August 17, 2017

Five Easy Theses*

The post below is by guest blogger Mike Goldstein.

1. Richard Whitmire: “Charter School Students Graduating From College at Three to Five Times National Average.”

Wonks behold: an original data set (plus commentary).

<<We identified nine large charter networks with enough alumni to roughly calculate degree-earning success rates.” >> 

I agree with his premise.  KIPP nudged other charters to carefully calculate this stuff.  Certainly that was true for me at Match Charter.  Under Linda Brown’s direction, I remember writing “College Success” as the Match Charter School mission in 1999, but it wasn’t until KIPP’s public reporting of this data that we really pushed hard to track down ALL of the alumni (I’m told: 55% of Match grads currently hold a 4yr degree, plus 8% still in college from the “old enough” cohorts).

Read Whitmire’s whole thing, lots to contemplate.

2. Matt Ladner responds: Beware.  He writes:

<<Before this college success of charter school meme gets entirely out of hand, I want to suggest that we should get the comparisons between control group and experimental group studies on long-term success nailed down before going to town on this.>>

I agree.

a. Good news: at least one such scholarly study is quietly underway (or so I think).

b. If the denominator shifts from “Grade 12 grads” to “Grade 9 new students,” the graduation rate will obviously fall.  How much?  I’m guessing from 3x to 5x narrative will change to perhaps 1.5x to 3x.

c. A subgroup I’m curious about: kids who attend a top charter for a couple years, get large test gains, then transfer.  My guess is they enroll in college at roughly the same rates, but graduate at far lower rates.  Hopefully we’ll find out.

3. What we can all agree on: lots of kids start college, don’t finish.

One aspect: college remedial courses don’t seem to work.  See Freddie deBoer thoughts here on a new sobering study.

4. Neerav Kingland gets all Passover on us.  He asks what Four Questions the charter sector needs to answer.

Plus he (and we) can’t reblog enough the cautionary Fryer/Dobbie study.  (Where kids who attended Texas charters didn’t see much later-life wage gain).

5. The godmother of all edubloggers, Joanne Jacobs, always tells it like it is: <<Homework assignments in the early grades often are a waste of time. I like the idea of telling kids to read instead.>>

*Stolen from my friend Jim Stone, a wonk-worthy book.

 

 

 

1. Richard Whitmire: “Charter School Students Graduating From College at Three to Five Times National Average.”  

 

Wonks behold: an original data set (plus commentary).  

 

<<We identified nine large charter networks with enough alumni to roughly calculate degree-earning success rates.” >> 

 

I agree with his premise.  KIPP nudged other charters to carefully calculate this stuff.  Certainly that was true for me at Match Charter.  Under Linda Brown’s direction, I remember writing “College Success” as the Match Charter School mission in 1999, but it wasn’t until KIPP’s public reporting of this data that we really pushed hard to track down ALL of the alumni (I’m told: 55% of Match grads currently hold a 4yr degree, plus 8% still in college from the “old enough” cohorts).  

 

Read Whtimire’s whole thing, lots to contemplate.  


2. Matt Ladner responds: Beware.  He writes: 

 

<<Before this college success of charter school meme gets entirely out of hand, I want to suggest that we should get the comparisons between control group and experimental group studies on long-term success nailed down before going to town on this.>>

I agree. 

a. Good news: at least one such scholarly study is quietly underway (or so I think).  

b. If the denominator shifts from “Grade 12 grads” to “Grade 9 new students,” the graduation rate will obviously fall.  How much?  I’m guessing from 3x to 5x narrative will change to perhaps 1.5x to 3x.  

c. A subgroup I’m curious about: kids who attend a top charter for a couple years, get large test gains, then transfer.  My guess is they enroll in college at roughly the same rates, but graduate at far lower rates.  Hopefully we’ll find out.  

3. What we can all agree on: lots of kids start college, don’t finish.  

 

One aspect: college remedial courses don’t seem to work.  See Freddie deBoer thoughts here on a new sobering study.  


4. Neerav Kingland gets all Passover on us.  He asks what Four Questions the charter sector needs to answer.  

 

Plus he (and we) can’t reblog enough the cautionary Fryer/Dobbie study.  (Where kids who attended Texas charters didn’t see much later-life wage gain).  

 

5. The godmother of all edubloggers, Joanne Jacobs, always tells it like it is: <<Homework assignments in the early grades often are a waste of time. I like the idea of telling kids to read instead.>>

 

*Stolen from my friend Jim Stone, a wonk-worthy book.    


August 16, 2017

Headline: Letter From Liberia

The post below is by guest blogger Mike Goldstein.

Disclosure first: from 2013 to 2016 I served as chief academic officer at Bridge International Academies, which operates elementary schools in Africa and India.  I still volunteer there, as an advisor and “host parent” for some Bridge alumni who’ve won full scholarships to American boarding schools.  So please take my views with a grain of salt.

That said, I thought Nicholas Kristof said it well last month in the NY Times:

<<I understand critics’ fears (and share some about for-profit schools in the U.S.). They see handing schools over to Bridge as dismantling the public education system — one of the best ideas in human history — for private profit.

But I’ve followed Bridge for years, my wife and I wrote about it in our last book, and the concerns are misplaced. Bridge has always lost money, so no one is monetizing children. In fact, it’s a start-up that tackles a social problem in ways similar to a nonprofit, but with for-profit status that makes it more sustainable and scalable.

More broadly, the world has failed children in poor countries. There have been global campaigns to get more children in school, but that isn’t enough. The crucial metric isn’t children attending school, but children learning in school.

Here in Liberia in the village of Boegeezay in Rivercess County, I dropped in on a regular public school that officially had 16 teachers assigned to it. Initially, I saw four; a couple more trickled in hours later.

…In contrast, the Bridge schools I visited were functional. The teachers can themselves read. School begins on time, at 7:30 a.m., and continues until 3:30 instead of letting out around noon, as at many government-run schools. And students have books.>>

*

In the USA, there’s a healthy debate about traditional schools versus choice/charters/vouchers/reform.  One aspect: to the consternation of some reformers, many American parents are satisfied with THEIR nearby public school, even with low academic results.

In my experience, though, that is not typically true with Liberian parents.  The typical family craves a different option.

Some years ago, after RCTs showed that KIPP kids indeed had large achievement gains, when controlling for who attended, the AFT Shanker Institute blog conceded that KIPP was perhaps a good thing, and wondered what might be learned from those schools.

My hope is that if similar RCTs show large gains for Bridge kids, that the debate similarly shifts.  We shall see.

More backstory on the politics here.


August 15, 2017

Old-School Personalization

The post below is by guest blogger Mike Goldstein.

1. Old School

A few years back, my friend Alan Safran spun off a part of Match Education into a new nonprofit.  It’s called Saga.  They do Old School personalized learning.  Not Old School as in Andy R after a long day with the fish.  Old School as in tutoring by actual human beings, not computers.  Back story here.

Saga serves kids in large districts (like Chicago and NYC).  Alan, along with 2 Match High School alumni (Antonio, Ashlie), have been obsessing over quality until they felt “ready to grow.”  It’s that time now: a month ago, CZ made a large investment.

So Saga is likely to take on another other large high-poverty district as a client.  If you’re a big city supe and looking for a program that has gotten large, measurable results in Houston, NYC, and Chicago district schools, give Alan a shout.  Moreover, the politics on this one are pretty good: “ed reform skeptics” often like this particular program.  See here, for example.

Saga is still innovating, experimenting with ”half-dosage” tutoring, plus a tiny pilot of great interest to me: tutoring incarcerated youth in Queens, NY.  [A friend recently observed one of the kids there struggling with a quadratic equation.  The tutor ably just sat tight, allowing the struggle.  After some energetic erasing, the kid looks up and nods, says “I got this,” boom, solves it.]

2. What’s In a Name?

We call it “high-dosage”* tutoring, to try to separate it from regular ol’ useless badly managed tutoring.  Roland Fryer popularized the term when we worked with him on the Apollo project in Houston.

But “High-dosage” captures just one of two essential components of Match-now-Saga tutoring.  That’s the “how much.”  Hours are very countable, as are tutor:kid ratios.  Scholars like “countable.”

What’s missing is the “who.”  It’s like describing the Patriots’ “bend don’t break” defense or Spurs ball movement — and expecting those strategies to work without Devin McCourty and Bill Bellichick, without Kawhi Leonard and Gregg Popovich.

The Saga team carefully vets tutor candidates, rejecting for more candidates than they accept.  Sometimes just 1 in 20 gets taken.  Then they obsessively coach and measure the tutors.  So it’s really “High Dosage plus Unusually High Quality Tutoring” that seems to work in the RCTs we’ve done.

What’s missing from the Old School High Quality Tutoring RCT evidence base is all the FAILED tutoring efforts that have happened around the country, in charters and traditional schools alike.  Sometimes low dosage, sometimes low quality, sometimes both.  I can name several off the top of my head.

Strategy matters, but execution matters more.  Sound familiar?  This seems like a common problem in our sector.

Without elite/unusual execution, it’s hard to help kids make large gains through school-based strategies.

 


Edujob: Portfolio Manager At Strategic Grant Partners

Here’s a great edujob, in Boston, (and just in time for the Red Sox playoff run this fall) Portfolio Manager at Strategic Grant Partners:

In September 2002, fifteen families, bound by the common goal of improving the lives of struggling children and families in Massachusetts, launched Strategic Grant Partners (SGP), a foundation and a pro- bono consulting firm. We invest in, and work closely with, great leaders with game changing ideas that have the potential to dramatically improve the lives of children and families in Massachusetts…

…The Portfolio Manager will be responsible for spearheading select grant making efforts, with a focus on the education sector including K-12, post secondary, and workforce development. The Portfolio Manager will also play a critical role continuing to refine SGP’s strategy. S/he will report to the Director.

Learn more about the role, about Strategic Grant Partners, and about how to apply here.


August 14, 2017

Giving Up Control

The post below is by guest blogger Mike Goldstein

Hi wonks.  A few thoughts this week from Red Sox country.

On Being An Acton Academy Parent is a blog I’ve come to treasure.  It’s by Laura Sandefer, who combines her voice as Acton’s co-founder with her role as a mom.  A recent entry:

<<(Coach Carpenter) came to P.E. when he should have called in sick. He had a sore throat and a headache, but it was the last class of the session and he wanted to be there. No way was he up to running up and down the field, though, much less doing the “Acton Insanity!” warm-up.

So he called over a couple of the older Eagles (students).

“I’m sick,” he said. “You mind running the show today?”

Was it perfect?  No.  Was there anarchy?  A little.

Did they love it?  YES!

Coach Carpenter had the long summer break to think about what he saw that day and about where the school was heading. Was he ready to change? Was he okay with giving up control?>>

Read the whole thing here.

When a school maxes on “self-directed” and/or “personalized” learning, there are tradeoffs.  At Acton, student agency is baked into the org DNA.  But when the same concept is foisted on traditional schools, Zombie Reform is often the result, says the estimable Larry Cuban.

He cites four 20th century iterations of this heavyweight fight: age-graded schools in one corner, personalized learning in the other corner.  So far “age-graded school” is 4-0, all knockouts.

 


Coming Attractions Part II

After Goldstein is done this week, TeachPlus founder Celine Coggins will be here for a week to share the teacher voice work she’s led and ongoing work and issues. Enjoy!


Coming Attractions: Goldstein Is Going Wild!

I’m taking a week away from the blog but you will be in good hands with Mike Goldstein. In a throwback to the early days of Eduwonk, it’s Goldstein Gone Wild. He will go wild starting today and running all week, enjoy!


August 10, 2017


Edujob: Senior Executive Director, Teaching and Learning, Early Childhood Education @ NYC DOE

Here’s a great opportunity at the New York City Department of Education:

New York City is committed to creating a strong continuum of early care and education from birth through five-years-old. To achieve this goal, the City is working to integrate all contracted early care and education for children from 6 weeks to 5 years old into DECE by the spring of 2019, with the goal of creating a strong, seamless set of support and services for New York City’s youngest children and their families. The EarlyLearn program, which will be moving from the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) to NYCDOE, currently serves over 30,000 children in Head Start and Child Care programs. The City has also committed to provide free, full-day, high-quality Pre-Kindergarten to all 3-year-olds, in addition to all 4-year-olds, in New York City by 2021. The person hired into this role will oversee the implementation of curriculum, instruction, and professional learning for teachers and leaders throughout this system. This position provides the opportunity to create and shape a system to improve teaching and learning throughout a comprehensive birth-to-five system, with the goal of ensuring that every child, with their family, begins kindergarten prepared to succeed.

The Senior Executive Director oversees the Teaching and Learning team, which includes a group of content experts who have developed the curriculum and professional learning that is in place at over 1,800 Pre-K programs citywide, as well as a team of over 140 Instructional Coordinators, who provide instructional coaching to teachers and leaders in public elementary schools and NYCEECs. The Senior Executive Director will lead the Teaching and Learning team in research, design, production, and implementation of key instructional support materials, including research-based units of study for New York City Pre-K programs. The Senior Executive Director and the teaching and learning team work cross-functionally to inform the NYCDOE’s early childhood education research agenda. As the City continues to expand access to early childhood education, the DECE Teaching and Learning team remains focused on ensuring high-quality programs and continuous improvement that is aligned to the City’s Pre-K Program Quality Standards.

You can learn more about the role and how to be considered here. 

Posted on Aug 10, 2017 @ 2:41pm

August 8, 2017

Dirty Data Jobs And Project-based Learning! Sausage Making, Charter Demographics, Educator Pay, Teacher Voice, More!

PBL

There is a lot of talk in education about project-based learning and the rigor of these efforts varies widely. But, here’s an authentic experience with big time results! A group of Massachusetts students found out that the not-so-new arena there wasn’t living up to the terms of the deal for its establishment. Million dollar remedies now in the works.

Sausage-making

Here’s a good look at all the machinations that go on before that big headline in the New York Times about the latest word from researchers on vouchers. You also want to read this.

Pay

A micro-debate broke out last week about whether Boston charter school leaders are overpaid. Rick Hess points out that the charter schools they lead are doing pretty well. Actually, that’s an understatement, they’re the best in the country as a group. Rick makes the obvious point that we ought to be paying great educators more regardless of where they work. Except it’s not so obvious, apparently. It’s a weird signal on the politics of the sector that self-annoited education “advocates” like to argue that one group or another in education is overpaid rather than arguing that great educators in this sector are generally underpaid wherever they happen to work.

Teacher voice

Roberto Rodríguez is taking the helm at TeachPlus. In an interview with Politico he notes that,

“We’ve had a disconnect between the policy conversations in Washington and what’s going on in the field with teacher policy and development,” Rodríguez told Morning Education.

What an odd situation given that some of the most powerful interest groups – not just in education, in the entire country – happen to be groups that represent teachers and spend enormous sums on their behalf in electoral and governmental politics. Hill staffers say they hear from them all the time. In fact, these groups thwarted key parts of the Obama education agenda. So why the disconnect?

Is data too dirty of a job?

I am a Mike Rowe fan, the show is entertaining and educational, and I like his willingness to speak his mind even where I don’t agree. His cautions on the tendency many have to look down on jobs that don’t require a college degree or people who work with their hands is important. But, when he talks about college and loans I wish he’d engage with a few pieces of data. First, in his account of the downturn and unemployment he neglects to note that college and/or graduate school was a good (though not bulletproof) insurance policy against unemployment. And the statistics tossed around about student loans are usually averages and obscure that the median debt load for students is manageable and proximate to the differences in earnings you can expect from getting a college degree – in other words, it’s not a bad investment if it leads to the kind of work you want to do. Finally, in a variety of fields that don’t require college degrees per se you still see that people with them make more than their peers. All of this may well change over time as credentialing evolves and higher education changes, but right now post-secondary training or education is a must, and college isn’t a bad idea at all.

Department of two things true at once:

The demographics of charter school staff don’t mirror the communities they operate in, but charters are doing a better job on this front than traditional public schools. (Bellwether did a survey of a sample of urban districts last year and found the same results.)

Today in Betsy DeVos is rich:

Betsy DeVos invested in a brain performance company despite week evidence of its effectiveness. I’d hazard a guess that the financial evidence wasn’t as weak as the product performance evidence, people love these companies. DeVos’ disclosure forms make for interesting reading because apparently the ultra-rich have trouble figuring out where to invest all their money (presumably index funds are too boring) because she is invested in a remarkably random set of businesses.

Elsewhere:

Kids and devices.

New Urban Institute tool to help you think about education spending over time. 

Butch Trusty on how to grow good seats in cities (pdf).

Ride PMC.


August 3, 2017

Early Childhood, Feistritzer Profile, How Not To Argue, CTE, Wyckoff & Dee On DC, At The Movies, More!

Lee Foster with ideas for professionalizing the early childhood workforce.

Now and then you get a museum quality education article about what’s wrong with how we argue in this sector. By now and then I mean pretty much on the regular, and often thanks to the HuffPo. It turns out that President Obama’s election had a big, negative, effect on teen suicides. OK, actually the article doesn’t argue that, though it could, because it argues instead that Common Core caused the increase in suicides, which is a correlation/causation argument in the same ballpark.  The article also gloriously butchers what the Common Core does to the point you wonder if the author ever read the standards? Teen suicides are a serious issue, so this is sort of gross, too. But it’s also sadly illustrative.

This profile of Emily Feistritzer is overdue and a good look at what she’s up to right now. One of the more interesting people running around the education policy scene.

New Paharans!

Here’s a new Fox Searchlight film profiling students at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women.

Dee and Wyckoff on what’s happening on DC Impact. And NCTQ on Florida’s efforts to link compensation to performance.

Joyce Foundation’s* Jason Quiara on postsecondary and workforce linkages.

EdSurge on CTE. And CTE and adjudicated youth.

*BW Funder


Edujob: Director Of Policy And Research @Tennessee SCORE

Here’s an exciting edujob in Tennessee at SCORE:

SCORE’s Director of Policy and Research (DPR) plays a critical role in advancing the organization’s work and Tennessee’s efforts to improve student achievement. The Director leads a team of individuals in assessing where, how, and why statewide reforms are – or are not – meeting the ambitious goals that Tennessee has set for student growth and achievement, and by proactively identifying and assessing ways to overcome barriers to reform through state policy and practice. Specifically, the DPR will 1) take a leadership role in developing SCORE’s annual policy agenda, 2) serve as a leader, partner, and trusted voice in statewide education policy discussions with stakeholders, 3) design, develop, and manage policy and research projects, reports, and initiatives to advance SCORE’s policy agenda and theory of change, and 4) manage and lead the organization’s talented Policy and Research team to execute these projects.

Learn more and learn how to be considered here.


August 1, 2017

New Ideas On Disconnected Youth

Hailly Korman and I have a column in The 74 today about disconnected youth:

Each year, an estimated 5 million students experience chronic and catastrophic disruptions to their education. These include incarceration, homelessness, pregnancy, relocation of military families, migrant and refugee experiences, and foster care, and often no one is meaningfully accountable for their education success while they are going through it. The circumstances and stories vary, but the root causes of educational challenges for all these students are consistent: They are regularly faced with interrupted learning, barriers to enrollment, and disconnected services and care.

While some young people truly fall through the cracks and are served by no one, there is a much larger group of kids who seem to be served by everyone. They have multiple agencies and nonprofits acting on their behalf simultaneously, but generally without coordination. In fact, these agencies are often not even communicating with one another. For most of these students, no one is responsible for seeing them successfully through high school graduation — so, in addition to everything else they are managing, they carry the burden of being the sole navigators of their education pathways…

You can read the entire column here – and find out what you can do to help with Bellwether’s effort to address these problems.

Posted on Aug 1, 2017 @ 10:00am

July 31, 2017

Mead On Rosenwald, ESSA Takes, Keep Up The Policy Fight, Say Yes, High Schools, Teacher Shortages, ClassDojo, More!

Sara Mead with a great look at some history related to the school choice and segregation question.  Last week I wrote about the – often abused by all sides – history of school choice in America.

This article on Colorado’s ESSA plan does a nice job showing that people can disagree about these state plans depending on what they prioritize most in terms of both substance and also level of granularity.

It’s not as hard to do a straightforward look at teacher shortages as you might think.

Say Yes in Buffalo.

The crisis in education for native students. This article is a good reminder that most native students, more than 90 percent, are educated in traditional school districts rather than schools on reservations.

Here’s a look at high school reform featuring Chad Aldeman.

ClassDojo is further embedding itself in the daily work of teachers, it’s a smart strategy. There are a lot of tools out there and it seems that the ones that can successful pull off comprehensive, integrated and/or enterprise solutions will win in the end.

Mike Petrilli points out that education policy fights are still very much alive and philanthropy should stay the course:

Standards, assessments, and accountability systems are not set in stone. They are under relentless attack from traditional education groups and libertarians alike, and can only survive with the vigilance and political support of state-based reform organizations and their allies in the business and civil rights communities.

He also argues that

...for all the success we’ve seen in building better school-accountability systems, we’ve gotten almost completely rolled when it comes to holding students to meaningful standards.

There I dissent. The students are more or less they only people in the entire education system who face much accountability – if you define that as real consequences for failure. They don’t have lobbyists, infrastructure, or the ability to create a system with faux accountability but no real consequences. They bear the brunt of it in their lives.

 Sleepy bear.

Posted on Jul 31, 2017 @ 2:36pm

July 27, 2017

Edujob: Senior Director of District and School Development @ Buck Institute For Education

Into PBL? Then this edujob might be just for you:

The Buck Institute for Education (BIE), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization headquartered in Northern California, is the industry leader in providing professional development and support services related to Project Based Learning (PBL). BIE creates, collects, and shares high-quality PBL tools and resources with K-12 teachers and leaders across the country. At BIE, we believe that all students—no matter where they live or what their background—should have access to quality PBL instruction to deepen their learning and achieve success in college, career, and life and we seek to build a multi-talented staff who deeply understand and embrace the diversity of the students of today, and have awareness of the challenges in the world those students will inherit. At the end of 2016, BIE launched an ambitious new strategic plan that provides a clear roadmap for ensuring equitable, consistent, and positive student outcomes while also creating the evidence base for further adoption of PBL.

Position Summary

The Senior Director of District and School Development (SDDSD) will have overall strategic and operational responsibility for district and school partnership development. In addition to overseeing the development and delivery of district level services, the SDDSD will also oversee the implementation and refinement of a new PBL school coaching model, to be piloted in 2018. The position will be part of BIE’s Leadership Team, which drives the overall strategy for the organization. As such, this leader will be expected to represent BIE on a local, regional, and national basis.

Learn more and be considered via this link. 


July 26, 2017

You Want Context? We’ve Got Context. NAACP And Charters, Teacher Prep, And More! Plus School Naming, Marmot Slapping, And What’s Betsy DeVos Been Up To?

Yesterday I took a look at school choice history, which doesn’t really fit the narratives various political factions are advancing. It’s more complicated – and more interesting – than that. Matt Barnum on the same issue here.

Charters

Two quick thoughts on the NAACP charter school issue that is at the fore today. First, more to it  than you are probably hearing regardless of whether you’re a charter friend or foe. There is real disagreement about charters and choice and, also, not all of the NAACP’s concerns about charter schools are baseless. Second, there are a variety of African-American membership, service, and civic organizations in this country – some with much more age diversity than the NAACP. In my admittedly unscientific personal poll I’m struck how few friends and colleagues are members but instead belong to other organizations. That means it’s an important organization with a storied history, but don’t myopically focus on the NAACP any more than you would any other organization in the midst of a complicated and fluid landscape. And the overwhelming consensus of the polling on this issue is that the NAACP leadership is out of step with black parents on this issue.

Names

The debate about changing the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School in Northern Virginia is coming to a head. The Virginia NAACP’s position that renaming everything in sight (e.g. roads, bridges, etc…) is not productive but that schools and certain other public entities are a unique situation seems more than reasonable. But, I can’t help but notice we put a lot more energy into the fight over what to name this school than into addressing the quality of education students receive inside the school (it’s not great especially for a county as wealthy as Fairfax). It doesn’t have to be a choice, but it seems like there is some sort of broader lesson about education politics and priorities here? Anyway, sending black kids to subpar schools named after dead confederates does seem to add insult to injury but that just doesn’t get as much attention as the name issue. (There is also an irony with Stuart’s name becoming a symbol of this debate because among hard-core “Lost Cause” types Stuart gets a lot of blame for Lee’s loss, there is a whole “what if” genre about it).

Teacher Prep

Every article on teacher preparation should come with a disclaimer about the backdrop of the research – there is no evidence any one approach is better than another right now and that includes masters degrees. That’s pretty well-established in the literature. Seems like important context for thinking about various proposals? Here’s an article about charter schools in New York possibly getting to train their own teachers. Charters elsewhere have done some of this and it’s gone OK. Also seems like important context! And last time I looked job-embedded and clinical training were all the rage in teacher prep. Except, apparently, when it’s charters doing it. Here are some ideas on this from Bellwether.

Elsewhere:

Get post-secondary education.

Alyson Klein on what Betsy DeVos has been up to. This, too, seems to be on its way to being a popular literary genre.

Schools matter and we should focus on them to learn about what works. There is more to this new study than that, but it’s the shorthand takeaway.

NBPTS is taking on cash infusions from NEA for its operations. 

They want to help teachers with housing in Detroit. Great idea given the reality of real estate and where schools are located and the other challenges. Other places have tried similar strategies.

Slap-fighting marmots.


July 25, 2017

School Choice History And School Choice Politics

AFT President Randi Weingarten set off a firestorm last week with some comments and arguments about how school choice is really a new effort to segregate schools. It was noxious, yes, but not entirely wrong on the history. But the history is a lot more complicated than Weingarten and those who do her bidding let on. I look at that this morning in U.S. News & World Report:

Even by the standards of the teachers unions’ “burn the village to save it” approach to maintaining political power, it was a remarkably cynical ploy: In a speech last week, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten called school vouchers the “only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.” It wasn’t an offhand remark, but rather a calculated escalation of the school choice fight and an appeal designed to address politics within her union.

Given the current climate on race in America, it was Trumpian in its naked political opportunism. It also wasn’t entirely wrong in its history. Too many school choice supporters suffer from a Trumpian historical amnesia about one aspect of school voucher history.

You can read the entire column, with some Milton Friedman and Jack Coons quotes for added fun, plus Alum Rock, Chris Jencks, and other too-often ignored aspects of school choice history. 


Big News From BW, Rural Ed Tech, Race And School Choice, RFA On ESSA, EWA On Diversity, Kristof On Bridge, Alligators, More!

Big news from Bellwether today – we’re launching a new organization.

Last week I wrote about how “rig to flip” is good advice for education and life as well as on rivers and how we’re doing the opposite for too many college students.

Scroll down the main page for some edujobs.

Bellwether’s Taylor Seale on ed tech infrastructure and rural education: 

I saw this firsthand as a rural educator in South Carolina, where frequent computer failures made it nearly impossible to implement technology-enabled personalized learning. In my former school district, using ed technology wasn’t just suggested — for many classes, it was required. Each week, my class went to the computer lab to work on a literacy program purchased by the school. When the computers worked, the program was a hit — it allowed my students to advance at their own pace and to focus on personalized standards and skills.

Each time we visited the lab, however, a new problem emerged: often, the internet didn’t work at all. If the internet worked, then half of the desktops were down. Sometimes we’d make it all the way through the login stage before the desktops began crashing, and I’d watch as a sea of hands flew up around the room. After five failed visits, I quit going to the lab completely.

One-to-one iPad programs and community-wide internet may be part of ed tech’s future, but for my former students, it is far from a working reality. And this isn’t just a rural issue: students and teachers in some underserved urban communities also lack the necessary tech infrastructure.

David Cantor takes a deep dive into how parents choose schools.

Elsewhere:

There seems to be some disagreement about race and school choice. And more here on the same issue. 

Results for American on ESSA, evidence, and what’s happening in the states.

Kristof on Bridge:

So, a plea to my fellow progressives: Let’s worry less about ideology and more about how to help kids learn.

EWA on the diversity views of the education media.

Apparently there is an alligator loose in update New York.


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.

Robots!

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.

Cheating

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.

College

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.

Elsewhere:

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.


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.