How Soon Will Self-Driving Cars Take Kids to School?

November 13, 2017

Waymo’s self-driving cars are now driving through the Phoenix metro area without anyone in the front seat.

(Guest Post by Jason Bedrick)

Waymo recently announced that it will launch a fleet of self-driving taxis within the next 18 months. I can personally attest that I’ve seen self-driving cars from Waymo, Intel, Uber and others passing my house with great regularity over the last two years (thanks, in large part, to Arizona’s solidly pro-innovation governor, Doug Ducey).

Self-driving cars are going to dramatically change society. The question is no longer “if” but “when.” Some changes will be obvious: fewer accidents, fewer deaths, faster travel, more productive use of commute time, etc. Some second order effects are less obvious but highly likely. For example, once it becomes cheaper to order a Waymo or Uber whenever needed than to own a vehicle, people will be able to convert garages into usable living space and businesses will be able to get rid of parking garages and most parking lots.

Self-driving cars will also change how we get our kids to school. As I wrote a few years ago, self-driving cars will eventually make it safe and efficient to send multiple children to multiple different schools — and with cars able to travel faster, the number of schools within a commutable distance will dramatically increase. That would greatly expand the educational options available to families.

How soon should we expect this change? That’s not clear. As Robert Pondiscio has noted, the technology is changing faster than the culture. It might be a while before families feel comfortable putting their child in a vehicle with no adult supervision. On the other hand, advances in GPS, video monitoring, and even bracelets that detect medical episodes can make future rides in self-driving vehicles safer than anything we grew up with.

In the spirit of the Forster-Mathews bet, Robert and I are putting our money where our mouths are. Although I expect that in five years, few people will be sending their kids to school in autonomous vehicles, I predict that at least 25 percent of children in the Phoenix area will get to school via a self-driving car by the 2022-23 school year. This may sound overly exuberant, but with self-driving cars already on the Phoenix streets and Waymo launching its taxi service, I expect high demand for the safety that self-driving cars offer. Moreover, the autonomous vehicle companies are already branching out into services like trucking — it won’t be long before they’re operating school buses as well. Unlike bus drivers, self-driving cars don’t get drunk, lose their temper, get distracted, fall asleep, or not show up for work. As soon as it is safer and more cost-effective for school districts to switch to self-driving vehicles, I expect the shift to be rapid.

The loser owes the winner a beer. And if I’m right, we’re taking a self-driving car to the bar.


Hispanic NAEP Scores by Cohort Gains

November 13, 2017

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So what jumps out here to me is the presence of CA, NM and NV in the bottom left quadrant- never the place to be, and the futures of these states will rest in no small part on getting out of this quadrant with these students. Between Nevada’s charter school law that hasn’t produced many “charter schools” and the state’s failure to fund the ESA program, they’ve essentially decided to continue putting Las Vegas Hispanic kids into portable buildings with substitute teachers. Not to worry though- they’ll have a professional football stadium to visit in a few years!

TX has been known to play fast and loose with ELL inclusion standards in the past, so I am going to give them a mental * on this until I dig around in an obscure pdf appendix. Sorry Tex, love you, but you don’t get the benefit of any doubt on this. Northern Virginia gentrification effect? Something else?

Wild West and Loving It

November 9, 2017

NACSA you’ve got some ‘splaining to do!

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The chart below plots the 2015 8th NAEP grade math scores against the 2011 to 2015 NAEP math cohort gains. The below charts include state averages and the numbers for state charter school sectors in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico and Utah. In the NACSA ratings of state charter school laws most proximate to these data, I recall all of these states with the exception of New Mexico received single digit scores out of a possible 30 something points, clustering towards the bottom of the rankings. New Mexico still ranked pretty low. Generally these states lost points for not having default closure and similar type provisions. How did the charter schools in these state manage?

The high performance/low NACSA phenomenon looks to be a western trend. These charts are not stone tablets handed down from the mountain, but I can’t think of any reason they would systematically favor charter sectors. Those “Wild West” charter sectors look, ah, really good at math. If you recall the international comparisons, Massachusetts ranks up there near the best European and Asian countries. Let’s take a look at the reading results:

Well there you have it- AZ, CO, ID and CO all have Massachusetts like results, and it appears that when it comes to spurring reading gains, New Mexico charters are the ultimate power in the universe…I suggest Enchantment State parents use it.

Please do me a favor and email this post to the next five people you hear use the term “Wild West” as a term of derision in an education conversation. Bless their little hearts, but they generally have not bothered to look at empirical data in order to see whether it can be squared with their regional/ideological prejudices.



Parents With Choices Seek More Information

November 8, 2017

(Guest Post by Jason Bedrick)

We’ve all heard the argument that parents can’t be trusted with educational choice because they don’t have enough information. But as my new EdChoice colleague Mike McShane explains, it’s all a matter of incentives:

[P]arents don’t have a strong incentive to look for information about school options if they don’t have the ability to take advantage of the information. If they don’t have choices, why search for information?

This creates a terrible chicken-and-egg problem. We shouldn’t give parents choices because they don’t have enough information to make good decisions, but they don’t have enough information because we haven’t given them choices!

Fortunately, new research by Michael F. Lovenheim and Patrick Walsh sheds light on how parents seek out and consume relevant information when given the incentive to do so (i.e., the ability to choose). As McShane explains:

Lovenheim and Walsh’s paper offers a path forward. They find that parents respond to expansions of school choice options by seeking out new information. The researchers were able to link more than 100 million (yes, you read that right) individual searches on the school information website GreatSchools to geographic areas that either had school choice expanded or restricted during the almost three years of their study to see how parents respond to changes in the options available to them.

They found that expansions of school choice drove increases in searches for school information. They also found that restrictions of school choice drove decreases in searches for school information.

As it turns out, parents, whose time is valuable, don’t waste their time learning about school options that they can’t take advantage of. But, when they have options made available to them, they work to find out which one is best for their child.

For more on the implications of this research — and what choice proponents can do to help parents get access to relevant information, read the rest of McShane’s blog post here.


New York’s Alright If You Like Saxophones, Taxes and Meh School Performance

November 8, 2017

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

NAEP Reading Scores from 2015 along the horizontal axis, NAEP reading cohort gains (2015 8th grade scores minus 2011 4th grade scores). Ok so stare closely at the chart around the 262 score from the bottom to the top. Arizona, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Michigan, Rhode Island, New York, Florida and Delaware all had approximately the same 8th grade math score, but took different paths to get there. Some, like Delaware, Florida and Maryland started above the national average in their 2011 4th grade scores, but had small gains. Others like Arizona and Oklahoma, started below the national average in their 4th grade scores but grinded their way to large gains to catch up.

In 2011, Arizona 4th graders scored a 212 in 4th grade reading, Oklahoma a 215. Maryland’s 4th graders scored a 231 in 4th grade reading., New York stood at 222. Maryland students had an almost 19 point advantage over Arizona students and a 16 point advantage over Oklahoma students. Maryland spends far more than either Arizona or Oklahoma, and New York literally spends more than twice as much per pupil as either of these states. It shouldn’t happen that either Arizona or Oklahoma students would tie Maryland and/or New York by the time those 2011 4th graders became 8th graders.

Keep staring at that middle portion of the chart. Is Tennessee supposed to be neck and neck with Rhode Island? Rhode Island’s 7 point lead in the 2011 4th grade reading scores and almost $7,000 per student spending gap would say no, but the Tennessee kids didn’t get the memo and ended in a dead heat by 8th grade.

Ok so spot NY on the above chart and then look at math:

Arizona, Connecticut, Kansas and Maryland had 2011 4th grade math scores of 235, 242, 246 and 247 respectively. These had current (not total) expenditures that year of $7,782,$16,224, $9,802 and $13,946 per pupil. As an Arizonan, I’m delighted to have closed the gap with Connecticut, Kansas and Maryland. If I were a taxpayer or educator in Connecticut, Kansas and/or Maryland I would not be pleased.

Now locate New York on the math chart. I guess $19,965 per pupil just doesn’t buy what it used to in New York.

Ultimately it is good news that we have examples of states with diverse student bodies making academic progress. Remember- winter is coming to state budgets as 10,000 boomers per day reach the age of 65 and health care costs continue to rise. I hope you can get that sorted out New York but in the meantime both your students and taxpayers are getting horribly short-changed by your K-12 rent-seeking groups. The founders included a solution for you in our constitutional system: federalism. Did I mention that in addition to lower taxes, it is very pleasant here in the winter? As Ling Ving once sang “New York’s alright-if you want to freeze to death!”

Be sure to bring your golf clubs:

As far as where you’ll send your kids to school, Arizona has outstanding options in the public school system in both districts and charters. Here’s some dots to connect on the average performance of Arizona charters:

Additionally if you happen to prefer a private school for your child, Arizona’s policies support your families capacity to make that decision. Tired of having the daylights taxed out of you to pay for a public school system you don’t want to put your kids in, and then paying private school tuition on top of that? I thought you might. Head south until you reach Interstate 10 and then go west young family!

NAEP Math Scores by Math Gains by State

November 7, 2017

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

A conversation with Robert Pondiscio convinced me that it would be a good idea to balance progress with overall scores. Growth is dandy after all, but it is not the end-all-be-all. So here goes with math- statewide scores for 8th graders in 2015 by overall cohort progress between 4th graders in 2011 and 8th graders in 2015. Bonus-more states labeled. It’s a slow process so if I missed a desired state just let me know in the comments.

So the high performing usual suspects do better in this chart clustered over on the right side of the horizon. The 2015 NAEP math swoon hit some states very hard- yes I’m looking at you Florida, Maryland and North Carolina. Between 2013 and 2015 these states experienced a 6 point, 4 point and 5 point drops in 8th math respectively. Florida’s case was very odd as statewide charters and Miami Dade escaped the swoon. We will see what happens when the new data is released for in 2017 in January.


Black Cohort Gains 2011 to 2015

November 7, 2017

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Hey kids guess what the fun just doesn’t stop-now with Greg requested smaller dots! Pictured above are the math and reading NAEP cohort improvement rates for states for Black students. In what can no longer be described as a surprise, Michigan did well. Bad look for Massachusetts and Delaware. Here is the same data in scale points: