This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), a non-partisan research and policy analysis organization developing transformative, evidence-based solutions for K-12 public education. Robin describes the type of research CRPE conducts and how it has evolved over time, and shares her view of the impact it should have on schools, teachers, and families. She discusses CRPE’s work tracking school closures across the country at the height of the pandemic, the methodology used, and the findings so far. Robin reviews key takeaways from CRPE’s July report on how districts are allocating federal COVID-19 relief funds, and talks about how districts should spend those dollars. After sharing what her team will be focusing on as we emerge from the pandemic, she describes the challenges of leading a non-partisan research organization and remaining committed to the mission during a highly partisan era, with schools and curricula increasingly being drawn into political battles.

Stories of the WeekFinance and economics education improves young people’s financial literacy and helps prevent credit card and student loan debt, and insufficient savings for retirement. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio is ending the school district’s Gifted and Talented program by fall 2022, in favor of a new program which he claims is more equitable.
Guest:

Jim and Greg get a kick out of Democrats being frustrated that giving away a ton of money in the “COVID relief” bill is not helping them much politically. They also cringe as a departing Pentagon official warns that China is so far ahead of us in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence that we look like kindergarteners by comparison. And they rip into the Loudoun County, Virginia, school board for apparently covering up a brutal sexual assault against a ninth grade girl in order to advance their transgender agenda.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Raymond Arsenault, the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History at the University of South Florida, and author of several acclaimed and prize-winning books on civil rights, including Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice. He shares how he became interested in researching, writing, and teaching about the Civil Rights Movement. As we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, he describes key figures in the movement, such as Irene Morgan, James Farmer, Diane Nash, and John Lewis, as well as the fear, hostility, and mob violence the riders (and the press covering them) confronted. They review organizations like the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); and how their opponents responded with terrifying violence across the South. He offers thoughts on how teachers and students should think about the tensions among the Kennedy administration, MLK and SCLC, and the often younger, student led-groups like CORE and SNCC. He concludes with a reading from his book about the Freedom Riders.

Stories of the Week: Civil Rights activist and education reform activist Dr. Howard Fuller’s support for school choice stems from his determination to provide Black students a quality education by any means necessary. Research from the Center for Research and Reform in Education shows that students in grades K-12 have been most seriously impacted by the effects of COVID-19-related learning loss.

Join Jim and Greg as they welcome news of a new COVID treatment that greatly improves a patient’s chance of staying out of the hospital. They also shake their heads as evidence emerges that Democratic leaders have been lying for months about Sen. Joe Manchin offering no specific changes he would make to the reconciliation bill. And they fire away as Education Sec. Miguel Cardona says parents are getting upset at school board meetings because “their guys didn’t win” last year.

Ayaan speaks with Katharine Birbalsingh about the importance of schools providing both a classical education and a place of belonging for children. Katharine explains how and why she established Michaela Community School. They also discuss the American obsession with race and how that is affecting education.

Katharine Birbalsingh is Headmistress and co-founder of Michaela Community School in Wembley, London. Michaela is known for its tough-love behavior systems, knowledge curriculum and teaching of kindness and gratitude. In 2017, the British Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills graded the school as “Outstanding” in every category.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Mike Goldstein, founder of the Match Charter School and Match Teacher Residency in Boston. He shares why he became involved in K-12 education and founded Match Charter, and some of the innovations the school has implemented, such as high-caliber teacher preparation and use of Ivy League-educated teachers to drive successful student achievement. They discuss Match’s high-dosage tutoring program, and Mike shares the results of an experiment begun six years ago to replicate it in school districts. Mike also sheds light on charter graduates’ economic mobility, including job prospects and earning gains after college. Lastly, they delve into how charter supporters and leaders in Massachusetts and other blue states should proceed now that opposition is on the rise in states with some of the highest-performing charters, and what must be done to bridge the growing political divisions within K-12 education reform.

Stories of the Week: In New Mexico this year, the state is experiencing a 40 percent spike in the retirement of education employees. In Illinois, nearly 40 cents of every education dollar is spent on pensions.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-host Cara Candal talks with Julie Young, ASU Vice President of Education Outreach and Student Services, and Managing Director of ASU Prep Academy and ASU Prep Digital. They discuss the implications of COVID-19’s disruption of American K-12 education and the future of digital learning. Julie describes the enrollment growth her organization has seen as a result of parent demand for alternatives to public offerings, which comes on top of the growth in online schooling that pre-dated the pandemic (an 80 percent increase in enrollment during the last decade). Julie answers critics who claim digital schooling can’t work for early childhood, urban, or special needs students. She shares insights on quality digital education curriculum materials and approaches to subject areas that some assume are not well suited for digital learning.

Stories of the Week: Co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson discuss a Wall Street Journal investigation into Facebook, showing that the company is aware of mental health issues especially among teen girls, connected to Instagram. In Afghanistan, the Taliban has ordered school classes to resume in grades seven to 12 – but only for boys.

Encouraging and Caring for Public University Students

 

There was a line of students to see me after my “Reading, Writing & Inquiry” class had ended. I had been commending the class’s written assignments and half a dozen college students wanted further comment on their work. The group had been given an assignment to discuss their favorite book, writing, or activity. One young man had contributed a tremendous piece on race car design. Showering encouragement on his work, I suggested that his input demonstrated a care for human life. Some students wrote about overcoming trauma. Others wrote about their deepest care for others.

One young woman wanted a bit more of my time. She asked to see me after class. We found a table outside the classroom.

Sitting across from me, she gushed, “I just have so many ideas for the next assignment, I just don’t know which one to pick! Would you help me?!”

This week on “The Learning Curve,” guest co-host Jason Bedrick and co-host Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Leon Kass, MD, the Addie Clark Harding Professor Emeritus in the Committee on Social Thought and the College at the University of Chicago. Dr. Kass describes the important pieces of wisdom and humanity people today can still learn from reading the Book of Genesis, the topic of his 2003 work, The Beginning of Wisdom. They next discuss his newest book, Founding God’s Nation: Reading Exodus, and general lessons about the Israelites that leaders, teachers, and students could use in addressing the challenges of modern life. They explore the influence of the Book of Exodus and the themes of liberation from captivity on the Civil Rights Movement, and several of its major leaders, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and what teachers and students today should learn from Exodus about deliverance from life’s hardships. Dr. Kass shares why he became interested in the Great Books, and their crucial role in helping 21st-century students receive a complete liberal arts education and lead fulfilling lives. They discuss Western education’s increasing focus on vocationally oriented and often technocratic skills at the expense of humanistic education, and why we should be concerned about it, especially in our hyper-technological era. The interview concludes with a reading from Dr. Kass’s newest book on Exodus.

Stories of the Week: Co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson discuss New York Times story on the plight of America’s nine million students in rural school districts that are underfunded, disconnected, and face myriad challenges. Pioneer Institute and other organizations submitted an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Carson v. Makin, to expand access to private and religious schools for families in Maine.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Kate Clifford Larson, a New York Times best-selling biographer of Harriet Tubman and Fannie Lou Hamer. Kate shares why she has written about these historical African-American figures, and how she thinks parents, teachers, and schools can draw on their lives to talk about race. She describes the deeply segregated Jim Crow landscape of Fannie Lou Hamer’s native Mississippi Delta, the challenges she faced, and the influence of Freedom Songs and spirituals like “This Little Light of Mine,” often performed at her rallies, on her tireless advocacy. They discuss Hamer’s courageous voter mobilization efforts during Freedom Summer and at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, both during the summer of 1964, and why it’s so important for Americans to know about this unsung heroine of the Civil Rights era. They also explore Hamer’s reception by President Lyndon Johnson and the often male-centric Civil Rights Movement.

Stories of the Week: Around the country, K-12 online learning is experiencing a decline in interest among families, especially in programs with less live instruction and interaction with teachers and peers. A report from the National Student Clearinghouse shows that just over 40 percent of 2- and 4-year college students across the U.S. during the 2020-21 academic year were men.

3 in 4 Campaigns Targeting Faculty Expression Result in Punishment (but FIRE’s New Legal Defense Fund Can Help)

 

For more than 20 years, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has defended collegiate scholars from attacks by would-be censors who dislike what they say or discover in the course of their research, teaching, or personal expression. Distressingly, a new report from FIRE shows the scope of this task finding that efforts at such censorship are frequently successful and increasingly common.

The report—“Scholars Under Fire”— documents attempts to penalize scholars for speech and expression that, although often controversial, is protected by their First Amendment and academic freedom rights. FIRE found that such incidents have quadrupled since 2015 and reached a new record in 2020 at 113 incidents, with 2021 on track to match or exceed 2020’s tally. Making matters worse, an alarming 74% of scholars receive some sort of punishment from their schools when they’re targeted by campaigns against their constitutionally protected speech. This problem spans ideologies, with most campaigns in the database (62%) coming from the political “left” of the scholar and 34% coming from the scholar’s “right.”

These findings demonstrate increased risks to faculty expression, but FIRE has added a new resource for fighting back. On the same day we released our report, FIRE also officially launched the Faculty Legal Defense Fund (FLDF), which will provide free legal assistance to faculty at public colleges and universities across the country. The fund provides no-cost legal help by connecting faculty with experienced counsel from FLDF’s network of attorneys around the country and using FIRE’s resources as an experienced defender of campus rights to leverage faculty members’ ability to defend their rights.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” host Gerard Robinson talks with Nancy Poon Lue, incoming Senior Director at the Valhalla Foundation, where she will be leading their K-12 math funding initiatives. Nancy shares her recent work with the EF+Math Program, some of the challenges America has faced in ensuring students have a strong grounding in math and science, and the kinds of results she aims to achieve for kids in all ZIP codes. They discuss the realities of K-12 education before COVID-19, with declining NAEP scores and persistent achievement gaps, and what can be done to address COVID-19-related learning loss, especially in STEM. Nancy offers thoughts on America’s competitiveness with high-performing countries in the STEM fields that drive the global economy. Lastly, they delve into teacher preparation in STEM fields, and how education schools and state departments of education can help address the country’s ongoing STEM deficits.

Story of the Week: Schools in all but two states — New Hampshire and New Mexico — are experiencing a shortage of special education teachers to meet demand as students return to in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara Candal and guest co-host Derrell Bradford talk with David Blight, Sterling Professor of American History and director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University. He is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. He shares what drew him as a teenager in Flint, Michigan to the study of America’s past, and to Douglass in particular. He explains the role of Walter O. Evans, to whom he dedicated the book. They explore how the former slave Douglass became America’s foremost abolitionist statesman, and his morally powerful rhetoric, including his famous 1852 speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” They also cover his involvement in the 19th-century women’s rights movement, his marriages and family, and his later life at his home in D.C., as an elder statesman writing and shaping his enduring legacy. Professor Blight concludes with a reading from his Douglass biography.

Stories of the WeekNew York City will require that all public school faculty, principals, and staff receive the COVID-19 vaccine. A Colorado school district is using innovative approaches, including billboard advertising, to address declining enrollment as a result of the pandemic.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Professor E.D. Hirsch, Jr., founder and chairman of the Core Knowledge Foundation, professor emeritus at the University of Virginia, and acclaimed author of the books, Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and How to Educate a Citizen: The Power of Shared Knowledge to Unify a Nation. They discuss his newest book on how policymakers, teachers, and students can use our country’s complicated, shared past to educate for common civic purposes. They also talk about troubling results on national and international assessments of K-12 reading and math, and Prof. Hirsch’s December 2020 open letter to NAEP’s governing board, published in EducationWeek, recommending that they not follow through with plans to replace NAEP’s assessment of reading comprehension for the 2025 tests. They explore the NAEP change’s implications for assessing and improving reading results in America’s schools, and he shares thoughts on how to improve academic quality and equity across the entire system. Then they turn to the academic quality of state-approved teacher preparation programs, insights from the Core Knowledge Foundation’s work in education schools, and models of success among schools in other states and countries.

Stories of the Week:  An Associated Press poll of education departments revealed that 38 states are planning to open permanent virtual schools as a result of increased interest in at-home learning. The NAEP governing board is shifting to a new framework for the reading assessment, that will allow analysis of student performance by socioeconomic status and race.
Guest:

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Kristina Arriaga, president of Intrinsic, a strategic communications firm, and former vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Kristina shares her family’s experiences fleeing Castro’s communist regime in Cuba and other hardships, and how her background has shaped her commitment to religious liberty. They discuss the current political situation in Cuba, and the lessons American citizens, teachers, and students should learn about communism’s impact on human rights. She shares her work to advance religious freedom as former executive director of The Becket Fund, where she honored courageous Cuban political prisoner Armando Valladares and so many other human rights activists, and through her service on several noted international commissions. Finally, they discuss parallels Kristina highlighted in an October 2020 USA Today op-ed, between cancel culture in America and some of the features of communist Cuba, such as speech codes, political correctness, and social shaming. They delve into why cancel culture is so dangerous to the free exchange of ideas and a healthy civic life, and how parents, teachers, and professors can combat it.

Stories of the Week: The Biden administration is extending the moratorium on federal student loan payments and interest – originally scheduled to expire next month – through early 2022. But exactly who is eligible? The New York Times reports that 340,000 of the one million children who did not report for school during the pandemic were in kindergarten, with the sharpest declines in low-income neighborhoods.

Join Jim and Greg as they dissect the much-needed resignation of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.  They also shudder as 19 Republicans in the Senate support the badly bloated infrastructure bill.  And they fume as Oregon addresses its problem of some students of color failing to meet high school proficiency standards by getting rid of the standards altogether.

Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with American Enterprise Institute resident fellow and education economist Beth Akers about the American student debt crisis (totalling $1.6 trillion). They explore who borrows, who is in debt, and which policy choices might best serve the financial needs of every student.

Related: The Boston Globe op-ed: “A Truly Progressive Student Loan Policy”

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Michael Bindas, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice (IJ). They discuss IJ’s 2020 landmark U.S. Supreme Court win in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, and its implications for state Blaine Amendments, bigoted legal barriers that have blocked religious liberty and school choice for over a century. They delve into the current legal and political status of school choice in America, at a time of unprecedented support for education savings account, education tax credit, and voucher programs. As lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the Maine school tuitioning case, Carson v. Makin, recently granted certiorari by the U.S. Supreme Court, he explains the central issues, and what another major victory could mean for religious school parents. They then turn to higher education, and Michael offers thoughts on why access to religiously-affiliated primary and secondary schooling is still viewed so differently than students attending religiously-affiliated colleges and universities through state and federal grant and loan programs.

Stories of the Week: EdWeek reports that school board meetings across the country have become increasingly rancorous as a result of growing partisanship, the lack of local news coverage, and social media – to the detriment of students’ academic success. The U.S. Department of Education announced the expansion of the Second Chance Pell program, allowing up to 200 colleges to provide prison education programs for those who have previously been unable to access federal need-based financial aid.

Join Jim and Greg cheer Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for giving parents the power to decide whether their kids will wear masks to school in the coming weeks and shudder as Washington, D.C, allows kids as young as 11 years old to make a decision on getting the vaccine without telling their parents. They also fire back as CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky admits there is discussion in the Biden administration about issuing a federal mandate to vaccine all Americans. And they chronicle the obvious mask mandate hypocrisy of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.