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...The education system can make all sorts of achievement gains but still fail because of the substandard education too many Hispanics receive.

In the words of a former republican president, they got thumped last night. While this is not the space to recount Republican failures in both the presidential and senate races, this much is clear: They cannot win national elections anymore by merely appealing to white voters. The last president who won with the percentage of white voters that Mitt Romney achieved was George H.W. Bush in 1988 (both received 59% of the white vote). However, Bush Senior received over 400 electoral votes; Mitt Romney won 206. The white share of the electorate is currently dissolving at a rate of about 3 percent every election.

And this is just the beginning of the demographic wave. According to the U.S. Census, racial and ethnic minority births now account for more than 50 percent of all births in the country. Hispanics, now 10 percent of the electorate, are the fastest-growing segment of the population—and one-third are currently under the age of eighteen.

The challenge that Republicans face is similar to the challenge facing the education system: Hispanics account for 20 percent of the public-education population, and the number is growing. Unfortunately, the graduation rate for Hispanics is 10 percent below the national average, and the dropout rate is a staggering 17 percent. So just as the Republicans can win as great a proportion...

Bellwether Education Partners

I love my job, and I’m looking for someone to join the fun and become the newest member of my Bellwether team.

Maybe you?  Maybe someone you know?

In short, I work on 1) a wide array of really interesting research and writing projects (including blogging here!) and 2) an even wider array of initiatives designed to help ed reform organizations get better at various parts of their jobs.

That means in the span of a few days, I might work on projects related to teacher preparation, charters, educator evaluations, Common Core, common assessments, blended learning, nonpublics/choice, accountability systems, SEA reform, and portfolio management.

I’m looking for someone to lend a hand on all of this stuff.  S/he would do lots of research, help write and edit, and serve as a sounding board and thought partner.  S/he would also have the chance to think up new projects and new approaches to existing work.  There’s much room for entrepreneurialism and professional growth.

I’m hoping to find someone sharp, creative, hardworking, dedicated to this work, and nice.

The position will provide the opportunity to dive into the major issues of the day and get to know many of the most important and influential organizations in the field.

And this person will get to be part of the amazing Bellwether team.  I...

The votes are in

Is education-funding “blackmail” fair play? Did teacher unions come out on top? Mike and Dara rehash Tuesday’s electoral results while Amber asks whether increased voucher accountability makes a difference.

Amber's Research Minute

School Choice and School Accountability: Evidence from a Private Voucher Program in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Download PDF

Thirteen profiles (of quality school leaders, innovative big thinkers, and stellar teachers) comprise this volume by former College Board president Gaston Caperton (with Richard Whitmire)—and provide quite a “who’s who” in education: Mike Miles and the Harrison County School District’s pay for performance system is featured, along with David Steiner and the Relay Graduate School of Education and Chris Steinhauser and the Long Beach School District. Into each narrative, Caperton laces lessons that he’s garnered over his long career in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors on how to achieve great, equitable schools for all. None of it is mystical, which doesn’t mean it’s not worth heeding: Improve teacher quality by recruiting top-flight candidates. Increase rigor with high expectations, consistent use of data, and comprehensive AP programs. And embrace accountability. He also lauds inner-city exam schools. While not breaking new ground, Caperton utilizes his knowledge (and Whitmire’s fine storytelling capacity) to provide an encouraging set of strategies and examples that point toward a more equitable and effective education system.

SOURCE: Gaston Caperton and Richard Whitmire, The Achievable Dream: College Board Lessons on Creating Great Schools (New York, NY: College Board, 2012). ...

Trick or tweet?

Mike channels Darth Vader and Checker channels, well, Checker, in a Halloween edition of the podcast featuring all sorts of treats: charter schools, the Common Core, and the political appeal of ed reform. Amber explains why Fordham’s latest study on teacher-union strength is a must-read—all 405 pages of it.

Amber's Research Minute

Gary Orfield is at it again, although this time with a twist: This book, edited by Orfield and Penn State professor Erica Frankenberg, focuses on how suburban areas are handling an influx of poor and minority students—and how they might handle it better. The book profiles six suburbs (located outside Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and San Antonio) as well as Beach County, Florida (which encompasses West Palm Beach and Boca Raton). Each case study analyzes demographic shifts, how the districts are combating their schools’ achievement gaps, and what the political and cultural hurdles are to achieving true racial integration (Orfield’s long-time end-goal). (Prefacing these chapters is a welcome analysis and discussion of the demographics of suburbia at large—showing that, across the board, it’s less homogenous than many people suppose.) The Resegregation of Suburban Schools is a worthy contribution to the academic literature on suburbia and a thought-provoking read on the morality of desegregation. But look elsewhere for concrete policy ideas. In these pages are only vague proposals for affirmative-action programs when hiring educational professionals, amorphous “involvement” of civil-rights organizations like the NAACP in the suburbs, and an increase in magnet schools and student-exchange programs (i.e., busing across district lines). The recent attempts to extend integration programs to the suburbs should stand as a lesson: Racial integration—while a nice idea—can quickly bog down. It might be time to start thinking of diverse schools as one...

A. Graham Down

Guest blogger A. Graham Down was acting director of the College Board's Advanced Placement Program and executive director and president of the Council for Basic Education.

I first met Jacques Barzun in 1960 at the Lawrenceville School. He was the featured speaker at the school’s 150th anniversary, making a presentation entitled “The Place and Price of Excellence.” He cut an impressive, if somewhat austere, figure. Regal, aristocratic, and articulate, Jacques Barzun made an immediate impression on me. The fineness of his mind, the extraordinary wealth and depth of his knowledge, and his insistence on the highest academic standards were all readily apparent. Later, in seeming apposition, I learned that he wrote mystery and detective novels under a pseudonym with a life-long friend, Wendell Taylor, the head of the school’s science department.

Regal, aristocratic, and articulate, Jacques Barzun made an immediate impression on me.

Flash forward to August 1974. Our paths crossed again in an entirely different context. Now, informally dressed and over a glass of beer on the back porch of his summer compound on Cape Cod, he interviewed me (in his capacity as a board member) for the position of executive director of the Council for Basic Education, a national organization which championed the liberal arts for all students at the pre-college level. The entente was immediate. He naturally and visibly epitomized the council’s ideals. Intolerant of intellectual mediocrity, he wanted to make sure that I was scholarly enough to maintain the high standards of an...

Yesterday morning, I had the opportunity to introduce Teach for America founder, Wendy Kopp, at the White House Fellows Annual Leadership Conference.

Though I had to excise some of the material below to meet a pre-ordained time limit, the following is the original text of my comments.

Good morning, everyone. It is an honor and pleasure to introduce our next speaker.

It has been a terrific morning, but it’s also been a bit long, I know. So with that and the conference’s theme of “Creativity and Leadership,” in mind, I thought I’d start off somewhat differently to spice things up a little.

By talking about football.

It’s not just what we do but what we build.

Legendary San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh won four Super Bowls—a coaching record. But he left a far greater legacy than just those Lombardi Trophies.

He was such a great teacher and mentor that six of his assistant coaches went on to become NFL head coaches. And then their assistants became NFL head coaches. And their assistants, too.

His influence continues to this very day. Contemporary NFL head coaches Mike Tomlin of the Steelers, John Harbaugh of the Ravens, Andy Reid of the Eagles, Mike Shanahan of the Redskins, Lovie Smith of the Bears, and many others trace their pedigree directly back to Bill Walsh.

Now that’s a legacy. It’s not just what we do but what we build.

Walsh retired in 1988, at the pinnacle of his career, but also, tragically, possibly...

We all love teachers but do we all love ed reformers?

Mike and Kathleen wonder why education can’t stay out of the debates and pick the top edu-initiatives on the ballot. Amber describes the spectacular growth in non-teaching staff.

Amber's Research Minute

The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools by Benjamin Scafidi (Indianapolis, IN: The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, October 2012). - Download PDF

There’s been much twittering, tweeting, debating, and general obsessing in education-land about this year’s presidential election and what difference it will make whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney occupies the Oval Office after January 20, 2013.

In reality, however, while the outcome of this hard-fought contest matters greatly to the nation in many crucial realms, it doesn’t really make much difference for K-12 education. Nor do the parallel races to control Congress.

Ballot Box Close-up
The presidential election isn't the education race that matters most this fall. 
Photo by Joe Hall.

There are, to be sure, nontrivial differences between the candidates regarding future federal education policy, programs, regulations, and budget levels, and they have occasionally tried to underscore these during the campaign (not including Monday evening’s smarmy cries from both that “I love teachers!”). Yet even if those differences are substantial, it still won’t really matter much. Because federal policy, beloved though it is by those inside the Beltway and associated echo chambers, doesn’t really determine much about the conduct of our primary-secondary education system.

Even with his recently enlarged appetite for spending on education and attempts to call more of the shots, Uncle Sam kicks in only about ten percent of the money and has...