Latest News and Comment from Education

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Top Biden Aide Talks Reopening Schools, Education Funding, Charters and More - Education Writers Association

Top Biden Aide Talks Reopening Schools, Education Funding, Charters and More - Education Writers Association
Top Biden Aide Talks Reopening Schools, Education Funding, Charters and More
Provides on-the-record comments in pre-election webinar

President-elect Joe Biden has a far-reaching education agenda that begins with actions to help schools reopen for in-person instruction, as well as plans to reverse key Trump administrative actions and more.

In a recent, on-the-record webinar, the Biden campaign’s national policy director, Stef Feldman, fielded questions from the Education Writers Association and its members from around the country.

Below are key excerpts from that wide-ranging, one-hour conversation on October 22, 2020. Journalists and others are welcome to quote from the transcript here, though we ask that you cite the EWA webinar as the source. You can also watch the full video.

On some issues, Feldman declined to make firm commitments. For example, she stopped short of saying whether a Biden administration would grant states a waiver for a second year of statewide testing required under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. “This is an important question that a Biden/Harris transition team would have to look at,” she said. “In some ways, the answer to this question depends on how much CONTINUE READING: Top Biden Aide Talks Reopening Schools, Education Funding, Charters and More - Education Writers Association

Teaching Should Be Political by Melinda D. Anderson - The Atlantic

Review: ‘Becoming a Teacher’ by Melinda D. Anderson - The Atlantic
Teaching Should Be Political
Review: ‘Becoming a Teacher’ by Melinda D. Anderson

The first day of my first year of teaching began with a bundle of nerves and a half-eaten honey bun. At 5:30 a.m., I drove from the cheap apartment I shared with five roommates to the high school in Prince George’s County, Maryland, where, 22 years old and just a year out of college, I’d been hired to teach English. My trunk was full of colorful posters, flip charts, and laminated quotes from my favorite writers. I was hoping to make my stuffy, windowless classroom a more inviting space for my students.

As I drove, I practiced how I would present myself, searching for the sort of first impression that would make me seem authoritative yet approachable. Could I be the “cool” teacher, inviting students to share what was happening in their lives, but also a figure of authority? Could I be empathetic, sensitive to the difficulties transpiring in their lives, yet not let such circumstances create a spiral of low expectations? Could I emphasize the importance of doing well on the state exam, while also making sure my students knew I didn’t believe that learning could be measured by a multiple-choice test on a single day of the year? I am only slightly embarrassed to say that in search of insight and inspiration, I had watched several Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman movies in the weeks leading up to that day.

These memories came back to me while reading Becoming a Teacher, by Melinda D. Anderson, an education journalist based in Washington, D.C. Anderson follows LaQuisha Hall during the 2018–19 academic year, just after Hall had been named Baltimore City Public Schools Teacher of the Year, and into the following, pandemic-disrupted year. Hers was hardly a representative experience. Except that in important ways, it was.

Anderson’s profile, part of a Masters at Work series of slim volumes, reaches back to Hall’s uncertain first days in a high-school classroom, more than a decade and a half ago, to trace a transformation. A core theme of the book is a notable, and by now almost unavoidable, shift in perspective taking place among Black educators—and other teachers, too—working in places that have endured decades of systemic racism, economic disinvestment, generational poverty, crime, and violence. Starting out as a 21-year-old transplant from North Carolina, Hall hadn’t understood what became steadily clearer to her: The work of teaching, for her and for her teenage students, was most meaningful when it was part of a larger commitment to addressing the realities of the historically oppressed and underresourced communities they were growing up in.

To be ushered by Anderson into Hall’s current classroom at Carver Vocational- CONTINUE READING: Review: ‘Becoming a Teacher’ by Melinda D. Anderson - The Atlantic

Teacher Tom: Do You Teach Mindfulness?

Teacher Tom: Do You Teach Mindfulness?
Do You Teach Mindfulness?

I was recently asked in a public forum if I've ever taught mindfulness to children. The question threw me. Yes, no, maybe, I don't know, can you repeat the question? 

Mindfulness is a radical Buddhist practice in which one focuses one's full attention on the present moment. This is something toward which I strive, even as I find it exceedingly difficult to achieve for more than a few minutes at a time. Yesterday, ironically, I was reading a novel in which one of the characters said something about mindfulness that sparked a train of thought that took my brain so far away from the present moment that I had to re-read several paragraphs. I find it a slippery thing to accomplish, requiring discipline, concentration, and practice. A quiet mind is a healthy thing, something valued by medical and spiritual practices from east to west.

Mindfulness as a concept has broken through into our popular culture, really taking off as a phenomenon in recent years. There are more than 100,000 books being sold on Amazon with some version of the word in the title, not to mention the proliferation of mindfulness workshops and seminars and gurus. My social media feeds are full of mindfulness memes.

As I reflected on being stumped by the mindfulness question, I had to admit that I've never attempted to teach children the CONTINUE READING: 
Teacher Tom: Do You Teach Mindfulness?

Thank you veterans | Cloaking Inequity

Thank you veterans | Cloaking Inequity
Today we honor veterans for their service and to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. Thank you also to my Vasquez family who served.

Ohio Legislature Looks to Adopt New School Finance Plan During 2020 Lame Duck Session | janresseger

Ohio Legislature Looks to Adopt New School Finance Plan During 2020 Lame Duck Session | janresseger
Ohio Legislature Looks to Adopt New School Finance Plan During 2020 Lame Duck Session

The Ohio Legislature will waste no time before trying to enact—before the end of the current legislative session at the end of December—a Fair School Funding Plan, which was proposed in the spring of 2019. The Ohio House has been holding hearings for months on what, this week, became Substitute House Bill 305. Last week Senate Education Chair, Peggy Lehner, and 14 additional co-sponsors introduced a companion bill, Senate Bill 376.

The Columbus Dispatch‘s Catherine Candisky summarizes the Ohio Legislature’s attempt to move forward immediately to pass the new school funding blueprint: “A bipartisan group of state lawmakers on Friday unveiled a complex and long-sought overhaul of Ohio’s school funding system that would provide another $1.99 billion a year—about a 24% increase—to K-12 schools when fully implemented. The proposal to change the way state aid is calculated and distributed to public schools establishes the per-pupil cost of ‘a quality education,’ and determines how much funding each local community should be able to cover itself and how much should come from the state. It aims to keep overall funding levels relatively even across the state despite widely varied tax bases across Ohio’s more than 600 school districts.”

The term-limiting of several of the plan’s co-sponsors is accelerating the timeline for seeking the bill’s passage before the end of 2020.

Here is the primary reason why a new school funding plan is needed in Ohio. Materials released when the new funding plan was introduced in the spring of 2019 showed that before the current biennium, in 503 of the state’s 610 school districts, state school funding was capped or the district had fallen onto a hold-harmless guarantee. Then the current biennial CONTINUE READING: Ohio Legislature Looks to Adopt New School Finance Plan During 2020 Lame Duck Session | janresseger

Teachers as Improvisers | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Teachers as Improvisers | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice
Teachers as Improvisers

Every job has its share of surprises. A key piece of equipment breaks down. A traffic accident forces a change in delivery routes. A client calls to say you’ve won the contract–but they need the order filled three months earlier than planned. No matter where you work, you need to be able to improvise to meet your objectives, or at least cut your losses.

“The Presidency was no different,” former tenant in the White House Barack Obama said in describing his job.

He describes his Party’s fight for the Affordable Care Act in 2009-2010 in his first term. Improvising political decisions with both Democrats and Republicans while juggling scores of other issues that beset any President captures what he and his partners had to do repeatedly. Obama knew well those compromises, dotted with sudden and unexpected twists and turns, had to be dealt with. Improvisation was the order of the day when it came to health care.

Re-read the epigraph. It also applies perfectly to teachers teaching and their unplanned decision-making that they manage in trying to meet their lesson objectives.

Non-teachers would be amazed at the many decisions teachers make during a 45-minute lesson, the frequency of on-the-fly, unplanned decisions, and the seemingly effortless segues teachers make from one task to another. Decisions tumble out one after another in questioning students, starting and stopping CONTINUE READING: Teachers as Improvisers | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

New Attendance Data to Address Chronic Absenteeism - Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

New Attendance Data to Address Chronic Absenteeism - Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)
California Department of Education Releases New Attendance Data to Help School Districts Address Chronic Absenteeism

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced today that the California Department of Education (CDE) has released, for the first time, statewide absenteeism data that provides information about the types of reasons students are absent. The “absenteeism by reason” (AR) reports available on the CDE Dataquest website offer an extensive statewide view of absenteeism numbers that can assist local educational agencies (LEAs) in their efforts to develop targeted attendance intervention strategies and support.

“Knowing why students are missing school is a crucial step in helping them stay in school,” said Thurmond. “These data add an extra layer of transparency to existing absenteeism information and a level of detail that school districts can utilize as they evaluate the effectiveness of existing attendance plans and compare absenteeism rates with other districts. It also creates an opportunity for school attendance staff throughout the state to collaborate and share best practices on methods to improve attendance, identifying specific actions that can help students and their families overcome attendance barriers.”

The CDE developed the new AR reports based on student absence data submitted and certified by LEAs and independently reporting charter schools through the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). The catalyst for providing this data came from a recommendation proposed by the State Superintendent’s Improving Data Collection Workgroup that was convened in the summer of 2019. One of the goals for the workgroup was to improve the availability of publicly reported data. Although AR information is annually collected through CALPADS, this critical measure of student attendance has not been reported until now.

The data available in this release include the 2017–18 and 2018–19 academic years. The AR report categories are: excused absences, unexcused absences, absences due to out-of-school suspension, and incomplete independent study absences. Even if a student has excused absences, they are considered chronically absent if they miss 10 percent of the days they were expected to attend school.

The reports provide data disaggregated by race/ethnicity, student groups, grade level, and by academic year. The reports also include filters that allow the data to be viewed along a variety of dimensions, including by school type (charter and non-charter schools), for alternative and traditional schools, for chronically absent and non-chronically absent students, and by gender.

In addition to statewide data, the reports are also available at the district and school levels. Downloadable data files that support many aspects of the new AR reports are also available. To view the AR reports, visit the CDE Dataquest website. Downloadable data files can be found on the CDE Data & Statistics web page.

2018–19 Statewide Absenteeism by Reason Data
Reporting Category Average Days
Excused Absences Unexcused Absences Out-of-School Suspension Absences Incomplete Independent Study Absences

African American






American Indian or Alaska Native


















Hispanic or Latino






Pacific Islander












Two or More Races






Not Reported






English Learners






Homeless Youth






Students With Disabilities






Foster Youth






Migrant Youth






Socioeconomically Disadvantaged






Statewide 9.8 54.1% 39.5% 1.2% 5.2%

# # # #

Tony Thurmond — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

NANCY BAILEY: Education Unity? Save Democratic Public Schools!

Education Unity? Save Democratic Public Schools!
Education Unity? Save Democratic Public Schools!

Congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris! How refreshing to hear a President speak of uniting the country and saving America’s democratic institutions.

One of the largest institutions is the public school system, run by local school boards, supported by the states, with oversight and administration by the federal government.

President Biden could reach out to Republicans and Democrats regarding public education by recognizing the greatest threat to democracy involving schools that we have witnessed for years, the corporate influence, and the takeover of the institution itself.

Understanding the stakes of losing this great institution is imperative. Both the Democratic and Republican leadership has been complicit for years in undermining the public’s wishes when it comes to CONTINUE READING: Education Unity? Save Democratic Public Schools!

Biden Transition Team released for US Department of Education | Cloaking Inequity

Biden Transition Team released for US Department of Education | Cloaking Inequity

I blogged yesterday that Linda Darling-Hammond is leading education transition for President-elect Joe Biden. Today, the Biden US Department of Education transition team was released.

Name Most Recent Employment Source of Funding
Linda Darling-Hammond, Team Lead Learning Policy Institute Volunteer
Ary Amerikaner The Education Trust Volunteer
Beth Antunez American Federation of Teachers Volunteer
Jim Brown United States Senate, Office of Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. (Retired) Volunteer
Ruthanne Buck Self-employed Volunteer
Norma Cantu University of Texas at Austin, School of Law Volunteer
Jessica Cardichon Learning Policy Institute Volunteer
Keia Cole MassMutual Volunteer
Lindsay Dworkin Alliance for Excellent Education Volunteer
Donna Harris-Aikens National Education Association Volunteer
Kristina Ishmael Open Education Global Volunteer
Bob Kim John Jay College of Criminal Justice Volunteer
James Kvaal The Institute for College Access & Success Volunteer
Peggy McLeod UnidosUS Volunteer
Paul Monteiro Howard University Volunteer
Pedro Rivera Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology Volunteer
Roberto Rodriguez Teach Plus, Inc Volunteer
Shital Shah American Federation of Teachers Volunteer
Marla Ucelli-Kashyap American Federation of Teachers Volunteer
Emma Vadehra The Century Foundation Volunteer

I have had conversations with about half of the team over the years. I even went to college with one of the team members. I just looked at the LinkedIn profiles for those named and the backgrounds seem to be a departure from the Obama years. Looking forward to seeing the results of their work. I appreciate their commitment to education and stepping up to volunteer for such an important national role.

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CURMUDGUCATION: Let The Disappointment With Biden's Ed Department Begin

CURMUDGUCATION: Let The Disappointment With Biden's Ed Department Begin
Let The Disappointment With Biden's Ed Department Begin

Well, that didn't take long.

Back in October, top Biden aid Stef Feldman spoke to Education Writers Association members about ed policy. It was... not encouraging. She didn't make a "firm commitment" about state testing waivers, an odd stance for someone who promised to put an end to high stakes testing. She stood by the "former public school educator" promise, but as many of us have noted, depending on how Biden defines his terms, Michelle Rhee would fit the bill. Blerg. Excuse me-- I gave myself the shivers for a minute there.

A variety of topics came up. Biden wants to re-open schools by using a massive funding wave to get schools what they need to be safe (including FEMA funding), which is okay, but also using argle bargle like "ensuring high-quality learning during the pandemic." He's going to roll back a bunch of Trump-era rollbacks of Obama-era guidance. More Title I. Boost teacher pay. Nice ideas--I'm sure Mitch McConnell will go right along. SEL. HBCUs. MSIs. Maybe get back to supporting civil rights. Excellent. All fine things.

Also, student loan legislation, police on campus (yes, but with training), for-profit colleges must "prove their value (smh), early learning (the low-hanging fruit of ed policy), repairing school buildings, fund it all with taxes on super-wealthy and big corporations. No on school segregation.

But about charter schools. 

As President, Biden will ban for-profit charter schools from receiving federal funding

Nope. This is the old Clinton-era fall back designed to make both charter fans and charter CONTINUE READING: CURMUDGUCATION: Let The Disappointment With Biden's Ed Department Begin

What A Biden Presidency Could Mean For Education | 89.3 KPCC

What A Biden Presidency Could Mean For Education | 89.3 KPCC
What A Biden Presidency Could Mean For Education

With the eyes of the country upon him, Joe Biden shouted out education during his speech Saturday in Wilmington, Del: "For American educators, this is a great day for you all. You're going to have one of your own in the White House."

Of course, the president-elect was talking about his wife, Jill Biden, an English professor at Northern Virginia Community College. She continued her teaching career during Biden's two terms as vice president, and in a break with precedent, intends to continue doing so as first lady.

Which raises the question as the transition planning moves forward: How has this perspective shaped the president-elect's education agenda? And how much of that agenda can Joe Biden hope to achieve, with the massive challenges of the coronavirus and the economic recession, and with Democratic control of the Senate in doubt?

Here's our overview of his policy priorities for K-12 and higher education:

Reopening schools safely

Like so much in the country, experts say, the president's education agenda must start by confronting the threat of the coronavirus. As of Nov. 9, according to one national estimate, 63% of U.S. students were enrolled in districts that offered some in-person learning at least a few days a week.

But even within those districts, many or most students are staying home to avoid the virus. And education experts still forecast huge amounts of learning loss and negative social and emotional impacts, especially for younger students, those with special needs and lower-income students.

The question of whether, and when, to reopen schools became a political debate over the summer when President Trump called forcefully for reopening without providing additional funding through Congress. Biden, by contrast, has publicly CONTINUE READING: What A Biden Presidency Could Mean For Education | 89.3 KPCC

2020 Medley #25 – It’s Always Been About Relationships | Live Long and Prosper

2020 Medley #25 – It’s Always Been About Relationships | Live Long and Prosper

2020 Medley #25 – It’s Always Been About Relationships

Good relationships in the classroom lead to better learning. Students need to feel safe, accepted and appreciated. A scared or angry student doesn’t learn well. I know this from my own experience as a student. I learned the most from the classes taught by teachers who treated me with kindness and respect.

It’s likely that relationships between students and teachers are more difficult during the current pandemic. A virtual connection with a teacher isn’t the same as in-person contact. The same might also be true even for those students who are attending school in person. Masks covering the faces of teachers and other students create an additional barrier to relationships. While not impossible, it’s harder to judge a person’s mood or attitude when you can’t see their face.

A post on today’s Educator’s Room blog provided some insight into building relationships. The author, Thomas Courtney, is currently teaching his students virtually. He reflected on his experience as a child watching Mr. Rogers Neighborhood and thought that perhaps distance learning teachers could gain some insights from Fred Rogers’ experiences on TV.


Mr. Rogers Was a Genius, Virtual Learning Showed Me How

When distance learning began, I thought perhaps that one of the bonuses to being virtual would be an ability to recreate that for my elementary school students. I used videos from youtube-I even made videos of myself. Something told me that this unlimited supply of visual and verbal experience would blow what Mr. Roger’s gave us right out of the water–that CONTINUE READING: 2020 Medley #25 – It’s Always Been About Relationships | Live Long and Prosper