Is curriculum infrastructure?

My recent piece in The 74 led to an opportuntiy to discuss how we can treat curriculum as infrastructure on the Melissa and Lori Love Literacy podcast. To read a summary of our conversation, head over to Ahead of the Heard.

Curriculum isn’t infrastructure, but we ought to treat it as such

There’s been a lot of talk about what is and isn’t “infrastructre.” I’m not sure that curriculum is infrastructure, but we ought to act like it is: Curriculum should serve as a foundational organizing force in student learning, informing instruction, assessment and professional development. Well-structured, strong curricula provide educators with instructional materials and resources to cover a clear scope and sequence of the knowledge and skills students are expected to master.

Did School System Retirements Spike in 2020?

My Bellwether colleague Chad Aldeman and I took a look at teacher retirement data pre- and post-pandemic in seven states. While some feared a massive wave of retirements, it does not appear to be materializing: After attempting to canvass all 50 states and Washington, D.C., we were able to get retirement data for Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. While this is not a random sample, it does capture about 865,000 active workers, including teachers and other education employees.

Refocusing the Priorities of Accountability

Today, we released the final brief in Bellwether’s summer series on the past, present, and future of school accountability. It takes a look at how policymakers might improve accountability systems by clarifying their priorities: This is a critical moment for standards-based accountability policy. State summative testing and accountability systems were suspended for the 2019-20 school year and some states are indicating they’d like to continue that moratorium through the 2020-21 school year.

Why Joe Biden shouldn’t give up on public charter schools or standardized testing

My Bellwether colleague Chad Aldeman and I have a piece in the Washington Post arguing that Joe Biden ought not ignore the evidence on charter schools or assessments as he develops his presidential platform: In other words, Biden’s platform committee is not only mischaracterizing the evidence in these two areas. It is doing so in a way that would damage the students and families that Biden, and Democratic voters, say they want to serve.

Post-Espinoza, It’s Time to Embrace More Pluralism

My reaction to the Espinoza decision in Ahead of the Heard: The majority opinion in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue from Chief Justice Roberts could not be more clear: “A State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.” With this ruling, “Blaine Amendments” in state constitutions were essentially repealed. It’s an unequivocal victory for school choice advocates on the question of who can operate a school with public funding, decidedly in favor of a pluralistic approach.

Making Next Year Count

The COVID-19 pandeimc is disrupting our entire system of K-12 education, including assessment and accountabilty. I contributed to a new series of briefs from Bellwether that examine the past and present of school accountabilty to help inform their next interation: As a global pandemic interrupted purposefully designed systems of testing and accountability, we are left with critical questions: How does the underlying theory of standards-based accountability and its foundational goals of equity and transparency hold up decades later?

Adapting Schools to a New Normal With Decentralized Power

School system leaders have a lot on their plate right now. I argue that they should resist the temptation to make every decision from the central office and to leverage the expertise of educators and other front-line employees: We won’t know the full impact of the choices school leaders are making for quite some time, but some school systems may be better positioned than others to navigate the challenges posed by the current pandemic.

On the Grandest Policy Stage, Trump Signals Shift to Scaled-Down Education Ambitions

President Trump’s State of the Union was many things, but it was decidedly not ambitious when it came to education policy. My latest in The 74: A good portion of the reaction to Tuesday night’s State of the Union was about a snubbed handshake and the tearing of a speech. Although in recent years the speech has certainly become a performative event full of partisan posturing, Tuesday night signaled a subtle yet substantial shift in the presidential approach to K-12 education policy: President Donald Trump indicated that his administration is more interested in incremental education measures than any administration in recent history.

SCOTUS and Blaine Amendments

Do you know what Blaine Amendments are, why a Supreme Court case might invalidate them, and what it might mean for schools? I try to answer these questions in a recent post on Ahead of the Heard: The upcoming ruling in Espinoza may be yet another step towards articulating the relationship between state funding, parents’ choices, and religious providers of K-12 education. Some observers, including teachers unions, are hoping for either a ruling in Montana’s favor or a narrowly-scoped ruling for the parents, which might not lead to significant policy changes in other states.

Louisville Families Deserve School Choice

My first op-ed placed in Lousiville’s paper of record, the Courier Journal: All families deserve to choose the best educational path for their children, but right now in Louisville, that right is reserved only for the wealthy. Families with financial means who are unhappy with Jefferson County Public Schools have several options. They can move to nearby Oldham, Shelby or Bullitt counties, as thousands have done since the early 1990s, taking a significant amount of taxable wealth with them.

School Crossing

My latest from Bellwether is a brief on student transportation safety: In our new report, “School Crossing: Student Transportation Safety on the Bus and Beyond,” we examine historical changes in how students get to school and the safety concerns of each mode of student transportation. We present a menu of recommendations for how individual communities, whether rural or urban, can improve student transportation safety. Many of these actions require leadership from and collaboration among different parts of a school community, including families, school and district leaders, local governments, and state policymakers.

Changing Enrollment, Fiscal Strain, and Facilities Challenges in California’s Urban Schools

My first Bellwether publication is now live! Many of California’s urban public schools, both traditional and charter, have seen dramatic changes in enrollment during the past two decades. These trends have contributed to fiscal and facilities issues for both types of schools, but they also represent an opportunity for better cross-sector collaboration. In our new report, “Changing Enrollment, Fiscal Strain, and Facilities Challenges in California’s Urban Schools,” we analyzed enrollment trend data for district and charter schools in six of California’s urban centers: Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Fresno.

How to create a free distributed data collection “app” with R and Google Sheets

A really neat concept that reminds me of my time tracking method: Jenny Bryan, developer of the google sheets R package, gave a talk at Use2015 about the package. One of the things that got me most excited about the package was an example she gave in her talk of using the Google Sheets package for data collection at ultimate frisbee tournaments. One reason is that I used to play a little ultimate back in the day.

Why American Schools Are Even More Unequal Than We Thought

Using data to inform our conversations about public school performance is a good idea, but too often, the measures we use are reduced to imprecise terms like “proficiency,” which can carry several different meanings when describing a local, state, or national assessment1. As Susan Dynarski notes in The Upshot, this is also a common problem with the most-frequently used proxy for “poverty” in education, Free/Reduced Price Lunch (FRPL) eligibility: “Nearly half of students nationwide are eligible for a subsidized meal in school.