Flypaper

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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Alex Medler

Here follows the eighth 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.

To achieve success and scale in the charter sector, nothing else matters without (1) strong authorizing and (2) strong applicants.

The highest-performing charter sectors can’t be measured just by the difference between the average performance of charters and traditional schools. What matters is the full portfolio of schools. Success means there are lots of charter schools and most of them are great, while few schools are failing. If we look at some of the highest-performing jurisdictions—Massachusetts (or really Boston), New Orleans, Tennessee’s Achievement School District (ASD), New York, and Washington, D.C.—we see strong authorizing and a supply of strong charter applicants. The absence of either fatally undermines quality and scale.

Various support structures lead to regular crops of strong applicants. Because there is no single support that matters most, the nature of the best structure will depend on local assets. Strong authorizing includes the approval of strong proposals, as well as the regular rejection of weak applicants and the timely closure of failing schools. These elements are at the heart of NACSA's One Million Lives campaign. Any jurisdiction would benefit from strong authorizing and great applicants.

Good authorizing is a balancing act

Bad authorizers can either be so hostile...

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Todd Ziebarth

Here follows the seventh 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 short, but unsatisfying, answer to Mike’s question: It’s complicated.

Since we released our first rankings of state charter school laws against our model law in 2010, we’ve been asked about the relationship between a state’s ranking in our report and the results of that state’s charter schools—so much so that we’ll be releasing a new report in a couple of months that begins to tease out this relationship in each state entitled The Health of the Public Charter School Sector: A State-By-State Report. In the meantime, here are a few thoughts about this relationship.

Supportive laws are necessary but not sufficient

First, to quote directly from our model law,

It is important to note that a strong charter law is a necessary but insufficient factor in driving positive results for public charter schools. Experience with public charter schools across the country has shown that there are five primary ingredients of a successful public charter school environment in a state, as demonstrated by strong student results:

  • Supportive laws and regulations (both what is on the books and how it is implemented);
  • Quality authorizers;
  • Effective charter support organizations, such as state charter associations and resource centers;
  • Outstanding school leaders and teachers; and,
  • Engaged parents
...
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Lisa Hansel

My Brother’s Keeper, a new Obama-administration initiative focused on boys and young men of color, appears to be off to a strong start. The ninety-day report features six “universal milestones” that are the heart of the task force’s work and recommendations:

  1. Entering school ready to learn
  2. Reading at grade level by third grade
  3. Graduating from high school ready for college and career
  4. Completing postsecondary education or training
  5. Successfully entering the workforce
  6. Reducing violence and providing a second chance

I have one more to place on that list: learn from ACT and the Common Core standards. Specifically, recognize that meeting the six milestones will require a much greater emphasis on building knowledge and vocabulary in early childhood and the early grades.
Let’s start with ACT, which offers both grim data and doable recommendations, and then move to the Common Core standards, which—if properly understood—offer sound guidance.

Many of us think of ACT as just a testing company, but it has a research arm that mines ACT test-score data and the broader literature to figure out how to improve educational outcomes. Chrys Dougherty, ACT senior research scientist, has produced three must-read briefs showing just how difficult it is for youth who are behind academically to catch up—and therefore how crucial it is to intervene early.

In his most recent brief, Dougherty shows that at least half of fourth- and eighth-grade Hispanic and African American students in the states whose data he analyzed are not doing well in reading—and almost none who...

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