Flypaper

Just as the education-reform movement is starting to figure out how to use test-score data in a more sophisticated way, the Obama administration and its allies in the civil-rights community want to take us back to the Stone Age on the use of school-discipline data. This is an enormous mistake.

We all know that there are real problems with the ways that discipline is meted out in some American schools today. You can find campuses where huge numbers of students are suspended or expelled, particularly African American and Latino teenagers and mostly boys. Those young people are extraordinarily likely to end up in America’s bloated prison system as adults, causing all manner of societal suffering along the way, not to mention blighting their own lives. “Zero tolerance” policies—by removing administrator discretion and treating all offenses as equally injurious—have arguably made things worse.

I whole-heartedly support efforts to improve the ways that schools handle these issues; tips and training on creating a positive school culture and reducing suspensions and expulsions are welcome. Nor do I doubt that some of America’s 100,000-plus schools discriminate against minority children. Russlynn Ali, the former assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education, talks about the district where a black Kindergartener gets suspended for pulling a fire alarm while a white tenth grader does the same thing and gets off with a warning. That’s wrong, and I’m grateful that students...

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NEA CONVENTION
Delegates to the National Education Association’s annual convention called for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to resign and approved a policy statement strengthening their opposition to the use of tests in teacher evaluations. (Answer Sheet and Teacher Beat)
 
GRADUATION RATES
While the graduation rate in Prince George’s County went up slightly from 2012 to 2013, the percentage of those who graduated on time in 2013 (74.1 percent) was down from 2010 (76.2). (Washington Post)
 
FOOD ACCESS
For children in rural areas, summer means having a tougher time finding fresh fruits and vegetables. (Hechinger Report)

COLLEGE GRADS FINDING WORK
A new NCES report finds that most of those who graduated college during the recession (in the 2007–08 school year) were employed four years later. (Institute of Education Sciences)
 
FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
StateImpact Ohio: “The Process of Picking Principals
WABE: “Why is a Good Principal Hard to Find? (And Keep?)”...

The most interesting story coming out of the landmark Vergara and Harris decisions is the coming irresistible-force-immovable-object collision of reformers’ aggressive new litigation strategy and teachers unions’ stout-defense approach to leadership.

These cases provide the nation’s unions an opportunity to produce next-generation leaders who strengthen labor’s long-term position through new rhetoric and priorities. But the unions’ recent bearing—elevating aggressive individuals wedded to longstanding ways—may be a path to their political marginalization or worse.

Most observers interpreted the Vergara-Harris tandem as an anti-union one-two combination. The Vergara decision was the uppercut, a jarring repudiation of California’s policies on tenure and seniority. Harris was the enervating body blow setting up the denouement. It chipped away at unions’ ability to extract dues from nonmembers in the name of preventing “freeriders” ; the Court emphasized the right of individuals to refuse to financially support organizations with which they disagree, which could have major implications for mandatory-dues policies.

Said simply, Vergara struck down union-supported policies, and Harris may eventually serve to turn off a stream of income upon which unions depend for their negotiating and advocacy activities.

A doughty response from labor was to be expected. This is no glass-jaw gang.

But their reaction has been positively martial. The first paragraph alone in the NEA’s statement included “privatizing public education and attacking educators,” “ultra-rich cronies,” and “deep-pocketed corporate special interests.” The California Federation of Teachers declared, “The judge fell...

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TEACHER TENURE
On Thursday, an advocacy group filed a lawsuit challenging New York City’s teacher-tenure laws. (New York Times)
 
TEACHER EQUITY
Today, Arne Duncan outlined his fifty-state strategy for enforcing NCLB’s teacher-equity requirement. (Politics K–12)
 
EDUCATION RESEARCH
The Education Department announced a burst of new research partnerships on topics such as D.C.’s IMPACT teacher-evaluation system and support for English-language learners. (Inside School Research)
 
BALANCED LITERACY
A New York Daily News editorial argues that Chancellor Fariña should not revive the Balanced Literacy curriculum. (New York Daily News)
 
FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
Daily Caller: “Common Core Backers Regret Obama’s Involvement
TES Connect: “Want the best? Then pay top dollar

Note: This post is part of our series, "Netflix Academy: The best educational videos available for streaming." Be sure to check out our previous Netflix Academy posts on Ancient Asian Culturesearly American civilizationsAncient GreeceAncient RomeNative American culturesChristopher Columbus and the Age of DiscoveryColonial America and the Revolutionary Warthe American founders; the Lewis and Clark expeditionmovie adaptations of classic children’s booksAmerican folk heroesdinosaursaquatic lifeinsectsfrogs and other amphibiansreptilesbirdsmammalshuman evolutionearthquakes and volcanoesouter spaceand the systems of the human body

Today is the 151st anniversary of Pickett’s Charge, the last Confederate offensive of the Civil War—one that ended in a massive, bloody defeat, now seen as the turning point in that epic conflagration. So it’s as good a time as any to feature educational videos on the Civil War. As has been the case with other historical topics, it’s not easy to find excellent, age-appropriate materials, but we’ve located a few. Of course, because of the nature of the topic, these are surely ones you should watch with your kids. And as always, let us know if we missed some good ones.

 

Special thanks to research interns Ashley Council and Liz McInerney for helping to compile these lists.

Best videos on the Civil War

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Bad ideas in education are like horror movie monsters. You think you’ve killed them, but they refuse to stay dead.

A generation ago, the infamous “reading wars” pitted phonics-based instruction in the early grades against “whole language,” which emphasized reading for meaning instead of spelling, grammar, and sounding words out.

In 1997, the National Reading Panel was tasked to settle the fight once and for all. Phonics won. That should have been the end of it, but whole language never really died. It morphed, grew a new head called “balanced literacy,” and lived on. In New York City, it grew even stronger.

Finally, last year, there was hope: Balanced literacy was left for dead yet when the city Education Department recommended two reading programs for elementary schools as they prepare to meet the rigorous new Common Core State Standards in English: New York State’s Core Knowledge Language Arts curriculum and Pearson’s ReadyGen.

The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project—the balanced-literacy program developed by Prof. Lucy Calkins, which had dominated city classrooms for more than a decade—notably failed to make the cut.

Why? Under the shift to Common Core standards, reading programs are explicitly expected to teach strong foundational skills, including phonics in the early grades, while building background knowledge and vocabulary, which are especially important for low-income children most at risk of reading failure.

To match the Common Core, reading programs must also encourage students to grapple with challenging texts that are worth reading.

None of these is emphasized in...

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SPECIAL-EDUCATION FUNDING
The New America Foundation finds that formulas divvying special-education money have not been adjusted in over a decade, which is resulting in smaller districts getting more federal dollars per student and shrinking districts getting more funding than growing districts. (On Special Education)
 
ED TECH
A MOOC designed to instruct teachers on how to use technology in the classroom is popular with a test group of rural teachers, who often must travel long distances for similar training. (Hechinger Report)
 
FUTURE CHARTER LEADERS
The University of Pennsylvania is launching a four-semester executive program for future charter school founders. (Charters & Choice)
 
CHARTER DIVERSITY
Fourteen diverse charter schools, including NYC’s Success Academy Charter Schools and San Diego’s High Tech High, have together founded the National Coalition of Diverse Charter Schools, which—among other things—will support research on the best policies an dprograms of diverse schools. (Charters & Choice)
 
FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
Daily News: “Why Johnny won’t learn to read
New Yorker: “The Limits of Reading Rainbow”...

The early-childhood folks didn’t much like it when I faulted NCES for relying on the Rutgers-based National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) as the source for federal data on “the state of preschool”—and for subsidizing the advocacy work of that organization, which just so happens to be aligned with President Obama’s preschool initiative.

NIEER’s Steve Barnett insisted that the sole-source federal contract pays only for data gathering, not advocacy. And the Department of Education noted that when it had announced its intention of awarding such a contract to NIEER, nobody objected at the time. So why, it implied, was I grumping after the fact?

Talk about splitting hairs. At the receiving end—I speak as the long-time head of a fundraising-dependent nonprofit organization not so very different from NIEER—all money is green, even federal contract dollars that must be accounted for. At minimum, they offset costs that would otherwise be borne elsewhere in one’s budget, thereby freeing up funds for other activities, in this case including advocacy, which is what NIEER is best known for. (OK, data-based advocacy, but limited to the data they want you to see because those are the data that buttress their views and advance their goals.) I don’t know what NIEER’s total budget is—we couldn’t find it in any public source—but the $1.5 million it will receive via this contract (over five years) isn’t chickenfeed. And they can charge to this contract the costs of gathering data they would otherwise have had...

NEW YORK SCHOOLS
New York City’s budget oversight agency finds that the Big Apple’s schools are becoming more congested, that funding has slumped, and that the number of kids in “temporary housing situations” has increased sharply. (New York Times)
 
SPECIAL EDUCATION
In response to the Education Department’s review of whether states are complying with federal SPED laws, the District of Columbia is considering an overhaul that would include speeding the delivery of services and giving families new tools in disputes with schools over services for their kids. (Washington Post)
 
PRE-KINDERGARTEN
As Mayor Bill de Blasio pushes his preschool-for-all plan, experts are arguing that more needs to be done to ensure that youngsters in informal pre-Kindergarten settings are getting a solid foundation. (New York Times)
 
TEACHER TENURE
In light of the recent Vergara case, the Hechinger Report has published some nifty infographics mapping the percentage of California’s teachers with tenure by county. (Hechinger Report)
 
FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
U.S. News: “Supreme Court Ruling Could Give Strength to Teacher Suit
Heartland: “Wyoming Continues Battle Over Science Standards”...

After nearly a decade of research, the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) released in May the first outcomes of its efforts to use the results of the 2013 12th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to report on the academic preparedness of U.S. 12th graders for college. It found that only 38% of 12th graders meet its preparedness benchmark in reading, and 39% meet its preparedness benchmark in math. NAGB’s efforts to track college readiness in the United States is uniquely important as it has the only assessment program that reports on the academic performance of a representative national sample of high school students.

That said, the group that issues the Nation’s Report Card deserves a grade of “Incomplete” for its work. Reading and math are obviously necessary indicators of academic preparation for college and careers after high school, but higher education and employers say it’s not enough. When it comes to the ability to complete college level work (and to being career ready), writing skills are essential. Yet, despite the fact that NAGB also administers a 12th grade writing test, it inexplicably chose not to include writing as an indicator of readiness.

If NAEP wants to remain the “gold standard” for assessment, NAGB must remedy this situation quickly. Postsecondary institutions and systems throughout the nation assess writing in order to determine whether students have the academic skills to succeed in first year courses. According to ACT, approximately one third of ACT test takers do not meet its readiness...

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