Despite the divisiveness of the past four years, we should give peace a chance and heed President-Elect Biden’s plain but true words: “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again. And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies, they are Americans.”
Editor’s note: This is the first article in a two-part series. Part II explores what this means for education.
As is so often the case, The Onion nailed it:
“Media Condemns Biden For Baseless Claim That Nation Will Come Together Once Election Over.”
Such cynicism is understandable after the divisiveness of the past four years. But we should give peace a chance nonetheless, and heed President-Elect Biden’s plain but true words, spoken during his acceptance speech Saturday night: “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again. And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies, they are Americans.”
Indeed. As David Brooks wrote, “the other side is not going away. We have to dispense with the fantasy that after the next miracle election our side will suddenly get everything it wants. We have to live with one another.” Neither Trumpism nor Wokeism won the election. Rather, they fought each other to a draw. Biden took swing states by the barest of margins, the Republicans seem almost certain to keep the Senate with the narrowest of majorities, and the House defied conventional wisdom to become more closely divided between red and blue. Back to Brooks: “The key is loosening the grip the culture war has had on our politics and governance. Let’s fight our moral difference with books, sermons, movies, and marches, not with political coercion.”
How might we actually “loosen the grip” of our protracted culture war? Let me suggest one simple rule: Empathize, don’t demonize.
One of the most painful sentiments I’ve heard expressed in recent days is that 70+ million Americans voted for white supremacy.
That is simply not true.
As Amanda Ripley wrote last week in the Washington Post, most partisans aren’t anything like the caricatures would have you believe. Yes, there are extremists on each side, but they are called that for a reason. Few Democrats are window-smashing socialists; almost no Republicans are hiding Klan robes in their closets. “Both sides are motivated by fear,” Ripley writes. “Some of that fear is based in fact. But a startling amount is based on myth.”
Some of those 70 million Americans voted to protect unborn children from what they view as murder. Many, including Hispanics in South Florida and Texas, voted in opposition to socialism and its history of tyranny, oppression, impoverishment, and famine. Others voted out of fear that another round of Covid-19 shutdowns would shut down their livelihoods. Even on the fraught issue of race, I suspect that there are those—particularly downwardly-mobile, working-class Whites—who voted to give the media, the academy, corporate America, and other parts of the establishment the middle finger. Not because they are racist or bigoted, but because they are tired of being called racist or bigoted for holding views on social issues that were completely acceptable just a few years ago, but that the Woke Police has now declared verboten.
We should listen to their anguish, to the pain they experience as their traditional values come under attack, people who felt seen by Trump and respected again, Americans all.
On the flip side, these Trump supporters also need to empathize with their opponents. They need to understand that when Trump lashed out at Black figures like Colin Kaepernick, many everyday Americans also felt as if they were being lashed by him. That was encapsulated so well by CNN contributor Van Jones’s emotional response to the election results on Saturday, a moment that deservedly went viral.
This is vindication for a lot of people who really have suffered. “I can’t breathe.” That was not just George Floyd. There were a lot of people who felt like they couldn’t breathe….
You spent so much of your life energy just trying to hold it together. And this is a big deal, just for us to be able to get some peace.
I don’t think most Trump supporters wanted to make their fellow Americans feel this way. But they need to understand that their president and some of his superfans had that effect.
Personally, I’ve tried to listen more, empathize more, and demonize less, especially on the issue of race and police brutality. Like so many Americans, I was profoundly angered by the cruelty of George Floyd’s murder. But I also felt a change inside me as I started to understand how afraid so many Black men and women feel when they see the police. What an awful thing to have to experience. How terrible to have to give your Black child “the talk” about how they should respond if stopped by the cops. And that’s even if we understand, as Dave Chappelle said over the weekend, that the cops also feel like there’s a target on their backs.
In this highly polarized era, we all feel like we have targets on our backs. “I know how that feels,” said Chappelle:
Everyone knows how that feels. But here's the difference between me and you. You guys hate each other for that, and I don't hate anybody. I just hate that feeling. That's what I fight through. That's what I suggest you fight through.
You gotta find a way to live your life, you gotta find a way to forgive each other.
Next time I’ll explore how we might apply this advice to the culture wars in education.
Control of state legislatures is particularly important in a census year, but it’s also an often-overlooked element in driving substantive education policy changes. National politics takes up all the oxygen, but it’s state legislators who make most of the big decisions about how a state’s public-education system operates, is funded, is held accountable (if at all), and much more.
With money and momentum at their backs, Democrats entered last week hoping to deliver more dollars to public schools by flipping state chambers in Texas, North Carolina, Iowa, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and gaining supermajorities in traditionally blue strongholds like New York. None of that came to pass. Save for New Hampshire, where Republicans won majorities in a giant legislature that’s subject to frequent shifts in party control, the balance of power didn’t budge.
While more spending on schools is arguably a good thing in the time of Covid-19, ed reformers can breathe a sigh of relief that, all things considered, the power shift in statehouses defied expectations. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, one must go back to the 1940s to find an election where so few chambers flipped parties. This is apt to have many implications for school reform, beginning with the fact that the fondest hopes of charter skeptics—in the form of new moratoriums, caps, or other regulatory barriers—won’t be realized as quickly as they might have wanted. Federal charter school funding, however, is at heightened risk.
Consider North Carolina, where Republicans withstood a massive effort to take over the legislature, which has been under GOP control for a decade. Hoping for long coattails from the state’s Democratic governor, who was re-elected last week, there was talk of Democrats achieving a governing trifecta—control of the governor’s office and both chambers of the General Assembly. Such an outcome would have allowed the governor to pursue his stalled education agenda and proven ominous for charters and choice, as Tarheel Democrats have presented a largely united front in opposition to both. They’ve previously offered bills to abolish school vouchers and place a moratorium on new charter schools. With the status quo unchanged, North Carolinians can expect extended stalemates and skirmishes, but any imminent threats to charter schools should be kept at bay.
Democrats also failed to meet their high expectations in Texas, where the GOP has held an iron grip on that state’s politics since the early aughts, and where the state legislature is headed into a budget session strained by the recession. Blue Texans have been disappointed before, but 2020 was supposed to be the year things tipped. Charlie Brown would finally kick the football, and the state’s minority party would be able to follow through on last year’s landmark school finance bill that, among other things, boosted teacher pay. In addition, their ascent would have sent a signal to pro-charter Democrats to rethink their support for school choice. Yet the needle scarcely twitched.
Both parties also battled to a draw in Minnesota, the cradle of charter schools, in a fight over the state’s upper chamber, which was and will continue to be narrowly held by Republicans. As a result, Minnesota will continue to have the distinction of being the only divided legislature in America, which is good news for charter schools in a state where the governor and education commissioner are former union apparatchiks and the state capital has been a flashpoint for halting the growth of charter schools. The stage is set in the Land of 10,000 Lakes for further gridlock, which means the governor will be forced to compromise with Senate Republicans on budget and ed policy issues—much as appears to be the developing situation in our nation’s capital.
Republicans did, however, experience a setback of sorts in neighboring Wisconsin, where the governor has a long track record of being hostile to school choice and ed reform. Badger State Democrats narrowly thwarted the GOP’s attempt to build supermajorities in both legislative chambers, which would have allowed Republicans to overcome the governor’s vetoes and advance their education agenda at will. Democrats’ success in holding them at bay means more bitter fights over the coronavirus, education funding, and school choice lie ahead.
Further west, Arizona, historically the liveliest and freest state for charter schools and other forms of school choice, came down to the wire with Republicans maintaining majorities in both chambers. The state GOP has controlled the lower house since the mid-sixties and has also dominated the upper chamber during most of that time. As in many other states targeted by Democrats, the Grand Canyon State dealt them a setback, but one that should hearten choice enthusiasts in a state where pandemic-accelerated enrollment declines in traditional schools have coincided with record shifts to alternative modes of learning.
The down-ballot misery for Democrats this year represented a trade-off of sorts for education advocates. Charter schools were spared (for now) from what could have been a stinging haymaker in states with unfriendly governors or legislative majorities. In exchange, they missed out on the potential for more generous school funding, which would have benefitted them and traditional public schools at a time when another round of federal stimulus remains up in the air. We can expect parental choice and school finance to monopolize the ed conversation in many state legislatures for years to come.
Education politics has become as polarized as our national discourse. Rather than trying to rebuild the crumbled bipartisan coalition in support of America’s charter schools, energy and effort are focused on demonizing the opposition. Democrats may have been disappointed in how they fared in statehouses this time around, but don’t expect them to be chastened on ed policy. To be sure, they will be ready to take another crack at it in 2022—the first election post-Census redistricting—when thirty-six governorships will be up for grabs, along with the vast majority of state legislative seats.
On paper, it seems like Joe Biden would champion the cause of expanding high-quality charter schools. He’s a longtime centrist Democrat, and centrist Democrats usually love charter schools, going back to Bill Clinton. He was Barack Obama’s vice president, and Obama has long loved charter schools. Biden was brought back from political near-death thanks to the support of Black voters, and Black voters love charter schools. On coronavirus, climate change, and much else, Biden says we should “follow the science.” And the science loves charter schools, especially those in urban areas.
Yet Biden’s official position—which would, among other problematic policies, give districts a veto over new charter schools in their geographic areas—is arguably the most antagonistic of any major party candidate since their creation in the early 1990s. Why is that?
One obvious answer: It’s the unions, stupid. Consider that he told the National Education Association, when competing for their support during the Democratic primary, that he is “not a charter school fan.” As hard as that was for us charter supporters to hear, we probably shouldn’t have been too surprised. Not only is his wife Jill a former classroom teacher, she’s also a card-carrying member of the NEA.
More fundamentally, beyond education, Biden is a union man, through and through. As E.J. Dionne wrote last week, Biden is bringing back a specific brand of liberalism: labor liberalism. “He is doing so rhetorically and with union hall visits,” Dionne writes, “but also through an agenda that seeks to spark economic growth through substantial public investments.” This still counts as centrist, Dionne continues, “because labor Democrats are often seen as old school, [and] Biden’s arguments are inherently reassuring and carry moderate resonances.”
“Labor liberal” certainly strikes me as more accurate than other labels that people have applied to him, from “neo-liberal” to “anti-neo-liberal” to “puppet of the radical left.” But maybe that’s all beside the point. Perhaps it’s a fool’s errand to try to flesh out his ideology. As a Democratic friend who spent years in elected office told me, Biden is an “instinctive” politician, a “feeler.” As such, ideology is not really his thing. Instead, compassion is his thing. Coalition-building is his thing. And bringing home the bacon for his constituents is his thing.
Education reformers should actually be heartened by this understanding of the vice president. If Biden wins in November, we won’t be dealing with a hardened ideological foe of charter schools, as we would have with, say, Bernie Sanders. And as mentioned above, Black voters are a central part of his base. Black Democrats favor charters 58 to 31 percent; for White Democrats that’s flipped at 26 to 62 percent.
Biden won’t want to do anything that divides his coalition, so as a skillful politician, surely he can find ways to placate the teachers unions without hurting charters and the Black families they serve. Rather than propose a cut to the federal charter schools program, for example, Biden seems more likely to please the NEA and AFT by pushing for a major relief bill for public schools, or by tripling Title I funding, or dramatically expanding pre-school. That’s a way to bring his coalition together instead of tearing it apart.
Let’s be clear, though, that some of the arguments in favor of charters that worked so well with Presidents Clinton or Obama—or, more recently, with centrist Democrats like Colorado Governor Jared Polis or former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg—may fall on deaf ears with Biden. Those others understand that large, urban school systems have become bureaucratic, sclerotic, and creaky, and that charters are a form of “reinventing government” that allow social entrepreneurs to do things differently and get better results for needy kids. As President Obama proclaimed back in 2012, charter schools “give educators the freedom to cultivate new teaching models and develop creative methods to meet students’ needs. This unique flexibility is matched by strong accountability and high standards, so underperforming charter schools can be closed.”
But this sort of technocratic thinking seems unlikely to appeal to a man who loves Amtrak of all things. Biden looks at the rail system and doesn’t see a hopelessly broken white elephant on governmental life support, but thinks of (and loves) the passengers he knew on his commute back and forth from Wilmington to Washington, the conductors, the people. If it only had more resources...
So too, I suspect, when it comes to public school systems. Biden doesn’t seem to worry much about their governance structures or bogged-down decision-making processes. He sees hard-working teachers and parents who dream of a better life for their kids—parents who could never imagine sending their children to expensive private schools. He thinks of people like those he knew in Scranton or went to college with—public school people through and through.
Biden is a guy who has spent almost his whole life in the public sector, spending time around other public servants, including heroes in the military. And if our armed forces can be world-class despite their massive scale and the legendary Pentagon bureaucracy, he might wonder, why can’t our school systems be so too?
I don’t share Biden’s confidence that age-old institutions like urban public school systems can be made to work effectively or cope with new realities and challenges. Just as set-in-their-ways private corporations are (and should be) vulnerable to disruptive innovators, so should stodgy public-sector behemoths. Sometimes starting from scratch is what’s needed to meet the moment and solve a problem. But if Biden wins, that sort of rhetoric is unlikely to win the day. Thankfully, for charter supporters, there are other, more pragmatic approaches that should be able to get the job done, as long as we remind the new president and his team of the real-life people that charter schools serve, people who are a key part of his coalition. Building back better means, in part, continuing to build charter schools that are lifelines for the people Biden knows and loves.
It’s been over two years since the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act was signed into federal law with overwhelming bipartisan support. The law is a reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, and is often referred to as. Its primary purpose is to govern how states implement and expand access to career and technical education (CTE) programs, while providing over a billion dollars in funding to states, districts, and community colleges.
Perkins V provides states with much of the same implementation flexibility that previous iterations of the law offered. But there are several significant changes. These include an increased emphasis on equity, streamlined accountability provisions, and the requirement that eligible funding recipients conduct a Comprehensive Local Needs Assessment (CLNA). In a recently published report,examines states’ Perkins V plans to determine how they responded to these changes. The report restricts its focus to plans—not implementation efforts, which are just getting underway—and makes no attempt to determine whether states met the law’s expectations. Instead, the analysis focuses on how states took advantage of the law’s flexibility to address equity and quality.
Although Perkins V leaves plenty of room for flexibility and interpretation, Advance CTE identified a few common aspects of states’ plans that signal a “comprehensive and cohesive” statewide CTE strategy. These include vision, collaboration, a focus on equity, determining program quality, attracting and developing CTE instructors, and data-driven decision-making. Let’s take a look at each.
A state’s vision for CTE largely determines how leaders choose to distribute its Perkins V funds. For example, the Reserve Fund is an optional pot of money aimed at supporting CTE program quality and innovation. The vast majority of states—90 percent—decided to set aside funds through this option and fourteen states elected to use the maximum amount allowable under law. Among the forty-six states that chose to use the funds, 53 percent pledge to use it to support, which consist of a sequence of courses and skills that are considered representative of quality programs and can help students transition from secondary to postsecondary programs. Thirty-seven percent of states plan to use the funds to close equity gaps. Another 31 percent will direct the funds to rural CTE.
Given that CTE spans secondary and postsecondary education as well as the workforce, collaboration across sectors is critical. Alignment was a driving factor in reauthorization efforts, and the law provides states with a menu of options for how to align their systems. For example, states are permitted to submit a single plan that fulfills the requirements of Perkins, the, and several other associated federal programs. Nine states chose to take advantage of this opportunity—Alabama, Delaware, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington. In a win for data transparency, a whopping forty-six states plan to promote alignment by sharing labor market information across sectors. Thirty-two states plan to use a statewide advisory committee with a “diverse membership” to provide input on state, regional, and local efforts. Seventy-eight percent of states report developing feedback loops to gather consistent input from secondary and postsecondary CTE practitioners.
An increased focus on equity is one of the “seismic shifts” of Perkins V according to Advance CTE, and this increased focus is clear in the majority of state plans. For the purposes of this report, Advance CTE defines an equity gap as “an observable disparity in access and/or outcomes for specific subgroups” that are “the result of systemic inequities, implicit biases, and/or outright discrimination.” Eighty-two percent of states will use targeted technical assistance to help close these gaps. Thirty-three states have pledged to use their CLNA or local application processes to prioritize closing gaps. More than half of states plan to provide dashboards or other data tools to help local leaders analyze gaps. And several states plan to direct funding toward equity initiatives. Rhode Island, for example, plans to use a portion of the state’s Reserve Fund to provide equity grants to secondary CTE programs that will be used to address the access, participation, or performance gaps of specific populations.
Another key focus of the reauthorized law is a commitment to measuring program quality and streamlining accountability.framework is considered instrumental to quality, so it’s unsurprising that sixteen states have developed programs based on the framework and mandate their use. Thirty-two states allow local grant recipients to develop their own, though they must be approved by the state. The law also introduces three new secondary CTE accountability measures, referred to as program quality indicators. They are work-based learning (WBL), recognized postsecondary credentials, and postsecondary credit attainment through dual enrollment or articulation. When it comes to states’ program approval processes, 55 percent of states use dual enrollment and articulation as a factor in their decision, 47 percent use WBL, and 41 percent use credentials. (It is possible to use more than one.) To ensure that credentials are high quality and valued by employers, 27 percent of states reported that they plan to create or already have state-developed lists of approved credentials.
While equity and quality are key to successful CTE programs, states’ ability to attract, develop, and retain high quality CTE teachers is integral to those efforts.also indicates that a diverse teacher workforce can have a positive impact on learner outcomes. Unfortunately, attracting and retaining qualified and diverse teachers remains one of the sector’s most stubborn challenges. Eighty-six percent of state CTE directors reported either a moderate or severe teacher shortage in at least one career cluster at the secondary level, and 60 percent reported similar shortages at the postsecondary level. It’s puzzling, then, that only 27 percent of states report developing explicit recruitment plans or activities, and only five states—Florida, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Washington—identified explicit recruitment activities focused on diversifying the CTE teaching corps. It seems that the majority of states are focusing on development rather than recruitment. Nearly three quarters of states reported that they are offering targeted professional development for specific groups of educators, administrators, or other CTE professionals.
The final piece of a solid state plan is data-driven decision-making. Such efforts must be supported by quality data, public reporting, and meaningful accountability indicators. As mentioned previously, the law gives states three program quality indicator options that must apply to all secondary CTE concentrators: WBL, recognized postsecondary credentials, and postsecondary credit attainment. Nineteen states chose to incorporate more than one indicator. Four states—Delaware, Indiana, Washington, and West Virginia—elected to use all three options. More than one third of states also indicated that they are developing public reporting tools for their CTE programs. One example is West Virginia, which is in the midst of creating CTE data profiles for each county and school district.
Overall, states took plenty of unique approaches to planning for Perkins V. That’s not surprising, considering that they were given a tremendous amount of flexibility. But there are some common themes threaded throughout the majority of plans. By and large, states seem to have recognized the importance of focusing on equity and meeting the needs of individual learners. Many are using their plans to address longstanding challenges facing the CTE community, and they are prioritizing support for teachers. States have also put a significant amount of work into the development of their first ever CLNAs, and are working to ensure data quality and transparent reporting. Right now, things look promising. But in the coming years, as these plans are implemented and tweaked, it will be critical for stakeholders and advocates to actively monitor progress and hold states accountable.
Source: “,” Advance CTE (October 2020).
Research has shown that the human visual system is suit our natural preference.at processing information that’s oriented in the horizontal and vertical planes—that is, up and down or left and right—in relation to the viewer, than information oriented at other, slanted angles. In the natural world, for example, our visual systems are better with tree trunks and flat landscapes than sloped roofs and hillsides. The modern built environment contains a preponderance of horizontal and vertical lines, but research is as to whether our visual systems have adapted to the built environment or whether we’ve built that environment to
published in the journal Perception takes this investigation into the digital world where students, teachers, and parents have all been spending a since March. Lucky for all of us, it seems that human visual processing is more complex, and more adaptable, than previously thought.
The researchers first needed to create a brand new method of testing human response to visual stimuli, one that did not require any motor component other than the focusing of the eyes. By removing any other motor component—pointing, clicking, or even speaking—they could see directly and in real time subjects’ ability to detect target stimuli amid visual “noise” in photographs simply by focusing their eyes on it. The “noise” consisted of randomly-placed white squiggles on a dark background and the targets were a set of five or six aligned squiggles amid them. As in previous, motor-mediated tests, angled targets were detected slower and less accurately than were horizontally- and vertically-oriented targets.
Armed with this new tool, the researchers dropped their college student subjects into the virtual world to see how four hours of immersion in the popular—and rigidly vertical/horizontal—online game Minecraft might change their responses. Both the treatment and control groups were given the visual stimuli test first. Control group members were asked to limit their screen time (including video games, TV, and smart phones) for the same four-hour period that the treatment group was in the game mining, building, adventuring, and avoiding its hostile 8-bit mobs. Then the visual stimuli test was repeated on both groups to see what, if any, changes in response could be detected.
The treatment group showed a modest but statistically-significant boost in the speed and accuracy of their detection of vertical and horizontal stimuli. Though neither group evidenced any changes in their ability to detect stimuli on slanted angles. The researchers conclude that, far from damaging young eyes, virtual immersion of this type (a 2D rendering of the 3D world) provides benefits that can extend into the real world.
The human visual processing system, likely more complex than originally thought, shows robust adaptability far beyond real-world stimuli. The question of which came first—the horizontal world or our preference for it—remains unanswered. This research, however, seems to set the stage for the ultimate answer. And it’s an important question because we’re facing a new version of the built environment: the virtual built environment. And it looks like we’re allto more screen time for a good while to come.
SOURCE: Daniel Hipp, Sara Olsen, Peter Gerhardstein, “,” Perception (October 2020).
On this week’s podcast, Paul Hill, founder of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, joins Mike Petrilli and David Griffith to discuss why, thanks to the pandemic, the politics of public schools will never be the same. On the Research Minute, Amber Northern examines the benefits of out-of-school services for disadvantaged students.
Amber's Research Minute
Sarah Komisarow, “Comprehensive Support and Student Success: Can Out of School Time Make a Difference?,” retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University (September 2020).
If you listen on Apple Podcasts, please leave us a rating and review - we'd love to hear what you think! The Education Gadfly Show is available on all major podcast platforms.
- “The pandemic has caused deep, ‘horrifying’ learning losses for Dallas children, and underscored the disparities among Black students, according to new Dallas Independent School District results.” —Dallas Morning News
- Indianapolis’s school board welcomes four newly elected charter allies in a sweeping victory. —Chalkbeat Indiana
- How will Biden make his pick for education secretary should the Senate keep a Republican-majority? —Education Week
- “Pandemic sparks fears that without sports and other activities, students will disengage from school.” —The 74
- An analysis of Betsy DeVos’s impact on education policy. —Chalkbeat
- Parents are now seeing, with their own eyes, the flaws in America’s schools. If their frustrations are “converted into political energy, that could ultimately yield much-needed reforms.” —The Atlantic
- This Brooklyn principal refuses to follow the NYC superintendent’s new grading policy, which he believes would lower expectations dramatically. —Erika Sanzi
- Joe Biden’s election will bring big changes for K–12 education policy. —Education Week
- A reflection on the legacy of the late Alex Trebek, the host of “Jeopardy!” —New Yorker
- Let us pray for the victims of Hurricane Eta in Central America as schools and entire neighborhoods are destroyed or flooded. —Associated Press