Monday Reading List: Voting Behavior, Facts are Important, and New Names for Old Things

On the eve of the election, Brittany Packnett is in The Root, talking about the balance between "inside and outside pressure" in politics:

To create the change we seek, we must advantage our issues in every way possible, and pursue them to the end. Advantaging our issues means putting the right person in office on Nov. 8—and even with the rightful, long-term aspiration for more alternatives, the fact is that one of two people will occupy the Oval Office. But making real gains on our issues will require our continued engagement on Nov. 9 and every day thereafter. To be effective, that engagement must come both from those who provide clear outside pressure on important social issues and those of us who act as critical friends, always honest in our dealings and ready to work on the inside to press the policy front.

Packnett goes on to list the various ways in which people lives are on the ballot this November, including criminal justice, immigration, and voting rights. On that last topic, Vann R. Newkirk II is in The Atlantic examining the extent to which new voting restrictions have dampened early voting turnout in Black communities:

It is certainly possible that black voters—who vote mostly Democratic—are simply less motivated to vote for Clinton than for Obama, and that record black turnout numbers from 2008 and 2012 reflect Obama’s unique appeal as a black candidate and dissatisfaction with Clinton. Obama’s candidacy tapped not into not only the sentiment of the civil-rights movement, but also into its extensive organizing infrastructure of leaders, communications, churches, and universities, a feat that would be difficult for any subsequent candidate to replicate ... But it is also possible that widespread and naked pushes to reduce black turnout since Shelby County v. Holder in 2013 have reduced faith and enthusiasm in the electoral system among some black people, even as they animate action from activist groups like the state NAACP and the “Moral Movement.” Maybe all of these things are true, and those two elections represent a high water mark, rather than the beginning of a trend.

The reduction in "faith and enthusiasm" for the electoral system is something I referenced in a tweet-storm yesterday. We tend to view voting behavior through a dichotomous lens, wherein voting is "good" and not voting is "antithetical to one's self interests." Rampant disenfranchisement, gerrymandering, and other means of lessening the impact of voting make that conversation a lot more complicated.

David Leonhardt of The New York Times looked at the Massachusetts charter schools debate and thinks the issue is a no-brainer, especially after consulting the performance research:

When you talk to the professors about their findings, you hear a degree of excitement that’s uncommon for academic researchers. “Relative to other things that social scientists and education policy people have tried to boost performance — class sizes, tracking, new buildings — these schools are producing spectacular gains,” said Joshua Angrist, an M.I.T. professor. Students who go to Boston’s charter schools learn reading and math better and faster than students elsewhere. They are more likely to take A.P. tests and to do well on them. Their SAT scores are higher than for similar students elsewhere — an average of 51 points higher on the math SAT. Many more students attend a four-year college, suggesting that the benefits don’t disappear over time. The gains are large enough that some of Boston’s charters, despite enrolling mostly lower-income students, have test scores that resemble those of upper-middle-class public schools. 

The opposition to charters has run a campaign insinuating that these results are specious, which is a shame. The anti-reform wing of the education sector is falling victim to the same science-phobic, anti-fact political strategy that the far right has adopted on issues like climate change. It's not a good look. Here's a mom, a millenial, and a founder of the Alma del Mar school with their takes on the issue as well.

Finally, Jamie Martines is in The Hechinger Report looking at whether or not academic personalization requires a ton of high-tech solutions, zooming-in on the concept of "little data":

The concept of little data isn’t new — at least, not to the business world. Back in 2013, Mark Bonchek, CEO of the consulting firm Shift Thinking, wrote a piece for the Harvard Business Review in which he defined little data as “what we know about ourselves.” It gives us meaningful feedback on our own habits and behavior. And it’s not to be confused with big data ... little data analysis can help the student learn something about her reading habits: Is she more likely to read more pages in the morning? Which words did she highlight to look up in the dictionary? How many times did she re-read the same chapter? A teacher can then use this little data to pinpoint the student’s exact strengths and weaknesses and develop a personalized learning plan to meet her needs. This is what the Dysart school district is hoping to do for every student, from the most high-tech classrooms to the most traditional.

On the one hand, this makes a lot of intuitive sense, and figuring out how to maximize mental habits of all students is an admirable goal. On the other hand, isn't this what great teachers have done throughout history? It's a shame that the field's infatuation with novelty and technology forces us to adopt new nomenclature for characteristics that we already know make for good teaching. Enjoy your Monday!