Budget, KC, Dallas, anthropologists, and the zen of Bill Murray

I get lots of emails from aspiring ed-policy wonks, so this first bullet is for that wayward crew. Understanding the annual federal-budget dance is key to your decent into wonkery. The pre-release, behind-the-scenes process is really quite interesting—e.g., negotiations between the Department, White House, OMB, and other associated agencies. That culminates in a series of documents (from formal congressional submissions to accessible fact sheets) that provide a picture of the administration’s priorities, or at least what the administration wants to public convey as its priorities. (This is just Phase 1; Congress takes over from here.) You might want to spend 30 minutes familiarizing yourself with these products and their contents—you can get your feet wet on this annual ritual and impress your friends at dinner parties! (“Once again, ED’s trying to make a go of TLIF, huh?”)

Per the budget request itself, the initial documents are generally purposely gauzy and vague; this is, after all, partially a public-relations exercise. So there’s only so much we can know until all of the gory details are released. But here are some quick thoughts: More for i3? Quietly chugging along but very interesting ARPA angle. Money for charter replications? Great, but how about the DCOSP? High school redesign? Start new schools, don’t remake old ones. Flat-line-formula grant programs (Title I, IDEA)? Meh. Another push for TLIF? I’m a TIF fan, and these changes are generally good with me. More turnaround money for dysfunctional districts? Egad.

I met the co-founder of myEDmatch at a stop in Kansas City on my National Agitation Tour. It’s a fascinating innovation with all kinds of potential. If you’re a teacher looking for the perfect place to work, or if you just like to keep abreast of compelling developments in the field, give it a look.

I met Mike Miles a couple years ago when I was helping put together New Jersey’s teacher-evaluation pilot program. Miles was a superintendent of a small Colorado district and had developed a truly remarkable evaluation-development-compensation system; we learned a great deal from him. He recently moved on to lead Dallas’s giant school system. He has a remarkable background, and he’s a real talent; check out this article about his drive for great principals. I still believe strongly that the traditional urban school district is unfixable, even when great leaders like Miles are in charge. But I sure wish him luck.

Two recent articles in the Atlantic deserve a read. This piece about anthropology and ethnography in advertising research is fascinating, and it also rekindles a question I’ve had for some time. Though we’ve had reporters and educators write about high-performing high-poverty schools, we’ve never had (to my knowledge) this kind of forensic research done on these remarkable institutions. I do wonder what a trained anthropologist would say about what’s happening inside these schools. Second, if you like really good writing about unexpected topics (meaning you just really like good writing), read this piece about Groundhog Day.

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