Light posting lately. Too much work, and laissez les bons temps rouler.
Except not in Ukraine. There are plenty of takes about how the Ukraine war actually reflects or refracts this contemporaneous issue or that one. They range from absurd to absurd. I’m not going go all “it’s really about education.” It’s not. It’s a reminder that Hobbes’ view on the state of nature wasn’t far off the mark. Intermediating institutions protect us from that. And those institutions do stand on, among other things, a foundation of education.
Closer to home, and on the topic of disasters, this new ABC News – Washington Post poll doesn’t have a lot of good news for Democrats. On education, it has Dems with a three point advantage (44-41) on the question of who do you trust to handle education and schools – that’s inside the margin of error. Democrats traditionally enjoy a substantial advantage here and while people don’t vote education in national elections as a single issue, it does help form a powerful frame around candidates or parties. The Democratic frame is not good right now. In a binary election, that favors the other party.
The Dems clearly need an education strategy beyond the spray and pray with American Rescue Plan dollars or the hope of avoiding party splitting issues by talking about other stuff. Maybe circumstances will change, but that’s a big and high stakes bet. Choice and parental empowerment seem like a good place to start for an affirmative strategy.
Also on polls, this one is getting some attention. Especially this part,
Virginia voters largely support teaching how racism continues to impact American society today (63% support/strongly support to 33% oppose/strongly oppose). In addition, a majority oppose a government ban on the teaching of Critical Race Theory in Virginia public schools (57% oppose/strongly oppose to 35% support/strongly support). While Critical Race Theory is currently not specifically taught in K-12 public schools in the state, the topic gained political traction during the 2021 gubernatorial campaign and Governor Youngkin signed an executive order banning its teaching on his first day in office. Demonstrating how politically charged the specialized term has become, differences in this survey emerge primarily along partisan lines, with Democrats heavily opposing a ban (82% oppose/strongly oppose) and Republicans supporting a ban (63% support/strongly support). While a majority of both white and Black voters oppose a ban, significant gaps are apparent (73% of Black voters and 53% of white voters oppose a ban; 19% of Black voters and 42% of white voters support a ban).
A large majority of Virginia voters support Governor Youngkin’s proposal to require the placement of a police or resource officer in every Virginia public school (70% support/strongly support to 25% oppose/strongly oppose).
The ban-CRT bills are failing in the legislature, too. This all seems sorta at odds with the election where the narrative was, for different reasons from right and left, that Virginia was the turning point in the “CRT” debate, doesn’t it? Actually, in practice the election was about broader frustrations and as we’ve talked about a lot over the past year there has always been more agreement than disagreement on teaching about history and racism. Beware the narratives and look for signal not noise.
I was in New Orleans for a few days last week. Just as there is a New Orleans for tourists and one for locals, with the education scene it seems like there is the national New Orleans fight and then the ins and outs the locals are concerned with or excited about.
NOLA is exceptional in so many ways, including what happened. You can count me among those who cringe every time some politician says Katrina was the best thing to happen to the schools there. The schools were awful then, they’re better now, but no one should wish, even metaphorically, for anything like that set of catastrophes to strike a community. And it’s, thankfully, pretty sui generis in a bunch of ways that should invite caution.
Keep an eye on the next turn of the wheel in that city. A lot of leadership turnover, things are changing.
I used to have a neighbor, who became a friend, who was a retired professional fighter. A journeyman with 57 heavyweight bouts behind him, including against some big name fighters who became heavyweight champions. Except as a good workout, I’m not much for boxing. Watching people get hurt, especially if it’s someone you know, strikes me as awful entertainment and the concussive effects seem indisputable. One of the things he taught me, though, was how important footwork is to a boxer, and by extension how many knockouts are not the big haymakers of the movies but instead quick pops a fighter does not see coming.
That dynamic – it’s the things you don’t see coming – occurred to me reading this 74 article about a possible growing principal shortage. You are hearing a lot about that in education circles even as the teacher shortage “crisis” narrative grabs the headlines. Seems like an issue – especially if it means APs are not going to get enough seasoning before moving up.
On Friday a federal judge struck down the admissions changes to the iconic Thomas Jefferson High School For Science and Technology. Like other communities the school board that oversees the school, Fairfax County in Virginia, is trying to address racial disparities in student demographics at the school. And like many other communities the burden for that is falling on Asian parents, who are increasingly politically organized around the issue.
After the rules went into effect, the percentages of Black and Hispanic students in the incoming class more than tripled, while the number of Asian American students fell from 73 percent to 54 percent, the lowest share in years.
There’s some sleight of hand there. The tripling was to a total of 39 Black students and 62 Hispanic students in one of the wealthiest school systems in the country. It’s progress from that standpoint, sure, but as always beware percentages and “doubling” or “tripling” absent the underlying numbers. Hispanic students are 11% of the new class but 27% of the county’s enrollment overall (Black students are about 10% of the county and 7% of the new class). Meanwhile, the percent of white kids went up, meaning the new class is whiter than previous classes. That seems weird for a reform that was explicitly done to strike an anti-racist blow (although it should be noted white students are still underrepresented relative overall system demographics).
The biggest win was for low-income students, who saw a substantial rise in admissions. That indicates there may be aspects of the new admissions regime worth salvaging.
The focus on who gets in and various demographic representation serves to obscure a larger question.
Scarcity mindset here is something. Why does one of very wealthiest school systems in the country have only one math and science magnet like this given the demand? And why is its early grades math and science curriculum insufficient to prepare more kids?https://t.co/TRXs3WfHiv
— Andrew Rotherham (@arotherham) February 26, 2022
That mindset is one reason Terry McAulliffe lost in November.
And whatever you think of the judge’s ruling we might ask, why in this fabulously wealthy county, is everyone fighting over 500 +/- seats in one high school each year? There is no reason we can’t have more math and science magnets or other choice options for parents. Curtailing options like this was one reason for the parent backlash in Loudoun County, which borders Fairfax. We should be expanding choices for parents – not just math, science, and tech but a variety of options.
On math and science, why can’t a county (and have I mentioned how spectacularly wealthy it is?) provide an elementary and middle school education robust enough that the equity problem takes care of itself because kids are prepared to compete for admission to this school. The failure to do that is the equity problem. Everything else is a distraction or a band aid.
Here’s Mike Bloomberg on San Francisco.
Parents are showing the limits of their patience with the gamesmanship from education mandarins.