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Politico pushed as front-page news — we swore up and down it was an opinion piece — an article framing Republican political dominance in the growing city/suburb of Mesa, Arizona as a “a glimpse of the GOP’s coming urban revival.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/09/mesa-arizona-are-conservative-cities-better-111069.html#ixzz3DmyeTp00

However, nowhere in the more than 3,000-word opus did Politico even consider posing the question of whether Mesa’s demographics might influence its political persuasion.

While the article asserts that Mesa has a “sizable” Hispanic population, in reality, it is 77% White with only 14.8% of persons living in poverty versus the similarly-sized city of Atlanta, which has 38% White residents and more than 24% living in poverty.

By the way, for some reason Atlanta does not trend Republican.

So when Politico declares Mesa is a Republican model for American cities, what kind of change are they really advocating for?

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The Daily Texan, the student-newspaper for the University of Texas - Austin, recently ran an article with the headline: "UTPD, APD Emphasize Diversity in Police Force" that compared Austin Police Department’s demographics against the City of Austin.

The problem is, they used census numbers which totaled to 118%, by citing a White population percentage that incorporated Hispanics.  However, there is another number readily available in census tables that cites non-Hispanic Whites.

A comment we posted on that ‘news’ article is shared below:

While Austin’s police department vs. community demographic, or ‘cultural congruence’ may be more in line than other cities, we should not spike the ball on the 20-yard line and walk away. The numbers as presented (and accompanying self-congratulatory rhetoric) conceal evidence of disparity. If you add up the Austin Census numbers given, the total is 117.8% (68.3 + 35.1 + 8.1 + 6.3). Comparing a 118% total against a 100% total makes it hard to compare accurately.

If the reporter had looked at the bottom of the US Census “snapshot” chart, they would see a number for “White, Non-Hispanic” which for Austin in 2010-2013 is only 48.7 percent.

So in a city with 48.7 percent non-Hispanic Whites, we have a police force comprised of 69 percent non-Hispanic White officers. That’s 142% representation (69/48.7) for Whites, versus a Hispanic population that is only 59.8% represented (21/35.1), and an Asian population that is only 15.9% represented (1/6.3).

It is important to ensure that even student reporters and editors (who are typically paid, and represent the flagship Texas university) run a common sense check before falling prey to flawed claims of racial equity.

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Creative Destruction in Education by Michael Barnes

In a presentation today before an audience of 100 law and business students at UT Austin, I introduced them to the idea that there is a potent intersection between startup entrepreneurship and education.

Note: I use “quote marks” here to designate startup jargon that correlates well to the education reform debate, with a focus on Charter Schools.

The premise behind the presentation may draw (valid?) critiques within the field of education research and education policy.  My premise is that the charter school “market” represents a process of “creative destruction” that upends an existing market monopoly (i.e. traditional public school systems). 

Critics may lean toward arguing that Charter Schools’ entrance into K-12 education is simply destruction, and not creation.  And, as a teacher of 7 years in a low-income traditional public school, I am very sensitive to the oft-degrading stereotypes (education reform “memes,” really) of the passionate educators working in public school systems.  I believe, in education as in politics, that ad hominem attacks are inherently counter-productive. 

However, I believe with a more transparent “branding,” Charter Schools can play a powerful role in being experimental spaces in which innovation emerges.

And critics often admit that there can be a useful place and role for Charter Schools.  As an example, Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, a frequent skeptic of existing Charter Management Organizations’ (CMO’s) claims, sits on the board of a charter school (UT Elementary) and recently said that charters can be used to drive innovation.

That said, the presentation uses a case study — my involvement in Austin Achieve Public Schools (as this is not formal research, we’ve foregone anonymity, and I believe any attention will ultimately be fruitful and beneficial for Austin Achieve) — to drive the conversation.

Austin Achieve recently executed a “pivot” process to steer toward our vision of excellence.  Additionally, I highlight startup concepts and corresponding examples from (primarily) the charter school “niche market.”

I’m looking for another venue in which I might be able to record the presentation — or perhaps I can use a production application — because a lot of meaning is lost with only the “slide-deck.”

This is really a high-level introduction of a concept I expect to flesh out during my tenure as a doctoral student in Educational Policy at UT.  Feel free to browse the presentation, and share feedback!

Michael Barnes is a doctoral student in Educational Policy and Planning (EPP) in the Department of Educational Administration (EDA) at UT.  His research focus is on the intersection of equity and excellence, including an emphasis on culturally responsive pedagogy and “startup skills,” respectively.

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If he were still in office today, how would George W. Bush have weighed in on the school “reform” movement? I pose several questions about hot topics in education reform— then I have responded with well-known G.W. quotes. In a few cases I have combined quotes and noted them as such.

Eli Broad, Michelle Rhee, etc.

Q: What do you think about Eli Broad’s “disruptive” and “unreseasonable” approach to education reform?

A: “When I take action, I’m not going to fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt. It’s going to be decisive.”

Charters and Vouchers

Q: How about charter and voucher approaches that help the few at the expense of the many?

A: “And so the fact that they purchased the machine meant somebody had to make the machine. And when somebody makes a machine, it means there’s jobs at the machine-making place.”

Mexican American Studies

Q: What is your opinion on the banning of Mexican American studies in the state of Arizona?

A: “Border relations between Canada and Mexico have never been better.”

High-Stakes Testing and Accountability

Q: Is education policy too focused on high-stakes testing and accountability?

A: “”I want it to be said that the Bush administration was a results-oriented administration, because I believe the results of focusing our attention and energy on teaching children to read and having an education system that’s responsive to the child and to the parents, as opposed to mired in a system that refuses to change, will make America what we want it to be - a more literate country and a hopefuller country.”

Teacher Quality

Q: What do you think about the data that shows that our society continues to disproportionately send under-certified and unprepared teachers to teach Black and Latina/o students?

A: “We ought to make the pie higher.”

Bilingual Education

Q: Do you support bilingual curriculum and ESL approaches in schools?

A: “Neither in French nor in English nor in Mexican.”

Common Core and Mandated Standards

Q: What is your opinion on standards and the Common Core?

A: “I hope the ambitious realize that they are more likely to succeed with success as opposed to failure.”

Diversity

Q: What do you think about diversity?

A: “I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully.”

School Privatization

Q: What is your view on the school privatization movement?

A: I’ve abandoned free market principles to save the free market system.”

Goal of Education

Q: Should we be focused on the economic benefits of our educational system?

A: “The problem with the French is that they don’t have a word for entrepreneur.”

Billionaires and Education “Reform” Movement

Q: Despite the money that billionaires are pumping into the “reform” movement, will public schools stay public?

A: “Haven’t we already given money to rich people? Why are we going to do it again?”

Thank you for your wisdom George W. We miss you. I am hopeful that our current leaders (elected and non-elected) will more consistently espouse your wisdom in our nation’s education policy debates.

With apologies to JVH

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John Danner, CEO of Zeal (former CEO of Rocketship Education) posted the following tweet:

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Danner references a wikipedia entry and poses a question and a challenge:  What would it take to place elementary and secondary teachers on the high prestige job rankings (top 20) by 2020?

However, we found that this goal has already been achieved as of 2009, depending on which survey is used.  It may be worthwhile to look a bit deeper at the details.

The not-so-valid wikipedia article Danner references is reinforced by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) list of occupations by prestige.  The list is based on all 1980 US Census occupation categories.  Only the top 20 “most prestigious” occupations are listed in the wikipedia entry.  However, the research was conducted in 1989.

The entire list (1989) reveals that educators (elementary and secondary teachers) rank above sociologists and economists, to name a few categories, but below the top 20 occupations as shown below (source: wikipedia):

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The first, and perhaps most important question is whether “prestige” as a concept should be rightly an ambition for teaching as a profession?

The second consideration is whether anything has changed (for better or worse) since 1989.  A quick survey of the research indicates that the 1989 survey is among the most rigorous and exhaustive inquiries into the topic in America.  However, a 2009 Harris Interactive poll found that teaching was among the most prestigious jobs in America.  Specifically:

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So perhaps an equally important question is whether wikipedia (due to its unreliable nature, should we update it?) is perpetuating a myth of low prestige for the teaching profession. 

However, humoring Danner we posed to him the question of whether there is a correlation between prestige and other common factors, such as scarcity of access to the position (Judges, CEOs, in particular), and median income.

Danner’s response (tweet, sic) : "I’m sure pay does [correlate], not sure about scarcity, lots of lawyers out there. We will see big pay increases this decade, not enough"

The 1989 NORC survey was based on respondents’ impressions of each job category, so scarcity and income were not explicitly included in the creation of the rankings.  However, a 1992 report (Nakao and Treas, 1992) compared the 1989 NORC survey to an older ranking of prestige based on census data (education + median pay) called Duncan’s Socioeconomic Index (SEI).  The authors found a strong correlation between ratings for prestige and the SEI ratings.

Scarcity may also play a role.  Consider that there are currently near 3.3 million (3,300k) public school teachers in America, compared to less than 900k doctors.  As for lawyers, which Danner referenced?  Not much more than 1.2 million (1,225k).  All these numbers are based on sources from 2010-2012.

When access to a position is inherently limited (perhaps by factors such as educational attainment, but also market factors) it may be easier to view it as prestigious, through its exclusive nature.

Either way, the data is inconclusive as to what is or is not a prestigious occupation in America in 2013, and this includes the role of educator.  A reboot of the data would be worthwhile for those that believe prestige is essential to the recruitment of a talented teacher workforce.

the data is inconclusive as to what is or is not a prestigious occupation in America in 2013, and this includes the role of educator.

Furthermore, we would be curious to see present-day respondents’ data compared to factors such as median pay and scarcity to determine what’s really at play in the formation of these impressions of prestige.

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We are students of Educational Policy at the University of Texas - Austin. We accept submissions from Master’s and Doctoral students.  Collaboration is encouraged!