A Coalition of the Willing

As the new Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos possesses an incredible – and rare – opportunity to truly transform public education. Returning decisionmaking to states and localities. Empowering parents to get more involved in decisionmaking. New ways to better use existing federal dollars. The bully pulpit. All are valuable tools in reshaping the next generation of K-12 education.

If we have learned anything from education policy transformations, it is that the best of intents will fail if those idea come via fiat instead of through collaboration. How many times have we seen the latest and greatest of policies never fulfill their potential because educators, parents, or both weren’t part of the process that brought proposal to policy?

Real, lasting reform demands a coalition of the willing. It requires all corners to come together and buy into the goal – improving student learning and boosting student success – and work together to achieve it. And while it is impossible to have all sides agree on all details, at least if it is meaningful change, all sides are working as they best can to achieve, not undermine, that ultimate goal.

We can often forget that in education and education reform. The coalition of the willing is forgotten in the pursuit of being the smartest person in the room, and then assuming all will just follow. We fail to see that by not having teachers buy into the process, and instead have them see improvement as something happening to them, it becomes near impossible for them to embrace the change, own the change, and ultimately be responsible for the improved outcomes on the other side.

Sure, one can tinker in operational issues without having the teachers’ involvement, but it is impossible to have real impact on the teaching and learning in the classroom without having educators – and parents – at the table helping plot the course to a shared destination.

Despite all of the vitriol and all of the negativity directed at her in recent months, DeVos now has an opportunity to assemble that coalition of the willing. While many may be concerned by her laser-like focus on school choice, few can question DeVos’ lifelong commitment to provide better, stronger opportunities to kids, particularly for students in need. And few can question her embrace of parents in educational decisionmaking. That provides something to build on.

If we can all agree on that ultimate goal: a strong education for all kids – regardless of race, family income, or zip code – maybe, just maybe, we can agree to try to work together on how we get there.

The next move belongs to the new Education Secretary. She has the opportunity to reach out and bring together a coalition that, while unsure, is willing to try. DeVos has the chance to extend an olive branch and work with parents and teachers to plot that new course. And they have a chance to accept it.

In the process, DeVos has the ability to both empower teachers and better involve families. She has the ability to truly transform teaching and learning for all, instead of just tinkering around the edges.

The big question now is whether the EdSec will take that chance. It is incredibly easy to talk to one’s friends on agreed upon issues. Impact only comes by engaging with your perceived opponents to find some common ground to make the positive changes that could impact generations of learners.

 

Where is Fatherhood?

When it comes to fatherhood, where are we exactly? Where are we on work/life balance? Where are we on the different types of dads, including part-time ones? Where are we when it comes to traditional gender roles? Where are we?

A lot of questions, and all requiring long, complicated answers from sociologists, answers that likely result in far more additional questions than they do in conclusions. Yet it is a topic that we tried to tackle today at the Dad 2.0 Summit in San Diego.

I was fortunate to be joined in this discussion by Brian Heilman of Promundo, Eric Snow of WatchDOGS, and Jonathan Stern of fatherly. We were also incredibly lucky to have such a terrific crowd that offered thought-provoking questions and personal experiences to spur the conversation.

This was my first time out at Dad 2.0. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but was eager to hear how my own view of fatherhood fit in with some of these national discussions. From the get go, I was amazed by the energy, the passion, and the positivity of the 500 or so folks (can’t say men as there were a number of women in attendance this weekend as well). 

It was incredibly valuable to hear about WatchDOGS and its work to get fathers more involved in their kids’ schools. I’m always shocked when I hear about schools celebrating and throwing parties just because a dad was volunteering that day. It’s like a dad in a public school is akin to finding that rainbow unicorn.

My role, aside from serving as some comic relief, quickly came into sight for me. I am a father, yes. But I am a white father of Latino kids, seeking to make sure their heritage remains an important part of their lives. I am a working dad doing everything possible to share the responsibilities on the home front. I am a feminist dad, committed to ensuring my daughter (and my son) can do and be just about anything that she wants to do. And I am an activist dad, determined that as great as it is to talk and discuss many of the issues found at Dad 2.0, it is far more important to take action and have clear goals that demonstrate the progress a modern fatherhood movement can make.

Not surprisingly, I also think I am the only dad in a crowd of hundreds who goes with his daughter to the salon every month for pedicures, complete with full polish.

A big thank you to the sponsors who make events like this possible. It’s terrific to realize that products you use every day are supportive of some of the social issues you care about. So thanks in particular to Dove Men Care (@DoveMenCare, #RealStrength), Facebook (@Facebook, #FBDad), and Russell Athletic (#Dadlete).

Kudos to Dad 2.0 for putting together such an incredible event. This newbie is excited for what is to come. 

After an EdSec Confirmation, What’s Next?

Earlier this week, by a 51-50 vote courtesy of a tiebreaker from Vice President Mike Pence, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the U.S. Education Secretary. Regardless of whether one was pro-DeVos or Dump DeVos, the Michigan education philanthropist now sits in the big chair on Maryland Avenue. 

So what’s next? The head of the National Education Association has already said the nation’s largest teachers union will have “no relationship” with the new EdSec. Will other groups who opposed DeVos’ selection follow suit? Or will the seek out some type of common ground?

That’s the question we explore on the latest edition of TrumpED on the BAM! Radio Network. Give it a listen. Share your thoughts. And think about how to make the most of the coming years. 

Reform Education Reform, or Prepare to Get DeVossed

Education reform itself is in dire need of reform. From the paucity of victories in recent years, to the growing number of groups doing and saying the exact same things as their predecessors, to the significant sums of money spent simply to “fight the good fight” without a reward, it is clear the the old model isn’t working. The DeVos process only provided a clearer blueprint for how to oppose such changes and turn communities, states, and even the nation against needed improvement.

The reform community can either learn from the past few years—and particularly the past few months—or it can stand by the dogmatic approaches that are struggling to resonate with policymakers, parents, advocates, and educators. The choice seems easy, no?

– Patrick Riccards, aka Eduflack, for the Fordham Institute’s Flypaper. Read the full piece, (please), Watch out, reformers, you’re about to get DeVossed

Reinventing Principal Preparation

One can’t throw a kettle ball these days without hitting upon some discussion about teacher preparation, the need to reform teacher preparation, or the desire to eliminate it all together. But it can be much harder to enter a meaningful discussion on school leader preparation.

Even though all those teachers need good administrators supporting them, even though we know that school leaders are second only to classroom teachers when it comes to impacting success, we seem to shy away from public discussions of leader development.

Fortunately, Education Week recently came out with a series, Who’s Ready to Be a Principal?, that does a deep dive into how we currently prepare school leaders, how we can support the 90,000 or so currently in the profession, and what we can do to improve both.

I’m particularly proud to be working with one of the programs that gets a shout-out from EdWeek. In Niche Training for Principals Aims to Fill Skill Gaps, Arianna Prothero writes of the Woodrow Wilson MBA in Education Leadership, a program developed by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and currently offered in three states (Indiana, New Mexico, and Wisconsin).

The entire series from EdWeek is certainly worth the read. If we are serious about improving our schools, ensuring all teachers have the supports they need, and giving every child a high-quality education, we must include principal preparation in our priorities.

 

A Flashlight, Not a Hammer, When it Comes to #EdData

For years now, the education community has debated the proper role of “education data” in the process. What started off as important information to help teachers tailor and improve their instruction quickly became a blunt instrument to punish students, teachers, classrooms, and schools. As with most things, the abuses of a valuable tool became the focus.

With a greater emphasis on testing and the use of testing information, ed data has gained even greater scrutiny. In Eduflack’s own school district, there is a growing call for eliminating all technology from the schools out of fear of education data and its impact on student privacy (among other things).

And that’s just a crying’ shame. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

Last year, the Data Quality Campaign hosted a national summit focused on the importance of education data. In it, DQC CEO Aimee Guidera spoke of the importance of using education data as a flashlight — to illuminate the way to improvement and success — rather than as a hammer to strike those who are struggling.

This week, DQC released From Hammer to Flashlight: A Decade of Data in Education. Noting that “although much work remains before education becomes a truly evidence-based field,” great work has already been undertaken to use data to better inform both inputs and outcomes in the classroom.

Education data isn’t going away. If anything, we need to become more savvy in its application to learning. That’s why From Hammer to Flashlight is such an important read.

 

An “Alternative” View of Trump’s Edu-Remarks

Sure, we never expect to hear much about education during a presidential inaugural address, and last week’s speech certainly didn’t change that. Yes, President Donald Trump did offer a small tip of a cap to education issues, but just in passing.

What if those remarks he delivered, though, could have a different meaning than how so many have taken the edu-speak? What if we could envision an “alternate” meaning for what was said?

Over at BAM! Radio Network, the latest edition of #TrumpED explores that very question. Give it a listen here. You might be surprised.