Flypaper

In the midst of Illinois's historic budget stalemate, funding for education and much else remains in dispute. Gov. Bruce Rauner and the legislature haven't been able to agree on major priorities, even as Chicago schools go broke and the Chicago Teachers Union looks more likely to strike every day.

A fundamental issue in these disputes is whether to keep spending money on present priorities, practices, and programs or to instead seize the opportunity to make major reforms.

One set of reforms that belongs on the table is Illinois's shameful neglect of its high-ability students, especially those from poor and minority backgrounds.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), just 2 percent of Prairie State 8th graders who are eligible for subsidized lunches reached the Advanced level in math in 2015 (NAEP's designation for high scorers).

The racial gaps are even worse. Not even one percent of black students reached NAEP's highest level, and just 3 percent of Hispanic youngsters did. Nine percent of white students got there—not great, but ten times the ratio for African-Americans.

A major reason for this lamentable performance is Illinois's inattention to high-ability students.

Click here to read the rest of the article...

On Tuesday, April 12, 2016, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a full committee hearing titled “ESSA Implementation in States and School Districts: Perspectives from the U.S. Secretary of Education,” the first of a series of oversight hearings on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Chairman Lamar Alexander delivered an opening statement to Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. and asked Secretary King two rounds of questions. What follows is the transcript of these talks.

Of particular interest to those of us at Fordham (besides the very important back-and-forth about the appropriate federal role in education and the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches) is the issue of flexibility around eighth-grade math assessments for advanced students. That is addressed toward the end of the transcript.

***

Senator Alexander Opening Statement

Mr. Secretary, as you know, I urged the president to nominate an education secretary because I thought it was important to have a confirmed secretary accountable to the United States Senate when the department was implementing the new law fixing No Child Left Behind.

You have sworn to discharge your duties faithfully. That is your oath of office, and...

A new publication by Tim Sass and colleagues examines the effect of charter high schools on long-term attainment and earnings. The study builds on others by the same authors, as well as a working paper of the study released over two years ago.

The authors focus on charter high schools in Florida, where they can access a wealth of data from the state department of education’s longitudinal database. That information includes various demographic and achievement data for K–12 students, as well as data on students enrolled in community colleges and four-year universities inside and outside of Florida. (The latter info was gleaned from the National Student Clearinghouse and other sources, and employment outcomes and earnings are merged from another state database.)

The sample includes four cohorts of eighth-grade students; the first cohort enrolled in 1997–98, the last in 2000–01. They are able to observe labor outcomes for students up to twelve years removed from their eighth-grade year.

Before we get to the results, let’s address the biggest analytic hurdle to be overcome: selection bias—meaning that charter school students, by the very act of choosing an educational alternative, may be different in unobservable ways from those who attend traditional public schools (TPS). Indeed,...

Credit recovery is education’s Faustian pact. We remain not very good at raising most students to respectable standards. But neither can we refuse to graduate boxcar numbers of kids who don’t measure up. Enter credit recovery, an opaque, impressionistic, and deeply unsatisfying method of merely declaring proficient getting at-risk kids back on track for graduation.

This pair of studies from the American Institutes for Research and the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research looks at more than 1,200 ninth graders in seventeen Chicago public schools who were enrolled in a credit recovery course the summer after failing algebra I a few years ago. Half took the class online, half in face-to-face classes. Providing credit recovery is now one of the most common purposes of online courses; but “evidence of the efficacy of online credit recovery is lacking,” the authors note with considerable understatement.

The first report analyzes the role of in-class mentors in online classrooms, examining whether students benefited from their additional instructional support. They did—kind of. The authors suggest that “instructionally supportive mentors” (those with subject matter expertise, not just a warm body providing “support”) lead to students navigating the course with greater depth and less breadth. They seem not...

A new working paper by Calder analyzes whether federally funded school turnarounds in North Carolina have impacted student outcomes.

The study uses achievement, demographic and descriptive data about teachers and principals for K–8 schools in the 2010–2014 school years, as well as teacher survey data from North Carolina’s biannual Teacher Working Conditions Survey. The data set includes eighty-five elementary and middle schools that were subject to the state’s school turnaround program, which was funded by federal Race to the Top funds. Most schools used a “transformation model” of turnaround that required replacing the principal, along with other instructional interventions like increasing learning time (but no teacher terminations).

The analysis uses a regression discontinuity design, wherein assignment to the treatment and control groups are based on a school falling right above or below the cut point for placement into the turnaround program. The idea is that whether a school is just above or just below the cut is essentially random.

The key findings: The program had a mostly negative effect on test scores in math and reading—especially so in math. It decreased average attendance by between 0.4 and 1.2 percentage points in 2012 (the first full year after the program was...

Late last month it was revealed that Sean Combs, the hip-hop mogul better known as Diddy or Puff Daddy, was behind the creation of a new charter school set to open in Harlem this fall. Good for him and good for Harlem. We can never have too many good schools.

But truth to tell, the neighborhood is already awash in successful, high-profile charter schools, including Success Academy, KIPP, Harlem Children's Zone and Democracy Prep, where I'm a senior adviser and civics teacher. Harlem is one of the most robust charter school marketplaces in the country. If Diddy is in it for the long haul and determined to make a difference in for low-income kids of color, let me offer an alternative suggestion: He should lend his name, resources and celebrity aura to lead a revival of urban Catholic schools.

He's perfect for the role. Back when he was still Sean Combs, Diddy attended and graduated from Mount Saint Michael Academy, a Catholic school in The Bronx. He must have thought highly of the education he received, since he sent at least one of his children to Catholic school too. Diddy's oldest son, Justin, was a standout athlete at...

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires a “negotiated rulemaking” process whenever the Department of Education issues regulations under parts of the law pertaining to assessments, academic standards, and several other topics. This process requires a panel of experts, which the agency assembled in March. Their work thus far (they’ve met twice) has revealed major problems on the regulatory front concerning gifted and high-achieving students. These issues need immediate attention, including close scrutiny by the lawmakers who crafted ESSA.

As Education Week explains the process, panel members “essentially get together in a room and try to hammer out an agreement with the department. If the process fails, which it often does, the feds go back to the drawing board and negotiate through the regular process, which involves releasing a draft rule, getting comments on it, and then putting out a final rule.” The Department of Education assists this process with issues papers (which provide background), discussion questions, and draft regulatory language that the panel can edit based on its discussions.

Last week, the group tackled assessments, an area of ESSA that directly affects gifted and high-achieving students. Unfortunately, in the twenty-plus pages of draft regulations and seven issue papers that accompanied those discussions,...

Princeton University announced last week that it would preserve the name of Woodrow Wilson on several buildings and programs, though it had plenty of reasons to do otherwise. In his years leading the university and, later, the United States, Wilson acted as a vehicle for racist impulses that right-thinking people now find abhorrent. Outraged undergraduates, marinated in the activist pique so prevalent on American campuses, walked out of class this fall in protest against what they deemed maltreatment of minority students. A handful staged a sit-in in the office of the school’s current president, Christopher Eisgruber, who responded by pledging to study the issue of Wilson’s legacy. By November, the call for change was being echoed in the New York Times editorial page.

Ultimately, it went unheeded. The special committee assembled by Princeton’s trustees to decide the issue recommended against expunging Wilson’s name from a residence hall and the famed school of international relations. Instead, the university will initiate an effort to diversify campus art, encourage more minority students to pursue graduate degrees, and explore the truth of the former president’s impact on American life. His presence at Princeton is secure, at least for now.

The...

Ask any group of high school teachers, and they will report that the most frequently heard question in their classrooms is, “When are we ever gonna use this?” In a traditional college prep program, the honest answer is usually, “Maybe when you get to the university.” But in the real world? Depending on the class, maybe not at all.

However, in high-quality Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, that question is moot. Students learn skills that will help them prepare for stable careers and success in a modern, global, and competitive economy. A student who wants a future in architecture doesn’t question his first drafting course in high school. One interested in aerospace sees value in her introduction to engineering design class. An aspiring medical professional is enthusiastic, not indifferent, about high school anatomy.

Unfortunately for millions of American students, CTE is not a meaningful part of their high school experience. Instead, they are shuffled through large, bureaucratized schools that do not adequately prepare them for anything, be it college, career, or both.

In large part, this is because CTE has been chronically neglected by American education leaders and policymakers. Many CTE advocates suspect that it’s because of the damaged...

Social Impact Bonds (SIB), also known as “pay for success” loans, are a novel form of financing social service interventions, including education initiatives. First piloted six years ago in the United Kingdom and now making their way to the United States, SIBs aim to leverage private funding to start new programs or scale proven ones. Broadly speaking, the instrument works like this: Private lenders and philanthropists deliver dollars—the bond—to a nonprofit provider that, in turn, implements the intervention. A government agency pays back the bond principal with interest, but only if the program achieves pre-specified results.

In its ideal form, an SIB has the potential to be a triple win: Governments receive risk-free funding to test or expand social programs that could help them save money; investors reap a financial return if the program works; and providers gain access to new sources of funding. To ensure that the deal will benefit all parties, due diligence occurs on the front end, including selecting a program provider, estimating government savings, and developing an evaluation method. 

To date, the discussion on SIBs has been largely conceptual, engaging both supporters and skeptics alike. But a fascinating new report written by MDRC President Gordon Berlin provides a first-hand...

Pages