Flypaper

Today’s big news (regarding ObamaCare’s subsidies in states with federal exchanges) is that the judiciary actually expects the executive branch to pay attention to the clear language of laws passed by the legislature. (Update: At least, the D.C. circuit does.) That this lesson in Civics 101 is news at all tells you something about the disrespect the Obama administration has shown to our Constitutional system. Congress may be semi-paralyzed, but the White House and the federal agencies still aren’t allowed to write the laws themselves.

Yet that’s exactly what Arne Duncan and his Department of Education continue to do when it comes to their interpretation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act’s waiver authority. He surely has the right to offer greater flexibility to the states when it comes to the law’s “adequate yearly progress” measures and other parts of its accountability system. What he has no constitutional right to do is dream up new mandates out of thin air and make flexibility contingent upon their embrace by supplicant states.

Let’s follow the example of the D.C. Circuit and examine the clear language of the applicable law. Section 9401 of ESEA plainly states that “the Secretary may waive any statutory or regulatory requirement of this Act” (with some noted exceptions). It says that states should describe, in their waiver requests, “How the waiving of…requirements will increase the quality of instruction for students and improve the...

COLLEGES AND THE COMMON CORE
A New America Foundation policy paper finds that colleges and universities are behind in meaningfully aligning their instruction and teacher-prep programs with the Common Core. (Hechinger Report)
 
THE CHARTER EFFECT
Researchers from UCLA and Rand Corp. find evidence that attending a high-performing charter school reduces the rates of high-risk health behaviors among low-income, minority teenagers. (NPR)
 
ROCKETSHIP’S EXPANSION SLOWS
The Rocketship charter-management organization, known for its ambitious growth goals, has slowed its multistate expansion. (Charters & Choice)
 
CHILD WELL-BEING
The latest Kids Count data book, an index of child well-being, finds that the nation’s children are generally healthier and better educated than they were a quarter-century ago—but that children’s and parent’s gains are fragile. (Inside School Research)
 
FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
Columbus Dispatch: “Good schools don't worry about competitors
EdNET Insight: “Teacher PD, Principal Recruitment”...

MY BROTHER’S KEEPER
President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper program is expanding to include sixty of the nation’s largest school districts, which represent about 40 percent of all African American and Hispanic boys living below the poverty line. (New York Times)
 
TEACHER TURNOVER
A new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education, in collaboration with the New Teacher Center, finds that 13 percent of the U.S.’s 3.4 million teachers transfer schools or leave the profession every year, costing states up to $2 billion, and digs into why this happens and how to fix it. (Hechinger Report)
 
RESPECT FOR QUALITY CTE
Tamar Jacoby tells the stories of students who have sought out quality career and technical education and argues that the nation needs to show respect for practical training. (Wall Street Journal)
 
SORTING BY ACHIEVEMENT
An analysis by WBEZ finds that Chicago’s school-choice system sorts students of different achievement levels into separate high schools. (WBEZ)
 
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE POPULAR KIDS?
According to a new study, middle schoolers who engaged in “cool” behaviors were, by adulthood, more at risk of serious criminal activity and drug and alcohol use. (Inside School Research) 

FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
Columbus Dispatch: “Good schools don't worry about competitors
EdNET Insight: “Teacher PD, Principal Recruitment

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COMMON CORE IN NORTH CAROLINA
Rather than abandoning the Common Core entirely, North Carolina lawmakers will convene a commission to find ways to revise them. (Washington Post)
 
HORIZONS SCIENCE NETWORK
The Horizons Science network, a charter school chain in Dayton, Ohio, is under investigation after allegations arose of serious misconduct among school officials at one of their schools. (Charters & Choice)
 
PRE-K RISING
A New America Foundation report argues that preschool programs should be seen as essential parts of elementary schools and be given comparable funding and school hours. (Washington Post)
 
BOSTON CHARTERS
On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Senate rejected a bill that would have allowed an expansion of charters in Boston and other urban areas. (Associated Press)
 
FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
Dallas Observer: “The People Choosing Texas' Social Studies Texts Don't Know Enough about Social Studies

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Peter Sipe

Twelve years ago, my wife and I went back to school. Not the same one, though: she went to medical school and I went to education school. I don’t think I’ll shock even the gentlest reader by asserting that the former was harder than the latter, but I would like to offer a glimpse of how differently rigorous they were.

Here’s a reconstruction of a typical conversation from our school days:

Me: “How was school, dear?”

Wife: “I have to master the circulatory system by Monday or repeat the entire year. How was school, dear?”

Me: “I have to write a one-page reflection on what education should be.”

Wife: [Mutters oaths, none of them Hippocratic.]

I can’t imagine a professional school more rigorous than medical school. And I’ll leave aside for now how crazy hard it is just to get in, or the I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-illegal madness of what happens after a doctor graduates. (Free romance tip: marry a doctor after she’s finished residency, not before.) But say what you want about it—and my wife and her classmates did, believe me—those med students learned how to be doctors.

Me? This ed student’s classes generally went like this: a professor would speak for a bit on some theoretical matter, then we’d break into small groups to discuss it for an extravagantly long time, then we’d get back into a big group and share our opinions some more. I remember a class one evening in which you could not speak unless you had been...

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COLLEGE READINESS
A new study finds that toughening high school exit criteria did not increase the likelihood that graduates would go on to college. (Inside School Research)
 
MO’ MONEY, MO’ PROBLEMS
Rick Hess points out that throwing money at stagnating school systems can actually make it more difficult to change them. (Education Week)
 
HOUSE AND SENATE RACES
Politics K–12 rounds up the House and Senate campaigns with education-policy angles to keep an eye on. (Politics K–12)
 
MALE-FEMALE WAGE GAP
Federal data shows that in 2012, female college graduates were still only earning 82 cents for each dollar that a man was—four years out of college. (Education By The Numbers)
 
FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
Huffington Post: “These States Are Scrambling To Adopt New Education Standards
US News: “Common Core in Flux as States Debate Standards, Tests
The New York World: “At some city schools long suspensions are tool of choice”...

It feels like there are two very different charter-school conversations going on. The first is about policy and practice; the other is about philosophy and politics. Both have their place. But a recent collection of events and articles demonstrate why it’s important to understand the difference between the two.

The first presupposes (or, at minimum, concedes) the legitimacy of chartering and then explores how to make it better. These conversations typically focus on statutes and regulations, authorizers and operators, curriculum and instruction; they mostly attract wonky policy types and nuts-and-bolts practitioners.

The second, about philosophy and politics, is essentially about whether chartering is good or bad. Participants are interested in basic questions such as, “Should charters exist?” and “What does chartering mean for public education?” This conversation, which typically emanates from deeply held principles and big ideas, seems to attract the scholarly, the idealistic, and the impassioned—but also the certain and the dismissive.

There are a couple unfortunate upshots of this. The first relates to the charter-related content that gets the most attention. Sadly, the more name calling you do (“privateer,” “hoax, destroy, privatize,” or this doozy: “corporate interests, hedge fund managers and billionaires starve public schools and services of resources and suck up as much profit as they can”), the more press you get.

Similarly, if a charter story has any political angle, it’ll get ink. A Democratic congressman is rebuffed by a union, so he votes in favor of major charter legislation? Big news....

OKLAHOMA AND THE COMMON CORE
The Oklahoma Supreme Court is hearing arguments on the state’s Common Core repeal. (Associated Press)
 
PHILLY SCHOOL FUNDING
Arne Duncan says that current state levels of K–12 education funding in Philadelphia are “unacceptable.” (Politics K–12)
 
EYESIGHT MATTERS
A recent paper finds that providing free eyewear to students in developing nations leads to vastly improved educational outcomes. (Economist)
 
FINANCIAL LITERACY
Florida has become the first state to adopt standards for teaching personal finance. (Curriculum Matters)
 
ACHIEVEMENT GAPS
The Montgomery County school district, which has a growing achievement gap, may consider changing attendance boundaries with the goal of achieving greater diversity. (Washington Post)
 
ACHIEVEMENT, HAPPINESS, OR CARING FOR OTHERS?
A survey asked middle and high school students whether their parents prioritize achievement, feeling happy, or caring for others. Of the respondents, 80 percent of kids picked achievement or happiness—and when asked what they themselves think is most important, the results were the same. (NPR Ed)

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One of the great misconceptions in education is that the reform movement is monolithic. There have always been competing camps, often defined on ideological grounds. Conservatives and libertarians tend to stress school choice, for example; liberals are much more comfortable with an intrusive federal role.

But the divisions feel more rigid today than at any other time that I can recall, the rivalries more heated. This is a big problem, one we need to get a handle on lest school reform go the way of Syria, with rival factions spending more time clobbering each other than fighting a common foe.

I was reminded of this on Friday, when I had the honor to speak to the nation’s state superintendents. During a panel session on the Common Core, I made an off-hand comment that riled several of those in attendance. “Let’s be careful about the happy talk,” I said, “about Common Core and teacher evaluations peacefully coexisting.” I went on, “It’s not hard to understand why teachers are nervous when we tell them that we expect them to teach to new, higher standards but that their heads are on the chopping block if they don’t succeed.” We should allow for a pause in the consequences associated with the evaluations, I argued, echoing a recent statement from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Not surprisingly, this rankled the handful of state supes who are pushing hard on the teacher accountability agenda. And upon reflection, I can...

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AFT CONVENTION
The AFT convention opened on Friday, and Education Week’s Stephen Sawchuk is posting regular updates on its resolutions and activities in his Teacher Beat blog. (Washington Post, Curriculum Matters, Teacher Beat)
 
SECRETARY DUNCAN’S ‘IMPROVEMENT PLAN’
In one resolution, the AFT—while stopping short of the NEA’s call for Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s immediate resignation—demanded that President Obama put Duncan on an “improvement plan” and that he resign if he doesn’t switch to more union-friendly positions. (Teacher Beat)
 
COMMON CORE POLITICS
Common Core has become a wedge issue in this GOP presidential preseason. (Hechinger Report)
 
FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
Time: “Teachers Union Pulls Full-Throated Support for Common Core
Washington Post: “Md. student test scores drop significantly as state shifts to Common Core

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