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A new study examines the effects of disruptive elementary school peers on other students’ high school test scores, college attendance, degree attainment, and early adult earnings.

Analysts link administrative and public records data for children enrolled in grades 3–5 in one large Florida county (Alachua) between the years of 1995–1996 and 2002–2003. The demographic and test score data are linked to domestic violence, which is the part of the study that strikes me as odd.

They define “disruptive peer” not by how many times a child is disciplined in school or the severity of the offense, but rather by a proxy—whether a member of the child’s family petitioned the court for a temporary restraining order against another member of the family. Apparently, the literature shows that children exposed to domestic violence are more likely to display a number of behavioral problems, among them aggression, bullying, and animal cruelty. Another study showed these students negatively affected their peers’ behavior. Nevertheless, calling these students “disruptive peers” is a misleading characterization given the lack of documented school infractions. They are kids exposed to domestic violence, and the findings should be understood within this light.

That said, here are the results: Estimates show that...

If I had to pick just one reason to support Common Core, it would be to address the paucity of nonfiction texts read by students in elementary and middle school reading instruction. Gaps in background knowledge and vocabulary make it stubbornly difficult to raise reading achievement. Conceptualizing reading comprehension as a skill you can apply to any ol’ text broadly misses the point. By encouraging reading in history, science, and other disciplines across the curriculum, Common Core encourages “a foundation of knowledge in these fields that will also give [students] the background to be better readers in all content areas.”

Thus, it is great good news that the 2016 Brown Center Report on American Education finds the dominance of fiction waning in the fourth and eighth grades. The standards call for a 50/50 mix of fiction and non-fiction in fourth grade. In 2011, 63 percent of fourth-grade teachers reported emphasizing fiction in class, while only 38 percent said they emphasized non-fiction. A mere four years later, the gap is down to just eight percentage points (53 percent to 45 percent).

On the math side, CCSS asks for fewer topics or strands, as well as a focus on whole number arithmetic from kindergarten...

Way back in the early days of the accountability movement, Jeb Bush’s Florida developed an innovative approach to evaluating school quality. First, the state looked at individual student progress over time—making it one of the first to do so. Then it put special emphasis on the gains (or lack thereof) of the lowest-performing kids in the state.

Many of us were fans of this approach, including the focus on low-achievers. It was an elegant way to highlight the performance of the children who were most at risk of being “left behind,” without resorting to an explicitly race-based approach like No Child Left Behind’s.

Chad Aldeman of Bellwether Education Partners recently interviewed one of the designers of the Florida system, Christy Hovanetz, who elaborates:

By focusing on the lowest-performing students, we want to create a system that truly focuses on students who need the most help and is equitable across all schools. We strongly support the focus on the lowest-performing students, no matter what group they come from.

That does a number of things. It reduces the number of components…within the accountability system and places the focus on students who truly need the most help….It also reduces the need for...

We are all familiar with the "hero teacher" narrative from books and movies: A plucky young (inevitably white) teacher ends up in a tough inner-city classroom filled with "those kids"—the ones that school and society have written off as unteachable—and succeeds against all odds, through grit and compassion, embarrassing in the process those who run "the system." Ed Boland's The Battle for Room 314 is the dark opposite. It's a clear-eyed chronicle of first-year teaching failure at a difficult New York City high school, vividly written and wincingly frank.

Reading the book brought back a flood of memories of my own struggles as a new teacher at a low-performing public school in the South Bronx. Like Boland, I had my share of defiant and difficult students. If I'd been teaching high school, not elementary school, I likely would have made the same decision he did: to abandon ship and return to my previous career after one year, shell-shocked and defeated.

Two things saved me. First, midway through my first year, another fifth-grade teacher was called up from the army reserve to active duty. I asked my principal to reassign me from my two-teacher "inclusion" classroom to take over her class....

Van Schoales

Education Cities and Great Schools recently released a useful new educational data tool called the Education Equality Index (EEI), which allows users to compare cities and states across the nation that are “closing the achievement gap.” The tool compiles school-level low-income student achievement data (2011–2014), compares it to state average proficiency rates for all students (by test and grade), and adjusts the school’s score based on the population it serves. The EEI then rolls up these school scores into city- and state-wide scores. It quantifies the size of this gap (which, because the data is normalized, can be compared across cities and states with different standardized tests).

Education Cities should be applauded for helping raise the issue around our nation’s huge achievement gap. We need to pay more attention to disparities by race, income, and gender in our schools. We need to apply even more resources to understanding how schools are narrowing these gaps and devote greater attention to those efforts that are actually getting students to achieve at higher levels. EEI also has some great data visualizations from which the National Center on Educational Statistics could take a few tips.

There are, however, a number of significant problems with...

This report from Public Impact describes an unusual $55 million school turnaround effort in North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools called Project L.I.F.T. (Leadership and Investment for Transformation). Despite its sizable price tag, the project offers lessons for funders, district leaders, and anyone else taking on the tough work of overhauling low-performing schools—as spelled out in this examination of outcomes at the project’s two-year midway point.

Launched in 2012–13, L.I.F.T. is an effort led and largely funded by a group of donors working in partnership with the district to raise the graduation rate at West Charlotte High School and improve performance at select feeder schools. The project’s initial investment group, led by local foundations, pledged an astonishing $40.5 million to the effort during its planning phase; corporate sponsors, individual donors, and federal School Improvement Grants and Title I dollars have funded the rest. Project reforms center on four areas: time, talent, technology, and parent and community engagement. This has included implementing extended learning in select schools and opening a credit recovery high school, as well as issuing hiring bonuses, revamping the district’s hiring calendar, and realizing “Opportunity Culture”—an initiative through which teachers teach more students for more pay. Laptops have been...

A new study by Brian Jacob and colleagues examines the relationship between teacher hiring data and subsequent teacher performance in D.C. Public Schools (DCPS).

Analysts focused on information gathered between 2011 and 2013 through TeachDC, the district’s centralized application process that collects data on applicants’ education history, employment experience, and eligibility for tenure (the study includes over seven thousand applicants). TeachDC winnows down applicants based on their performance on subject-specific assessments, interviews, and teaching auditions. Those who pass all three stages are put in the recommended pool to be seen by principals (though new hires can also be hired outside the pool). Data also included IMPACT, D.C.’s teacher evaluation system, for all district teachers between 2011–12 and 2013–14.

There are four key findings. First, applicants with no prior teaching experience are less likely to be hired by DCPS schools than those with prior experience. Second, teachers with better academic credentials (e.g., ACT or SAT scores) appear to be no more or less likely to be hired. Third, for those who are hired, achievement measures (undergraduate GPA, SAT and ACT scores, and college selectivity) and some screening measures (such as applicants’ performance on mock teaching lessons) mostly did not predict hiring...

I’m interested but rarely surprised whenever independent research shows strong evidence of curriculum effects. So this study of the efficacy of the Reading Recovery program by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education caught my eye. Recall that Reading Recovery, a short-term intervention program of one-to-one tutoring for low-achieving first graders, was one of the big winners of the Investing in Innovation (i3) scale-up grants back in 2010. The feds allocated $45 million in federal dollars, plus $10 million more raised from the private sector, for the training of 3,675 teachers to offer the oddly named program (how do you “recover” a skill you don’t possess?) to more than 300,000 students.

Created forty years ago by a developmental psychologist and professor at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, Reading Recovery is a series of daily, one-on-one lessons provided by specially trained teachers over a period of 12–20 weeks. Its entire point is to intervene early, before young students’ reading difficulties become too hard to address and reverse. Students who participated in Reading Recovery “significantly outperformed students in the control group on measures of overall reading, reading comprehension, and decoding,” the...

A few years into my experience as a public school parent, I can confidently say that I know what angers moms and dads the most: when a teacher puts on a movie during the school day. I don’t care if it’s the afternoon before winter break or the last minutes before summer recess: If anyone is going to use a video to babysit my kids, it’s going to be me! Allowing our children to have screen time comes with a lot of guilt and shame, and parents feel that we should exclusively benefit from of it.

So I make the following argument with a great deal of trepidation: What if watching videos is good for kids? What if it is so good that it should be part of the regular school day?

I’m not talking about the latest Pixar movie (although Inside Out certainly could be a great resource for social and emotional learning). I’m talking about explicitly educational videos that teach content to kids in engaging and memorable ways.

Here’s why: E. D. Hirsch Jr. has argued for thirty years—and cognitive scientists like Dan Willingham have backed him up—that teaching content is essential to teaching reading. While children are learning to decode the...

National news outlets including SlatePoliticoEsquire, and the Washington Post have predicted that charter schools might be a growing thorn in Governor John Kasich’s side as he competes for the Republican presidential nomination. Kasich is being criticized for the overall poor performance of Ohio’s charter school sector, as well as for last year’s scandal over authorizer evaluations and its aftermath (including a hold placed on Ohio’s $71 million federal Charter School Program grant).

But by calling charters Kasich’s “little problem back home”—or, more boldly, claiming that his track record with them is “terrible”—national reporters are missing big pieces of the story. If these journalists had dug a little deeper, they would have realized that Kasich mostly deserves praise, not scorn, for the steps he’s taken to improve Ohio charter schools. In fact, any real examination of the candidate’s record on charters would reveal that no Ohio governor has worked harder to strengthen oversight of the charter school sector.

Kasich inherited a charter sector that was notorious for conflicts of interest, regulatory loopholes, self-dealing, and domination by powerful special interests. The mediocre performance of Ohio’s charter sector precedes Kasich’s tenure as well: CREDO’s 2009 charter study rated Ohio among the lowest-performing states.

In his first year in...

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