The Blue Bird of Ed Advocacy, 2017 Edition

After a year’s hiatus, Education Next magazine and the Fordham Institute’s Michael Petrilli today released its annual list of the Top Education Policy People and Organizations on Social Media. The lists are definitely worth a gander.

As someone who spends a great deal of time on the education policy Interwebs, I was pleasantly surprised by how this year’s rankings shook out. We are seeing more voices of color on the respective lists than in previous years. We continue to see members of the media strongly represented. And, from dear ol’ Eduflack’s perspective, we tend to see fewer members of the “education reform” community, both individually and as organizations, on these lists than we did in previous years.

Petrilli and EdNext smartly included a list of “Other Educators to Follow,” which provides a terrific list of classroom voices who are providing important insights, as they should, into the education discussion.

The top five education policy people on social media (meaning Twitter and measure by Klout score) are: 1) Diane Ravitch; 2) Randi Weingarten; 3) John White; 4) Xian Franzinger Barrett; and 5) Patrick Riccards (they really like me) and Andy Smarick.

Based on total Twitter followers, the top five education people are: 1) Ravitch; 2) your Eduflack; 3) Weingarten; 4) Alfie Kohn; and 5) Betsy DeVos.

The top five education organizations on social media (by Klout score) are: 1) NEA; 2) U.S. Department of Education; 3) Edutopia; 4) Teach for America; and 5) Ed Surge.

Based on followers, the top five orgs are: 1) U.S. Department of Education; 2) Edutopia; 3) Education Week; 4) Huffington Post Education; and 5) US News Education.

Yes, the ranking still uses Klout scores. Folks can get all over Petrilli for this (as they do every year), but if you do, how about offering another quantifiable metric? In this instance, Klout is like VAM scores. It is a vastly imperfect measure, but it is still the best one available.

And yes, the focus is on K-12 education folks and organizations. So those focused on higher education are not the focus of these lists.

A huge thank you to all of those who follow @Eduflack on Twitter and find enough value in what I offer to retweet and like my randomness. Just about everything on Eduflack is education related. I try to stay way from personal opinions, and instead focus on news articles and research studies in education. From time to time, I will offer personal opinions. And from time to time, I will include posts on the NY Mets, MMA fighting, and Guatemala. I strive to make it a relatively impartial clearinghouse of education policy info.

Please check out all of the lists on Education Next. And if you are on Twitter but aren’t following someone on those lists, be sure to add them to your feeds immediately!

 

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. 

Is It “Blood Money?”

Recently, it was revealed that former EdSec Arne Duncan advised a group of education reformers to refuse new dollars coming from the Trump Administration intended to further support charter schools. In his thinking, Duncan referred to it as “blood money,” suggesting that charter school operators should not accept these dollars if it meant hurting the traditional public schools they share a community with.

In the latest episode of TrumpED on the BAM! Radio Network, we explore the sentiments offered by the former U.S. Education Secretary and former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. And we ask if the same could be said to those who benefited from program consolidations under the Obama Administration, and if efforts like Teach for America should have refused new dollars from Obama because it was taking from other programs in the field.

Give it a listen here.

My Fellow Americans: Reflections on Charlottesville 

As a proud graduate of the University of Virginia, Eduflack was disgusted by the terrorist actions in Charlottesville this weekend. I was also frustrated by the lack of a meaningful address from President Trump on this important topic. 

So dear ol’ Eduflack decided to record his own alt presidential remarks on the situation. My apologies for the stutters and stumbles, but this is from the heart, with no script and no notes. 

Give it a watch, and then please give it a share. 

Gender Lines on the … Alphabet?

Most parents have been warned of the dangers of “gender-specific” toys and what that means nowadays. It’s perfectly acceptable for little girls to play with soldiers or guns (as long as parents aren’t anti-violence, etc.) and it is equally acceptable for little boys to play with dolls and tea sets.

Just the other day, a friend of Eduflack shared a photo on Facebook of her five-year old son receiving an American Boy doll for his birthday. The child just couldn’t have been grinning any bigger than he was from scoring his dream present.

We say that there are no gender-specific colors either. It is perfectly fine for girls to prefer drab colors, just as it is for boys to own pinks and purples. (And I can proudly say that Eduflack has a significant number of pink, purple, and pastel articles of clothing, but owns almost nothing black, except for my kickboxing gear.)

One would hope we’ve gotten past the whole gender appropriate discussion when it comes to equipping our children with the attire, toys, and such one needs these days. But then Amazon has to go and ruin everything. For you see, in 2017, there is one set of ABCs for boys, and another set for girls.

IMG_3009.JPG

IMG_3008.JPG

Seriously? We are more than halfway through 2017 and we still think boys learn the ABCs from airplanes and dump trucks while girls only garner it through lessons of butterflies and castles?

Setting aside, for a second, that folks are paying $10 a piece for an ABC book. Setting aside, for a moment, that twice as many people saw the need to review the boys’ ABCs than the girls’. Setting aside, for a bit, that it took two additional years to finally wrap up the ABCs that were appropriate for the “fairer” gender. Was all of this really necessary? Is there now a demand for a gender-fluid ABCs?

I miss the good ol’ days when it was all about making sure a child could read at grade level by the end of the third grade. It didn’t matter if they were reading words from a Babysitters Club book or the Hardy Boys.

Sigh. Double sigh. Sigh in both pink and camo.

 

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.