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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...

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...

I recently wrote about two studies whose results showed promise in the use of co-requisite remediation (students simultaneously taking a developmental and a credit-bearing course in the same subject). The strategy is aimed at getting college students up to speed faster, thus cutting time and costs associated with degree completion (both in two-year and four-year colleges). Now two more studies on this topic offer additional insights.

First up is Iris Palmer’ plan to scale up co-requisite remediation models based on the experiences of pilot programs in five states. These pilots either a) fully replaced traditional prerequisite remediation with a co-requisite model as described above or b) created two different tracks into which students were slotted based on ACT score cutoffs identified by the community colleges. She identifies the subtle variations that different colleges employed (class size, test cutoff points, integration of remediation with credit-bearing content, etc.) and identifies the stakeholders within college hierarchies who would have the best vantage point and leverage to make the needed systemic changes. Who knew that registrars had that kind of power? I jest, but Palmer insists that redesigning an institution’s remediation process “needs to be someone’s full-time job” to be done right—and...

The Ohio State Board of Education chose Paolo DeMaria as the next state superintendent of public instruction earlier this month. Mr. DeMaria is a former state budget director, education advisor to two governors, high-level staffer with the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Board of Regents, and a current principal with Education First Consulting. His dedication to improving education is obvious and is matched only by his impeccable qualifications.

Mr. DeMaria brings a calm, thoughtful, and analytical approach to the agency’s work. But there is even more to be glad about in terms of this choice: For the first time in many years, the sitting governor did not send a representative to sit in on candidate interviews for state superintendent. This deliberate move away from the politicization of the selection process is a positive step and may have played a small role in the usually fractious board unanimously selecting Mr. DeMaria (even with a number of other highly qualified candidates from which to choose). Just as impressive, DeMaria scored points with many by asking for a lower base salary than originally offered, to be supplemented by a performance-based bonus option. A class act...

  1. Our own Chad Aldis was a guest on All Sides with Ann Fisher again yesterday. Unsurprisingly, the topic was charter schools. Specifically, “The Performance and Outcomes of Online Schools”. Not a bad hour of talk radio, even if Chad doesn’t come in until the half-way point. But listen especially for the couple of times when Chad takes the show “off script”. Pretty good. (WOSU-FM, Columbus, 5/26/16)
  2. Speaking of charter schools, the data wonks over at KnowYourCharter released a new report yesterday looking at previous federal Charter School Program (CSP) grants received by Ohio…in exactly the same way that wolves look at henhouses. The message seems to be that lots of schools that received CSP grants either never opened or closed after receiving grants, raising questions to which the wolves would like an answer. Here’s one not answered: why are so many of the closed schools affiliated with school districts? The report got a little bit of play in the media. Chad’s response is quoted in response in all of these pieces, as is the response of the Ohio Department of Education (which I love, BTW): “This department has no interest in playing partisan politics with a special interest
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Is there a more annoying manifestation of our political and cultural divisions than the debate over school discipline? On the Left is the “restorative justice” crowd, clamoring for an end to “exclusionary” practices before critical questions about the impact of this step have been answered; on the Right are the “no-excuses” folks, asserting the necessity and efficacy of suspensions based on the blithe assumption that they promote order and safety.

At times, both sides seem to view dialogue and consequences as mutually exclusive, even though common sense suggests they might be usefully combined. Any decent parent penalizes bad behavior and insists on an apology when one is warranted (as do many educators). Yet at the policy level, in loco parentis is too bipolar for that. For the discipline doves, disparate suspension rates are proof not just of racial bias (which is only part of the story), but of the indefensible and counterproductive nature of punishment generally. (Never mind that this logic would obviate the need for courts and prisons if applied outside the schoolhouse.) For the hawks, no policy is too shortsighted and socio-emotionally indifferent to rationalize by invoking the sanctity of the learning environment. The possibility that suspended students might return to class...

“In a private meeting at the White House in 2014, Mr. Obama told a group of young black activists that change was ‘hard and incremental,’ one participant said at the time. When some activists at that meeting said they felt that their voices were not being heard, Mr. Obama replied, “You are sitting in the Oval Office, talking to the president of the United States.”

—“Obama Says Movements Like Black Lives Matter ‘Can’t Just Keep on Yelling,’” The New York Times, April 23, 2016

At the opening plenary session of the New Schools Venture Fund meeting in San Francisco earlier this month, CEO Stacy Childress promised attendees that the meeting was going to “push” them to explore issues of race, equity, and education. For some, it was a face push. The session featured a panel discussion between a top Teach For America executive active in the Black Lives Matter movement, an activist concerned with the plight of undocumented youth, and a USC sociology professor who brought half of the audience to its feet with a remark (as paraphrased by someone in the room) that “the story of America is the story of progressive social movements, government, affirmative action, the GI bill, and...

  1. One of State Auditor! Man’s superpowers, it appears, is the ability to create two news stories with a single press conference. Case in point: his announcement on Monday of the results of an attendance audit at charter and district schools. We told you briefly in that day’s clips about the findings, but his other point – an assertion that the Ohio Department of Education might not be the best-run agency in all of state government – got as much or more attention than the audit findings. Fiendishly clever. Here you can find the full video of the press conference in four pieces. A fifth piece here includes full commentary from our own Chad Aldis on both of State Auditor! Man’s truth bombs. Y’all know I love both Yost and Aldis, so take it from me with love: fish-eye lenses are not flattering. (Ohio Capital Blog, 5/23/16)
  2. Chad is also quoted in these stories reporting the auditor’s press conference. First up, Jeremy Kelley focuses on the part about ODE, although Chad is quoted only on the attendance audit findings. (Dayton Daily News, 5/23/16) Public radio reporter Andy Chow economically addressed both of the auditor’s topics in his
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