April 23, 2019

Bellwether Is One of D.C.’s Best Places to Work

Bellwether Education Partners was just chosen as one of the 50 best places to work (find us on page 93) in the Washington, D.C. area by Washingtonian, the iconic lifestyle magazine. The publication releases its Great Places to Work list every two years and has, in the past, highlighted D.C.-based companies like NASA, Vox Media, and the Data Quality Campaign. A few years ago (more than I want to admit), Washingtonian put me on its list of “40 under 40” to watch on the Washington scene. That was a nice nod, but I can’t think of a better way to return to its pages than as part of an organization I helped launch. I’m pleased we’re being recognized for giving people a good place to work — after all, we spend a lot of our lives at work.

This year, nearly 200 companies applied for the title of Great Places To Work. Winners varied in size and sector, from big tech firms to lean nonprofits, like ours, employing anywhere from 11 to 8,000 people — we have about 60.

Winners were largely chosen by how employees rated things like pay and benefits, work/life balance, and their company’s commitment to charity and community. Bellwether scored at or above average on all categories (except the quality of our coffee, which currently sucks and isn’t especially environmentally responsible), including job satisfaction; feeling challenged, interested, and recognized in their work; and whether or not people on our team would recommend working at Bellwether to a friend. Our team also felt confident in Bellwether’s financial health, management structures, and professional development opportunities.

When we (the four co-founders) founded Bellwether in 2010, we put a premium on flexibility and working to results so our team could do their best work while making decisions that made sense for them and their families. “Live your life and get [stuff] done” was our informal motto. We also emphasized trust — trust that if we hired smart people, they’d make smart decisions about how to use their time, how to do the work, and how to improve Bellwether. That’s why we’re able to have a D.C. office but also lots of remote employees. This strategy also allows Bellwether to source the best talent in the country and our team members to, well, live their lives while getting stuff done. If you want the office experience, we have that. If you thrive with remote work, we have that, too, or a balance of the two (which is what I prefer).

That flexibility, trust, and convergence of identities, ideas, and geographies make us unique, give us a competitive edge, and make us one of the great places to work in Washington, D.C.

I hope you’ll join us in celebrating.

April 22, 2019

Why Is There a Disconnect Between Research and Practice and What Can Be Done About It?

What characteristics of teacher candidates predict whether they’ll do well in the classroom? Do elementary school students benefit from accelerated math coursework? What does educational research tell us about the effects of homework?

three interconnected cogs, one says policy, one says practice, one says research

These are questions that I’ve heard over the past few years from educators who are interested in using research to inform practice, such as the attendees of researchED conferences. These questions suggest a demand for evidence-based policies and practice among educators. And yet, while the past twenty years have witnessed an explosion in federally funded education research and research products, data indicate that many educators are not aware of federal research resources intended to support evidence use in education, such as the Regional Education Laboratories or What Works Clearinghouse.

Despite a considerable federal investment in both education research and structures to support educators’ use of evidence, educators may be unaware of evidence that could be used to improve policy and practice. What might be behind this disconnect, and what can be done about it? While the recently released Institute of Education Sciences (IES) priorities focus on increasing research dissemination and use, their focus is mainly on producing and disseminating: the supply side of research. Continue reading

April 18, 2019

Is Idris Elba the Reason You Can’t Find Affordable Child Care?

Idris Elba should be the next James Bond. But even as the “sexiest man aliveteased that prospect in recent appearances, his latest role — as a failed DJ who becomes a nanny for his successful friend’s daughter in Netflix’s Turn Up Charlie — seems an odd choice for a prospective 007.

actor Idris Elba

Actor Idris Elba

Or maybe not: There’s a surprisingly robust history of movies featuring action stars playing comedic roles as caregivers of young children: Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop, Tom Selleck in Three Men and a Baby, Hulk Hogan in Mr. Nanny, Eddie Murphy in Daddy Day Care, and Vin Diesel in the Pacifier. (Even Sean Connery worked as a “babysitter” in real life before hitting it big.)

When you think about it, the prevalence of movies built around the premise of tough guys taking care of little kids is actually pretty weird. I can’t help but wonder what that says about how our culture values and views the work of caring for young children. Continue reading

April 17, 2019

Media: “New Analysis Shows How a $13 Billion Funding Gap Between Charter Schools & Traditional Public Schools Hurts Underserved Students” in The 74

In January, Bellwether Education Partners released a new report that provided a rigorous, fact base on the weaknesses and strengths of the charter sector. In a new op-ed for The 74, I write about how disparities in funding between charter schools and traditional public schools hurt underserved students:

Twenty-seven years into the national charter school experiment, funding of charter schools and traditional public schools remains wildly unequal. In fact, charter school students receive 27 percent less in per-pupil funding than their traditional public school counterparts, leaving a total funding gap of nearly $13 billion.

The sheer magnitude of this gap should alarm anyone who cares about equity, but it matters even more because most charters serve a higher proportion of students of color and low-income students than traditional public schools and show positive effects on the performance of these groups. When charters are underfunded, it is the students most in need of a quality education whose educational opportunities are limited.

Charter schools are often critiqued for draining resources away from traditional public schools, but these data suggest that charter schools are doing more with less for students that are most in need of a high-quality education. Without action from state and local policy makers, charter schools will remained underfunded and charter school students will pay the cost. Read my full op-ed here.

April 9, 2019

Media: “Kamala Harris’s Flawed Proposal to Help Teachers Could Make Problem Worse” in The Hill

Last month, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced a plan for a federal-state partnership to boost teacher salaries. In a new op-ed for The Hill, I write that Harris’ proposal relies on flawed data on teacher pay and ignores the real factors holding teacher salaries back — namely, the rapidly rising costs of teacher benefits like pensions and health care:

Of course, teachers can’t use their health care or pension plans to pay their mortgage or buy groceries, but total compensation is still the only apples-to-apples way to analyze across sectors — especially because deferred compensation through pensions is such a fundamental aspect of teacher compensation today.

Failing to accurately account for pensions and health care obscures the extent to which these costs are crowding out resources for teacher pay. To give one example from Sen. Harris’s home state, in Los Angeles, where teachers recently went on strike, spending on teacher salaries increased 24 percent over the past decade, whereas health care and pensions increased 138 percent. Overall compensation is rising even if teachers don’t see it in their paychecks or the supports they receive in their classrooms.

While Harris’ proposal is well-meaning, it would not address the root causes for why teacher salaries have been flat for so long. Without more meaningful attempts to control benefit costs, teachers are likely to see a growing disconnect between their take-home pay and their total compensation package.