Flypaper

In its “Room for Debate” series recently, the New York Times published a quartet of opinion pieces discussing the value of gifted and talented programs. New York City schools chancellor Carmen Fariña prompted this discussion by promoting the faddish and contradictory mantra of “gifted education for all,” downplaying the role of the city’s current programs for high-achieving students. But in the end, the opponents’ arguments simply don’t hold any more water than the Chancellor’s banal but unactionable formulation.

The overarching theme of the two critics of gifted programs is that they lead to inequality. Authors of the first piece point out that such programs are disproportionately comprised of white and Asian- American kids. This is true and is surely something to work on. But then the authors suggest replacing these separate-and-distinct programs with “gifted education for all” (that phrase again…) because some research has found that ability grouping might worsen the educational outcomes of lower-achieving students. Moreover, say the authors, students in gifted programs are missing out on the benefits that diverse classrooms provide. (Shouldn’t their parents decide whether that outweighs the benefits of an accelerated curriculum?)

The second critical piece approaches the matter differently. Instead of citing the benefits of diversity per se—a proposition the author actually undermines by saying “there’s nothing magical or inherently good or bad about exposing black children to white children”—he worries about the self-fulfilling nature of...

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STEM
Numerous and varied efforts to get kids enthusiastic about STEM jobs thus far have not made much of a difference. (New York Times)
 
TEACHER PAY
A job-fair ad targeting North Carolina teachers for recruitment to Texas schools promised a starting salary of $46,805 per year, more than $16,000 more than what North Carolina teachers are paid. Hundreds turned out. (Fox 8)
 
SCHOOL DISCIPLINE
A new study finds that the simple, old-fashioned Good Behavior Game had a positive effect on reducing challenging classroom behaviors. (Inside School Research)
 
TEACHER-QUALITY DEJA-VU
In Pittsburgh, the first results of the city’s new (and expensive) teacher-evaluation system did not expose huge numbers of ineffective teachers. (Hechinger Report)
 
FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
Tahlequah Daily Press: “Need for standards remains
Times-Picayune: “World Cup and world education: How does the U.S. rank? Think tank weighs in
Oregon Live: “USA: Bad at soccer, worse at math and science, edu-nerds say”...

What do the education-policy world and the sports world have in common? For one, Americans are rabidly passionate about both. What’s more, both really love rankings. And you think we’re bad at soccer? We’re even worse in education.

As everyone reading this probably knows, the U.S. has chronically lagged behind our competitors on international tests. It doesn’t matter which subgroup one looks at—high SES, low SES, top scorers, average scorers—the U.S. hasn’t lived up to its potential. Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. And all of us in the ed-policy world do what we do because we believe our education system can improve. We know we can do better by our eager students.

Well, the World Cup—the crowning jewel of the “Beautiful Game” and the biggest sporting event in the world—is upon us. And it struck us here at Fordham that the similarities are uncanny. Here, too, the rankings don’t love us. Sports Illustrated and the Soccer Power Index say we’re the nineteenth-best team in the tournament. Heck, even our coach Jürgen Klinsmann doesn’t like our chances. Indeed, look at our soccer and education rankings in the graphic below.

So here we are, nineteenth best in the world in the country’s sixth most popular sport (behind golf), which is, frankly, not high enough. We have 318 million people....

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COMMON CORE
A nine-year-old struggling with New York City’s new math curriculum highlights challenges in Common Core implementation. (New York Times)
 
THIRD-GRADE READING
South Carolina governor Nikki Haley signed legislation enacting a third-grade reading guarantee. (Curriculum Matters)
 
CHARTER SPACE
Success Academy’s planned expansion has put Mayor Bill de Blasio in a tough spot: share public-school space with charters or face escalating space costs. (New York Times)
 
HIGH STANDARDS
On Friday, a coalition of business and civic groups in Louisiana called on Governor Bobby Jindal to keep the Common Core. (Associated Press)
 
TENURE
A recent paper finds that under New York City’s tenure changes, ineffective teachers are more likely to leave schools voluntarily. (Teacher Beat)
 
TECHNOLOGY
The Common Core–spurred move to online testing is driving California’s school districts to close the tech gap. (Hechinger Report)
 
INDIAN EDUCATION
President Obama has announced new efforts to improve the schooling of American Indian students. (Politics K–12)
 
FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
Associated Press: “Common Core Upsets Home-Schooling Parents
Forbes: “Why The Vergara Decision Will Not Fundamentally Help Poor And Minority Students
Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel: Act 10 is working; state is in a better place”...

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Earlier this week, Gates Foundation education chief Vicki Phillips wrote a “letter to our partners” urging that states give students and teachers time to adjust to the new Common Core standards before using those standards as factors “in high-stakes decisions on teacher evaluation or student promotion for the next two years, during this transition.”

Earlier today, writing on behalf of the reform-minded “Chiefs for Change” group (seven current and six past state superintendents), New Mexico education secretary Hanna Skandera politely disagreed. Common Core implementation is well begun in many places, she noted, with some states having already worked at this for as long as four years, and states should decide for themselves whether they’re ready to attach consequences to student and school performance vis-à-vis the Common Core. “We must uphold our commitment to our students,” she wrote, “by ensuring the standards are measured and results are used to build a world-class education system….”

Call me a wimp, caught between two powerful women whom I like and respect, but honestly, they’re both right, albeit in different ways.

Attaching consequences to student achievement is always touchy, tricky, and technically complex, whether we’re talking about promoting and graduating kids, evaluating and rewarding (and retaining/dismissing) those who teach them, or giving grades (and interventions) to entire schools and districts. The data may be shaky, the analyses precarious, and the consequences almost inevitably unfair to some.

Change the standards, the curriculum and instruction, the tests and cut scores, and...

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Robert Hanna

Andy Smarick and Juliet Square recently published a report arguing that state education agencies, or SEAs, lack the expertise needed to implement today’s education reforms. Federal policymakers expected SEAs to be “compliance examiners,” focused on monitoring districts’ use of federal education funds, they wrote. The authors argue that many of SEAs’ successes are limited to compliance and that SEAs are not capable of meeting the additional demands of educational innovation and reform. In a related blog post by Smarick, he refers to compliance and monitoring as being in the SEA’s “DNA structure.”

If compliance is really in SEAs’ DNA, did the federal government get the gene sequencing wrong?

Today, the Center for American Progress released three reports about the ways in which SEAs work within the current education governance system. The reports identify innovative approaches to changing the genetic code of SEAs given current demands for far-reaching education reforms. We argue that despite barriers, real or perceived, there are more effective ways for states to meet these demands—and that both federal policymakers and state leaders have roles to play.

As education policy researcher Patrick Murphy describes in his report, federal education regulations often have adverse impacts on states. Each federal fund comes with different strings attached. As a consequence, SEA leaders often silo their agencies by federal fund in order to make sure they meet compliance requirements. For example, staff working on projects funded by Title I are contained within...

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Ladies and gentlemen, the voters have spoken and the wisest wonk in the land is…

Joe Siedlecki of the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, edging out Michael Goldstein of Match Education, 35 to 27 percent. It’s the biggest upset since Brat beat Cantor! (Granted, that just happened Tuesday.)

Stay tuned for my take on the wonk-a-thon, coming early next week. Until then, Joe, enjoy the sweet, sweet victory, and blast this song around your home all weekend long.

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CHARTERS SHARING SPACE
According to a bill passed by New York’s city council, the city will be required to publish charter schools’ demographics when those schools share space with district schools. (New York Daily News)
 
LIKE THE COMMON CORE, ONLY WORSE
South Carolina recently tossed the Common Core but “doesn’t have time” to do a complete rewrite—indicating that, yet again, the “new” standards will likely borrow much from the old. (Curriculum Matters)
 
SCHOOL TAKEOVERS
A circuit court judge ruled that Virginia’s Opportunity Educational Institution, a state-takeover division, is unconstitutional. (Times Dispatch)

UNDOCUMENTED STUDENTS
Florida governor Rick Scott has signed legislation allowing students who are undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition at the Sunshine State’s colleges and universities. (Miami Herald)
 
NCLB’S EFFECT ON TEACHERS
A study finds that NCLB may not have had much of an effect on teacher morale. (Teacher Beat)
 
ENGLISH-LANGUAGE LITERACY
A report finds that immigrant households are the least likely to enroll their kids in federal and state pre-Kindergarten programs aimed at disadvantaged youths, mainly due to language barriers. (Latin Post)
 
FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
USA Today: “California teachers ruling could have national fallout
New York Times: “New Deal for Teachers; New Will by Managers
 
START YOUR MORNING OFF RIGHT
New York Daily News: “Bill Murray crashes young couple's engagement shoot in Charleston, S.C.”...

Asking whether teacher tenure should be abolished in public schools is like asking whether the Tampa Bay Rays (18 games below .500) should sack their shortstop. Sure, that might be a good start, but that’s not going to be enough to turn things around.

First, the argument for eliminating tenure: As Judge Rolf M. Treu of Los Angeles Superior Court ruled on Tuesday, any benefit that tenure provides to teachers is far outweighed by its costs to children and society by keeping grossly ineffective instructors in the classroom. Defenders often say that tenure is all that limits principals and school boards from terminating teachers for innumerable bogus motives. Yet in the decades since legislatures put tenure laws on the books, legal protections for all employees have grown dramatically, particularly in the public sector. Dismissal under tenure requires a far more onerous due process procedure. But even without it, anyone who believes that he or she has been discriminated against or fired for “arbitrary and capricious” reasons can sue, and will often win. That goes for teachers, too.

Tenure reform is no education game-changer. Tenure is just one part of a dysfunctional approach to human resource management in U.S. schools that needs a complete overhaul. Our public education system is among the only institutions in the land still pretending that professionals will spend their whole careers in a single job. The teacher compensation structure heavily favors lifers, what with its mix of low pay with generous, back-loaded retirement benefits. This is an...

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VERGARA
The high-profile Vergara v. California case has ended, with a state superior court judge ruling that California’s laws on teacher tenure and dismissal “unfairly saddle disadvantaged and minority students with weak teachers, infringing on those students’ right…to an equitable education.” (Education Week)
 
SAME OLD TESTS
A budget agreement in Michigan will increase school-aid funding by 4 percent and keep the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test for another school year, rather than transitioning to the Smarter Balanced exams. The agreement will cross Governor Snyder’s desk by the end of the week. (MLive)
 
‘TECHNIAL DIFFICULTIES’
Citing “technical difficulties,” the Detroit Public Schools failed to apply for Head Start funding for the fall. (Detroit News)
 
CRISTO REY
Detroit Cristo Rey, part of a chain of private Catholic Schools, is being held up as a model for its efforts to help minority students succeed in college. (NPR)
 
FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
EdCentral: “Test-and-Punish is a State of Mind, not the State of Reality
Education Next: “What We’re Watching: On the Rocketship
Politico Morning Education: “House loses ‘champion’ of charters and choice
 
START YOUR MORNING OFF RIGHT
Las Vegas Weekly: “All By Himself: Man uses McCarran Layover to Film Celine Dion Music Video”...

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