I Have Some Problems With You Edu-People

In the spirit of the season, sometimes one just has to embrace their inner Festivus and voice some grievances. This is particularly true as we look back at 2017 to consider what was possible in federal education policy and what was actually accomplished.

Over at TrumpED on the BAM! Radio Network, we explore this important topic, and give voice to the problems we’ve had with the past year. Give it a listen.

If You Can Read This …

Loyal readers of Eduflack know that I have spent far too much time, in far too many battles, over effective reading instruction. It still baffles me that we even need to have this debate, that parents and educators will fight having research-based literacy instruction in the classroom, instead advocating for a philosophy that doesn’t do a lick actually getting struggling readers reading.

But we do. And we regularly debate the merits of research over philosophy, of hard facts versus soft opinion. Then we wonder why our kids aren’t reading and why we aren’t seeing student achievement improve on virtually every literacy benchmark available to modern man.

The latest such benchmark is the PIRLS, which has now shown the United States to slip significantly, falling all the way down to 13th in the latest international measure of reading skills. It doesn’t need to be this way. It shouldn’t be this way. We know better. We just choose not to apply what is proven effective in the classrooms that need it the most, with the kids who would benefit from it the most.

On the latest episode of my program on the BAM! Radio Network, I take a look at our sad position when it comes to PIRLS and literacy instruction, and call on President Donald Trump to focus on teaching our kids reading … at least if he is serious about making America great again. Give it a listen!

 

Making Our Schools Connected Again

Last month, educators across the country rightly fretted over the potential impact of net neutrality and what it would mean for the use of the Internet in classrooms across the country. After all, who wants corporate providers determining which websites are more appropriate – and thus faster to load – than others in our schools?

Before we rally to the barricades to take on the FCC, perhaps we need to take a closer look at the e-rate and connectivity in general in our schools. While most of us have become used to having immediate access to anything on the inter webs from the palm of our hands, no matter where we are, recent data has shown thousands of schools across the country are still lacking the basic connectivity that the e-rate had originally promised them, and many of those school districts in need were denied needed connectivity dollars by the Obama Administration, not the Trump’s.

On the latest episode of #TrumpEd on the BAM! Radio Network, we explore this subject, trying to refocus the education community on the most pressing need first. Give it a listen!

A Win for Education Research

For nearly a year now, the education community has been waiting for key nominees for President Donald Trump’s Education Department. Some have been holding their collective breaths to see who get the nods for some of the “sexy” posts, including assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education.

Last night, President Trump announced the nomination of Mark Schneider to head the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). No, IES is hardly considered a sexy post by most in education. But it is an incredibly important nomination … and job.

If one believes in the identification, understanding, and use of education research, then IES is important. If one believes in scientifically based education, then IES is important. If one believes our schools — both K-12 and higher ed — should be focused on what is proven effective, then IES is important. If one believes data should trump philosophy when it comes to education, then IES is important.

It’s equally important that someone like Dr. Schneider is getting the nod for this job. Mark is both a terrific education researcher and a keen education policy person. He served as commissioner for the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the George W. Bush Administration. Perhaps just as important, he is the nation’s foremost expert on the data surrounding the cost of college — the true cost of college — at least as it applies to students and their families.

I don’t just offer this hearty endorsement based on Dr. Schneider’s reputation. Eduflack has had the opportunity to work closely with the new head of IES, particularly in helping him launch College Measures, an American Institutes of Research center focused on improving higher education outcomes by better understanding higher education data.

At Dr. Schneider’s side, I gained a far greater appreciation for both the data and for its true meaning. I was able to explore how costly some community colleges truly were, when one looked at the cost of actually earning a degree. I had to do rhetorical battle with a university president who thought his eight-year graduation rate (for four-year undergraduate program!) of less than 30 percent was something to be applauded, not concerned about. And I came to appreciate the costs and benefits of college are best looked at through the lens of the consumer, not necessarily the provider, that we need to look at the cost of degree for a student to obtain, not for the university to offer.

I’m fortunate to call Mark Schneider a friend and a mentor in the ed data space. And from nearly two decades experience working with IES — working with the Institute since its inception in 2001 — I’m grateful we will have an experienced, knowledgeable, results-focused leader at the helm.

We may not always know who is leading an agency like IES, but when it isn’t someone of the caliber of Mark Schneider, we feel the impact.

 

College Degree … or Work Skills?

A decade ago, President Obama declared a nations, goal of having the highest percentage of college graduates in the world. This month, EdSec Betsy DeVos called for a renewed focus on career education and workforce training.

Now before we condemn DeVos for somehow being anti-education, we need to consider that she may indeed be correct. A liberal arts education may have value for the soul, but it can be just as important to some to pursue an education that guarantees one can support a family and pay the mortgage.

We explore the topic on the latest edition of #TrumpED on the BAM! Radio Network. Give it a listen.

Our Schools Need a Little More Mockingbird, Not Less 

Recently, a school district sought to remove the novel To Kill a Mockingbird from its curriculum because educators feared the subject matter of the Harper Lee book might make students a little too uncomfortable. 

But with the realities our communities, schools, and kids are facing these days, perhaps we need more Atticus and Scout, not less. We explore this important topic on the latest edition of #TrumpED on the BAM! Radio Network. Be sure to give it a listen. 

Show Me the #STEM Money!

Earlier this month, the Trump Administration announced its intent to bolster STEM education in the United States by offering new dollars for computer science education. But at first blush, it looks like an effort to throw pennies at an issue that deserves dollars (and a real commitment). 

Over at TrumpED on the BAM! Radio Network, we explore the topic and what it really means for the future of STEM. Give it a listen!