Vol 16 – Hoodies, the Need to Buck Up, and Getting Crisp

This week Andy and I start out debriefing the ASU-GSV conference and explore why the open and optimistic spirit of that gathering feels so at odds with the vibe that prevails across much of ed reform these days. That leads to a discussion about Andy’s widely read article about ed reformers needing to buck up and realize the progress that has been made in recent decades. That leads me to chime in about the need to keep a decades-long view in order to appreciate the accomplishments of the charter school movement. We then talk about the fact that many ed reformers are in blue contexts, which are also the most difficult politically, and so the voice of those Folk is loud enough to drive the national narrative among ed reformers regarding prospects for continued impact, We close with Andy identifying the political folly of blues at a national level not embracing greater ed reform and charter schools as a way to win over critically needed swing voters.

SHOW NOTES:

“Buck Up!” article from Eduwonk 

Economist on YouGov Poll

The live episode where we both praise Starlee: Video | Audio

Eduwonk’s Public Relationists V. Achievement Realists 

Transcript
Jed Wallace:

Hey, Andy, how you doing?

Andy Rotherham:

Hey, Jed, how are you? It's been a minute, as the kids say.

Jed Wallace:

Yeah, it's been a little while. Just schedule's crazy. I'm glad we found some time here.

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah, and I've been traveling a whole bunch so it's a lot. I like we really should pre plan wardrobe, because I like that today we both decided to go with the with the hoodies.

Jed Wallace:

Yeah if anything comes across as intentional at Charterfolk or Wonkyfolk people are making wrong inferences. Yeah, no,

Andy Rotherham:

it's funny. I I it's unseasonably chilly here. We're recording on a Monday actually was out on the water with Kevin Kosar, shad fishing this morning. It was quite cold, but so I usually I'm one of my colleagues. She told me that when I wear a hoodie, it makes me look like a Teletubby, so I tend to stay, I tend to steer clear of them, but it's a little chilly, so it felt good. It felt good today.

Jed Wallace:

I know that last week you were in San Diego because I know that Bellwether had a big presence there.

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah, where it was not cold.

Jed Wallace:

I wasn't able to go because of other travel stuff. I'm going to start making it now, something on my calendar I'm going to plan to go to every year. But I wanted to ask you, given that you were there, given that you presented, you had this whole AI thing going. I've now talked about a dozen people about it. I've wanted to write about it at Charterfolk, but I thought, Hey, wait, don't I, why don't I check in with Andy first? Do you have any observations you would share from what you're picking up down there?

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah, I don't go all the time. There's that there's South by Southwest, you can only, you can only do so many of these. And I am to some extent of the mind that conferences are, they're like they're like a socially acceptable alternative to work, right? If you put on your, if you put on your expense report, like I'm flying to California and going to happy hour for three days, your boss would be like, yeah, hell no. But if you're like, I'm going to this thing, which is essentially going to happy hour for three days. People are like, Oh yeah, sure. And so it's, and so it's a lot, it's intense. There's just a ton of people. And there's two kinds, in my experience, there's two kinds of people that there's people, everybody's trying to get time with, and then there's people trying to get time with everybody. I'm sure it's exhausting on both sides. But so it's just it's an intense couple of days to be out there. But there's a lot of energy. What they've built first of all, is And Deb Quazzo might deserve a lot of credit. It's a force of nature. And now there's all these spinoffs from it and smaller ones. And that's remarkable and they deserve, if you've built something like that, you deserve in this field, a lot of credit for it. For sure. Yeah. And they're both like super just interesting driven people. Obviously not surprisingly, like the big theme this year was AI. We did a little happy hour for Bellwether with a couple of folks working on AI to talk about is it undersold? Or or overhyped. And that was fascinating. And that was the theme across it. I will, I do have to say, I tend to agree. I had to ask people I've moderated that thing. I asked people for a show of hands on what percent of companies that were there this year would be back next year. Cause they would still be around. And they said about, like 50 percent and a lot of people were saying like 20. I don't know if I'm quite that bearish, but I do think a lot of these, it's more frothy than I had thought. And I'm not sure even because a lot of the like savvy ed tech investors, the private equity and the venture folks in that space, they're really keeping their powdered more dry on this thing. So I'm not sure where that's exactly all coming from. Coming from, but there's just a lot of AI companies, some that were really interesting. I had dinner with the CEO of a company that does instructional coaching using AI, which actually has some really interesting benefits that including teachers, when you're first starting out, I remember, when I was first learning, you don't want people necessarily. Hovering over your shoulder. And this is a way to get like real time feedback, coaching all that, but in a more sort of almost like private confidential way. And so it's some real benefits there. Lots of the rap, but then lots of tutoring and instructional kind of stuff too. So some really, I think some really interesting applications. And some that I think are frothy. My own personal take is like other ed tech. It's the stuff that surrounds Classrooms, remember you, you'll remember this. Like the early days, like rocket ship ever is it's the ed tech school and they were obviously doing that, but there was like a lot of real instruction going on, really like in person, like it was not like the kids just weren't like being taught. By computers, right? Yeah. Same thing is true. Like when school one got going, a lot of these things they're tech enabled and tech fuel, but they're not. And so I tend to think though, with this round on AI, a lot of this stuff's going to be all this stuff you can wrap around the classroom. So all kinds of analytics, ways to make teachers jobs so much easier. I think we're going to look back on the days of like teachers doing IEPs the way they do in a lot of paperwork and be like, that's crazy. All of that. That's where I think that a lot of the action is that could actually be transformative transportation, obviously lots of stuff around logistics efficiency, which, no one wanted to, I was struck. No one like the big lie that continues is that this is going to have no impact on, on, on employment numbers. And right. I just don't see it. You've got these three trends. One is the immediate one, which is ESSR. And that was, there was like a hiring binge. And that's gonna be an issue. Then you got the demographic changes, just declining enrollment. And then third, like you have to. Think this is going to have some kinds of impact on productivity. I don't think it's going to eliminate teachers. Like I was just saying, these schools are not, but it's going to have an impact on adult employment, but like everybody's pretending like that's not the case and I'm curious when that sort of bubble will break. And there'll be some sort of taboo breaker or permission structure for people to talk about that.

Jed Wallace:

There've been three themes of conversations I've had for with people that were there. Some were really focusing on. Just how real this AI thing is now. And it just seems like this is a fundamentally different technology. And there's a bunch of like envelopes that are being built around ChatGPT and some of the other engines. 90 percent of those envelopes are probably going to go away. But hey, there really is something profoundly exciting and new. There's the other group I would say is Oh, my gosh, the AI is just so overhyped. And, it's far too early to know what its value is really going to be, or, all that stuff. But the one that I would say is overarching across both of those. is just this feeling people have going there that it feels dynamic. It feels open. It feels moving. It feels creative. And it feels as though just culturally, it's just so at odds with a lot of ed reform and just education today, which is just so stuck in fixity. And so people are just wondering how the heck These two worlds are going to have any interaction whatsoever or Is the reality going to be that ai is evolving in such a way that it's going to be so direct to parent And it's going to be so inexpensive That perhaps the ai will never really fully integrate with our existing schools, you know as much as maybe earlier technologies any thoughts here?

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah, oh my God, that points up a few yeah, though on the energy thing. Yes. It, you know what it feels to me? Like it feels to me like new schools, 15, 20 years ago, where you felt like you didn't have your passport, but you felt like you were going to a different country. In terms of the way people were talking about things in Silicon Valley felt like that in general, but you like new schools was like the education arm of that. And that's how ASU GSV definitely feels. It's where the optimists are. There's, and everybody's there's lots of people just doing interesting stuff and sometimes just impromptu, like the road trip nation guys rolled up in their, one of their RVs and they're giving out popsicles and it was just, interesting group of people standing around, talking about stuff and that kind of energy you don't get at like lots of education conferences.

Jed Wallace:

Do you have a feeling, Andy, that the people there are so frustrated with the ossified public education system that they're really thinking about how they make their applications completely and utterly parallel to it? Just focus on private schools. Just focus on ESAs. Just focus on these other areas because there's no progress to be made in this other area.

Andy Rotherham:

I don't know if it's that. I don't know if it's that. I think it's people want change and I think you've got two pressures going on. You've got The desire for change is going to go wherever they can. And if they feel like that kind of change is going to be in a different sector, even like the community colleges say, or different parts of K 12, like what you're talking about, they're going to go there. And then you've obviously got, these are, a lot of these are funded ventures. So you've got investment pressure and there's pressure to, go where there's markets and so forth. One thing you said that was interesting, you talked about which is obviously. Huge player, but there's I, one of the things that just during our event that struck me is a few years ago people thought there would be like an AI that would be like a thing, right? Right now there's like multiple ones, right? Yeah. And so there's diff and that is just to me it illustrative that. I just don't think we fully understand the velocity here and the. Potential. So I think people are going to go wherever they can. I do think you'll see some direct to consumer kinds of applications for sure. I think in that a lot of ways like that's going to mirror the old a lot. Some of the things we saw with Ed Tech. It's just did. This is different than older Ed Tech because of the generative nature. One thing, though Yeah, I hear you on the the sort of overhyped like that but the more interesting argument, this is what Ben Riley's been was at our event was talking about is just simply some of this is just at odds with what we know about learning science and what we know about how people learn. And how is that going to play out? And that did not slow down some ed tech applications that were fairly at odds with what we know about, learning science and so forth. Give

Jed Wallace:

an example. What are you talking

Andy Rotherham:

about? Just how humans acquire information, how we use information, how we relate to each other as humans, like what effective instruction looks like. And Ben's, it's easy to put him like in the overhyped bucket, but he's actually and this is just another sort of, there's lots of people criticize this stuff, Larry Cuban, like famously and so forth. But it's a little different. He's he has some of those concerns, but what he really is concerned about is how is this actually going to play out in terms of what we know about how people learn, help how kids actually operate in what they need in classrooms. And I do think that is an interesting thing. Conversation that it will be unfortunate if it gets stuck in that groove of overhyped or not, which I mean, that was the title of the thing I moderated, but it's a deeper it's a deeper concern. And I'm going to be looking at our, in our, the corner of the world that you and I pay attention to a lot, also charters how to what did charter start doing with this? You're seeing some AI tools or how communicating with parents and so forth. What else are you seeing? That's in terms of. Using these things to build applications.

Jed Wallace:

I would say that's too early to generalize. I think there are other things that just come up that I find striking. That this conference happens nearly concurrent with Height publishing his new book about Excess technology being a problem for kids and then you have Vinod Khosla who did his Coffee chat and he basically is saying hey All kids are going to have their own tutors, but not only are they going to have their own tutors We're going to build in that they're going to have their own psychologists Their own therapists as well. And so it almost feels ADE's position is get even more technology into kids' hands, and it will ultimately break through on the on the psychology side too, where I can imagine what Jonathan Heit would say about that,

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah. I have a real concern about that actually. Yeah, I just, I talked with someone recently. I had lunch with a woman recently, and she was telling me about this like AI boyfriend she has and. If you think about like real boyfriends having been one or a real pain in the ass and really difficult and unmanageable really, and like she was saying, like this one has different settings and you can set different things around boundaries and whatever. And so it's a very customized, nice experience. And it got me thinking like, okay, you're going to have that obviously for kids and you're already hearing about this. And so everyone's a kid. They have an imaginary friend, but then you lose the imaginary friends. Imaginary friend fundamentally is becomes boring and is not there. You can't do things and respond to you. So to this a little bit, the heights concerns. What makes me think about this is like. What happens when the imaginary friend is actually super engaging, easy to get along with, cool, always there, into whatever you're into, and so forth, and you can see that for like kids, you can see that for adults, replicas, this place where people are going and getting these, imaginary partners and which aren't imaginary because it's like an AI. So it's, what are going to be the compelling sort of, what do we present as compelling alternatives to get people to interact a lot with other humans, to go out and do things. And people can be like, Oh, that's what's the big deal? Like you're, except we're having that problem now, right? It's we can't get kids, we can't get them off of, we can't get them off of screens now and as engaging and intense, the dopamine stuff With social media this will all be like next level, right? And so what things are we going to have on offer to compete with that?

Jed Wallace:

So I don't really know i'm thinking about a dinner party. I had just a couple weekends ago With some of my wife's work colleagues. They're all psychologists And they are aware now of a number of different products using AI that are not necessarily for improving therapy, but they are for managing the practice. If you're a psychologist, one of the huge problems is doing your minutes, doing your notes. And as long as you're. As your client would be comfortable with the A. I running. The psychologist is not going to have to spend 20 to 30 minutes doing notes after their hour long session. That would just transform things right? But are the clients going to be willing to allow technology in the room such that additional? Capacities there. And then also the things that it will spit back to you as a therapist in terms of like, how much time did I spend speaking this time versus last time? What level of emotional resonance, was this person's voice, talking with at different moments, right? It's really great stuff, but you've got client, you got client resistance. And so I can just imagine, the parent resistance, that's going to be a part of this thing. But the other thing too is, I hope you're right, but do you think there will be? Cause

Andy Rotherham:

I'll look all like I've written this all on up to this, like parenting is like in your parent, it's like a, it's like a, it's like a constant stream of like small failures that usually aren't super consequential. And then some big wins along the way. But one that like, Yep. I was not as good on this technology. It was hard to like constantly be like policing it. And it's so addictive. So I hear you on parents. I'm just not sure. Maybe this next generation of parents is going to see what this has done to kids. We'll be more cautious, but it's frigging hard. I think we're asking, we are asking a lot of parents, there's a reason we regulate some substances. Cause we don't just ask parents to keep their kids from alcohol, tobacco, stuff like that. We have. Policies to help with that. Yeah. Cause it's hard, right? On the other hand you are supposed to be a parent. I do know parents who have done like a much better job of it than I did. So it's certainly it's certainly doable. Yeah, it's not impossible.

Jed Wallace:

And I would say that, among psychologists right now, and it's instructive, as it relates to education, they're aware of all of these different AI tools that are there, but they don't trust anybody that's trying to peddle them and they don't know which one's better. And and they don't have enough time to go in and really do the analysis themselves. So it's just easier. Do nothing. Do nothing. And so I feel as though one particular advantage that the charter school world could have is if they simply make the choice, they are going to put enough resource toward the analysis of the different tools that are available to us to start making some choices. To start making some choices where I can imagine big bureaucracies and then pushing the decision through an entire elaborate stakeholder engagement process is going to slow it down so much. I just hope that, what charter schools do is get themselves into a mode of not overthinking this. Don't overanalyze, do enough to know it's safe and, all that kind of stuff, but then get it operational within a couple of weeks. And then pull the plug if it doesn't work, but you're, and also you're just going to have a team or a person at least, depending on how big your organization is, that's really on top of these things. And it is allowing the testing of innovation. It's almost like you're not generating the innovation now. You're really trying to ride the innovation, but which one do you do and how do you integrate it into what you're already doing within your school? I almost feel like it's a core competency that a lot of schools are gonna have to get great at these days. Thanks.

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah, no, definitely. And again, the velocity of it is just so fast, you need people to keep up. You can't expect people to. To do that without a lot of support and intent and intentionality. I do think these for charters, these communication devices with parents, the ability to offer customized communication with parents, coaching for kids. Obviously tutoring is a big piece too. Is going to be like a really resonant thing and we'll help with engagement. You can see, you can see lots of stuff moving in, moving into the space there.

Jed Wallace:

Let me, do you mind if I ask you about your buck up article? I feel like it's related to this and I can like whatever I like all of your Edgewalk posts. I particularly liked that one. And I also sense that, a lot of people had read it. I saw people, texting or tweeting on it and that kind of stuff. Can you just first share with the audience, what you wrote generally in case they haven't seen it yet, but then also Just put a little color around what motivated you're writing it. And, what are you thinking now that you've done it, what you published in three weeks ago or something like that.

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah. Two weeks ago, it was right before ASU. I put it on a Friday. I will say it obviously hit a nerve. An interesting thing I can tell is I can look at on, on the sub stack, you get Edgewonk either by coming to the website or get, or a newsletter, which is through sub stack. And you can always tell when you've hit a nerve, when the sub stack, the open rates on the email, don't change much, but the viewership, is noticeably. And then I checked the tiger, the stats, I use tiger tech and I checked the stats and it was like, way out. pretty good over a weekend, which readership's usually a little bit down on the weekends because people read it, during the week. And so it definitely hit a nerve and you could see that. Oh boy. What, I've actually got a list. I have a, I just have a spreadsheet where I gather notes and gather string on things I'm thinking about writing and it helps me hold myself accountable. To get through some stuff and all that. And I'd wanted to write this one for a while, cause I just didn't get it. And the lead of it was a story that like kept rattling around in my head, which was just like, sometimes like why there's sort of things that aren't true and it, people keep saying them and then there's things that aren't true and are counterproductive to say. And yet people keep saying them and that's weird. So what motivated me was just like, I'm sick and tired of going to meetings, listening to reformers bellyache, and when they know it's not true and like the more extreme examples of this are people saying just like ridiculous things like we've made no progress Since before the civil rights act, we've made no progress since Jim Crow and it's, you're just, and actually I saw, I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I saw like a clip from a podcast with a African American woman who was like, furious about this. Cause she was like, you should be saying thank you. Like the reason you're able to like, go to these meetings and say all this stuff is because of what my generation did, older lady. And she was really pissed. And like all that has just, I've been like, what is going on here? And it's not true. And there's plenty of evidence. I didn't even get deeply into a lot of the evidence. I got into some of it, but gap, we've got evidence on, the lowest performing kids, the ones that everybody said is the reason that they do this work. We're making real gains and so forth. And so I just get sick of it. And it was like, and we're watching, we're seeing this era of sort of philanthropic contraction in the sector. And some of that is funders just getting sick of education. Some is they're deciding climate change or something else. And like when that's happening, it seems just completely insane to be running around saying nothing works and we haven't accomplished anything. And again, I don't think people actually believe it. I think it's wearing this hair shirt, but it's bullshit. And they don't, cause these are not stupid people. These are many cases. These people went to the. in the world. They don't believe this stuff. But they're saying it cause they're getting rewarded for it. It's like this performative thing you're supposed to say. And I was just like enough, like, why are we doing this?

Jed Wallace:

I guess you're you're more optimistic than me. You're saying that people are being duplicitous in the presentation. I think that most of us are clueless. We actually bought into this idea that we haven't made this kind of fundamental progress. If we still believed it, then I think we would see more people moving forward with Moxie as they maybe, just try to say the right thing at different times. But what I really believe is that the lack of confidence that we've actually made significant progress is leading to a dispiritedness that is taking spring out of our step. And it's the lack of spring and step I worry about more than anything else.

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah you say that's a good push. That's fair. It may be in some cases people just haven't really dialed into it. And by the way, I did, I want to make clear in the piece of the piece isn't Hey, everything's gone great. And if we just went back to 2004, 1996, educational reform, things would be great. That's not the point of it at all. It's it, there's been plenty of mistakes, plenty of hard one lessons. Tim Daly has been doing a really good set of deep dives on some of those lessons. It's just that It is not like, whoa, is us. There hasn't been any progress has been so slow, steady progress that if you look at broad social policy changes in the United States is not like wildly out of line with that. And there's been some noteworthy things, including, charters that we've got. I mentioned the jet, I got into this when I first got to know you, like people were like, I was literally told by like the smart folks in education that I was like naive. One guy said I was naive to even be that interested in KIPP because there'd never be more than 15 KIPP schools.

Jed Wallace:

Yeah. There's

Andy Rotherham:

275 of them. Now there's 7, 000 charters. Nobody thought people thought Clinton was just like, that was the most ridiculous hyperbole. When he said three, a goal of 3000, like you'd go into rooms, probably be like mocked for that. And like we blew past 3000 off long time ago. So yeah, so I think it's around and I do think so some of it may be cluelessness. You may be more charitable. I'd have to think more. I just think a lot of people, I think they know what they're saying. The fashion right now is to be like, nothing's worked. It's all been really terrible and bad and and you get rewarded for that. You don't get where you actually don't get rewarded that much for saying everything's going well because that cuts against the grain. And people don't like that. And they think you're oblivious to the problems or whatever. So people are getting rewarded for that. And they're doing it. I just wanted to like, hopefully in some small way, just reset the narrative to a more balanced place that there's been like wins and losses, but like a lot of wins and progress. And by the way, social change in this country doesn't happen overnight. And if you were expecting that you're in the wrong line of work.

Jed Wallace:

Yeah. I've been writing about, is Charter History a bunch of ashes and Ramona passing away, but also losing Don, losing Linda, there's just become this moment to look at at their accomplishments, which were multi decade in their undertaking which is. What the charter school movement is, too. And there are just very few reform efforts that have a multi decade history. Most of them fall apart. They don't even make it that far. And we do. And we don't even, first of all, we don't even stress that. We don't even stress that, which is bizarre, but then we just lose. We lose track. Ramona was so great at being able to remind everybody about how appalling public education was in the 80s and the early 90s, and it's when you see that. And remember how bad it was and then to see, you know what it looks like now after charter schools have grown to have almost 50 percent of kids in charge. And are there all sorts of problems that are still there? And is it not good enough and all that? Yes, absolutely. But if you look for everything going back before that, decade after decade, No progress or things getting actually worse. So I've been signaling at Charterful, I can't get it done because I just cannot publish something that sucks on something I think is super important. And I feel like the Boston busing thing is super, super important. This is the 50th anniversary Of the climactic moments of it when the court cases were decided when Brett, the Bradley case, Milligan Bradley was decided in July of 2000 of 1974. That's basically when the Rehnquist court pulled back from. Broad integration efforts across multiple school districts and said, No, Detroit, even though you're 97 percent black, you're going to do all of your integration efforts only within the District of Detroit, right? It was a monumental decision that they made in 1974. And, the Boston busing instance and, conflict and tragedy was informing all of those court cases as they happened. And, if you look at Boston, Boston is an abject, tragedy. All the way to 1999. They basically, the Garrity the judge, he imposed the court order in 1974. There were 25 years of busing, 25 years of busing. 1999, he lets it all drop, right? Nothing had gotten better. Nothing had gotten better in Boston schools. You go look at the press, you look at Boston Herald, you look at Boston Globe. It's just tragedy after tragedy. What was made in 1999? Roxbury Prep. John King makes Roxbury Prep. And within 15 years, the charter schools of Boston were kicking butt. They were the highest performing sector of charter schools in the country, right? And in the, in, in question two, that was 2016, when they basically said, we're not going to allow charter schools to grow anymore. That fall, there was a larger number of applicants to charter schools in Boston than there have ever been before. And I think our world doesn't understand this. We don't know this. Certainly our newcomers don't know it. And when those of us that have a sense of hope, that are, that remain perpetually bucked up forget that our world doesn't understand these things. It just speaks to, we got to go back and tell the story again. So people retain the sense of optimism that if we keep going, something profound will happen.

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah. I love that. Yeah, that's Yeah, when I first got like very early in my career, my boss's boss had been an assistant superintendent up in Boston during that in the early seventies. And he told me about literally redlining parents would come up on the boards on these maps and they would write with red magic markers. And I remember thinking, so this is like the nineties thinking, okay, like we've at least like we've made, like I've always been like fundamentally optimistic. Okay. We've made like blank. That at least now the boundary disputes are like more subtle because people are scared to be like that openly racist, which it doesn't mean we've solved the problem. And this is the thing. As soon as you say like anything about progress, you're like we haven't solved the problem, right? We haven't solved the problem, but we have made progress. we're moving in a positive direction. And you just have to keep applying that sort of sustained pressure, which is why, and you talk about, which is why like when the my, like that article, like that's, was basically my point. Like we've got to keep applying pressure. You can't. You can't let up. That's how change happens. And it's too easy to, I'd add to your list of people. I totally agree with your history, but I'd also add like Linda Brown passing recently, another person who just did and the thing that like Linda, Don Ramona I wrote a piece about Don that also, I think people are a little hungry, there's an appetite for this, the piece about Don performed really well too. And I think it was basically just about Don was not fearless. Or I guess reckless would be better. He knew the risks. He wasn't like he, but he did it anyway. He was courageous. He had courage. He was brave is what he, I remember when I first met Don in the nineties, I was like, this guy's brave. He's walking away from a very comfortable career path. All of that to do this other thing with launching charters and I think the, to your point on telling stories, I think also because you need people who are willing to be brave. And if everybody thinks there's no, you can't be brave, you'll be punished for it or whatever, then no, one's going to do it. It's becomes a really unvirtuous cycle. And so we need to tell these stories. Linda Brown was brave. Ramona was brave. Don was brave.

Jed Wallace:

Yeah, and I put a lot of this on the leadership. I don't know if it's leadership within schools. I really put it on the leadership coming from advocacy. I think those people have got to be crisp on it. And I will say I was a bonehead, at during my 10 years at CCSA, I wasn't crisp enough on this, or I didn't get crisp enough until probably the last two and a half years. And and then I was getting a little bit better, but I don't think we understand when we don't have charter school advocates that can tell these stories this quickly. Look at Kansas city, look at Kansas city. Kansas city is every bit as bad as Boston. Frickin horrible ending the amount of money that they spent in Kansas City. I'm sure you know that history. There's nothing that's ever been done in terms of volume of dollars per kid. And it achieved nothing. And, but now since then. Charter schools that came along and we've grown to 50%. And if you look at, the credo studies for the Kansas City Charter schools, they're, I, they're nailing it. Nailing it, but we won't even say it. And another thing that just drives me crazy is we have nothing about what the next chapter is. Okay? We're at 50%. Woo-hoo. It's great. We've got an awesome story to tell. But what is the next chapter? People, let's go. And when we can't either tell the history effectively going. backwards or saying how continued work is going to get us to something that will long endure. That's where we find people needing to be bucked up. And I put a lot of that on the advocacy leadership.

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah, I know your point of Christmas. I do. I feel like we've, part of it is because we got a lot of walks. I don't think there's, there are not as enough hacks in the section. What I mean by that, like Bruce Reed wrote a great piece this years ago now with the Washington monthly that was about like hacks need wonks and walks need hacks. And it's less stay in your lane than you need both. And then he wrote about the difference between and walks. And Bruce is the consummate wonk. And We haven't done, I think in this sector, a fantastic job of the wonks do a lot of the here's how we should talk about this stuff, but we talk about it in certain ways rather than the hacks can teach you how to be crisp and how to sell it and so forth. I think that's a place we haven't necessarily done are not just charters, but had reform generally done our politics super 1 reason the politics haven't been as sustainable as they might. One thing before we move off of this, I can't with Boston and this is a little bit personal to me because these are schools that like help my family get a rung on the ladder. It's hard to miss. Also the response. This goes back to this idea of what's politically fashionable and so forth. Like Boston. Now these selective. So some of the schools in Boston were just fantastic public schools. So Latin girls, Latin, these schools, girls, I doesn't, it doesn't really even exist anymore in the same way. Like the Response to frustration about lack of whether we're making enough progress and pressure has been to erode the things that made these schools iconic the same fights going on in New York. And elsewhere, obviously, out your way in San Francisco, they have this fight, and I think it's really. It's illustrative, because it's such a counterproductive way to respond, which is to try to then weaken, tear down, go low as common denominator, rather than figure out how do we like expand excellence, expand access to excellence. And it's really the antithesis of the people we just talked about and others in terms of their. Their belief in what's possible for all kids and that you can have much higher expectations for kids than we have now. And these systems are responding by really doing the opposite, which if you're a public school person like you are, and I am like, it's just very dispiriting to watch that.

Jed Wallace:

Yeah, I'm not going to give you're not, I don't think you're going to budge me on selective admissions, Andy. I just, this is my

Andy Rotherham:

subtle effort to. I was trying to get your, I was trying to get your slipstream,

Jed Wallace:

But I totally agree with you that we keep things. We got to keep aspiring toward greater academic rigor. And I just do not believe that greater academic rigor and selective admissions are necessarily inseparable. And if you look, I don't know if you saw fascinating a story down in Gainesville. There's a school that's connected a public school traditional public that's operated by the university of Florida or it's operated on the university of Florida campus, Penny Schwinn, who was the secretary of education in Tennessee. And she's an old charter folks. She started schools here in Sacramento and we helped get her elected to Sacramento County office of education. She's now working for the university of Florida and her charge is that their school is ranked number 30. 38 in the state and that's not good enough. University of Florida insists that they be top 10. So what does Penny propose? Let's change to selective admissions. That's the way they're going to get themselves to the top 10. Then in the article that talked about this, and there were, the article was basically about all the parents in Gainesville that were upset about this. They did not want this to happen. It talked about the other 37 schools that are above the university of Florida school. 35 of them are selected admission schools and two are in Coral Gables. It's just,

Andy Rotherham:

I look at this less. I'm okay with some degrees and you and I disagree on this. I know some degree of customization. And you can have different kinds of schools and public schools that have requirements around arts and things like that. I think I want to see a broad base of things under that public education banner. I think that's how you make public education durable and sustainable. But you got it to your point. You got to talk about this accurately and you got to make clear these schools are not and an open enrollment. School that's hitting the cover off the ball is not the same as a selective admission school that might be getting the same results. And this is sort of me. I see. This is like an information communication navigation challenge, not a reason not to have sort of a plethora of options. But you're right. We got to talk about this stuff. This honestly, this was my. Frustration with years ago, the way that Newsweek was ranking schools. Yeah, they were a bank. A lot of traction in Florida were a lot of the top schools. And you're like, these are not overall like great schools, high dropout rates, big achievement gaps, but they do a really good job with a small set of kids, which doesn't mean like they should stop doing a good job. That set of kids, what means let's talk about this honestly. And, this is what happens in DC, like the charts in DC are constantly. compared to the selective admissions public schools in D. C. And that's not a fair comparison either. Yeah,

Jed Wallace:

but I, this is one where because we're not crisp on what we believe constitutes a great public school, I, the, I think the favorite post that I've written at CharterFolk over four years was about my dad's definition of a great public school. The eight public, eight words that define a great public school that positively affects the rate at which children learn. And there's no reason why we can't. Have the data systems that would be able to see whether or not schools accelerate the rate at which And then if we can get a point of view that's in fact what it is, then we can start just you know taking a you know Dismantling a system that just says hey if you're good at recruiting already high performing Kids, you know that doesn't necessarily make you a great public school But because we're not crisp because we're not crisp we end up dragged down into the mire of things.

Andy Rotherham:

Okay, so question for you Are we like the charters face an existential crisis? You and I have talked about my, my concern that when the music stops, they don't necessarily have a place. Do charters face, he got all this pressure. Some of them have. Felt pressured to adopt practices, not dissimilar from traditional public schools. You've got the ESAs and a lot of political energy heading in that direction, Democrats. And we can talk about some of the political things with parents and so forth. Don't necessarily aren't embracing them. So you got Republicans going one way, Democrats going another. The lines are getting blurry. Charters are giving up some of the things that kind of traditionally gave them their edge. Do you think on this like being crisp, which is a branding kind of thing, do you think there's like an existential crisis where like in 15 years, like charters won't have a distinct if changes aren't made and how we talk about and do advocacy and so forth, the charters won't have a distinct brand or place on the landscape.

Jed Wallace:

I generally don't worry about it, but it's the thing I worry the most about. I ultimately think we're going to be successful, but it is possible that people could refuse to arm the Ukrainians. And if you don't arm the Ukrainians, they're going to fricking lose. They're gonna freaking lose. It all comes down to whether Ukraine folk are willing to keep doing it. And I think Ukraine folk are willing to keep doing it as long as they got, the means by which to keep trying to to defeat the Russians. And for our stuff, this is where, it relates to your article about bucking up. I feel like the re, the reason that you and I intuitively feel like our world needs to be bucked up is because the challenges are deepest. In our bluest environments And at least for charter schools, but I think a lot of ed reform, too That's where We went to blue context because those were the ones that were the most broken and those were the ones where the highest needs kids Were and all of that and it's the place where it's just so Just it's so dysfunctional right now. And so given that The vast majority of people who are in ed reform, the vast majority of them are Dems themselves, but also they're stuck in these democratic contexts that are just dysfunctional. Their opinions then frame the national chatter within the ed world. And and a part of this is that Republican, I'm not Republican, our funders are saying, forget the blue context. Do not beat your head against walls. Go to places where you can make progress. And so that's the blue. Our CMOs and charter school operators in urban context feel abandoned. They feel abandoned. And I don't think that's wise. I don't think it's wise because ultimately, I think things are going to implode in those blue context. And things are gonna open up again, and we want those people ready to pounce as soon as things do open. And look at Philadelphia just this last week. It looks like the school board's gonna change there, right? But the other part of it, too, is these people really matter to us. They really matter to us. They have to feel like they're being supported. They have to feel like they're being honored. And and they will rub off on all sorts of other people, too. So my sense, Andy, is as long as charter folk have spring in step, As long as we keep going forward with moxie. I don't have any worry about things I think we can keep up in florida. I think we can keep up in arizona I think we can keep up in arkansas, and we're the only thing going in blue context but the question is are we going to keep going? Are we going to keep applying for charters? Are we going to keep pushing, for the reforms that we need at school district levels and that kind of stuff and without that feeling of wind at the blues backs You know That does make me worry.

Andy Rotherham:

All right. Riddle me this then. Okay. So if this is counterintuitive and, I've talked about people have trouble getting their heads around it. One of Biden's biggest problems right now is politically is erosion of support among Black and Hispanic voters. And there was a new poll, the YouGov poll was written up in The Economist recently. We can put the article in the show notes and access the poll. And basically it showed one of the things that's highly predictive of being a Biden to Trump voters. So you voted for Biden in 2020 and say, you're going to vote for Trump. And that's a big deal because the election is so tight that voters who switch are especially valuable rather than just like low propensity and other kinds of voters, just because Trump has a, he has a ceiling. Both candidates are struggling in their own way. And Trump has a seat. So those voters, they really, those voters really matter. Was black and Hispanic parents, people with kids. And those people said they were, some of that was economic anxiety for sure. Inflation, these people, they were they did not list education as their top concern. They listed They listed economic things, but they are parents with kids and that, that stood out in the cross tabs. And there's only a fraction of them moving from Trump to Biden. So like I think 3 percent sound like that. We can check that, but like the red, like 10, 11 percent moving the other way. And it seems strange. So that's happening at the same time. The Biden administration's cutting support for For the chart for the federal charter school program, which is at once, go through the hill and everything, but it's symbolically, you don't have to do that. They're really not much of a friend of charters and the Democrats generally don't have much of it. And it seems as you and I think we've talked about a little bit before, education issues. These, do seem like it's a piece. There's a set of things. These are also disproportionately conservative,

Jed Wallace:

right?

Andy Rotherham:

Going to be conservative african americans, conservative hispanics who Biden is make is losing and trump is making real inroads against now in the polling. So riddle me like why Hey, Why is it such a struggle to get Democrats to put forward some kind of agenda here that's not repellent?

Jed Wallace:

Let me first underscore your your point with some additional data from Texas. Because I think that what Starling, and it was fun for us to be there at Charter School Growth Fund, and there she was in the audience, and I don't know, I was fawning over her left and right. What is going on? We can learn so much. from the advocacy that the Texas Charter School Association is doing right now. And one of the things that she's, you, when you're Texas, you, it's just a huge state. You could waste all of your money, on, on who knows what political activity. And Starley's just been like, look, let's focus on charter school parents. And we think we can turn more of them out, and we think we can flip more of them, to charter support than than if we tried to spend the same dollar on just any old voter. And she's got really stunning numbers. And numbers large enough to have been the difference maker in several legislative races, and I think even a couple of their state board races. And what they really found was that these Dems, who would otherwise have voted Dem, when you tell them, that their dam is opposed to charter schools and the Republican is supporter. They have a significant number. I don't know the exact numbers here, but it's a significant number are willing to vote for the dam right now. So that just speaks to the level of danger that I think Dems have to stay in that space. And I wish I could say they were getting the message, but, you saw those posts that I wrote about the hearings in Washington on charter schools where it was a very clear strategy, right? The Republicans just wanted those Dems on that committee, and I got to be more precise in my language because when I say. All the Dems in Congress, that's wrong. No, it's the subset of Dems within Congress that get appointed to those committees, which is a function of, the unions telling the leadership who to put on those committees. The voters don't know that. And all they do is they see that message come out. And I don't know if you saw, if you read the post that I wrote, that some of the most ridiculous things that they said.

Andy Rotherham:

And look, that, that ramps up or down, depending on it's hard to miss. It's the Democrats with Clinton and with Obama were like good on this stuff. It tamped down some of the craziness and like that presidential bully pulpit, you get you get some cover, you can shape the narrative. You get some people will just be quiet. Cause they don't want to get in your way. They want to be good. They want to be good foot soldiers for the party. All those things add up. And so it's just it's just inexplicable to me right now. That the Dems aren't even making nominal moves to try to use education to head this off, especially because the other guy, it's, is not, Mitt Romney, or George Bush or whatever it's Donald Trump, who I think like most people agree is like a real problem on multiple levels. Again, we're in election season and the people who hate charters are the teachers unions and white. Progressives and they're not the votes Biden has to worry about. Like the votes he has to worry about are the votes in the middle and the votes that he's eroding. And so it's just, again, like whatever the explanation is just politically in an election, you should be doing everything you can. To address whatever your political deficiencies are. And yeah, I just don't don't get it. And again, this election, actually, everyone always says, yeah, every election is the most important lecture of your life. But this was actually important considering the backdrop. And yeah, I don't know. I don't it's, I hear you and I hear the frustration and I don't that I it is inexplicable.

Jed Wallace:

Listen, I know we're, near time here. I'm realizing that I'd like to just go back and feather in one additional piece on this prior conversation about the blues and keeping, ed Reformers and charters, spring in our step. I just. I know that many of our pros, our advocacy pros, our comms pros tell us not to say anything negative about traditional public schools. And I think that is ultimately a box that Contributes to a lot of the problems that you and I have been talking about here. Why do we need to be bucked up? I mean if there's not any real big problem Why are we going to run into anything anyway, right? And if there's not really been any big problem then what's been the magnitude of the charter school's accomplishment and if there's not any real continued problem why do we even bother going on? And I just feel like this is one of the most I understand that ridiculous toxicity and you put, you brought that up when we were in Arizona, there are some people that want to fight just for the sake of fighting. And that is totally, and they fight for unfair reasons. But if we are Chris, I come back to this word again and again about what is fair game, what is fair game and what is something that we can do. And I'm just starting to feel too. Like we need different policy proposals, ones that I've never talked about before too. I'm pushing myself to get new stuff. We need something that rewards those schools that are getting us where we want to go. And, I think there have been a few places, Ohio tries to give like a funding increment to the charters that get good test scores. But good test scores is not even what we're talking about now. What we want are schools that parents really want. That parents really want that low income kids would be willing to get on a bus or drive, across a district line to attend the suburban school. We want the suburban school to take them. What do we right now? What we do is we tend to penalize that which is successful. That which is successful has money sucked away from it generally to go into these really small, un, unsustainable schools and more money ends up going to the schools that people don't want than the ones we do. And I just feel like it's incumbent upon us because to come up with new ways. To reward that which we want to see in the future and our advocacy is just not imaginative along these lines.

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah, no I generally agree. Yeah, the getting what do you do helping parents move across these lines? How do you reward? I think there's a lot of things we could do there for your more creative and policy than we have been here again. You're not going to you're not going to see that the current administration was all kinds of things you could see about helping good ideas, travel, helping rewarding success giving resources to expand. And that's what we used to. We used to do more of that kind of that kind of energy. I do think, You know the kind of person you can find them on Twitter who like if they're a chart, if they're like a choice person, every time something happens in public schools, they're like, they're treating it around. And likewise, if they're they consider themselves a public school person or a charter critic, anytime something happens in a charter school. And these are in fact, things that happen in both sectors, you get there's incidents of fraud or graft or whatever, or adults do inappropriate things, whatever it is. Yeah. Those people are obnoxious. And I feel like the thing we should talk honestly about with both sectors is what's the macro performance picture. I think there's places charters are still falling short and we should talk about that. This place is a traditional public schools are falling short. And then there's issues like you, you told the story of Boston earlier. And I feel like on both, one thing you find on both sides is I wrote an article years ago called like achievement realists versus public relationists on both sides. You find these people who like, they think the path that this is basically a public relations problem and a public relations war to fight out. And then you've got the people and I'm in this camp who are like the achievement realists are like, people are going to figure it out. Sooner or later anyway. And so you might as well just be straightforward about the data, talk about things, honestly, drive towards improvement and so forth. That's why I guess I'm an accountability guy. I want good reporting. I want good. I want good data on all schools. And I feel like that's the divide. And we have too many people on both sides. We're still in this public relationist kind of posture where this is just, it's a PR war to be won one way or the other or lost. One way or the other, rather than these are just like substantive problems to solve. And again, going back to the article, which we have done a decent job solving some of them. There's a lot of lessons and learning there. But it's getting obscured by all this other stuff. We've probably gone, we've probably gone long enough. And,

Jed Wallace:

If you have a link to that one, send it and we'll get it in the notes. That sounds like a really interesting one and Hey, it's great to have caught up. It's great to see you as well. I hope,

Andy Rotherham:

Again, soon we've got some upcoming, we've got some exciting guests coming. So we will I've been traveling a lot as well. And so we will get back in a more regular cadence regular cadence soon. Looking forward to it. Hey, great to see you, Jed. Bye bye. Okay. Bye.