Apprenticing Forward, Not Backward 

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump spotlighted the importance of apprenticeships in our educational tapestry. This may be the first major education policy move of this Administration, and the man who made The Apprentice a success may know a thing or two about the topic. 

In focusing on apprenticeships, though, it is essential we focus the discussion on the career paths of tomorrow, not of yesteryear. We explore this topic on the latest edition of #TrumpED on the BAM! Radio Network. I hope you’ll give it a listen. 

From Proficiency to Mastery

Earlier this year, EdSec Betsy DeVos caught a great deal of flak for not acknowledging the difference between proficiency and progress when it comes to student learning. But with her remarks earlier this month, she may have changed the discussion by shifting the debate to one on mastery. 

Over on BAM! Radio Network, we examine this development on the latest edition of #TrumpED. Give it a listen!

Can We Check Our Impulse to Condemn?

It should come as no surprise, but we aren’t the most open-minded, slow-to-judgment crowd in education policy. We haven’t been for generations, and we certainly aren’t now. And that’s a crying shame.

The embodiment of this in 2017 is the Pavlovian response by many to condemn everything and anything that may be proposed by EdSec Betsy DeVos almost as quickly as she unveils it. While dear ol’ Eduflack gets that there may be a great deal of policy disagreements in the coming years, are we really willing to say there isn’t a single issue where there may be some common ground for a discussion? Is there not a single idea that may be put forward that is at least worth a productive discussion?

We examine this topic on this week’s #TrumpED program on the BAM! Radio Network. My hope is that we can soon all just take a collective breath and actually consider before condemning. But the realist in me realizing my hopes are often unfulfilled.

Regardless, give it a listen.

Is Budget an Education Strategy?

Last week, the Trump White House released its education budget. Most of its content was no real surprise, as it mirrored the skinny budget the Administration offered earlier this year. But as the education community continues to wait for a clear blueprint on how the Administration intends to make public education great again, the budget substitutes as strategy. We now read what we want to read out of the numbers, whether it be true or not.

On the latest episode of #TrumpED on the BAM! Radio Network, we explore how budget just can’t substitute for strategy, and how EdSec Betsy DeVos could go a long way focusing on the latter, rather than defending the former. Give it a listen.

Some PR Advice for the EdSec

It’s been four months since the start of the Trump Administration. Three months since EdSec Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing. Yet most are still waiting for DeVos to take control of the ED bully pulpit like her predecessors did. And waiting. And waiting.

Over at the Fordham Institute’s Flypaper blog, Michael Petrilli offers some advice from PR pros on how DeVos could, or should, up her comms game. There are some valuable thoughts there. Then there are some insights offered by yours truly. You may be right, Eduflack may be cray-cray. But I do think it would be a master stroke to have DeVos ask Randi Weingarten if she can address the full AFT at its summer gathering. 

Give the full article a read. You won’t be disappointed.

Home Schoolers Don’t Want to Be a “Choice”

Earlier this week, EdSec Betsy DeVos continued to tease the details of the big school choice plan that is likely to come from the Trump Administration. The next day, the President’s budget reflects that same commitment to dramatically expanding access (and dollars for) public charter schools and vouchers for private education.

In all of the discussion, though, an interesting voice has spoken out asking NOT to be included in the expanded school choice plan. That voice? The homeschool community. As Eduflack explains in the most recent edition of #TrumpED on BAM! Radio Network, the reasons for this make a great deal of sense. With federal dollars comes federal oversight and regulations.  And while the homeschool community may largely trust President Trump and his administration on the topic, there are no guarantees that a future President or EdSec will hold the same level of respect for homeschoolers.

Give it a listen. I promise it is an interesting examination of an equally interesting topic.

Off the Pace on ED Hiring

Eight years ago, Eduflack wrote on the appointments the then new Obama Administration had made. With almost all of the senior, Senate-confirmable appointments made by then EdSec Arne Duncan, we saw a great deal of ED leaders coming with backgrounds including the Gates Foundation and New Schools Venture Fund, but almost none that came with experience working on educational issues at the state level.

Oh, the good ol’ days!

Here we are in May of 2017, and we are still waiting to see what experiences and backgrounds the senior ranks of EdSec Betsy DeVos’ Education Department will bring. One would like to believe that she will have strong representation of those with experiences at the state and local level. One can assume that the state of Michigan, as well as the American Federation for Children, Great Lakes Education Project, and other efforts DeVos has personally involved herself in. But that’s what it is, a belief. It is a guess. It is a hope (or for others, a fear).

It’s not a matter of waiting for those positions to be confirmed by a cantankerous Senate. No, it is still an issue of actual nominations being put forward.

No word on who will serve as Under Secretary, with a responsibility of overseeing most higher education work, including student loans. No word on who will serve as Deputy  Secretary, essentially running ED day to day. No word on who will run Elementary and Secondary Education, overseeing ESSA implementation and all that comes with it. No word on who will run the Office of Innovation and Improvement, with the likely portfolio of implementing DeVos’ school choice effort. Not even word on who will run the Office of Communications and Outreach, ensuring a consistent message and a community of supporters to move whatever agenda is ultimately put forward forward.
EdSec DeVos has an opportunity to really move some things. Setting aside budget politics for a second, the Trump agenda allows for significant action on issues like career and technical education, adult education, and early childhood. The school choice proposal is on par — both financially and inspirationally — with Duncan’s Race to the Top Efforts or Rod Paige’s NCLB agenda. But to take advantage of it, DeVos needs leaders who can help shepherd parts of a cohesive policy agenda. She needs individuals who can build coalitions and recruit advocates. She needs visionaries who can help states and localities think outside the box. And yes, she needs rabble rousers who can constantly push against the defenders of the status quo.

Until we see who is in those positions, we truly have no idea what the potential impact of a DeVos agenda may be. Washington, DC is often where good ideas go to die. Whether it be because of Hill inaction, lobbyist pressures, grassroots uprisings, implementation challenges, or unforced errors, change in education is a hard nut to crack. Time will tell if Team DeVos will get to enjoy the meat, or will continue to tap away at the often unpenatrable shell.