Hello, Education Lab readers!
In our last edition of the Education Lab newsletter, we told you there would be a break this week. That’s still true. But I didn’t want to let a week go by without sharing a few education headlines.
Usually we share our favorite stories first in the “What We’re Reading” section of the newsletter, but today, we’re meeting you right here.
So relax, enjoy our selection of stories and subscribe to the newsletter if you don’t already. We’ll be back with our regularly-scheduled programming next week.
An entrepreneur and local charter-school promoter changes his mind about a key question: Can education alone solve America’s rising inequities? Venture capitalist — and University of Washington alum — Nick Hanauer writes in an essay for The Atlantic that he used to think the answer was yes. Fix education, he thought, “and we could cure much of what ails America.” So he joined well-heeled education philanthropists Bill Gates, Alice Walton and Paul Allen in spending money to help get Washington state to pass a ballot measure that allowed the creation of charter schools, which are publicly funded and privately operated.
But over time, he said, he’s come to believe that this line of thinking is “tragically misguided.” Improving education alone is not enough. It’s impossible to solve America’s problems, he writes, without directly addressing the economic policies that created wealth inequality.
For years, some politicians have argued that for all the efforts put into reforming school finance, giving more money won’t improve quality in public schools. One such politician is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has said, “continued federal funding to try to fix problems has not yielded the results we’ve all hoped for.” But Education Week looked at relevant research and found that researchers view this perspective as “simplistic, reductionist.”
According to the publication, money matters if it’s spent appropriately and if people continue to track exactly what it funds. Recent research has tied increases in infrastructure and teacher pay with low-income students making better test scores. Sometimes, though, pitfalls in spending, such as the increasing creep of health care and pension costs, can in fact hinder growth.
High schools in remote, rural areas often lack the college-advising resources that bigger or better-off schools might have. As a result, students there who want to go to college often don’t have the tools they need, from test preparation to help writing essays to an understanding of financial aid and scholarships. In recent years, virtual college counselors have cropped up to help bridge the difference. The Hechinger Report looked at a few that operate by phone, text, email or video conferencing. Though the programs are “relatively untested” and limited in their reach, the education-focused publication reports that if successful, “they could expand to help lift the prospects of more teens from rural communities who … remain less likely to attend college.”