The Learning Curve: New, National Education Podcast

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“The Learning Curve” is where you’ll find straight talk about the nation’s hottest education stories – news and opinion from the schoolyard to the 2020 campaign trail. Co-hosts Bob Bowdon of ChoiceMedia and Cara Candal of Pioneer Institute serve up provocative commentary and interview school leaders, innovators, bestselling authors, policymakers and more. Listen to all the episodes below:


The Learning Curve S1E5: Wilfred McClay on his new book, Land of Hope” (Air date: October 11.2019)

In the Newsmaker Interview, Cara talks with Wilfred McClay, University of Oklahoma Professor and author of Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story, a new high school history textbook that seeks to provide an account of this nation’s rich and complex story that puts it in proper perspective, and that is both honest and inspiring.

Stories of the Week: Are retirement benefits that are crowding out spending on current teachers’ priorities a “hidden driver” of union strikes like the one announced last week in Chicago? In California, there’s a rise in “due process” settlements in legal battles over access to special education services – but who benefits?  In Rhode Island, Providence’s Mayor plans to allow a charter school network to open one additional school, but then to ask the state to limit the expansion of all other charters in that beleaguered school district.

Commentary of the Week: Bob reacts to an op-ed by Rachel Tripp, in The Washington Examiner: “The secretary of education doesn’t have to be a public school teacher.”

Tweet of the Week: Cara gives a shout out to Cato’s Neal McCluskey? @NealMcCluskey

About the Newsmaker Interview Guest:

Wilfred M. McClay is the G. T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty at the University of Oklahoma, and the Director of the Center for the History of Liberty. He’s authored several books, including his most recent one, Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American StoryMcClay served on the National Council on the Humanities, the advisory board for the National Endowment for the Humanities, for eleven years. McClay has been the recipient of fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Academy of Education. He is a graduate of St. John’s College (Annapolis) and received his PhD in History from the Johns Hopkins University.

Next Week’s Guest: Dr. Howard Fuller is professor of education and founder of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University.


The Learning Curve S1E5: “Natalie Wexler on her new book, The Knowledge Gap” (Air date: October 4, 2019)

In their Newsmaker Interview, Bob & Cara talk with Natalie Wexler, author of The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America’s Broken Education System–And How to Fix It, about the shift in K-12 education, even in the Common Core era, from an emphasis on academic content to empty skills and strategies.

Stories of the Week: 35,000 teachers and staff in Chicago’s three unions voted to go on strike on October 17th if they don’t reach a contract deal. Also, would changing the SAT to an untimed test make it harder for some parents to game the system? In Nevada, records from the Clark County School District make it seem as though it has not had a single ineffective principal since 2015.

Plus, Bob’s Commentary of the Week: Cato’s Neal McCluskey, “Why Would a Libertarian Want School Choice? Suppose Canned Peaches…” on why a libertarian supports public funding for religious education. And don’t miss Cara’s Tweet of the Week from PoliticsK12 on BetsyDeVos and the achievement gap.


The Learning Curve S1E4: “Max Eden, Education Researcher, on School Policies & Mass Shootings” (Air date: September 27, 2019)

In our Newsmaker Interview, Bob talks with Max Eden, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, on the gravely misguided policies that he believes are contributing to shocking tragedies, such as the Parkland school shooting, the subject of his new book, Why Meadow Died: The People and Policies That Created The Parkland Shooter and Endanger America’s Students.

Stories of the Week: At Edison High School in Philadelphia, students are in the building – but not in the classroom. Is the district gaming the attendance tracking system? Does the competition from charter schools drive up overall student achievement – in charters and traditional district schools – in cities? A new report from Fordham’s David Griffith sheds some light. In Arkansas, a Little Rock school board member calls for decertifying the teachers union. Is this legal? Bob checks in with Patrick Semmons of the National Right to Work Foundation about the rules around monopoly bargaining.

Commentary of the Week: Citizen Stewart on Cory Booker’s private school choice flip-flop and what it says about the political landscape. Tweet of the Week: NCES’ map of the charter enrollment footprint by state – @EdNCES Sep 25 JUST RELEASED: Public #CharterSchool enrollment grew from 0.4 million students in fall 2000 to 3.0 million in fall 2016. Find more #EdStats on #SchoolChoice here in our new report: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/schoolchoice #EdChat


The Learning Curve S1E3: “Nina Rees, National Charter Leader, on Education Policy & the 2020 Election” (Air date: September 20th, 2019)


ChoiceMedia’s Bob Bowdon and Pioneer Institute’s Cara Candal talk with Nina Rees, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, on what 2020 presidential candidates are saying about charters. They also discuss the diverse families being served by these schools, and how they’re fulfilling the quest for excellence & equity.

Stories of the Week: In Pennsylvania’s capital, protesting Governor Wolf’s crackdown on charter schools; meanwhile in other parts of the state, growing support for cyber charters. In Rhode Island, the Education Commissioner’s plan for the Providence Public Schools in the wake of the shocking Johns Hopkins report on the “broken system.” And, in Seattle, the dress code gets dumped after “inciting hostility.” Plus, Bob’s Commentary of the Week: New York allows students to leave school to participate in climate change protests – is this an appropriate use of student learning time? And Cara’s Tweet of the Week from @ThePublicsRadio.

Related: View Pioneer Institute’s research on charter schools.


The Learning Curve S1E2: “Charter Approval in CA, Online Learning in OK, Outsourcing Teachers?, SCOTUS School Choice Case, NYT on Success Academy” (Air date: September 13th, 2019)

ChoiceMedia’s Bob Bowdon and Pioneer Institute’s Cara Candal talk about changes to charter school approvals in California; good news for online learning programs in Oklahoma; and is there a shortage of teachers in American schools? Plus, Bob calls out Dale Russakoff for a biased New York Times column on Success Academies.

In their Newsmaker Interview, Bob & Cara talk with Erica Smith of the Institute for Justice, about the Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue Supreme Court case, which could help low-income families access private and parochial schools in over 30 states. Erica talks about what drove the plaintiff, working mom Kendra Espinoza, the implications across the country, and the outlook for a favorable decision.

Related: Pioneer Institute Files Amicus Brief Urging Supreme Court to Hear School Choice Case


The Learning Curve S1E1: “Introducing The Learning Curve: Student Discipline, Teacher Diversity, School-to-Prison Pipeline, Presidential Politics & School Choice” (Air date: September 6th, 2019)

In the inaugural episode of the new, national education podcast, “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Bob Bowdon of Choice Media & Cara Candal of Pioneer Institute review the stories of the week – teacher pushback on school discipline reform in California, teaching hot-button social issues in Illinois and New Jersey schools, and scrapping gifted and talented programs in New York City.

Newsmaker Interview: Cara & Bob talk with Gerard Robinson, Executive Director of the Center for Advancing Opportunity, about the “school-to-prison pipeline,” historically black colleges, the importance of encouraging more diversity in teaching faculty, the NAACP’s call for a charter school moratorium, presidential politics & the future of school choice, and more. Cara & Bob conclude with their presentation of the Tweets of the Week!


About the Show:


Listeners can find “The Learning Curve” on iTunes (Apple Podcasts), StitcherSpotify, Google Play, and the Choice Media mobile app. They can also find it online at Ricochet and Pioneer Institute.

Read more about the show.

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