February 11, 2016

Bellwether Is Hiring, Fun With Big Numbers, DC Teacher Evals, Common Core Tests, Restorative Justice, Organizing!

By Bellwether

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Bellwether is hiring for multiple roles including a couple of analyst roles on the Policy & Thought Leadership team that will close soon. We also are always recruiting interns – our internships are substantive and not administrative and stipends are available for financial need.

New Common Core assessment evaluation from Fordham. Useful look at some dimensions around assessment and the new standards most states are using.

Changes to D.C.’s teacher evaluation and support system. Perhaps most interestingly it’s a shift from a third-party evaluation tool to vesting that responsibility with principals. One area of concern on D.C.’s approach to evaluations has been that it’s unusual in professional work to take evaluation responsibilities from line managers. On the other hand the capacity in education around management is not exceptional – has that changed enough in Washington? The use of student surveys is great, big promise there.

Listen: RiShawn Biddle (Dropout Nation) DeRay McKesson (Black Lives Matter & Baltimore politics), Milagros Barsallo (RISE Colorado) Zeke Berzoff-Cohen (Baltimore student activist group Intersection) and Jonathan Mansoori (Leadership for Educational Equity) talk organizing and politics.

Bellwether’s Hailly Korman on discipline and restorative justice.

Here’s a smart take on inequality and its implications. New report on Common Core and teachers via Harvard. Adult diploma recovery. Marty West on school choice impacts. Nuance on privilege and supporting diverse leaders. Education’s credentials fetish is a hassle.

New analysis on economically integrated schools (an idea that is at once valuable and politically tortuous). The report is at once hopeful and indicative of the challenges here. Good news, the authors tell us, the number of districts and charter networks doing this has really increased!

“Our research has identified a total of 91 districts and charter networks across the country that use socioeconomic status as a factor in student assignment”

Woohoo! Wait, what? There are more than 13,000 school districts and charter networks? So that’s like 1 percent? Less? Oh.

But don’t worry, this actually touches a lot of kids says the executive summary!

The 91 school districts and charter schools with socioeconomic integration policies enroll over 4 million students. Roughly 8 percent of all public school students currently attend school districts or charter schools that use socioeconomic status as a factor in student assignment.

That four million gets headlines but it’s an ongoing sleight of hand by a handful of advocates. Here’s why: Arriving at that figure is the same method as adding up all the districts with AP courses, or gifted courses, or Montessori, or whatever and claiming impact across all kids in those places. In other words, would you claim that every student in a district is impacted by an AP program there? Of course not. In both cases the actual number of students directly impacted is smaller.

None of this is a reason not to read the report, there is some good information in it about policy options and strategies. And it’s not a reason not to support efforts to create more economically integrated schools (I do). But…some realism here about the current and potential scale of impact would be helpful. A sober analysis of the quality of available school options in various communities is also important as well as a look at the demographic challenges based on where students live and public school demographics more generally. Plus some realism about the politics. From those issues a pragmatic person might land on a more ecumenical approach embracing a variety of school choice options to help give low-income parents more choices and options including, but not overwhelmingly focused on, a strategy that despite hopeful claims by its boosters remains pretty marginal?

At the federal level perhaps we could even start by just not rolling back public school rights for parents? It would also be helpful if we didn’t jettison school accountability efforts based on what actually happens to different students within various schools. More than a half century of history should teach us that just getting kids into different schools is not the entire project.

(The President is proposing an voluntary initiative on this in his budget request. That led Rick Kahlenberg, a longtime advocate of this approach as preferable to others, to say the political environment must have changed (because, of course, 4 million kids!). But if the political environment has changed so much then why are we getting this in a final year budget? It’s a fine idea for a program if, like me, you think federal dollars can catalyze change, but it more underscores than contradicts the political issues here.)

Yesterday I took a look at education and the presidential race.

If you receive any of these valentines, run.

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