Flypaper

MOVEMENT ON BULLYING
A new report by the nonprofit Child Trends reveals that about 70 percent of D.C. Public Schools and D.C. Public Charter Schools enforced anti-bullying policies in line with the 2012 Youth Bullying Prevention Act. The study did not study implementation of the policies in question, and it found that a small number of schools neglected to submit any policy whatsoever.

CASH-FLOW PROBLEMS
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has released data showing that state funding for K–12 education has been cut in thirty of forty-seven states reviewed. Budget cuts are especially evident in regard to talent acquisition, with the widespread dismissal of teachers and support staff. For information on D.C. school spending, check out our new Metro D.C. School Spending Explorer

REDEFINING THE SCHOOL DISTRICT IN TENNESSEE
Chalkbeat Tennessee just launched an interactive page to educate the public on the state’s Achievement School District. The ASD is composed of struggling schools that have been taken over by the state from local districts and grouped into a single, larger entity. Seen by many as a controversial approach to school improvement, similar programs exist in Louisiana and Michigan. For the definitive panorama of district-level reform in Tennessee, stop whatever you're doing and check out Nelson Smith’s seminal 2013 report for Fordham.

WAR OF ATTRITION
In a must-read/long-read Education Next piece, four Mathematica researchers examine the question of whether KIPP's attrition rates may be an important factor...

On Wednesday, CCSSO (the organization of state superintendents) joined with CGCS (the organization of big urban school districts) to announce joint plans to reassess and scale back testing programs. This is big news, and it’s getting lots of attention. Here are the ten big things to know about the announcement.

  1.  A direct response to testing concerns. These two leading organizations are clearly responding to the pressure to reduce or end testing emanating from the AFT, former President Clinton, Secretary Duncan, and others. They’re agreeing to audit the number and types of tests administered and develop new systems that are leaner (eliminating “multiple assessments of the same students for similar purposes”) and more integrated (“complement each other in a way the defines a coherent system of measures”).
  2. Won’t back down. CCSSO and CGCS, however, are standing firm on testing, and the most vociferous anti-testing forces aren’t happy about it (Randi Weingarten, for example, said the plan fails to address the fundamental problem of “test fixation”). The joint statement makes clear these leaders believe deeply in the value of smart testing systems. They even explicitly defend annual testing, presumably including state-administered, end-of-year assessments. That’s a major statement (and one I heartily endorse).
  3. The golden mean. The plan is a smart “third-way” approach. The testing status quo generates valuable information on student, school, and district performance, but because many schools
  4. ...

There are many fascinating pieces of information you can gleam from the Fordham Institute’s new Metro D.C. School Spending Explorer website, most especially estimates of per-pupil expenditures at each inside-the-Beltway public school. But did you know that you can also learn about the relative wealth of each school’s attendance zone? Once you get to the site, plug in the name of a school and click on “Household Income.” (See below for an explanation of our methodology.)

I was curious about the wealthiest attendance zones in the area; they are printed below. I just looked at elementary schools, since their zones are smaller. We were not able to do the analysis for the District of Columbia. (Maybe a handful of west-of-the-park D.C. schools would have made the list, but I doubt it, thanks to the preponderance of apartment buildings in their attendance zones.)

The twenty-five richest elementary schools in the Washington suburbs 

(Click here for more information on each school)

...

School

City

Average Neighborhood Income

Students

Per Pupil Expenditures

Carderock Springs Elementary

Bethesda

$244,439.81

368

$12,178.64

Potomac Elementary

Potomac

SCHEDULING AROUND THE "SUMMER SLIP"
It is now generally recognized that the long layoff of summer vacation is a hindrance to knowledge retention (especially for low-income students), sticking kids with months in which to forget what they’d learned the previous school year. So it's gratifying to learn, as Education Week’s Madeline Will reports, that the number of year-round schools in the United States has reached 3,700. With several state-level grant programs helping to prod the switch to a staggered yearly calendar, the practice will hopefully continue to grow.

PELICAN (STATE) BRIEF
On Wednesday, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled constitutional Act 1, a controversial 2012 bill limiting teacher tenure and empowering superintendents at the expense of local school boards. The ruling was praised by Governor Bobby Jindal and other state officials. "Act 1 gives principals and superintendents freedom from politics to do the right thing for children," said State Education Superintendent John White.

OPTING OUT OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Bellwether Education’s brilliant Anne Hyslop (an occasional Fordhamite) has leapt into the week’s most fervid ed-reform debate: To test, or not to test? In her latest post, she cautions so-called “districts of innovation” (those mobilizing project-based and competency-based learning in the classroom) from opting out of statewide testing in favor of district flexibility.

MUST-READ
The news came this week that John Deasy, superintendent of...

Scott Pearson

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Metro D.C. School Spending Explorer offers the public a great resource by sharing data on public school spending (at the school level) across the District. As with any financial data, though, the fine print is as important as the headline. 

The map says that D.C.’s public charter schools had a total operating expenditure of $18,150 per pupil in the 2011–12 school year, compared with total operating expenditure at D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) of $15,473. But this is misleading. Many public charter schools rent their space, and rental payments are considered operating expenses. Meanwhile, school-system buildings are decades old and are almost exclusively paid for from the city’s capital budget—which is not included in the comparison. Moreover, more than $1,000 per pupil of DCPS maintenance expenses are provided free by the city—these expenditures aren’t included either. 

The fine print found in the Fordham Institute map describes the real situation—public charter schools receive less money per pupil than DCPS. This disparity is carefully documented in a 2012 study commissioned by two charter advocacy groups. It found that the total amount of extra non-uniform local operating funds DCPS receives compared to public charter schools ranges from $72 to $127 million annually. The report also makes the case for why some of these disparities exist, noting that charters are schools of choice, while “DCPS operates as a system of right, which requires schools be available across the city to...

NEA FLEXES POLITICAL MUSCLES
The National Education Association Advocacy Fund, the Super PAC of the country's largest teachers’ union, has spent more than $11 million in midterm campaign efforts, including $3.6 million in media and advertising. 

SPENDING RACE
Elsewhere in the exciting world of politics: Educational funding is playing a major role in Florida's gubernatorial campaign, as incumbent Governor Rick Scott and his challenger, former Governor Charlie Crist, vie to pledge more money for K–12 schools. In fact, Mr. Crist has promised to set a state record for per-pupil spending.

FLORIDA BONUS ROUND
The tight race for governor is also a fascinating backdrop for the Common Core debate. A long overview ran in the Tampa Bay Times last month, but the gist is that the standards were initially adopted in the Sunshine State—as in so many others—to little fanfare. A few years later, Governor Scott is sending his advisers to meet with anti-Common Core groups, while opponent Crist backs the standards unreservedly. 

LOWER LEARNING
Recently released poll data from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni revealed a wide discrepancy in what core subjects college students are required to take. Among the findings: A scant 18 percent of schools require their students to take American history in order to graduate....

Without a doubt, and in the main, testing has done more good than harm in America’s schools. My Fordham colleague Andy Smarick is absolutely correct to argue that annual testing “makes clear that every student matters.” The sunshine created by testing every child, every year has been a splendid disinfectant. There can be no reasonable doubt that testing has created momentum for positive change—particularly in schools that serve our neediest and most neglected children.

But it’s long past time to acknowledge that reading tests—especially tests with stakes for individual teachers attached to them—do more harm than good. A good test or accountability scheme encourages good instructional practice. Reading tests do the opposite. They encourage poor practice, waste instructional time, and materially damage reading achievement, especially for our most vulnerable children. Here’s why:

A test can tell you whether a student has learned to add unlike fractions, can determine the hypotenuse of a triangle, or understands the causes of the Civil War—and, by reasonable extension, whether I did a good or poor job as a teacher imparting those skills and content. But reading comprehension is not a skill or a body of content that can be taught. The annual reading tests we administer to children through eighth grade are de facto tests of background knowledge and vocabulary. Moreover, they are not “instructionally sensitive.” Success or failure can have little to do with what is taught.

A substantial body of research has consistently shown that reading comprehension relies...

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute set out to answer a basic (yet complicated) question: how much does each school in the D.C. metro area spend for each student it enrolls? In the Metro D.C. School Spending Explorer, we found that there are differences in spending within the same district. For example, in the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), Tyler Elementary spends $19,721 per pupil (above the district total of $15,743), while Janney Elementary spends $11,652 per pupil.

Explore the Metro D.C. School Spending Explorer to learn more about why these differences may occur and to filter the data by district, school type, low- or high-spending, and more.

Also check out Mike Petrilli’s and Matt Richmond’s take on which Washington-area system does best at funding its neediest schools. The answer may surprise you.

In the era of No Child Left Behind—and at a time of growing concern about income inequality—virtually every school system in the country claims to be working to narrow its student achievement gaps. But are they putting their money where their mouth is?

The data in our brand new D.C. Metro Area School Spending Explorer website allow us to answer this question for school districts inside the Beltway. Specifically, we can determine whether and to what degree they are spending additional dollars on their neediest schools.

To be sure, ever since the Coleman Report, it’s been hard to find a direct relationship between school spending and educational outcomes. Still, basic fairness requires that systems spend at least as much on educating poor students as affluent ones, and investments that might make a difference in narrowing achievement gaps (such as hiring more effective, experienced teachers and providing intensive tutoring to struggling students) do require big bucks.

There are lots of wonky ways to compute the fairness of education spending, but we’re going to use a measure that makes sense to us. Namely: How much extra does a district spend on each low-income student a school serves? Compared to what districts spend on behalf of non-poor students? Ten percent? Twenty percent? Fifty percent?

Read the methodology section below for details on how we got to these numbers (they are estimates, and apply only to elementary schools), but here are our conclusions.

...

School System

BIGGER IS BETTER
new study highlights the importance of even earlier early education, finding that having a higher birth weight leads to higher cognitive development. “Weight, of course, may partly be an indicator of broader fetal health, but it seems to be a meaningful one: The chunkier the baby, the better it does on average, all the way up to almost 10 pounds.” But birth weight is not the be-all and end-all: Researcher David Figlio was 5 pounds, 15 ounces at birth.

DUELING BANJOS ON THE HELP COMMITTEE
Which senator played the washboard with a spoon in a banjo band? It's a question the Politics K–12 duo asks in a quiz of (useful) facts about the likely heads of the next Senate HELP Committee. The primer matters to wonks because, “[n]o matter which party comes out ahead on Election Day, the Senate's Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will have a new leader.”

COMMON CORE AND GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS
Three states are plowing ahead on tying graduation requirements and Common Core-aligned assessments, “a natural part of the transition from the adoption phase of Common Core to actually implementing the standards in a meaningful way.”

THE COMPLACENCY GAP
Sick of hearing about the achievement gap? Fordham's own Chester E. Finn, Jr. wants you to consider the complacency gap. When it comes to education...

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