Turning To The Experts On Class Disrupted

And Why My Definition Of Quality May Be Different From Yours

As students return to full-time, in-person schooling in fits and starts, Diane Tavenner and I realized that we were revisiting some of the same themes in our podcast… over and over. Things like redesigning schools. The CDC’s shifting guidance around reopening schools. Trust.

As a result, we wanted to take more time to delve deeper into these topics and explore their implications for parents and educators.

In the wake of the CDC revising its guidance—yet again—from students needing to distance from 6 feet to 3 feet, we dug into who is driving the narrative around schools’ reopening—and why it matters. You can check out the episode here.

A week later we brought on two experts in redesigning schools with the latest in research from the learning sciences onto our show. Aylon Samouha and Jeff Wetzler, the cofounders of Transcend Education, which is a nonprofit that supports school redesign, allowed us to quiz them on their approach to design with a school community—and how to do so in a resource-strapped environment. You can listen to the episode here.

Most recently, we brought our friend John Bailey on the show. John has been a staple in education and policy circles for some time. Having served in the Bush administration where he did extensive planning around potential pandemics, when COVID-19 hit, he began a newsletter to keep educators posted on key COVID-19 updates (which I highly recommend subscribing to here!). The newsletter has been the best source I’ve found for keeping people up to date on all things COVID and education. On the episode, we dug into what lessons we should learn from the pandemic thus far in an illuminating conversation that could have easily gone on another hour (don’t worry—we restrained ourselves!).

Next week we’re welcoming Marguerite Roza to our show. Marguerite is perhaps the foremost expert on school finance and will join us to talk about the federal dollars flowing into schools—and what schools should and shouldn’t do with them.

Your Definition of Quality Isn’t Mine

In Forbes, I wrote about why school districts don’t always choose the curriculum that “experts” think is best.

My piece is based off of research that my colleagues Tom Arnett and Bob Moesta conducted and published in a report titled “Solving the Curriculum Conundrum.” This is an important topic because in recent years, many have beaten the drum about the findings that rigorous curriculum can improve student outcomes—with gains that sometimes outpace those of other popular education reforms.

But much to the frustration of education researchers, philanthropists and others on the rigorous curriculum train, school districts sometimes don’t purchase and teachers sometimes don’t use curriculum that lines up with their view of what the evidence suggests.

Most recently that’s manifested itself out of people like me expressing frustration at how many teachers had to create materials themselves on the fly to serve their students in the wake of COVID and how comparably fewer were able to access the quality online resources that have been built over the years, according to a national survey by the Clayton Christensen Institute.

But the reality is that one’s definition of quality depends on the progress you’re trying to make and your current context or circumstances. If what I’m trying to accomplish is different from what you are, then our definition of quality will differ as well.

Quality—much to the consternation of policymakers—isn’t absolute in other words. Read the full piece here.

What’s Behind Enrollment Declines at Community Colleges?

Lastly, Michael Baston, president of Rockland Community College, joined us on Future U to talk about the precipitous decline in enrollments in community colleges since COVID-19 and to reflect on what it will take to boost student outcomes at community colleges. You won’t want to miss the lively conversation—or the spirited thoughts that Jeff Selingo and I offered afterward. Check out the episode here.

As always, thanks for reading, listening, and writing.