Flypaper

Derrell Bradford

You can only watch a dragon eat its tail for so long before you feel compelled to intervene.

As I’ve watched the education community react to Robert Pondiscio’s argument that the Left is driving conservatives out of education reform, I’ve been increasingly frustrated to see so many people whom I like and respect (from Marilyn Rhames to Justin CohenChris Stewart, and Jay Greene) take aim at one another. I’m also convinced that the teachers’ unions are all having a good laugh at us while we play this verbal game of the Dozens amongst ourselves.

At the center of this conflict: A dividing line is being drawn between “markets” and “equity” as principles driving change in our schools. These two themes are both found in the underlying conflict of Pondiscio’s piece about the contrast between market/conservative solutions like school choice and the power of a movement like Black Lives Matter (with which the more progressive wing of the reform movement identifies).

I believe that Pondiscio’s piece only featured Black Lives Matter and the agenda of this year’s New Schools Venture Fund Summit (which I attended) as a proxy for capturing the changing view and face of the education...

Martín Pérez

Last week, a long-simmering debate about which kinds of diversity—ideological, political, socioeconomic, racial, or ethnic—should matter most in our education reform community boiled over into public view.

This debate comes at an interesting time in my life because I am in the middle of a year-long leadership development program—50CAN’s Education Advocacy Fellowship—that was created to provide an on-ramp for more people to serve as education reform leaders. This experience has led me to realize something so simple it’s perhaps overlooked in all the back and forth over this debate:

There is more than enough work to go around.

It is exactly because of the scale and complexity of the challenges we face, and the numerous gaps left unfilled, that the best work in education advocacy is increasingly being carried out by coalitions that span the traditional divides.

That means intentionally elevating both ideologically diverse and racially and socioeconomically diverse leaders—because we all have something unique and different to contribute. Making room for a greater diversity of voices doesn’t have to mean asking anyone to step back from their work.

During my time in the 50CAN fellowship, I have come to learn from and respect the contributions made by conservatives who...

Gary Johnson, the former two-term governor of New Mexico, is the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee. He’ll face off (with running mate William Weld) in November against the Republican Party's Donald Trump and Mike Pence and the Democratic Party's Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. Here are some of his views on education:

  1. School choice: “I think I was more outspoken than any governor in the country regarding school choice—believing that the only way to really reform education was to bring competition to public education. So for six straight years as governor of New Mexico, I proposed a full-blown voucher system that would’ve brought about that competition.” August 2012.
  2. Federal role in education: “I think that the number-one thing that the federal government could do when it comes to the delivery of education would be to abolish itself from the education business….It’s also important to point out that the federal Department of Education was established in 1979. And there is nothing to suggest that, since 1979, that the federal Department of Education has been value-added regarding anything. So just get the federal government out of education.” August 2012.
  3. Common Core: “[Gary Johnson] opposes Common Core and any other attempts to impose national standards and requirements
  4. ...
Kathryn Haydon

In my work with hundreds of families, I have observed one common truth: Parents are the experts on their own children, especially when it comes to giftedness. Parents often observe certain characteristics in their children and view them as positive traits—until those same characteristics are regarded negatively in school. Though there may be outside pressure not to accept a “gifted” or “highly creative” label, sometimes that designation is the one thing that can save a child from being misinterpreted and misidentified.

Recognizing the highly creative child

Sometimes it’s not easy for highly creative children to “comply” with a regular curriculum, even at the preschool age. They are wired to explore, experiment, build, imagine, and create. If forced at a young age into a diet heavy on rote learning and directed work, they may struggle. It’s not that these children can’t do the work. It’s that the work does not engage their depth of thinking, their ability to make connections, or their desire to contribute original ideas. Their needs are so much more complex than what a traditional classroom can meet, especially if they want to voraciously pursue knowledge on their own.

Creative traits in action

So that you may see...

I believe people are generally at their angriest when they feel powerless.

It’s one thing to be unhappy with the current state of your life—heck, we’ve all been there. But it’s entirely different when there’s nothing you can do about it. That causes fury.

My practiced instinct now, when I see a person or a group of people acting out in rage, is to assume that they’ve been dispossessed of something important. I try my best to understand what’s keeping them from exerting an influence on their situation.

You can see this in revolts against brutal despots and in centuries of civil uprisings across the globe when there are food shortages. You can see it in urban unrest when residents can’t fix crime, housing, jobs, law enforcement, or transportation. But you can also see it in an abused child’s explosion of anger—or the uncorked temper of an adult who’s been subjected to a behemoth organization’s purposely unending cavalcade of customer service representatives. In a recent article, I applied this frame to our current politics, likening the dominant story of the 2016 campaign to a riot.

There are countless such examples in education. Think of the parent whose child has been...

Terry Ryan

I was the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s point person in Ohio for twelve years. I never met Robert Pondiscio but have followed his writing since leaving Fordham in 2013. I am also a former New Schools Venture Fund (NSVF) Pahara fellow (class of 2008). Pondiscio’s piece, “The Left’s drive to push conservatives out of education reform,” has triggered an important conversation about race, power, politics, and school reform.

I was the only Republican in my cohort of Pahara fellows, which included the likes of progressive education leaders John King, Cami Anderson, and Andy Rotherham. I had philosophical disagreements with some of my New Schools colleagues, and I wasn’t nearly as excited about the election of President Barack Obama back in 2008 as they were. But every single one of my NSVF friends treated me and my opinions with respect. What’s more, they actually wanted to hear what I had to say.  

I attended the New Schools Venture Fund Conference in California that was at the center of Pondiscio’s piece. My take is different from his. I was less offended by the “push” of the political Left than I was disappointed by how voiceless the conservative ideas around...

As I reflected the post written by my friend and colleague Robert Pondiscio this week, and why it hit such a nerve, I was struck by a simple but stark conclusion: Education reform leaders on the Right and Left cannot claim the mantle of civil rights when it suits us and then reject it when it starts to feel uncomfortable.

For many years, white conservatives gave moral urgency to the push for education reform by adopting the language of civil rights struggles. In 2002, President Bush used called it “the civil rights issue of our time”—a frame that found its way into the keynote addresses and panel discussions of many white-dominated education reform conferences. John McCain used the same frame while accepting the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, calling education “the civil rights issue of the century.”

These are moving words because they evoke times of great struggle and American heroes like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Little Rock Nine.

I remember first hearing this language coming from fellow white reformers after I left the classroom in 2002, and I remember thinking even then that it sounded hollow. Not because it was wrong—ensuring equity and...

In a thick of a presidential campaign, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. Education commentators are justifiably curious about the possible schools agenda of a President Trump, Sanders, or Clinton, sometimes to the exclusion of candidates in the down-ballot races. But even though the past few months have largely been given over to the looming fall contest, that’s certainly not the only meaningful election being held. This week, for example, millions of Texas families wisely rejected the candidacy of Mary Lou Bruner, the hard-right zealot who nearly won the Republican primary for a seat on the Texas State Board of Education.

First things first: Though she was ultimately defeated by rival Keven Ellis in Tuesday’s runoff vote, Bruner came within a few national headlines of holding office. She was the big winner in the original primary election several months ago, horsewhipping Ellis by seventeen points and coming within two points of the clinching 50 percent mark. The good people of her district have shown themselves to be very comfortable with the thundering oddballs who tend to prevail at the local level, and that played to Bruner’s strengths: She proved a Trumpian conjurer of free publicity, earning national fame by...

Earlier this month, eleven scholars, analysts, and advocates participated in our annual Wonkathon. The challenge we put to them was to find provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act that could be used to expand parental choice.

Our participants did not disappoint; I strongly recommend checking out their ideas on course access, school turnarounds, and charter quality. (All eleven posts are available here.)

But the argument that I found most compelling was one made by wonks Matthew JosephBrian Kisida and Travis Pillow: that the law could catalyze efforts to overhaul state and local school finance systems. That could unleash charters and choice more than anything else.

Indeed, school finance reform is the next front in the school choice war. As Matthew Joseph explained in his post, charter schools are shortchanged, on average, by more than 20 percent; for publicly funded scholarship programs, the deficit is 50 percent or more.

Twenty-odd years ago, some of us naively claimed that schools of choice would be able to deliver better learning at lower costs. That was a mistake. As long as schools are competing with one another for talent, not being able to pay competitive salaries is a major barrier to quality. (That goes for poorly...

As everyone knows, the Department of Education released its latest package of proposed regulations today. Among other issues, this round addresses the heart of the Every Student Succeeds Act: its accountability provisions.

The law, as you may recall, represented a major departure from No Child Left Behind, sending significant authority back to the states. It didn’t give them carte blanche, but Congress certainly intended them to have lots more sway over key education policy issues, including the design of their school rating systems.

Apparently Secretary of Education John King and his colleagues didn’t get the memo. While they're not a total disaster, the regulations proposed today miss opportunities at every turn to provide important flexibility to the states so that they might design systems that work.

Here are a few of the issues that state officials, and members of Congress, should complain about:

1. The regulations set an arbitrary standard for the “other indicators of student success or school quality”—and then make sure those indicators won’t matter anyway. One of ESSA’s key innovations was the allowance of non-test indicators in state accountability systems. While some accountability hawks saw this move as a way to water down expectations, others viewed it as a...

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