Deborah Loewenberg Ball, Alex Nock, David Cleary and moderator James Kvaal have a lively discussion on the current state of education in the U.S. and where it may go under a Trump administration. November, 2017.
>> Susan M. Collins: With no further ado good afternoon, I'm Susan Collins, the Joan and Sanford Weill Dean here at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public policy and delighted to see all of you here with us this afternoon. I really have been looking forward to what promises to be a terrific policy talks on the future of education policy in the United States, a really important topic. So before we begin I'd like to thank the Education Policy Initiative, which is cohosting today's event and also the Harry A. Margaret T. Towsley Foundation for making today's event possible. That's really very important for all of us. I want to particularly acknowledge Don and Judy Rumelhart and Lynn and Stuart White who are here with us today and Lynn and Judy, we are so appreciative of all the support that your family has provided to us over the years and are really grateful that you are able to join us for today's event, so welcome.
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So named for their parents the Harry A. Margaret D. Towsley foundation policymaker in residence program was established here at the Ford School in 2002. And the goal of that program is to bring individuals with significant policymaking experience here to the Ford School to engage with students and faculty and with people throughout the University of Michigan. And this year the Ford School is really honored to have James Kvaal as this year's Towsley Foundation policymaker in residence. Prior to joining the Ford School James served as special assistant to President Obama and Deputy Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. He's a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School and previously served as Deputy under Secretary at the US Department of Education, as well as special assistant to the president for economic policy. And there he helped shape policy development on higher education, student financial aid and labor markets. And he's also served in positions in the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Clinton White House. Well while at the Ford School James has participated in a large number of activities and he's teaching two courses for us, one on US higher education system and the other on the policymaking process and implementation of healthcare reform. He's also developed quite a fan club here among public policy and education and I see a number of students in our audience here and I just wanted to say that I know many of them are here not just because of extra credit, but for a variety of other reasons as well. So today in the midst of really a major shift in the political landscape James has assembled a panel of experts to address the future of early education K-12 and higher education policies in the United States. He'll introduce our distinguished panelists more fully in just a moment and there are also bios in your programs. And so for now I'd just like to offer a very warm Ford School welcome to Alex Nock, David Clearly, and Deborah Ball we're delighted to have you here with us this afternoon.
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So before I turn things over to James I'd like to remind our audience that if you have a question, please write it on one of the cards that you should have received as you came into the auditorium this afternoon. Ford School volunteers will begin collecting cards at around 4:30, so you can pass them to the ends of the aisles. And with help from Sarah Cannon, one of our postdoctoral fellows at EPI, and two of James' students, Joe Shea and Anna's Strivich [phonetic], they will help to read your questions and facilitate the Q&A session. If you're watching online, please Tweet in your questions to us using the hashtag policy talks. And so James, I'm delighted to turn the floor over to you.
>> James Kvaal: Thank you Dean Collins for that wonderful introduction and for making me feel so welcome here. I also want to thank the Towsley family, my students, my colleagues here, it's been a wonderful fall for me. Usually we think of elections as settling questions about the source, the direction of government and this year maybe is a little more different in that the election results raise more questions than they answered. And I think that's true for a couple of reasons. One is that Donald Trump was elected by a coalition that's a little bit different than the typical Republican coalition. He was elected by a populist conservative coalition. And so it will be interesting to see if there are places in which he pursues policies that are different from those favored by most Republicans and by Republicans in Congress. Secondly, generally new presidents are committed to carrying out their policy platforms as articulated in the campaign. But in this case, the president-elect seems uncommitted to some of the specifics in his policies and there've been, you know, numerous news reports in recent days about the president-elect or his advisors walking back some of the specifics of his campaign proposals. And third and perhaps most importantly, it is not really clear where these decisions are going to be made. The ideological makeup of the president's senior advisors in the cabinet is still in question as he tries to grow beyond the core group that advised him during the campaign. And although he badly needs in my opinion help from more professional longtime Republicans experienced in governing the chaos around his organization has made it difficult to bring those types of advisors in. Some people think that in this administration the substantive agenda will be driven more by Congress than by the administration. So it's really not clear what types of people will be making these decisions or even where they'll be sitting. All this uncertainty is also happening at a very interesting time in education policy in the area of elementary and secondary education. We passed an important piece of legislation a year ago reforming the No Child Left Behind Act that moved a lot of authority around, decisions for school accountability, and standardized testing back to the states. So there's unanswered questions around what states will do with this additional flexibility and to what extent the federal government should erect so-called guardrails around the degree of choices that they'll have. The issues of college costs and student debt have perhaps never been more salient and for the first time in my memory we're often near the very top of the list of voters' policy concerns. And finally, the election itself was in some ways a reaction to frustration over stagnant living standards that many Americans have seen for several decades now. And while education policy is not likely to be the only solution to those problems, it's hard to imagine addressing those problems without a sustained effort to help more people get more and better education. So with all of those questions in mind we're fortunate to have such an excellent panel here today to help us wade through these. And here on the panel starting from closest to me is Deborah Ball who is one of the nation's leading education researchers. She is the William H. Payne Collegiate Professor of Education here at the University of Michigan and an Arthur Thurnau professor. She just completed 11 years as dean at the UM School of Education last summer. She serves on the board of the National Science Foundation. She is the president-elect of the American Educational Research Association. And she is the director of Teaching Works, which is a new project to develop comprehensive professional training for new teachers both before they start and in their first three years of service. She taught elementary school for more than 15 years and continues to teach math to elementary students in the summer. Next to Deborah is Alex Nock. Alex is perhaps the textbook definition of a Washington insider on education policy. He also was born here in Ann Arbor, so he is a Wolverine through and through. He is the cofounder and principal at the Penn Hill Group, which is an education policy consulting firm in Washington. Prior to that he served for 15 years on the democratic staff of the House of Education Committee, ultimately serving as deputy staff director during student loan reform in the first two years of the Obama administration. And he's worked on virtually every important piece of education legislation in that time, including the Higher Education Act, the Workforce Investment Act, the Individual Disabilities Education Act and many more. His advice on education policy and legislative strategy is widely listened to in Washington. And then finally on my far left is David Cleary. David is likely to be one of the most influential people in Washington on education policy over the next couple of years. He is the chief of staff to Senator Lamar Alexander and the staff director for the committee that Senator Alexander chairs, the Senate Help Committee, which governs education issues. Senator Alexander is known as one of the most effective legislators in the Senate and he was also a Secretary of Education and the president of the University of Tennessee. David has worked closely with Senator Alexander for more than a decade and started his career as a career civil servant at the Department of Education. So with all that I wanted to start with a question for Deborah and that is, you know, over the last 20 to 25 years we have had a single strategy for improving our schools, our K-12 schools and that centered around defining standards for what students should learn and trying to hold schools and teachers accountable for that. I know we have, you know, as states are looking to make changes to their accountability regimes and our schools get increasingly diverse both racially and economically. You know, what is the legacy of standards-based reform and is that the strategy our nation ought to continue to pursue?
>> Deborah Loewenberg Ball: Yeah, thank you James and I'm really very honored to be here on this panel. I think it's a good question because the strategy that the United States has been using from the federal perspective to try to improve what young people in this country learn has been pretty consistently similar even though it's had different names. It's involved as you said very well setting academic standards named different things in different decades and installing testing regimes of one kind or another. So it's kind of a mean where you're supposed to be and then test to see if we get there. And pretty much consistently neglects what it would take to actually get to young people in a way that would change what they're having opportunities to learn. And so in many ways inequality is in the mean not being reduced, in fact being increased. And the things that we don't tend to know how to do something about is what happens inside of classrooms. And so we keep trying to pull levers that we imagine will affect classrooms, but don't. And earlier than that before the era of standards-based reform that has shown up in shadows during this period are curriculum reforms, so not just standards but the building of materials. So in the 1990's, there was a large investment by the National Science Foundation in mathematics curriculum materials in the hopes of changing the math curriculum, but we had seen that before too in the 1960s. So whatever we do we seem to manage the problem of local control and a large scale of our country by pulling levers that don't actually get all the way inside the classroom and then what we get is enormous variability and the reproduction of inequality. I mean that's the simplest way I can answer that, but I think your question is very well-posed. Can we find a strategy that takes advantage of what we understand about what it takes to change what goes on inside of classrooms that students actually have chances to learn?
>> James Kvaal: So David you were one of the primary authors of the legislation amending No Child Left Behind Act last year. I wonder what you thought were the proper roles for the federal government and for states in trying to answer the direction of school reform and what if anything you're hoping that states will accomplish with the greater flexibility that they have now.
>> David Cleary: Sure, well thanks for the opportunity to be here. The Every Student Succeeds Act was the result of, you know, seven years of the Congress trying to figure out a path away from No Child Left Behind. No Child Left Behind passed in 2001, it was a big, broad bipartisan bill everybody loved it for about two years. And then the realities of the accountability system set up in No Child Left Behind started to come into play in the from our perspective kind of the unthinking top-down structure of how to identify a school and what to do about a school started to hurt states and local school boards and the schools in trying to figure out how to fix what was going wrong. And kind of what she was saying about we pull these levers in Washington, but it doesn't really fix the solution in the classroom. So kind of after a long period of malaise on how to fix No Child Left Behind we worked with Patty Murray and Bobby Scott and John Klein and the consensus that we reached was to kind of keep the standards, states pick them not a federal standard and keep the federal tests so we have some transparency and data and making sure that we're not leaving groups behind or if groups aren't performing well that we can identify where to solve it. But instead of kind of a Washington-based identification system and sanction system turn that back to the states and say the states have the tests. You figure what to do with it, you figure out how to intervene in schools, where to intervene, when to intervene and move away from kind of the Washington-based No Child Left Behind and the wavers from Secretary Duncan, which kind of controlled how to fix a school. And really restore a lot of that to the local school boards trying to figure out how to fix that. So I think that's kind of our general operating premise is have standards, have tests, report regularly to parents and teachers and the public. But then when you identify schools that are not doing very well you need to figure out what interventions you're going to do to try to fix it.
>> James Kvaal: So Alex, one of the things that the Obama administration has tried to do in the year since the law passed has set in place a number of rules that provide some boundaries to what states can do with the additional flexibility. You know, do you think -- what is at stake in those rules, are those roles likely to survive in the Trump administration and, you know, what does that mean for our schools?
>> Alex Nock: I mean certainly the Obama administration, you know, had a goal with their regulatory efforts to help further define term their view on what Congress intended with the Every Student Succeeds Act. I mean I think the short answer on whether or not some of those regulatory initiatives will survive or probably not. You know, you have a situation where there is even on some of the regulations proposed in the K-12 arena by the Obama administration probably bipartisan support to kind of get rid of some of them. I think the question then is going to become is, you know, how does a Trump administration react to either state questions or state policy decisions around it. But certainly, you know, what I think the Obama administration was trying to do, which was essentially was further their goals and further kind of the goals they view as what Congress had intended in terms of trying to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act whether it be around accountability, whether it be around, you know, the kind of quality of assessments that are out there and the standards that states had. They are running into a little bit of a political buzz saw though in terms of what happened with the election which you kind of mentioned earlier so.
>> James Kvaal: David, I wanted to go back to you. One of Mr. Trump's most prominent education proposals on the campaign trail was a $20 billion proposal to create school choice, including private school vouchers. Is that something that you think Congress is likely to entertain in the near-term or is that likely to be, you know, more aspirational or something that Congress will take up, you know, sometime in the not quite so foreseeable future?
>> David Cleary: I think for as a matter of legislation it's likely to be more aspirational. The president-elect's proposal was modeled after legislation that Senator Alexander had introduced and we voted on in the Senate and we didn't get 50 votes even though we had a Republican majority. There are from our perspective unfortunately, a fair number of Republican Senators that don't support that type of a program or don't currently support. Maybe they'll change their mind with a president that's favorable to it. But the hill is pretty steep to climb to get to a majority. And in the Senate you need to get to 60, so it's even steeper. But I think there are things that the administration could do outside of legislation to promote school choice, to advance school choice, you know, the bully pulpit is a very powerful thing. You know, thinking back to Bill Bennett when he was secretary of education and went to Chicago and declared it to be the worst school district in the country and that spurred Chicago to say holy heck, what's going on and make some change. So if you have a secretary of education, a president running around the country saying school choice is a solution to a lot of the problems that we see in schools you can create more opportunities for local choice, for state choice, for experiments like the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program. So I think we're more likely to see those types of solutions instead of an actual accomplishment. Lamar would love to see one pass the Senate, but there's a lot of folks to count between now and then.
>> James Kvaal: Deborah, another flashpoint in the Obama administration's policies has been its efforts to promote a specific regime of teacher evaluation and connecting teacher compensation to how well students perform on standardized tests. It seems as if the pendulum is swinging away from that policy. On the other hand, we read in the paper this morning that president-elect Trump met with Michelle Rhee and she brought up the possibility of teacher merit pay as an issue she would like to see the Trump administration pursue. You know, what do you see, you know, what do you think of the merits of these policies and what do you see as the landscape for them going forward?
>> Deborah Loewenberg Ball: Well, I think many people know that Michigan as a state worked to have a new educator evaluation policy four years ago and that I was very involved in that. And one of the things we tried to do in Michigan was to take the imperative to build an evaluation system and focusing on improvement, which is not the way most of the educator evaluation systems were built. They were mostly built to be punitive on the assumption that most teachers would do the right job if somebody held a stick over them and that they're just refraining from doing the right job. And teacher merit pay is a similar strategy it seems to suggest that the reason teachers aren't teaching better is because they're not paid enough or that someone isn't looking over their shoulders when it completely overlooks the fact that teaching is an incredibly complicated thing to do well, particularly in the face of the incredible diversity of our nation and the ambitious standards that we just talked about. And so educator evaluation as somewhat similar to standards-based reform for K-12 children in that it sets out some level of performance and then punishes, rewards if you hit it. So once again, rather than thinking about how you can improve the quality of teaching we find ways to move around it. And, you know, you can't imagine doing that in any other sector. I mean I give foolish and maybe not so foolish examples. Imagine if we and nobody likes these comparisons, imagine we tried to improve healthcare by setting standards for what it looks like when a patient is healthy and then ask patients afterwards or measure whether they were healthy and didn't worry about the preparation of healthcare professionals. It would be very odd we wouldn't expect anything to happen, but we wouldn't expect that to happen, you know, with flying planes or any other occupation. We always worry about the safety of the clients and the skill of the people who do that work, but somehow in education we manage to try to do everything that works around the actual people who helps kids Learn other than either get close to them, to punish them, reward them or do things about what they're supposed to manipulate. So until we have a strategy that actually takes responsibility for the quality of teaching I'm not that sanguine that we're likely to see very much that can improve the quality of what do kids have opportunities to learn in this country.
>> David Cleary: Can I jump into that? I think Professor Ross is right I think that it's really hard to do it well and to do it right. I think, you know, Lamar would call it the Holy Grail of education reform. If we can find ways to pay teachers more for teaching well that is fair and justifiable and valid and reliable I think that it could be very transformative for education. But it has often been used as a punitive way to punish teachers or kind of an unthinking way to just give, you know, the same amount of money to a couple of teachers that, you know, kind of won the genetic lottery in the classroom.
>> Deborah Loewenberg Ball: Can I ask about a question, he gave me permission to do that. How do you imagine, what's you theory of action that by which by paying somebody more money they will do better work? I understand the possibly that if someone is doing better work you might choose to reward them, but as a strategy for improvement how do you imagine, how do you trace that in your mind of how that would improve people's teaching?
>> David Cleary: Well I think it's the inverse of what you said. I think if they're teaching well you pay them more to reward success.
>> Deborah Loewenberg Ball: Right, but what we need is four million to teach in ways that meet the needs of a very diverse student population, diverse in ways that we've never seen in this country. So I'm asking how does it work as an improvement strategy not as a reward strategy.
>> David Cleary: I think all, you know, human beings respond to incentives right and so I think that if teachers see that there is a system that is fair and reliable that rewards better performance that can help incentivize them to making sure they stay up on education pedagogy. That they stay up on things like curriculum improvements. I think we have to make sure that we're looking at not just kind of the status of a test, but I think you look at growth and making sure that they are responding to the population in their classroom, so you reward them for that. That you bring, you know, if students are really low on the test and then you bring them up high maybe, you know, maybe they're making progress and that's something that you can reward. I think it kind of depends on the robustness of what it is that you're looking at and that's why it's so hard to do. So I think that we, you know, it would be ill-advised to as it was on under the Obama administration to kind of set a national policy that this is something everybody has to do and then states have to send in their teacher evaluation system to the federal government to get approved because it's too complex, it's too difficult to do at a national level. I think, you know, the teacher incentive fund was created as a federal competitive grant program to experiment with it and see what works and see what doesn't work and learn from it. And, you know, I think we do more of that instead of saying here's a federal policy that everybody has to do and which it usually ends up punitive.
>> James Kvaal: Alex, I want to ask you a teacher-related question too, which was, you know, last year before Justice Scalia passed away it appeared that the Supreme Court was going to make it impossible for teacher unions to require teachers to pay dues to unions. And now that it appears that President Trump will have the opportunity to fill that seat on the Supreme Court is that a case that is likely to come back and what will the implications of right to work laws, nationwide right to work laws have on teacher unions and education policy?
>> Alex Nock: Maybe just one thing before I answer that. I'm sure what you were probably saying too that it's not the only kind of organism to improve, you know, it's one aspect of how you might improve teacher quality or teacher effectiveness to incentivize. I'm sure there are many, many more which we could talk about as well. But in terms of the Supreme Court issue, yeah that case could definitely come back. And if you're focused on kind of some of the other actually aspects that I think Deborah was getting at here about, you know, under what conditions do teachers work under, what supports do they have, what resources do they, you know, the everyday kind of experience of teachers dramatically different depending on where they teach and what school district. And ensuring that teachers have collective bargaining rights and that unions are strong to be able to advocate for certain work protections and access to resources, be able to do their jobs is very important. Obviously, a Trump administration could depending on who they select as a justice, you know, there have been very famous justices selected by members of both political persuasions that turned out to be very different on a lot of issues. But that certainly could have some sort of chilling effect on the ability of unions to organize and, therefore, kind of represent workers in their ability to ensure they have the tools to do their job. How that impacts the national education conversation might be different, but in terms of just workforce protections yeah, absolutely it could come back.
>> James Kvaal: So I want to switch a little bit to higher education and one area that the Obama administration worked on a lot was for-profit colleges and that industry is very differently situated now than it was eight years ago. On the day after the election the stocks of a number of publicly traded for-profit colleges were up by double digits. I wonder David what your view is about what the election means for for-profit colleges is new administration likely to change course there?
>> David Cleary: Sure, I would say probably absolutely. I think the Obama administration has been very zealous as you and I have talked about for a number of years about their prosecution of the for-profit sector. In some cases with good cause there have been some examples of some really bad outcomes and results and fraud. But I think the Trump administration is unlikely to pursue any of that. They'll, you know, turn off the attorney general, turn off the FTC, they'll turn off the CFPB, all of those things. And I think it'll turn back to Congress, which is probably where it should be for Congress to try and figure out what to do about accountability in higher education writ large. You know, I think most of the as I've said to you for years, the Republican concerns about gainful employment and all of that are not going after bad actors, but it's going after one sector just for the sake of going after that sector. So think that you'll see hopefully an opportunity for Congress to come together and try and figure out accountability in higher education that looks at all sectors fairly and equally and tries to figure out what is it that we want out of an institution of higher education. What are the results, what are the inputs and the outputs and then measure those fairly and then let the chips fall where they may. If a fair system disproportionately falls on one sector, but the system underlying it is fair I don't know that you'd get very many Republicans that would be upset about it. But the perception and in many cases the reality is that what's been going on hasn't been fair.
>> James Kvaal: Yeah, do you want to get in on that Alex?
>> Alex Nock: Yeah, just in a sense that I do wonder, you know, certainly I think I agree with David's baseline kind of prediction that it certainly won't be the same as an Obama or even a possible Clinton administration would have been for-profit schools. I think that I don't know if I were a for-profit school I would necessarily think though that the, you know, that there's no pressure that's going to be on me or no kind of impact. I think to David's point, you know, there is an increasing interest in Congress, you know, about looking at some of the outcomes of what all schools are producing whether, you know, and different people have different opinions about what the outcome might be that you want to look at. Whether it's default rates or earnings or loan repayment rates or what percentage of your -- this isn't really an outcome, but it's an input per se. But what percentage of, you know, students in our institutions enrolling that are Pell grant eligible or your graduation rates. And, you know, that if applied across for David's point across, you know, all types of schools will impact for-profits, nonprofits, private nonprofits. And I think that I wouldn't necessarily, I think some people are viewing the Trump election as kind of the end of an oversight mechanism. I wonder if it's the beginning of a larger kind of effort to look at the impact of how institutions are doing on a number of metrics. I will say that on the for-profit side of things the critics of that industry are not gone from Congress whether you have Senator Warren for Massachusetts, Dick Durbin from Illinois and other senators I guess primarily in the Senate Democrats. Not that there are house Democrats that also speak to this issue. Those members are still there and anxious to gain kind of attention for their points of view.
>> James Kvaal: Deborah.
>> Deborah Loewenberg Ball: I think it's kind of an elephant in the room that might be worth talking to. So you opened by asking me about standards-based reform and pretty everything we've been talking about is in one form or another. Some form of accountability or rewards or setting goals. And what I'm arguing is that that stays outside of practice and that if one wants to improve things for young people you have to get a practice whether they're college students or young people. And the only thing that came out of the policy landscape in the last decade was the common core and you haven't asked about that. So the common core while it is about academic standards or was is actually a different strategy than everything else we've seen and it might be with talking about what is it about it that would've been different or would be different and why is it that it went awry or is going awry. And that is actually not quite the same thing as setting standards because it was an effort to interrupt the completely non-systemic nature of our educational so-called system in which states and we see this now under the Every Student Succeeds Act back to, you know, more and more emphasis on local control and individual and local decision-making, which in the history of our country since the 1840's has been attention. Where on one hand we want to common school system and on the other hand we want every community and every parent to have a voice. And then we're surprised when we have educational inequality that magnifies over time. The common core was an effort to say the only way toward this would be for states to agree on a set of academic learning outcomes that students should achieve and then be able to mobilize textbook companies and teacher education and professional development in a way that we could operate at scale and a way that we don't. But it would be interesting to unpack why that which wasn't principally until Race to the Top wasn't principally a standards-based reform policy what made it start to have the trouble it's having. And it's instructive because it's the thing that's so just fundamentally paradigmatically American about us about what makes it so difficult for us to try to actually improve the quality of what young people get. And I mean I keep coming back to that because when I became a teacher in 1974, this nation's population was 80% white. And of the students in this country a very small fraction spoke in languages other than English in the home and right now as of 2011, I think most of you know over half the children born in this country are black or brown and the numbers of students who speak multiple languages is rapidly increasing. So what that means to actually realize the promise of building a set of schools in this country that could build a citizenry I think the last couple of weeks make that more evident than ever the importance of us doing that. It would be worth talking about the one strategy we saw in the last two decades that attempted to renew our commitment to something in common with an honoring of diversity and seems to have had so much trouble. And I think it might be interesting to talk about that.
>> James Kvaal: Yeah, well it is interesting because this is obviously a policy that President Trump has repeatedly vowed to repeal. On the other hand, whether adopt the common core standards or within the controlled states not the federal government and in most places they've been in place for three years or more and seem to be growing in acceptance and in popularity, at least among teachers and students and parents.
>> Alex Nock: So if I can jump in on that? I'll give two perspectives on actually your question which I think is an interesting question, it's actually very interesting like what happened with that kind of question. So one from kind of political analysis and two, analysis I'm going to say it's anecdotal, but it's a little more widespread as a father of kids who have grown up in the District of Columbia public schools experiencing the kind of transition of common core. So firs the political analysis. I think [inaudible] point of view, interesting to see what you think about this. We never talked about this particular issue is that I think an unfortunate political thing happened when the Obama administration came into office. Common core was going along, it was being developed, it was being adopted by states, they entered into the political conversation around support for common core and the ideology behind it. And normally that probably would have been fine, but it became like a galvanizing kind of issue. If you didn't like Obama all of a sudden now you didn't like common core. And frankly, the states were going along just fine without kind of federal involvement in it, mostly political. And so I think it was a miscalculation by the Obama administration to kind of wade into the politics of that by showing support for it when it didn't need the support to thrive. Secondly, this is transferring to my kind of parent hat here. The common core was not well explained to parents, it was not well explained to kind of even and I'm, you know, a pretty astute parent, I go to parent-teacher conference, I care about what my kids are doing sitting around the dinner table with them helping them with their homework. Although, my son's high school homework is starting to get a little complicated. But the common core transition wasn't explained well, it wasn't digested well, you had forums you could go to, it got very academic very quickly and this is for someone that actually knows something about standards and has read about it. Parents were confused by it, it seemed mysterious, it was different, it was new, it was hard to grasp for them. So I almost wonder if there was two kind of moments or I think there were two moments, one a political misstep and two a lack of communication about what it was.
>> James Kvaal: You do have, I'm sorry David.
>> David Cleary: Yeah.
>> James Kvaal: Alex, do you have a prediction for what's going to happen under President Trump with respect to the common core?
>> Alex Nock: I think David may be in a better position to answer this. But I think that the anti-common core rhetoric coming from the Trump administration will largely be more rhetoric. I wonder when it comes down to seeing what states can do. If a state really wants to have the common core I don't know why the federal government would tell them they could not and that's kind of the last step. And I think David's legislation with the SSA, the Every Student Succeeds Act did a good job of saying hey you don't have to adopt anything you don't want to. If you want to do common core great, you want do something else you can do that too in terms of standards. But I don't know why a Trump administration would say you can't do common core but.
>> David Cleary: I'll answer that first because it's right there. I think that he should declare victory and go home. He's, you know, in common with the Every Student Succeeds Act it would be against the law for him to prohibit states from adopting common core. But he's certainly made his case and many states are moving away to other things. And so instead of spending a lot of time trying to kill the common core or tell states what to do about their standards he should follow the Every Student Succeeds Act and say states it's up to you, you have to have standards, but it's up to you what those standards are. Going to the beginning though I think the -- I agree a lot of what Alex said. I think part of the problem is kind of the coercive nature of the federal government. Lamar likes to tell a story when he was governor he was in his first term he had to place a prison in Tennessee and it was as long time ago and nobody really ever wants a prison in their community. So he went around to every mayor and every county mayor and city mayor and said, okay I need to place a prison can I put it here and they all said no. And then the next year the legislature said, you know, geez Lamar you haven't placed the prison we really need you to put the prison somewhere. So he said okay, here's an idea. At the state address said, I've got to place a prison who wants to compete for it and suddenly everybody wanted it. And so common core is a lot the same way states, it started before the Obama administration it was an organization between the National Governors Association and the chief state school officers and the chief. And they were working together and trying to figure it out and there was kind of a small group of states that were going to do it and the a little bit of a larger group that said okay, if you get it figured out we'll definitely do it. But then Race to the Top comes in with its, you know, $5 billion and competitive grants to states and it was in the height of the deepest recession that we've had since the Great Depression, so everybody was kind of desperate for money. And then the secretary's waivers on kind of getting away from No Child Left Behind in between the Race to the Top and the waivers it became coercive, it became essentially a federal requirement that you had to adopt common core. And they didn't explicitly say that, but it was essentially an effect, a mandate so it became hated. And conveniently then every problem that you could envision could be blamed on common core. You don't like your teacher evaluation system because it was rushed and you have to apply to these standards and these tests that you've never used, well it's common core. Your kid doesn't do well on the test, well it's common core. The, you know, the dog didn't eat their homework, it's common core. And so common core became this huge political albatross for people around the country and it was and then from a Republican perspective, it was Obama made us do it. And so every Republican governor in the -- almost every Republican governor in the country was saying, you know, we were doing pretty well on our own trying to figure out what our standards should look like, but now you're telling me that it has to be this specific thing. I don't like that, I don't want that. And, you know, you the federal government are a junior partner in the financing of my education system. You give me about -- your title one is about 3%, overall K-12 spending from the federal government is about 10% and now you're telling me what my standards have to look like. That I have to have a teacher evaluation system. That I have to have these annual tests. That I have to have a way to punish schools that don't do well this way, your specific way. And governors and folks in the states are sitting there saying, well who the heck are you? The only other organization that we know that operates like that is the Mafia. The junior partner tells the big partner everything that they have to do. So it just became kind of this albatross of angst and negativity.
>> James Kvaal: So I will resist the urge to quibble with the Obama record and I want to focus a little bit on where we are now. So we've had, you know, the common core in place for at least three years. The transition problems from what I have seen seem to be moving past it. Teachers understand it better, parents understand it better. And we have a system now where most states have shared academic expectations that are significantly more rigorous and more challenging than what they had eight years ago. So I guess the question is, is this not an enduring legacy of the last couple of years of federal education policy and isn't the nation better off now that we're going to have these more rigorous standards that are probably going to continue to exist in a critical mass of states at least?
>> Deborah Loewenberg Ball: I think the translation of common core into rigorous academic standards is a little bit of a fallacy, that's not its main point. It's not -- the common core for all of the rhetoric about it is not that dramatically different from what we talk at any other moment. I mean I think sometimes this doesn't get into the weeds enough. We're talking about at what grade level kids should learn to understand fractions as numbers on the number line. This is not a politically dicey topic. Let's get real about this. But if you're a teacher educator and you want to prepare teachers to teach in this country you have no idea at what grade level they're going to teach what or with what materials and then we're surprised we can't build a coherent teacher education system, which means that the professionals who enter schools are way underprepared for teaching real children real content. That's what this is about and it became a highly politicized conversation with a lot of imagination about what this is about. I taught, the only person on the panel taught for a long time and the standards that we taught in 1970's were not so dramatically different from your perspective in this room than what the common core does. What the common core attempted to do was to say that the standards shouldn't be different in Idaho than they are in Michigan and Mississippi. Why would kids need to learn fractions at a different age in Mississippi than they need to learn them in Detroit? That doesn't make any sense. The ways you might actually work with students to help them learn fractions yeah, you would need to adapt that to who your learners are and that takes skill of teaching. So every time we try to do this and don't worry about the teachers who would have to learn to teach this stuff really well, complex academic work to all kids and we don't do teacher education and we rush, it's not surprising. So this was extremely rushed. We think we're going to take a set of standards and put them in all schools at all grade levels overnight, it's a completely crazy way of thinking that you would actually change carefully what academic instruction and learning look like. You know, would we really have the patience in this country ever to say we're going to begin with two or three grade levels, help all the teachers learn to teach that extremely well to children who speak multiple languages, to children who are very different from them. One problem we haven't mentioned is the huge gap between who the teachers are and who the kids are in this country. Hugely different demographically as I said a moment ago. By far the majority of children are approaching being children who are not white children, they're black children, they're brown children, they're children who are from many parts of the world, multiple ethnicities. But the teachers in this country are almost 90% white women, so white and some of them women, most of the women not white woman, but most of them white. And then we don't have a teacher education system that either creates the way of recruiting people into it or prepares people for that and we talk about these sort of political arguments. This is not about the kids, this is not a conversation about children it just stays at a level that doesn't enable us to actually think what would it look like to get much better academic instruction in every school in Detroit, in Grosse Pointe, in you know on the Upper Peninsula, we don't talk about that. And if you visited those schools you'd be probably quite surprised at seeing how extremely different the opportunities to learning are and they won't change until we actually deal with the quality of teaching. And I can tell you that the research on merit pay doesn't show us that it improves teaching, it doesn't show it improves teaching. So the only way to improve a practice is to have opportunities to learn to do it and to be coached and helped to learn to do it. There isn't a railroad around that and I think as long as we pretend that there is we will have decade after decade of aversion of the same conversation.
>> James Kvaal: Do you guys want to get in there?
>> Alex Nock: Yeah, I think one important thing about the standards issue I mean I agree with you that there are states that have very top-notch and rigorous standards, there are plenty of states that did not expect a lot of their kids. So I certainly agree that the common core didn't necessarily for the top-notch seats increase rigor of what we demand of our kids, but in lots of places in this country it did. And it required states to really help the ones that wanted to join in at least, decide to holistically really think about all right, what actually are we expecting of our children. Why are state acts unable to attract businesses and other kind of workforce kind of solutions because, you know, if we're not educating our kids to the level of what they should be educated to. So there was a lack of uniformity yes, but for places that were lower down the spectrum common core would, you know, and has produced a more rigorous set of expectations from kids.
>> Deborah Loewenberg Ball: What is returning to the states going to help us then [inaudible]?
>> Alex Nock: Hold on, hold on one second, I'll get to that in just two seconds. One real quick thing I just have to say, I'm trying to not litigate the past. The Obama administration did not require the adoption of common core I disagree with my friend here that it was a requirement. The political rhetoric around it and the discussion certainly encouraged the view that common core was a good thing and that's where I argue there was a political misstep made by to owning that brand, something that the states were doing very well at. And kind of proceeding along the Obama administration did not need to interject itself into that conversation. So we might differ on the requirement aspect, I think we're saying the same thing on the other aspect.
>> David Cleary: I think I was pretty careful in saying that in effect it was a requirement because.
>> Alex Nock: You said requirement.
>> James Kvaal: All right, I have a stronger opinion about this myself, but I want to bring us back into 2017. So Deborah, you brought up the issue of teacher preparation and that is also an important reform that the Obama administration recently adopted by regulation. And that regulation happens to be one that Congress could quickly overturn because of its recency. So I wonder what you thought the prospects were of that rule and if Congress does quickly invalidate that regulation is that a good thing or a bad thing.
>> Deborah Loewenberg Ball: Well notice that in, I don't know how many of you are familiar with the teacher preparation regulations they follow the same theme. So the theme is we must have a lot of bad programs just like we must have a lot of bad teachers. So if we set requirements on programs just as we did in the teacher evaluation era or in standards-based reform and then we close programs that are not good or withhold funding from them somehow the system will improve. It's a punitive strategy rather than one that would say we actually have a looming teacher shortage. We will probably see in the next five years more and more people going into classrooms who have not just no preparation, but negative preparation who will have to be filling classrooms. And no one is paying attention to this. It's not a very good moment to be thinking about how you punish teacher preparation programs, it's an ideal moment for thinking how we ensure that the quality of beginning teaching is at a level that it hasn't ever been before. And that is an incredibly challenging moment to make that argument and yet in the schools where we have the lowest income students and the highest concentration of black and brown children we have also the greatest distribution of incredibly early career teachers who are underprepared for the work and who leave rapidly. And we put cycles of those through these schools. So what we actually need right now is a policy that would support raising the quality of beginning teaching and ensuring the distribution of good teaching to schools in which we have children who really deserve that teaching. But instead what we have is a policy like many of our others that is primarily one of regulating and somehow punishing bad programs. That isn't an improvement strategy, you know, sort of keep coming back to how can the federal government leverage policy that can build improvements in practice and specifically improvements for children.
>> James Kvaal: And so if you were in charge of federal policy on teacher preparation what would you do to try and embed those practices into teacher prep programs? Are you talking about additional funding, would you put additional requirements on those programs? What is your or do you think the federal government should just get out of the way? On a policy level what is your [inaudible] of change?
>> Deborah Loewenberg Ball: Very likely, I mean states control teacher preparation because they license teachers. So it's just as with the curriculum for K-12 students you have a similar challenge which is states would have to somehow come together on what it would mean to do professional education better. What licensure would look like, we have 50 different systems of teacher licensure. So some incentives for there to be more commonality about what beginning teaching needs, what the standard for that needs to be like and support for people first of all to enter, to recruit a greater diversity of people into the workforce and then to improve the quality if beginning teaching you'd have to supply funding that helps to create common curriculum, some sense for a profession that we've never had. It wouldn't be that difficult to think about the things that all beginning teachers need to know how to do and ensure that programs of many different types had the materials and the resources to ensure that people who are willing to teach our nation's children actually got adequate preparation to begin doing that work. That would be [inaudible].
>> James Kvaal: But primarily state led maybe some federal [inaudible].
>> Deborah Loewenberg Ball: So some coalitions of states. Well coalitions of states and incentives for states to team up to do that work. As long as we have so many different systems in such a fragmented, educational non-system, it's very unlikely that we can get improvement we need.
>> David Cleary: I think on the teacher prep regs those are one of the early targets for the new Congress to overturn the regulations and for a signature to overturn it. Kind of one of the main drivers for our opposition regulations is that in effect mandates a teacher evaluation system on the states. And we as much as Lamar thinks that that's a great thing to do he would not want to coerce it. He doesn't think that it's the federal government's role. And this regulation is going to be another example of huge overreach of reading what the statute says and then deciding the policies they want to implement. So it's one that will be overturned relatively quickly as soon as we can get through the process.
>> James Kvaal: David, I wonder if you could handicap two other pieces of legislation for us. One is House Republicans have proposed a number of times a budget blueprint that calls for cutting Pell grant scholarships for college students. And there have been some press reports that Congressional Republicans intend to pursue that through the reconciliation procedure which would mean Democrats couldn't filibuster it. And then secondly, there have been sort of in a very different sphere, there have been bipartisan talks at least happening in the Senate about some improvements to the higher education act that both could parties could agree to. So do you think that reconciliation, including changes, potential cuts to the Pell grants is something that is likely to happen and do you think that a bipartisan higher education bill is likely to happen?
>> David Cleary: Sure, we're off the record right?
>> James Kvaal: Yeah.
>> David Cleary: I'm kidding. I think getting the Senate to agree to any type of significant cuts to the Pell grant would be difficult even with the Republican majority. I think that, you know, there's always room for improvement in the administration of the program, making sure that the right students get it and that it's used for the right purposes. But I don't envision much success in that. I don't have an election certificate so I could be wrong. But it would be I think difficult to get even a simple majority to do anything that has a significant cut to the Pell grant. I think it's, you know, as we look at the Republican agenda for an opportunity society and giving people a way up the economic ladder the Pell grant is a pretty successful program. On bipartisan higher education, I think that there is a lot of room for it. A lot depends on, you know, hubris and humility. If Republicans have a lot of arrogance at the beginning of the new Congress and alienate all of the Democrats, it's really hard to get to 60. So I think that, you know, we need to be we, you know, as a Republican staff director working for a boss who is probably one of the -- I can say this because I work for him, one of the better legislators in the Congress. I think that, you know, we are very interested in a bipartisan higher education reauthorization. And I think what that means is both sides have to kind of accept what the limits are. You know, nobody ever goes into a negotiation and gets a hundred percent of what they want. So, you know, free college not going to happen. Gutting the Pell grant program not going to happen. So you take in those two extremes if, you know, if Patty Murray has a list of things that she wants to accomplish and Lamar Alexander has a list of things that he wants to accomplish. You know, if both of them say okay 80% of that list is good enough or 60% of that list is good enough and kind of build our expectations around what we can get to 60 votes for is a very successful strategy. And Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray have great success in doing that in all sorts of areas education, healthcare, appropriations. Patty Murray saved the country twice with budget deals with Paul Ryan. She knows how to negotiate and to be responsible in her expectations and Lamar knows how to be responsible. And I think a reauthorization package that could get to 60 would look at a wide variety of things. We haven't reauthorized the Higher Education Act since 2007. There's a lot of kind of subterranean policy that people don't really talk a lot about that needs to happen. Reauthorization of the title 3 of the historically black colleges, universities, minority serving institutions, Hispanic serving institutions, things like that. You've got the teacher prep program that, you know, the regulations are horrible. The statute is kind of bad, it was kind of very unrealistic in 2007. It was one of the reasons why Lamar voted against it the last time, so we can reshape that. And then kind of some of the larger questions of accountability and how do we know what schools are out there that are offering good quality. The, you know, kind of our, I guess I meant the institution of higher education, so I should say our theory of action is that the higher education is a marketplace where you've got a very competitive environment, lots of school, 6,000 different providers. Students get a voucher, a Pell grant and a student loan that they can take to the institution of their choice. And so there's a lot of market forces there that allow for competition. And one of the federal roles is ensuring that the marketplace is fair and that it's effective and that the individual, the student, the parent is well-informed about the choices that they're making and that those choices are as they are being represented. So I think that if we can look at accountability in a way that gets us to kind of, you know, a fair examination across the board of what's going on in those schools, there's a lot of bipartisanship already in different bills that are out there of what is that you should be looking at. And it's very complex, it's very hard, but you know if two people can do it, it would be Lamar and Patty. So I'm pretty optimistic about higher ed reauthorization.
>> James Kvaal: Alex, I'm going to give you the last bit of handicapping and then we'll ask Joe and Anna to help us with questions from the audience. But my questions for you would be free college, so related proposal from President Obama, obviously a centerpiece of Secretary Clinton's campaign. Is that dead for now or what is the route forward for that? And then secondly, we haven't talked at all about young children. President Obama obviously had proposed universal preschool, a big expansion in childcare subsidies. Is there a route forward for investing more in the children before they reach elementary school?
>> Alex Nock: So I think for advocates of free college whatever that meant to different people. You have to say the odds are way down on that going somewhere. It was a major component of the Clinton campaign, she obviously didn't get elected. So I just can't imagine that gets a lot of traction in a legislative vehicle that is going somewhere. I have no doubt that people propose it. It'll probably be a point of conversation in your committee. Senator Sanders for instance is a member of the help committee and he'll be likely to bring up a proposal that was very and near and dear to his heart when he ran on it. And that was certainly an annulment of debt free or [inaudible]. But I have to think the odds of that going somewhere are small at best. On childcare I think it's a different matter. You have had the president-elect and his family's advisors essentially talk about childcare and the needs out there and what at least some of their visions are to help families with childcare expenses. I don't know if you're looking at -- my initial read of it is I don't know if you're looking at a large kind of universal based program that President Obama proposed that Secretary Clinton was also a fan of. I don't see that sort of approach. I do see at least initially some conversations happening about what can we do to help parents more with childcare expenses. I do think that's at least got some chance out there. But TBD because we don't know a lot of the policy details. How it would be paid for and what the actual proposals would be.
>> James Kvaal: Okay, we are a little late getting to the audience questions, so Anne and Joe over to you guys?
>> Joe Shea: Hello, oh there we go. So hello everyone, my name is Joe Shea, I am a first-year BA student in the Ford School. Contrary to what Dean Collins said at the beginning of this talk we do not get extra credit for being here. We are just two students who love being in Professor Kvaal's class and with that being said we'll tee it off with the first audience question. And this is to all three of you. What is the role of education in ensuring that Americans are not living in the quote echo chambers and bubbles that contribute to the ideological divisions evident in the results of the election?
>> James Kvaal: Deborah answer.
>> Deborah Loewenberg Ball: Well I was thinking about that that we've managed to get this far in the conversation and never mentioned what we've seen about or had reinforced for us what a divided country we're living in. And we haven't mentioned the fact that our schools are more segregated than they were 50 years ago and that income inequality is much greater than it was 40 or 50 years ago. That divisions in our country have widened and that many of the policies we're hearing about will serve only to widen those gaps. So vouchers for example, you know, talking carefully about what the effects will that be on different groups of people in our society. What does it take to actually avail yourself of different schools? How do you get your kid to that school? All of these things that will likely actually separate or the idea of returning much more to states and to local districts to control what kids learn is a step toward more division and more separation. Not to mention the fact that, you know, the founders of common schools for all of their flaws and for all of the fact that we weren't educating anywhere close to all children in those days did have the image that schools could function to help to build some kind of a democracy together. And what that will mean for us to re-seize that in an era of a much more diverse society than we ever had means there's an enormous imperative for public schools. And I think it's kind of amazing that we got this far in the conversation without talking about those goals of schooling and how really pressing they are at this point.
>> David Cleary: Al Shanker, former head of the AFT said that the role of the public school was originally to teach immigrant children English and what it means to be an American in the hopes that they would go home and teach their parents the same things. And I think that the civic mission of the school changes a lot depending on the community that you're in, but that's kind of the core of it. Teach people what it means to be an American, what it means to be a part of this very diverse, very robust society. I think the breakdown that we've seen in the past decade or two or three is it is tough to overcome. I think we, especially with social media and the internet we self-select our news now. The Republicans read their sites, Democrats read their sites and they don't cross. And it's very rare for people to read each other's sides. And the TV and cable stations all have started to self-select. And there's not much dispassionate kind of discussion about truth and facts and objectiveness. I was reading an article this morning on the plane about, you know, the media networks as they have these panels like this and they intermingle an opinion person who's a journalist and it becomes, people become totally inured to what it is that they're saying because they just assume that everybody is an opinion person. So there's no discussion about facts. It's tough, that's a good question. I think it's something that we have to challenge ourselves to try and figure out how do we understand where each other is coming from, where are the divides, where are the truths. You know, the average Trump voter probably has more in common with the average Sanders voter than they do with the average Clinton or Jeb Bush voter. And so there are these kind of weird crossovers on the, you know, at the fringes that we don't really understand. And I think that it's an ongoing, you know, the American experiment is ongoing. I think we have a lot of work to do to try and figure out how to bring some commonality.
>> Alex Nock: Schools obviously have an important role to play, especially with younger children and pre-college children in terms of helping them to David's point, you know, educating kids about the civic kind of responsibilities of citizenship and kind of how our government works. And hopefully encouraging all children in our schools to really think about diverse viewpoints. I mean David and I were just talking about this earlier today actually about how we consume news from different areas and, you know, where I might consume news impacts what I think and where he might consume news impacts what he thinks and lots of people do that now. And, you know, school though is one place where everybody, you know, if you're thinking about a classroom and kids are being taught by a teacher or teachers are getting one form of news or information from and hopefully that can encourage them to look at a broad set of kind of things to understand what one person is saying and what another person is saying.
>> Anna Strivich: Hello, I'm Anna Strivich, I'm pursuing a joint Masters in Public policy and higher education and I'm in James Kvaal's class now. So this is an audience question. If this administration does turn the bulk of the decision-making of policy over to Congress how much action can we expect to see at the federal level in education policy, especially with a fairly evenly divided Senate? How might this impact state's education budget allocations?
>> David Cleary: I wouldn't expect to see any significant increases in education spending. I think, you know, we're at a point with, you know, significant debt and difficulty in passing any increases in Congress. Maybe a reshuffling of the deck of what we have, but I wouldn't expect to see any increases. But I do think that we have an opportunity to do some important things in higher education and an evenly divided Congress in some ways might make it a little easier. Because we have to listen to each other and work together to get to 60. You know, when one party has too many votes they don't listen to the other side or we spend our time trying to pick off a couple, you know, who are our easiest targets. And, you know, for the Republicans it's, you know, okay let's go to, you know, this state that's potentially a Republican state or this state. And the Democrats, you know, go to, you know, some of the more moderate members of the caucus. And it doesn't build much consensus. But the beauty of the design of the Senate in needing 60 votes to move legislation forward is that it does foster consensus and bring people together. So I think an evenly divided Congress makes it more likely that, you know, we'll move further and further away from our fringes to get to that 60 vote.
>> Joe Shea: Okay, so the next question is who do you think will benefit from education policies under a Trump administration?
>> Deborah Loewenberg Ball: What was that?
>> Joe Shea: Who will benefit.
>> Alex Nock: Who will benefit from the administration? I really think that remains to be seen. You know, from the Trump administration there's not a detailed set of education policies and I think I agree with David that, you know, a lot of what it looks like right now is that Congress, especially Senator Alexander and very likely incoming chair Virginia Fox from North Carolina will probably be tone centers in terms of what where at least federal education policy goes. You know, as time goes on and the Trump administration starts articulating points of view I think we can make more of a decision. But I think it's too early to jump and immediately assume it'll be bad for this group or good for this group. I think purely from the Trump side of things we haven't seen a lot of details yet.
>> David Cleary: I mean, I think that's fair. I don't think I have much else to add. I might say something sarcastically, all of us because we're going to make America great again.
>> Anna Strivich: This next one comes from Twitter and it's for you David. Who would be the right students for a Pell grant?
>> David Cleary: Who would be the right students, I think it's low income, first-time students are the primary focus. I think the question that we struggle with as Congress is how far up the income scale do you go to get to with college costs so high. The cutoff now is low, but the resort is, you know, the Pell grant is 36 billion roughly a year, that's a lot of money. So it's, you know, for every, I think for every -- there's like all these weird formula for every hundred dollars that you increase the Pell grant that costs $10 billion or a billion dollars sorry. For every $100 it's a billion is that roughly right?
>> James Kvaal: I don't know I think it's between $500 million and a billion.
>> David Cleary: Yeah and so, you know, so those costs matter a lot. And I think what we've been trying to do is how do we get more people to apply for the FAFSA or use the FAFSA. How do we simplify it so that it's not a deterrent? And then how do we get more students the aid that they need. And the question is how high up the scale can you go based on how much resources you have.
>> Joe Shea: Is there an appropriate policy fix for the crisis in higher education remediation is the next question?
>> James Kvaal: Good question.
>> David Cleary: Probably.
>> Deborah Loewenberg Ball: Well it would mean investing more carefully in what happens before college. So the remediation problem comes from the fact that we so unevenly educate our children. And I do want to say that this conversation has turned more to talking about the particular people in office. And I want to point out that the comments that I made earlier about where we failed to actually make a difference for young people cut across Republican and Democratic administrations. I think that as policymakers and policy systems we haven't understood that we can't make a difference for people heading to college without appropriate opportunities to learn mathematics or whatever it is that leads them to remediation or to learn enough to read, so that they're eligible for college. We haven't done that across either administration or across any of the last several because we keep manipulating levers that don't actually make a difference in the classroom. And the only way to do that, I know that I'm saying this over and over, but it's interesting that we don't create policies that actually change instruction and you can't change instruction when you're manipulating levers that are very far from it. And as you keep changing who the decision-makers are they just keep making decisions that are very, very similar. There are more similarities across the last 30 years than there are differences.
>> Alex Nock: And I think one of the -- I would agree on that and I think one of the bigger challenges we're seeing more and more, especially with some of the clients we work with in terms of what they're doing in the institutional higher education space is returning adults. And the fact that, you know, if you're 30 or 40 or 45 or 50 and trying to return and get a credential or degree, you know, what you learned in high school was interesting, but it was a long time ago. And that system, you know, may or may not have served you well at that time. But in addition to students that are coming out of high school and entering two year schools or four year schools or whatever they might be doing and the remedial needs there. You do you have needs among a growing adult population to benefit from postsecondary education and that's where unfortunately it really comes to roost on the higher education kind of system because that's where those students encounter the first like oh I need to take what level of remedial math to kind of do this. You know, I was in high school 20 years ago. You know what else do you do for that individual until they encounter the system I think it's a real challenge. We're not answering the question I think of appropriate, I don't know if I have a good answer immediately for that.
>> David Cleary: I don't know that there's a good answer. I think there's a lot of conversation about it. It is a big driver of cost. We, you know, I would consider it to be a waste of money because these are students that should have gotten the education in the first place. So why are we then using Pell grant money to spend it in higher education, it seems, you know, very shameful. I think that, you know, you're seeing governors really start to challenge it and try and figure out how to address these questions, but I don't know that there's any magic bullet right now.
>> Anna Strivich: Next question is what sort of reforms have been shown to raise salaries of low-paid teachers in the poorest corners of this country?
>> Deborah Loewenberg Ball: I can't really hear what she said.
>> James Kvaal: She said what kind of policies affect teach quality, especially in [inaudible].
>> Alex Nock: I think it's [inaudible] increasing pay right?
>> Anna Strivich: Yes.
>> Deborah Loewenberg Ball: So we know from the research on teacher pay that what sometimes is called location-based pay can work, you can sometimes keep people in an area where they're teaching. It doesn't work particularly well to attract people to areas of teaching. And again, pay while it's extremely important and one would want to say that it's not, there's no great secret to this that preparing people to do the work with young people that will help people thrive is what keeps people in the classroom. And when they fail to be able to do that and they're operating in incredibly punitive environments they leave and they primarily leave the places where kids particularly need good teaching. So what we get is a cycle of reproduction of a grossly unequal society because we don't create our schools with enough strength to actually intervene on that even though we know from research that very skillful teaching can make a dramatic difference for children across lots of different outside of school environments. But we don't choose to do that.
>> Joe Shea: The next question is doesn't the fact that both the SAT and the ACT are aligning with common core and make the common core discussion a semantic one?
>> Deborah Loewenberg Ball: I'm going to say again that common core is not some dramatically different set of things in schools. What it does to be rather precise is it adds a bit more emphasis on mathematical practice that is reasoning about mathematics, which I think anybody can see we haven't done terrifically well over the last 50 years in this country and it increases emphasis on expository text and reading more of a wider range of text and informational text. And other than that if you actually read what's in the common court it's not going to strike as some huge difference. So it's not terribly surprising that it would be lined up with what we want people to know when they go to college.
>> Alex Nock: I mean obviously two of the larger college testing-based companies are going to look to see what states are adopting as part of their own set of standards. And, you know, by far common core is where the -- even today is one of the more unifying kind of forces out there in what expectations we have for our children. So it would make sense that's the case. I don't know if that one data point by itself makes the common core kind of conversation semantic. I think for all of the concern from people on both sides of the spectrum and both sides of the common core issue that's been voiced out there common core is still in a lot of states and being utilized by a lot of states. You know, certainly some have renamed things and dropped out and that's going to happen and has been shown to happen. But I think largely common core seems to be for right now here to stay. I mean, we'll see how history judges it 5, 10, 15 years down the road, but I don't know if that one thing makes it semantic in my point of view.
>> David Cleary: I think it's -- I think standards are here to stay and I think that as Professor Ross has pointed out, the DNA of all the standards are relatively the same, there's minuscule differences on the edges.
>> Anna Strivich: This next question comes to us from Twitter. Will teacher preparation regulations be one of the first to go under the new administration and how might this affect Teach for America?
>> Deborah Loewenberg Ball: What was [inaudible]?
>> James Kvaal: Teacher prep.
>> Anna Strivich: Yes.
>> Alex Nock: Teacher prep [inaudible].
>> James Kvaal: We talked about how the teacher prep role was likely to be on the chopping block. How does that affect [inaudible].
>> Deborah Loewenberg Ball: Regulations are about teacher preparation programs. The biggest problem we face right now that we've not mentioned is there's approximately 40% decline across types of programs, including the alternative route programs of people even being willing to be teachers. So at the same moment we're seeing a big retirement bulge, we're seeing a far fewer number of people going into teaching. So again, these will affect programs and we'll perhaps have fewer programs if these even stick, which likely it won't. But meanwhile we won't have actually done, put to work the research on instruction that we've done over the last 30 years to make sure that the people who are ready -- that we didn't recruit people to teaching and prepare them. So we need a policy that actually can support forward motion. These regulations don't do much for that one way or the other.
>> David Cleary: Yeah I think as I said earlier, these regulations will be in the first tranche of regulations that go away. I don't know that that directly affects negatively or positively Teacher of America. But I think the Teacher of America is one element of a teacher recruitment system, it's not the only solution, it's part of the solution. So I think that more that you get away from the top-down system of trying to tell states what to do about their teacher recruitment maybe the helps Teacher of America a little bit.
>> James Kvaal: With apologies to you guys I'm going to hijack and claim the right to ask the last question. I don't know if I actually have that right or not. But I'm interested in the difference in perspective here between policy and practice and Deborah keeps reminding us that in her view the policymakers both Republican and Democratic are pulling on the wrong lever. And I guess, you know, from the perspective of federal policymakers you see, you know, large sums of money going to schools and to colleges without achieving the results that policymakers would like to see. So if the goal is to improve practice inside the classroom what is it that federal policymakers can or should be doing to support the types of efforts that you're talking about or is it something that this is just a problem it doesn't really have a federal solution to it.
>> Deborah Loewenberg Ball: This is all of us?
>> David Cleary: Yeah, I can start. I think that the -- I don't know that there's much of a federal solution. We're, you know, we're policy skeptics, we think that the federal government is not very smart, very wise, very all-knowing. I think what the federal government can do is use Title I and other programs to help states address low income and give districts extra money to help address poverty in their areas. I think that we can also spend more on research to identify things that work, things that don't work and make that available to teachers and local policymakers. I think, you know, our view is that the federal government is not a great place to look to to help solve what's going on in your classroom. More of those solutions need to be local that the feds can help, but not much.
>> Deborah Loewenberg Ball: I think a dilemma is that the gross inequality this country, the tension between local control and more central or federal control is a genuine tension. So I think that your question is a really good question. I think that the struggle that would make a difference would be to design ways of linking research on teaching and research on learning together with teacher education that would actually improve the quality of what people learn and not be always looking to punish programs, but instead to build up the resources, the curriculum, the kinds of assessments that are formative that help to produce good beginning teachers and help to improve teachers in the classroom. There are ways to use federal funds to do that, we've seen that with other kinds of funding. So it doesn't have to be taking over the control of states it can be understanding that we're talking about a profession. I mean the medical residencies in this country that doctors use to become good doctors are paid a very large fraction of that by the federal money. Of course, it's a much smaller scale profession, but we have different strategies for professions we really care about their practice and it's time for us to use federal funding to do that when the clients are children. Particularly children why have been further put at risk by the lack of our ability to leverage policy to improve the quality.
>> James Kvaal: Alex, do you want the last word?
>> Alex Nock: No, I agree with both my colleagues here.
>> James Kvaal: Wow, a first time for everything.
>> David Cleary: A very successful lobbyist.
>> James Kvaal: All right, it is my duty to adjourn us not too late. I want to thank the audience for excellent questions. I want to thank Joe and Anna for helping [inaudible]. And of course, our panelists for joining us. Thank you.
>> David Cleary: Thank you.
>> Alex Nock: Thank you.
[ Applause ]