Flypaper

DIFFERENT MINDS THINK ALIKE
At a Colorado gubernatorial debate last night, Governor John Hickenlooper and Congressman Bob Beauprez discussed their views on education. The consensus: To improve the state's standing in national rankings, more federal funding is necessary. Good luck with that, fellas.

GOOD NEWS FOR LOW-INCOME UNDERGRADS
The University of Chicago will announce today a number of initiatives aimed at increasing the enrollment of low-income students. “This is all part of a strategy to create a common and equal platform for all students,” said the school’s dean.

TOOTHLESS STANDARDS
Mathew Chingos writes that although California has passed laws to remove ineffective teachers and end tenure abuse, this legislation will have a minimal impact, dismissing poor teachers at an annual rate of only 0.0008 percent. 

THINK DIFFERENT
While technology in the classroom opens the door for versatile lessons, some worry that automated programs rob children of the ability to solve complex problems on their own. ...

I’m excited about a recent shift in the reform conversation. After years of focusing on Common Core, common assessments, and teacher evaluation, many of those interested in large-scale K–12 improvements are turning their attention back to state accountability systems.

The Obama administration’s ESEA waiver policy had the potential to spur imaginative state-level thinking. But thanks to a combination of NCLB’s legal strictures, the administration’s fixation on particular policy conditions, and state leaders who just wanted to get out from under AYP ASAP, the new state systems look a whole lot like the old ones. (In fairness, some states have smartly experimented with A–F systems and “super subgroups.”)

Despite this arrested development, I think two important events provide the outlines for a new approach to state-level accountability.

First, under the auspices of CRPE and TBFI, a group of experienced policymakers and thought leaders have penned an “Open Letter on Accountability To State Superintendents and Governors.” It explains and defends K–12 accountability, concedes problems with current systems, and offers eight smart principles for next-generation systems. The group doesn’t get into specifics; instead, it hopes to get people thinking about what’s possible (though within certain guidelines).

This is important because of the second event: Increasingly, people are arguing that a unitary statewide accountability system stymies innovation and fails to capture important elements of schooling that some communities prioritize.

Mike Petrilli has argued that about 10 percent of a state’s public schools should be allowed to “opt...

Anne Hyslop

As a premed student in college, I grew accustomed to being evaluated on just a handful of marks—two midterms and a final exam made up the entire grade. With so few assignments, the stakes to do well on each test were high. But there were a couple of professors who upped the ante even more. They’d toss out your shoddy midterm grades if you aced the final, no questions asked. Did you have too much fun homecoming weekend before that physics midterm? Fraternity brothers kept you out too late during “hell week” to study for the bio exam? No problem. There’s always the final exam—a chance for redemption.

If states’ requests for waivers from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) three years ago were the first midterm, and last year’s slew of monitoring reports from the U.S. Department of Education and the waiver extension requests that followed were the second, then the upcoming waiver “renewals” are the final exam: the last chance states will have to negotiate with the department on the terms of their waivers. It’s also the last opportunity for Secretary Duncan to evaluate states’ progress and cajole them to implement key reforms before his administration leave office. And since waivers have acted as a de facto reauthorization of NCLB for over forty states—reshaping policies for assessing students against academic standards and holding schools and educators accountable for those results—the renewal process matters enormously in terms of the legacy and federal policy landscape this administration...

Anne Hyslop

As a premed student in college, I grew accustomed to being evaluated on just a handful of marks—two midterms and a final exam made up the entire grade. With so few assignments, the stakes to do well on each test were high. But there were a couple of professors who upped the ante even more. They’d toss out your shoddy midterm grades if you aced the final, no questions asked. Did you have too much fun homecoming weekend before that physics midterm? Fraternity brothers kept you out too late during “hell week” to study for the bio exam? No problem. There’s always the final exam—a chance for redemption.

If states’ requests for waivers from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) three years ago were the first midterm, and last year’s slew of monitoring reports from the U.S. Department of Education and the waiver extension requests that followed were the second, then the upcoming waiver “renewals” are the final exam: the last chance states will have to negotiate with the department on the terms of their waivers. It’s also the last opportunity for Secretary Duncan to evaluate states’ progress and cajole them to implement key reforms before his administration leave office. And since waivers have acted as a de facto reauthorization of NCLB for over forty states—reshaping policies for assessing students against academic standards and holding schools and educators accountable for those results—the renewal process matters enormously in terms of the legacy and federal policy landscape this administration...

ATLANTA’S SHAME
Yesterday saw opening statements in the criminal trial of a dozen Atlanta teachers and administrators who allegedly engaged in a “widespread, cleverly disguised” conspiracy to cheat on standardized test scores “to protect their jobs and win favor and bonuses from administrators,” the New York Times reports.

FORDHAM (AND CRPE) IN THE NEWS
Tom Vander Ark weighs in on the accountability reboot from Fordham-CRPE noting, “I love the idea of a 'good school promise' (best captured by #3) and think it should form the backbone of every states ed code. This list is a good start but doesn't adequately capture the opportunity of next generation learning.”

REFORM: A NEW CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT?
At The Hill, Basil A. Smikle Jr. examines the growing split between ed reformers and unions, with parents caught in the middle: “They also have agency, but there is a growing sense that their support is being appropriated for purposes that go beyond the classroom and their children.”

PATRIOTISM OR CENSORSHIP?
The protests in Jefferson County, Colorado against proposed changes to the history curriculum have engendered some great debates over the place of patriotism in the classroom. A longtime Colorado teacher shares his thoughts in The Denver Post.

    ...

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...

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...

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....

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...

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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