The Education Department has been slowly gathering itself together over the past decade to review states’ mandatory annual IDEA “performance plans” on the basis of student outcomes, in addition to bureaucratic compliance with sundry procedural and data-reporting requirements.

In giving feedback to the states a year ago, for example, Melody Musgrove (who directs the Office of Special Education Programs at ED) forewarned chiefs that ED was redesigning their monitoring system into “a more balanced approach that considers results as well as compliance.”’

Yesterday, they made considerable news by basing their latest round of feedback on criteria that include how a state’s disabled students fare on NAEP and the size of achievement gaps that separate those pupils from “all children on regular statewide assessments.” Further changes are promised for subsequent years, including student-growth data based on statewide assessments. Also promised is a reduction in compliance-style reporting and data burdens.

Based on this analysis, the feds then sort states into three buckets labeled “meets requirements,” “needs assistance,” and “needs intervention.” And the inclusion of outcomes data really does turn out to make a difference. Whereas in previous years almost every state and territory (forty-one last year, to be specific) fell into the first bucket, this year just eighteen do. (There’s a fourth bucket entitled “needs substantial intervention,” but at present, no state has been placed there.)

Among the many “sinkers”: Ohio, which went from bucket 1 to bucket 2, and Delaware, which declined from 2 to 3....


Yes, everybody understands that “school leaders matter,” a truism now morphing into a cliché that trips easily from the tongue but typically fails to cause movement anywhere in the worlds of education policy and practice.

As a result, far too many U.S. schools lack the leaders that they need. Far too many principals lack the wherewithal—authority, resources, capacity, etc.—to lead effectively. And far too many school systems, especially urban districts with the most urgent need for dynamic competence in this crucial role, haven’t yet figured out the best way to find the strongest candidates in the land and induce them to move into the principal’s office.

This is scarcely a new problem. Indeed, it’s been so much discussed and fussed about that people may be wearying of it—or possibly have come to believe that surely it’s been solved by now.

Yet urgent leadership-related changes haven’t yet been made in American public education, or have been gingerly tried in just a handful of places. Most states still expect principals to possess a traditional administrative certificate, at least for those running district schools, and most of those certificates are still awarded primarily through completion of traditional “ed leadership” programs via graduate degrees in conventional education schools. Nor has the compensation of school principals much improved; indeed, the annual average salary difference in 2011–12 between what veteran high-school teachers (eleven to twenty years) and their principals get paid was roughly $40,000. In the District of Columbia, top teachers earn as...


The Education Department’s new standards for judging whether states and territories comply with federal disability law include a comparison of special-needs students’ test scores with their non-special-needs peers. The number of jurisdictions in compliance has hence gone from thirty-eight to fifteen. (New York Times, Washington Post, NPR)
University professors are planning shifts to accommodate students who have been taught a Common Core–aligned K–12 education. (Hechinger Report)
NPR delves into several approaches to ending the “school-to-prison pipeline.” (NPR)
A study finds that even as the cost of attending college skyrockets, a college degree is worth it—but a four-year degree doesn’t seem to add much more value than a two-year degree. (Wall Street Journal)
Daily Caller: “Report: To Improve Schools, Pay Principals $100,000
Daily Caller: “Hawaii Teachers Expect Common Core Test Score Implosion”...

School leaders matter enormously. But are districts doing enough to ensure that the best possible candidates end up in these positions? That’s what Fordham examines In Lacking Leaders: The Challenges of Principal Recruitment, Selection, and Placement.

Our primary finding: the practices by which school principals are selected—even in pioneering districts—continue to fall short, causing needy schools to lose out on leaders with the potential to be great. Yet better hiring practices are only part of the solution. Districts must also re-imagine the principal’s role so that it is a job that talented leaders want, are equipped and empowered to execute successfully, and are suitably compensated.

Among the lessons districts and policymakers should heed are the following:

Make the job more appealing—and manageable

  1. Pay great leaders what they’re worth
  2. Take a pro-active, wide-ranging approach to recruitment
  3. Understand the qualities and skills that make principals successful—and hire for them
  4. Match individual schools’ needs with particular candidates’ strengths
  5. Continually evaluate all of these processes to determine how well they’re succeeding—and make further corrections as needed

A new Vanderbilt working paper finds that top Tennessee teachers are more likely to continue working in low-achieving schools when given a substantial pay increase. (Teacher Beat)
Under a new policy instituted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, pediatricians will tell parents to read aloud to their infants from birth—with the hope that doing so will help reduce the education gaps between high- and low-income kids as well as racial groups. (New York Times)
An investigation by the Detroit Free Press finds that Michigan’s charters, while costing taxpayers a hefty sum, are not adequately held accountable for spending, nepotism, and poor academic performance—though the paper concedes there are also high-performing, innovative charters. (Detroit Free Press)
New York’s high school graduation rates are slightly up from 2013, but ELL students continue to struggle. (Wall Street Journal)
Google has launched and put $50 million toward Made With Code, an effort to close the gender gap in computer coding. (Curriculum Matters)
Atlantic: “Should We Be Treating Principals Like CEOs?
Education Writers Association: “Report: Want Better Schools? Hire Better Principals
Charlotte Observer: “Study: Get more creative in recruiting principals”...

Governor Rick Scott signed a bill expanding Florida’s tax-credit scholarship program. (Pensacola News Journal)
Some teachers are looking for ways to improve the quality of those within their profession, because “if a union makes collective demands, it also has to promote collective quality.” (Washington Post)
The New America Foundation’s Anne Hyslop argues that dropping the Common Core in Louisiana without a policy alternative is reckless and could “quickly wreck years of careful planning and hard work to improve student outcomes across the Pelican State. And that would be a very high price to pay just to make a political statement.” (Real Clear Education)
The Philadelphia City Council will borrow $30 million to help plug the public school district’s funding gap, while it seeks more funding from state lawmakers. (Associated Press)
D.C. has paused its use of the value-added algorithm in teacher evaluations for the 2014–15 year, in order to smooth the district’s transition to Common Core–aligned tests. (Teacher Beat)
A new CRPE study finds that “counseling out” does not explain why Denver’s charter schools have fewer special-education students than their traditional public school counterparts. (Charters & Choice)
Florida has adopted a new set of English-language proficiency standards. (Learning the Language)
U.S. News: “Climate...


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 dinosaursaquatic lifeinsectsfrogs and other amphibiansreptilesbirdsmammalshuman evolutionearthquakes and volcanoes; outer spaceAncient Asian Culturesearly American civilizationsAncient GreeceAncient RomeNative American culturesChristopher Columbus and the Age of DiscoveryColonial America and the Revolutionary War; the American founders; the Lewis and Clark expeditionmovie adaptations of classic children’s books, and American folk heroes.

Throughout this series, I’ve complained about the relative paucity of streaming videos on human history; now it’s clear that there aren’t nearly enough videos on human biology, either. But we found a few, and they are fantastic, particularly the episodes from The Magic School Bus (which is making a comeback!). Enjoy—and, as always, let us know if you find some others, too.

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

Best videos on the systems of the human body


1. The Magic School Bus Inside Ralphie (Season 1, Episode 3)

Why does Ralphie have a fever? Time for a field trip inside Ralphie's body to find out. But white blood cells start to attack the

Education Next

Richard Whitmire is a former reporter and editorialist for USA Today,and the author of The Bee Eater (about Michelle Rhee) and Why Boys Fail. Now, in his latest book, On the Rocketshiphe turns his attention to how top charter schools are pushing the envelope. Through dozens of short chapters he tells the story of the meteoric growth of the Rocketship network of charter schools, known as a leader in “blended learning,” along with the trials and tribulations of other charter chains. He looks for insights into how other charter schools—and traditional public schools—can learn from their successes and failures.

On this edition of the Education Next Book Club, Richard talks with Mike Petrilli about the book, about Rocketship and other high performing charter networks, and what he learned that surprised him most.

To listen to the podcast, visit Education Next.

To watch Richard Whitmore and other charter experts discuss the future of charter schooling, attend or live-stream our Fordham LIVE! event "On the Rocketship: Expanding the high-quality charter school movement," taking place June 26 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET....

Fordham has long been a supporter of results-based accountability for private-school choice programs. In January, we released a “policy toolkit” that recommended, among other measures, that all students who receive a voucher (or tax-credit scholarship) be required to participate in state assessments and that those results be made publicly available at the school level (except when doing so would violate student privacy).

This rustled a few libertarian and conservative feathers: the folks at Cato called this “the Common Coring of private schools,” James Shuls yelled “Don’t Test Me, Bro!,” and Jay Greene reversed his lifelong commitment to standards-based reform.  (Many wonks opined in support of our accountability recommendations, too.)

While we didn’t agree with the all of the arguments forwarded by our friends, we did come to see the risk to private-school autonomy and innovation that a test-based accountability system could create. We also understood the particular sensitivity around using Common Core tests for this purpose. So in April, in the National Review, we offered an olive branch:

Without backing away from our commitment to the inseparability of the two tracks of education reform, we see room for compromise on specifics. Yes, some degree of transparency and accountability is essential for all choice schools. We don’t buy the argument that we should leave it to “parental choice alone”; experience in the real world demonstrates (here as in every other market that we know of) that some external quality control is needed if


Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal announced that he is withdrawing his state from the Common Core State Standards—while his top education officials maintained this isn’t so. One thing seems apparent: Jindal is likely mounting a 2016 presidential bid. (New York Times and Washington Post)
Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York state lawmakers are deciding whether to tie the results of Common Core–aligned tests to teacher evaluations, and they’re facing pressure from both sides: the teacher unions have ratcheted up their rhetoric, while USED could take away some of the state’s Race to the Top grant. (Politics K–12 and Chalkbeat New York)
A study of 960 Montgomery County youngsters finds high dropout rates and school disengagement among the county’s growing Latino population. (Washington Post)
Education officials in Wisconsin are investigating whether voucher-receiving private schools adequately serve students with special needs. (Charters & Choice)
The Daily Caller: “Jindal Moves To Dump Common Core, Sparking La. Civil War
New York Post: “The price of summer: Some vacation costs are hidden
Deseret News: “‘Where all kids are above average’: Should schools separate gifted students?
Chalkbeat New York: “NYSUT head: Getting rid of test scores only a ‘first step’ toward evaluation overhaul
San Jose Mercury News: “Herhold: Two attempts to bring the temple down


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