Flypaper

Lowering college standards is not a solution to our remedial education problem.
Chester E. Finn, Jr.

The New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof argued in his column yesterday that the “low-hanging fruit” of K–12 education reform has already been picked and that we should shift some of our energy to early interventions instead. He’s not wrong about ed reform, but I’m less convinced that pre-school and other early interventions are “low-hanging fruit.” It’s no easier to ensure quality and effectiveness in the early years than it is in elementary and secondary education. Plus, establishing new, sweeping pre-K programs is expensive, making it a heavy lift politically.

But the least convincing part of the argument for early interventions is the notion that well-designed programs can ameliorate the enormous opportunity gaps that open up between rich and poor children before they are even born.

Regular Flypaper readers know that I’ve spent the last two years digging into the anti-poverty research and working on a book related to our “Education for Upward Mobility” conference. And like many Americans, I’ve been captivated (and sobered) by recent important books on inequality and mobility, including Robert Putnam’s Our Kids, Isabel Sawhill’s Generation Unbound, Kathryn Edin’s Promises I Can Keep and Doing the Best I Can, and Charles Murray’s Coming Apart. The story they all tell is about inequality in American childhood experiences that is virtually unprecedented in our history.

On the one hand, we see affluent, college-educated, professional young adults choosing to delay parenthood until after their educations are finished, their careers are well established, their finances are in order, and they’ve tied the knot. There are exceptions, of course, but the general pattern is unmistakable. As a result, once they do decide to have children, they are prepared to pour enormous resources—financial, emotional, and otherwise—into their parenting. And their kids are...

Since its passage in 1974, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) has struck a careful and reasonable balance between the privacy of students and families and the need for timely and accurate information on the state of U.S. schools and school systems. But a provision in the FERPA overhaul “discussion draft” currently being circulated by Republican John Kline and Democrat Robert Scott threatens to upset this balance by giving parents the right to “opt out” of data-sharing agreements with “organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational agencies or institutions,” which are currently exempt from FERPA’s general prohibition on the sharing of personally identifiable information.

As written, this provision would do serious harm to efforts to evaluate and study existing education programs, because its widespread use would degrade the quality of the data on which many evaluations and studies are based. This would be a huge problem, especially if there were significant differences between students whose families chose to opt out and the broader student population (which there almost certainly would be). Such differences could (and likely would) bias the results of future studies that rely on education data, especially those seeking to understand the performance of students over time by linking data from different systems.

This isn’t just about the convenience of academics in universities, think tanks, and research firms. It’s actively menacing to the country’s ability to know things like:

How well are public schools preparing students for college and the workforce?

Why do some young people drop out of school, and what happens to them when they do?

What’s the “return on investment” for education spending, and does it vary by location?

Are existing career and technical education programs getting good results?

Do charter schools outperform traditional district schools?

How effective are...

If you count Democrat Lincoln Chafee, five hopefuls have now declared their candidacy for the 2016 presidential election. The forthcoming nineteen months promise to bring scandals, flip-flops, attack ads, and a whole bunch of memes. So in anticipation of all that fun, I welcome you to Eduwatch 2016, Fordham's coverage of the race as it pertains to education. To start things off, let’s see where the candidates stand on today's biggest issues by looking at what they’ve said in the past.

As each contender throws his or her hat in the ring, I’ll publish a collection of their quotes about education. Some will be recent—but if a candidate hasn’t said anything about an issue in eight years, well, they may be a little more dated. But that has its uses, too; silence can speak volumes.

So without further ado, let’s start with the biggest name in the race: Hillary Rodham Clinton. Earlier this month, Clinton held a sixty-minute education roundtable at which she spoke with a handful of educators and students at an Iowa community college. Due to the format, there wasn’t a lot of stance-taking on the issues, but she did discuss a few noteworthy topics, including the Common Core:

1. Common Core: “The really unfortunate argument that's been going on around Common Core, it’s very painful because the Common Core started off as a bipartisan effort. It was actually nonpartisan. It wasn’t politicized....Iowa has had a testing system based on a core curriculum for a really long time. And [speaking to Iowans] you see the value of it, you understand why that helps you organize your whole education system. And a lot of states unfortunately haven't had that, and so don't understand...

The Brookings Institution has come to its senses and found a splendid way to retain Russ Whitehurst on its senior research team. Having cut my own policy-research teeth at Brookings (back in the late Middle Ages), I was doubly dismayed—and said so—when I read a few weeks back that they were seeking a replacement to head the Brown Center, which Russ has led with huge distinction and productivity these past six years. What a terrible move it would have been to let him leave. Well, after much clanking of gears, he's not leaving after all. He's switching from one Brookings "department" to another, and will henceforth be a force to be reckoned with in their highly regarded Center on Children and Families, located within the Institution’s "economic studies" section. The education research and policy world benefits hugely from Whitehurst's continuation at Brookings. Hurrah for this happy outcome for all concerned (except the diminished Brown Center).

Reversing the cycle of destructive discourse.
Frederick M. Hess

Parsing the difference between preparation for “work,” “career,” and “a job.”
Kevin Mahnken

Practical advice for a disempowered profession.
Alyssa Schwenk

Greg Toppo

Forget what you think you know about educational gaming.
Greg Toppo

The House has three options.

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