Anne Hyslop's last stand

Pearson’s snooping, ESEA reauthorization, college-for-all, and Chicago school discipline. Featuring a guest appearance by Bellwether’s Anne Hyslop.    

Amber's Research Minute

SOURCE: W. David Stevens et al., "Discipline Practices in Chicago Schools: Trends in the Use of Suspensions and Arrests," University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (March 2015).


Mike:               Hello. This is your host, Mike Petrilli, of The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, here at The Education Gadfly Show and online at Now, please join me in welcoming the Justin Bieber of education policy, Anne Hyslop.

Anne:               Thanks, Mike. Why am I like Justin Bieber?

Mike:               You're like Justin Bieber because at one time, Justin was everywhere. He was super out there and visible, and then he kind of went dark. He went invisible and that's what's about to happen to you, Anne. You are about to go invisible because you're going from being a Senior Policy Analysist at Bellwether Education Partners. You get quoted in Ed Week. You're out there on Twitter. You're super smart in all things education. Next week you go into the beast. You go into the U.S. Department of Education and you'll never been seen again.

Anne:               You're saying I'm overexposed a little bit?

Mike:               First of all, me calling anybody overexposed, I think people would find that a little bit laughable on some things. I'm just saying you were highly visible. You're about to become less visible. I can give you some advice, Anne. Making the transition from think tank life to federal bureaucrat life is difficult. You have to go from being quotable to not being ever quotable.

Anne:               I have to become boring.

Mike:               You have to become boring.

Anne:               This is going to be very instructional.

Mike:               Trust me.

Anne:               ... how to survive at 400 Maryland Avenue.

Mike:               As I can tell you from the time I was quoted on the front page of the New York Times saying something that didn't sound so great about supplemental services and not regulating them... Anyway, bottom line is now I'm excited if I'm on the front page of the New York Times. Usually not a good thing when you're within the government.

Anne:               Good to know. Good to know. Thank you for having me. I'm super excited to be here and share all my insights before I can no longer share them.

Mike:               Yes. Exactly. Your last words of freedom, so great to have you here, Anne. Anne is super smart on all things ESEA and other things education policy. She's over at Bellwether. She's about to go to the Department of Ed, but we are going to enjoy this last chance to hear from her. Ellen, let's play ‘Pardon the Gadfly.’

Ellen:               Pearson is being criticized for monitoring students' online activity for the purpose of maintaining test security. Did Pearson do something wrong?

Mike:               Anne, everybody loves to beat up on Pearson, and look, it is not hard to do. They've screwed up a lot of things over the years. They're a big, huge, multinational corporation. I think they might have been, maybe in "The Lego Movie," was that Pearson? Was Lord Business the head of Pearson? I think that probably was supposed to be them. On this one, they're just trying to make sure kids aren't sharing questions. That seems legit, right?

Anne:               Yeah, I have to say I think this has been overblown. I am definitely feel like Pearson, they are just trying to make sure that the product they've produced, as well as what states have invested, millions of dollars in these tests, is secure. I think monitoring social media, monitoring web activity, that's part and parcel with test security today. These are public accounts too. That's the thing. This is a great lesson for kids, I think, in terms of social media is social. People can see it. That's Pearson, your parents. If you're expecting that these questions and tweets are not going to be public knowledge, I think you need to have a lesson on internet privacy.

Mike:               This is the best part. I love that some of these headlines talk about student privacy. Yeah, privacy. If they're mining their private chats or cell phone calls or something like that, okay, but yeah, hey, you send a tweet, it's out there. I think we've all learned that lesson, haven't we? Now the kids are going to learn that too. By the way, in the last couple of days, we have found that, lo and behold, they have actually caught some kids out there cheating and sharing questions.

Anne:               I think cheating's the bigger problem here. That's really something that, if you see that kids are cheating on exams, whether it's looking at someone's paper or taking a picture of the test, that's something that's a bigger problem to me than someone doing a Google search on Twitter for the word park.

Mike:               Yeah. Hey, by the way, why are the kids cheating on these tests? They don't count. This is just kids just being kids. They're just bored.

Anne:               Kids have always cheated. I think that this is just the 21st century version of it.

Mike:               No, no, no, but usually there's some motivation to cheat. These tests really have no consequences for the kids whatsoever, especially this year's, so I'm just wondering. For the kids that have gotten caught, dude, what are you thinking? Why? Why do you even bother?

Anne:               Maybe they just think it's funny. I don't know if it's the cheating thing.

Mike:               I think that's got to be it. They just think it's ...

Anne:               Just like, "Look at this ridiculous question that we had to read." They may not be doing it maliciously but it could actually be used by students in other states, particularly now that we're sharing assessments across state lines.

Mike:               I think that we can all agree that those kids who cheated on a test that doesn't count should definitely not be considered college and career ready. Okay, topic number two, Ellen. Hey, Ellen, ask us something we might disagree about.

Ellen:               Okay. The fight continues for ESEA reauthorization. What does the future hold for the beleaguered legislation?

Mike:               Anne, I was surprised to see this week that, at the CCSSO meeting, a bunch of heavy hitters, Lily Eskelsen from the NEA, Randi Weingarten, Dane Linn, and Kati Haycock all said they thought this reauthorization actually was going to happen.

Anne:               I don't know what secrets they know that I don't know, because I'm definitely more bearish on this one. I thought it was a great sign when Senator Alexander and Senator Murray came together and said, "We're going to try and write a bipartisan bill," which all ESEAs that have ever been passed have been bipartisan. You need to have agreement on both sides, at least on the big provisions, to get something done and to have the President sign it at the end of the day. What happened with the House a few weeks later, the House Republican Caucus just splitting on this, I don't see how you can get a bill passed.

Mike:               Let me ask you this, Anne. If we see a bill that comes from Alexander and Murray from the Senate that looks basically like the Alexander bill with a few tweaks to push it a little bit to the left, let's say they bring back some of the programs that were consolidated, they drop the maintenance of effort changes, they get rid of portability, but the basic accountability stuff is the same which basically gives it back to the states to figure out most of the details on how accountability would work, grading schools, as well as interventions, do you think that law deserves to get signed by the President?

Anne:               I think for me the key piece is that accountability piece. The looser you get on what's on states, whether it's no targets, no prescriptions, nothing about sub-group accountability, the fewer requirements that are in the bill, the more important it is for there to be some sort of Secretary approval process. I think the problem there is that there is a disincentive, I guess, or a disinclination to put either in the bill.

Mike:               Right, for good reason, because this Secretary has abused his authority and is calling the shots from Washington, and by the way, because we now have had to deal with this law for 12, 13, 14, I don't know how many freaking years, and we worry that that might happen again. What we don't want to do is keep some states from having a good idea 8 years from now about how to do accountability better, and because we've required them to have targets or to have this or to have that which may make sense now, may not make sense in the future that we've tied their hands. Basically what I'm saying here, Anne, is that you are wrong. Yes, that kind of a law definitely deserves to be signed by the President, if we want.

Anne:               But he's not even going to get a chance to sign it if the House can't vote on the Student Success Act. The more conservative version of the bill, 1 step at a time.

Mike:               Anne, I agree that's the likely route. However, if the Senate passed a bill, the House could take it up and vote on it, and they could decide, if they were able to get enough votes from Democrats and Republicans, then you could pass that bill. The problem with the Student Success Act is they were trying to pass it with only Republican votes and that is where the margins are small. If they're willing to say, hey, as long as we get a majority of Republican votes, we can lose 200 Republican votes, but we still have, not 200, but what ...

Anne:               200 might be a little too many.

Mike:               We can lose 100 Republican votes, still pass that bill. That might be something that could happen.

Anne:               We'll see. I'm going to take it 1 step at a time. I do think that this accountability question and what the Secretary's role is in approving plans and what the peer review process looks like, it's wonky details but I think it matters.

Mike:               You federal bureaucrats always want to keep the power for yourselves.

Anne:               I'm going to the Department. I would like to have something to do when I'm there.

Mike:               Exactly. It's so self-interested, Anne. Okay, topic number three.

Ellen:               From CAP to President Obama, the idea of College for All is as strong as it's ever been, but should it be?

Mike:               Anne, I think we've sparred on this a little bit on Twitter. I've been trying to push back on this notion of College for All, certainly 4 year college as being a goal that everybody should go to. I think most people would say, all right, we know that that's not going to happen for everybody, but what about post-secondary education? Again, great aspiration to get lots more kids into post-secondary education, but my argument is we're not going to get all kids there and we don't have to get all kids there, if we pay attention to the rest of the success sequence. What do you think about this?

Anne:               I think that College for All is a bit of a misnomer, that we're talking about post-secondary training and college. Some sort of degree is what's needed for most students these days. It doesn't necessarily have to be that 4 year degree or even an associate's degree, but some sort of post-secondary credential is really essential.

Mike:               All right, but right now we're, what, getting 25%, maybe 30% of kids to the level by the end of high school where they're actually ready for college, even those technical training programs. 25 or 30%, we're not going to get to 100% any time soon, maybe ever, right?

Anne:               We don't have to get to that point. I think you look at it right now. It's, I think, about 50% of students in the highest income bracket, they graduate college within 6 years. It's slightly lower for the lowest bracket. I think it's about 30%. Those numbers need to get higher, but I don't think we can wish away the need for remediation in college right now. That's going to be a problem that we're still going to have to tackle, even with Common Core, particularly because you're dealing with students that have only had experience with these standards for part of their K12 career.

Mike:               Mm-hmm (affirmative). If remediation actually worked, that would be one thing. I think we are going to be ...

Anne:               It's the best pathway to the middle class. It is.

Mike:               Remediation is?

Anne:               No, college of some sort, some sort of credential. I think I read a statistic that if you only have a high school degree, about 20% of students in that category are in poverty. It used to be 7%.

Mike:               Right.

Anne:               You can't deny the economic trends here, that college or some sort of post-secondary credential is what you need to do.

Mike:               No. Absolutely, but there's a big difference between more and all, and I do worry that in education reform that we put all of our eggs in that college basket, the post-secondary basket, and that we overlook other issues. If you graduate from high school and you work full-time and you avoid early parenthood, then you will not be poor. I just am arguing that some of those issues need to be on the table as well. Maybe when you're over at the Department of Education, we can have those conversations too.

Anne:               We can talk about Perkins reauthorization. How about that?

Mike:               Yes. I love it. Perkins, vocational education, yes, absolutely. All right. That is all the time we've got for Pardon the Gadfly. Now it's time for everyone's favorite, Amber's Research Minute. Amber, welcome back to the show.

Amber:            Thank you, Mike.

Mike:               Amber, did you ever think about working for the US Department of Education?

Amber:            Very, very briefly. It was Fordham, US Department of Education, I don't know.

Mike:               Interesting. I don't know if we knew that I was competing with that. Hey, you were a federal contractor.

Amber:            That's right. It would have been a different leap, but yeah, no, things work out the way they're supposed to work out, right?

Mike:               Exactly.

Amber:            Absolutely.

Anne:               Yup.

Mike:               Yes, they do. Okay, is that what happened with this study that you're going to get into? Did things work out the way they were supposed to?

Amber:            I wasn't a huge fan, but we will have an opportunity to discuss. We looked at a new report out from the Consortium on Chicago School Research, which is a great little research outfit. They called the report, "Discipline Practices in Chicago Schools," which is exactly what the report's about. They examine CPS admin data, PD arrest records in the city, surveys from teachers and students about school discipline, and they look at trends in school discipline across several years, 2008-9 to 2013-14, okay?

Mike:               Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amber:            Several key findings. Number 1, out-of-school suspensions are declining in CPS from roughly 16% of high schoolers being suspended in '13-'14, down from a high point of 24% in 2009-10. Since that year, out-of-school suspension rates have declined each year. Middle school rates are a little more stable. They hover around 13 to 14%, except for 1 year when they dipped lower, but the report mainly looks at high schools, given that that's where we see this stuff happen.

                        CPS also institute in 2012 a policy, that's important, that eliminated 10 day suspensions, so, okay. It required principals to ask for district approval to suspend students more than 5 days, so that made a big difference. They passed a bunch of other policies. They passed a program called the Culture of Calm. This was an initiative that aims for restorative justice versus suspensions. Finding number two, the decline, this is interesting, the decline in out-of-school suspension rates were accompanied by an increase in, guess what?

Mike:               In-school.

Amber:            In in-school suspension rates, ding ding, from a low of 11% in 2013 to a high of 15% in 2013-14. The ISS rates, in-school suspension, of black males in particular nearly doubled from 15 to 29% between those years I told you about. They are also twice as likely to be arrested than as the district as a whole. Number 3, most OSS suspensions, this is out-of-school stuff, 60%, what do you think they're from? Primary reasons.

Mike:               Fights, fighting?

Amber:            You would think but it's not. It's actually student defiance. Talking out is what they call it, not complying with rules, disrespecting teachers. This is the last finding. High school students and teachers report feeling more safe, safer, over the years. Analysts report [this is 00:15:16] roughly corresponds to the decline in OSS rates, but I'm like, first of all, you can't prove that. It's not a causal study. All of this is descriptive stuff. It's possible, right, that simply removing the kid from the classroom, either via out-of-school or in-school suspension, is what might be driving these differences in perception.

                        I think the underlying tone of the report is that exclusionary practices, which is apparently the new word for suspending kids, is bad, and that teachers need to do a better job of handling these kids via support and training, which is all well and good, but sometimes you just got to get the kid out of there if it's a huge problem.

Mike:               This is how this is being spun. We know there's this huge effort underway to discourage schools from suspending and expelling kids, an effort spearheaded by Anne's future colleagues at the US Department of Education over in the Office of Civil Rights, which I think is making a complete mess of this. The question is, do a lot of us worry, is this going to make schools less safe? This study says no, but were there actually more kids being removed from the classroom now because of the increase in in-school suspension rates or is that increase actually higher than the decrease in out-of-school suspension?

Amber:            The increase, was it higher than the ... Hm.

Mike:               If you tried to tally all this stuff together, are there more kids being removed from the classroom today or fewer?

Amber:            Yes, there are more kids being removed from the classroom [crosstalk 00:16:41].

Mike:               That's interesting, but being put in in some classroom somewhere ...

Amber:            In ISS, right.

Mike:               ... in in-school suspension, the in-school prison rather than the classroom.

Amber:            Right.

Mike:               From the perspective of the other kids and the teachers, that kid's gone.

Amber:            That's right. That's what I'm saying, so maybe that's what's driving ... They said in the report it's corresponding with the out-of-school suspension, but it's also corresponding with the rise in in-school suspension, right?

Anne:               Right. Yeah, it's how well is that Culture of Calm working or being implemented if they're just switching in-school versus out-of-school suspension.

Mike:               Yeah. Here's the method. First of all, I'm fine. If the kids are safer, in-school suspension, we don't want them on the streets, that's fine. Okay, I got no problem with that. I get it, that we want those kids ideally in a classroom where they are learning. I get that too, but we have to pay at least as much attention to their peers and what's best for them, as what's best for the kids who are disruptive.

                        That is what the Office of Civil Rights does not seem to care about at all when they tell schools that if we look at your numbers and they look like you're suspending kids and they don't hit the right proportions, we might come down with you in a ton of bricks. What about the value of creating a calm environment? This restorative justice stuff, this is sweeping the country.

Amber:            Yeah, sweeping.

Mike:               Is there good evidence on it?

Amber:            No, not that I'm aware of. I don't know if you guys saw it, it's been picked up by the news a little bit, where the idea, the thrust, is you repair the harm you've done.

Mike:               Like the kids apologize?

Amber:            Right. You mediate or whatever. I don't know. As a former high school teacher in a urban district, sometimes kids need to know you're serious. If my punishment is I sit in a room and talk to my buddy that I can't stand, I don't know. I just think there's a message, there's an optics here too, that we need to think about, like what message are we giving kids. Sure, we want them to work this thing out, but sometimes you do something so bad, you need to go, you know?

Mike:               Yeah. Yeah.

Anne:               Right. Are these just talking out minor infractions versus the really serious ones? There's a lot, I think, in this study that is beneath these numbers that we ... I do at least applaud the collecting data on this and not having ...

Amber:            Yes.

Anne:               For so long, I think this has just been happening in a black box and we didn't know about it. I think that part of the reason the Office of Civil Rights has gotten so much traction is because some of the things they uncovered are pretty shocking, like the 4 year olds being suspended. [crosstalk 00:19:14] That's a little more than the high school. I think there are things in that data that shocked and at least are getting people to pay attention to this.

Amber:            Qualitatively, one thing, because they did a qualitative component in here. A lot of the administrators were saying, "This is actually low, because now we feel like there's a big incentive not to report this stuff, because now we look pretty bad and we're not doing what the policy says, so [eh 00:19:42]." You've got the people, and that's what I saw when I was doing in-schools and reporting some of this stuff in a different job, there's a huge incentive not to report it at all. It just gets swept under the rug, and people will admit it gets swept under the rug, because it's too much of headache.

Mike:               This thing is a rabbit hole. It's a rabbit hole, Anne.

Anne:               It is.

Mike:               All right. Thank you, Amber. Hugely important topic. I hope we can figure out a way to keep digging into it, even though it is hard with the data limitations. That is all the time we've got for this week's Education Gadfly Show. Till next time.

Anne:               I'm Anne Hyslop.

Mike:               I'm Mike Petrilli of The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, signing off.