Prepping for an End to ED?

A start of a new school year is usually the time for presidential administrations to launch new education efforts and start new campaigns. But we are currently hearing crickets. EdSec Betsy DeVos still is without most of a senior leadership team, and the US Department of Education is still without major proactive engagements. 

Maybe that is the whole point. After decades of Republican calls for the elimination of the US Department of Education, is the effort actually underway? Is that why we are seeing ED simply acting to the letter of the law?

On the latest episode of #TrumpED on the BAM! Radio Network, we explore this theory and look at whether this is the end game. Give it a listen. 

Is It Too Much to Ask for a Little Civility

As Hurricane Harvey was bringing devestation to Texas over the weekend, EdSec Betsy DeVos did what most public officials do during such disasters. DeVos tweeted her thoughts and prayers to those affected by the hurricane, noting that the US Department of Education is prepared to help. 

It’s what is expected. It usually gets little notice. It’s what we do. 

But this tweet was different. What was a pro forma statement by a government leader became a lightning rod. Sportscaster turned talk show host turned Resistance instigator Keith Olbermann saw a need to respond. Knowing that DeVos remains controversial was too much for Olbermann to pass up. So he tweeted this response. 


The Saturday Olbermann message has been, as of Monday morning, been retweeted more than 17,000 times and favorited more that 48,000 times. Anti-Trumpers across the country celebrated the former ESPN newsreader for being so bold. 

Really? Have we gotten to the point where using a tragedy to both personally insult a government leader and use some of the vilest language possible in the process? Is this the new normal?

I get that the Resistance believes that shocking, ugly language is the best way to make its point. Dear ol’ Eduflack has written about the dangers of such an approach previously. But what are we really saying here?

If a teacher used such language in the classroom, would we now be OK with it? What if it was said in relation to the President? Or to those who organize nazi rallies? Would that be ok?

What if a teacher used it in relation to Robert E. Lee? Or slave-owning Founding Fathers? What if a conservative teacher used it in relation to Obama? Or to Hillary?

We quickly forget that our kids watch us closely and model our words and our actions. When we, as parents, cheer over the use of such language, we tell our kids it’s permissible. We condone such ugliness with our kids. Heck, we celebrate it. 

At the end of the day, Olbermann got exactly what he wanted. He was cheered by the left Nd celebrated on social media. But he has added nothing to the debate, nor has he contributed to the discourse. All Olbermann has done is take a rhetorical level we thought was as low as it could get, and drive it deeper into the mud and muck. 

And that’s a cryin’ shame. Our political discourse deserves better. And so do our kids. 

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. 

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.

 

A Step Closer to School Vouchers

As it closed its 2017 session, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that private religious institutions could receive public taxpayer dollars when the provide public services. While many were quick to say that the Court offered a particularly narrow finding in its ruling, it seems clear SCOTUS has provided a legal opening for those seeing to dramatically expand school vouchers in the United States. 

This is the topic we explore on this week’s #TrumpED program on the BAM! Radio Network. Give it a listen!

Will DeVos Have Mastery Rule Roost?

“Now, by jettisoning the debate on proficiency versus growth for a more productive discussion of mastery, [Betsy DeVos] is making clear that what a student learns and is able to do with those lessons is the key factor. DeVos has laid down a rhetorical marker that the top-down, one-test-fits-all model may indeed be a thing of the past.”

From dear ol’ Eduflack’s latest for The 74 Million, Beyond Growth and Proficiency Lies Mastery: DeVos and the Crowning of Competence as King