April 13, 2016

Clinton’s Education Comments Not As Crazy As You Heard On Twitter, Go Denver, Success Academy Jackpot, Semantics, Some Antics, Pensions, Trump Bro’s, Happy Birthday TJ!

By Bellwether

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Tomorrow’s news today: Kaitlin Pennington previews teacher quality in HEA. Betsy Arons looks at why HR matters.

Educated citizenry: It’s Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. He was born on this date in 1743 in Shadwell, Virginia. To Sir, With Love: On this date in 1964 Sidney Poitier won a Best Actor Academy Award. His first and the first for a black man.

I heard a strange sound last night, then I realized it was heads exploding. First more than 20K parents want their kids to go to Success Academy next year and then someone gives them $25 million! It must feel like a terrible acid trip for poor Kate Taylor. A giant teacher dressed like Eva Moskowitz chasing her down the street with a video camera and a huge check…

Chad Aldeman on the lousy deal of Illinois teacher pensions and some options for improvement. What’s the average teacher pension in your state? We can tell you but it’s not very useful information.

Massachusetts teachers’ union president in exquisite limbo.  Another merger: EIA joining with SIIA. People are frustrated with student loans.  No way! There is pushing and shoving and theater on ESSA implementation?  Denver is a quiet success story on charters that seems to have largely escaped notice by the chattering class.

Today in ‘maybe consider private school….’

“We, as a board, must move away from what was the so-called … reform movement,” Rosa said shortly after the regents elected her chancellor. “I say, welcome the transformers.

Who knew America’s education problem was semantics? So much easier to solve!

There is a problem with political correctness on campus but Donald Trump has hijacked the issue in some not helpful ways. Don’t believe me? Meet the Trump Bro’s.

Hillary Clinton and education policy*: Rinse, Repeat. Another round of freaking out about Hillary Clinton and education policy. Then the campaign says, no, no, not what you think, she’s a reformer. Then everyone waits for the next time. In this round here’s Matt Barnum looking at the push-off from Obama’s Education Secretary over Common Core. Here’s Jonathan Chait in NY Mag on testingAnd here’s Laura Waters. You can Google for more.

I’ve been as dismayed as anyone by some of what the Clinton campaign has said (and not said) on education policy but the ritualistic quality of these regular dust-ups is obscuring some nuance. In this case, when asked about opt-out Clinton said she wouldn’t want her granddaughter opt-ed out. If you’re just knee-jerk anti-testing person or in full pander mode you don’t say that – especially in New York right now. And is anyone really going to argue that the Common Core rollout was not a mess politically and substantively. It doesn’t undercut the merit of the standards or the argument for improving schools more generally but Secretary Clinton making that point is hardly from left field. As of now it’s unclear if reformers have learned the lessons of all that yet. The opponents were outrageous but there were plenty of unforced errors, too.

Meanwhile, President Clinton’s comments on testing are complicated. He’s not correct about accountability and measuring growth absent annual testing. You need annual testing for these kinds of systems to be implemented in a rigorous way and the analytic leverage they provide for educators, parents, and policymakers is hard to overstate. But more fundamentally what he seemed to be basically saying is that while today’s tests help students at the bottom of the achievement gap they are creating something of a ceiling for higher achieving students. It was clumsy how he said it but Clinton is a former Commander in Chief not a former school superintendent. Where there is room for legitimate disagreement is whether that ceiling problem is inherent to tests or just what’s going to happen in a low-capacity system where a lot of teachers are struggling to deliver the kind of instruction students need. (All the great teachers who get strong results and don’t just teach to the test and drill suggest it’s more the latter as does some research.)

Because low-achieving students (and racial, economic, and ethnic achievement gaps) are scattered throughout the system and not just concentrated in a subset of schools getting rid of testing or even paring it back a great deal is not a satisfactory answer if you are concerned about equity. And it’s worth remembering that most of the tests and state and local not federal. The problem is, of course, especially politically complicated because suburban parents who paid a lot for their houses don’t want to hear that their schools are not as good as they think. But there is a puzzle here. And President Clinton was on firm footing suggesting better teacher training might help solve it.

Seems like one byproduct of the episodic treatment of education in the campaign is that it sets the stage for these kind of flash fire moments because the candidates are not pressed to really explain their views and asked probing follow-up questions the way they are on some other issues. The 74‘s candidate forum was revealing in this way and it’s unfortunate the Democratic candidates didn’t participate in the one in Iowa with the Des Moines Register and The 74. Who knows, a real debate and conversation about education might be useful!

Big not fish.

*Relevant disclosures: I worked at the White House for President Clinton, supported Secretary Clinton in 2008 and think she’s clearly the most qualified candidate this time around. And I’m on the board of The 74. I also think Jon Chait says a lot of smart stuff about education even though I’ve heard on Twitter that his wife works in this sector or is a privatizer so I shouldn’t listen to him or he’s her cat’s paw or something.

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