Thursday Reading List: The White House Makes Moves, North Carolina Ponders Bad Ideas, and Homework

Emma Brown of The Washington Post looks at the White House's latest moves on education:

President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday that requires Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to study whether and how the federal government has overstepped its legal authority in K-12 schools, a move he framed as part of a broader effort to shift power from Washington to states and local communities ... the order gives DeVos 300 days to conduct a review to identify any regulations or guidance related to K-12 schools that is inconsistent with federal law. The review will be led by a task force headed by Robert Eitel, a senior counselor to DeVos who previously worked for a for-profit college company.

The fact that this review is happening within the department means there will be a lot less transparency than if the process were happening through a legislative process. As this review develops, I'd love to hear from advocates and experts who have either an informed view of the proceedings, or strong opinions about how it should proceed.

Meanwhile in the states, Liz Bell of Ed North Carolina reminds us why charter advocates can't have nice things:

The [North Carolina] House K-12 education committee Monday gave favorable reports to several pieces of legislation that would change charter school laws ... One proposed measure gives priority enrollment to children of employees from a corporation that helps fund a charter school. House Bill 800, which goes before the full House today, would allow corporations called “charter partners” to grant priority enrollment to its employees’ children. To be a charter partner, the business has to donate property or the school building or help the school with renovations or technological resources. No more than 50 percent of the student population would be given priority in the charter school’s lottery.

Wow, this is a truly terrible idea. Not only does this legislation feed the notion that charters exist to benefit their corporate backers, but it also would provide fuel to the fire for folks who insist that charters are not public schools. If you support high quality public charter schools, and you're backing this legislation, you're hurting your cause.

Speaking of North Carolina, Tommy Tomlinson of Esquire profiled Reverend William Barber, who entered the national spotlight after his fiery speech at the Democratic National Convention:

Since 2013, he has led a series of rallies in Raleigh that have come to be known as Moral Mondays. From the beginning, they challenged the state's Republican-dominated legislature and its Republican governor, Pat McCrory. That first year, more than nine hundred protesters, including Barber himself, were arrested for filling the legislative building and refusing to leave. They persisted. Voters paid attention. Moral Mondays helped defeat McCrory in last year's election, even as the state turned red in the presidential race. Barber spent 2016 traveling to twenty-two states to build similar movements around the country ... The opposition to Trump so far has been powerful but leaderless—millions of bodies but not many faces. But Barber is working his way toward the middle of the frame.

Barber is building a progressive, multi-faith, multi-racial coalition, and it's fascinating to understand the opportunities and threats involved in that endeavor. It's been a while since the political left has seen a national leader with a theological background, and the fact that Barber is emerging during a period when the right is departing from evangelicalism to embrace ethnic nationalism is notable.

Finally today, Kyle Spencer is in The New York Times examining parents' perceptions of homework:

Researchers who study academic history said they were not surprised that debate over young children and homework had resurfaced now. Education and parenting trends are cyclical, and the nation is coming off a stress-inducing, federally mandated accountability push that has put standardized testing at the center of the national education debate. Further, many parents say that homework has become particularly stressful since the arrival of Common Core, a set of rigorous and often confusing learning goals adopted by many states. Tom Hatch, a professor of education at Columbia University’s Teachers College and co-director of the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools and Teaching, said homework wars were really a proxy fight about what constitutes learning. He added that they were intrinsically linked to the debates over standardized testing that have fueled the national “opt-out” movement. “It’s a small part of a larger conversation about how kids should spend their time,” Professor Hatch said.

The notion that the homework and testing debates are linked through the uber-category of how kids spend time is compelling. I hope that today's technocrats are finding ways to make accountability and measurement more streamlined and less obtrusive. We need to know how children are doing in school, but public sentiment on both sides of the political spectrum has stacked up hard against the current accountability regimes. Have a great day!