October 28, 2015

Online Schools, NAEP, And Other Problems! Plus Gates, TFA, And NHL Hockey! Kaya Henderson Live!

By Bellwether

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NHL player Eric Fehr wrote a childrens’ book on bullying. The PBS Ombudsman weighs-in on Merrow-Moskowitz. Interesting take on TFA and race. In U.S. News I take a look at the Every Kid In A Park Initiative.*

At the National Press Club on 11/10 I’m going to host a discussion with Kaya Henderson about her tenure in Washington, D.C. and broader career. Keep an eye out for more details.

As a class online charter schools aren’t very good. CRPE here. CREDO here. ‘But we’re serving hard-to-serve kids!’ their supporters protest. Okay, fair enough. But not very well. So in no small way what this new Mathematica-CREDO-CRPE report points up is just how bad the infrastructure and support is for students who struggle in more traditional schools. Not enough options and while online -when done well – can fill an important niche other solutions are sorely needed. On online specifically Robin Lake* has some good ideas.

Here’s the Walton Family Foundation’s* statement on the collected studies:

“We support research on difficult questions because we want to know what is working for kids — and what is not. Innovation in education takes time, and we must test whether new ideas are working and make changes when we learn that ideas with potential are falling short.

“We supported The National Study of Online Charter Schools to learn more about virtual charter schools, and we’re grateful that CRPE, Mathematica and CREDO have studied these schools and are sharing their findings today.  Knowing the facts helps parents, educators, policymakers and funders make smarter, more informed decisions that benefit children.

“Going forward, we will be evaluating these schools with added rigor, and will need to see that providers are addressing the significant issues this study raises before even considering an investment.

“We urge charter school authorizers and state-level policymakers to carefully review these findings as well and learn from them. Holding schools accountable for results is vitally important to students. Policymakers cannot ignore students who are lagging a full year behind their peers in math and nearly a half a school year in reading. Policymakers should intervene to ensue that children are well served, and authorizers should not enable such low-quality schools to continue operating unchecked.”

It’s pretty standard and unoriginal in education to go after Walton but I’m trying to think when I’ve seen such a forthright statement on an issue like this from any of the groups representing pretty much anyone in the education sector when the evidence didn’t break their way…

NAEP scores not very good either. Actually, probably not as bad as you heard. In any event, here’s a quick crib sheet for possible explanations of the dip that has everyone talking:

A) It’s a blip. Relax.

B) It’s a trend! Common Core is not working. Panic!

C) Common Core is working, implementation is disruptive, and NAEP doesn’t assess all the same domains so this is not surprising. Wonk.

D) Too soon to tell what, if anything, it means. Stay tuned.

I’ll take D. And pay attention to the differences in specific places, a lot of variation. But if you want to speculate wildly about why whatever policy you hate (or the absence of whatever policy you love) is causing this you should feel free. You’ll have plenty of company. Update: Sandy Kress dissents here and in the comments below.

Vicki Phillips is leaving the Gates Foundation* at the end of the year. All sorts of speculation. Ignore. Instead, watch who the successor is. That will say more about future directions for the foundation’s work than whatever rumor you hear.

*Disclosures: I like to take my kids to parks. Walton is a funder/client of Bellwether and I work there. So is Gates. I’m on Robin’s advisory board.

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