Category Archives: Uncategorized

Three Education Implications to Consider on the 500th Anniversary of Reformation

According to tradition, today marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the castle church door in Wittenburg, launching the Protestant Reformation. Numerous books, articles, and museum exhibits this year have explored the ways in which this event shaped Western history, Christianity, and the world we live in today. But what does it have to do with education? Here are three things to consider:

1.Martin Luther was an advocate for education. Luther argued for widespread education, including the education of girls. His doctrine of “sola scriptura” (or scripture alone), as well as the argument that believers needed no intermediary between themselves and God, implied that Christians should be able to read the Bible. But Luther didn’t just advocate education for the sake of Bible reading: he advocated a broad education that included languages, history, music, and mathematics. And he advocated such education not only for boys, but also for girls. In a 1524 pamphlet, he encouraged cities in Germany to establish schools for both boys and girls, using an argument that may sound familiar to many today (though other arguments in the pamphlet will not!):

If it is necessary, dear sirs, to expend annually such great sums for firearms, roads, bridges, dams and countless similar items, in order that a city may enjoy temporal peace and prosperity, why should not at least as much be devoted to the poor, needy youth, so that we might engage one or two competent men to teach school?

(Lest one think Luther only believed men should teach, he also wrote a letter encouraging a former nun to become a teacher at a girls’ school he founded in Wittenburg.)

2. Martin Luther’s German translation of the Bible played a central role in education in 16th century Germany (and beyond).

3. The Reformation and its legacy is a great example of why schools today need to teach students about religion. The Reformation played a crucial role in shaping both Western history and the world we live in today, and students need to learn about it. And to really learn about it, they need to understand at least a little bit about Christian doctrine. If public schools do not teach children about the religious ideas (from a range of faiths and traditions) that have shaped history and the world we live in today, they’re not equipping them to deal with the challenges we face today.

Some Exciting Hires and Promotions

Announcements of new hires and promotions are some of my favorite blog posts to write, because I get to showcase the talent on our team and celebrate our common purpose and passion. New hires also mean we’re continuing to build a nonprofit where we are all proud to work.

Today is no different. We’re excited to announce two promotions on our leadership team:

Allison Crean Davis has been promoted to partner on the Policy and Thought Leadership team, and will lead our growing work around educational program evaluation.

Ali Fuller is now a principal on the Strategic Advising team and will continue to work on — and lead — a range of strategy, business planning, and organizational effectiveness projects.


We’re also pleased to announce two new hires:

Steven Purcell joined us in July as our new chief of staff. He will lead operations and human capital work, including continuing to build strong organizational systems and culture. Prior to Bellwether, Steve worked with the KIPP Foundation, Los Angeles Unified School District, and San Francisco Unified School District.

Tresha Ward is joining us later this month as senior adviser for academic strategy, supporting CMOs and districts as they assess their academic strategies to improve student outcomes. Tresha previously held roles at the KIPP Foundation, KIPP NYC, KIPP Houston, and the Houston Independent School District.

Please join me in congratulating our team for their extraordinary commitment, and help us to welcome our new teammates aboard!

Education is All Guts, No Glory for Some Parents

This week, Bellwether staff share their perspectives on family and parent engagement. Follow Ahead of the Heard from now until Friday for a series of blog posts that tackle common misconceptions about engaged parents, working with multilingual families, and more. Click here to read other posts in the series thus far.

 

We’ve heard the phrase “No Guts, No Glory” (like in this Air Force manual), but when it comes to parents and their children’s academic success, the phrase doesn’t hold true.

Parents can have all the “guts” — hopes, wishes, and high expectations for their kids — but their kids still may not get the “glory” — a great education and high academic achievement.

That’s because too often, kids don’t have equal odds when it comes to educational opportunities.

It’s not because their parents don’t care, as a misguided stigma against poor parents might suggest. A hypothesized culture of despair says that parents with the least financial resources discount their children’s odds for future success and hence invest less into their child’s academic experience.

In fact, parents across demographic characteristics and economic conditions tend to have strong and robust expectations for their children, and these patterns of thought are influential over the course of their children’s academic careers. However, the difference between economically advantaged and disadvantaged parents is in the objective probabilities that their children will succeed as hoped. That is, for parents at the bottom end of the economic spectrum, the gap between their high expectations and their child’s likely reality is much larger than it is for parents with greater economic means. All parents seem to have the guts to dream big, but only some of their children are likely to see the glory of results.

Then what can schools do to support parents in helping their kids? Schools must offer equitable educational opportunities and reinforce mechanisms in the home that drive student achievement. Parental expectations and behaviors can mitigate economic inequities, but schools must deliver the goods through rigorous learning standards and outstanding instruction, which sadly remains not a foregone conclusion.

As schools consider their approach to parental and family engagement, they should understand that high academic expectations don’t necessarily translate into parents attending school events or volunteering their services. Schools should acknowledge and continuously reinforce parental beliefs about their child’s potential, and they should emphasize ways parents can support — through the home environment and through specific behaviors — their child’s learning.

All parents are hopeful about their children’s futures: sometimes against real odds. This provides an opportunity to focus outreach to families. Schools can and should bolster what parents hope and do for their children. Yet they must reach inward too, to ensure what they expect from parents is mirrored by high expectations and excellent teaching during the school day.

School Choice Debates Shouldn’t Forget Rosenwald Schools

Earlier this week my colleague Andrew Rotherham wrote about the complex history of school choice efforts in the United States, and highlighted how current debates about school choice often obscure the wide diversity of school choice advocates and their motivations. Andy notes that, while some voucher and private choice efforts have been motivated by a desire to preserve segregation in education, others have been led by African American leaders and their white progressive allies seeking to expand opportunity for African American children historically underserved by public school systems.

Indeed, there is a long history of African American leaders and their white allies responding to inequities in or exclusion from established education systems by building their own institutions outside those systems. That’s the impetus behind some charter and private schools today, but has much deeper historical roots. The Freedom Schools movement during the Civil Rights Era is one example. Prior to that, the Rosenwald Schools — built with funds from both philanthropist Julius Rosenwald and matching resources and efforts from local African American communities themselves — played a crucial role in educating African American students in the first part of the 20th century. By 1928, one-third of African American children in the rural South were educated in such schools.

Rosenwald schools fell out of use following Brown v. Board of Education and the (sadly far too slow) progress of desegregation that followed, and The National Trust for Historic Preservation named them one of the 11 most endangered historic places in America. Yet those that remain are a powerful reminder that when groups of Americans are denied access to public education systems or feel those systems are not respecting their values or serving their children well — from Catholic immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries, to rural African American communities in the 1920s, to Black and Latino charter founders today — leaders within those groups will find ways to create opportunities outside established systems. Those efforts aren’t perfect, but they deserve our respect and attention to the lessons they offer — even as we seek to address inequities in established systems.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Rosenwald Schools, you can visit Fisk University’s searchable database of Rosenwald Schools or read the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Guide to Preserving Rosenwald Schools.

Relationships Matter: How States Can Include Teacher-Student Interaction in ECE and ESSA Plans

This blog post originally appeared at New America as part of the Early Learning and ESSA Blog Series

Pre-k class at the Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, photo by Jocelyn Biggs

Relationships and interactions between teachers and students make a big difference in the classroom. Teacher-child interactions form the cornerstone of children’s academic and social emotional development, especially in early learning classrooms. As states look for ways to measure and improve educational quality beyond test scores, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act provides an opportunity to consider data on teacher-child interactions. Washington, DC, and Louisiana provide two examples of states exploring this promising avenue, with some valuable lessons for their peers who might be considering teacher-child interaction measures, or other non-traditional quality measures that include or emphasize the early years.

So, what should other states take away from DC and Louisiana?

Pick a reliable tool and get to know it well

States, localities, and Head Start grantees are currently using tools designed to reliably measure teacher-child interactions in ECE settings. Both DC and Louisiana use the Classroom Observation Scoring System (CLASS), a well-researched observational tool widely used in early childhood and Pre-K settings, with versions available through high school. Both states took several years to pilot the implementation of this tool to learn more about teacher-child interactions before using it as a quality measure. DC has used CLASS for several years as a citywide Pre-K performance measure in a sample of 3- and 4-year-old classrooms. The DC Public Charter School Board also uses CLASS for Pre-K in its formal Performance Management Framework, the accountability tool for charter schools. Similarly, after the Louisiana Department of Education chose CLASS as a common statewide measure of early learning quality, the state piloted CLASS for several years, working with local early childhood networks to improve local implementation and understanding along the way. Continue reading