Preview of the 2015 National Summit on Education Reform


I am getting ready to attend the 2015 National Summit on Education Reform in Denver Colorado. The theme for this year’s summit is Onward and Upward: Operation Student Success. Here are some of the sessions I am looking forward to attending:

Strategy Session 1 – Turn and Face the Strain: Problem and Solutions

This session will explore how coming demographic changes – impending retirement of the Baby Boomers and a population boom of school-age children – will lead to challenges in state funding. I reviewed the report on this data a few months ago: click here to read the review.

Strategy Session 4 – Communicating Student Data Privacy: Challenges and Opportunities

This session will explore the challenge of student data privacy and provide guidance on forming thoughtful policies. I recently took Foundation for Excellence in Education’s online course on Data Privacy. For an overview of this and two other courses, click here.

Strategy Session 5 – 2015: The Year of Education Savings Accounts

“Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) started as an experiment in 2011 to offer educational choice and customization in Arizona. Since then, the program has grown. Florida passed an ESA program in 2013, and this year three more states created programs and lawmakers filed ESA bills in nearly two-dozen states. Nevada, the latest state to create an ESA program, will soon have all 450,000 public school students eligible to participate.” (from the session description)

For an overview of Education Savings Accounts (what they are, how they work), click here. To read about Nevada’s implementation of ESAs, click here.

I will be live-tweeting from the event so be sure to follow me: @ethandemme

EdPolicy Online Courses

Foundation_for_Excellence_in_EducationThe Foundation for Excellence in Education is a leading think-tank in the world of education reform. Leaders associated with the organization include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education Joel Klein.

Recently, ExcelInEd launched three online courses – self-paced and free – on education policy. I have taken two of the three courses and benefited from the videos and assigned readings.

The first course was Securing Our Nation’s Future: The Urgent Need For Education Reform

A main reading resource: Turn and Face the Strain

The second class was Data Privacy? Get Schooled.

The third class is Communications Boot Camp Winning the Ed Reform Conversation

A main reading resource: 5 Essential Habits of the Network’s Top Communicators

All of these courses are highly informative and worth taking. Best of all,  these courses are student-paced so you can fit it around your schedule and get access to great information free of charge.


Democrat Candidates: Education Records


A recent post recent post highlighted statements and voting record on education (school choice and the role of parents) of GOP presidential candidates. If you haven’t read that post, you can read it by clicking here. Today, I want to look at the history/record of the Democrat presidential candidates as well as their personal history of education to see how they match (or don’t) with their statements.

Lincoln Chafee: is wary of charter schools [source] and one of his main advisers, Diane Ravitch, is a harsh critic of school choice education reform. [source] He attended elite prep schools, including Andover (where he was a schoolmate of Jeb Bush). He did his undergrad at Brown University but also attended Montana State University. His daughter Louisa also attended Brown University. [source]

Chafee is hard to pigeonhole but it seems that he is not a proponent of school choice and is most likely opposed to vouchers, charters schools, etc..

Hillary Clinton: is opposed to school vouchers but is supportive of charter school. [source] Clinton graduated from Maine South High School (public) and attended Wellesley College. Her daughter Chelsea attended the elite Sidwell Friends School and did her undergrad at Stanford University.

Clinton is a firm advocate for public schools but also supports parents and parental choice. Her perspective on school choice is mixed.

Martin O’Malley: As mayor of Maryland in 2014, he celebrated National School Choice Week. [source] He has supported charter schools and voucher systems. [source] He attended Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School and Gonzaga College High School (Catholic, private) and did his undergrad at The Catholic University of America. Two daughters of O’Malley attended Georgetown University and College of Charleston [source] (previously attending Notre Dame prep school.)

O’Malley remains a proponent of school choice despite the general opposition of his party to school choice initiatives.

Bernie Sanders: is not a proponent of school choice and has opposed vouchers. [source] He graduated high school from James Madison High School (public) before doing his undergrad at the University of Chicago.

Sanders is opposed to school choice initiatives.

Jim Webb: is not a proponent of school choice and opposes vouchers. [source] He did his undergrad at University of Southern California. Webb’s children attended public school. [source]

Webb has not engaged with education reform in general but is opposed to school choice initiatives.

Age-Based Schooling? It Doesn’t Make Sense

schoolkidsWhy do we divide children into grades and classrooms based on age? Niccolò Viviani (@NiccolViviani) of Exosphere writes that it just doesn’t make sense. In an article on, he writes:

We all know (it’s true for everyone and each of us!) that what you learn out of curiosity and interest sticks with you forever, while what you study out of threat of punishment will fade away very soon after the test is passed. Given that different people are curious and interested in different topics at different times, if we really care about learning we shouldn’t build a system that force every child on earth to study this when he is 7 years old and that when he is 7 years old and a half, this other thing when he is 12 and that one when he is 13.

Niccolo points out that in the real world, we have to interact with people of all different ages. Various circumstances and contexts lead us to take on different roles in relationship to other people – employee, manager, colleague, etc.. – but in the artificially constructed classroom, there are usually only two roles for students: peer and subordinate. One of the results, Niccolo says, is that school kids become college students who accept everything their professors teach without a second thought. One can see that same problem manifested by people listening indiscriminately to the TV pundit or the smooth-talking politician as well. Niccolo writes that this phenomenon is “based on the assumption that only experts could teach.”

In contrast, here’s the model that Exosphere proposes:

Older and younger students would play different roles in the learning environment and the variety would benefit all of them. Older students relating to younger peers would learn to tolerate and act respectful towards them and teaching them would become their best way to foster self-confidence about what they learned.

Click here to read the whole article.

To compliment this article, here’s Sir Ken Robinson’s world famous TED Talk, Changing Education Paradigms:

Education: A Matter Of National Security


Education is often discussed as a moral imperative, a source of economic equality, and a bedrock of the American Dream. Of course, it is all these things and more. But less intuitive is how education serves as a foundation for our national defense. A new Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)–sponsored Independent Task Force report on U.S. Education Reform and National Security expresses concern:

Educational failure puts the United States’ future economic prosperity, global position, and physical safety at risk.

And what does this failure look like? Consider these statistics from the report. 1): More than 25 percent of students fail to graduate from high school in four years; for African-American and Hispanic students, this number is approaching 40 percent and 2): A recent report by ACT, the not-for-profit testing organization, found that only 22 percent of U.S. high school students met “college ready” standards in all of their core subjects.

The report says:

The lack of preparedness poses threats on five national security fronts: economic growth and competitiveness, physical safety, intellectual property, U.S. global awareness, and U.S. unity and cohesion, says the report. Too many young people are not employable in an increasingly high-skilled and global economy, and too many are not qualified to join the military because they are physically unfit, have criminal records, or have an inadequate level of education.

To address this urgent need for education reform, the Task Force proposes three policy initiatives:

  • Implement educational expectations and assessments in subjects vital to protecting national security. “With the support of the federal government and industry partners, states should expand the Common Core State Standards, ensuring that students are mastering the skills and knowledge necessary to safeguard the country’s national security.”
  • Make structural changes to provide students with good choices. “Enhanced choice and competition, in an environment of equitable resource allocation, will fuel the innovation necessary to transform results.”
  • Launch a “national security readiness audit” to hold schools and policymakers accountable for results and to raise public awareness. “There should be a coordinated, national effort to assess whether students are learning the skills and knowledge necessary to safeguard America’s future security and prosperity. The results should be publicized to engage the American people in addressing problems and building on successes.”

You can read more about the task force and read its report by clicking here.