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

GOP Candidates: Education Records and Rhetoric

I previously posted and highlighted statements on education (school choice and the role of parents) of GOP presidential candidates. Today, I want to look at the record of the candidates choices for themselves and their children and compare that to their rhetoric.

Jeb Bush: is a proponent for school choice and his Foundation For Excellence In Education has been an influential advocate for school choice and education reform. Bush attended Andover Academy, an elite private prep school that his dad and brother also attended. However, he opted to spend his undergrad years at the University of Texas rather than an Ivy-League school. Jeb’s oldest son attended an elite private school before going to Rice University for his undergrad. Jeb Jr. on the other hand, attended University of Texas like his father. For the Bush family, school choice means making use of both public schools / non-elite higher education institutions and the best of the elite private schools. In terms of voting record though, there is no doubt that Jeb walks the talk. Here’s an article detailing his voting record and education reform initiatives.

Ben Carson: is a proponent for school choice. [source] He graduated from Southwestern High School, a public high school in Michigan. His personal story regarding parental engagement in education and the role of his mother is powerful: if you’re not familiar with, you can read it here. He attended Yale for his undergrad. Ben Carson’s son Murray attended one of Baltimore’s elitist college prep schools, McDonogh, before attending Yal. [source]. Ben Carson has no voting record to speak of. However, he did create the Carson Young Scholars nonprofit organization which has a program devoted to increasing reading and awards college scholarship funding.

Chris Christie: is a proponent for school choice and has often struggled to push voucher legislation through the Democrat-controlled legislature. [source] He graduated from Livingston High School (public) and did his undergrad BA at University of Delaware. Christie’s oldest son attended an elite school Delbarton and is now studying at Princeton [source]. Christie has a track record of pushing for school choice such as approving charter schools and pushing for tax credits and voucher programs.

Ted Cruz: is a proponent of school choice, calling it a civil rights issue. [source] He graduated from Second Baptist High School and then did his undergrad at Princeton. Cruz has only recently (as in, this year) gotten into the school choice movement, including sponsoring school-choice friendly legislation. [source]

Carly Fiorina: is a verbal proponent of school choice. She graduated Charles E. Jordan High School (public) after spending time in schools in London and Ghana. She earned her BA from Stanford University.

Jim Gilmore: is a somewhat unenthusiastic proponent of school choice. He graduated from  John Randolph Tucker High School (a magnet school) before doing his undergrad at University of Virginia.

Lindsey Graham: is a proponent of school choice. He graduated D. W. Daniel High School (public) and was the first person in his family to attend college, he did his undergrad at University of South Carolina. Graham has supported school choice legislation like this as early as the 1990s. [source]

Mike Huckabee: is a proponent of school choice. He graduated from Hope High School (public) and attended Ouachita Baptist University for his undergrad. Huckabee has been inconsistent in regards to school choice [source], and appears to be less committed to it in practice.

Bobby Jindal: is a strong proponent of school choice. He attended Baton Rouge Magnet High School before doing his undergrad at Brown. Jindal has supported and fought for voucher programs in Louisiana. [source]

John Kasich: is a proponent of school choice. He attended various public schools and did his undergrad at Ohio State. As governor of Ohio Kasich has pushed through several school choice reforms including vouchers and funding for charter schools [source].

Rand Paul: is a proponent of school choice. He attended Brazoswood High School (public) and spent three years studying at Baylor University (he left before earning a BA.)

George Pataki: is a strong proponent of school choice. He attended Peekskill High School (public school) before doing his undergrad at Yale. His daughter Allison (a published novelist) attended high school at The Hackley School (an Ivy-feed school for Yale) before her doing her undergrad at Yale.

Marco Rubio: is a strong proponent of school choice [source]. The son of immigrants who never graduated from high school, he attended South Miami, a public Sr. High School  and did undergrad work at Tarkio College and Santa Fe Community College before getting his M.A. from the University of Florida and his J.D. from the University of Miami.

Rick Santorum: is a proponent of school choice. [source] He attended various private and public schools before graduating from Carmel High School, a private parochial school. He completed his undergraduate degree at Penn State. Santorum’s children have made use of homeschooling as well as charter schools. Given his rhetoric regarding not having government involved in education as well as thoughts on public funding, some saw him as duplicitous for enrolling his own children in a state-paid-for PA charter school even while his resided primarily in Virginia. [source]

Donald Trump: is a vocal proponent of school choice. He attended The Kew-Forest School and New York Military Academy. He did his undergrad years at University of Pennsylvania. His children have attended various prep schools including Choate Rosemary Hall and The Hill School and have done their undergrad studies at Georgetown and University of Penn.


“Disrupting Class” – Book Review

Clayton Christensen (author of Disrupted Class) speaking at the 2013 World Economic Forum
Clayton Christensen (author of Disrupted Class) speaking at the 2013 World Economic Forum CC BY-SA 2.0 Source:

Once upon a time, computers were large, cumbersome, hard-to-operate, and expensive. Then Apple created a personal computer, broke into the market, stole the market shares from Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), and revolutionized the world. Well, not exactly. Apple didn’t compete directly with DEC – to do so would have been futile given the stronghold DEC held. No, Apple created it’s own market by creating its model IIe personal computer which was marketed to a whole different set of consumers – children.

The true story above is the perfect example of a potent form of change. Disruptive Innovation. Apple reinvented the game. At first, Apple’s product was not nearly as capable as the computers DEC was making, but over time, as the cost of building went down even as the computing power went up, people quickly realized the personal computer wasn’t just a children’s toy – and the world has never been the same.

On the back cover of Clayton M. Christensen’s book Disrupting Class are endorsements by: a former Governor, a press syndication service operated by the Washington Post, a Chancellor of Education, and the author of Good To Great (a staple in the business world.) And while the book is focused on “How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns” (subtitle), it’s equally valuable reading for its insights into business as well as education. And its vision for the reinvention of schools is one that has many leaders, myself included, excited.

Disruptive Innovations happen on the sidelines; they create a new way of doing things and once that new way has fully matured, it displaces what once was. And thus Apple PCs replace the DEC minicomputer and Wikipedia makes academic print encyclopedias almost irrelevant.  The School Choice movement is a Disruptive Innovation. Nevada’s new Universal Education Savings Account legislation is a Disruptive Innovation. And schools equipped with software that adapts in real-time to the learning styles and pacing of each student while providing ongoing assessment of learning? Well, that’s a Disruptive Innovation that is waiting just around the corner.

Currently customization in education is largely conditional on financial resources. Wealthy families pay for tutors who customize their instruction for their pupils. School districts with ample financial resources offer more AP classes and extracurricular studies. Imagine then if barriers were broken-down and students from all backgrounds had access to education that is customized to maximize their learning.

Like all disruptions, student-centric technology will make it affordable, convenient, and simple for many more students to learn in ways that are customized for them. – Disrupting Class, page 92

Are you concerned that such an approach, which turns teachers into mentor/guide/tutor and places software at the center of learning might not be effective? Consider this area (one of many) where student-centric technology would be of benefit and would alleviate a major concern of educators, parents and students: testing:

When students learn through student-centric online technology, testing doesn’t have to be postponed until the end of an instructional module and then administered in a batch mode. Rather, we can verify mastery continually to create tight, closed feedback loops. Misunderstandings do not have to persist for weeks until the exam has been administered and the instructor has had time to grade each student’s test.

There is a lot more great information contained within the pages of Disrupting Class. I highly recommend that you buy a copy and read it. Here’s a link to the author’s website – and here is a link to his Twitter page.