about this from rural college students and less compelling interest from a lot of college administrators.

The courts matter. 

Hipsters all look alike. And there is science on it.

True Colors.


March 6, 2019

Head Start Lessons, Grade Level Debate, Discipline Debate, New Mexico Debate, Janus Fallout, More!

Ashley LiBetti on Elizabeth Warren and Head Start – and Head Start lessons. The lessons are drawn from this new Bellwether analysis of leading Head Start programs and the lessons they offer. Well worth your time.

Janus fallout.

At Bellwether we do some work with New Classrooms Teach to One and we also have a lot of concerns about the equity implications of walking back the emphasis on grade level standards but this is an important issue to discuss because it’s not straightforward and there are real tradeoffs. It’s possible they are canaries. Michael Horn on all that in Forbes. 

Just in time for the primaries! In case you were worried the discipline debate was going to quiet down, Max Eden has a book coming this summer with the father one of the students killed in Parkland. Will make a splash and presumably it’s going to advance this story and this debate, which is really the crux of the differing approaches:

[Broward School Sup’t] Runcie disputes that the discipline matrix is too soft on kids.

“In many ways, it’s tougher because it calls for mandatory types of interventions,” he said. For example, it used to be that a student suspended for vandalism would be sitting at home or wandering the streets, he said. Now they are assigned to an intense program through Promise to help correct their behavior

But Fitzgerald, the former Sunrise Middle school teacher, thinks discipline has become lax.

“A lot of principals are afraid,” she said. “You don’t report theft because reporting it makes your school look dangerous.

“There are a lot of things going on in the school that are being overlooked. Only when things are obvious and egregious will they arrest the child.”

ED v. New Mexico?

Keeping kids safe seems like a reasonable minimal standard for schools everyone should be able to agree on.

Safe bet you won’t see The Producers in Sioux Falls next year.

More girls playing ice hockey.

Just a Girl. 

Posted on Mar 6, 2019 @ 4:28pm

March 5, 2019

School Choice! Pensions, Bellwether Is Hiring, 100 For Emma, $23 Billion From EdBuild, Class Dojo, 21st Century Skills….More…

We’re hiring at Bellwether for a pension analyst, great role on an important issue. We just released our annual report so you can learn a little more about how we do things.

Lynne Graziano on Rebecca Lee Crumpler.

What would happen if a state stopped enrolling new teachers in its pension plan? Kirsten Schmitz on Alaska.

Chad Aldeman on how Boston is a microcosm for U.S. education trends.

Big school choice announcement from the Trump Administration (the funds could be used for activities beyond school choice but that’s the headliner). Ordinarily, and historically, when multiple choice options are in play it’s generally good news for public charter schools. Some of the earliest charter laws passed as a third way compromise in the face of real pressure for school vouchers and that dynamic still shows.

In this case, however, it’s sort of an open secret that President Trump doesn’t care much about education and that even within his administration there are disagreements about the merits of the tax credit policy. What’s more, it’s hard to see an action forcing mechanism to make the threat of this legislation credible or to see a Democratic House acting on it. In normal political times you’d never discount a presidential priority but this isn’t a priority and these are not normal times with a president who can stay on any message for long.  Counterfactual: It would have been fascinating to see a serious school choice plan from the administration – focused on blue cities and with real money behind it. This is not that plan and why it’s more likely to be a good Democratic talking point more than much else. Meanwhile, the Trump branding is not helpful for school choice more generally but is a boon for the teachers unions.  Good times.

The Economist on broader teacher strike dynamics. More pension debate in Kentucky. About two-thirds of Kentucky teachers get some pension, and more than 40 percent of Kentucky teachers reach the normal retirement age in the profession – far higher than most other states. (Although, like some other states, the situation is getting worse for new teachers as a way to shore up the pension plan).

Pretty good CA strike summary here.

Charter schools and Overton Windows:

In introducing the bills now, O’Donnell and the co-authors may be moving ahead of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, whom Newsom has asked to create a panel of experts to look at the financial effect and other impacts of charter schools. Newsom was responding to the Los Angeles Unified school board’s request for a moratorium on new charters in Los Angeles while the state considers changes to the state charter law. The as yet unnamed commission is to recommend its changes by July 1.

Class Dojo is evolving.

Here are two good Mardi Gras stories with an education flavor to them.

21st Century Skills!

Periodically students decide not to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and school officials do stupid stuff like escalate the situation and have them arrested. And then everyone gets a soap box. What’s amazing, though, is that there is – literally as the kids say – Supreme Court precedent on this. And it’s not recent. Kids don’t have to stand. That this is even a thing is a good reminder of the sprawling nature of our educaiton system.

Are funders souring on K-12?

Another charter boarding school in D.C.

Either way I lose.


February 26, 2019

Bellwether On Boston, WVA, Civics, More…

New Bellwether analysis of Boston out today.

An Uneven Path: Student Achievement in Boston Public Schools 2007-2017 finds that Boston students outperform their peers in other cities on performance tests, but that a decade of tight budgets, aging facilities, and persistent achievement gaps in the city have narrowed Boston’s lead over its peers.

The paper looks at testing and graduation data, supplemented by interviews with key education stakeholders across the city, to examine policies and issues that provide context for the district performance. The authors find that Boston has made progress in some key areas over the last decade — such as high school graduation, college completion and pre-K enrollment. Boston also typically ranks among the top large urban districts in the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ Trial Urban District Assessment, although scores have plateaued or even declined in recent years.

Kelly Robson on last week’s homeless news and the broader implications.

Today in civics. Here’s a good story.

Today in oops.

Southern nights.