Flypaper

DEMOCRACY REQUIRES PATRIOTISM
“In the long and deadly battle against those who hate Western ideals, and hate America in particular, we must be powerfully armed, morally as well as materially,” writes historian Donald Kagan in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKIN’ ABOUT
Former President Bill Clinton made waves with “stunning remarks” arguing charters that don’t outperform public schools should be closed. If “stunning” means saying the same thing charter advocates have been saying for twenty years, responds NACSA head Greg Richmond, “then yes, his remarks were stunning.”

“NOBODY WANTS TO BE ATLANTA”
The Wall Street Journal reports on “a burgeoning industry in detecting cheating on standardized exams.” School districts from Delaware to Idaho are hiring anti-cheating consultants, buying software to spot wrongdoers, and requiring testing companies to offer anti-cheating plans when seeking contracts. 

ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH
Literacy expert Tim Shanahan enters the fray on teaching with complex text, not just “leveled” text. “Teachers should pay attention to evidence—not opinion,” he writes. Read Fordham’s take by Mahnken and Pondiscio here.    

HISTORY LESSONS
In Philly, students are required to take a one-year course in African American history, but many find the course frustrating, says the New Republic. And teachers “sometimes fear that introducing current events and encouraging interpretation and debate will lead to...

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There’s a lot of talk about disruptive innovation these days. It seems hardly a month goes by that we don’t see some sort of exciting new innovation that changes an industry. Sometimes it happens over and over again in the same space. First we had paper maps that were replaced by custom driving directions we could print out from MapQuest (remember those?). Then came some very expensive GPS systems mounted in cars. Those, in turn, were replaced by much cheaper portable GPS systems from companies like Garmin, which were basically made obsolete by free map applications from Apple, Google, and others in nearly all cell phones sold today. All this in a handful of years! Fortunately, paper mapmakers weren’t ultra-powerful on Capitol Hill, or we might still be sitting in our cars trying to figure out how the heck you’re supposed to fold those things.

Unfortunately, the traditional public education system does have an army of apologists, lobbyists and piles of cash to protect itself and resist change.  Public unions are the best funded of these anti-change agents, but they are by no means the only players to resist everything from accountability to online learning to charter schools—none of which are really that radical when you think about it.

A white paper published by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, “Public Accountability for Charter Schools: Standards and Policy Recommendations for Effective Oversight,” follows a familiar path. The ideas, almost certainly by design, would stifle the innovation we...

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DEPARTMENT OF GOOD NEWS:
Hispanic children, the fastest growing group of young people in the U.S., are seeing improvements on many academic measures, including increased math proficiency and lower dropout rates.

DEPARTMENT OF BAD NEWS:
The number of charter schools has nearly doubled over the past decade, but federal and state assistance for funding school facilities and renovations, a major obstacle for many charter schools, has declined.

COMMON CORE UNFOLDS IN LOUISIANA:
In spite of the legal furor surrounding the implementation of Common Core in the Pelican State, the standards have seen a mostly encouraging reception in the classroom, Will Sentell reports in the New Orleans Advocate.

YALE BEATS HARVARD, 20.2-15.4:
Yesterday we pointed you to a Wall Street Journal story highlighting Harvard’s somewhat lackluster 15.4 percent investment gains in fiscal 2014; today brings the news that archnemesis Yale posted a 20.2 percent return over the same period. Meanwhile, the Crimson's investment arm has brought on a new chief executive....

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Every child should be in a school where he or she can learn effectively. That’s not a controversial goal in itself, but the methods meant to accomplish it can become hot buttons. That was the case with No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which made the goal a national policy. It’s also becoming the case with the Common Core, under which states commit to educate children to rigorous standards.

Actions taken in pursuit of the goal are controversial because they are inevitably difficult and complicated. There is a lot of work of many kinds to be done: improving teacher training, experimenting with more effective methods, and continuously enhancing learning opportunities for children. Moreover, none of these tasks are enough by themselves. What ties them together is accountability—the use of standards, measures, judgments, and remedies to ensure that students are making significant progress over time and, if some are not, to ensure that they have access to better opportunities.  

Accountability is where the rubber meets the road. And, thanks to NCLB, we have unprecedented data about schools, students, and teachers. We have a sharper focus on students who are failing in schools that serve the average student well. States and localities have new tests to provide early warning when children are not learning, and have tied these results to remedial action and school closure or replacement.

But we are still struggling to get accountability right. In particular, the current backlash...

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BACK TO THE SUMMIT
Education Week looks at the 25th anniversary of the famous Charlottesville summit of 1989. The meeting between President George H.W. Bush and the nation's governors helped initiate the national drive for standards in education. 

SAFETY FIRST
School safety is a top concern for Department of Education officials, who recently awarded over $70 million in "Now is the Time" federal grants to districts across the nation. The funds will be put toward implementation of behavior interventions, counseling services, and development of emergency response plans.

PAINTING CURRICULUM RED?
Parents, teachers, and students staged a walkout in a Denver suburb yesterday in protest of a newly proposed curriculum-review committee that would promote patriotism and discourage "civil disorder." Students and teachers from the Jefferson County school district object to the recent edits the conservative school board has made to the history curriculum; subsequent protests have disrupted regular school activity. 

IVY GROWTH
Harvard has posted a 15.4 percent investment return for its endowment in FY 2014, the Wall Street Journal reports. The gains trail those reported by Ivy League rivals Dartmouth (19.2 percent) and the University of Pennsylvania (17.5 percent), as well as the 16.7 percent one-year median for all reported large endowments and foundations....

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It was back-to-school night last week at my son’s elementary school in Montgomery County, Maryland, which meant that we moms and dads got a first look at “Learning for the Future: A Parent’s Guide to Grade 1 Curriculum 2.0.” (I would link to it online, but it’s not online, ostensibly to protect its value as a commercial product. [UPDATE: The parents' guide actually is available here, as the good folks at MCPS kindly pointed out.] Several years ago, MCPS sold the curriculum to Pearson. Which is rather bizarre, but that's a subject for another post.)

Let me start by saying that MCPS does a lot of things right. My son’s teacher, who has her own classroom for the first time this year, seems great (and graduated from one of the best teacher prep programs in the country, according to NCTQ). She also gets a ton of support from her fellow teachers, and from the central office, which is simply not available in the typical American school. (And that is the sort of support that both Dana Goldstein and Elizabeth Green called for in their recent books.) Most importantly, MCPS has a curriculum, which, surprisingly enough, is an anomaly for public school districts. (Many districts, especially the itsy-bitsy ones, hand out textbooks and call it a day.)

The problem is that the MCPS curriculum—at least what I’ve seen so...

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LIVE AND DIE BY IMPLEMENTATION
So says Robert Pondiscio on the future of the Common Core in Vox’s implementation-over-politics article. "As a teacher, I never once took down the New York state standards to decide what to teach. You teach curriculum, you teach books, you teach subject matter, and then you teach it to the standards."

STICKLERS FOR COMMAS
If you’re going to invest $645,000 in a pre-K campaign, make sure to place commas in the correct places. Otherwise, we might have to make the Chicago Manual of Style required reading for three- and four-year-olds.

DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY
But they do know something about history standards—and they agree: AEI’s Rick Hess and Fordham’s Chester E. Finn, Jr. dispel outlandish myths on the AP U.S. History framework, but “[t]hat said, the framework has a full measure of shortcomings, starting with its inattention to America’s motivating ideals.”

HOMELESS STUDENTS
New data from the Department of Education shows that more public school students than ever before were homeless during the 2012-2013 school year. 1.3 million elementary and secondary school children reported lacking a permanent home, many of them living on their own or sharing a space with a relative or friend....

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MONEY FOR NOTHING
Most Americans give poor marks to schools, but think their kids’ schools are pretty good. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Paul Peterson says the same is true on school spending.  Most of us suffer from “buyer's delight”the tendency to think we "got a deal even when an objective observer would conclude otherwise.”

ICYMI
If you didn’t tune in to the debate to end all debates—on the Common Core that is—you can download the podcast version of “Should We Embrace the Common Core?” Spoiler alert: Yes, we should.

ARNE RESPONDS TO BOBBY
“He had a couple of unsuccessful lawsuits,” notes Duncan in response to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s latest Common Core lawsuit against the federal government. Ouch.

FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
Fordham’s Dara Zeehandelaar talked charter schools, teachers unions, and why the two are more water-and-oil than peas-and-carrots with Education Week’s charters-and-choice expert, Arianna Prothero.

TO KEEP KAYA OR NOT TO KEEP KAYA
Jay Mathews of the Washington Post, despite many columns of tough criticism of the D.C. schools chancellor, calls for D.C. voters to support the mayoral candidate that backs Henderson. “If both candidates agree that she must stay, then a vote for either one is fine. If Catania won’t make that promise, then the choice is either Bowser or more years of chaos and heartbreak.”

HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR PARENTS
A New York City charter school is catching heat for telling parents they will be...

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Education Next

Not many education books debut as a New York Times bestseller, but The Teacher Wars, by Dana Goldstein, is not just any book. “A history of America’s most embattled profession,” it serves as a tonic to reformers who believe we’re the first ones to discover problems with America’s public schools, or to call for policies such as tenure reform, merit pay, or higher standards for entry into the profession. With sympathy for teachers but also clear eyes about the profession’s legitimate shortcomings, Goldstein has produced a book that will challenge defenders of the public education system and reformers alike.

In this edition of the Education Next Book Club podcast, Mike Petrilli talks with Dana Goldstein about her best-selling book.

Additional episodes of the Education Next Book Club can be found here.

This post originally appeared on the Education Next blog.

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Since the beginning of the No Child Left Behind era, most schools in all 50 states have been given an evaluation of student performance and an overall rating. While crafting a thoughtful and nuanced accountability system is a frequent topic of discussion on The Gadfly (and is really what matters most), here I simply want to discuss the label that sums up a school's overall evaluation. Some might say it's wrong on principle to label schools. Others worry (and sometimes justifiably so) that a nuanced view of schools get lost when we attempt to boil it all down to a single school rating. Moreover, some may see these labels as nothing but a value judgment about "good" schools and "bad" schools when it's clear that parents value many different things about a school. From academics and facilities to safety and course offerings, even the "best" school might not be best for all kids. 

However, we can make objective judgments in some areas.  In addition, use of these labels is not only widely supported, it's also ingrained in federal policy through both NCLB and waivers. So the question is: If we're going to put schools into categories, what should those categories be called?  A few ideas to consider:

1.       States should avoid too few or too many categories - One of the major gripes about No Child Left Behind at the time of passage was that it treated similar schools very differently. The law initially set a bar for schools to clear called Adequate...

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