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Leading to Reform: November 11

This week’s post highlights the Presidential election and its impact on education reform, the unreported increase in homeschool in many districts, and a set of articles on blended learning. We link as always to an array of columns and pieces spanning the ideological spectrum on leadership and reform.

The Election and Education: Look Down (Ballot) Not Up
Andy Rotherham, an education analyst (co-founder & partner at Bellwether Education), writes in Time magazine and in Eduwonk that the election has compromised education reform. The 2012 election was not about schools.
His longer take on the election is just up at TIME.

Sure, each time President Obama or Mitt Romney mentioned education in a debate or on the trail advocates and wonks
lit up Twitter in celebration. But the excitement over political crumbs underscored how much education was playing for a distant second place in an election where the economy and jobs were central issues.

In the end President Obama’s victory along with a continued Republican majority in the House of Representatives and Democratic control of the Senate means the education policy landscape in Washington is largely unchanged. But, around the country there were ballot in referendums and state and local races with big implications for schools. 

Number of Homeschoolers Growing Fast
Homeschool is growing fast and off the radar in many communities. Since 1999, the number of children who are being homeschooled has increased by 75%. Although currently only 4% of all school children nationwide are educated at home, the number of primary school kids whose parents choose to forgo traditional education is growing seven times faster than the number of kids enrolling in K-12 every year.

College recruiters from the best schools in the United States aren’t slow to recognize homeschoolers’ achievements. Those from non-traditional education environments matriculate in colleges and attain a four-year degree at much higher rates than their counterparts from public and even private schools.

Most school boards and district leaders are unaware of the increase of young children in their communities being educated at home and off the grid.
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Reform Insanity in One Chart
Insanity is sometimes defined as doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Below is what Paul Thomas, an associate professor of education at Furman University in South Carolina, calls his “insanity chart” that starkly shows the problems facing public schools and the (same) approach taken to fix it by the “no excuses” brand of school reform espoused by Michelle Rhee and her supporters. This was first published on the Schools Matter blog. Thomas writes his own blog addressing the role of poverty in education.
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Hope and Change Part Two
Looking forward, The only decent-wage jobs will be high-skilled ones according to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. After the election, Friedman writes that the biggest domestic issue in the next four years will be how we respond to changes in technology, globalization. Markets that have, in a very short space of time, made the decent-wage, middle-skilled job — the backbone of the middle class — increasingly obsolete, Friedman says.
The answer to that challenge will require a new level of political imagination — a combination of educational reforms and unprecedented collaboration between business, schools, universities and government to change how workers are trained and empowered to keep learning.

It will require tax reforms and immigration reforms. America today desperately needs a center-right G.O.P. that is offering merit-based, market-based approaches to all these issues — and a willingness to meet the other side halfway. The country is starved for practical, bipartisan cooperation, and it will reward politicians who deliver it and punish those who don’t.
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Evaluating What Works in Blended Learning
Blended learning—the mix of virtual education and face-to-face instruction—is evolving quickly in schools across the country, generating a variety of different models. This special report, the second in an ongoing series on virtual education, examines several of those approaches and aims to identify what is working and where improvements are needed. Learn More...

From the Sunday Papers...

Largest Teacher’s Unions in Deep Debt
The largest affiliates of the United States’ National Education Association are in debt, largely because they have lavish pension and health-care systems, according a recent report. These benefits arrangements are similar to what they supported with states and teachers pushing states and local districts into fiscal disarray.

A new Thomas B. Fordham Institute report detailing teachers unions’ strength by state shows some of these union giants are in financial trouble.

The National Education Association, these unions’ parent organization and the largest U.S. teachers union, lost 6.2 percent of its membership in the past three years. It had nearly 2 million members in 2010 but expects to have 1.62 million in 2013. Drops in membership linked to an unwillingness to restructure compensation for union leader’s pensions, expensive employee benefits and salary’s, plus large investment inn political action that haven’t paid off in electing politicians friendly to their cause are the main problems. Just like school districts are facing major shifts in how they deliver programs and services, teacher’s unions face reducing services to union members and/or increased dues to cover the cost of salary, benefits and the operation of the state union.

In most cases, cuts in salary and benefits won’t be enough contributing to the no win spiral of raising dues for more revenue while cutting services to those paying the cost of the union – the teachers.
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Articles for the Week:

“Benjamin Disraeli said, “Finality is not the language of politics.”
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