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!

By Bellwether

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Breaking: Elite institution seeks to curb eliteness.

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

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

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

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

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