Moving On From Latest Charter School Showdown

The dust is finally settling on the latest showdown between EdSec Betsy DeVos and AFT President Randi Weingarten on charter schools, their history, and their potential. The rhetoric earlier this month got ugly. But it can provide a real opportunity to look at school choice in a meaningful way … and to use charter schools as a channel for driving school improvement on the whole. Sorta like what was conceived decades ago (and supported by Weingarten predecessor Al Shanker). 

We explore the dust up and the potential on the latest edition of #TrumpED on the BAM! Radio Network. Give it a listen. 

Let’s Make Political Comms Professional Again 

To put it in West Wing speak, [White House Communications Director Anthony] Scaramucci accepted the position of Toby. But he clearly wants to do C.J.’s job. And in wanting to be the public voice, and wanting to be the news, he has quickly become the devil on the other shoulder, encouraging his boss’ negative traits and enflaming distrust and fear.

We’ve devolved from President Bartlet and the West Wing to Piggy and Lord of the Flies.

Eduflack’s latest on LinkedIn Pulse 

Choosing the Kardashians Over GoT

We’ve reached the point in our society when we want every micro-action we take to have deep socio-political meaning. As Eduflack writes at LinkedIn Pulse, sometimes we need to accept that television viewing is just entertainment, and shouldn’t be seen as anything more.

We are just as guilty of this in the education space, assuming we know what makes someone tick because of their opinions on an issue such as testing, standards, choice, or teachers unions. And we then ascribe that “tick” to everything they do, from raising their kids to voting.

As I write for Pulse:

In the past decade, I’ve watched more episodes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians than I have segments of 60 Minutes. After reading five newspapers – The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and the New York Post – each morning, there just isn’t much more I’m going to get from television news magazines.

I’ve yet to make it through an entire Rachel Maddow show, but I’ve watched plenty of RuPaul’s Drag Race. And plenty of UFC Fight Night on Fox. In short, I’m the Neilsen Ratings’ worst demographic nightmare.

Why is this important? At a time when we should be looking for commonalities and ways to bring people together, we are using more and more – including our media consumption – as ways to divide and ascribe potentially mistaken personas.

Give it a read. And if you are up for it, come catch an episode of the Kardashians or a UFC match with me. It’ll be entertaining, I promise.

It’s Time To Do Something, Anything, EdSec DeVos!

We are now six months into the Trump Administration, and when it comes to education policy, we must finally ask, what is the strategy, folks?

Just last week, we saw former governor, former U.S. Education Secretary, and current Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander call out the DeVos Administration for failing to understand what ESSA says about state decisionmaking.

We saw the head of the Department’s Civil Rights office state that most Title IX complaints are the result of the woman regretting a night of alcohol and a subsequent breakup with the accused.

And we witnessed supposedly sympathetic Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives pass a federal education budget without the needed funding for the EdSec’s signature school choice effort.

While the Administration continues to struggle to find individuals to take top education positions, the “successes” from the past six months include stripping billions in Title II teacher support dollars from the budget, and freezing action to absolve students from paying back loans to attend failed proprietary colleges.

One may not agree, ideologically, with the Trump/DeVos Administration, but we should all want to see it success when it comes to improving teaching and learning across the United States. And as we complete the first eighth of President Donald Trump’s first term in office, we all should wonder what the plan is here.

Despite what some may want to believe, the concerns facing public education in America are both wide and deep. We struggle to find qualified teachers for our high-need schools, particularly in areas like STEM, ELL, and sped. And we do so as the teaching profession itself has been stripped of the respect it had long enjoyed and deserves.

We fail to see the problem with continuing to pursue a homogenous approach to K-12 education at a time when our population of learners couldn’t be more diverse. And we do it by resisting the incoming wave of personalized learning and differentiated instruction. 

We ignore where we really stand when it comes to student performance, making excuses for the United States placing 38th out of 71 in PISA math and 24th in PISA science. And we do it while criticizing learning assessment itself, rather than focusing on a new generation of better, more effective tests.

The DeVos administration came into power without owing anything to those individuals, organizations, and interests beholden to the status quo and the way things have always been done. There is no benefit to defending flat test scores as other nations experience significant rises. There is no gain in ensuring the protection and support of dropout factories. There is no win in ensuring another generation of short-term educators without the knowledge, skills, and support to succeed in the classroom.

It is now past time for DeVos and her skeleton crew to take real action, be it with the power of the checkbook or the strength of the bully pulpit. What could this action look like?

  • A whistle-stop tour to discuss the true value of school choice, particularly in those communities that don’t already enjoy a robust charter sector. This could be particularly appealing to the special education community, giving it a deep dive on what Florida’s McKay vouchers have meant to sped families in the Sunshine State.
  • A collaboration of the Education, Labor, and Commerce Departments, supported by corporate partners, to make a major investment in career and technical education, with an emphasis on the STEM skills and jobs that will be needed for a strong economy 20 years from now. This can even include the apprenticeship push announced by the President earlier this year.
  • A reinvestment in early childhood education, building on the family leave and support efforts of First Daughter Ivanka Trump. This could include finally having the Federal government recognize that early childhood education is the purview of the U.S. Department of Education, and not Health and Human Services.
  • A refocus on teacher quality, offering even stronger executive action on teacher prep provisions than the recently revoked Obama language. Through a “return on investment” lens, this could include returning Title II dollars for efforts that raise the quality and results of teaching, looking at the outcomes of the teaching profession, not just the inputs.

Six months in, and federal education policy is still stuck in neutral. And based on the state of public education in the United States, neutral means that millions of kids are losing ground. Losing ground when it comes to reading proficiency. Losing ground when it comes to 21st century skills. Losing ground when it comes to required remediation.

It is past time to roll up the sleeves, seize the rostrum, and get it done. If this Administration is seeking to shake up the status quo, if this Administration is serious about breaking from the failed policies of the past, and if this Administration believes that traditional public schools are indeed failing, then do something about it. You are now steering the ship. Take us somewhere. Anywhere.

 

Does the Media Really Need a Listening Tour?

Since the November election, mainstream media outlets have made pilgrimages to “flyover” states to better understand those millions of people who voted for Trump. Using the book Hillbilly Elegy as their Frommer’s Guide to Red America, reporters have returned with tales of low incomes, opioid abuse, American flags, and Bible verses. They’ve written how those who voted for Trump will be most negatively impacted by his policy recommendations. And they’ve questioned how such voters can remain so loyal to such a President.

In its dogged pursuit of a President, the media has, both indirectly and directly, called into question the intelligence and motives of the voters who elected him. As a result, those same voters gravitate to the media outlets they are most comfortable with. Maddow or Hannity? New York Times or New York Post? NPR or Rush? HuffPo or Breitbart?

From Eduflack’s latest on LinkedIn Plus, Do Media Really Need a “Listen to America” Tour?