Weekend To-Do List
1. Khan Takes on AI
WATCH: Sal Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy, gave a Ted Talk where he outlined a bullish case for AI’s role in education and previewed their new AI teaching assistant/chatbot named Khanmigo:
This is powerful stuff. He demoed the AI tool in math, computer science, history, and ELA. Sal argues they will soon be able to give students AI academic, career, and life coaches. He also showed the AI debating a student and even emulating Jay Gatsby while explaining the symbolism from the novel.
2. The Liberal Case for Privatization
READ: Richard Hanania wrote a long and thought-provoking critique of Matthew Yglesias’s education reform essays. Hanania argues that liberals should support privatization:
Obama-era liberals sought to improve education by introducing market forces. But they failed, the education establishment has gotten worse, and it’s time to give markets themselves a try. Yesterday’s liberal reformers should join conservatives in moving towards privatization, while also handling any concerns they have about the end result by calling for the direct redistribution of wealth. . . . . I think critics of privatization aren’t being imaginative enough. They accept the premise that childhood should mostly be about sitting at a desk, with one’s nose in a book or holding a pencil. Yglesias complains that ESAs don’t give enough money to cover tuition at most institutions, so they in effect just operate as a scheme to redistribute money to parents who are already homeschooling or sending their kids to private schools. This is bad reasoning, not only because it ignores marginal cases — that is, parents who would check out of public schools if it was slightly more affordable to do so — but because it sees public schools or arrangements that look like public schools as the only options for humanity. What we need is more radical experimentation in how to raise children, and a system with enough flexibility to take into account the reality of human variation.
Read the full essay here.
3. More AI Edu Disruption
READ: AI is already disrupting certain industries. Chegg, a company that provides homework assistance and online tutoring, reported revenue declines this week, which led to a forty percent drop in its stock price. The company’s CEO was clear about what was to blame. Via CNBC:
"In the first part of the year, we saw no noticeable impact from ChatGPT on our new account growth and we were meeting expectations on new sign-ups," CEO Dan Rosensweig said during the earnings call Monday evening. "However, since March we saw a significant spike in student interest in ChatGPT. We now believe it’s having an impact on our new customer growth rate."
4. Weingarten in the Hot Seat
READ/LISTEN: On April 26, Randi Weingarten testified before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, stating that the union had been working since February 2020 to reopen schools. Conservatives jumped at the remarks, arguing that the AFT and its affiliates fought against reopening schools. Republican lawmakers also accused the AFT of working with the CDC to keep schools closed longer than necessary. Weingarten admitted to consulting with the CDC on guidelines but denied exerting "inappropriate influence" over their guidance or intentionally keeping schools closed longer than necessary. She argued that it would have been "irresponsible" for the CDC not to consult with educators. The subcommittee has also sought information from other education groups about their advice to the CDC. If you want to dive deeper into this saga, here are a few pieces:
Lost Debate did a segment on Weingarten yesterday. Listen here.
David Leonhardt at the New York Times had a thoughtful writeup about the closure debate as it relates to Weingarten and unions generally. Read it here.
Jonathan Mahler at the New York Times had a lengthy profile of Weingarten that covers many layers of history. Read it here.
5. A New Low for Civics
READ: Eighth-graders' test scores in U.S. history and civics reached record lows last year, according to Education Department data. The National Assessment of Educational Progress revealed a decline in students' knowledge, reversing gains made since the 1990s, with only 13% meeting proficiency standards for U.S. history and around 20% in civics. From the WSJ:
The falling federal test scores in U.S. history and civics coincide with the downward spiral seen in other subjects tested since the pandemic. Federal test results released in October revealed the largest drop in math scores ever and a nationwide drop in reading that wiped out three decades of gains.
The U.S. history scores showed the lowest proportion of eighth-grade students reaching proficiency levels out of any subject assessed by the NAEP program, with civics being the second-lowest. Federal tests show scores in U.S. history and civics have consistently lagged behind those of reading and math.
We covered the decline of civics education on Lost Debate a few months back. Listen here.
6. Why We Do This
READ: One of my former students became the first black female graduate of Belmont’s data science program. From the write up on Belmont’s website:
The daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Miracle grew up in the vibrant Antioch area outside of Nashville where the importance of community was embedded into every part of her life. Inspired by her mom’s influence in the community, Miracle knew from a young age that she, too, wanted to be a woman who gave back. But, she wasn’t sure how to be that community builder, until she got to Belmont.
In the seventh grade, Miracle discovered her love and talent for computer science and dove in headfirst, thanks to encouragement from Katie Marshall, her mentor and global literacy teacher at Nashville Prep. People began to know Miracle for her passion, talent and achievement in the field. "I was everyone’s favorite computer scientist," she said. "I was the one everyone went to for help or for advice and guidance, which felt really good. Again, I love being there for my community, and that’s how I built community at the time."
Read more here.