March 6, 2017

Should Students Be Forced To Dissect? SCOTUS Punts, John King Starts, Pensions, Hackers, Opioids, Hess and Boser Books, Gordo Cooper Birthday, More!

By Bellwether

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On this date in 1927 Gordon “Gordo” Cooper was born in Oklahoma. He was a pilot and a Mercury astronaut and, in 1963, the last American to fly in space alone. He also went into space as part of the Gemini program and was memorably portrayed by Dennis Quaid in the film version of The Right Stuff.  Cooper passed in 2004.

New York Times looks at pensions and a key issue that hasn’t received the attention it should: As states try to compensate for problems with their teacher pension plans (under-investment, bad design, or both) they are doing it by making the pensions work even less well for teachers than they already do. You can learn about Bellwether’s teacher pension work – mentioned in the article – here. 

Waiting for Gorsuch? The SCOTUS passes on the VA case involving a transgender Virgina high school student.

Snapchat windfall for Bay Area Catholic high school that received a good stock tip.

Surging opioid deaths. Lots of implications for education.

John King interview with 74.

Hackers targeting left-leaning groups with ransom demands – including some that work in the edu sector.

Keep an eye out: There is going to be a “bare-knuckle fight with Follet and Barnes and Noble.”

Tuition grant program in Arkansas targeting high-need fields. Emma Brown goes to Kentucky to look at the debate over a long-standing school integration policy there. A lot of kids in Massachusetts want to go to charter schools there.

Last week Democrats in Oklahoma’s legislature criticized the Bellwether report on rural education for not talking about funding enough -sadly no link to a really fun email blast available. But the report was the results of focus groups and interviews, so they should take that up with their constituents. Still, they jumped all over us using Bible verses, which I can only take as a positive broadening of the Democratic party tent. Elsewhere, we were attacked twice last week for being irredeemable lefties so it’s entirely possible people are just even more spun up than usual about the conflation of education policy and politics right now.

Rick Hess has a new book out: “Letters to a young education reformer.” The title alone will make everyone who can remember the I’m Rick Hess B**ch days feel old. But well worth a read. The kind of book that if you agree with all of it then you either didn’t read it or you’re the type to outsource your thinking. But some pushes worth considering.

Ulrich Boser has a new book out on learning. “When it comes to learning, people believe a lot of things that aren’t really supported by the research” he writes. If you agree with that then this fascinating book is for you.

Two reminders that various chatter last week brought to mind: First, when you start a conversation, kids, with “how can you be for X, Betsy DeVos is for X!” you reveal yourself as a hack. Try thinking about ideas not personalities. It’s surprisingly liberating. Second, as we get into the crucible on school choice here again soon remember that on pretty much all these school choice issues – public, private, charter, etc… – the real action is around program design not type. It’s quite possible to design a lousy charter school plan and a good voucher plan or vice versa. We have several decades of evidence on this. Amateurs talk about choice in terms of types of programs, pros talk about it in terms of policy design.

The debate over dissection in science class continues. Flipping coins into the water not good luck for this turtle that lives there.

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