WonkyFolk Vol 3 – The Amnesia Episode

Greetings, CharterFolk!

This week, Andy and I are talking about Amnesia.  Amnesia about A Nation at Risk.  Amnesia about Covid responses.  And Jed wishing he could have amnesia about the King’s game on April 30, 2023.

Here is a link to our conversation where you can listen to the podcast.  And for those of you who would prefer a video recording, we provide a link to YouTube as well.

This week some of the topics we discuss include the following:

Jed’s desired amnesia and a recommended moment of silence for the Kings (00.00.33)

The 40th anniversary of the report, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform and amnesia regarding its impact (00.01.59)

  • Why the American economy has been able to persist despite the problems in education (00.04.59)
  • The equity shift to ensure the hyper-talented kids in the lowest quintile get the opportunity to go to college (00.10.05)
  • Why we think the Economist’s coverage of education lately has been really good (00.11.43)
  • A recognition of Marshall (Mike) Smith’s impact and role in A Nation at Risk (00.12.07)
  • The historical amnesia during last week’s Congressional committee hearing framed in terms of good guys versus bad guys (00.13.12)
  • Randi Weingarten’s modus operandi and lack of responsibility (00.15.19)

Amnesia regarding the impacts of the Covid pandemic (00.17.20)

  • Politics in urban settings – blue, red, and purple state politics (00.22.13)
  • New York realities and ironies (00.23.23)
  • The post Janus poker game (00.25.29)
  • Virginia’s new content standards (00.28.17)
  • The need to help students learn how to grapple with a spectrum of ideas (00.30.55)
  • The materials, tools, and training teachers need for this content (00.35.33)
  • The value adds of the Core Knowledge Approach (00.36.57)

The show notes are available via the podcast.

As ever, I’m eager to hear feedback and suggestions from CharterFolk.  So, if you have a chance to listen to the discussion and want to drop me a line with some thoughts, feel free to reach me at jed@charterfolk.org.

If you haven’t yet heard the first and second volumes of WonkyFolk, you can access them here.

Meanwhile, I thank you once again for being part of the CharterFolk community and for the efforts you are making to improve educational opportunity in our country.

WonkyFolk is a discussion series between Andy Rotherham and Jed Wallace intended to provide an informative and engaging forum where education reformers can grapple with tough issues related to our shared quest to improve educational opportunity in our country.

If you have ideas for WonkyFolk discussion topics, please email me!


What I Asked Sal Khan to Say 12 Years Ago, and He Refused, But What I’d Again Ask Him to Say Now More than Ever | Of All the Places They Won’t Let a New Charter School Open

Weekend greetings, CharterFolk.

Ample new evidence mounts that a surge in charter school momentum is emerging.

Yet another state is joining charterland …

… due in no small part to effective advocacy coming from the National Alliance.

We also saw a third-of-a-loaf breakthrough in New York …

… along with a dozen and a half new loaves in Arkansas …

… and whole ovens-full …

… in the Carolinas …

… where no matter how many schools we open, we still end up with tens of thousands of students on waiting lists and legislators trying to do more to facilitate even faster growth.

By your high open rates, I sense that my last post about our sadly Dysfunctional Public Schools

… resonated.

Tragically, the dysfunction depicted therein …

… goes on and on, like the latest dysfunction that came to light in Stockton this week.

Dysfunction is what makes the yeast rise in the new loaves of momentum that are leavening across Charterland right now.

It’s most prevalent in places where the traditional system’s mistreatment of historically underserved students has been most prevalent …

… leading to charter schools like Aspire charting out a new North Star toward greater excellence and equity for all …

… amplifying the surge in charter school growth.

Charter school enrollment has grown by 30% in San Joaquin County over the past five years.

This is happening in California where policy makers try to figure out ways to keep yeast from rising.

But still it rises.

Look at San Bernadino where modern-day dysfunction in traditional public schools …

… follows in a long sad history of unfairness that was baked into the system’s design …

… resulting in CharterFolk within organizations like the Fortune School leading the quest for greater equity and excellence …

… amplifying again the surge in charter school growth.

Charter school enrollment has grown by over 60% in San Bernadino County in just the past five years.

All this resurgence in charter school momentum happens against a backdrop of profound change happening at the nexus of globalism, technology and education.

Last week the ASU+GSV Summit happened. GSV Founder Michael Moe led off the gathering with his keynote. At the mid-point he shared this striking slide.

Homeschooling is simply exploding.

Ed reformers are already keyed into the fact that embedded within the broader homeschooling growth story is a five-fold increase in Black families taking education into their own hands.

Recent polling out of EdChoice confirms that overwhelming majorities of Black parents support school choice programs, and only tiny minorities oppose them.

Much of the talk at ASU+GSV focused on the potential impact of ChatGPT on public education. Bill Gates’s comments about AI tutors only being 18 months away from teaching students reading and writing (which come at the 37:45 point) …

… made headlines around the world.

Awareness of the transformational impact that AI is having on homeschooling is now entering the public consciousness such that we may soon be seeing homeschool pitches on Shark Tank!

In terms of focus on how schools may attempt to incorporate new ChatGPT capabilities into their practices, all eyes were on Sal Khan, who blew many away with his presentation on Khanmigo.

In 2011, we invited Khan to keynote at the CCSA Conference. At the end of our prep call in advance of his speech, he asked if there was any one message he would like me to share with the people who would be in attendance.

I said, “Yes. Please say: ‘If you charter school people don’t use your freedoms and autonomies to more quickly and successfully integrate into your academic programs the new technologies that are poised to accelerate student learning, you like the traditional public school system will be relegated to the ash heap of history.'”

His reponse?

“Yeah. I’m not saying that.”


But my request of him today would be the same, only with even more urgency.

In Andy’s and my inaugural WonkyFolk recording, I ended with the prediction that the emergence of ChatGPT will “accelerate the forming of new educational models that ultimately are going to challenge our public education system much more than it will empower it.”

I stand by that.

Traditional public schools, which have feet cast in concrete, will simply not be able to adapt. Meanwhile, millions of parents who now have vastly improved tools at their disposal will cross the threshold into Do-it-Yourself education, and a significant portion of those parents will come from historically underserved backgrounds.

And charter schools? Where will we end up?

In my opinion, it hangs in the balance.

If we evolve our instructional models and build our advocacy strength at the pace that is within our potential, the surge in charter school momentum now underway will look like a rounding error.

But if we don’t?

It’s why I think of that conversation with Sal Khan before his keynote.

Which leads me back to the top of this column,.

To the third of a loaf in New York.

Eva, as she always does, put the matter in its proper frame:

Just think of that, CharterFolk.

Of all the places, of all the places, what would be the one place where it is now illegal to open a charter school in the State of New York?



Like we wouldn’t want places like Harlem Children’s Zone building upon the incredible progress it has made …

… and we wouldn’t want many other phenomenal charter schools in Harlem building upon their progress too.

In the face of generations of wanton dysfunction and outright discrimination.

A third of a loaf, when what the moment requires is vast bakeries of new opportunity.

In this day and age, the families of Harlem, like families everywhere, are either going to get what they want of public schools, or they are going to go in other directions, including many of their own making.

It puts the challenge in front of us in perfect repose:

Regarding the urgent need to both evolve of our instructional models and grow our advocacy strength, what else is there to say today other than what I asked Sal Khan to say a dozen years ago:

Faster, CharterFolk!