Top 5 podcasts of 2020: ‘The Report Card’ with Nat Malkus

This blog post is part of AEI’s Best Podcasts of 2020 series. Click here to see other AEI podcast hosts’ favorite episodes of the year.

My podcast, The Report Card, features interviews with education experts talking about bold ideas, new research, and thorny problems affecting schools, teachers, students, and families. Of course, 2020 was a bit heavier on “thorny problems” than a typical year, and the challenges schools faced due to the pandemic took center stage in a number of episodes since March. Beyond this year’s marquis challenge, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to talk with a terrific line-up of education leaders, policy experts, and educators about a diverse set of education issues.

Here are five of my favorite
episodes from 2020. Thank you, as always, for listening to the show. If you
have any thoughts, questions, or topic suggestions, you can reach me at [email protected].

1. Leadership in the coronavirus pandemic (with Governor Jeb Bush) — April 20

The coronavirus pandemic forced
leaders at all levels — from the White House, to the statehouse, to the
schoolhouse — to make unbelievably difficult about how to best protect and
serve communities, often with very limited time and data. What does it take to
lead a school, district, or state successfully in a time of crisis? On this
episode, Governor Jeb Bush and I discussed his perspective and insights on
leadership during a crisis, which were shaped by his experience leading Florida
through 9/11, major floods and fires, and a record hurricane season during the
first 16 months of his governorship.

2.  A
big year for education in the Supreme Court (with Josh Dunn)
— Aug. 13

Amid a global pandemic and a
hectic election, the Supreme Court’s decisions in Espinoza v. Montana
and Our Lady of Guadalupe v. Morrissey-Bureau may not have made it
to the top of your 2020 reading list. But both decisions have the potential to
fundamentally alter our nation’s educational landscape,  and both
highlighted possible new directions the high court may take. Josh Dunn, a
professor of political science at the University of Colorado–Colorado Springs,
came on the show to discuss the implications of these two momentous opinions.

3. Liberian
education and Bridge International Academies (with George Werner and Steve
) — Feb. 27

Way back in February, before
coronavirus and murder hornets took up residence in the United States, I spoke
with Liberia’s former Education Minister, George Werner, as well as Steve
Cantrell of Bridge International Academies, about their efforts to revive
Liberia’s struggling educational system. Werner and Cantrell spoke about the dramatic
and fundamental reforms undertaken in Liberia’s floundering school system, the
impressive learning gains Bridge International achieved there, and the work yet
to be done in reforming the country’s school system.

4. Rethinking
Teacher Benefits (with Chad Aldeman)
— Sept. 24

It may not surprise you that
many states are behind saving for the pension obligations they will have to pay
to retired teachers and other state employees in the future. But did you know
that states are about half a trillion dollars behind? I sure
didn’t prior to chatting with Chad Aldeman on this episode. Aldeman, a senior
associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners, explained how new teachers
are largely shouldering the burden of unsustainable healthcare and retirement
promises made to older generations of educators, how that system doesn’t even
work very well for many current teachers, and what states might do to correct

5. The
election is over. What’s next for education? (with Joanne Weiss and Tony
— Nov. 19

What will a Biden presidency mean for schools,
teachers, students, and families? It’s early days, and only time will tell,
which is why I put the question to two education mavens with a wealth of
insider experience to weigh in on the election results: Joanne Weiss, formerly
Chief of Staff to US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Tony Bennett, who
served as Indiana and Florida’s education chief.

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