Parents to Technocrats-mind if I cut in?

February 9, 2017

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Mike Petrilli published a piece on charter school authorizing and oversight in response to Jason and Jay. Before the fun starts, let’s just note the following:

  1. State authorities are going to occasionally close charter schools whether I, Mike, Jay, Jason or anyone likes it or not. Let’s therefore not worry about whether or not we should close a charter school caught having students sacrifice goats to Baal out on the playground- it’s going to happen.
  2. Whether or not this is going to happen or even should happen is not terribly relevant. Mike cites a 3% estimate for charters closed by authorities over academics. I’m personally comfortable with a far higher closure rate. So long as parents take the lead, I’m not going to sweat some authority jumping in front of the parade to close the Baal school.
  3. Ultimately therefore the debate should be about how to get to a policy environment where parents are taking the lead on quality control.

The reasons for this are ultimately very practical. Technocrats make mistakes and many do not develop the close relationships and sweat the details behind test scores the way Mike describes. More to the point all of these schools have access to the legal system, can lawyer up, engage in delaying tactics, get their parents riled up to resist closure etc. It is genuinely worth asking whether the juice is worth the squeeze in many cases.

Meanwhile, when parents close a school there is no resistance, no lawsuits, no delaying tactics. This is the most potent and brutally efficient form of accountability by a very wide margin. Now…breather deeply…

…close your eyes…

…channel your inner Rick Hess and think broadly about what sorts of policies and practices can get you there…

…do you see it?…yes….

Now…you are back on the green…nicely done….yes and now you are doing it again…

Good…very good…yes both of those states scored a 9/33 on NACSA’s ratings but rocked the 2015 NAEP like an 80s hair band trashing a hotel room suite that had it coming. Breathe even deeper…do you see a role for an all-powerful command and control technocrat in this vision?

No? Good-me neither. Light touch stuff inevitable, heavy-handed stuff risky and counterproductive, parent lead highly desirable. I don’t think there is a whole lot to argue about.

Okay open your eyes now. I think we have this all sorted out!


Good reads

February 3, 2017

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The WSJ detects the Stockholm Syndrome of the six-inch Dark Lord of Nightmares MA Charter School Association and Eli Broad.

Derrell Bradford earns a BOOOOOOM! by explaining to the charter school bear that the hunter has plenty of bullets left for them.

So does Max Eden by exposing the NYT phony “analysis” of Detroit charter data.

Mike McShane joins the fun by explaining how our notions of accountability need an update.

Rick Hess cautions choiceniks to be careful what we wish for from the feds.


Patty Hearst and the Ed Reform Left

January 19, 2017

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So yesterday Elizabeth Warren read the six-inch Dark Lord of Nightmares’ letter at the DeVos confirmation hearing, and it got me to thinking about Patty Hearst. In the early 1970s heiress Patty Hearst was kidnapped by a radical left-wing terrorist organization, kept blindfolded and bound in a closet for weeks. She suffered terrible abuse. Eventually she grew sympathetic with the views of her captives, changed her name, and joined them in bank robberies and the creation of propaganda, eventually leading to her arrest and imprisonment in 1975. Hearst came to mind because MA charters are now effectively trapped, but have begun attempting to curry favor with their captors. President Carter commuted her sentence in the late 1970s and then someone bought a Bubba pardon for her on Ebay President Clinton pardoned her in 2001.

To my progressive friends in the education reform movement, let me respectfully suggest that this is not an example you wish to follow.

So Donald Trump will take the oath of office to become President of the United States tomorrow. I’m still shocked to write such a thing. To put things delicately, he’s not my cup of tea either. The American people however chose to elect him. They had other options available and the rules of the game regarding the Electoral College were known to all players in advance. I don’t know who hacked Podesta’s email but I’m pretty sure they didn’t force Hillary to avoid visiting Wisconsin and Michigan. Nor did they inexplicably direct millions of dollars to television ads in states like Arizona, Georgia and Texas in preference to more GOTV and efforts in the real swing states of MI and PA. If you are looking for the folks who lost this election for HRC, search Brooklyn rather than Moscow.

In 2008 I found myself attempting to assure my conservative friends that life would in fact go on despite the election of Barack Obama. Don’t get me wrong- I was no fan at the time and never became one. The world ended again in 2012…except it didn’t. I had liberal friends that were ready to move to Canada in 2004. I told them that I survived 8 years of Bill Clinton and that they would survive 8 years of Dubya. Sure enough they did. While Trump is unique in many ways, let’s try to remain open to the idea that the Founders prepared for scoundrels in high office and that this too just might pass.

Fear, loathing, triangulaton, whatever-Stockholm Syndrome is always bad look imo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


2016: The Year in Edu-Review

December 29, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So what did we learn in 2016?

Tom Loveless reported in an analysis performed this year that the adoption of Common Core had resulted in less than a point of average improvement in NAEP scores, and that we probably already got the partial point. Meanwhile states continued revising their standards and tests. Another K-12 master plan bites the dustbin of history.

Speaking of tests, one of the subtle trends that continued in 2016 was the enhancement of academic transparency by NGOs. Non-profit firms have built platforms that analyze state testing data into digestible ratings and in addition collect parent reviews. Thus even when states adopt phony “trophies for everyone” school rating systems, a private platform like Greatschools gives parents a more realistic skinny on academic performance, and user reviews to boot. Already the amount of web traffic these sites generate dwarf those of state departments of education websites, and Greatschools has competition.

Similar to Mark Perry explaining that your television didn’t cost $6,200 because people figured things out over time, perhaps a bit more diversity could help the cause of academic transparency. The best case scenario on testing likewise imo would be to give schools more flexibility regarding the standards and testing used. The private platforms have already been dealing with “trophies for everyone” and can further take on the task of digesting a more diverse testing data for parents so long as state officials make some basic efforts regarding comparability and avoid opt-out provisions. Accountability could then take the form of parents choosing schools with decent information, which is strongly preferable to the accountability-free accountability bureaucratic compliance systems practiced in most states today. States can of course choose to keep things as they have been, but quite frankly its a bit difficult to see much benefit in so doing. Arizona lawmakers struck a deal to increase testing flexibility in preference to an opt-out bill in 2016. Perhaps other states will follow in 2017.

When we look back at 2016, the most important research may prove to be a Harvard study of the Georgia Tech MOOC Master’s degree program. Cliff’s Notes: the inexpensive Masters program in Computer Science program is competing against non-consumption. In other words, in the absence of the online GT program, the participating students would simply not pursue graduate level training in the field. As the study explained:

Demand for the online option is driven by mid-career Americans. By satisfying large, previously unmet demand for mid-career training, this single program will boost annual production of American computer science master’s degrees by about eight percent. More generally, these results suggest that low cost, high quality online options may open opportunities for populations who would not otherwise pursue education.

Crunchy education traditionalists like Jay will doubtlessly harumph that we don’t yet know what the job market will make of such a degree as yet. They will alas be right, but competing against non-consumption moves the question from “is this as good as a normal GT Masters” to “hey is this worth $7,000 and my time?”

On the parental choice legislative front, 2016 does not rank among the legendary years for progress, in part because it was an election year. Speaking of the election year, the Massachusetts ballot issue on charter schools ought to serve as a wake up call.  Writing on the Presidential election in MA, New York Times reported “You could drive a full 30 miles through the leafy suburbs northwest of Boston before reaching a town where Mr. Trump hit 20 percent of the vote.” Note however that these same wealthy and progressive voters slapped down more charter schools for inner city Boston kids on the same ballot. AFDC makes a poor role model for the parental choice movement, while the example of Social Security suggests a way forward.

Finally the biggest K-12 story of 2016 doesn’t have much to do with K-12. One of the two American catch-all parties commands a dominant position at the state level where the vast majority of K-12 action lies. Since President Obama took office, the Democratic Party has seen their collection of state legislative seats shrink by almost a quarter, and experienced a net decline in governors as well. Republicans will hold “trifectas” (the Governor and legislative majorities in both chambers of the legislature) in 25 states in 2017, while Democrats hold trifectas in six states in their coastal strongholds (and Hawaii). The sea-change at the state level occurred in November of 2010, but many may have been expecting the trend to moderate in 2016, but the voters made other plans for the time being.

Even before the election of 2016, the tyrants seemed to be defeating the street in the ongoing Arab Spring of the center-left debate over education policy-NAACP, Democratic Party Platform, etc. I agree with Greg that the choice movement has cultivated ties with progressives and can ill-afford to squander them. Has however the loss of almost a thousand state legislative seats moved Democratic caucuses hopelessly to the left on K-12 issues?  Can progressives keep clear about the benefits of choice to disadvantaged communities even though Donald Trump professes an affection for it?*

There is only one way to find out- let’s get 2017 started.

 

*If not I will set my stopwatch to await progressive opposition to infrastructure spending and federal family leave legislation, as “I hate anything Trump likes” will be about the level of analysis utilized.

 

 

 


Anyone want to bet against Arizona for the 2017 NAEP?

December 13, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So Lisa Graham Keegan and I finally had the opportunity to collect on our bet with Mike Petrilli on the 2015 NAEP.  You may recall that Mike bet us before the release of the 2015 NAEP results for Reading and Math that Arizona’s NAEP scores would decline. Using our spidey-sense, LGK and I bet Mike that they would be going up, not down.  Arizona’s NAEP scores did go up. Mike was a good sport and quite appropriately paid his debt to us in copper cups (one of the state nicknames is the Copper State).

Depending upon how you examine the data Arizona is either near or else is at the actual top on gains. Measured by student cohort over time, Arizona’s 4th grade class of 2009 made more progress on Math and Reading between 4th and 8th grade scores in 2013 than any other state. Arizona’s 4th grade class of 2011 achieved the same pinnacle in their 2015 scores as 8th graders. (NAEP Math and Reading exams are both scaled and timed to allow such comparisons). The gains for Arizona charter school students dwarf those of Arizona as a whole, or any other state.

So anyhoo, the term “Wild West” is being thrown around as if it is a term of derision by some of those uncomfortable with the selection of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Here in the actual Wild West we wear the term with pride. The Arizona charter school sector has a majority minority student population, scored like a New England state on all six NAEP exams, and shows consistent results on the state PARCC exams.

Let me know when your state pulls something like that off, because I will be happy to celeNAEP with you. In the meantime, NAEP will be giving state level exams in Reading, Math and Writing in just a few weeks! Let’s see what happens next…


Where Do You Consistently Find the Highest NAEP Scores? Where Everybody Knows Your Name

October 28, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So hidden deep in the NAEP data explorer is a variable for school enrollment.  Yesterday we saw how Arizona charter schools crushed the ball on the 2015 NAEP science exams, but I was curious- would there be evidence suggesting that small schools of choice perform especially well? NAEP provides such a number in a crosstab for Arizona charter/district by school enrollment. Small district schools in Arizona performance is nothing to write home about, and are probably mostly rural. Arizona’s small charter schools-schools of choice-however, well, that is a different story. These are the 8th grade science NAEP scores for Arizona charter schools with 399 or fewer students compared to statewide averages for all students:

small-school-science

I thought that was interesting, so I checked to see how this would look in the 2015 NAEP Reading exam for 8th graders. Well-

small-school-reading

Well but the whole thing would fall apart in the math test. Except, it didn’t:

small-school-mathematics

Obviously this evidence is only suggestive, but do keep in mind that we have a large number of formal studies finding positive outcomes associated with attendance at small high schools. So perhaps high quality education involves authentic community with a shared vision of what constitutes high quality learning, and this process is facilitated by the ability of a child and parent to choose. It certainly appears to be the case out here in the Cactus Patch. Let’s call it the “Cheers theory of learning” in that you want to go where everybody knows your name. If that is you want to learn to read, figure some math, and understand science. If you prefer to fade into the background and then drop out of school- we’ve got plenty of Big Box schools to choose from as well.

So you see dare Normy....

So you see dare Normy dare used to be this big Foundation that had a great idea but then…


Smarick on the Quiet Revolution of Charter Schooling

October 14, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Good read from Andy on charter schooling at the quarter century:

All these particular issues, however, underscore a basic point: Chartering has quietly revolutionized public schooling. It didn’t happen through clever, technocratic administrative fixes or a gigantic, rapidly passed omnibus legislative package. Nor did it humbly take for granted longstanding arrangements or merely tinker with the mechanics of existing programs. Instead, chartering took the long view. It trusted families and communities, carved out space for a new approach, and then allowed civil society to slowly create and change the new system. The result has been more individual empowerment, educational options, respect for pluralism, competition, civic-sector activity, innovation, and entrepreneurialism.

That is indeed how charter schooling looks like out here in the Cactus Patch- a long term bet on self-determination that paid off in an absolutely spectacular fashion. Well, I mean, if you consider getting a large majority-minority student population to score near the average student in Massachusetts for about half the per pupil funding given to schools in that high-income and pale complected state spectacular. I mean I guess it really depends on where you put the bar and all.  Little Ramona for instance doesn’t like it because the sector isn’t as prone to regulatory capture in ultra low turnout elections dominated by organized employee interests governed by school districts.

I also see much wisdom in the incremental gradualism that has marked the first 25 years of charter schooling, but also a ton of reasons to speed things up.