Only six weeks away from the start of the school year, many questions still remain as to what schooling will actually look like come fall. Is it really feasible for schools to reopen for in-person classes as President Trump and others are pushing for?

On this episode, Nat Malkus poses that question to John Bailey, a senior advisor to the Walton Family Foundation and visiting fellow at AEI, who recently wrote an article for Education Next titled, “Reopening Resilient Schools.”

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When remote learning started up this spring, a number of school districts initially forbade teachers from introducing new content in an effort to prevent achievement gaps from widening. Instead of teaching new knowledge, teachers were told to focus on maintaining previously learned skills. In subjects like reading, this focus on skills over content has long been the norm. Indeed, “teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” was the operating theory most schools followed long before the pandemic struck. But what if schools have it all wrong? What if it’s not a disparity in skills that’s behind the achievement gap, but a disparity in knowledge? That’s the argument that Natalie Wexler makes in her book, The Knowledge Gap: The hidden cause of America’s broken education system — and how to fix it.

Wexler joined Nat Malkus on The Report Card last year to explain why background knowledge—the sort of thing many schools stopped teaching back in March—is more critical to reading comprehension than disembodied skills.

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For years, the charter school sector enjoyed bipartisan support, counting among its advocates Presidents Clinton and Obama, as well as Presidents Bush and Trump.

Yet, in 2020, nearly all democratic presidential candidates advertised their opposition to charters and many called for a moratorium on their expansion. Republicans, by some folks’ estimations, also appear to be less enthusiastic about charters then they once were: Back in February, for instance, the Trump Administration called for the elimination of the federal Charter School Program. How did this drop-off in support come to pass? Are charters facing tough years ahead without allies on either side of the aisle?

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To say that the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most significant disruptions our education system has ever faced is hardly an understatement. Back in March, without a warning, 50 million students were shut out of school buildings and asked to engage in new modes of learning. Now, with less than a month left of school in many districts, students, parents, and educators are wondering what school will look like in the fall. Will the once familiar routine of taking the bus to school at 8:00 AM and back home at 3:00 PM return? Will students be eating in the cafeteria—or at their kitchen table?

On this episode of The Report Card, Nat Malkus speaks with former Tennessee Commissioner of Education and current National Institute for Excellence in Teaching CEO Candice McQueen, as well as AEI resident scholar and director of education policy studies Rick Hess, about what it will take to reopen schools in the fall. McQueen and Hess, co-authors of AEI’s recently released “Blueprint for Back to School,” weigh in on the many considerations that school leaders should keep in mind when drafting back-to-school plans, from staffing to assessments to transportation.

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The coronavirus pandemic is perhaps the most strenuous test of leadership federal, state, and local policymakers have faced during their tenure. In the education world, leaders at all levels—White House, statehouse, and schoolhouse—must decide how to best protect and serve communities.

On this episode, Nat talks with Governor Jeb Bush about leadership in the coronavirus pandemic. Governor Bush served as the governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007. Among his many current roles, Governor Bush serves as the president and chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

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In mere weeks, coronavirus toppled a longstanding pillar of our education system: students receiving in-person instruction from teachers. In the face of this turbulent change, teachers around the country have stepped up to help their students—and their colleagues—adapt to these constraints.

Today, Nat talks with three teacher-leaders who are forging a path for successful distance learning amid the coronavirus pandemic. Joining are Jodie Jantz, a science teacher at Goodrich Middle School in Lincoln, Nebraska; Megan Helberg, Nebraska’s 2020 Teacher of the Year and an English teacher at Burwell Junior-Senior High School in Burwell, Nebraska; and Kansas’s 2013 teacher of the year, Dyane Smokorowski, an innovation and technology lead teacher in Andover Public Schools in Andover, Kansas.

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Among those whose work has been most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic are teachers. In the course of just a few weeks, nearly all of the nation’s 3.6 million elementary and secondary school teachers have had to reorient their carefully crafted lessons plans for distance learning. What’s more, many of them have had mere days to familiarize themselves with online learning tools they haven’t previous used.

How are teachers coping? On this episode of “The Report Card,” host Nat Malkus speaks with three teachers about their experiences adapting to remote teaching. Joining are William Bell, a third-grade teacher at Hillcrest Elementary School in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania; Alex Wendell, an eighth-grade English teacher at Jefferson Middle School in Columbia, Missouri; and Rob Casilli, a tenth-grade geometry at Democracy Prep Harlem High School in New York City.

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Coronavirus has forced the closure of nearly all schools in America. In this unprecedented situation, school districts are confronting a host of immediate and long-term concerns, from making sure that students still have access to food to shifting whole systems to online learning. At the helm of these embattled school districts are superintendents.

Nat Malkus talks with two former superintendents about the issues superintendents are dealing with amid the coronavirus pandemic. Joining Nat are Josh Starr, who previously oversaw of Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland and Stamford Public Schools in Connecticut, and Duncan Klussmann, who served as superintendent of Spring Branch Independent School District in Texas.

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In just a few short weeks, the coronavirus has completely upended America’s K-12 school system. 46 states have closed their schools in response to the pandemic, disrupting the learning of some 54 million children.

On this episode, Nat Malkus speaks with John Bailey, an advisor to the Walton Family Foundation and visiting fellow at AEI. In 2005, while serving as deputy policy director at the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bailey was on an interagency team that developed the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza and the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan. Bailey weighs in on schools’ responses to coronavirus and comments on their preparedness for the pandemic they are now confronting.

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The world of higher education has increasingly come under fire in the past few years. As concerns about rising tuition costs, workplace readiness of graduates, and inequitable admissions practices have become widespread, criticisms of colleges have become more vehement.

Minerva is taking these challenges head-on. Founded by former Snapfish CEO Ben Nelson in 2011, the San Francisco based educational venture aims to disrupt the status quo of higher education, create the world’s premiere university, and bring its model to colleges and universities around the country.

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In 2015, Liberia’s school system was in shambles. Years of civil war and a 2014 Ebola outbreak shut down schools nation-wide; only radical action could correct course. Then-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf charged then-Education Minister George Werner with doing just that.

The following year, Werner implemented the Liberian Education Advancement Program (LEAP). This initiative brought in 8 independent operators to run a handful of Liberian schools, the most successful of which was Kenya-based Bridge International Academies.

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On February 14th, 2018, a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, killing 17 students and staff members. It was the deadliest school shooting in American history. In the following weeks and months, debates raged about what could have prevented the tragedy, and conversations about gun control and mental health policy took center stage.

For Andrew Pollack, father of 18 year old victim Meadow Pollack, and education researcher Max Eden, Parkland was the most avoidable mass shooting in American history. In their book published last year, “Why Meadow Died: The People and Policies that Created the Parkland Shooter and Endanger America’s Students,” they offer their take on how the shooting could have been avoided. Max joins host Nat Malkus to discuss the book and school safety lessons he hopes everyone will learn from Parkland.

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A teacher is always on stage, 180 days a year, with a repeat audience. There is a constant need for lesson plans that are high quality, engaging, and aligned to standards. Today, most teachers turn to the internet to fill that need, and they now have a dizzying and growing array of online materials they can access. But shockingly little is known about the quality of those materials.

In this episode, host Nat Malkus talks with Dr. Morgan Polikoff of the University of Southern California about his most recent report. Co-authored with educational consultant Jennifer Dean and published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, it analyzes online supplemental materials for high school English Language Arts from three of the most popular supplemental websites. They discuss the report’s goals, findings, and implications for policy.

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No charter school network has generated as much controversy as New York City’s Success Academy. Founded in 2006 by Eva Moskowitz, the schools have gained renown for their unprecedented success on standardized tests. At the same time, some critics have forcefully criticized Moskowitz and aspects of the schools’ culture.

In this episode, Host Nat Malkus talks to Robert Pondiscio, author of “How the Other Half Learns: Equality, Excellence, and the Battle Over School Choice”. Pondiscio spent a year embedded in a Success Academy school, observing what makes Moskowitz’s model so distinctive. Pondiscio not only offers a fascinating window into Success, but discusses vital political questions surrounding public education and school choice.

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From Varsity Blues to debates over charter schools, 2019 was an eventful year in education news. In the last episode of the year, Erica Green, Alyson Klein, and Josh Mitchell reflect with host Nat Malkus on the top education stories of 2019 and look ahead to stories we should pay attention to in 2020.

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The practice of vaping—or smoking e-cigarettes—has risen dramatically in recent years among American high school students. And schools are trying to figure out how to stop this troubling trend.

Host Nat Malkus talks to former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb to explore how teen vaping affects students and schools. Substance abuse counselor Milagros Vascones-Gatski and Evie Blad, a reporter from Education Week, also join Nat to discuss ways to address the problem.

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The idea of free college isn’t new. In 2014, President Obama proposed free community college in his State of the Union Address. Both Hilary Clinton and Berny Sanders had free college plans in the 2016 election, and 2020 Democratic candidates also have plenty of ideas. However, in 2017, New York was the first state to make all 2 and 4-year public colleges free for families who earn up to $125,000 – with some important caveats.

In this episode, host Nat Malkus talks to Elsa Magee of the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation, and Christopher Barto of LIM College, about New York’s Experience implementing free college, how colleges have reacted to the program, trade-offs the state had to make, and implementation lessons that states interested in a similar program can learn.

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Social emotional learning – explicitly teaching students skills such as managing their emotions, showing empathy, and building positive relationships – has gained ground in American schools. After all, time management, conflict resolution, and other social skills are essential to success in life and career.

Host Nat Malkus talks to Jackie Jodl and Robert Pondiscio about the benefits (and possible pitfalls) of social emotional learning. What does social emotional learning look like in practice? How is it distinctive from the natural relationship-building that has always taken place in schools?

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What does a typical high school classroom look like? For many, it means rote memorization, worksheets, and passing notes under the desk.
It is surface level learning that does not promote mastery or engagement.

In this episode, host Nat Malkus talks to Jal Mehta about his new book, In Search of Deeper Learning: The quest to Remake the American High School (with Sarah Fine). Professor Mehta describes classrooms across the country where deeper learning is taking place, the features that made them distinctive, and why deeper learning is not more common across the country.

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Earlier this fall, the annual US News & World Report college
rankings
were released. Princeton and Harvard again topped the list, followed by a handful of other elite institutions. Do these rankings give students valuable information? How do students approach the process of choosing a college? How should they go about it?

In this episode, host Nat Malkus talks to Michael Horn about his new book Choosing College: how to make better learning decisions throughout your life. They discuss how students can be better consumers in the college process, and what role parents, guidance counselors, colleges, and policymakers can play in facilitating students’ college decision-making journey.

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