[7/12] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

Friends & Colleagues -

As summer reaches a blazing crescendo here in New Mexico, we are also hot on the national education news scene. The Land of Enchantment recently garnered notice for our best-in-class state education plan and for our decisive teacher evaluation program. While these topics have been hotly debated at home for many years, it's nice to see us get national education press on something besides being last for high school graduation or college remediation rates. As always, your feedback is welcomed, as are social media and other sharing. Here's this week's roundup:

  • [LOCAL: NEWS] New Mexico has won high marks for its plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Over at CheckStatePlans.org, a nonpartisan collection of expert reviewers from across the country provide their analysis of all state ESSA plans submitted so far. The good news? New Mexico ranks highly in nearly every category with specific praise for school ratings which are clear to parents and other stakeholders and an "aggressive, concrete list of interventions in low-performing schools, which suggests that New Mexico is taking seriously the challenges faced by those schools." The not so good? We have room to improve in defining the criteria schools must meet to be exited from intensive support and in setting the vision for a new school rating system "so that educators, parents, and other stakeholders know what is coming and can engage and respond effectively." In separate but similar analysis, All4Ed provides nearly identical praise and feedback for what should work and what might not.
  • [LOCAL: NEWS] New Mexico also made news as having perhaps the strictest teacher evaluations in the nation. With nearly 30% of teachers rated "ineffective" or "minimally effective", we outpace the the next closest state, Oregon, which comes in at just below 12%. We also buck the national trend where many states still rate nearly all their teachers as effective and above. As with any evaluation system, the devil is in the details of how that system supports struggling teachers to improve their practice and also encourages meaningful paths for the bulk of teachers to move from good to great. Whether an evaluation is punitive or growth-minded depends in large part on how it is presented and whether professional development and supports align well with the evaluated criteria. There need to be paths for all teachers to continually grow in their practice as well as direct off-ramps for teachers who do not successfully educate our children.
  • [NATIONAL: NEWS] As I've written about previously, the next twenty years will see tectonic shifts in our economy as artificial intelligence and automation capably replace humans more and more. In fact, researchers at the University of Oxford estimate "that nearly half of all U.S. jobs may be at risk in the coming decades, with lower-paid occupations among the most vulnerable." Human truck drivers and food servers will soon be relics of time past. Despair not however as all is not lost: research tells us that a college degree provides career insulation against automation and the more education one gets, the less vulnerable one becomes. Curious to know which occupations are best paid and least vulnerable, or the opposite? Bloomberg has an interactive infographic you should check out. Take note of the orange and red in the bottom right...
  • [HISTORY: ADVICE] We are all aware of Albert Einstein's genius and hard work, though rarely do we get insights into the most intimate details of the lives of history's thought leaders, particularly when it comes to education. In a recently unearthed message to a his 11-year-old son, Hans Albert, we find Einstein was well aware of the import roles passion, joy and diligence play in learning:
I am very pleased that you find joy with the piano. This and carpentry are in my opinion for your age the best pursuits, better even than school. Because those are things which fit a young person such as you very well. Mainly play the things on the piano which please you, even if the teacher does not assign those. That is the way to learn the most, that when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don't notice that the time passes. I am sometimes so wrapped up in my work that I forget about the noon meal. . . .
  • [NATIONAL: WATCH] In a segment titled “Schools of Thought: The War Over Public Education and Charter Schools” NBC News’ Craig Melvin examines the tension over charter schools by visiting Boys’ Latin in Philadelphia. Despite charters serving largely low-income and minority students, much of the pushback against charter school expansion in Philly is from the NAACP. Melvin also interviews U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for her first network news interview: “Great public schools are going to continue to do a great job for the students that they’re serving, and I think that instead of talking about schools and school buildings we should be talking about funding students and investing in individual students.”
  • [NATIONAL: RESEARCH] Education Spending Return on Investment - While businesses have long understood the importance of an educated workforce for a strong economy, “our nation’s K-12 system is falling short in preparing new generations for the ever-changing demands of the 21st century workplace,” according to a new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. At the root of this: “we’ve underestimated the importance of the earliest years of life.”

    The report lays out how critical early childhood education is, and how in terms of return on human capital investment, early education gives you the most bang for your buck, relative to K-12 and beyond: “Careful academic research demonstrates that tax dollars spent on early childhood development provide extraordinary returns compared with investments in the public, and even private, sector. Some of these benefits are private gains for the children involved in the form of higher wages later in life. But the broader economy also benefits because individuals who participate in high-quality early childhood development programs have greater skills than they otherwise would, and they’re able to contribute productively to their local economies.” And yet, as we see in the graph below, a very small percentage of total U.S. education spending (~3%) is directed to children’s critical first years.