January 2, 2018

Pension Bets, Squire Cautions On ESSA, Mead On The Tax Bill, Rodrigues On Testing, Williams On Multilingual Early Ed, Charter Grad Rates, ESSA, Incentive Pay For Teachers, Dickens…

By Bellwether

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Scroll down for some edujobs if your New Year’s resolution was to find a new one.

Sara Mead on the tax bill and kids. Last week I wrote about the tax bill’s 529 changes.

Max Marchitello goes all super hero in the ESSA debate. But, Julie Squire offers some good cautions on thinking about state ESSA plans.

In case you missed the 2017 Bellwether annual report, here it is again.

Also popular Eduwonk posts and book recommendations.

This is an incredible essay contest.

Jay Mathews on high school exit exams. I’m not a big fan but it seems like two things are happening right now – genuine improvements in graduation rates and some gaming via various inflated credentials.

The Times takes a look at Betsy DeVos’ charitable giving.

I think a lot of this is discontinued since her nomination. I know that’s the case with The 74 (where I’m a senior editor). It blew a hole in the budget. And also didn’t lead to unvarnished converge either. If you want to make Romy Drucker’s blood pressure shoot up ask her if the 74 still gets DeVos funding, so much misinformation around.

Also, on DeVos, the general emerging consensus from her fans and foes alike is that she’s building a competent team and getting good people in key roles and generally finding her sea legs. You don’t hear too many people making the case that she’ll be a great secretary, but rather that she’s stabilized things and will be a consequential one in terms of impacting policy.

Keri Rodrigues:

The truth of the matter is testing and accountability is a matter of social justice – providing a critical tool for parents to be able to determine whether their children are getting the educational experience they have been promised. Without testing and accountability, how would we even know that achievement gaps in our system exist? Without these measures, we will be headed back to the days when complaints of systematic racism were dismissed as anomalies and needless worry that is “all in our heads.”

This Washington Post story on pensions is a must-read. It’s about private sector pensions but a few things are relevant to the public pension debate as far as education is concerned. In particular, while the workers profiled were victims of bad corporate behavior, the structure of their pensions helped set the conditions for the problem. When pension wealth is heavily backloaded to the end of a worker’s career it introduces “life risk.” In this case it was bad behavior by their employer but in the case of teachers it can just be moving to a different state. If it takes 7 or 10 years to vest (and that’s not an outlier, it takes 10 years in 18 states) for any pension at all and most of your pension wealth is tied to the last few years of your working career you’ are making a big bet that some life circumstance (spouse/partner job change, sick family member, etc..) will not case you to have to move.

The policy solution to this problem is not pro/con pension per se, it’s to smooth out the rates of accrual and make that wealth more portable for individuals. That’s possible in pension systems, in hybrid models like cash balance, or in 401(k)-style plans.

Second, the article talks about a looming retirement crisis. Analysts disagree about how acute this will be but I do think it’s a significant problem. A retirement system for teachers – and more than four million Americans work as teachers – that leads to just one in five teachers getting a full pension is a contributor to that problem. This is in no small part why Bellwether spends so much time working on the teacher pension issue.

Kevin Drum sees this retirement issue differently here.

Related: Bets on the market to try to fill pension obligations.

This doesn’t seem like a very good way to build political support for public schools. But the charter sector is going to have to better police stuff like this.

This doesn’t help public schools much either – it’s always kids first!

Connor Williams on the gentrification of multilingual pre-k programs.

This story on Texas charter graduation rates is interesting. You do need alternative accountability requirements for all kinds of public schools serving niche populations. But you have to be careful those don’t turn into loopholes – Texas has struggled with this.

According to the Texas Education Agency, charter schools rated under normal accountability measures had a graduation rate of about 95 percent in 2015, but charter schools rated under alternative standards had a graduation rate of less than 50 percent.

Everybody knows incentive pay for teachers never works….

Home rule on schools coming back to Newark.

….he found party politics contaminating everything, its leaders “the lice of God’s creation,” and “despicable trickery at elections; under-handed tamperings with public officers; and cowardly attacks upon opponents, with scurrilous newspapers for shields, and hired pens for daggers.”

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