Flypaper

We seemed to have welcomed good manners back to the Common Core debate. That doesn’t mean we’ve seen more advocacy either on behalf of the standards or knocking them, only that the tenor appears to have changed for the better. At least for the time being, detractors are no longer paranoid Neanderthals, and supporters have ceased to be communists on the federal or Gates Foundation dole.

Whether this détente will prove to be ephemeral or lasting is anyone’s guess, but some credit should go to one CCSS advocate and one foe. In a Washington Times op-ed, Fordham’s Mike Petrilli and Neal McCluskey of Cato, hoping to tamp down the “raucous debate,” sought to re-ground the conversation in a number of facts.

Their piece argues, among other things, that both sides have good intentions; that much Common Core activity began before President Obama was elected, that much of that activity has been led by non-government bodies; and that federal policy—stretching from 1994 to this administration’s Race to the Top and ESEA waivers—has played a meaningful role in the standards’ adoption and implementation.

There are other clear signs of restraint. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee recently told a crowd that the Common Core fight should be dialed back. Though her union is still frustrated with implementation, AFT head Randi Weingarten penned an op-ed lauding the promise of the standards. Common Core co-author David Coleman recently denounced insulting language directed at opponents, and Glenn Beck scaled back his...

Categories: 

On September 3, I participated in a launch event for Mike McShane’s new book, Education and Opportunity, a publication of AEI’sValues and Capitalism” initiative. The following are my amended remarks about the book, namely our improved understanding of K12 markets, the downsides of a unitary system of schools, and the intersection of such reform and conservatism.

I want to focus on three elements of this valuable new book. The first two relate to its contributions to our improved thinking about school choice. The third relates to the tension between school choice and conservatism.

First, Education and Opportunity offers a sophisticated view of public school markets, how to understand them, use their strength, and appreciate their limitations.

The book’s thrust is neatly summarized by one of its early sentences: “A vibrant marketplace of education options is the most effective means of developing the schools necessary to meet the needs of students today and in the years to come.”

Many writers on school choice have focused on the importance of options. But note the use of “vibrant” and “developing.” This suggests a portfolio of schools that’s full of energy and dynamism. This is not a minimally diverse set of schools, a collection that exists in perpetuity. In this sentence and throughout the book, Mike describes a portfolio consisting of a wide array of options, a portfolio that continuously improves in quality and evolves to reflect the changing needs of families.

This echoes the great insight from charter...

Categories: 

UNIONIZING CHARTERS
The California Teachers Association has its sights set on charter school organization,Education Week reports. Nationally, the NEA and AFT have been working to bring unions to charter schools, but the sector remains mostly union-free—a good thing in Fordham's view.

BILL GATES SMILES
The New York Times Magazine profiled Bill Gates and his big idea to rework how history is taught in school, but most of the online fodder is around how photographer Dan Winters got the education philanthropist to smile.

SIGNIFICANT SIG CHANGES?
Draft guidance from the Department of Education could mean more financial flexibility for SIG recipients, reports Education Week. But can SIG even be fixed

HOW TO RATE SCHOOLS WITHOUT TEST SCORES
Jay Mathews at the Washington Post takes a crack at the NCLB-aged conundrum: sure, test scores are flawed metrics, but what else can we use? Classroom grades, not test scores. Though insert "Common Core" and this turns into a strong argument for the standards and its assessments....

Categories: 
Michael Usdan

There is little that I might add to Checker and Mike's wonderfully fitting tribute to Graham Down. They captured the very essence of a remarkable, multi-faceted, true Renaissance man.

Graham and I were personal and professional friends for better than three decades and crossed paths often in foundation offices as we both constantly sought revenue for our respective organizations: Graham for the Council for Basic Education and me for the Institute for Educational Leadership, which I led for twenty years. Indeed, our tenures as leaders of our respective organizations overlapped for almost two decades.

Despite this ostensible competition and eternal scrambling for scarce funds for our non-profits, we developed a unique and wonderful friendship with good natured, irrepressible humor. I unfailingly would tease Graham about his "Bronx accent" and the decline of his beloved British Empire. He in turn would respond to my taunts (in an infinitely more refined and articulate way) with acerbic comments about the immaturity of the American colonies.

Graham had superb people skills. His leadership of CBE was notable for many reasons. Most importantly, his special ability to bridge and connect diverse individuals and ideologies stands out in stark contrast in the contemporary, polarized education-policy context. Graham's energetic, impeccable persona and commitment to the highest academic standards and liberal arts gave him great credibility in the ranks of reformers and critics of the quality of American education. At the same time, Graham related wonderfully to mainstream educators and their "establishment" organizations.

In other words, he...

Categories: 

Eflon/Flickr

Judging by the rhetoric of some legislators and wonks, it may come as a shock that public policy is not the stuff of magic whereby just the right regulatory language will, like one of Harry Potter’s spells, instantly reduce a monster of a problem to dust. Instead, policy is about the careful consideration of a series of tradeoffs. Education reformers in particular have been accused of leaping from one panacea to the next, rather than carefully considering practical alternatives. That doesn’t mean, however, there aren’t still a number of critical ingredients that must be a part of any witch’s brew to cure what ails our education system. One of them is the reform of, if not removal of, tenure. 

Everyone has his or her own list of prerequisites to a great education system. For some, it might be small class sizes and wraparound services that reach the “whole child.” In my view, it includes parent-empowering school choice, a reduction of the compliance culture to promote innovation, and strong standards and accountability. The other essential items on the list? Staffing policies that allow us to recruit, retain, and reward the best and brightest would-be educators and leaders.

We have countless teachers who would meet anyone’s definition of “outstanding,” but we are missing a great deal more due to illogical policies that exist in nearly every state, for example, those that protect bad teachers and get rid...

Categories: 

Tony Fischer/Flickr

[Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of personal reflections on the current state of education reform and contemporary conservatism by Andy Smarick, a Bernard Lee Schwartz senior policy fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.  The previous posts in this series can be seen herehere, and here.]

Andy’s odyssey: Part four

The most convincing argument against conservatism is that by defending longstanding institutions it ends up protecting longstanding injustices.

Yes, there is a prima facie case for preservation: It’s sensible to safeguard things that have stood the test of time—libraries, respect for elders, voluntary community associations, the Western canon, charity. But enormous harm is done by protecting old, immoral institutions, like serfdom, honor killings, and the denial of women’s suffrage.

A corollary of the preserve-first approach, that change should occur gradually, promises wise, prudent adjustments. But it too can injure grievously. Ending the military targeting of civilians—once a common wartime practice—needed to happen immediately, not slowly. This understanding is reflected in Gladstone’s adage, “Justice delayed is justice denied;” Goldwater’s admonition, “Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue;” and Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail rebuke of those advocating patience.

The dark sides of preservation and gradual change have been illuminated by the events of Ferguson and a recent Atlantic article on reparations. They illustrate with agonizing clarity why dramatic change is sometimes required; provide insight into the tragic...

Categories: 

READY OR NOT
This is the year when nearly every state must begin using assessments aligned to the Common Core, or other “college-and career-ready” standards, Education Week notes. And unlike last year, “this year’s achievement results will be a cornerstone of states’ public accountability reporting.”

THIRD PLACE
The United States ranks third (trailing Switzerland and Singapore) in competitiveness, based on several factors, including “an excellent university system,” according to a new report from the World Economic Forum. In education, the U.S. is seventh (of 144 countries) in higher ed; in primary ed, the U.S. ranks thirty-sixth.

BRITISH CODING INVASION
All students in the United Kingdom will learn computer coding as young as age five starting this year due to curriculum changes. In the U.S., “very few elementary age students are learning to code in U.S. schools, though the nonprofit Code.org is trying to change that,” reports Education Week.

DIVERSITY? WHAT DIVERSITY?
Heard the one about how U.S. schools have never been more diverse? County-level maps produced by the Urban Institute show schools are actually less likely to be diverse than before. Blame housing patterns.

“THE BOOK THAT GOT TEACHING RIGHT”
The New Yorker rediscovers “Up the Down Staircase,” the 1965 best-seller and “the most enduring account we have of teachers’ lives,” and discovers it’s out of print.

“I WAS A BIT OF A UNICORN”
Noted Glenn Peters as one of very few male preschool teachers in New York. According to NPR, “barely 2 percent...

Categories: 

Long before today’s education-reform movement was born, indeed long before A Nation at Risk, there was the Council for Basic Education (CBE), founded in 1956 by such notables as Jacques Barzun, Hyman Rickover, and Mortimer Smith. They believed, as do we, that “there is an intimate relationship between a healthy democracy and the ideal of excellence in education.”

For nearly half a century, CBE fought the good fight for excellence in American K–12 education, for rigorous standards, excellent teaching, and curriculum built upon serious content. For decades, it was very nearly the only voice to caution about the excesses of progressivism, relativism, and equity-at-the-expense-of-quality.

And for more than twenty years, from the dawn of special education to the enactment of Goals 2000, this invaluable organization was captained by A. Graham Down, who passed away on Saturday, a day after celebrating his eighty-fifth birthday at his beloved Cosmos Club.

Equipped with a plummy Oxbridge accent, as befits a superbly educated gentleman—history, music, education, and more—who moved to the U.S. from England at age twenty-five, Graham was as close to a Renaissance man as we have known in person. A dedicated and accomplished musician, widely read in many fields, a devotee of the humanities and the English language, a passionate education reformer, a raconteur and bon vivant, a tireless leader, fine writer, and owner of a grand sense of humor, his long career included stints as head of the College Board’s Advanced Placement program, book reviewer for Education Next,...

Categories: 

THE SITUATION IS FLUID
Cognitive scientist Dan Willingham takes a second look at a much-discussed study that seems to indicate charter schools raise test scores, but not “fluid intelligence.” The results are “fascinating, but they are also easy to misinterpret,” he writes.

BOSTON COMMONS
Boston is getting a “chief of education,” who will cultivate relationships with allschools in Boston—public, charter, parochial, and private—plus Boston’s colleges and universities—“although he will not have direct power over those institutions,” notes the Boston Globe.

LACKING LEADERS, THE SEQUEL
Writing at Slate, Dana Goldstein says the school principal “just might be the most important figure in school reform.” But you already knew that.

OPT OUT OF...VACCINATIONS?!
California parents are deciding against vaccinating their kindergarten-age children at twice the rate they did seven years ago, the Los Angeles Times reports. Health experts say that’s contributing to the reemergence of measles.  

UNCHARTERED WATERS
Seattle’s First Place Scholars today becomes the first charter school to open in the state of Washington.

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME STEM?
TIME Magazine reports the San Francisco 49ers have a plan to bring in sixty kids a day from Bay Area schools for daylong STEM education programs, focusing on the engineering of stadium construction and the physics of football.

SCREECHING TO THE TEST
As Lee County, Florida opts out of opting out, Fordham’s Petrilli notes that school boards might take similar “symbolic actions,” but “at the end of the...

Categories: 

SEPTEMBER SURPRISE
Fordham’s Mike Petrilli and Cato’s Neal McCluskey—from opposite sides of the Common Core debate—coauthor an op-ed calling on both sides to “stop fighting over basic facts, and tackle crucial questions,” like will Common Core improve outcomes?”

BEWARE THE "PHARAOH EFFECT"
The Wall Street Journal warns religious schools eager to take up NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio's offer to subsidize preschool students that if they accept “favors from the government often they may come to regret the attached strings.”

NEW HISTORY WARS
The head of the American Historical Association defends the College Board’s AP History framework in a New York Times op-ed, noting a “once comforting story has become, in the hands of scholars, more complex, unsettling, provocative and compelling.”

IT WAS FUN WHILE IT LASTED
A new nonprofit called Education Post launched today in hopes of creating “an honest and civil conversation” about education...and was immediately attacked on Twitter....

Categories: 

Pages