Monolos Don’t Guarantee Political (or Education) Success

Ravitch and the disciples of Ravitch are quick to condemn Teach For America (TFA). TFA is portrayed as a band of dilettantes, individuals of privilege who are seeking to inject themselves in to the schools for a few years without proper preparation or without having paid their dues. To them, the TFA badge is thrown around as a brand of unpreparedness.

Can’t the same be said of Nixon?

From dear ol’ Eduflack’s latest piece for The Education Post, Cynthia Nixon’s Run for Governor is Looking a Lot More Like ‘Hypocrisy in the City’

Dream Jobs Versus Reality Families

A decade ago, I felt like everything was rainbows and lollipops for me. My wife and I had just completed the adoption of our son, bringing him from Guatemala to Washington, DC. I had a terrific job, doing the work I loved for an awesome company. For the first time in a long time, everything was making sense and everything seemed to be happening as it should.

Sure, I started spending a little too much time traveling for work, but that was just part of the job. Going in, I knew that providing public affairs counseling to not-for-profit organizations and universities meant I would sometimes have to leave the confines of my office. But it was a small price to pay for the normalcy and stability our new family had.

Then my wife and I received a bombshell phone call. Our son’s birth mother had just given birth to a little girl. As was the policy of the adoption agency, they looked to place siblings together. So the big question to us that September day was whether we wanted to adopt this little girl.

We had spent a lot of time deciding to become an adoptive family. And anyone familiar with international adoptions knows all of the hoops one must jump, red tape one must cut, and commitments one must make to get there. We were fortunate in the adoption of our son, facing minimal bumps in the road. We brought him home seven months after his birth.

It took us all of two minutes to decide we needed to bring this little girl into our family as well. But we also knew that this process would be far from easy. In the 10 months between getting our son home and our daughter’s birth, the Guatemalan Congress decided to outlaw international adoptions. We were now working against an ominous clock, knowing that much had to be done in a very short period of time. Everything done in preparation for our son — every background check, every financial check, every interview, every home visit — would have to be redone. We were starting from scratch, only we didn’t have the half-year head start we had had to do all the paperwork before our son was born.

With the holidays approaching, we almost didn’t get our ICE interview and approval in before the end of the calendar year, an approval essential to officials in Guatemala. We faced local bureaucrats in Guatemala that decided to reject and delay our case again and again.

Knowing all of this was going to be in our future, I faced a very serious reality. There was no way I could keep my fantastic job and still have the flexibility to bring our daughter home. From our son, I knew that we would have to head down to Guatemala on 48 hours notice. And with the clock ticking, we knew that anything could happen, and we could have to be in country for two days, or two weeks, depending on what was happening with our case. Trying to manage those sorts of demands with a full roster of clients with their own needs and own expectations was just untenable. So I quit my job.

It took us 13 months to bring our daughter home. We were one of the fortunate ones. It’ll be 10 years this fall, and there are still children born when my daughter was born whose cases have not yet been finalized. They still remain in foster care or orphanages as issues and red tape continue to bog down.

Why do I tell this story, and why do I tell this story here? Earlier this year, Joanne Boyle announced she was “retiring” as head coach of the University of Virginia’s women’s basketball team. Boyle is a top coach in the NCAA who has achieved significant results with the Cavaliers. She is at the prime of her coaching career, working for a top ACC program. Surely there must have been more to the story that a “retirement.”

Today, The Washington Post wrote an important piece telling the rest of the story. Boyle resigned because she needs to go to Senegal, and she doesn’t know how long she will need to be in country. Four years ago, Boyle brought her daughter home from Senegal, where the now six-year old was orphaned as an infant. But instead of bringing her home after completing the adoption process, it seems Boyle brought her daughter home on a tourist visa, seeking to ensure that the young child had access to the medical care and general caregiving she needed, but wasn’t able to get in her home country.

The Senegal courts completed the adoption process back in 2016. But the United States hasn’t stepped up. Because the tourist visa her daughter arrived in had lapsed, Boyle and her daughter need to go back to Senegal until immigration clears the six-year old. And Boyle must put family over career.

I don’t know a single parent who has been part of an international adoption who wouldn’t do the same thing. And I know far too many adoptive parents who have learned, the hard way, about what happens when all the paperwork isn’t complete.

With both of my children, my wife and I visited Guatemala several times. Yes, we did this to spend time with our son and daughter. But we also did so to ensure that when they first arrived in the United States, they would be U.S. citizens (that was the law). With each child, the moment we landed at the airport in Houston, TX, our first stop was the ICE offices in the basement, where our infants were “sworn in” as citizens.

It is a shame that U.S. immigration law doesn’t see the craziness in sending a six-year old back to Senegal by herself to wait for an adoption to be finalized. It’s a shame that the only choice available to Boyle was to have to choose between career and child. And it is a cryin’ shame that many will just shrug off this story, not seeing how it is relevant to them or their lives.

After all, every day, mothers and fathers are forced to make the choice between family and job. We just do what we need to do. Sometimes, we fail to show up for a game, because putting our job first means we are able to pay the rent or keep the fridge stocked. But sacrificing a job – particularly one you love and excel at – is the ultimate measure.

Hopefully, Boyle will be back court side soon. And hopefully, none of us will be faced with such a choice.

(This piece originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.)

The SPOKEie Word

I’m honored, humbled (and quite excited) that this week dear ol’ Eduflack was named a winner of the inaugural SPOKEie awards. Recognizing the best spokespeople in the field, DS Simon Media and its crew of expert judges recognized me as the top non-profit education spokesman in the land.

With so many terrific personalities in the education field, it is a true honor, particularly when I think of so many who are far better than I am. But I am proud of the work I’ve been able to do with the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and proud of the continued evolution of the Eduflack platform for a discussion of all things education.

I hope you’ll wish all of this year’s winners a hearty congratulation. Despite how it appears on TV or in the movies, what we do is neither easy nor glamorous. Being a flack is fairly thankless, as you bear responsibility for the challenges and provide the limelight for others when it is time to shine. But it is necessary work and, when done correctly, incredibly valuable.

Congratulations to all my co-winners. And thanks to all of you, and those like you, for helping make communications a noble profession.

Would Betsy DeVos be Welcomed at Your School?

It’s easy to attack Betsy DeVos for her remark that she hasn’t spent time visiting failing schools. And it is easier to criticize the EdSec for spending much of her school visit time walking the hallways of charter schools and private schools receiving voucher money.

But even if DeVos were to begin a whistle-stop tour of all sorts of traditional public schools, would she be welcome? From her first try where she was physically barred from originally entering to graduates turning their backs on her at graduation, the education community hasn’t been all too welcoming to Secretary DeVos when she does visit.

Over at the BAM! Radio Network, we explore the good, bad, and ugly truth when it comes to DeVos visits and the general resentment they seem to bring. Give it a listen, and tell me I’m wrong. Would your schoolhouse warmly greet the EdSec?

Transforming Concerned Students Into Powerful Voices of Advocacy

We are now seeing students wanting to take a greater role whether it be in elections themselves whether it be in issues like school violence. I think we’re also seeing very slowly but we’re seeing that same thing happen in education itself where we’re seeing that for centuries now whether it be our colleges or K12 systems, schools are built largely around the system, they’re built around the adults who are there to deliver the education. And we’re seeing more and more from students that the learners themselves want to be in control. They want to be the ones that decide what is best for them. It’s why you see the rise of personalized learning in schools. It’s why you see the rise in mastery based education. I think you’re seeing the same thing as students are beginning to talk about the type of atmosphere that they want. You know we’ve we’ve seen it now as students have begun to dip their toes in issues like bullying and cyber bullying. And we’re now seeing it specifically with school violence. I think the challenge to students is we have this belief that today’s students have a shiny object syndrome that they’re focused on this right now and next week they’re going to be focused on something completely different.

From Eduflack’s recent interview with Doug Simon and DS Simon Media on The Power of Social Media Live and the Modern Education System. Come for the transcript, but really just watch the video. It is far more engaging (and it shows that Eduflack doesn’t just stay in his basement)

Like It or Not, DeVos Acts as Promised

Throughout the education community, we like to offer faux outrage regarding everything that EdSec Betsy DeVos says or does. We are shocked that she isn’t visiting a failing public school. We are dismayed when she goes to see a public charter school or the recipient of voucher dollars. We are apoplectic when she doesn’t march in lockstep with the teachers unions or the AASA.

But should we? From the day she was nominated to be Trump’s education secretary to today, hasn’t DeVos done and said everything that we expected from her? While we may have wanted more, sought a deeper strategic approach, or hoped for a change of heart on issues of importance to us, isn’t the EdSec delivering as promised?

Over on the BAM! Radio Network, we explore this topic, acknowledging that when it comes to the EdSec, what you see is indeed what you’ve gotten. Give it a listen.

When It Comes to Online Info, We Only Have Ourselves to Blame

Even forgetting all of that, we can’t overlook that Cambridge Analytica was simply mining data (and microtargeting voters) based on the information that we willingly, easily, and freely handed over. While we may not have answered the quiz or clicked on the link to specifically provide voter targeting data to a political campaign, we shouldn’t be surprised when our information is used for that purpose. No, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn there is gambling in Casablanca.

Consider that I can learn a lot from a person based on the websites they link to from their Twitter accounts. Thanks to procedural cop shows, we all should know how easy it is to track criminals through their online search histories. Instagram can be just as reliable as a dark house in telling me if someone is home. And LinkedIn can help my employer know if I am looking to move to a new job.

School House Rock taught us that information is power. We shouldn’t be surprised when people use it to strengthen their positioning. Short of going off the grid entirely (or voting straight Libertarian), there will always be those who gather our information and use it for their own benefit.

From Eduflack’s latest on LinkedIn Pulse, Don’t Blame Facebook Data, It’s Your Fault!

Ed Policy Whiplash

We continue to shift our battle lines when it comes to education policy. Do we let the federal government or the state’s drive the K-12 train? Do we want common standards and expectations? Are the regs laid out by ESSA and other federal laws intended to be the floor or the ceiling when it comes to policy direction?

It’s all enough to give the education community a bad case of policy whiplash.

Over at the BAM! Radio Network, we explore this schizophrenia and look at how we set appropriate expectations – and appropriate outrage – in such a policy context. Give it a listen!

Improving High School, #HighSchool Graduation

Last month, the issues in DC Public Schools brought down its relatively new schools chancellor. This week, The Washington Post is reporting the graduation scandal now poses a clear and present danger for many DC students who have long thought that they would be graduating from high school this spring.

The District of Columbia isn’t the first school district to recognize its path to a high school diploma may indeed be broken. For decades now, we have heard of both dropout factories and those districts that responded by treating diplomas as nothing more than certificates of attendance, recognizing those who stuck with school for 12 or 13 years, 180 days or so each year.

In response, the Fordham Institute has focused its annual #Wonkathon on whether high school graduation requirements need to change to make the diploma more relevant. A number of smart people — including Peter Cunningham, Michael Petrilli, and Peter Greene — have already responded.

Of course, dear ol’ Eduflack couldn’t pass up the chance to suggest we need to a completely different frame for the high school school experience, once that emphasizes mastery of content and an ability to apply what is supposedly learned, rather than just rewarding students for “time served” in the classroom. As I write:

Today, we remain caught up on what is taught and how it is taught, not necessarily what is learned and how it is put to use. The student population today is nowhere close to being as homogenous as it was when the Carnegie Unit was adopted. In any given classroom, we have students of different backgrounds, different language abilities, different learning challenges, different preferred learning styles—different everything. A student adept at Algebra II shouldn’t need to sit through the class for 180 days because others don’t grasp the concepts. A student with a deep understanding of American history shouldn’t be asked to sit through the basics yet again because it is expected in ninth grade. Once a learner is able to demonstrate a mastery of the content and is able to apply that content in an appropriate manner, he or she should be able to move on to the next content area. Mastery-based high school allows us to prioritize the LEARNER in a way most high schools today simply do not.

I hope you will give all the entries a read. It is an important issue that warrants real discussion, disagreement, and action.