October 25, 2016

Teacher Prep, Teacher Data, Teacher Retirement! Thanks Goldstein! Education Politics, Charters, Student Privacy, MT Politics With National Implications, Latino Supt’s, And More. Plus Finland!

By Bellwether

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Michael Goldstein did a great job here guestblogging last week, he went wild, scroll below to see all that.

Last week Bellwether released a new analysis on teacher prep (pdf).  Ashley Mitchel and I looked at the new regulations in U.S. News. More from Mitchel on this here.

Chad Aldeman on why education advocates have to care about pensions, too. Here’s Aldeman on retention/turnover data for teachers and why it’s often a confused conversation. Chad’s also been on the teacher shortage data lately and why some of the analytic perspectives on that issue have methods problems. That doesn’t mean there are not shortages, rather that it’s not an overall problem but instead concentrated by subject and geography. That matters in terms of getting the policy remedies right.

Marilyn Rhames wants change, not your job. Here’s a quick primer on the education landscape.

LA School Report, a media property of The 74, is now publishing in Spanish.

The letters responding to the recent Times editorial on the teacher prep regs are a great caricature. Except they’re real. Don’t miss them: NCTQ is awful. Finland! Teacher Bashing! Finland! Best and brightest. Salaries. Sober reasoned James Cibulka take. Finland!

The Times looks at a popular retirement scam that preys on teachers – optional high fee retirement vehicles.  So here’s the deal: teachers get pension plans that most won’t ever fully qualify for (pdf), 40 percent of teachers are not covered by Social Security, and then for good measure they get peddled these lousy investment options. But this doesn’t happen by accident, buried at the bottom of The Times’ account:

The New Jersey teachers also turned to their local union for help, hoping they could find a better program to put their money in. The union representative recommended a sales agent affiliated with the retirement program run by the National Education Association, a union with three million members.

But the union’s products weren’t much different from what the teachers already had.

The N.E.A.’s Member Benefits group, a subsidiary, exclusively endorses a set of products from Security Benefit, a financial services company with nearly $32 billion in total assets that creates fixed and variable annuities and offers mutual funds. (The union’s program for teachers receives at least $2.7 million from Security Benefit each year, according to regulatory filings, which it said it paid to operate the program.)

The products include an array of mutual funds, various annuities — and one lower-cost option in which investors can choose inexpensive index funds without a broker’s assistance. But most new money from school employees is invested in the mutual funds sold by brokers, according to Gary Phoebus, chief executive of N.E.A. Member Benefits.

Fees in that program range from 0.35 to 1.25 percent. But that doesn’t include another layer of expenses for the underlying investments, which run from 0.59 to 2.11 percent, according to Security Benefit, and in some cases additional sales or surrender charges

For comparison, total costs at a typical large 401(k) generally fall under 0.5 percent.

Mr. Phoebus defended the program, saying it offered a wide variety of options “to meet the diverse needs and comfort levels of members.” The goal, he explained, was to balance fees while providing access to advice.

However, some employees of the union itself, as opposed to its subsidiary, do receive a better deal. Many are offered a 401(k) retirement planmanaged by Vanguard, a mutual fund company known for its low costs.

A lot going on in this George Packer look at Hillary Clinton and today’s populist mood but two passages are key to education:

Hillary Clinton spoke of the limits of an “educationalist” mind-set, which she called a “peculiar form of élitism.” Educationalists, she noted, say they “want to lift everybody up”—they “don’t want to tell anybody that they can’t go as high as their ambition will take them.” The problem was that “we’re going to have a lot of jobs in this economy” that require blue-collar skills, not B.A.s. “We need to do something that is really important, and this is to just go right after the denigration of jobs and skills that are not college-connected.” A four-year degree isn’t for everyone, she said; vocational education should be brought back to high schools.

She’s right, of course. But although there is an important social mobility aspect to this for low-income students overall it’s less an issue of “as high” than just figuring out what you want to do. There are lots of fulfilling and economically viable ways to make a living. But, because at 18, or younger, we don’t really know who can do what or who even really wants to do what, the ground here is tricky. If you’re going to err in policy is it better to err on the side of  ’you can go as high as you want’ or is better to err on the side of ‘you can’t?’ The cheap answer is “both.” But that’s not how it works in practice and policy will drive practice.

The moral superiority of élites comes cheap. Recently, Murray has done demographic research on “Super Zips”—the Zip Codes of the most privileged residents of New York, Washington, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. “Super Zips are integrated in only one way—Asians,” he said. “Blacks and Latinos are about as scarce in the Super Zips as they were in the nineteen-fifties.” Multiethnic America, with its tensions and resentments, poses no problem for élites, who can buy their way out. “This translates into a whole variety of liberal positions”—Murray mentioned being pro-immigration and anti-school choice—“in which the élite has not borne any of the costs.”

The lack of school choice among those who exercise it through their choice of where to live (if not actual school choice via private schools) seems a stunning feature of our politics. It wasn’t always like this, in the 60s many on the left were for school choice for this exact reason. Once it became associated with Milton Friedman and markets the political bottom fell out and is still not really there today as we’re seeing in Massachusetts and its charter referendum as well as the more general politics of charter schools.

Gerard Robinson on education for the incarcerated. Helicopter parenting interrupted. NASBE looks at school surveillance and privacy. Brookings analysis on charters and segregation. DFER on charter schools. Kansas school finance not getting any easier. Latino Supt’s in Texas. The Denise Juneau race in Montana will impact education policy whether she wins or loses. Here’s a poll on parents and tech. 

Interesting article on fly fishing, criminal defense, and the good and bad of informal bonds.

This guy is dressed like a tree.

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