Flypaper

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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On Tuesday, a California superior court judge tentatively overturned five state laws related to the employment of teachers. The plaintiffs’ attorney called the decision “a victory for students, parents, and teachers across California.” The head of the Los Angeles teachers union said, “This decision today is an attack on teachers.” The court ordered a stay on the decision, pending appeal. Here are ten things worth knowing as the case moves on.

  1. The plaintiffs, a group of students and school districts, argued that several state statutes stood in the way of all students receiving the education guaranteed to them under the California constitution. “Plaintiffs claim that the Challenged Statutes result in grossly ineffective teachers obtaining and retaining permanent employment, and that these teachers are disproportionately situated in schools serving predominantly low-income and minority students. Plaintiffs’ equal protection claims assert that the Challenged Statutes violate their fundamental rights to equality of education by adversely affecting the quality of the education they are afforded by the state.”
  2. The judge agreed. He found “that the Challenged Statutes impose a real and appreciable impact on students’ fundamental right to equality of education and that they impose a disproportionate burden on poor and minority students.”
  3. This was essentially a civil-rights case, and the court underscored that point, starting its opinion by referencing Brown vs. Board of Education and then quoting the famous passage that education “is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”
  4. State courts have, in recent years, frequently
  5. ...
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Back in college, one of my political science professors wanted to make a point to a lecture hall full of know-it-all freshman.

He asked all of us to think back to when we were first getting interested in politics and developing positions on major issues. For most of us at this inside-the-beltway university, that was early.

He asked us to write down what our positions were back then on a list of three hot-button issues he provided. We did so eagerly.

He then said to the 400 of us, “Now, consider your current positions on these issues. Please raise your hand if your opinion on issue one has changed.”

Not a single hand went up.

“Please raise your hand if your opinion on issue two has changed.”

Two hands went up.

“Please raise your hand if your opinion on issue three has changed.”

Not a single hand went up.

He had us. “I’m sure you all realize how young and uninformed your previous selves were. You probably also know how much new information has come out over the last decade and how these debates have evolved. And yet, of 1,200 possible switches, we only have two.”

Then the coup-de-grâce.

“Is it that you were unfailingly brilliant at 12 years old, or are you allowing that 12-year-old to continue dictating your political views?”

He then introduced us to the academic research. One body of literature showed that once an individual made a decision (this is particularly true in the case of...

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NYC’S SELECTIVE HIGH SCHOOL EXAM
Efforts by civil-rights advocates to allow New York City’s selective high schools to use multiple measures in admissions decisions have not gained political support. (New York Times)
 
NOLA’S CHARTERS
After Hurricane Katrina, the state-run Recovery School District (RSD) took over all of New Orleans’s schools but the best ones. And now, RSD charter schools are beginning to inch past those schools that were historically the top performers. (Hechinger Report)
 
PRIVATE-SCHOOL CHOICE
In the last eight days of the New York State Assembly’s legislative session, school-choice backers are making a final push to pass an education tax-credit bill. (Charters & Choice)
 
MUTUAL CONSENT IN COLORADO
A Colorado judge dismissed a union lawsuit that was intended to overturn a “mutual-consent” provision in the state’s teacher-effectiveness law. (Teacher Beat)
 
FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
Economist: “Zombieland
Wisconsin Public Radio: “Critics Of Common Core Standards Mobilize In Capitol For Hearings
 
START YOUR MORNING OFF RIGHT
Onion: “New Charter School Lottery System Gives Each Applicant White Pill, Enrolls Whoever Left Standing”...

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Kara Kerwin

Here follows the eleventh entry in Fordham’s “Charter School Policy Wonk-a-Thon,” in which Mike Petrilli challenged a number of prominent scholars, practitioners, and policy analysts to take a stab at explaining why some charter sectors outpace their local district schools while others are falling behind.

Mike posed an extremely important question at the start of this wonk-a-thon: “How to build a high-quality charter school sector?”

With now over a million students on charter school waiting lists, we reformers ought to be seeking the answer to this question with a sense of urgency.

Simply stated, we need more choices in the type of education available to families. We need more children sitting in more seats in more schools made available by more choice. We need more public discussions about school choice, truthful and deeper conversations, in forums that matter.

We need more people—moms and dads, community groups, elected officials—calling for more options in education. And we need to give more power to parents over their own children’s education.

Unfortunately, too few activities in today’s education-reform movement, especially when it comes to charter schools, have focus primarily on expanding all options available to schoolchildren and expanding parents’ access to those options.

Many current policies, proposals, and practices artificially and unnecessarily constrain growth and deter investment in schools of choice. Some risk is inherent in innovation and growth. There is greater risk—especially to our nation’s children—from setting limits on the expansion of school choice.

It is time to push...

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Joe Siedlecki

Here follows the tenth entry in Fordham’s “Charter School Policy Wonk-a-Thon,” in which Mike Petrilli challenged a number of prominent scholars, practitioners, and policy analysts to take a stab at explaining why some cities’ charter sectors outpace their district schools while others fall behind.

In a recent column for USA Today, AEI’s Rick Hess and Michael McShane argued that “creeping bureaucratization and regulation are endangering the entire charter school movement.” I’d argue the opposite: the real danger to the charter movement is lack of effective regulatory enforcement.

In their column, Hess and McShane put the best possible face on charter successes:

Objective analysis has also found charter schools to be successful, particularly with students from low income backgrounds. In 2013, researchers at Stanford University studied charter schools in twenty-seven states and found that, on average, students in charter schools outperform traditional public school students in reading and do about the same in math. Students below the poverty line and African American students were both found to fare better in charter than in public schools when their standardized test scores were disaggregated.

Certainly there have been sector-wide improvements since 2009, when the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO, home of the Stanford researchers cited above) issued a highly influential report, which found “a disturbing—and far-reaching—subset of poorly performing charter schools.” CREDO’s 2013 update notes important improvements and can indeed be summarized at the broadest level (as Hess and McShane have done) as positive.

But children are educated at individual...

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The Washington Post made a big splash this weekend with a long, thorough piece on Common Core adoption and implementation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Post calls the embrace of Common Core “one of the swiftest and most remarkable shifts in education policy in U.S. history” and attributes it to the philanthropy of the world’s wealthiest person. Perhaps this is the beginning of a trend—the media covering private giving to schools. The New York Times recently reported on the K–12 giving of the Walton Family Foundation.

Something big is afoot in the nation’s teacher unions. In state and local elections, members are choosing increasingly militant leaders. This might be what unions need to regain strength, or it could further isolate them. Either way, the path ahead is going to be bumpy for all involved. This piece, despite the crude analysis of the reform community, explains what’s happening and why.

I’ve spilled lots of ink trying to raise the alarm about Detroit’s schools. But a picture’s worth a thousand words, so take a quick spin through this tragic photo collection on the abandonment of the Motor City.

State takeovers of failing districts can pit two principles against each other—the need to intervene aggressively when low-income kids are being poorly served and the right of communities to shape the contours of their local schools. This short piece about Newark and Paterson, New Jersey—under...

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PRE-K LOGISTICS
Less than half of the children seeking a free prekindergarten seat in New York City were assigned one in their top-choice public school next year, and around one-third weren’t assigned a seat at all. (New York Times)

BURIED IN PAPERWORK
Speaking from personal experience, a college student makes an appeal for better programs to help kids from immigrant and low-income families navigate the financial-aid process. (Hechinger Report)

ASSESSMENT UPDATE
By Education Week’s count, just 42 percent of U.S. K–12 students will take a Common Core–aligned assessment designed by PARCC or Smarter Balanced. (Curriculum Matters)

STUDENT-DATA CONTROVERSY
Policymakers have renewed a push to build a federal “unit record” database, originally proposed by the Bush administration and killed by privacy advocates, which would track students through college and into the workforce and would be administered by the U.S. Department of Education. (Inside Higher Ed)

ED TECH
While some district leaders are becoming savvier consumers of ed-tech products, many simply don’t understand the technology, hampering entrepreneurs from getting from “idea to selling.” (For more on ed tech, see Education Week’s special report on “Navigating the Ed-Tech Marketplace.”)

 

FORDHAM IN THE NEWS

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Marta Reyes Newberry

Here follows the ninth entry in Fordham’s “Charter School Policy Wonk-a-Thon,” in which Mike Petrilli challenged a number of prominent scholars, practitioners, and policy analysts to take a stab at explaining why some charter sectors outpace their local district schools while others are falling behind.

The Gadfly has provided an important public service in seeking insights from some of the country’s best charter school thinkers on “why some charter sectors outpace their local district schools while others are falling behind.” As two old charter hands (one of us worked for Fordham in Dayton for twelve years on all manner of charter issues, while the other spent more than twenty years in California helping to rebuild that state’s charter program), we’ve learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to charters and chartering.

Most of the lessons from the Gadfly’s charter series resonate with us. We agree that great charter sectors invariably tap top talent, get the balance right between operational freedoms and accountability for performance (or come close), and have the support and encouragement of significant friends (funders, political and policy, and business). Troubled charter sectors, on the other hand, allow almost anyone with a pulse to open a school, fluctuate wildly between letting a thousand flowers bloom and efforts to shut down all charters, and have at least as many enemies as friends.

What surprised us, however, was a paragraph in Michael Goldstein’s piece about charters in Boston that claimed,...

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