May 24, 2017

Aldeman V. Weingarten On Pension Policy Barely Goes Past Round 1, Pink Eagles Rule, School Transportation, Personalized Cautions, Tenure Debates, Early Childhood Hiring, Interesting Lawsuits, Knuckleballers And More!

The American Federation of Teachers responded to Chad Aldeman and Kelly Robson’s recent pension analysis. Their response, with Chad’s annotated response to it, can be found here. It’s worth reading if you follow this debate and worth reflecting on why the AFT is so out of alignment with what’s best for teachers here? They are – literally as the kids say – supporting policies that make it harder for teachers to earn retirement benefits. Also worth pointing out that if you come after Chad you probably want to have your facts straight first, but you probably already knew this. Somehow the AFT staff didn’t.

Andrew Rayner on a Chicago firing and his own experience at a Chicago private school. 

School Transportation News takes a look at the recent Bellwether school transportation analysis. Also, school buses and school attendance.

Go Pink Eagles!

Cynthia Tucker on the charter school debate. Trigger warning: If you’re good with magnets for your kids but down on charters for others don’t read this, it will make you feel all awkward.  Or it probably won’t but should.

Credit where it’s due. President Trump has united much of the education community – in opposition to his budget request for the next fiscal year. Betsy DeVos will be on the Hill defending it today in what should be an interesting hearing. A lot of organized pushback already. Thankfully, even with unified Republican control of Congress and the executive branch you’re more likely to get hit by a meteor than see that budget enacted. But it still matters because there are a lot of important government services on the block and it shows that Trump is pivoting from a broad based populist appeal to a more narrow focus on what’s good for America’s super-wealthy. That will have implications.

Smart caution on personalized learning from Matt Barnum that includes this gem:

“What I see … is people imagining that if we just design the school with new models we will be able to satisfy the needs of the future,” said Ben Riley, head of the group Deans for Impact and former New Schools staff member. “The graveyard of people thinking they could successfully predict the future and then finding out that they were wrong about that has a lot of tombstones.”

Personalized has a lot of promise but it’s hard to miss some of the same problems (lack of focus on what it means for equity, capacity of the system to deliver quality at scale, what we actually know about learning, etc..etc…) being wished away here. And the really good providers are very intentional about how they do things. What’s different this time, it seems to me, is even more people urging caution. It’s unclear though the difference that will make.

Chester Finn says teacher tenure is on its way out in higher education and K-12. It does seem that K-12 could use some reform to how it approaches tenure – and human resources / human capital more generally. But I’m more skeptical of jettisoning it for higher education where academic freedom is a much greater concern (K-12 teachers don’t have the same academic freedom and operate in a more directed environment) and is being threatened in some cases today. Yes, it would be helpful if professors didn’t use academic freedom as a get out of jail free card to say whatever crazy thing you want – e.g. holocaust denying – but it’s an important safeguard and I’ll trade some inefficiency for free inquiry.

Interesting though not entirely surprising findings on experience and early-childhood hiring. Racial bias but also adverse effects of experience.

Today in interesting lawsuits.   2017 Fishman Prize winners. Urban Institute relaunching its education program.

Can this knuckleballer follow in the footsteps of Jacoby Ellsbury and Chris Davis?

Posted on May 24, 2017 @ 10:25am

May 22, 2017

Must-Read Bradford, Pension Data And Pension Practice, Williams Gets Personal, How We Don’t Learn, School Debates, Prison Ed Reform, Private School Transcripts, Snakes, More!

Last week Chad Aldeman and Kelly Robson published an analysis showing that teacher pensions don’t work very well for teachers. How could they tell? They actual data from the pension funds themselves – as Chad explains more here.  And using pension data Chad also takes a look at salary bumps and teacher retention in this blog post.

Marnie Kaplan dissents on the idea that parental satisfaction is a good enough indicator for the effectiveness of school choice plans.

President Trump’s budget lands tomorrow. It may actually be as bad as you’ve heard.

Cindi Wiliams (and her husband Tony) get personal about their educational experience and a higher ed opportunity. 

This is must-reading, especially for anyone under 30. Derrell Bradford calls out the ed scene on its politics and social-first approach and makes the key point that if you like the Obama-era on education then you can’t ignore what brought it about.

Education reform isn’t about how you may or may not feel at cocktail parties or your own political or personal proclivities. It is about kids dying civic and physical deaths in schools that don’t work for them. Progress, real progress, never feels good. And it’s always uncomfortable, because change is uncomfortable, even when it’s for the better.

The role of charter policy in the recent LA School Board election.

College Advising Corps in The Times.

Recently we discussed the new idea for a private high school transcripts. Checker Finn, not a fan, takes deeper look at that here.

Kevin Carey on William Sanders and his impact.  RCE’s Jessica Towhey on Hanna Skandera and her’s.

The leader of education reform efforts at the Bureau of Prisons is out.

ExcelInEd with a handy landscape maps of competency-based initiatives.

Dan Willingham pushes back on the idea that Google means we don’t have to learn things. It is obviously deeply ironic how in love with workarounds to education the education field is in love with – doubly so when those workarounds are at odds with research evidence about how people learn. Related: Five myths from Ulrich Boser’s new book on learning.

It’s going to be easier to find room in that lazy river at the University of Missouri ($).

Here’s a deep dive on one school situation in Marin, CA. And here’s a dress-code debate from Massachusetts.

Florida man, large snake.

May 18, 2017

Head Start, Chicago Finance, Scholarship Tax Credits, DeVos Debate, Bradford On The Suburban Strategy, BASIS, Deer, More!

Sara Mead on 50 years of Head Start. Max Marchitello thinks Illinois Governor Rauner’s Chicago school finance strategy isn’t cricket. Jason Weeby wants more innovation talk from Betsy DeVos.

I wrote in U.S. News that while the for-profit charter sector isn’t going to win any awards for excellence right now banning those schools is not the solution. Earlier this week in The 74 I asked why Betsy DeVos was avoiding real questions.  And here’s a defense of Betsy DeVos.

Kate Stringer on BASIS – the successful and controversial school operator. It’s definitely not a model for everyone – kids or adults – and points up some hard but essential questions about how to balance school diversity, excellence, and equity.

Derrell Bradford on whether the charter sector needs a suburban strategy to add some ballast to its politics. I asked a similar question recently. It’s an issue worth discussing both on the merit but also to ensure that charters don’t lose an equity focus.

More concern that personalized learning may be on a path to being anything but.

Not confirmed, but apparently the Trump administration is cutting education programs on the discretionary side of the budget while putting forward a tax-credit proposal on vouchers as soon as next week. Sure, why stop at one bad policy idea when two will do? Worth reflecting on this quote in The Times story about the problems with poorly-designed scholarship tax credit programs:

“We wouldn’t be having this discussion if we just funded kids to go wherever works for them,” said Robert Enlow, the president of EdChoice, a group that supports private school choice. “This is just trying to keep a basic power structure that doesn’t work best for them.”

Don’t miss Willard Fair on school choice and why he’s been a supporter for so long.

Low prices, and deer tackling, all the time.

May 17, 2017

Should We Ban For-Profit Charter Schools?

Should we ban for-profit charter schools? Proponents and opponents are quick with a yes or no.   And a lot of them really are lousy. But it’s a more complicated question than it seems. I look at that in U.S. News & World Report today:

Marshall Tuck, a candidate for state superintendent in California, grabbed headlines in late April when he announced his opposition to for-profit charter schools. The move cut against type because Tuck made his name as the successful operator of a well-regarded network of nonprofit charter schools. It’s a smart political move – for-profit charter schools are barely more popular than cancer among the education crowd. So it will be at least a little harder to paint Tuck as a zealot – though that won’t stop his detractors from trying. But is it good policy? That’s a more complicated question.

While only about 16 percent of charter schools across the country are operated by for-profit entities that figure is higher in a few states…

Profit or not, you can read the entire thing for free by clicking here. Rather than reading you can skip right to telling me why I’m wrong on Twitter @arotherham.

Crying Wolf On Public Ed Threats, DeVos In The Desert, LA School Board Election, Public Pressuring Private, Equity Data, Long Cats, More!

I’m not sold on social impact bonds but Phil Burgoyne-Allen makes a good case for a school transportation application. Max Marchitello on how Rodriguez is the air school finance debates breathe.

Scroll down main page for edujobs.

Here’s a write-up on DeVos in the desert. My take on the Betsy Bunker here.

This GreatSchools report is sobering but must-reading. The equity problems are real and too often minimized in the public and political debate about schools.

The pro-charter side won the slugfest in Los Angeles. Make no mistake, both sides had enough resources to get their messages out. The takeaway here (a) is that the reform side played hardball in a way they usually don’t (and if you think the teachers unions don’t play hardball, get real) and (b) the clout of the unions is declining in cities like LA. We’ll see what that portends on the politics but the kicker of the LAT account sets up what’s next on the issues:

Whatever their allegiance, the winners of the board seats will confront an ocean of challenges, including the seemingly inevitable growth of charters and the strain that places on the district’s budget and its ability to serve students at its own schools.

Here’s an interesting take on one dynamic in LA.

Today at Yale, it’s Yelp. On the Hill, actual legislation! Is CTE rolling again? Nuance and debate about school vouchers in Milwaukee.  A look at pre-K leadership.

OK, it turns out all those times people said public education was facing a mortal threat that wasn’t really true. They were just trying to scare us. Also, Trump makes advocacy complicated and might actually be a threat to public education (among many other things).

Here’s an interesting tension – public charter schools, which are free, are pressuring Catholic schools in a lot of cities. Now, small private colleges are speaking up saying the free tuition ideas increasingly popular with state policymakers will harm them.

More on the CZI – College Board personalized pathways project the previous post here mentioned.

Really long cat.

May 16, 2017

Edujob: Director of Human Resources And Operations @ National Alliance For Public Charter Schools

Here’s a great job for an ops/hr person at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Good way to apply those skills to an education mission. From the job posting:

Reporting to the Sr. Director of Operations, and working closely with the Chief of Staff and CEO, the Director will direct the organization’s operation functions including HR, IT, and office operations and design and implement new processes to further increase staff satisfaction, collaboration, and productivity.

You can learn more and learn how to apply here.

Posted on May 16, 2017 @ 2:48pm

Teacher Pensions- Behind The Rhetoric, In The Betsy Bunker, Rhames On The Year Since The Panic, CZI & College Board Collaborate, More!

The hot debate over teacher pensions centers on phony issues – “gold-plated” pensions versus taxpayers or greedy hedge fund managers versus teachers. In fact, the real problem is that today’s teacher pensions don’t work very well for actual teachers. Chad Aldeman and Kelly Robson with more on that.

In The 74 I took a look at the Betsy DeVos bunker approach to engagement with the field she is now helping to lead.

Marilyn Rhames on a year since last year’s New Schools Panic at the Pondiscio.

Chan-Zuckerburg collaborating with College Board on personalized learning pathways for post-secondary prep. A few reasons this matters. Big bet from CZI, first really big one I’m aware of. And, it further rounds out the College Board’s pivot from just being a test provider to being an organization that is “clearing a path” for young people as its CEO David Coleman likes to say.

Angaleena Presley’s new album, “Wrangled” is out. Too good for radio so check her out.

DeVos Should Come Off Script

Betsy DeVos isn’t out in public a lot – and when she is it’s pretty scripted stuff. That’s hurting her politically, it’s not good for the agency she leads, but more than that it’s not good for our field. I take a look at that in The 74 this morning.

…As it turned out, President Bush agreed. One morning my cell phone rang, and he was on the other end, calling from his car and ready to talk about No Child Left Behind and education politics…

…I thought of this episode the other day listening to accounts of Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s beleaguered education secretary, doing yet another staged event. This time it was an ed tech conference with a friendly interviewer and largely friendly audience. Still, the reviews from her friends and sympathizers were as harsh as the views of her critics…

You can read the entire column here.  I live on both sides of the notepad, so I ask myself questions all the time. But you can tweet me your questions for DeVos @arotherham.

Posted on May 16, 2017 @ 9:22am

May 15, 2017

Bankert On Rahm’s Education Plan, Vouchers, Choice, The Achievement Puzzle, Plus Rock Moms! More!

Lina Bankert takes a look at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s post-secondary plan idea. While critics attacked it as being too bold, Bankert says the problem is that it’s not bold enough:

The detractors mostly miss the point — and inadvertently make Emanuel’s point about the absurdly low expectations we have for poor and minority students in Chicago. But while the mayor’s plan is well-intentioned, because it sends a clear message to students that high school graduation is not the end of their education, it ignores the reality that too many postsecondary institutions are fundamentally unprepared to see students, especially first-generation college-goers, through to a degree. That problem includes the schools Chicago students are most likely to attend and reveals a weak underbelly to the mayor’s vision.

Elsewhere in mayors, The New York Times takes a look at Mayor de Blasio’s new education idea.  Or, rather, the Times runs some talking points about it. Readers are left to speculate on actual performance data for the mayor’s ideas, other ideas like charters in New York City, or what’s happening in the city’s school’s in general. They did find enough real estate for a graf with a swipe at Trump.

Everyone’s a critic! Here’s Jeb Bush on The Times’ Florida voucher coverage:

Nor can I believe that in all the Times’s reporting, not one parent could be found whose child is flourishing in a McKay school.

Here’s an in-depth and hysterical-free look at how vouchers are playing out in Indiana.

Don’t miss this Nick Ehrmann article on the puzzle of underachievement. And The Times takes a look at “free” college lessons.

Jay Mathews looks at the question of whether ultra-rigorous schools – in this case charter schools – are a good idea. Seems to me the answer is obviously yes, it provides a public option for parents and more customization for kids. And few crusade against public magnets and other similar options so this is really a charter debate, not a what’s good for kids argument. But, and this seems like the harder question, how do we systemically approach education in a city or elsewhere to make sure all students have quality options and make sure that there is not simply a flow of students to less demanding options and lower-quality options? That’s a problem a lot of places are still struggling with – especially as charter schooling grows.

Entitlement spending or a lack of entitlement reform or a lack of taxes, depending on your perspective, is creating a squeeze play on a variety of other programs that matter to Americans.

Via ECS here’s a handy overview of charter accountability in the ESSA era.

A day late: Rock star moms via one Virginia teacher (and rock mom).

May 12, 2017

Do Teacher Pensions Reduce Turnover? What’s Happening In LA? What Are Psych Majors Up To? Race And Campus, Online Report Cards, More!

Kate Pennington remains unconvinced on CA’s teacher tax bill. Among the things “everybody knows” is that teacher pensions reduce teacher turnover. Actual evidence suggests a more complicated tale. Kirsten Schmitz with more via Bellwether’s project.

Here’s a great look at CTE and efforts to modernize it. But it’s a mistake to assume that all old credentials are dead ends or that all new ones are great and in-demand. Because it makes for a great press release a lot of states have focused on expanding the number of industry certifications with little or no attention to the quality of those certifications or demand for them in the market. The reason is obvious: if you’re a governor it’s more fun to say you’ve done a bunch of new ones than just some.  As is often the case, the action is in the details not the broad categories.

Look behind LA’s expensive and contentious school board race. And also in CA, why do all these rich white reformers want to reform teacher tenure anyway?

“How to” guide to building online report cards.

If you major in psych you might not be doing it for too long…that and more from an interesting Hamilton Project analysis.

Addressing race on campus. The Washington Post ed board v. Eugene Volokh.

Competency-based education has a lot of promise but this idea to do away with high school transcripts at the most elite private schools in the country smacks of a way to maintain exclusivity and elite credentials at a time of greater transparency.

In the bad old days state legislators and other politicians said stupid stuff all the time but no one really noticed. Today, with social and viral media, well, here’s an ugly idea from one Oklahoma legislator.

Bear locks itself in car, then uses horn to get let out.

May 10, 2017

TopSheet! Kang On Immigration, Wagner On Love, Petrilli On Hess, Nathan On Charters, Plus Charter Inequities, LIFO, First Gen Scholarships In OH, Campus Life, More!

Teacher memories via Bellwether. 

Good news for everyone freaked about a Trump school choice bill or tax credit plan – or much of Trump’s agenda for that matter. This Comey firing makes meaningful legislation more unlikely. I suspect the results of an anonymous poll of education sector special interests asking if they preferred constitutional crisis to vouchers might be horrifying.

Mark Walsh writes up TopSheet and calls me old. If you missed it yesterday TopSheet is a new daily news curator and aggregator. Morning newsletter with highlights and main page with curated news.

Powerful from Hanseul Kang on immigration status and schools. Ken Wagner’s state of the state of education speech in Rhode Island. Somewhat different notes that what you hear in some of the hype about Rhode Island. Tough fiscal times in Puerto Rico.

Mike Petrilli pushes back on Rick Hess.

Google – Apple – and Amazon battling for the school market.

Joe Nathan, an important voice in the charter sector since it’s earliest days, pushes back on tests in charter school evaluations and calls for accountability innovation.

New analysis on charter school funding inequities from University of Arkansas. Important context in the charter debate.  We took a look at this a few years ago at Bellwether.

Today in unfired government officials. Also this happened.

If only editorial boards voted we wouldn’t be having a debate about LIFO.

Interesting early look at instructor effectiveness in higher education. Conor Friedersdorf on social media and campus life.  Ohio town thinking about creating scholarships for first-gen students.

Creepy clown house.

May 9, 2017

Introducing TopSheet

What you get here at Eduwonk is articles, studies, and commentary that’s come across my desk and I found interesting for one reason or another. And I throw in content, context, and/or candid commentary. Also job postings on interesting education sector opportunities. Plus fish. It’s a model that’s proven inexplicably popular over the years. Eduwonk’s not systemic, comprehensive, or always tied to the top news of the day though.

For that you need a reliable curator and aggregator of the news and that’s why we’re launching TopSheet to offer the same kind of information curation and aggregation Emmeline Zhao and I did at RealClearEducation for three years. The team behind TopSheet is me, Emmeline, and the team at The 74. We’re doing it because people need a resource like this in their work,  and we want one, too. So it’s like Hair Club for Men – we’re not only the operators, we’re members!

TopSheet gives you the top news, important stuff you may have missed in the fray, and some of the big picture context driving education news. It’s non-partisan and non-ideological. Our avowed bias is toward answering the question, “what news do decisionmakers in this sector need to know is happening today?” Not what news and analysis do we like, or personally agree with, or what’s the most clicky nonsense going on. I encourage you to check it out and consider making the page and the newsletter a part of your morning routine. 

Learn more and sign up for the daily morning newsletter with Topsheet’s highlights right here. 

May 8, 2017

Hugh Price Book Excerpt, Camera On District Opt-Out, Mead On When You Spend, More!

Sara Mead points out we should think about the when of spending education dollars just like we focus on the where. Hailly Korman challenges educators to lead on educating adjudicated youth.

Last week Bellwether released an analysis on school transportation. You can watch an event discussing some of the issues here.

I talked with Pearson’s CEO about the steps they’re taking to try to make the company more agile. And I wrote about education data and education culture for USN.

Lauren Camera on the sleeper issue of school district secession.

Hugh Price book excerpt:

Such were—and remain—the obstacles facing many minority students who are sailing through school. Just imagine the impediments confronting youngsters who are perfectly bright, or even middle of the pack, yet whose parents are not knowledgeable or confident enough to navigate the school system on their behalf. These millions more minds are a terrible thing for society to waste.

For whites who do not understand what African-Americans mean when we rail against institutional racism, I offer these examples as evidence. This is the subtle and malicious way we often are held back behind the scenes.

What school district innovation can look like.

Freeman Hrabowski profile.

Buritto degrees. Minaj scholarships. Crowdsourcing teacher voice via Reddit.


Posted on May 8, 2017 @ 4:00pm

May 5, 2017

Pearson News

Pearson made news today and saw its stock rise* after announcing, among other things, that the company was going to explore selling or restructuring its U.S. print publishing business.

in an exclusive interview after the shareholder meeting, I spoke with Pearson CEO John Fallon by phone about the U.S. market and he made a few relevant points.

In particular, he said that print is a “much less significant” part of the Pearson business than it was just a few years ago. And Fallon reiterated that it’s a place where the transition to digital has been difficult. It’s  ”where digital transition is most challenging, it’s still textbook led, print workbook led business” he said.

I asked if this was the result of either the efficacy review work Pearson is undertaking across its products or the toxic political environment the company faces in the U.S. market. Fallon said that the decision was not based either on the efficacy review or the company’s branding and image problems in the United States, but said that where relevant the efficacy work would inform any decisions about the courseware business.

He also said that this was the only part of the company’s U.S. portfolio they were looking at like this and that all options – outright sale, joint venture, partnership, similar options – were on the table. We’re “not prejudging” he said.

Fallon was most animated about the digital side of the work, what he described as “record level’ investment in digital, the online education business, and particularly its expansion in higher education. And he was excited about what this meant for the company’s ability to lead on providing teachers with tools that teachers can use and ways the company can interact more effectively with teachers in their work.

In terms of everyone’s favorite issue to argue about, testing, Fallon made point of saying this digital work included better integration of formative and summative assessment tools and assessment that is better and lighter touch and helps teachers better manage learning progression.

In the next 3-5 years you will see really beneficial change start to happen at scale, Fallon predicted.

*I don’t trade in education stocks. A few years ago Pearson paid me to keynote a conference.

May 4, 2017

Congratulations Kati Haycock, Health Care And Schools, Pell Students And College Going, ECE In CT, Martin Goes Global, LIFO Suit Sent Packing, Test Security, More!

You can follow me on Twitter here @arotherham. And you can get Eduwonk in your email box each day by signing up on the right.

Earlier this week I took a look at data in K-12 schools for US News. And Bellwether released an analysis of education transportation. (pdf) Quick recap of that event here. Interesting issue because all the trade-offs are complicated.

Kati Haycock retired yesterday. Enormous impact from her work at Ed Trust. And Sweet Honey in the Rock played the retirement party. Not quite some wedding band excited to get a weeknight gig…

The health care bill in Congress could have a fiscal impact on schools. There are some problems with Medicaid reimbursement and schools but this would be a problematic fix. Related, this SCOTUS case from earlier this year. 

Today in meritocracy: Could colleges take a lot more Pell students? Georgetown Center on Education And the Workforce takes a look. A lot of interesting data points in this analysis.

Nathan Martin on improving global education:

However, many effective and innovative approaches operate at a small scale. While many think education has an innovation problem, it may be that it has an intelligence problem. New and promising practices fail to be taken up at scale or in policy. Tools for funding and collaboration could better support these efforts to increase their impact.

This is appalling.

Early-childhood education lessons. LIFO suit tossed in New Jersey because plaintiffs uninjured yet.  Diverse by design private school coming.

Old school test security issues:

“Apparently one of the students had somehow gotten up into the ceiling of the building. It’s a drop down ceiling over these faculty instruction offices and had crawled through that open area and had dropped down into the faculty instructor’s office in order to try and steal a test,” he said.

Posted on May 4, 2017 @ 3:11pm

May 2, 2017

Education Data And GPS

On this date in 2000 President Clinton opened up the GPS system by ending the selective degradation of signals to non-military users. You’ll never believe what happened next. Actually, you will. Think about it the next time you get in an Uber or use Google Maps.

Yet that sort of revolution hasn’t yet been fully realized in the education sector – where we arguably had a similar grain size shift the following year. I look at why not in a U.S. News & World Report column today:

Seventeen years ago, a few minutes after midnight on May 2, 2000, the United States government ended a policy of intentionally degrading GPS signals or making them “selectively available” to almost anyone except military applications. With one policy decision by President Bill Clinton, the accuracy of GPS for all users went from 50-100 meters off to 20 meters or better with the flick of a switch. Innovation took off, businesses were launched and, as anyone who uses Uber or Google Maps knows, GPS today is accurate to a few meters and a part of every smart phone.

The GPS change was basically about grain size. As the GPS grain size got smaller, the potential for GPS-powered applications took off. Whether for navigation, safety or just convenience, the smaller grain size made a variety of solutions possible. 

Not long after Clinton’s GPS decision, education data underwent its own grain size shift…

You don’t need GPS to find the column. (Sorry). Just click right here.

Miles To Go: School Transportation For The 21st Century

C-1DGz_XoAATNkk.jpg-largeWe’re releasing a new analysis on school transportation today. Looks at the big picture issues of school transportation, promising forward-looking ideas, and the challenges.

We held an event this morning at Union Station in Washington to release it. It featured a discussion with practitioners and analysts from Florida, Massachusetts, Idaho, and Washington. (And attendees were driven to work afterwards in this school bus to the right).

You can find the paper here (pdf). Transportation is a foundational education issue that touches on the educational experience of schools, efficiency concerns for school districts, educational choice, and the environment. So a lot going on.

From the paper:

The image emerging from our work is grim. School districts struggle to provide efficient service in the face of escalating costs and increasingly complex education systems where more and more students attend schools outside their neighborhoods. Stagnant state funding streams force districts either to sacrifice service quality and forego system upgrades or divert funds from other purposes. Federal and state regulations concerning student safety and special student populations’ educational rights are at odds with strategies to improve efficiency. All those competing priorities must be carefully balanced.

Factors such as a shortage of qualified bus drivers and fuel market volatility further complicate these matters. Also, districts have largely failed to adopt even basic technologies to improve data collection as well as operational and cost-efficiency, much less major overhauls, such as replacing diesel with alternative fuels.

To improve current school transportation systems, we recommend three types of innovations…

You can read the entire paper here.

May 1, 2017

Common Core Testing, US News Ranking, Duncan Talking, More!

Bonnie O’Keefe and I look at look at all the interstate testing consortia that are not three-ring circuses.

Elsewhere,  Smarter Balanced now partnering with U.C. Santa Cruz Silicon Valley Extension for its fiscal agency and ops. Meanwhile New Meridian will now maintain the PARCC assessment.  Headline from 2020? “Area man excited for opportunity to oversee testing consortia from spare bedroom.”

For a while one question about the two testing consortia has been whether PARCC ran into political trouble because of how it was organized and operationalized, the fact that red states were early adopters so the politics boomeranged faster, or some other reason that would catch up with SBAC or if something else was going on more PARCC-specific. Stay tuned!

The 74 checks-in with Arne Duncan about his new project.

Nat Malkus doesn’t like the US News high school rankings. He has two basic objections – who is to say “best” in the first place and that the focus on AP is too narrow. He’s not the first to raise either one. With the caveat that I’m hopelessly biased here because I’m a contributing editor at U.S. News and have been affiliated there for years and also helped design the rankings in the first place a decade ago, a few thoughts.

First, I get the “best” argument, but who knew they were so existential over there at AEI? At the core, here’s the thing: the high school that is best for your child is the high school that is best for your child. It’s hard to do a ranking of that. At best, it’s an interesting essay. And even rankings that are ostensibly objective run into problems. For instance by a bunch of measures the Washington Capitals are outplaying the Pittsburgh Penguins in their playoff series. Still, as you may have seen, the Pens are up two games to none in that series. No ranking is without its real world limitations.

You have to measure something in K-12 education and by eliminating schools with big achievement gaps and dropout problems and then focusing on AP and IB (although this year IB data were not available) you identify schools that are propelling students to college. Is that the only thing that matters? No. Is it one thing and something we can learn from in terms of some of the schools that are doing exceptionally well – yes. Malkus suggests that perhaps state systems might be more robust for parents. That’s an interesting idea, but the evidence from states as divergent as California to Virginia suggests otherwise.

Could U.S. News go broader? Perhaps if there was better comparable data across states.  And while I’d be keen to see or help design a ranking of high school CTE programs that’s not the project of these rankings right how.  Is “best” a marketing conceit to some extent. Of course. The U.S. News brand and rankings are widely used a across a range of fields beyond education. But the schools that pop on this list are pretty good and ones we should be discussing and learning from.

Public Impact and Education Cities on education quarterbacks as a governance strategy.  Choice and equity in Baltimore. PIE on state ESSA plans.

F-bombs and union drives. Check out Carl Anderson.

Posted on May 1, 2017 @ 12:50pm

April 27, 2017

The Underground Testing Consortia

1493240935_2790It’s almost like this is mostly politics…

“Everyone knows” that interstate testing consortia are a hopeless mess. Except, what if I told you there were a bunch operating without a lot of fanfare? It’s true! Bonnie O’Keefe and I look at that in The 74.

It’s one of those things “everyone knows”: Interstate testing consortia are doomed. Certainly, it’s been a rough few years for interstate testing groups. After 45 states initially signed up for either PARCC or Smarter Balanced assessments, aligned with the Common Core State Standards in math and reading, barely 20 states remain in those two high-profile consortia today.

Meanwhile, political battles over the tests have raged in state legislatures and boards of education, and testing has made headlines all over the country. Local control wins again, and anyone who wants a large-scale comparable and high-quality assessment should probably find another line of work.

But what if we told you there were other test consortia, flying under the radar of Common Core backlash, with as many or more states participating — including states that backed out of PARCC and Smarter Balanced?

Want to know more? You can read the entire thing right here.

April 26, 2017

Is The Trump EO A Big Nothing? Or A Stalking Horse? School Transportation, Drucker And Foreman, Kress Will Fight All Comers On NCLB, Kane On Intrastate Work, School Integration, Innovation, Grit, More!

This event on school transportation next week will be interesting and fun! Join us and we’ll drive you back to your office on a yellow school bus! Really.

U.S. News high school rankings are out.

Romy Drucker talks with James Foreman Jr. about his new book. 

I haven’t seen the text of this EO today. It may well be a political stunt and a fake solution to a fake problem. That’s the CW on it. But it could also be a backdoor way/groundwork laying to do things like change the Office of Civil Rights. And sometimes these things take on a life of their own, think Nation at Risk. So I’d keep an eye on it.

When he’s not being outraged about Texas, Sandy Kress is offering to fight all comers on NCLB accountability. He’s not wrong. There was a lot more flexibility in the NCLB accountability structure than the chattering class appreciates, although because the 2001 law was so long in being overhauled it became awfully shopworn and that created real issues for states. But here’s the basic problem: State’s didn’t take advantage of NCLB flexibility mostly because they didn’t want to. (I say mostly because there are exceptions here).  And it was easy to blame inaction on NCLB. Now, we have a new law, that has loads of flexibility (too much people with a civil rights orientation would argue). And yet, at least so far, states aren’t really taking advantage of that either. So not a lot will happen and we’ll blame Trump, or DeVos, or funding, or something, and we’ll have a big argument about that and lots of pixels will be spilled. But underneath all that is an ongoing political and capacity problem no one has figured out how to solve.

Also in federal policy, with more school choice support from Washington a possibility, fault lines breaking out even among those who support it.

Tom Kane on intrastate collaboration.

Here’s a long and interesting article in The Atlantic that asks, “When given the chance, will wealthy parents ever choose to desegregate schools?” Worth reading, but if you’re in a rush I’ll save you some time.  If you’re asking, sometimes, for various reasons and under the right circumstances, then yes. If you’re asking systemically at scale and absent real changes in how we deliver public education (specifically a lot more good schools to choose from), then no.  Here’s one way to think about it: People choosing school for their kids are humans. Humans generally act of out of self-interest. So in education if we make it in people’s self-interest to choose schools that are more integrated, by providing more quality options like that, then they will. Right now we’re (the public education establishment writ large) not doing that and, just for good measure, we’re antagonizing people politically about it, too. Not surprisingly it’s not going very well.

Addressing under-matching and college completion for Hispanic students. Evidence from an intervention. Frank Bruni on a different effort on the West Coast.

They keep telling us education should be more like law and medicine. May want to update that talking point to just medicine?

When people talk about grit, this is the kind of thing they’re talking about.  We worry about the schools, but America’s lead in innovation is seemingly insurmountable.

April 25, 2017

April 24, 2017

School Transportation, Schooling In DC, Protest And Results, Homeless Girl Scouts, Massachusetts, Tampa Class Assignment, School Choice Still Popular, The Education Debate Explained, More!

Scroll down the main page for edujobs. Don’t miss this event on school transportation in D.C. next week. It will even feature school bus rides!

Sara Mead looks at a decade of school reform work in D.C. and some lessons learned.

Even if you don’t live in Massachusetts this Stig Leschly discussion of college there is worth checking out, issues not unique. Whole series on these issues from Stig here.

Better than cookies. Here’s a sweet Girl Scout story.

We can certainly do better with both the quality and availability of gifted education and also ensuring that children have equitable chances to participate in those programs (e.g. universal screening). But the idea of Americans “turning on smart kids” just isn’t supported by the structure of today’s education system. And in the U.S. context, a bigger problem seems to be all the “smart kids” who get overlooked because of their zip code.  Also, apparently gifted kids are more “sexually conservative.” I had not heard that, but what a universally handy narrative to have around! Makes everyone feel better about themselves and parents worry less.

Cass Sunstein cuts to the quick on a lot of campus protest today,

Previous generations of student activists contributed immeasurably to the civil-rights movement and the fight against sex discrimination. On the right, they helped create the Federalist Society, which has transformed how judges and lawyers think about the Constitution. On the left, they have given life to the movement for LGBT rights.

In the current era, student activists would do well to think much less about how to express their values and instead to focus insistently on a single question: If I succeed, how many people will I actually be helping?

I agree, and you can probably extend the indictment to a lot of activism more generally today, which seems more exhibitionist than results oriented. But, student activists have made stands, taken risks, and changed things – and those exceptions can teach us a lot. (Perhaps because of the elite bias in a lot of these conversations, when people think of campus unrest they might be too quick to think of the Bahn mi at Oberlin or the student paper at Wellesley rather than, say, the football team at the University of Missouri.)

No matter how much people wish it away there is a lot of support for school choice.  From California:

About 60% of adults and 66% of public-school parents in a new poll said they favored vouchers that parents could use for their children’s education at any public, private, or parochial school. Republicans (67%) were more likely than independents (56%) and far more likely than Democrats (46%) to hold that view. Across racial and ethnic groups, 73% of African Americans, 69% of Latinos, 56% of Asians and 51% of whites supported vouchers.

Here are two interesting articles about how we organize ourselves, both with education implications. Don Hirsch cautions on toxic nationalism versus useful civic binding and shared values and political culture. Lynn Paramore says we’re structurally becoming a developing country for many Americans.

And then there is this article on poverty. Interesting, though I don’t know anyone who thinks this,

…the blind belief that the poor have failed to seize the opportunities that the market or globalization has created.

The debate you usually hear is about just how much of this is structural and then what we can do about it – and do about it without making things even worse. Obviously a big role for education there.

Two thoughts on this St. Petersburg student assignment situation where a school principal said in an email to assign all the white students to one class. OK, three thoughts. But “wait, what?” doesn’t seem to really count. So, first, they mention her implicit bias training apparently not kicking in. But in her defense, doesn’t this seem more like the kind of thing they’d cover in the explicit bias training?

Second, this actually points up a very real issue that is too infrequently discussed: When analyzing school assignment and integration the school is not an adequate unit of analysis. What happens to students inside the school via class assignment, course taking for older students, tracks and pullout enrichment programs, etc…is where the real experience of students plays out. Integrated classes not just integrated schools should be the standard. In this instance, I have a hunch this was less this principal’s idea (you really don’t see a lot of workshops on this at conferences…) than what some parents wanted and what she was told, tacitly or explicitly, to do in order to keep them happy and keep the school “integrated.”

A lot of theory of action work in the education sector is BS. But I feel like this is some of the strongest work to date with the most analytic purchase to really describe how change happens.

April 21, 2017

Edujob: Academic Strategy Senior Advisor @Bellwether

We’re hiring an academic strategy advisor. This is a great role with real potential for impact across a range of projects. From the JD:

Although we believe that charter management organizations (CMOs) are improving over time and are making a significant, positive impact in reforming urban education, the quality of student outcomes across the charter sector is not consistently high enough, nor is the sector on a path to scale with high quality at a rapid pace.  At Bellwether we work with many CMOs on strategic plans for growth, but we do not currently have sufficient expertise to identify specific opportunities for improvement within their academic strategies, or to support the consistent implementation of these strategies. The Academic Strategy Senior Adviser will lead our effort to build this expertise, which we believe is essential to deepening our impact with growing CMOs.

The ideal candidate for the Academic Strategy Senior Adviser position will bring a strong track record of success in building effective instructional systems and strategies within schools and systems of schools, and in diagnosing challenges in under-performing schools and developing plans for improvement. The ideal candidate will have experience scaling systems that support strong performance, working through others to achieve results, and collaborating with instructional leaders in schools and in network offices. The candidate will bring a sophisticated understanding of relevant issues in charter school growth and replication, a network in the field of education (particularly with charter and CMO operators), and an entrepreneurial spirit.  This pairing of content expertise and entrepreneurialism is particularly important given that Bellwether is still a growing organization.  Senior Advisers play a critical role in business development and service delivery, and contribute to the success of the firm in terms of financial sustainability and impact in the field of education.

More details and how to apply here. 

April 20, 2017

Trinity Lutheran, Pass The SALT? Race And Teaching, Campus Debate & Free Speech, ESSA Plans, Duncan Interviews, Plus Let It Snow! More…

Scroll down main page for an upcoming Bellwether event and blog/opinion writing training information – application deadline tomorrow.

Amy Howe recaps the Trinity Lutheran arguments at SCOTUS. 74 had a reporter there, too.

President Trump’s team is making noise about going after the state and local tax deductions on federal income taxes. It’s a potential pay-for on tax cuts elsewhere.  This would have both interesting and problematic implications for education finance if it got through Congress.

Here’s a real – candid and unvarnished – interview from Marilyn Rhames that’s well worth your time. Agree or disagree it’s the kind of conversation the field should be having. Brent Staples on some of the same issues.

Here’s a solid smart unpacking of campus speech flash points and the difference between government regulated speech and regulated speech in private settings. Conor Friedersdorf on why, regardless of whether you can, suppressing campus speech is self-defeating.

Via Robin Lake a useful caution on how personalized learning can be one size fits all, too.

Arne Duncan interview. He sees the SIG situation differently than many…

State ESSA plans – turns of it’s not quite anything goes….some are getting bounced.

SEL strategies in the ESSA world. You can quibble with the methodology of this survey but there is not a lot out there on views on CTE – so here is some survey and focus group work (pdf).

It snowed a lot in California this winter. Forceful prom dates.

Posted on Apr 20, 2017 @ 5:27pm

Coming Attractions! Blog Training And School Transportation Event

ICCE_First_Student_Wallkill_School_BusApplication deadline for the Bellwether Blog – Opinion Writing Training is Friday. Get your application in! More here.

Tuesday May 2 in Washington, D.C., Bellwether is hosting what should be an interesting event on school transportation. It’s one of those issues that touches millions of lives daily, yet rarely gets attention. And we have school buses lined up to take you to your office or elsewhere in D.C. afterwards!

April 18, 2017

Economic Integration Versus Choice, Blaine, Bad Tax Policy, Good Interviews & Op-Eds, Charter Authorizing False Positives, More!

In The 74, Kate Pennington and I take a look at lousy tax policy and the ad hoc approach to education finance and compensation. It’s based on a California proposal to eliminate income tax for teachers there.

Here’s a preview of the SCOTUS education case this week – big implications for “Blaine” amendments in state constitutions. But, wait, there’s more! It could get tossed because of some policy changes in Missouri – where the case originated –  and there is a similar Colorado case that many anti-Blaine advocates think has a better fact pattern for them moving through the courts. Stay tuned.

Michael Bennet interview. Dan Katzir and Marcia Aaron on putting kids first.

Pushback on the pushback against the Rahm Emanuel – Arne Duncan idea/proposal to have kids have a post-high school plan. My take - in 140 characters! – here.

Keying off a recent Amy Wax essay Checker Finn also asks if “no excuses” schools are more effective than economic integration? They says yes. It’s provocative, but is this even the right question?

First, in case you haven’t been paying attention “no excuses,” which was less a model than a breed of schools with some similarities but also real differences, is now politically out of fashion So the variance of those schools is growing as they respond (and not only to politics but also to things learned through experience) and it’s unclear what the label even means now. A better question might just be school choice versus economic integration.

But I don’t even think that works. Because, second, fundamentally this is a false choice for two reasons. For starters, it’s easier to get people to move schools than move houses so there are some knotty realities to the economic integration issue that its proponents consistently ignore. The track record on expanding access to high-quality options through choice versus through economic integration is pretty one-sided in favor of choice.

More importantly, you can do both. Charters and plans to better integrate schools through various incentives are better understood as fellow-travelers in an effort to improve outcomes for low-income students than as competing options. Where they part ways is around the question of how much to just leave schooling choices to parents and how much to try to coerce those choices. But that ship has basically sailed everywhere except education advocacy circles. Parents like choice and what they really resist is being coerced into choices they don’t like. So it’s mostly an academic question.

Happily, policymakers can scratch both those itches. School districts can continue to try to draw school boundaries that as much as possible maximize economic integration. And in places where housing is more concentrated by income as well as in districts where it’s not, giving parents more choices is just a smart way to buy them into the system more and make them more loyal consumers rather than consumers of last resort.

In other words, other than using economic integration as a foil against choice or vice versa, which is more about politics than kids, I’m not sure why we have to choose here in the first place?

Here’s Fordham with an interesting study on charter authorizing and avoiding false positives. Barnum on it here.


A Tax Day Education Policy Play Only Turbo Tax Likes

At The 74 Kaitlin Pennington and I take a look at a popular education tax proposal that only an accountant could love. It also points up the addiction of policymakers to every way to address education finance and teacher comp except actually addressing education finance and teacher comp:

…We’re all in favor of creative ways to recruit and retain good teachers, but this isn’t it. The Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act makes for lousy public policy, so much so that even the teachers unions are laying low on the proposal. So, at the risk of being Scrooges, on tax day no less, here are some reasons this idea might sound good but is actually a bad idea…

You can read why here. If your taxes aren’t done, do that. Otherwise, tweet us your favorite great or lousy education tax ideas @arotherham and @KPennington23.

April 17, 2017

Teacher Turnover, Rural Charter Schools, Choate’s Problems, Rose’s Potentials, Voucher Policy, And More!

Kirsten Schmitz on private school teacher turnover, teacher turnover, and some takeaways and non-takeaways.

This Choate story is grim. But it’s not just Choate.

Joel Rose* is one of the most thoughtful people on the personalized scene. He sees the potential – and also the risks. Read this.

This Chalkbeat story on voucher accountability has a handy chart that shows how the accountability policy is not binary, yes or no accountability, but rather a continuum of practices.

Dan Weisberg says NY was right to jettison its teacher literacy test.

Here’s an interesting piece on education from Salon. Yes, you read that right. The author, Karen Eppley of Penn State argues for rural charter schools. Yes, Salon, for charter schools. All the editors must have had the weekend off.

As a rule I like, as she does, empowering people to come together and solve problems. And I think giving people choice in education is a pretty essential if complicated policy reform. I’m all for high-quality charter schools. We do a lot of work on rural education. So this article was a big trifecta plus for me.

But I do have a few quibbles with the piece and/or this framing of the issue. First, she’s clearly right that a lot of rural charters are springing up in response to consolidation. This, though, is a double-edged sword. The empowerment side is great, but the charters don’t ameliorate some of the forces that are driving the push for consolidation of rural school districts in the first place, that’s a separate set of issues. And to the extent those issues aren’t addressed charters will struggle as well. There is no sidestepping the hard issues.**

Very much related population density is an important element on a lot of rural issues and education is no exception. Yes, you can have more choice in rural settings than people generally assume – and not just choice driven by technology.  But population density will be a limiting factor on charters just as it is on a range of rural issues – it’s also one of the great benefits of rural life for many. Rural chartering will look different than urban and suburban chartering.

In addition, and often overlooked, many rural schools already operate like charters to a great extent: They are fairly autonomous, bootstrap oriented, generally do their own thing, and naturally counter-authoritarian.  That, too, is an issue with upsides and downsides – not everything about autonomy is an unvarnished blessing, for instance. Sometimes systems and scale can help in education, for instance.

Bottom line: There is more overlap between many charters and rural publics today in the day-to-day life of the school than many on either “side” might assume.

If you can dream it, you can be it.

*Disc: Friend, BW has worked with his org, I’m biased. Still, read it if you’re interested in the issue.

**You may notice a theme around here. Whether pensions, accountability, rural or other issues, we tend to think you have to actually tackle the hard problems. The clever workarounds make for great fodder on panels but are generally underpowered in the real world.

April 14, 2017