Thursday, February 23, 2017

DeVos Folds

It was pretty much zero surprise that the Trump administration chose to undo the Obama protections for transgender students (despite his vociferous campaign assertion that he would be a far better friend to LGBT folks than Clinton).

Yeah, that's a real Trump tweet.

Only a tiny bit of my soul died this week. Hardly hurts at all.

But no-- the actual surprise was that according to several published reports (because, apparently, DC leaks like a buckshot-blasted colander) Betsy DeVos balked at this move. Rescinding the protections required two departments to sign off, and DeVos reportedly did not want to do it. She expressed her concern that transgender students could be more vulnerable to harm without the rue, according to "three Republicans with direct knowledge of the internal discussions." Attorney General Jess Sessions escalated to Defcon Five. Per the New York Times:

Mr. Sessions, who has opposed expanding gay, lesbian and transgender rights, pushed Ms. DeVos to relent. After getting nowhere, he took his objections to the White House because he could not go forward without her consent. Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general, the Republicans said, and told Ms. DeVos in a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he wanted her to drop her opposition. And Ms. DeVos, faced with the alternative of resigning or defying the president, agreed to go along.

Soon after, DeVos was toeing the party line and issuing a statement that boiled down to "vulnerable students are vulnerable, and somebody really should look out for them, but it won't be the federal government."

The actual policy doesn't tell us anything about this administration that we didn't already know. But the way it happened tell us-- and perhaps DeVos-- a bit about her role in this administration.

First, I was actually a little surprised that DeVos rolled over so easily. I thought she was tougher than this. I thought she was a policy pit bull. But she is also a DC newbie. GQ has called her, more than once, a rube. Now Lord knows, when it comes to the DC political world, I am worse than a rube. But I can't help thinking this would have been a time for DeVos to read the national room and say, "Do you really want to fire a cabinet official one month in over where transgender kids can pee? Is that the story you want on Saturday Night Live this week?" Still, I'm certain that it's pretty hard to face down a US President, particularly one who is well-known for gutting enemies and holding long grudges (an approach that DeVos knows something about). Bottom line-- she had her first test, and she folded like a cheap lawn chair.

Second, while this was a protection of huge importance to trans kids and anyone who cares about them, and while this makes a huge statement about our compassion or lack thereof for vulnerable students, it was still relatively small potatoes to the Trump administration. It's not repealing Obamacare or building a wall or any of the marquee promises on which Trump built his brand. And yet he was willing to take DeVos to the wall on this.

Which raises the question-- just how much autonomy will DeVos have as Secretary? Will Trump and his boys micromanage her on every single issue? And yes, it's worth noting in this administration that along with a lack of administrative experience and management background and any time at all working in government, the other thing that Betsy DeVos lacks is a penis, which in any administration should make zero difference-- but in a Trump administration? I have to wonder if DeVos went home yesterday and sat thinking, "Why the hell did I even take this job? Have I made a huge mistake?"

Third, I told you so. And not just me. Regardless of how you feel about her actual preferred education policies, DeVos was always unqualified by her sheer lack of any experience that would have prepared to run a cabinet-level department while going head to head with other major players in the federal government.

It's possible we've been worrying too much about DeVos's beliefs and policy goals because her voice simply isn't going to matter in this administration. Maybe she'll find herself a crash course in How To Be An Effective Cabinet Secretary, or maybe she'll just sit in her office, holding a rubber stamp and waiting for Fearless Leader to tell her what policy she's supporting this week. We'll just have to wait and see if the story, or DeVos, will unfold.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Decline of Accountability

It was just a few years ago that outcomes were all the rage with the reform crowd. The problem with public schools, they said, was that we focus too much on inputs. Outfits like the Rand Corporation produced big reports on giving more weight to outputs. Or here's a paper by Mike Petrilli (Fordham Foundation) telling the state of Wisconsin how to look at those all-important outputs for quality control. The basic sales pitch for charters, repeated again and again, was that charters traded greater autonomy for greater acountability.

But there's a new breeze a-blowin', the same breeze that brought Betsy DeVos, Poppins-like, into town. As has been noted repeatedly, DeVos was never really on board with that accountability thing. Her faith is in God, the free market, rich corporate leaders, and parental choice (well, as much as the first three allow for)-- and that's all we need. In her spate of early interviews, she allowed as how there's not really any issue on which the feds need to intervene. The invisible hand will fix everything.

We don't need accountability. The only part that matters is choice. That is the output that matters.

You can see this new attitude sneaking into the reformsters themselves.

Every year the Fordham Foundation holds a wonkathon, in which they solicit policy ideas and proposals. Last year they also held a design competition in which they solicited ideas for accountability systems under ESSA (I entered that one but, shockingly, did not win). Last year's wonkathon was about looking for a choicy silver lining in the ESSA. 

This year?

This year the Fordham is looking for ideas about how to spend the Trump $20 billion in voucher money. There are three requirements that the submission must meet:

  • It promotes the expansion of parental choice in education
  • It could reasonably be included in a tax reform bill and passed via reconciliation (since, as Politico is reporting, that appears to be the vehicle the Administration and leaders in Congress will try to use)  
  • It includes the number “$20 billion” (though of course it need not start there and might not grow to there)

Notice what's not here? No accountability requirement. No component to make sure that the $20 billion is not spent on fraud or waste or Jesus school or Sharia Law academy or White Kids Only High School or a school run by some guy who knows nothing about schools except how to make money at setting up pretend ones.

I mean, I have my entry ready right now. There are (very) roughly 50 million K-12 students out there. Divide up the $20 billion and write each student a $400 check, which their parents can then choose to spend on whatever they think would be educational-- textbooks, trip to the zoo, Playstation. Get the $20 billion by cutting the defense budget.

That's $20 billion in taxpayer money, to be spent on a new set of entitlements. Why would any plan not include some means of accountability, some way for taxpayers to know that their money had not been flushed away by unaccountable schools run by unelected businesses?

Mind you, the way we've been doing accountability is terrible. The Big Standardized Tests do not provide anything remotely like a measure of student achievement or school success. But after listening to years of reformy cheerleaders say, "Yeah, you teachers hate BS Tests because you don't want to be held accountable," it seems more than a little ironic that reformsters themselves are now ready to jettison accountability as a leg of school reform. This is not a new position for me-- I've always welcomed accountability as long as it actually gives a true measure of an actual thing that matters. But it does seem like a bit of a shift for them.

Accountability matters. We'll just have to see how completely reformsters will stop caring about it now that they are sitting in the driver's seat as the new status quo.

The Lessons of Fordlandia

This week in the New York Times, Simon Romero took a fascinating visit (with photos) to one of Henry Ford's most monumental failures. It's reminder that billionaires who want to remake the world in their own preferred image are nothing new-- and their failures frequently come back to the same old lessons.

In the 1920s, Fordlandia was going to be Ford's solution to several problems. It would help break the British near-monopoly on rubber production, and it would allow Ford to set up his ideal American town. Even if it was going to be in the Amazonian forests of Brazil. It was a high aspiration, and it was doomed to failure.

Henry "History is bunk" Ford made no attempt to tap the expertise of people who knew about life in the Amazon. He dismissed the expertise of people who knew about how to cultivate and grow rubber trees. He made a series of rookie mistakes when it came to establishing his cash crop.

Ford also seriously overestimated his power to shape the lives of his workers (who were to live in made-in-Michigan bungalows). It was his growing belief that to fix the world, he would have to expand his horizons, creating not just factories, but entire cities and cultures in his image, all managed by an overseer who managed the city like a plant manager would manage a manufacturing floor.

Beyond producing rubber, Ford, an avowed teetotaler, anti-Semite and skeptic of the Jazz Age, clearly wanted life in the jungle to be more transformative. His American managers forbade consumption of alcohol, while promoting gardening, square dancing and readings of the poetry of Emerson and Longfellow.

But his workers just left town and procured alcohol anyway. And his vision of a world where workers knew their proper place and became good, compliant citizens ran into trouble as well.

Just when things appeared to be settling down in Fordlandia, violence broke out again on 20 December 1930. At the workers’ cafe, in which skilled workers were separated from manual labourers, an argument between supervisor Kaj Ostenfeld and Manuel Caetano, a brick mason working at the city, quickly escalated. Workers rallied behind Caetano, vandalising the city, destroying generators, manufacturing equipment, and even their own homes. 

Greg Grandin has written the definitive history of Fordlandia; published in 2010, the book lays out the still-important lessons of what happens when guys get rich and think their money means they can ignore the experts and bend the whole world to their vision

With a surety of purpose and incuriosity about the world that seems all too familiar, Ford deliberately rejected expert advice and set out to turn the Amazon into the Midwest of his imagination,” Mr. Grandin, the historian, wrote in his account of the the town. 

Today Fordlandia is a sparsely populated town, its factories empty, and some of its major buildings, like the hospital, long-since stripped of any valuable pieces. It lives on in a couple of pieces of music, and is sometimes cited as the template for new London in Brave New World. The city was never a success-- not as a rubber producer and not as a social experiment, and all of those failures can be traced straight to Ford's doorstep. Unwilling to heed experts and absolutely certain that he was right to inflict his vision of community on his lessers, Ford sowed the seeds of Fordlandia's collapse from Day One.

One can only hope that copies of the book find their way to men like Bill Gates and Michael Barber and Eli Broad and Betsy DeVos and all the other reformsters who have confused wealth with wisdom and believe they have the right to inflict their uninformed, unelected vision on the education world. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Free Market vs. The Poor

Some people just aren't worth the trouble and expense.

That's the underlying message that comes through repeatedly as GOP legislators across the country line up to cut the foundations out from under public education and the ACA.

Sometimes they're pretty transparent about it. Pat Toomey just compared sick people to burned out houses to make the point that it's just unfair to ask insurers to cover them when they are already, I guess, a lost cause. And in Pennsylvania, the chair of the State Senate Education Committee argued in an interview that we should stop wasting time trying to get minority inner-city kids ready for college and just put them in some vocational training.

But how can this be? I thought the free market approach would liberate everyone, provide students and families with the same choices available to the rich and so unjustly denied them in our current system?

That's the pitch we hear over and over-- the free market will liberate students from failing schools (as well as liberate health care and our pension funds).

It's a lie.

The free market (or, at any rate, the free-ish market we've occasionally enjoyed in this country) has never been about getting top quality products and services in the hands of all citizens. That's because of a simple reason-- the free market does not like poor people.

The free market has never said, "Let's find a way to get the very best product in the hands of every consumer, no matter how much they can pay for it." Instead, the free market is set to reward you with a product commensurate with the amount of money you have to offer. You get what you deserve, and what you deserve is determined by how much money you have to spend.

It is, in fact, the free market that helped us establish the unequal system that we have now. We tied school finance to real estate, and real estate is a free market world-- you get what you can afford (this free market system has occasionally been disrupted by cities that decreed that black folks could only live in certain neighborhoods e.g. Chicago). So we get a system in which poor people in poor people housing get underfunded schools, and rich folks live in rich folks housing near a rich folks school. Rich folks have choices that poor folks don't.

So, how can the free market possibly fix that?

There are two problems: 1) in a free(-ish) market, poor people get fewer choices (or none) because they cannot pay for more, better choices and 2) in a free market system (and most others as well) you cannot take choices away from rich people. I don't mean you shouldn't or it's wrong-- I mean you can't do it.

Consider abortion. If you remember the bad old days before Roe v. Wade, you know one simple thing-- it has always been possible for rich women to get safe, clean abortions. It will always be possible. No amount of law-passing will stop it from happening.

Likewise integration. Busing was going to fix inequity by sending poor kids to rich schools and rich kids to poor schools. But you can't take the choices away from rich families, who just enrolled their kids in private and charter schools. Inequity remained.

The problem remains that poor people cannot, on their own, "buy" rich schools. So the next solution is for the government to buy it for them. But so far, charter-choice systems propose to do that with the same inadequate pot of money that made poor schools so underfunded in the first place. It's like telling someone who was about to buy a used Kia, "I'll give you what you were going to spend on the Kia in a voucher, and send you right over to the Lexus dealer." Turning inadequate funding into a voucher does not make it adequate. Instead, poor folks will get the choices that the businesses choose to give them, the choices that make good business sense, not-a-Lexus sense. In the freemarket, you get the choices you can demand, and poor folks are not equipped to demand much.

No matter how you turn it, free market solutions for education will always result in inequity, with poor folks in poor schools. To give poor folks the "purchasing power" to allow them to go to better-funded, well-supported schools would require us to pump a bunch of money into the system over and above what we're spending now. You can say we're moving away from government schools-- but we're still funding everything with government money. And if we were going to pump a bunch more money into the system, why wouldn't we just use it to pump up the schools we already have? And don't forget-- if you don't make those poor schools appealing enough, rich folks will always have the option to make other choices that your government-sponsored can't match.

The free market reserves its best, most high-quality products for its most attractive, most wealthy customers. Poor folks are the least attractive customers in a free market system. There is absolutely no reason to believe that unleashing the power of the free market would lead to better schools for our poorest, our most vulnerable, our least market-attractive students. And I think on some level the acolytes of free market know that-- as someone who argues by analogy a great deal, I can't help noticing that no free market school fan has ever explained, "Of course it would work. It would be just like [insert business sector here]." There is no sector of the free market in which this trick has worked, because the free market always hates poor folks.

But I don't think leaders in this DeVosian age really care about the outcomes for students in a charter-choice system. It's not that I think they're evil and unconcerned, exactly-- but for this crowd, the free market is a Higher Moral Value in and of itself. When Betsy DeVos remakes Michigan in her preferred image, or praises Florida as a great model for the nation, she isn't concerned about how well students from across the range of backgrounds are being served by the system-- I am coming to believe that she thinks that a free market system that serves poor students poorly is better than a government managed system that erases inequity across the nation and provides each student, no matter what zip code, with a great education (not just "access") to one in their own neighborhood-- I am coming to believe that she feels that implementing the free market has a higher moral value than providing each child with an excellent school, that choice, or the illusion of it, combined with an unfettered opportunity for businesses to compete for tax dollars-- that is more important than actual education.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Barber: Let It All Burn

On Valentine's Day, Sir Michael Barber (the head education honcho at Pearson) took to the74 to offer a rather odd and ultimately confused metaphor for education reform by walking us through the story of St. Paul's Cathedral. It's the test from his speech at the 2016 Global Google Education Symposium. Yikes.

The problem, he asserts, began with the construction of the original St. Paul's, a classic Gothic construction whose spire had been shattered by a lightning strike in the 1560s, a mess that was never repaired. A century later, royal surveyors recommended patch and repair, but fortunately, just a few years later, the Great Fire of London leveled the city, St. Paul's included. Christopher Wren got to build a new cathedral.

Does this historic example of disaster-based opportunity remind you of Katrina-socked New Orleans? Well, it does Barber. And it represents for him a choice that he will repeat throughout the piece--- patch and mend, or transformation?

He proceeds with a litany of ills-- blacks men sent to prison, poor students not admitted to Oxford, Greece's huge levels of youth unemployment, illiterate Ugandan teachers, jobs at risk for automation.

Patch and mend, or transformation?

He's talking now about the education system. And he will now call out the reasons he think transformation isn't happening.

Cost-- it's easy to let short term concerns "override long-term aspirations." Kind of like poor people could save money over time by buying a Tesla with the $80,000 they don't have.

Entrenched status quovians-- Oh, those damn teachers' unions. They advocate for crazy things like smaller classes. Barber also accuses us of advocating for less accountability, which is simply a lie.

Psychological barrier-- This is clever. The many botched ed reforms of the past are not to blame for, you know, failing, but rather their failure has created a psychological resistance. Sort of like your psychological resistance to having your hair permed by a six year old, or your psychological resistance to taking your car back to the mechanic who botched your car repairs the last ten times you gave him a chance.

Barber then presents his chart of "false dichotomies" as part of the psychological barrier problem.

His point here is that we can actually have both/and of each of these.  Some of these are straw men-- has anybody ever said that we have to choose between best practices and innovation? Others are just glossing over some serious questions, like universal standards vs. personalization. And all of them skip over the question of the content of the ideas considered-- it's not a strategy vs. implementation issue if the strategy is junk to begin with and no implementation in the world will de-junkify it

Lack of imagination-- "We cannot build what we cannot imagine" is a facile observation, and not really applicable here. First, Wren's imagination was firmly rooted in a deep and thorough understanding of architecture and building. He did not imagine a cathedral floating on clouds, or with a roof unsupported by functional structure. Second, we're not talking about building a big stone structure; we're talking about an organization grounded in a complex web of human relationships. I can imagine that Angelina Jolie will fall madly in love with me the moment she sees me. I can imagine that I can staff a factory with a thousand obedient, compliant, happy meat widgets who will put loyalty to the corporation ahead of their own concerns. But imagination does not make it so.

But Barber believes that some systems and system leaders have made it happen, including Paul Pastorak and Paul Vallas in New Orleans, which is a bit of a stretch. Tony Blain and Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore) get nods as well. He allows as none is perfect, but all have "dramatically improved student outcomes within three to five years," a claim that is only true insofar as those "leaders" were able to swap out bad test taking students for meat widgets that did better on bubble tests.

Barber is attached to the romantic vision of the Hero CEO, the "courageous leader" who can transform an entire system, using the transformative elements of deliverology,a management consultant cathedral of bunk.

Barber wants to spend the rest of his life transforming the living daylights out of education, comparing that goal to Wren's forty-year work on the Cathedral. He wants to get transforming right away, and the big finish of his speech is a question--

Why do we have to wait for the fire?

So, I guess, step one is to burn it all down now. Disaster capitalism should never have to wait for a disaster to present itself.

But here's the really curious thing about Barber's speech. I have saved the first for last.

Barber opens this speech by introducing St. Paul's Cathedral via the famous WWII photo showing its dome rising above the rubble of a shell-shocked London.

This was the view my mother saw each morning as she crossed Southwark Bridge on her walk to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, where she was training to be a doctor. She found the sight of St. Paul’s rising majestically above the city very inspiring. Millions of Londoners felt the same way. St. Paul’s was still standing. Britain had endured.

So there was never a question about transforming this St. Paul's, never an issue of wanting to destroy it and replace it, in fact a celebration and gratitude that it survived the fire, held on through the disaster, and stayed standing. Barber's mother never encountered someone staring at the dome while waiting for the fire to come and ruin it so that replacement was the only option.

The monument that Barber seeks to honor maintains its status as an important monument precisely because the fire didn't take it, and nobody wanted it to, not even the madman in Europe whose imagination, whose vision was of a London completely destroyed-- even St. Paul's cathedral.

Barber answered his own question before he even asked it. Not all visions are worth pursuing, not all systems are waiting for the fire, and not everyone who wants to watch the world burn deserves the power to bring their imagination to life.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Toomey Doesn't Get It

Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey's office was one that was bombarded with phone calls, faxes, texts, tweets, emails, and messages strapped to the backs of delivery hamsters during the run up to the Betsy DeVos confirmation. At one point he was targeted as one of the GOP senators who might change his mind, which struck me as odd because I've met Toomey and heard him talk about school choice and I don't think he'll be abandoning that drum any time soon. That's okay-- it couldn't have hurt for him (or at least some member of his staff) to hear from actual constituents.

That may be why Toomey (or at least some member of his staff) took the time to write a Betsy DeVos mash note that appeared at PennLive this week. It doesn't make his support of DeVos any more palatable, but it does at least show in brief, painful detail why Toomey is not a supporter of public education.

Toomey opens with what is one of my least favorite pro-charter-choice lines:

No child should be forced to stay in a failing school.

Can anybody, anywhere, find me the person who wants to force a child to stay in a failing school? Nobody anywhere disagrees with this statement. There's considerable disagreement about the definition of a failing school, but let's let that slide for a moment and accept that pretty much everyone believes that there are some schools failing to get the job done. The disagreement starts immediately after that period at the end of this statement.

For modern charter-choice advocates, the next sentence is "That's why we're going to allow maybe five percent of those students to leave that school for some other school that may or may not be any better, and we're going to provide less funding for the school to try to help the remaining 95%."

That is not a solution.

No, the next sentence ought to be, "That's why we're going to marshal the resources, the finances, the support, and the same exercise will that this country brings to other major efforts, to improving that school so that every child within its walls is getting the very best education." The next sentence ought to be about making all schools better for all students.

That's never the next sentence. And it's not the next sentence here, either.

Toomey says that Betsy DeVos wants poor children to have the same kinds of choices that rich and middle class students have, and if you think that means she's a big fan of improved housing in urban areas, well, no. She means something more like her Detroit schools, where students who are forcibly "liberated" from their neighborhood schools are presented with an assortment of upscale schools that will not admit them.

Toomey (or one the members of his staff) works in all the reformy wiggle-words. Thanks to DeVos's hard work and use of her personal fortune, thousands of those poor "trapped" students "have been able to access a quality education." Oh, that word "access." Everyone on the Titanic had "access" to a lifeboat; just not everybody actually got to an actual seat.

"DeVos refuses to give up on any child," says Toomey, which makes me wonder how many children she has actually met. To read Toomey's Hymn to Betsy, you would think that she has been using her billion-dollar personal fortune to pay private school and college tuition for thousands of Michigan children instead of spending millions and millions of dollars to swing elections and earn the well-purchased loyalty of politicians.

Toomey also touts the success of Detroit charters, which are okay schools as long as you don't compare them to schools anywhere else in the country. Detroit public schools are a mess. Detroit charter schools are a mess. Michigan's school system is a mess, one of the failingest in the country. DeVos owns some of that mess, but she has yet to acknowledge it, has actively opposed regulating it, and told the Senate HELP committee that she could not think of any lesson she had learned from any of it.

But Toomey is not interested in exploring any of that because here's what he knows:

School choice works. 

You might expect that such a bold assertion might be followed with evidence. You would be wrong. Toomey follows up with anecdotes. A family that scrimped and saved and sent kids to private schools. And his own story-- the fortunate 8th grader who won a philanthropist's scholarship to a top Catholic school. Toomey and DeVos want a world in which all students can have that good luck, without it being luck. And yet, DeVos's work in Michigan has been all about solidifying the divide between what the rich and the poor can have for an education.

Toomey (or some member of his staff) will continue to run the usual talking points here.

Critics assert that DeVos has no experience in public education, even though she has spent decades aiding charter schools--which are public schools. 

She has spent decades as a high-powered lobbyist, which is "aiding" only if you think the most important part of operating a charter school is the getting money without oversight part. And no, Pat-- charter schools are not public schools.

Or they call Betsy DeVos "unqualified" because she is not proficient in D.C. jargon and does not fit the mold of previous Education Secretaries.

Nope. They call her unqualified because she is unqualified. Even in this piece, Toomey cannot list any qualifications for her other than her concern, her lobbying experience, and her money.

But where have these previous Education Secretaries left us? 

It's true. We've had a string of education secretaries who were also spectacularly unqualified and who did a lousy job. Toomey stops just short of declaring, "So what we need is someone with even fewer qualifications than John King or Arne Duncan!"

What Toomey does want to do is trot out the old "We've been spending more and more money on education and yet our standardized test scores haven't gone up," He's going to go deep twisty spin on this point, by listing points like "Our SAT scores were really low in 2012" or "according to NAEP some big number of students aren't ready for college.' Both of these stats are baloney, the kind of thing you cherry pick when you want to buttress a bad point, not when you're really trying to understand what's going on. (Pro tip: SAT averages depend on who's taking the test, and NAEP scores are highly suspect as predictors of success).

Toomey finishes up by saying that sure there are many swell public schools and they have nothing to fear from choice, and also, the money should follow the child.

"Money should follow the child" is wrong in many ways, but it signals that Toomey, like DeVos, would like to go full voucher. (Pro tip: parents are not the only stakeholders in public education. See also: separation of church and state).

It's also wrong because it signals that Toomey would like to run multiple parallel school systems for the same money we currently spend on one system. That is simply impossible. I'd respect Toomey and other choice advocates a bit more if they just said so-- "We really believe in choice, and to make it work we'll have to raise school taxes, but we think it will really be worth it." Oddly enough, they never say that.

As I mentioned, I met Toomey once at a local meet-and-greet with voters. He seems like a nice guy, was sweet with his kids, and looks far less scowly-librarian than all of his official photos. But he's not a friend of public education, at all. He's also a member of the new "I'd rather not meet my constituents face to face in a real town hall" club, so if you want to explain a few things to him, you'll have to stick with phone calls, faxes, emails, tweets, and the occasional hamstergram. Good luck to all of us in Pennsylvania.

ICYMI: Extra Homework Edition (2/19)

It's a big list this week. As always, remember to share, pass on, and amplify what speaks to you and provide that writer with a wider audience. 

Betsy DeVos Broke the Ed Reform Coalition-- For Now

Daniel Katz with a good historical overview of how we ended up where we are in the ed debates, and what a DeVos ed department means to reformsters.

Stop Learning To Read

From Blue Cereal Education, a reflection on the innate stupidity of certain Lear To Read Or Else policies.

Massachusetts Students Are Increasingly Diverse, but Their Teacher Are Not

Remember when just everyone was concerned about this issue for about five minutes? Here's a reminder from the Boston Globe that it has not gone away, with some actual facts and some acknowledgement that bashing teachers (as the Globe often does) is not helpful.

Detroit Parents Steered To Better Schools That Don't Actually Take Detroit Kids

Detroit continues to be on the forefront of screwing over poor children and their families. Here's how the whole "Once we close your school, you can go to a better one" plan actually works.

They Ruined It

Teacher Tom in Seattle, on the vagueries of playground design.

How I Was Schooled at The NAACP Charter Hearings

Karen Wolfe went to one of the NAACP hearings on charter schools. What she hears, said, and learned there.

DeVos's Stumbles at the Start Are Nothing To Laugh About

Jeff Bryant looks at Betsy DeVos's initial blunders and reminds us that we have no reason to just sit back and laugh

Investigation: Charter school leaders, founders linked to controversial Turkish cleric

This piece looks at New Jersey, but it's a good explanation of how the Turkish-linked Gulen schools, and why they remain one of the very worst abuses of charter school laws in the US

5 Ways Teachers Are Fighting Fake News

There are plenty of these "fake news" stories for classroom teachers, with plenty of minilessons and tips. This is just one.

Online Charter Legislation for This Year

A look at what's up in some states this year as far as regulating the failing cyber charter industry. Plus, a handy chart showing just how much money one of the major players is spending to lobby in state legislatures.